It’s about time to get these National League predictions out to the public; after all, there is baseball in Miami’s new palace on Wednesday night. The NL has had quite a few changes in the offseason….superstars on different teams, new managers and plenty of phenomenal young talent. The defending Champion St. Louis Cardinals will have a much different look with Tony La Russa retired and Albert Pujols hitting lasers in the City of Angels.
So, without further a due, here we go.
- Miami Marlins – Ozzie Guillen is at the helm for the Fish so buckle your seatbelts. The speed and power combination Miami has may not be rivaled in the NL. The healthy return of Josh Johnson is imperative to the Marlins success. If he doesn’t have a good year, they finish behind Atlanta and Philadelphia. I’m very interested to see what kind of fan support there will be for the new-look Marlins.
- Atlanta Braves – It’s the last go-round for Chipper Jones. He’s probably a first-ballot hall-of-famer, but how many games will he actually play this year? The Braves have a lot of young talent and they’ll need to erase last year’s late-season collapse from their memory. The backend of the bullpen in Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel is dominant.
- Philadelphia Phillies – As good as the Phillies pitching staff is, the holes in the lineup are way too big to ignore. Losing Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, for however long, is simply too much firepower to lose.
- Washington – Washington is improving tremendously every year but I believe they’re still a year or two away. To see them finish higher than fourth would not surprise me in the least. The pitching is there, but the young lineup will need to continue to improve.
- New York Mets – The Mets are in disarray. Even their best player, David Wright has question marks. Can he stay healthy? Not much else to say about the Mets as they start the rebuilding phase.
Best Player(s) – Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Brian McCann
Best Pitcher(s) – Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee
Rising Star(s) – Jordan Zimmerman, Giancarlo Stanton
- Milwaukee Brewers – Call it a homer pick, call it what you want to call it but I believe the Brewers will repeat as NL Central Champions. Yes, they lose a huge bat in Prince Fielder. Mat Gamel is essential in picking up the slack. He won’t duplicate what Fielder did in Milwaukee but he isn’t expected to do so. Like last year, the pitching will carry this team. Zack Greinke is primed for a big year.
- Cincinnati – The Reds have a very good lineup and I would have picked them to win the Central if Ryan Madson was around. Losing him is huge. A once very strong bullpen is now in a bit of disarray. Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips are a tough trio.
- St. Louis – Yes, I’m picking the defending Champs to finish 3rd. Another injury has dampened my thoughts on this team and that is Chris Carpenter. Adam Wainwright has to bounce back from Tommy John and be the pitcher he was before the injury. Take out Tony La Russa from the mix as well.
- Pittsburgh Pirates – It has been 19 straight losing seasons for the Pirates and I think they make it 20 this year. Getting close, but I think they finish in the 76-80 win range. If Pedro Alvarez can be what the Pirates need and expect him to be, that .500 mark might become a reality.
- Chicago Cubs – The Cubs begin the transition phase of the new regime led by President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer. Just too many big contracts that are just about impossible to move. The pitching staff isn’t exactly one to be desired either.
- Houston Astros – Not a whole lot to say about the ‘Stros other than they might lose 120 games. That’s not a misprint either…1-2-0.
Best Player(s) – Braun, Votto
Best Pitcher(s) – Greinke, Wainwright, Yovani Gallardo
Rising Stars – Bruce, Drew Stubbs, David Freese
1. San Francisco – The offense improves in 2012 and the pitching staff will once again be one of the best in the Majors. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are scary good.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks – Can easily see these two teams switching spots and I expect both to be in the playoffs. The D-Backs have a solid lineup top to bottom and have Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Trevor Cahill to fall back on.
3. L.A. Dodgers – The Dodgers have possibly the best two players in the league in Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw but those two need help. Dee Gordon is going to be a very good player in the near future but there are some holes in their lineup.
4. Colorado Rockies – Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez once again anchor the Rockies lineup but there isn’t a whole lot on the mound. Might be a struggle for Colorado in 2012.
5. San Diego Padres – There are few bright spots in San Diego other than some young players who are years away. Yonder Alonso and Cory Luebke are the new faces of the franchise…ready or not.
Best Player(s) – Kemp, Tulowitzki
Best Pitchers(s) – Kershaw
Rising Stars – Drew Pomeranz, Alonso, Gordon, Bumgarner, Paul Goldschmidt
Now on to the Awards….
National League MVP – Jose Reyes
National League CY Young – Zach Greinke
National League R.O.Y. – Yonder Alonso
NLCS Champ – San Francisco
Well, folks it’s about that time of the year again. And, actually it has already arrived with the opening series between the Mariners and A’s. Baseball season is upon us! That also means it’s time for my annual predictions. Now, I’m not going to tell you to hop on a plane bound for Vegas to place your bets after reading this, because I’ve been wrong before and I’m sure I’ll be wrong again.
