I know I am a little late with this but considering almost every team still has 160 games left I still think it’s worth writing. I’m going to go through division by division, give my projected standings including win/loss records and give a short analysis on why I think that’s how they’ll end up. After that I’ll go through the playoff match-ups and give out my picks to win all the big regular season individual honors. Brace yourselves before reading O’s fans…
New York Yankees 99 – 63
Tampa Bay Rays 88 – 74
Toronto Blue Jays 85 – 77
Boston Red Sox 84 – 78
Baltimore Orioles 66 – 96
Explanation: The Yanks won this division last year, won 97 games, and added two solid pitchers in Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda. The lineup is aging a bit, but still has plenty of pop to win games and id be pretty surprised if they don’t take the AL east again this season. As for the Rays I love their rotation and I think that Matt Moore will be a dominate pitcher right away his rookie year (and will win ROY if Cespedes doesn’t) but their lineup is pretty pedestrian. The Rays bullpen is also a bit of a concern, Farnsworth is already injured and even when he’s healthy i’m not sold on his as a closer. The Blue Jays are just the opposite of the Rays, love their lineup, not sold on their rotation. This team should lead the league in homers with power hitters all through the lineup and I am convinced that 22 year old native canadian Brett Lawrie will have a huge year (possibly 30-30). As for the Red Sox, I think their in for a tough year by Boston standards. They get their best pitcher back in Clay Buchholz but their lineup is another year older, their rotation is inconsistent and I’m not a believer in Bobby Valentine. They will be competitive but I don’t think their good enough to get past the Rays and definitely not the Yankees. When it comes to the Orioles it’s the same old story, young pitching needs to show improvement and even then it’s going to be tough to compete with the big boys in the AL east. I think the O’s lineup is solid, but their starters are guys who are either unproven (Matusz, Tillman, Wada, Chen, Arrieta, Britton) or proven to be average at best (Hunter, Hammel) and their bullpen is just bad. Pains me to say it but the O’s are pretty much a lock to finish last in the AL east again.
Detroit Tigers 98 – 64
Cleveland Indians 79 – 83
Kansas City Royals 76 – 86
Chicago White Sox 74 – 88
Minnesota Twins 68 – 94
Explanation: The Tigers dominated the central in 2011, winning it by 15 games. Then this off-season they added a big bat in Prince Fielder to provide some protection for the already dominate Miguel Cabrera, they’re probably going to clinch this division by early September. The other four teams in this division aren’t really contenders. The Indians were mediocre last year and didn’t make any big impact moves so expect more of the same. The White Sox were pretty bad last year, lost their skipper Ozzie Guillen and long time ace Mark Buehrle. I expect a comeback player of the year award for Adam Dunn after his nightmare 2011 but it won’t be enough to put the Sox in contention. The Twins don’t have the talent they have in the past and I’m convinced that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will never be what they used to be. The Royals aren’t ready to compete yet but of the four non-contenders in this division they’ll be the most exciting. Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Eric Hosmer should all have impact seasons despite having very little experience, but their pitching staff is a joke. If Bruce Chen is your opening day starter you’re not going anywhere.
Los Angeles Angels 94 – 68
Texas Rangers 94 – 68
Oakland Athletics 69 – 93
Seattle Mariners 68 – 94
Explanation: This division is a two horse race between the Angels and the Rangers and I see this race coming down to the final week of the season. The Angels won 86 games last year and they added the best hitting and pitching free agents on the market in Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson. They’re line up and rotation will both be very good. As for the Rangers, they won 96 games and this division last year in route to a second straight World Series birth. However they lost the aforementioned CJ Wilson who they will try to replace with Japanese import Yu Darvish. The Rangers will score runs like they always do and I like their bullpen, but their rotation has too many variables to be totally reliable at this point. There isn’t much to get excited about the with Mariners or A’s so their focus will be on the development of their youngsters. Seattle has second baseman Dustin Ackley who I think will be a solid starter and catcher/DH Jesus Montaro who is overrated (slightly above average hitter, awful defensively). For the A’s keep an eye on highly touted cuban import Yeonis Cespedes, and former National’s starters (Gio Gonzalez trade) Tom Milone and Brad Peacock.
