Texas Rangers: Fresh off a trip to the World Series, I think that the Rangers will be back with a vengeance. 1 through 9, this batting order is scary, with the likes of Adrian Beltre (though not in a contract year), Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler. Oh, and AL MVP Josh Hamilton. The rotation is looking good, though they are far from top-heavy without Cliff Lee. CJ Wilson is the ace this year, with Japanese import Colby Lewis behind him. They have to repeat their 2010 seasons if the Rangers want to repeat as AL champs.
Oakland Athletics: Polar opposites of the Rangers, in that their pitching is solid and their hitting is questionable. Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez (2.30 ERA post all-star break) could make a playoff series interesting. The addition of Hideki Matsui should help them, but their offense is still weak. The A’s probably regret trading Carlos Gonzalez.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Owner Arte Moreno struck out on Carl Crawford. Then Adrian Beltre. So he settled on paying Vernon Wells what he refused to pay Carl Crawford. Huh? A confusing offseason for Angels fans will lead to another disappointing season. Look forward to lots of one pitch pop-outs by Wells, you’ll come to expect it.
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez is perhaps the best pitcher in the AL. Past him, the Mariners do not look good. Period. Justin Smoak has potential but can he live up to it? Same goes for Michael Saunders. Big question: When will Ichiro finally go into decline? Is this the year he doesn’t get 200 hits?
Detroit Tigers: I hate Miguel Cabrera. Why? Let me tell you a story. Norm and I were at a Jays-Tigers game a few years back, and as the crazy kids we were, we decided to chirp Cabrera. Eventually, our whole section joined us over the Tigers dugout. By the seventh inning, Miguel grew very annoyed with a couple 13 year old hooligans, so he did the thing any rational alcoholic would do: give us the middle finger. Miguel, I hope you never recuperate from your alcoholism and your career goes to shit. All kidding aside, Cabrera is a talented player, who if he can stay out of trouble, will lead the Tigers to an AL Central title.
Minnesota Twins: Their season hinges on Justin Morneau, and whether he can recover from his concussion. Joe Mauer is the best catcher in baseball but he alone will not lead the Twins very far, especially with Carl Pavano as there ace.I would love to ask Ron Gardenhire why Francisco Liriano isn’t slotted into that position, since he seems geared up for a big season.
Chicago White Sox: The White Sox also sport a player prone to flipping the bird at his fans in Alex Rios. The White Sox do have pieces in place, as well as a healthy Jake Peavy, so they should make things interesting in this division. We’ll see if Paul Konerko can come up with another 35 home runs a year older than he was last year. Carlos Quentin should not be forgotten either, this team’s got tons of pop in their bats.
Cleveland Indians: Will anything ever go right for this city? Between the Cavs, Browns and Indians, this city is in flux (at least re: sports). The Indians, for one, are going nowhere unless Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner (his nickname is Pronk, a mix between project and donkey) can stay healthy and play like the players they are, or at least used to be. Trades of CC Sabathia and Victor Martinez yielded little in return. This team has to blow themselves up if they have wishes of making the playoffs in the future.
Kansas City Royals: Despite my placing them last in their division, this team is set at practically every position in the future. The only reason the Royals don’t get more recognition for their futility is the impossibly more futile Pirates. The Royals, however, have a strong farm system while the Pirates don’t. Also, KC actually brings in fans, since there are no other sports teams in the city.
Boston Red Sox: They set three goals this offseason: get some relief help, get a premier outfielder and trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Give them three check marks. They brought in Carl Crawford, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler and Gonzalez. Everyone is high on the Sox this year and for good reason-this team is stacked. Even Daisuke is pitching great this spring (though Josh Beckett isn’t). Gonzalez is going to light it up at Fenway. I’m calling .300 45/130. I don’t see this team not winning the AL East.
Tampa Bay Rays: I thought for a while about whether this team or the Yankees would finish second in this gruelling division. The Yanks have the edge in hitting, but the Rays are better pitching. So I went to the old cliche, defense wins championships and that gives us the Rays over the Bombers. David Price, James Shield, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson are all young promising (or have fulfilled their promise) pitchers who represent the Rays future. If they can get their bullpen sorted out, this team will be scary. (On a sidenote, I also visited Tropicana Field last year. For such a god team, it is a wonder that they don’t get more fans. Its too bad).
New York Yankees: Best infield in the league. It is scary. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and A-Rod. It’s a shame that the Yankees can’t put out an even average rotation, since they would be shoo-ins for the playoffs if they did. Its weird to think about, but somewhat true this year: the Bronx Bombers actually enter this season as relatively under-the-radar, underdogs. Their big free agent signing was Rafael Soriano, which should tell you something about how they fared in the offseason.
Toronto Blue Jays: This hurts. AA has just done a spectacular job since being named GM, and yet the Jays still can’t crack fourth. When the MLB CBA expires in 2012, something has to happen, because clearly the luxury tax/revenue sharing doesn’t work when a team has an unlimited amount of money. The Jays boast lots of potential on their team, and if everyone comes through then I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jays gave the Rays a run for their wild card money. Did you know that in 10 games after his debut, JP Arencibia had 1 hit? Did you know that he is batting .172 in Spring Training this year? I hope JP comes around, because as we saw in his outstanding debut, he has the power, he just has to harness it. Oh, and remember, the Jays are coming home (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_veqh8b5eg).
Baltimore Orioles: If the O’s learned one thing from last year, it is that a few prospects and a core of veterans doesn’t work. So they went out and signed Vlad Guerrero, Derrek Lee and JJ Hardy and traded for Mark Reynolds. They’ll be better than last year, but I guess they didn’t learn after all.
AL West Champs: Rangers
AL Central Champs: Tigers
AL East Champs: Red Sox
Wild Card: Rays
AL MVP: Yoouuuk! Yoouuuk! Yoouuuk! Kevin Youkillis returns from injury and puts up a career year, leading the Red Sox to AL east glory and the best record in the majors. Transition from first to third is rough to start, but he gets accustomed and turns in a great year.
AL Cy Young: David Price. Remember how I said that the Rays will win the wild card with their pitching? Well, Price is the anchor of that pitching staff. I say he gets to 20 wins and goes home with a Cy.