We’ll take a look at each division and I’ll give you some postseason and awards predictions as well. Here goes nothing!
1. Tampa Bay Rays – After the magic of last year to just reach the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, Tampa won’t cut it as close this year as they win baseballs best division. With one of the games best managers at the helm in Joe Maddon, the Rays are in good hands. With a new wave of prospects coming in, hopefully the people of Tampa Bay take notice.
2. New York Yankees – The Bombers aren’t getting any younger with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez all in the lineup. They had one thing in mind for the offseason and that was to improve the starting rotation. They did that by going out and trading for Michael Pineda and signing Hiroki Kuroda. Pineda is starting the year on the DL and if his shoulder injury lingers, New York could be right back to square one.
3. Boston Red Sox – Beantown was fairly quiet in the offseason, which is rare. The first five of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz is possibly the best in baseball but the rest is a big question mark. I could very easily see Boston finishing fourth in the East.
4. Toronto Blue Jays – The Jays are just about ready to arrive and make some noise in this division. Jose Bautista anchors a deep and powerful lineup. Toronto could possibly get 20 HR’s, one through nine in the lineup. Brett Lawrie is primed to be a superstar. Can the young rotation keep them in contention in September?
5. Baltimore Orioles – The Orioles will be a decent offensive team but they can’t score seven runs a game and that might be what’s necessary with the rotation they have.
Best Player(s) in the Division – Jose Bautisa, Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury
Best Pitcher in the Division – Jon Lester
Rising Stars – Lawrie, Desmond Jennings, Matt Moore
1. Detroit Tigers – Detroit is the best team in baseball and that is WITHOUT V-Mart. Miguel Carbrera and Prince Fielder is a scary combo. The Tigers will win the Central by 10+ games but they’ll need the back end of the rotation in Rick Porcello and 22-year old Drew Smyly to keep them in ballgames.
2. Kansas City Royals – I love this team and its young lineup. They are going to be very fun to watch but unfortunately I still think they are a year or two away. Eric Hosmer is going to be a star. Can Jonathan Sanchez pitch effectively in the AL? I think the playoff drought continues but this team WILL finish with a winning record.
3. Minnesota Twins – The Twins badly need Justin Morneau to return to the days of pre-concussion. For his sake, I hope that happens. He started out Spring Training slow but has made a lot of strides in the past week.
4. Cleveland Indians – Cleveland could finish anywhere in this division two through five. A lot of nice young pieces but no real star power. They need Ubaldo Jimenez to be the guy they thought they were getting when they traded Drew Pomeranz to Colorado. Unfortunately, I don’t see him being much more than a number three or four starter on most teams.
5. Chicago White Sox – What happened to this team? Tough spot for first-time Manager Robin Ventura. There’s not a lot of hope on the south side of Chicago and there isn’t much on the way with one of the worst farm systems in baseball.
Best Player(s) in the Division – Verlander, Fielder, Cabrera
Best Pitcher in the Division – Verlander
Rising Stars – Hosmer, Carlos Santana
1. Texas Rangers – Top to bottom the Rangers have the toughest lineup in Major League Baseball. They have a ton of power and a few guys who can run the bases as well. The question mark, if any, is the pitching. If Yu Darvish can replace C.J. Wilson, they’ll be fine. Neftali Feliz was a very good closer and he’ll try to make the transition to starter leaving the closer duties to Joe Nathan. I don’t think this transition will be as seamless as Darvish and Wilson.
2. Los Angeles Angels – Albert Pujols instantly makes the Angels a contender but it’s the pitching staff that will ultimately carry the Halo’s. Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana is a scary-good one through four. Look for this race to go down to the final week of the regular season.
3. Seattle Mariners – Jack Zduriencik has a plan to make the Mariners relevant again and it’s coming together. They are still two years away from contending in the West but there are good things on the horizon for the M’s. Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero and Kyle Seager is a solid core and there is help on the way for Felix Hernandez in Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez.
4. Oakland Athletics – Oakland has a lot of prospects making their way up through the system but they are years away. The A’s will struggle to score runs against the power arms in the West.
Best Player(s) in the Division – Albert Pujols
Best Pitcher in the Division – Felix Hernandez
Rising Stars – Mike Trout, Jemile Weeks
Now on to the awards….
American League MVP – Prince Fielder
American League Cy Young – Justin Verlander
American League R.O.Y. – Jesus Montero
ALCS Champion – Detroit Tigers