The moves have been made, the deals have been struck, Spring Training is coming to a close and Opening Day is within sights. This can only mean one thing- it is time for KenWo to make his predictions for the upcoming season. Sure last year I had the Yankees missing the playoffs and the Royals finishing 2nd. (What in the hell was I thinking)? I also did call the Giants handsome improvement and the LA teams playoff success, so I will point to that and say "I told you so", like any good prognosticator will do. I am ready to take another swing and I am sitting dead red.... because I can't hit a curveball... so here we go!
New York Yankees 100-62
Boston Red Sox 97-65
Baltimore Orioles 86-76
Tampa Bay Rays 82-80
Toronto Blue Jays 71-91
Yankees- The defending World Champions added Curtis Granderson, Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson to their already stellar squad. Granderson and Johnson will be replacing Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui in the lineup, while Vazquez occupies the spot in the rotation of Chien Ming Wang. I picked against the Yankees last year, but not this year. That lineup is too strong with studs like Rodriguez, Jeter, Teixeira, Granderson and the pitching is no slouch either, with Sabathia, Burnett, Vazquez, Pettitte and Hughes. One weak spot may be their middle relief where Joba Chamberlain is returning as the primary setup man along with Damaso Marte, but Mariano Rivera still is holding down the 9th inning so any window for the opponent will be a small one. They will win in spite of their starting right fielder, Nick Swisher.
Red Sox- The Red Sox are one team that can match, and maybe exceed, the Yankee pitching staff. Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield give the Red Sox six strong starters. Their bullpen is pretty strong with Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Daniel Bard leading the way. They picked up Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro to shore up their defense and have Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez and the Big Papi in their lineup. The Red Sox might be the most well rounded team in baseball.
Orioles- Yes, you read it correctly. I picked the Orioles to finish ahead of Tampa. Last season the Giants were my team that would make significant improvements, this year, it is the O's. Their lineup is very good. Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Miguel Tejada, Matt Weiters, Luke Scott and Nolan Reimold are all solid offensive players. Garrett Atkins is their new first baseman and was terrible last year, but had three very strong years prior to that. The pitching is still the question, but with Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Kevin Millwood all joining the rotation, it should be improved. Mike Gonzalez enters the season as the closer after successful years with Atlanta. The Orioles are on the way up, and it starts this season.
Devil Rays- The Rays are in need of a very fast start this season. If they don't get it, there is a possibility that Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano all get dealt at or before the deadline. I think the Rays will be taking a step back again this year. Evan Longoria is a stud, and may very well be the best 3rd baseman in baseball. I don't, however, trust Jason Bartlett or Ben Zobrist to follow up their superb seasons from a year ago. BJ Upton has struggled to take the next step and with a pitching staff that includes Wade Davis, David Price and Jeff Niemann, I don't think they will be good enough to justify keeping Crawford. Once Crawford is dealt, Pena will be next and this will lead to about a .500 season for the Rays.
Blue Jays- The Jays are clearly in a transition period. They have some nice pieces in Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, but the rest of the offense is filled with filler. Edwin Encarnacion, Alex Gonzalez, Lyle Overbay, John Buck and Jose Bautista are just keeping the seats warm until the Blue Jays are ready to contend. Travis Snider is getting another shot in left field after he failed last year. Rounding out the offense is Vernon Wells, who is one of the most overpaid players in the league. The only way Wells bad contract gets moved is if Kenny Williams picks him up off waivers at the deadline. The pitching staff is full of young arms that are basically auditioning for their role next year as Toronto decides who they should "weed out". The bullpen has some talent in Scott Downs and Jason Frasor, who have both been in trade rumors so far. Easy pick for last in this division.
Chicago White Sox 88-74
Minnesota Twins 85-77
Detroit Tigers 81-81
Kansas City Royals 73-89
Cleveland Indians 69-95
White Sox- The White Sox are another team that may indeed have the best pitching in the A.L. Jake Peavy, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Mark Buehrle give the Sox a very strong 1-4. Freddy Garcia showed last year, in limited time, that he may still be a useful arm and if not they have highly touted Daniel Hudson waiting in the wings. The pen has some big arms in Matt Thornton, Bobby Jenks and JJ Putz at the back end. The major question will be if the Sox can score enough runs to supplement the pitching. I think they will do enough to win the division with Gordon Beckham, Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski leading the way. If Andruw Jones finds the magic dust and returns to form, they could be even better than the prediction. If the rotating DH doesn't work, Quentin gets hurt, Teahen struggles and Juan Pierre doesn't get enough hits, they will struggle to win 3rd place. I think the pitching carries them to the division title, however.
