Predicting the 2012 MLB Season
Technically, I may be a little late with these "preseason" predictions because the regular season officially started early Wednesday morning in Japan...but honestly who watched the games in Japan anyways?
This past offseason has been one for the ages as we saw names like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Jose Reyes all switching teams. This regular season shapes up to be even more exciting and interesting, especially with the addition of a second Wild Card. Division titles now mean even more, and there is a chance that we could see someone completely unexpected make the playoffs.
How will everything shape up after October? Here is my opinion.
American League East
1. New York Yankees
2. Tampa Bay Rays
3. Boston Red Sox
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Baltimore Orioles
The Yankees are clearly the best all-around team in this division. Offseason pitching additions of Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda directly addressed their biggest needs, and Ivan Nova is blossoming into a quality starter.
Tampa Bay had a magical run last September due to their magnificent pitching staff. Evan Longoria and BJ Upton had down years for their standards, and if they can improve his year, the Rays will once again be contenders.
After getting rid of Theo Epstein and Terry Francona, there is a lot of uncertainty following the Red Sox after their monumental collapse last year. Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Carl Crawford need to improve from last year in order for his team to recover.
Once again, the Blue Jays would have a great shot at the playoffs if they were in any other division. They look to have a promising roster as Brett Lawrie is the talk of Toronto now that the Maple Leafs are out of contention.
Baltimore will once again finish in the cellar of this powerhouse division. Will their day ever come?
American League Central
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Minnesota Twins
Despite the loss of Victor Martinez, the addition of Prince Fielder cements this lineup as one of the best in the league. Along with a decent pitching rotation, Detroit should not have too much trouble winning this somewhat weak division.
Pick Carlos Santana for your fantasy team and watch as he becomes the best offensive catcher in baseball. The Tribe have a lot of potential, especially with Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall joining the team for the full season, along with the return of Shin-Soo Choo.
Is this finally the year that the Royals make a big step? Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon lead this hopeful young team in what could be its first season of relevance in a while. The problem is that the pitching rotation is very weak.
I believe the White Sox will be almost equal to the Royals in terms of their record. They stayed in the race last year until September, and Adam Dunn and Alex Rios cannot do any worse than last year. Dayan Viciedo will become a key hitter to this team's lineup, joining Paul Konerko and...not really anyone else. What will hurt this team, in my opinion, is the absence of Ozzie Guillen. Even though he can be a headcase, he knows the Chicago White Sox better than 44-year-old Robin Ventura.
The only way the Twins won't end up in the cellar is if Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau not only recover from their injuries, but recover their old form.
American League West
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Texas Rangers
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Oakland Athletics
The addition of Albert Pujols is huge, but it won't be as much of a help as people expect. However, it is definitely an offensive upgrade and so is the return of Kendrys Morales. Couple that offense with a pitching rotation where C.J. Wilson is fourth on the depth chart and you have a scary team.
I was sold on Texas winning this division even after the Pujols and Wilson signings by Los Angeles, but I am not sold on Yu Darvish or All-Star caliber follow up seasons by Beltre, Kinsler, and Young. Nevertheless, the defending American League Champs are definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Seattle's problem last year (and many other years) was offense. King Felix will once again be terrific on the mound but will the M's be able to find any offense to help him win some games? Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Mike Carp may be able to show what they're worth and surprise some people.
National League East
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Miami Marlins
3. Atlanta Braves
4. Washington Nationals
5. New York Mets
The Phillies are once again World Series favorites due to their tremendous pitching staff. Can the offense get it going to add even more weapons to this team?
Miami should be very good. They weren't terrible last year despite an awful year from Hanley Ramirez and nearly a season-long injury for Josh Johnson. Now, they have added players like Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell along with a brand new ballpark and manager.
Unfortunately, this will be Chipper Jones's last season (barring him pulling a Andy Pettitte). With a solid rotation, it will be interesting to see if hitters like Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward can cash in consistently.
Washington put some good pieces together in order to finally make a run. They have a good rotation and some extraordinary young talent coming up in Bryce Harper. Give it another year or two; this division is too good to compete in right now.
Last year's Mets minus Jose Reyes. Ouch.