Philadelphia Phillies 93 – 69
Washington Nationals 89 – 73
Atlanta Braves 89 – 73
Miami Marlins 80 – 82
New York Mets 69 – 93
Explanation: The NL east is the second deepest division in baseball behind the AL east. The Phillies were baseball’s only 100+ win team in 2011 and they haven’t really lost any of their key pieces, so they should repeat as division champs. However, I’m projecting a nine win drop because I don’t love their lineup with injury issues for both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, also I wonder how much longer Cliff Lee (32) and Roy Halladay (34) have until they start declining. Behind the Phils I have the Braves and Nats deadlocked in second place. The Braves could end up being great this year if they get big years out of their many young guys, Jason Heyward, Tyler Pastornicky, Freddy Freeman and a handful of starters, but at this point that’s too big of an if to bank on. The Nationals are in a similar situation to the Braves, relying heavily on a cast of youngsters. The National’s lineup isn’t as good as the Braves but I love the Nat’s rotation in both talent and depth. They could potentially have five guys with eras under four and/or double digit wins. I have the Marlins finishing fourth. I’ve heard a lot of hype about the Marlins but I don’t know why. They made some notable additions in the off-season; Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle, Carlos Zambrano, Jose Reyes, and manager Ozzie Guillen. I get that, but to me that’s not nearly enough to add an extra twenty wins to last year’s total of 72 like some people are predicting. Buehrle and Bell are nice additions but not huge difference makers to me, Zambrano is a train wreck (as is Ozzie Guillen at times), and Reyes hasen’t been healthy for a full season since 2008. I have to say I do like Giancarlo (formerly Mike) Stanton but the Marlins new stadium is not hitter friendly at all, he’ll have to hit it about 430 feet to take one out to straight away center. The Mets have some young guys worth keeping an eye on in Ike Davis and Lucas Duda but other than that don’t waste your time watching Met’s games.
Cincinnati Reds 87 – 75
St. Louis Cardinals 86 – 76
Milwaukee Brewers 86 – 76
Pittsburgh Pirates 75 – 87
Chicago Cubs 67 – 95
Houston Astros 58 – 104
Explanation: To me the NL central is the toughest division to figure out. The trio of contenders in this division we’re all involved with $200 million first baseman contracts (Pujols, Fielder, Votto), so since the Cardinals and Brewers had their $200 million men leave while the Reds retained theirs, i’ll take the Reds. I think overall these three ball clubs are pretty evenly matched. They all have some big names in their lineups (Votto, Bruce, Braun, Hart, Ramirez, Holliday, Beltran, Berkman) and in their rotations (Carpenter, Wainwright, Gallardo, Greinke, Cueto, Latos) so the division’s really going to come down to how well the role players perform. After a hot start in 2011 the Pirates came crashing back to Earth in the second half and didn’t add much this off-season. The Bucs have some young guys that are fun to watch but their not a legit contender yet. The Cubs are in rebuilding mode this year and new GM Theo Epstein really has his work cut out for him. Their lineup and rotation are both bad and there isn’t really even any young guys id get excited about right now. The Astros are just terrible so I won’t waste anyone’s time, it’ll be a miracle if they dodge 100 losses.
