I know I haven't written in a while but I thought with the excitement of Opening Days and all the picks of "experts" and talking heads that I'd again throw my hat in the ring. I'm going to break down every team and give my prediction on where they should rank this season.
I don't agree that this is the power house division everyone says it is. There are a lot of holes, a lot of aging players, some awful rotations. Where it is strong is in the prospect ranks which makes the top 4 teams in this division buyers on the trade market.
1. Boston Red Sox
I think they have the best hitting lineup, possibly in all of the Majors once Carl Crawford returns. It would be nice for them to make a move for a RFer, but the system has some pieces that could fill that hole if need be - which it shouldn't need.
The rotation could be the best in the division, I'd say at worst it is the second best. The area of concern here is with health as even their #4 and #5 are big question marks.
In any event, the Sox should be able to take the division as they are the team with the least amount of flaws and the best top end players in the division.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are a team of fewer weaknesses rather than many strengths. The rotation is probably the best in the division as this team could boast three #1 starters. The bullpen will be strong but it won't be relied on heavily.
Offensively and defensively this is a good cast of players. Longoria is the only superstar but there aren't any other holes.
3. New York Yankees
I know CC Sabathia took the mound every three days a few years back in Milwaukee, but that's not going to happen this year. So who do you trust as even a #3 in this rotation? Simply put, I don't think they have the rotation depth to get it done...Yet. In a year or two when Betances and Banuelos are ready and relied on, but for now there is a lot of junk-at-the-wall throwing going on in this rotation. Don't tell me that Kuroda and Pineda are the answers in that ballpark, in that division, with that fly ball rate. The bullpen will again be dynamite, and that might be enough to save them from a bunch of 4 inning starts.
Offensively, this team isn't getting any younger. Granderson is off of a career year and I rarely bet on a player to improve on his numbers after a career year. Aside from him, where is the upside? What happens if they drop 60-80 runs scored?
4. Toronto Blue Jays
This is not the Lucero of baseball in that they are everyone's darling. Offensively this team is stacked. Top to bottom it's tough to find a player who shouldn't at least exceed last year's output. This could easily be the highest scoring team in the league if everything goes right. Big statement as they were 6th in the Majors in scoring last year, but still, this team can, and will rake. Edwin Encarnacion is my breakout player on this team.
However, the reason this team ranks 4th, their rotation. What a mess!!! They have two starters and that's it. There is a little bit of wishing with those two starters as is. If this is 2013, it's one thing, but the Jays are thin with upper level prospect pitchers and it's going to come through this season.
5. Baltimore Orioles
This team just got unlucky. Had things gone according to plan, this team would be ready to contend this year. Unfortunately, all of that hope that was in the rotation (Britton, Matusz, and Tillman) has gone in the complete wrong direction. Unfortunately that happens.
Offensively this team is fine and should see improvements from where they were in 2011. We're not looking at any easy win for a starter, but we're also not looking at a 1-9 like the Sox. I'm also betting there are going to be some pieces sold at some point today. This is the easiest pick in baseball.
Everyone, I mean everyone is saying the Tigers will run away with this division, I don't see it.
1. Chicago White Sox
What changed with this team from 2010 to 2011? Essentially nothing. Yet for some reason this team dropped 100 runs offensively. They won't be that bad. Rios and Dunn will more then make up for that and this team will again score 750.
On the pitching side of the ball the rotation is excellent, arguably the best in the division. Is there a #1? No. Maybe not even a #2. But there are easily 4 #3s which is more then enough when you have the bats this team possesses. 90 wins will be enough to win this division and that's where the ChiSox will finish.
2. Cleveland Indians
I'm coming around on the rotation and I like how they built their infield around defense. The club is going to be pesky and get starters out early as they will get on base a lot. Lot's of areas for improvement top to bottom and the team couldn't possibly be less healthy then they were last year.
The rotation is nice and I'm looking forward to seeing them develop as a unit. Not having a lefty just feels weird, as does not having a closer, but that's what makes this team a #2 instead of a #1.
However, this club is thin and another injury to one of their stars and the season is over.