National League Central
1. Cincinnati Reds
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Chicago Cubs
6. Houston Astros
Picking the Reds may be a surprise, but they have a deep rotation as well as solid offense with Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce. With the other teams in the division slightly depleted, this may be an opportunity for Cincinnati to have another year like 2010.
The defending champs are in a peculiar situation. They lost Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright is back, Chris Carpenter starts the year on the DL, Tony LaRussa is gone, and Carlos Beltran has been signed. A lot of questions surround this team, but they still have enough talent to pose a threat to other National League teams.
Without Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun does not have a lot of protection. Without steroids, Ryan Braun may not be as good of a hitter as we thought he was. If he didn't take steroids, the extra attention may affect him in a negative way. It will be interesting to see how everything goes down in Milwaukee.
Pittsburgh showed us some promise through early July...then they returned to the Pirates that we know. However, they may have some confidence now to go along with a not-so-miserable looking roster.
Rebuilding continues for the Cubs, but with Theo Epstein at the helm, success may not be so far away.
The Astros are rebuilding. It would be a surprise to see them win more than 65 games this year.
National League West
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
2. San Francisco Giants
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. San Diego Padres
5. Colorado Rockies
The Dbacks were the surprise of 2011, riding their brilliant pitching staff to a National League West title. Can they do it again? With a somewhat decent offense, it is definitely possible
The Giants had to deal with the loss of their best hitter, Buster Posey, midway through last season. Now, he is back along with some extra offensive punch with the addition of Melky Cabrera.
Now that the Dodgers have gotten past the ownership crisis, they can focus on baseball. And with Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, they may have a pretty good season.
San Diego is in a tough spot. They had a bad 2011 but added some offense with Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso to try to help them produce runs in pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
The Rockies are not a bad team, but they really do not have a lot of anything outside of Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Todd Helton.
Wild Card: Rays at Rangers
Wild Card: Marlins at Giants
Since these Wild Card match ups are only one game, anything could happen. One team could be ten games better than the other but still lose out on a playoff spot due to a fluke play; my guess on these games are as good as anyone's. This could just come down to pitching match ups...I'll say Price or Shields outduels Lewis or Darvish, but the Marlins' batting order gets to Lincecum.
American League Division Series
Tigers over Rays in 4
Both teams have good pitching rotations, but the Tigers' offense is far superior to Tampa Bay's.
Angels over Yankees in 5
Weaver and Haren would likely go in games 1 and 2 out West, causing some potential problems for the Yankees. If the Halos outhit New York in the first two, the Yankees will need to win three in a row at home against a much deeper rotation in order to advance.
National League Division Series
Phillies over Marlins in 4
The pitching and experience of the Phillies should definitely be enough to take down the young Marlins.
Reds over Diamondbacks in 5
The young Reds pull off an upset as the Dbacks may have trouble solving their pitching staff, and Joey Votto comes up huge for Cincinnati.
American League Championship
This could become baseball's newest big rivalry. After tempers flared during the pitchers' duel the last time these two met, Detroit signed Prince Fielder while Los Angeles got Albert Pujols. A playoff series between the two would be a series every baseball fan would love.
Pujols and Wilson were big additions to the Angels' roster but one that may be just as big is the return of Kendrys Morales. Detroit does not have clutch hitter Victor Martinez even though Prince Fielder was added.
This is a battle of two very well-rounded teams, but I'm predicting that they will split the first two in Detroit, Los Angeles will take two of three at home, and the Angels will finish off the series in game six in Detroit.
National League Championship
The Reds continue to amaze as young stars like Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce and Chris Heisey emerge as playoff heroes. The Phillies' offense again works against them and the Reds cause a major October upset.
Prediction: Reds in 7.
2012 World Series
The Angels are a talented team with a lot of starpower all-around, and the Reds are a young, well-rounded club capable of surprising many. Each team has a deep rotation and an MVP-caliber first baseman.
A huge difference in this series could be who wins the All-Star Game. Losing home advantage would hurt the Angels because they would have to sit a player (most likely Kendrys Morales) for the three to four games in Cincinnati.
Prediction: Reds in 6, winning their first World Series title since 1990.
I know I'm going to get called out for this pick but so did pretty much everyone who picked the Cardinals to win it all even right before the start of the playoffs.
World Series are usually won by unexpected heroes (David Freese, Allen Craig, etc), and the Reds have a handful of players who I can definitely see pulling off a miracle.