San Francisco Giants 91 – 71
Arizona Diamondbacks 88 – 74
Colorado Rockies 83 – 79
Los Angeles Dodgers 79 – 83
San Diego Padres 68 – 94
Explanation: The NL west to me is like the AL West in that it’s also just a two horse race. The two teams I see contending are the Giants and the defending division champion Diamondbacks. The DBacks were the surprise team in the majors last year, winning 94 games under first year manager Kirk “I don’t believe what I just saw,” Gibson. I like the Diamondbacks but I can’t help but feel like last season was a little fluky so I have them taking a small dip this year. I’m picking the Giants to take the NL West this year because I still love their pitching staff. I also think their line up will be better with the addition of Melky Cabrera and the return of Buster Posey. 23 year old first baseman Brandon Belt could be X-factor for the Giants, if he hits well San Fran should feel pretty good about their chances to win the this division. The Rockies are a tough team to figure out for me. After making the playoffs in 2010, the Rocks won just 73 games last year and unloaded their ace Ubaldo Jimenez. However, they added a few nice pieces in Cuddyer, Guthrie, and Scutaro and they still have two stars in their lineup with Tulowitzki and Gonzalez so I think they’ll bounce back a bit. The Dodgers somehow managed to win 82 games last year despite the whole McCourt mess looming. I think that they have a top three hitter in all of major league baseball in Matt Kemp, and a top three pitcher in Clayton Kershaw but to me their isn’t a whole lot beyond that. I see the Dodgers hovering around the .500 mark all year. The Padres were bad last year winning just 71 games, and they lost their best three pitchers this off-season in Aaron Harang, Matt Latos, and Heath Bell. It’s a rebuilding year for San Diego but keep an eye on first base prospect Anthony Rizzo, he may end up being a star.
Division Winners: New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants
Wild Cards: Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals
ALCS Matchup: Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees
NLCS Matchup: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Cincinnati Reds
World Series Matchup: Detroit Tigers vs. Philadelphia Phillies
World Series Champion: Philadelphia Phillies
Explanation: Since I’ve already explained why I like each of these teams I’ll just cut right to why I picked the Phillies to win it all. In a series format like the MLB playoffs I’ll take the team with the best three or four starters every time and there’s no foursome in all of baseball that id take over Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Worley.
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers
NL MVP: Matt Kemp, CF, Dodgers
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Tigers
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
AL Rookie of the Year: Yoenis Cespedes, CF, Athletics
NL Rookie of the Year: Zack Cozart, SS, Reds
Explanation: For the MVPs my picks will comes as a surprise to no one. Miguel Cabrera is a MVP candidate every year but just hasen’t been able to break through yet. I think that changes in 2012 now that he has Prince Fielder behind him for protection and a team that may win 100 games. Matt Kemp was the best player in baseball last year, narrowly missing becoming the fifth 40-40 player ever (39 HR, 40SB) and the first triple crown winner (3rd in Avg. by .013, 1st in HR, 1st in RBI) since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Unfortunately the voters misinterpreted (again) what Most Valuable Player actually means and ruled him out because the Dodgers missed the playoffs. I don’t think the Dodgers will make the playoffs this year either but I just have a hard time believing that the voters can ignore him again if he replicates those numbers in 2012. For the Cy Young winners I have both Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw repeating. I know that’s boring but the bottom line is they won in 2011 because they’re the best pitchers in the respective leagues and that’s still the case this year. To me the Rookie of the year awards are the most fun. They are the hardest to predict because you never really know what these rookies will end up like in the big leagues. In the AL I have Athletics center fielder Yoenis Cespedes taking the honor. The 26 year old cuban has big time power and I expect to him to hit 30+ homers this year despite being in a pitcher friendly park in Oakland. To give an idea of what I see Cespedes doing this year I’d say his numbers will be similar to Giancarlo Stanton’s 2011 numbers (.262 Avg., 34 HR, 87 RBI). For the NL I like Reds Shortstop Zack Cozart as my ROY pick. His numbers were great in the minors and in his 37 major league at bats last year he was impressive, hitting .324 with 2 HRs. On top of that Cozart is on a pretty good team, has hitters around him, and is solid in the field too.
So that covers everything I wanted to cover about the brand new baseball season. If you made it this far and your not my dad (thanks for reading Dad), I really appreciate your interest and I’d love to discuss anything baseball with you so please comment! Enjoy the 2012 baseball season and Happy Easter everyone!