Twins- I was set to give the Twins the nod this year, and then Joe Nathan blew out his elbow. The Twins staff is a tad above average, but without Nathan the bullpen becomes very questionable. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau team with Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Denard Span to round out a very formidable offense. Jim Thome and Orlando Hudson were signed late in the offseason to strengthen an already legit offense. They will score runs, but with Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano in the rotation they will also give up a bunch. Take away Nathan and the Domefield advantage and they will come up a tad short in the Central.
Tigers- The Tigers are a tough team to figure out. On one hand they dump Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Edwin Jackson, Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney leading one to believe they are going to rebuild. Then the next week they sign Jose Valverde to close and Johnny Damon to play left signaling that they believe they are still in it. They have some young guys, Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore, who are cracking a MLB lineup for the first time. They have some guys who may be enjoying their last season in the sun in Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen. One thing is for certain, Miguel Cabrera can hit... whether he is drunk or not. Justin Verlander is a stud on the mound. He is followed up by youngsters Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer and recovering veterans Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis. I don't think the Tigers know if they are rebuilding, contending or both. If they don't know, I don't either, which leads to a .500 record and 3rd place finish.
Royals- I've got the Royals finishing out of the cellar this year, but I won't get crazy and predict them for 2nd like I did last season. Zack Greinke is coming off a Cy Young season and may have just began to tap his potential. He is followed by Gil Meche, who struggled last year but has been very good prior to 09, Kyle Davies and Luke Hochaver, who are looking to live up to some of their hype and Brian Bannister. Not the best rotation in the league, but not the worst either. The offense is led by blossoming star Billy Butler, David DeJesus and Alberto Callaspo. They signed Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel to be part of the outfield and traded for Chris Getz to hold down 2nd base until he gets injured. The closer, Joakim Soria, may be the best in the division and he will be set up by Juan Cruz, Robinson Tejada and Kyle Farnsworth. I think they will finish ahead of the Indians on the backs of Butler, Greinke and Soria alone, but they need more of everything to break the .500 mark.
Indians- I really, really don't get why some people are throwing out love for the Indians this year. They weren't very good when they had CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee. How in the hell are they supposed to be good without them? Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona lead the rotation into battle, which is very scary. Grady Sizemore looks to rebound from his 09 season and Shin Soo Choo looks to build on his. Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta and Asdrubal Cabrera have been inconsistent in their careers so it is hard to imagine all 3 of them playing well this season. Their bullpen is a mess with Chris Perez slated to open the season as the closer since Kerry Wood is hurt. Harry Doyle can swear all he wants during the Indians post game shows this season- because nobody will be listening anyway.
California Angels- 93-69
Seattle Mariners- 90-72
Texas Rangers- 80-82
Oakland A's- 73-89
Angels- The California Angels of Los Angeles of Anaheim lost John Lackey, Chone Figgins and Vlad Guerrero this offseason and added Joel Pineiro, Hideki Matsui and Fernando Rodney. Every year a lot of people predict the end of the Angels dominance out west. I won't make the same mistake. They always find a way to win this division. Since 2004, they only lost it to Frank Thomas' A's in 2006. This run will continue. Their offense is very good, with Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Matsui, Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales. Their starting pitching consists of Jared Weaver, Joe Sauders, Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir and Pineiro. The bullpen has potential with Brian Fuentes, Rodney, Jason Bulger and Scot Shields. If they could finally get some production out of Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood, they might win the division going away.
Mariners- The Mariners made a big splash this offseason by trading for Cliff Lee and signing Chone Figgins. With Figgins, Ichiro and Jose Lopez will have strong offensive seasons, but they are relying on Milton Bradley, Ken Griffey, Casey Kotchman and Jack Wilson to also produce. They will a little bit, but not enough to move them past the Angels. Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee give the Mariners probably the best 1-2 punch in the league, but behind them you have Ryan Rowland Smith, Ian Snell and Doug Fister which makes Hernandez and Lee the modern day Spahn and Sain and pray for rain. I suppose you could use Hernandez and Lee and skip the other three. David Aardsma is penciled in as the closer which also makes me uncomfortable. He is a good candidate to blow up this season. Mark Lowe and Brandon League, however, are quality setup men. The Mariners made a big splash, but only big enough to finish 2nd.
