It’s that time of the year when everyone wants to know, “Who are you picking this season?” I generally don’t like to make these predictions because they are SO speculative, and there are SO many variables that affect the ultimate fates and outcomes for every team. Everyone’s picks are equally exposed to being rebuked 7 months later as pure idiocy, or hailed as Nostradamus like clairvoyance.
Nonetheless, it makes for fun discussion and debate, so with pure objectivity, and disregard for any preferences or prejudices, here is what my cloudy, and cracked crystal ball is whispering to me…
First the American League:
The Boston Red Sox emerge as the winners of the best division in baseball. I like who they send to the mound every night with Beckett, Lackey, Lester, Bucholz, and even the 43 year old Wakefield. Yes, there are concerns about their ability to score, especially with Ortiz aging, and Jason Bay leaving, but with that pitching they should still score enough, and if they don’t they will make a trade to bring on a big bat (maybe one from San Diego).
I have Tampa Bay picked to finish second as I believe their young pitching is primed to take control of games, and they have two key players in their free agency year with Carlos Pena and Cal Crawford who should be motivated to bring a championship to the Rays. For the same reasons the organization should see this as a prime year to go for it all, and should pull out all the stops to make it happen. I pick them to make the playoffs as the wild card team, and to be the team that no one wants to play.
I think the Yankees are going to miss Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, and have not suitable replaced what they brought to that lineup. Further more I think that father time will rear his ugly head with Pettite, Posada, and possible even Jeter making it difficult for them to duplicate last year’s excellence.
Baltimore is better, but still far short on the mound, and Toronto is several year away from their youngsters being ready to compete.
Toughest didvision winner for me to choose, but I am going with the Twins. Mauer, Morneau, and Cuddyer provide offense, with Orlando Hudson being a nice addition to the infield., and prospect Danny Valencia seasoning to take over third base before the end of the year. Not a dominating staff with Baker, Slowey and Pavano, but strike throwers that keep them in games, which is all this offense needs. Loss of closer Nathan is a blow, but they won’t let it sink this ship and will make a move to fill the void if necessary. I think the new stadium may hurt the team because of no longer having the extreme home field advantage that Metrodome provided, but not enough to keep them from winning the division
The White Sox will have the best first two starters in the league with Buehrle and Peavy, but with Freddy Garcia anchoring the end it could be a bullpen killer. The bullpen has questions as it is with Linebrink and Putz looking to rebound from off years, but the big question is run production with Pierre and Rios in the outfield, and Andruw Jones as their DH. But who cares how they play, we all just want to see if Ozzie Guillen can create as much controversy with his fingers on Twitter as he has already proven he can do with his mouth.
Detroit have rookies at catcher, shortstop and centerfield which makes it tough to be consistent, even with a sober Miguel Cabrera who may have the best season of his life. Cleveland will be just too short on the mound to stay relevant, and the Royals will have a long year, but at least have some good young players on the way.
As much as tried to find reason to not pick the Angels, I still have to go with them as the champs of the West. Yes, they will miss Lackey, Figgins and Guerreo on the field and with their leadership in the clubhouse, but they still have enough with Hunter, Abreu, Rivera, Kendrick, Aybar, Morales, and a deep catching corps. They filled in nicely at the plate with Matsui, presumed the departure of Lackey by acquiring Kazmir last season, and anticipate Weaver, Saunders, Saunder and Piniero to naturally progress and step up. The youngster, Brandon Wood, at third only needs to be ok at the plate as long as his glove is as golden as Mike Scioscia is predicting. Rodney and Shields need to be more dependable setting up this year to make things as easy as possible for closer Fuentes.
Texas is better this season, and should score a ton of runs, and should play solid defense They just don’t have enough pitching as usual. It will also be interesting to see if manager Ron Washington’s issues become a distraction.
Seattle did some nice things this off-season, and have one of the best top two rotation guys in the game, but they finished one big bat short of really making their team the division front runner. Instead of getting Jason Bay they have to depend on Milton Bradley to solidify the middle of their order…ughhhhh.
We’ll be talking about Oakland’s young starting pitchers for years to come, but the offense is short this season.
That’s my take on the A.L. before a pitch is thrown, an elbow bows out, a hamstring is torn, or a superstar emerges from nowhere. What are your picks? (Tomorrow, my N.L. pre season pick ‘ems.)