Well folks, were almost there. The 2010 season is set to begin in just over 24 hours with a classic – Yankees/Red Sox, Fenway, Sabathia and Beckett. ESPN. Couldn’t ask for more to begin the year.
Unfortunately I’ve been really pushed for time due to exams! hey hey, what a surprise. So i have no chance of finishing my AL team previews for the season. So, in respect of that, I thought I’d post my overall predictions:
AL East Champion – Boston Red Sox
Too much pitching is never a bad thing, and the Red Sox have it in droves. There was even speculation of a 6 man rotation. Seriously. Don’t underestimate the additions of Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro either. This team will be deadly, and they won’t have to score 10 runs a game to beat even the best of teams.
Why not the Yankees you ask? It’ll be tight. Don’t get me wrong. But there’s something I just don’t quite like about New York. Can’t quite put a finger on it. But hey. I guess we’ll see. I like their rotation. ALOT. But I see question marks with Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte. And while Javier Vazquez had a career best 2.87 ERA last year in Atlanta, he didn’t exactly light it up in his one year in pinstripes in 2004. The bullpen has potential, and who can forget about Mariano Rivera. And yes there’s still Teixeira and A-Rod and Jeter and Cano. But I’m sceptical about the outfield. I love Curtis Granderson, but he’s going to have to cut down his K’s and improve his OBP and start to hit lefties a little better. Nick Swisher? Brett Gardner? Just makes me feel a little uneasy. that’s all.
Why not the Rays? Well, I’m taking them for the Wild Card, so see a bit further down for my reasoning there.
So what about the Orioles and Blue Jays? It’ll be a long season in Toronto that’s for sure, but if Travis Snider breaks out, and J.P. Arrencibia and Kyle Drabek end up in the Majors later on in 2010, the future will be looking brighter for the Jays. For now though, they’re just going to have to live with being cellar dwellars in the AL East. But I really like the Orioles. I think this time next year, they’ll be ready to contend and will probably be 2011’s 2007 Tampa Bay. Think about it. They’ll have another year of development out of young offensive stars in Matt Wieters and Adam Jones. Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold will still be around. They’ll have top 3B prospect Josh Bell ready. So there’s a dynamic offense to start with. And the pitching. Oh boy. Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz (my pick for AL ROY), Jake Arrieta and Brad Bergerson will similarly have that extra year of added experience under their belts, and they’ve got Zach Britton coming. So look out. This division could have 4 potential playoff teams in 2011.
AL Central Champion – Chicago White Sox
Again, too much pitching. If you ask me, the White Sox have probably got one of the top 3 staffs from top to bottom in the American League. With a rotation of Peavy, Buehrle, Floyd, Danks and Freddy Garcia, that’s a pretty solid starting 5. But it gets better in the bullpen. Bobby Jenks, Scott Linebrink. J.J. Putz. Matt Thornton. Some young converted infielder who happens to throw fire from his right arm in Sergio Santos. And don’t; discount Tony Pena either. In other words, it could be lights out from the 7th on vs the Sox this year. And yes the offense is a slight question mark, but they’ve got enough in my view. Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, a young and improving Gordon Beckham and Paul Konerko will provide plenty of pop. And Juan Pierre is an underrated pick up here. Why didn’t I pick the Twins you ask? The loss of Joe Nathan definitely contributes, but I just don’t see how the rest of their starting staff stacks up. With the exception of Francisco Liriano, the Twins don’t have a ‘lights out’ ace. While there’s depth here, the Twins rotation just doesn’t fill me with confidence. Still, they’ve got one hell of an offense, but I say the Sox pip them.
As for the Tigers? My team? Hmm. I love the top 3 in the rotation with Verlander, Porcello and Scherzer. As things currently stand, I’m not sold yet on Bondo or Dontrelle Willis to fill out the rotation. But I really like the power arms in the bullpen. If Joel Zumaya has sorted his early spring training problems out, then that’s a pretty formidable bunch of late inning arms in him, Jose Valverde, Ryan Perry and a good couple of lefties in Phil Coke and Fu-te Ni. Offensively, I’m not sure how things will go down. Miguel Cabrera will have a monster year. But Carlos Guillen needs to stay healthy, and Magglio Ordonez needs to start driving the ball again. Watch out for Austin Jackson though. He could be my sleeper for the AL ROY. Even though I didn’t like the deal at the time, I think the Johnny Damon signing was a good one. In other words, if things go right, this team could be right there with Chicago and Minnesota.
AL West – LA Angels.