Rangers- This is my pick, along with the Rays, to fall off from their 2009 performance. Yes, Texas has some outstanding hitters in Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Elvis Andrus and Michael Young. Frank Francisco and Neftali Feliz are a nice combination out of the bullpen and Scott Feldman busted out with 17 wins last year. They are counting on Josh Hamilton, Vlad Guerrero and Rich Harden to find themselves again. They are counting on Ozzie favorite CJ Wilson to make the jump from bullpen to rotation. They are counting on Julio Bourbon, Jared Saltalamacchia, Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison to produce as regulars. As usual, they will score a lot of runs in their ballpark but don't have the pitching to compete with the Angels or the Mariners.
A's- Kurt Suzuki is becoming a very solid offensive catcher and Jack Cust has some power. That about sums up the A's offense. On the mound they have some promising youngsters in Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson. They have some veterans coming off of injury in Justin Duchscherer and Ben Sheets. They have the reigning Rookie of the Year as closer in Andrew Bailey and a nice setup man in Michael Wuertz. They also will have the worst record in the AL West, and will battle for worst team in the American League.
Philadelphia Phillies 96-66
Florida Marlins 89-73
Atlanta Braves 86-76
New York Mets 76-86
Washington Nationals 69-93
Phillies- They have been to the World Series two years in a row and added one of the games finest pitchers in Roy Halladay. They have an unbelievable offense with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino leading the way. They have two very talented young pitchers in Cole Hamels and JA Happ and solid veteran Joe Blanton to follow up Halladay in the rotation. The bullpen is a constant struggle, and that won't change with Brad Lidge injured to start the season, but their rotation and offense will make up for a lot of bullpen struggles. Phillies win the division yet again.
Marlins- The Marlins have a lot of pop in their offense with Hanley Ramirez, Cody Ross, Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla. Chris Coghlan is coming off of a Rookie of the Year season. They could boast one of the best offenses in the league if Cameron Maybin lives up to his potential. The rotation consists of two studs in Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco, and they have strong bullpen arms in Leo Nunez, Brian Sanchez and Renyel Pinto. They don't spend a ton of money, but they get a lot out of the young talent that they have. I like the Marlins, so should you. 2nd place finish for the Fighting Fish.
Braves- The Braves have some strong talent on the roster, but in my opinion, are counting too much on guys that are injury prone. Tim Hudson, Troy Glaus, Chipper Jones, Derek Lowe, Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner all fit into this category. If all of them remain healthy, the Braves may win the division. I don't see that happening though. Nate McLouth, Brian McCann and Yunel Escobar are strong offensive pieces and Jason Heyward is an absolute stud in the making. Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens are very solid at the top of the rotation, but they will miss the consistency of Javier Vazquez. Braves will start strong and then taper off due to injuries and will finish in third.
Mets- Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana and Frankie Rodriguez were all superstar players that signed with the Mets and proceeded to not live up to expectations. I have a feeling Jason Bay will continue the trend. Jose Reyes and David Wright showed great talent prior to last year, then Reyes went down for the year (and will start this year on the disabled list) and Wright lost all of his power. I don't know what it is with the Mets, but lately anything they touch turns to shit. Maybe that is why they acquired Gary Mathews. He is already shit, so maybe now he will improve? I don't know what the thinking is in that pickup. They are lucky the Nationals are in this division or I would pick them last.
Nationals- The Nationals are going to be more competitive than in years previous. However, the 10 game improvement I have given them still leaves them at 69-93. Adam Dunn will provide plenty of tape measure shots, Ryan Zimmerman is a top 5 third baseman in the Majors, and Nyjer Morgan was great for the Nationals after his arrival last season. The signing of Ivan Rodriguez may help out some of the young pitchers but he isn't the same player as he was 3 years ago, let alone 15. Jason Marquis should improve the starting rotation over last season, but the rest of the staff is unproven or untalented. The biggest story for the Nationals will be when Stephen Strasburg is arriving and how he performs after he does. Maybe next year I can move them ahead of the Mets, not this year though.
