Finally . . . FINALLY . . . the 2010 season is upon us. This means it’s also time for that futile exercise that is predicting the upcoming season. Like most of us, I can sometimes let out a hardy “BOOYAH!” when picks go right; more often, I’m left scratching my head saying “Didn’t see that one coming.” But for some reason, it is still fun. So, here are this year’s brilliant picks:
2. Red Sox (Wild Card)
5. Blue Jays
The great thing about this season is almost every division is wide open. Our own AL East is no different, and I could easily see each of the top three teams winning the division. At the end of the year, the top three teams might only be seperated by a few games . . . and although I see the wildcard coming from this division, that parity might make it otherwise. The Yankees have it all — good rotation, bullpen, and a fearsome offense led by two titans in A-Rod and Texeira. New York has the inside track. Expect the Rays to have a bounce-back year, ala the 2007 Indians and 2009 Rockies. They have a good rotation, and I expect a breakout year from David Price. They have a good line-up, featuring Longoria emerging as one of the game’s best players and Carl Crawford playing for a contract. And they have youth on their side. I originally penciled them in as second-place, but . . . . . I just can’t help but love the Red Sox rotation. They have a good bullpen, and I think their offense will be better than expected (although fans will hate how much Cameron strikes out), but their rotation is out of this world. Sure they have Beckett and Lester, and they added Lackey. But remembering how good Daisuke was at the end of last year, I see a very good season in store for him. And, given Buchholz’s age and development, this will likely be a breakout season for him. Given that, I can’t put the Sox at third. But this could go a number of ways. No matter what, it is sure to be exciting.
2. White Sox
The Twins always find a way to win, and with two superstars in Morneau and Mauer entering the prime of their careers, they are downright scary. Even with Joe Nathan going down, the Twins should handily win this division, but – again – probably fall short in October.
One of those wide-open divisions, a case can be made for any of these teams. But, at the end of the day, I still think the Angels — even though they no longer have Lackey and Guerrero — have too much overall talent. The Mariners have a GREAT pitching staff, especially if Erik Bedard comes back strong, which I think he will. But overall, I don’t see them hitting enough. The Rangers can hit, and they had some young pitchers step up last year, but will they step up or step back in 2010. I think they’ll step back. The A’s have a good young staff, but they’re not there yet.
2. Marlins (Wild Card)
The Phils have had a good run, and adding Roy Halladay was a master stroke. Expect them to win again, and Halladay will be dominant in the NL (he’s my pick for Cy Young this year). The upstart Marlins will challenge the Phils, and certainly be in the Wild Card hunt. They have excellent young pitching and good young bats, led by Hanley Ramirez. The Mets remind me of the Red Sox during the final days of the Dan Duquette regime — the ingredients are good, but the soup is bad.
Each year it seems I pick the Cardinals to tumble, and they almost always prove me wrong. This year, they look to be far and away the most well-balanced, talented team in the division. The Reds have an exciting young team and will surprise people, ala the 2007 Rockies and 2008 Rays. The Brewers have offense, but I’m not a believer in their pitching. The Cubs? Whatever . . .
One of those wide-open divisions, the only certainty is the Padres will finish dead last. Other than that, anyone can win the division. The Rockies have a ton of young talent, and Ubaldo Jimenez is ready to emerge as one of the game’s best pitchers. The Dodgers may have the most talent in the division, but I’m not sure about their soup (see the Mets). The Diamondbacks should have been much, much better last year. A young team that went to the NLCS in 2008, expect a bounce-back year if Brandon Webb is healthy. This could be a dangerous team. The Giants have good pitching, but not much else.
Red Sox over Phillies
Yep, call me a homer. But, like I said, I love the Red Sox rotation, especially if Daisuke and Buchholz step up as I think they will. Of course, I also said I wouldn’t be surprised if they miss the playoffs. BUT . . . if they do make it to October . . . I see that rotation carrying them all the way, even past the improved Phils.