This is a close call. But I’ll take the Angels
because of Mike Scioscia. And because they’ve got great starting pitching depth. And yea the offense still isn’t that bad even though they lost Chone Figgins. And while the rest of the division got better, they’ve all got question marks. Where’s the offense in Seattle
? How good is Texas
‘ pitching? If you want more on how I feel about the AL West teams, check out my detailed team previews, hyperlinked in this paragraph.
AL Wild Card – Tampa Bay Rays
Now, I know that alot of people have been predicting that the Rays will not make the post season, but I for one certainly am not buying it. Their rotation could be dominant as hell. Shields, Garza, David Price, Wade Davis, Jeff Nieman. Wow. And did somebody mention Jeremy Hellickson? The Bullpen is better with the addition of a dominant closer in Rafael Soriano. And yes, while J.P Howell has a huge cloud hovering over him and his sore shoulder, remember that Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and Lance Cormier can all get the job done. So while the pen isn’t going to lead the league in ERA, they’ll be solid if not better than they were in 2009. Offensively? Where to start! Evan Longoria is only going to get better in his 3rd season. Carlos Pena has still got tremendous power. With those two guys, you’ve also got incredible defense at both corners. Add in Jason Bartlett, who probably won’t duplicate his .320 average last season, and super utility man Ben Zobrist (who by the way, probably should have been in the discussion for AL MVP last season) and that’s one hell of a great infield. The outfield isn’t bad either. Crawford and B.J Upton provide arguably the most coverage of any outfield duo in the game, and Desmond Jennings might well be on the way as soon as late this season.
National League East Champions – Philadelphia Phillies
How to pick against the Phillies? They’ve got the chance to be the first NL team since the 1942-44 Cardinals to make 3 straight World Series. And oh by the way, I think they got better this offseason. Roy Halladay is arguably the best pitcher in the game, and an upgrade over Cliff Lee, not just in terms of makeup and stuff, but also the fact that the Phillies get Halladay for a full season, and not for the final 3 months. All signs are pointing to Cole Hamels becoming dominant again, giving the Phils a mighty 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. JA Happ had a great rookie year, and there’s t
he eternal Jamie Moyer. With Joe Blanton going on the DL, Kyle Kendrick will fill in, but when Blanton returns, that could be a solid rotation. The pen has its question marks with the health of JC Romero and Brad Lidge, but you can’t argue with that offense. Utley. Howard. Victorino. Werth. Ibanez. Rollins. And oh year, they added Placido Polanco, who, after observing him for the last 4 1/2 years in Detroit, I conclude is one of the best contact/situation hitters in the game.
NL Central Champions – St Louis Cardinals
This pick is two fold. One. They’ve got the best player in the game in Albert Pujols and they’ve surrounded him (finally!) with some great offensive weapons in Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus, Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina. There’s some stingy defense in there too. And they’ve got some great starting pitching in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Brad Penny’s a solid addition too. Some question Ryan Franklin’s ability to repeat his 2009 performance, but don’t overlook the other solid arms in the Cardinal bullpen like Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan. The second point is that there really isn’t any other strong contender that stands out in the NL Central. The Reds have some young talented guys about to come to fruition (Aroldis Chapman, Mike Leake, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Drew Stubbs) and they’re about the closest challengers in my eyes. The Pirates will have yet another losing season, the Cubs, well, just didn’t get any better, the Astros, while having a really strong rotation (Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Felipe Paulino and Bud Norris) have some big question marks (Mainly Lance Berkman’s knees and whether Brandon Lyon or Matt Lindstrom can hold down the closers job), and the Brewers, despite having one of the best one-two combinations offensively in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, also have question marks. Can Carlos Gomez finally put it all together and quit all those annoying habits that drive coaches nuts? Can Rickie Weeks wrists stay in tact for one season? How good is Alcides Escobar going to be? Do they have enough of a rotation beyond Yovani Gallardo to content? Does Trevor Hoffman still have what it takes at age 42? If you’re asking me for an order of finish, I’m going Cards, Reds, Brewers, Astros, Cubs and Pirates. But I may well be wrong. The Reds and the Brewers are definitely the sleeper picks in my eyes.
NL West Champions – Colorado Rockies
Seriousy. I just love this team. Why? Well, how about best infield defense in the National League in Tulo, Ian Stewart, Todd Helton and Clint Barmes. And don’t forget about Eric Young jnr coming up behind those guys. Like the Rays, they’ve got tremendous speed in the outfield in Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler. Both of those guys should benefit from having another year of experience. And there’s still Brad Hawpe in right and Chris Iannetta behind the dish. And while everyone is lamenting the fact that the Rockies pen is in dire straights due to Huston Street’s injury, I don’t see it that way. Franklyn Morales, Manny Corpas and Rafael Betancourt all throw gas and are great arms. They also added Joe Beimal who should make the staff. The rotation has its number one ace is Ubaldo Jimenez. Jeff Francis is back, and he won 17 games in 2007. Jorge De La Rosa had a tremendous second half last season (who didn’t in Colorado though?) Aaron Cook has won 27 games over the last two seasons. And Greg Smith/Jason Hammel are no slouches either. And did somebody mention Jhoulys Chacin and Christian Friedrich? Both these guys could be up and comers.