St. Louis Cardinals 95-67
Milwaukee Brewers 83-79
Cincinnati Reds 80-82
Chicago Cubs 77-85
Pittsburgh Pirates 74-88
Houston Astros 68-94
Cardinals- Last year I picked the Cubs going away in this division, this year it is the Cardinals. They have the best two starting pitchers in the division and 2 of the best 4 offensive players in the division. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright finished second and third in the Cy Young voting last year. They will be dominant, if healthy, again this year. The rest of the rotation is filled out with Kyle Lohse, Brad Penny and Jamie Garcia. Reports on Penny have been good and Kyle Lohse had a great 2008 before last seasons struggles. Pitching Coach Dave Duncan tends to get the most out of his staff. On offense you have reigning MVP Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick leading the way with youngsters Colby Rasmus and David Freese coming on. Ryan Franklin was solid as the closer last season. The Cardinals aren't the best of my division winners, but they will win by the biggest margin.
Brewers- The Brewers have the other two best offensive players in the division in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Those two should hit about 80 homers on their own. Alcides Escobar is a promising rookie, Rickie Weeks was having a fine season before getting injured last year and is returning and Carlos Gomez can now irritate Cub fans instead of Sox fans in the upcoming years. The rotation consists of ace Yovani Gallardo, veteran newcomers in Randy Wolf and Doug Davis and is filled out by Dave Bush and Manny Parra. Trevor Hoffman is still getting it done somehow as the closer and Latroy Hawkins has been brought in to set up. The Brewers have enough firepower to finish 2nd in the Central.
Reds- Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips are superstars in the making, Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce are trying to realize their potential, Scott Rolen is healthy and Orlando Cabrera has been brought in to play shortstop. The Reds have potential to be a pretty good offense. On the mound they have veterans Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo followed by Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and eventually Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman. They have potential to have a pretty strong starting five. With Francisco Cordero, Arthur Rhodes and Nick Masset (!?) giving the Reds a solid bullpen, the Reds are an up and coming team. I don't expect them to win the division, but a second place finish is possible.
Cubs- The combination of age, bad contracts and new owners has closed the window on this current Cubs team in my opinion. Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster are back at the top of the rotation, each hoping to improve upon their 2009 seasons. Tom Gorzelanny and Carlos Silva are at the back of the rotation, having the Cubbie faithful praying that Ted Lilly doesn't suffer any more setbacks. Randy Wells was solid last year and looks to get even better in his sophomore season. Alfonso Soriano, Derrick Lee and Aramis Ramirez give the Cubs some pop in the middle of the order, Marlon Byrd is hoping to produce more than Milton Bradley did last season and Kosuke Fukudome tries once again to live up to his contract. Carlos Marmol is solid if he's throwing strikes out of the pen, but John Grabow is the only other proven commodity in the bullpen. The Cubs will count on a lot of rookies and a lot of turn-arounds to be contenders in 2010. I don't see it happening.
Pirates- The bad news: The Pirates will again finish below .500 as they have every year since 1991. The good news: the future is looking up. Andrew McCutchen is one of the most exciting players to come around the bend in a long time. He can do it all on the field and will continue to breath fresh air in this struggling organization. Garrett Jones finally got to play consistently in the big leagues and didn't disappoint, hitting .293 with 21 bombs in limited time. If he continues to progress and they can get anything out of former top prospects Lastings Milledge, Andy LaRoche Ryan Doumit and Jeff Clement the Pirates may have their best offense since Barry Bonds took off for San Fran. Akinori Iwamura will be counted on to bring a veteran presence to the offense. The starters are led by Zach Duke and are all very young. Ross Ohlendorf and Paul Maholm have both shown flashes though. Octavio Dotel, DJ Carrasco and Brendan Donnelly have been brought in to improve the bullpen. With Pedro Alvarez coming quickly, the Pirates are FINALLY looking ready to take a positive step for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Astros- The Astros may battle for the title of worst team in baseball in 2010. I don't think they will fall that far, but they will struggle to get to the 70 win plateau in 2010. Carlos Lee is one of the most consistent hitters in the league. You can mark him down for at least .300 25 100 and Hunter Pence has been solid every year he's been in the league. With Lance Berkman starting the season on the DL though, there isn't much else to get excited about on the offensive side unless you are a big fan of Geoff Blum. Roy Oswalt took a step back last season after an incredible first 8 years in the league, but Wandy Rodriguez stepped up nicely. Brett Myers comes to the Astros after an injury plagued 2009 and Matt Lindstrom and Brandon Lyon make up the back end of the bullpen. Too many bad players are being counted on for the Astros to have any success this season.
