After months of waiting, spring is finally here. With spring comes one of my
favorite things in the world: Major League Baseball! I hope to provide my fellow
baseball fans with a little bit of intelligent insight into the upcoming season.
American League East:
1. New York Yankees:
They lost virtually nobody from last season; Randy
Johnson has probably adjusted to the hectic life of a Yankee, and oh, they
picked arguably the best leadoff hitter and run scorer in the game in Johnny
2. Boston Red Sox:
The Red Sox went through a lot of transitions this
off-season; they have a completely new infield consisting of Kevin Youkilis,
Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez and Mike Lowell, which does not have the offensive
power that last year’s did, but is much more reliable defensively. Josh
Beckett adds depth to the rotation, and Coco Crisp, who is coming off a great
year, replaces the aforementioned Damon.
3. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are a serious dark horse to make the
playoffs with Roy Halladay, one of the best pitchers in the game, healthy. They
have a top young pitcher in Gustavo Chacin, picked up another solid starter and
a good closer in AJ Burnett and BJ Ryan. The Jays have also added much needed
bats in Benjie Molina, Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus. This team is very complete
and will stay right on the heels of the Sox and the Yanks all season.
4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
The Rays are a young team that is still trying
to find its rhythm, but has the potential to be good. Jorge Cantu, Jonny Gomes
and Julio Lugo are coming off great seasons and are looking to continue their
success. If Rocco Baldelli avoids injury, the Rays’ offense could do some
damage. Their weakness, however, is their morbid pitching, which got no better
as they lost All-Star closer Danys Baez this off-season.
5. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles’ biggest off-season acquisition
was the underachieving starting pitcher Kris Benson. All of the O’s
attention came due to former first baseman Rafael Palmeiro’s steroid
violation and the retirement of alleged steroid abuser Sammy Sosa. This left the
Orioles with very little to look forward to in the upcoming season.
American League Central:
1. Chicago White Sox:
The World Champs picked up perennial power hitter
Jim Thome from the Phillies, re-signed first basemen Paul Konerko and still have
the same dominant pitching staff. Look for them to take the division with ease.
2. Cleveland Indians
The up-and-coming Indians will ride to a
successful season on the backs of sluggers Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner.
The biggest off-season losses for the Indians were 2005 AL ERA leader Kevin
Milwood, who went to the Rangers, and centerfielder Coco Crisp, who went to the
Red Sox. Other than those two, this team is full of youth and excitement and is
looking to make the playoffs after falling just one game short last season.
3. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are going to be an interesting team to
watch this year; they have an excellent young starting pitcher in Jeremy
Bonderman, they picked up Kenny Rogers from the Rangers, who seems to get better
with age, and have a healthy Magglio Ordonez in the outfield.
4. Minnesota Twins
The Twinkies’ reign of dominance in the AL
Central came to a screeching halt last year at the hands of the White Sox and
the Indians. Although the Twins still have dominant starting pitcher Johan
Santana, they did little to improve in the off-season and will likely end 2006
where they ended 2005: out of the playoffs.
American League West:
1. Oakland Athletics
Billy Beane has done it again. This low payroll
team has three dominant starting pitchers in Barry Zito, Rich Harden and Danny
Haren. The A’s also have a great young closer in Huston Street and have
added some power to their line up by picking up Milton Bradley and Frank Thomas.
Look for the A’s to prevail in the toughest division in baseball.
2. Seattle Mariners
This pick is the one that will probably get me the
most flak from my friends, but I think the Mariners have become a very solid and
complete baseball team. Phenom Felix Hernandez will lead their pitching staff,
while their offense will be powered by Ichiro, Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre and
newly acquired catcher Kenji Johjima.
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The reigning AL West champions are
looking at much tougher competition this year. Although they still have a great
offense with Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Chone Figgins, the Halos
won’t be able to squeak away with the division this year unless their
starting pitching (spare Bartolo Colon) improves.
4. Texas Rangers
Even without second baseman Alfonso Soriano, the
Rangers still have a great offense fueled by Mark Texiera, Michael Young and
Hank Blalock. While the Rangers did little to help their pitching, they did sign
Kevin Milwood who had an impressive year last year. Milwood has had an
up-and-down career and until last year never performed well as the ace of a
staff. Now pitching in one of the best hitters’ ballparks in baseball, his
chances at duplicating last year’s dominance are slim to none. Being in
this tough division won’t help the Ranger’s chances either.
American League Wild Card: Cleveland Indians
American League Champion: Chicago White Sox
National League East:
1. New York Mets:
In 2006 the Mets will end the Braves’ 14-year
NL East Reign. The Mets still have good starting pitching, headed by Pedro
Martinez and Tom Glavine. With young stud David Wright at third base, an
adjusted Carlos Beltran and speedy Jose Reyes, the Mets have all the pieces to
go far. They’ve added Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca, which should
provide power at first base and improved defense at catcher. The Mets seem to
have all the pieces on paper to make a deep playoff run; the only thing left is
to see is if they have the chemistry to make it happen on the field.