But what about the competition? The Dodgers? I just don’t like the starting pitching depth. Is Chad Billingsley the potential ace the Dodgers envision or is he the guy who wasn’t even in the starting rotation in the 2009 playoffs? I guess if I was picking against the Dodgers, that’d be the reason. The Giants? They still don’t have the offense. Yea they added Mark DeRosa, and they’ve got one of the best young players in Pablo Sandoval, and Bengie Molina has some pop, but there’s not alot else here. The pitching will still be awesome, but I just don’t think they’ve got enough run support for their great staff. By the way, keep an eye on young lefty Dan Runzler. After watching him in person last September in San Francisco, I came away extremely impressed. He could be one of the best set up men for years to come. Arizona suffers greatly from the fact that Brandon Webb will miss 10 or more starts. I like Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson here, but beyond that, without Webb, I don’t see the depth in the rotation needed to compete. And while their pen has good arms, (Clay Zavada has the best moustache in the game by the way) they won’t be striking fear into opponents like say, the White Sox pen might. The offense isn’t bad, and perhaps a tad underestimated. Justin Upton is awesome. Mark Reynolds will smack 40 bombs while striking out 4 million times. (By the way, did you know that he stole 24 bases in 2009?), Miguel Montero is an up and comer and Conner Jackson is back. I guess the best way to put them is my wild card team in the NL West. If things come together, they could be in the mix.
As for the Padres? I sincerely hope they don’t trade Adrian Gonzalez (arguably the best 1st baseman in the NL behind Albert Pujols) and Heath Bell. They’ve got some good youngsters ready to bust out (Matt Latos, Kyle Blanks, Will Venable, Luke Gregerson, and Everth Cabrera), and the trade of Kevin Kouzmanoff to the A’s will allow Chase Headley to move back to his best position, the hot corner. In other words for Padres fans, not this year, but maybe soon.
NL Wild Card Winner – Los Angeles Dodgers
I’ll take LA by a hair over the Braves here. Even though I’m not big on their starting pitching depth, you can’t argue with this group of young talented offensive (and defensive) players: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and James Loney. I don’t think we’ve seen the best from any of these guys quite just yet, and that’s a scary proposition. And how deep is this bullpen with Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Ramon Troncoso and Hong-Chih Kuo? and if/when Ronald Belisario returns, then that’s one hell of a pen right there.
As for Atlanta, hmm, it’s tight, there’s no doubting that. Here’s why I’d pick Atlanta.
Reason number 1: Their starting pitching is awesome. You’ve got young guns Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson. Veterans such as Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson, and also Kenshin Kawakami shouldn’t be discounted either. Or we could see young Kris Medlan in the rotation.
Reason number 2: The bullpen is extremely solid. Despite losing Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, Atlanta picked up Billy Wagner (who I think will have a big year), have got ex Dodgers closer Takashi Saito setting up, will have a healthy Scott Proctor and solid relief from sidearming Aussie Peter Moylan. Jesse Chavez isn’t bad either.
Reason number 3: Jason Heyward, Brian McCann and Yunel Escobar. Was there really any doubt that Heyward wasn’t going to make this team out of spring training? Even if he didn’t, he sure made the most entertaining headlines in Spring when his home runs in batting practice went so far that they not only cleared the outfield fence but also destroyed the sun roof of assistant GM Bruce Manno’s car! Heyward is going to be a monster no doubt. Brian McCann got his eyes fixed, and Yunel Escobar is one of the most exciting young shortstops in the game. If Chipper can return to form and Nate McLouth duplcates his all star form from 2008, Atlanta could be in business.
If I’m honest, I still really like the Rays, so I’d take them to come out of the AL. In the NL, it’s tough to argue against the Phillies, and I don’t think the Cardinals have what it takes to make it through, despi
te being the class of the central. I just don’t see enough depth there. I could handily pick the Rockies, but I just don’t think they’ve got the starting pitching to match up in a short playoff series. So the NLCS for me is Phillies Dodgers, but I think the boys in Blue will finally get past the Phils in 2010.
So there ya go, Dodgers/Rays in the 2010 fall classic. My winner? Tampa in 7.
Can’t wait for about 2 1/2 hours from now! enjoy opening day and night folks wherever you are. Rest assured I’ll be watching.