So, here we go. I rather liked the approach Cousin Ben took to his version of this same topic, so I'm going to ape it for a bit. Beginning with the big boy league, let's do this.
3. The Enemy
So, I may be a bit biased here. If I was being a bit more objective, I'd note that the top 3 teams are the three best organizations in all of baseball, and any one of them could easily win the division. Also, it sucks to be either Toronto or Baltimore, although with the amounts of young talent Baltimore has, it probably sucks more to be Toronto. I also loved Baltimore's signing of Garrett Atkins, as an everyday warning to Matt Wieters of what he could become if he doesn't work hard.
2. Uggggghhhhhhhhhh. Bad, bad division. Chicago (White Sox), I guess. Confidently.
5. Kansas 'Trust the Process' City
So, yeah. Even with Joe Nathan out, I like the Twins to win a weak division. I loved their offseason moves (Hardy, Pavano and Orlando Hudson headlining), and think they'll take the division even with Joe Mauer's inevitable regression and the sudden realization that Justin Morneau isn't all that great. Beyond that, it's a bit of a crapshoot. I at least trust Chicago's pitching staff, so they get the two spot. Cleveland has a lot of really interesting young hitting (Including absolute beast of a catcher prospect Carlos Santana, stolen from the Dodgers in exchange for Casey Blake) to go along with pitching slightly better than you'll find in an average game of wiffle ball. Detroit has Miguel Cabrera and did I mention Miguel Cabrera? Their actual plan for this season involves having Dontrelle Willis in their rotation. By design. The same Dontrelle Willis who, one month ago, described himself thusly: "To me, the issue is I'm terrible". Good luck with that. And also, there are the Royals.
2. Los Angeles of Anaheim of California of The United States of Planet Earth of The Milky Way of Whatever is Bigger Than That
No knock on Oakland, who could easily finish second in the AL Central. This is a good division top to bottom, with the Rangers riding an amazing wave of young talent right to its forefront (Interesting number of the preseason: 5. That is the number of players on the Rangers 40-man roster over the age of 30. That is amazing). I could see each of these teams finishing over .500. It won't happen in the end, but man, that would be cool. Anyway, after adding more pitching this offseason, I don't like Seattle all that much. I actually think they take a step back. They outperformed their pythagorean record last year, and Cliff Lee is already hurting. Still the best defense in baseball, but it's a small step back first for an organization which is undoubtedly on the rise. As for LAoAoCoTUSoPEoTMWoWiBTT, whatever. They are not at all exciting, and finally lose their death grip on the division this year to a Rangers team poised to start an impressive playoff run of their own.
On to AAAA!
5. NY Mets
Yeah, that's the last-place team. I debated. Do I think it's a lock? No. But man, that's a bad, old team with no depth. At all. If anything goes wrong, it's going to go really wrong. So congrats to Omar Minaya for building the All-Downside Team. Why haven't they fired that guy yet? Anyway, on to more competent organizations. The Braves and Phillies are almost a coin flip at the top of the standings, but I'll take the Phillies riding a resurgent year from Cole Hamels, who was terribly unlucky last year. And I hear there's some 'Holiday' guy. Don't know what that's supposed to mean. The Braves are once again retooling around an impressive crop of talented youngsters, and should take the division from the aging Phillies in another year. In other news, the Marlins are now paying three players a livable wage, and the Nationals suck.
1. St. Louis
4. Chicago (Cubs)
I'm scared that Chris Carpenter's arm could fall off at any time, but I'll bet that he makes it through half the season first, which will give the Cardinals enough of a lead to coast to the playoffs in another bad division. I like Ben's pick of the Reds, but I think he's a year early on them. Next year, providing Dusty doesn't chop off Aroldis Chapman's arm with an axe, watch out for them. They have a lot of young talent, led by certifiable beast Jay Bruce (Joey Who? He's alright, I guess). Milwaukee imported Randy Wolf to try to stop the bleeding in the rotation, which would have been better last year if their opponents had been allowed to use a tee. Chicago has a bunch of terrible, expensive, aging players, and have willingly decided to let Carlos Silva start. Pittsburgh is still bad, but moving in the right direction. As for Houston, I will continue to beat the 'Ed Wade is terrible' drum until he is fired. Should be soon, considering how bad this roster is.