2. Atlanta Braves
The Braves are just as good as they were last year,
even though they lost Rafael Furcal. They acquired a great shortstop in Edgar
Renteria, have a healthy Chipper Jones and last year’s home run champion
Andruw Jones. The starting pitching is the only question mark for the Braves,
but as he always does, Bobby Cox will make this team as good as it can possibly
3. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies still have a very potent
offensive squad with Bobby Abreu, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard,
but do not have the starting pitching to back it up. Year after year, it has
been shown that pitching is what wins championships, not hitting. I guess the
Phillies missed the memo.
4. Washington Nationals
The Nats had a great start to last season but
really trailed off as the season progressed. Although they picked up a great
player in Alfonso Soriano, he isn’t happy in Washington and is even less
happy having to play outfield. Livan Hernandez, the Nationals’ number one
starter, isn’t getting any younger either. Chemistry is going to be a big
problem for this team.
5. Florida Marlins
Two seasons after a miraculous championship run, the
Marlins are almost unrecognizable. Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera and Juan
Pierre are the only distinguishable names on this depleted roster, and three
players don’t make a winning team. The Marlins are going to be having one
of those clichéd “rebuilding years.”
National League Central:
1. St. Louis Cardinals
I dare you — no, I defy you — to say
any other team is going to win this division. The Cardinals still have NL Cy
Young award winner Chris Carpenter and NL MVP winner Albert Pujols. One of the
best third basemen in baseball, Scott Rolen, is healthy after missing almost all
of last season, and they still have one of the best regular season managers in
baseball in Tony Larussa. The only question for the Cardinals is this: Will Rick
Ankiel get any playing time in the outfield?
2. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brew Crew had the fifth best ERA in the
national league last year, and with each passing year does nothing but get
better. Slugger Carlos Lee leads the offense while Chris Capuano and Ben Sheets
(if he makes a healthy return from the DL) will lead their pitching staff.
Although the loss of outfielder Lyle Overbay hurts them, highly prized prospect
Prince Fielder should be able to fill his shoes at the plate.
3. Houston Astros
Although Roger Clemens isn’t decided on whether
he will play or not, the Astros still have one of the best pitching staffs in
the game. Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte will give them quality starts, while Brad
Lidge will be an effective closer. The problem with the Astros this season will
be their anemic offense, as it is unlikely that Morgan Ensberg will have a
repeat of the season he had last year.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates will be very interesting to watch.
The Pirates potentially have two very good starting pitchers in youngsters
Oliver Perez and Zach Duke. They picked up a great hitter from Cincinnati, Sean
Casey, and still have Jason Bay, who put up monster numbers last year and is
getting better as time goes by. This team could make a run at the wild card this
year if everyone who has to perform well, does.
5. Chicago Cubs
Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are both starting the season
on the disabled list again and Carlos Zambrano looked very shaky in his first
start of the season. The Cubs will have to rely on Derrek Lee having another
strong season, Aramis Ramirez staying healthy, and Juan Pierre getting on base
enough for the two of them to drive him in. It’s unlikely that all three
of these will happen, leaving the Cubs with yet another mediocre season.
6. Cincinnati Reds
Ken Griffey, Jr., Ryan Freel and Adam Dunn
won’t be enough to keep the Reds competitive in the NL Central because
their pitching isn’t good or deep enough to keep them in games. They made
very few notable off-season moves and don’t look to have improved at all.
National League West:
1. San Diego Padres
The Padres made the playoffs with a laughable
record last year and will probably be able to do the same thing as they are in,
undoubtedly, the worst division in baseball. Their biggest off-season move was
the pickup of catcher Mike Piazza, who will help them offensively. The Padres
still have a very solid pitching staff headed by young ace Jake Peavy and
reliable veteran Chan Ho Park.
2. San Francisco Giants
The Giants have Barry Bonds back, and although
many people believe he will underachieve because he is no longer on “the
juice,” they seem to forget he was a 40-home-run hitter before the
“steroid era” even began. Moises Alou had a great year last season
that was overlooked because the Giants weren’t a good team; look for them
to have a much improved season this year.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers certainly have a good hitting team;
J.D. Drew is finally healthy and will show baseball fans what he is capable of.
Jeff Kent is still a very capable run producer, and they added solid infielders
at the corners in Olmedo Saenz and Bill Mueller. Eric Gagne is healthy —
this will help their bullpen, which struggled tremendously last year. However,
their starting pitching isn’t good enough to keep them ahead in games.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Dbacks are another one of those teams that
is going to be very interesting to watch. They are young and talented but
suffered a big loss when third baseman Troy Glaus went to the Blue Jays. Brandon
Webb looked very good in his opening day start, but it is doubtful that he will
be able to perform at that level all season.
National League Wild Card: Atlanta Braves
National League Champion: St. Louis Cardinals
World Series Champion: Chicago White Sox