Los Angeles Dodgers 93-69
San Francisco Giants 90-72
Colorado Rockies 85-77
Arizona Diamondbacks 82-80
San Diego Padres 60-102
Dodgers- This is without question the toughest division to pick. I could see any of the top 4 teams winning this division giving certain circumstances. I chose to go with the Dodgers because, in my opinion, they have the best balance of any club. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier had huge success last year and are becoming major superstars. Manny Ramirez is in a contract season, so I think he will have a great year. James Loney is very comparable to Mark Grace, he won't hit you 30 homers but he will hit .290 with 90 RBI's. Russell Martin and Rafael Furcal have been good in the past and are hoping to find it again. On the mound, they have Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, who have yet to put it all together for a full season but both have the tools to be aces. Hiroki Kuroda has been solid since his arrival and Vincente Padilla was solid after arriving in Hollywood last year. Jonathan Broxton may be the best closer in the league and George Sherrill is a solid lefty setting him up. I think the Dodgers win the division again in 2010.
Giants- I predicted their improvement last year, and I think it continues this year with a Wild Card birth. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are with Wainwright/Carpenter of the Cardinals for best 1/2 punch in the league. Barry Zito pitched a lot better last season and Jonathan Sanchez has nasty stuff, as evidenced by his no hitter last season. Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff were signed to improve the offense and will do so. Pablo Sandoval has developed into one of the best hitters in the game and Ben Molina has been great for the Giants. In the bullpen, Brian Wilson is the closer with Jeremy Affeldt setting him up. They were both dominant last year. The Giants will be playing into October this year.
Rockies- The Rockies are a very tough team. With Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, Brad Hawpe, Carlos Gonzalez and Miguel Olivo they have plenty of pop in the lineup. With Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge De La Rosa they might have two guys that will each strikeout 200. Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis are solid veterans rounding out the rotation. In the pen, Huston Street starts on the DL which may hurt if Franklin Morales and Rafael Bentancourt can't pick up the slack. The Rocks could easily win this division, but I see them falling back to 3rd this year.
Diamondbacks- The 4th team that could possibly win this division will do so if they get outstanding starting pitching from their top 3: Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson. They all could be aces of plenty of staffs in the league. However, Webb is having trouble getting on the mound again this spring. Ian Kennedy and Rodrigo Lopez will fill out the rotation. They also have improved the offense. Adam LaRoche and Kelly Johnson have been brought in and will supplement Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds and Miguel Montero. Upton is quickly becoming one of the best players in the league and is only 22 years old. The bullpen consists of Chad Qualls and Bobby Howry, each serviceable. If things go right, the Diamondbacks could make the postseason. Webb's injuries though make me think they are still a year away.
Padres- This was possibly the easiest pick of all. I would be shocked if the Padres didn't finish in the cellar this year. I have them as the only team in the league to lose 100+ games. Their best two players, Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell have been rumored in deals all winter long. I would be surprised if either made it into August on the team. Kyle Blanks is a huge, powerful outfielder. Jon Garland has been brought in to be the ace of the staff which also has Chris Young, Kevin Correia, Clayton Richard and Matt Latos. I foresee the Padres being the worst team in baseball in 2010.
Yankees over White Sox 3-1: White Sox don't have the hitting to contend with the Yankees
Red Sox over Angels 3-0: Red Sox are too solid in all facets of the game and move on easily.
Phillies over Giants 3-2: Halladay out duels Lincecum in a remarkable game 5 to move on.
Cardinals over Dodgers 3-1: Too much Wainwright, Carpenter and Pujols for the Dodgers.
Red Sox over Yankees 4-2: Boston beats New York on the backs of their starting rotation.
Phllies over Cardinals 4-2: Philadelphia goes to its 3rd Series in a row on the backs of Utley, Howard and Werth.
Red Sox over Phillies 4-2: Red Sox rotation too deep for the Phillies to handle.
AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
NL MVP: Chase Utley
AL Cy Young: Jon Lester
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay
AL ROY: Austin Jackson
NL ROY: Jason Heyward
World Series MVP: Dustin Pedroia
What do you guys think? Do you agree? Am I way off? I am bored with my playoff predictions already, but the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies are pretty much sure things in my opinion.