2. Los Angeles
4. San Francisco
5. San Diego
The last division. The Rockies have already lost Jeff Francis to the DL, which hurts (He was penciled in as their #2 starter). But I still think they can pull this out, led by a beast of a young offense. Though the sooner they get rid of Brad Hawpe, the better. Seth Smith, currently their 4th outfielder, is a better hitter than Hawpe, and also not the worst defensive right-fielder in baseball. So he's got that going for him. Which is nice. In LA, I think Manny continues his gradual decline, and phenom Clayton Kershaw takes a step back. This leaves a rotation of Chad Billingsley and pray for rain, which probably will not work well. Though I'm rooting for knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who made the rotation as the fifth starter. The world can never have too many knuckleball pitchers. Arizona has some impressive talent, but not enough to make a run at the divisional title with Brandon Webb still not throwing. As for San Francisco, well, they're built entirely on their pitching. However, for some reason apparent only to their management, they have decided to surround the pitchers with players who can't hit or field. I'll probably go into this in more detail later. Cliff's notes version: Bad idea. And there is San Diego, which I'm told means "A Whale's Vagina".
I like Tampa and Atlanta to win the Wild Cards, with the World Series being Boston v. Colorado. And the Sox take it. Yes, I am biased. Now, on to more interesting things.
AL MVP - Evan Longoria. It's only a matter of time. We are all witnesses.
AL Cy Young - John Lester. With that defense behind him, he's going to be awesome.
AL RoY - Will be arbitrarily voted on. And not a pitcher.
AAAA MVP - Pujols. Every year, Pujols.
AAAA Cy Young - Ricky Nolasco. My fantasy team believes.
AAAA RoY - Jason Heyward. And he won't even be that good this year. Down the line, watch out.
And now for some longer thoughts:
Favorite stat of the offseason: Courtesy of Joe Posnanski. Last year, out of all the players in the majors who qualified for the batting title, only nine posted an OPS+ of 80 or less (An OPS of roughly 90% of the league average. Guys below this mark don't tend to stick around that long). Going into this season, the Royals are starting 5 players who achieved that dubious distinction.
Why the Red Sox won't get shut out every game: Dan Shaughnessy is a moron. See, last year, Boston's offense was still third-best in the AL, despite getting less than nothing from shortstop and catcher (Until the victor Martinez trade). Yes, Mike Cameron is an offensive downgrade from Jason Bay, but he is a huge defensive upgrade. The Sox are starting guys who have a legit chance at a Gold Glove at all four infield spots, and have good defenders at each outfield spot as well. All this without sacrificing much (If any) offense, and keeping flexibility down the road with short-term contracts. Awesome job by the front office. The defense will help ground-ball heavy pitchers more than the rest, so I look for big performances by Buchholz and Lester, and stick to my guns that the former will be better then John Lackey this year.
The odd Minnesota defense: the Twins pay close attention to infield defense, so much that they routinely start Nick Punto, who does not, technically, know which end of the bat to hold. This results in wonderful infield D, as well as many, many outs. Their outfield, on the other hand, can (kind of) hit (Delmon Young excepted). However, they play defense slightly worse than if the outfield was manned by me. Drunk. In a sack race. To put it mildly, I don't understand. Fortunately for them, their best pitchers are fly-ball oriented. Look, just because I picked them to win a crappy division doesn't mean I agree with everything they do.
What in the world is San Francisco doing?: They have the best pitcher in the game. They have a very good #2 pitcher. They have Barry Zito, who quietly has become respectable again, if not the ace he used to (appear) to be (He was rather lucky). They have Jonathan Sanchez, who may need corrective lenses of some kind, but is absolutely unhittable. And then, here is their positional lineup, along with whether or not the player can hit and field their position:
C: B. Molina (No/No)
1B: Aubrey Huff (No/Not really)
2B: Freddy Sanchez (-Ish/-Ish)
SS: Edgar Renteria (No/No)
3B: Pablo Sandoval (Yes/No)
LF: Mark Derosa (-Ish. He hits well for a second baseman/-Ish)
CF: Aaron Rowand (-Ish/No)
RF: Nate Schierholtz (Who? Is this a real player?)
Attention, Brian Sabean: You're wasting prime years of Tim Lincecum's career. Please cease and desist.
Worst contract of the offseason: Brandon Lyon, 3 years, $15 million, to Houston. A team way, way out of contention is handing out major guaranteed money to a guy who is league-average at the least important position on the roster. Wow.
Funniest thing of the offseason: The fact that, back in the day, Red Sox scribes used to bemoan the team's lack of pitching and defense in favor of all sluggers. Now that the team has focused on pitching and defense, we get articles about how the team won't score enough runs. I hope the Boston media dies in a fire.
And one more Royals note: Last year, Dayton Moore chided fans for not trusting 'The Process'. This offseason, we learned that 'The Process' is apparently to acquire every player they could find who was deemed not good enough to play for the White Sox. That ought to work well.
So, that's it. Let the season begin! If you have any questions on anything here, or anything I didn't cover, let me know. I'll throw up a comment or post in reply, depending on how long an answer it necessitates.