3. Detroit Tigers
What was the difference between 2011 and 2010? Or 2009? Career years. Top to bottom this club received career years from their players. Jose Valverde didn't blow a single save last year. he probably should be expected to blow at least 5. Let's be lazy and call those 5 losses. Now we're a 90 win team. How about Fister, what were his numbers last year? Verlander has to be expected to take a step back. So on the pitching side I can see this team dropping 8-10 wins.
How about with the bats? Who sees Jhonny Peralta having another career year? At age "30"? How about Avila? Did they really improve with Fielder over Martinez? Let's not even talk about the infield defense.
Like I said, 2011 had everything go right for this team. Not only did everything click for them in-house, but the club also got lightning in a bottle from the other clubs in the division who were no-shows from June on-wards.
4. Minnesota Twins
I don't hate this team. It's not great, but it has what the Sox have in that they can't possibly be as unlucky as they were the previous year. The hitters will improve top to bottom as nearly everyone was injured or had a career year, albeit in the wrong direction.
The pitching staff is shallow, but it too has upside. And the bullpen again has some depth.
In all honesty, I could see the Twins overtaking the Tigers in this division.
5. Kansas City Royals.
This team has no rotation. None. And like the Orioles, the highly regarded arms they did have in the system haven't looked too great. It's going to take some clever work by Moore to get this club moving up the ladder. Fortunately they have the chips in the cupboard to make some noise with trades like they did with Sanchez.
The hitting should be solid for this team, but like the Tigers, there were a lot of career years for this club. The difference, those career years were from hitters that are in their prime. Still, it's tough to see Francouer or Gordon being as good as they was last year, same goes for Hosmer who should be a star, just not yet.
Everyone is taking the Rangers but as you have seen, I have my reservations against teams coming off of career years.
1. Anaheim Angels
You add Albert Pujols to an already playoff caliber team, you make the playoffs. You swap Bobby Abreu with Kendry Morales, you dominate your division. This club even had a fair amount of down years from their hitters. Which is why their additions should add about 100 runs, which will also be enough to get them in the playoffs.
Then, there is their rotation. The best in baseball in my opinion. It is young, durable, and absolutely deep, with 4 studs. The issue is if an injury creeps up on them. However, that shouldn't be an issue given the history of these pitchers. This could be an easy 100 win team if there ever was one.
2. Texas Rangers
We're probably looking at a Wild Card team here. More because of what they have to play against half of the time then on actual talent. Yes this team has a lot offensively, but it also has a lot of problems. I'm not banking on Josh Hamilton not falling off the wagon again. Where there is smoke, there is fire. Napoli far exceeded expectations. So too did Beltre. Cruz was a monster. Young isn't young. Just like the Yankees and the Tigers a great deal of regression has to be expected.
The pitching should be interesting to watch and may be enough to put this team over the top. Darvish sounds like he is a monster, but let's see how the workload and weather stateside fairs on him. Keep in mind he was pitching most of his games in temperature controlled ballparks. Texas is hot! The rest of the rotation is also a bunch of question marks, something a word-series bound team doesn't need to face.
Anyone who picks this team for the World Series is just copy and pasting last years results.
3. Seattle Mariners
A lot went wrong for this team last year. Not a lot will go right this year. However, it won't be as bad as last year and there is reason for hope. Offensively they should be better across the board, just look at Chone Figgins and Justin Smoak. They also added a dangerous prospect in some guy named Jesus Montero to improve on the worst DH spot in the league from a year ago, tough to imagine his OPS is less than .650.
On the pitching side this club will be okay. Most of the starters are just biding their time until a flux of young, high upside arms. This team is poised for a big move in 2013 and with deep pockets, the rest of the West should be alert.
4. Oakland A's
The worst team in the American League in my opinion. There aren't going to be a lot of runs scored at McAfee Collesium, at least not for the green and gold. The plus side, they might sell some additional tickets which won't force them to close the middle deck as well (my attempt at a joke, but do they even have a middle deck?)
The pitching is all prospects so whoever is throwing today doesn't really matter except for who they flip them for in a couple months. I can't see anyone being off-limits.
The hitting is starting to show some signs of development, but I expect a lot of strikeouts from these guys, which doesn't bode well when you are in a pitchers park.