This week, I’ll provide my predictions for the 2012 season.
1. Texas Rangers – The Rangers have made the World Series two straight years and have yet another great team this year. With Derek Holland on the verge of a breakout year and a stellar offense, they should run away with this division even with the Angels improving.
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (wild card) – While I don’t think they can keep up with the Rangers due to their lack of hitting around Albert Pujols, they have one of the best rotations in baseball, and that should be good enough to get them one of the two wild card spots.
3. Oakland Athletics – There is a huge gap in between the Angels and the A’s. It is the difference of a playoff team and one of the 5 worst teams in baseball. The A’s have no hitting or pitching, as they traded away their two best starters and have never had any real threats at the plate the last few years.
4. Seattle Mariners – As bad as Oakland is, the Mariners are even worse. Seattle has better pitching, with Felix Hernandez, but an even worse offense, even with two young prospects in Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero.
1. Detroit Tigers – I really don’t think this is a very good team, but the Tigers are in a weak division, and a rotation of Verlander, Fister, and Scherzer should be able to fight through the pitiful defense Detroit will have and do a good enough job to pull out the division title.
2. Kansas City Royals – Before their closer, Joakim Soria, got injured and was declared out for the year, I was going to predict Kansas City to win the division. I still think they have a chance, with their young line-up anchored by Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Jeff Francoeur.
3. Cleveland Indians – The Indians are also an improving young team, and over the next few years it will most likely be Cleveland and Kansas City fighting for the AL Central. While they have some good young hitters in Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis, the Indians’ strength is in their pitching rotation, where they have Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, and bullpen, with Chris Perez and Rafael Perez.
4. Minnesota Twins – The Twins just have a bad team. They have a poor rotation and a mediocre lineup. There is a good chance that Justin Morneau will be traded by the end of the year, which will make them even worse. They have no chance.
5. Chicago White Sox – The White Sox are definitely about to go into rebuilding mode. The problem is that some of their veterans have contracts too big to trade away, like Adam Dunn, and they have a weak farm system. This is a team that will be terrible for years.
1. New York Yankees – The Yankees improved their rotation this off-season with the addition of Michael Pineda, who is currently on the 15-day DL, but I don’t think that the signing of Hiroki Kuroda was a good one for them. Kuroda is in his upper thirties and his fly ball to ground ball ratio took a huge jump from good to okay last year, and going into the Yankees’ hitter-friendly park from the Dodgers’ pitcher-friendly one, he should struggle.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (wild card) – A lot like the Angels, Tampa Bay has a weak lineup around one great hitter, this one Evan Longoria, but, also like the Angels, they have an amazing pitching staff. They have a rotation made up of three aces, with a possible fourth, in David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, James Shields, and Matt Moore. And also like the Angels, I have the Rays as a wild card.
3. Toronto Blue Jays – I think Toronto is a very underrated team. They are right around .500 every year. They have an ace in Ricky Romero, and another pitcher who I think will have a breakout season in Brandon Morrow. They also have an anchor in their lineup with Jose Bautista, surrounded by solid hitters like Adam Lind, Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, and JP Arencibia. I could easily see Toronto making a playoff run this year.
4. Boston Red Sox – Boston has a solid lineup, but a weak rotation and a dysfunctional lineup. After Jon Lester, their rotation consists of an injury-prone and inconsistent Josh Beckett, another injury-prone and inconsistent pitcher in Clay Buchholz, a career relief pitcher that doesn’t have what it takes to be a starter in Daniel Bard, and a consistently mediocre Alfredo Aceves.
5. Baltimore Orioles – Baltimore is another one of those bad teams that has absolutely no chance. They have some good hitters sprinkled in their lineup with Matt Weiters, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis, but they don’t have any great ones. And they certainly don’t have any great pitchers, as their rotation is just awful. There’s always next decade, Baltimore.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks – The D’Backs have one of the best rotations in all of baseball, headed by Ian Kennedy (21-4, 2.88 ERA in 2011), Daniel Hudson (16-12, 3.49 ERA), and Trevor Cahill (18-8, 2.97 ERA in 2010), and rounded out by Joe Saunders (3.69 ERA in 2011) and Josh Collmenter (3.38). They also have one of the top pitching prospects in baseball set to come up mid-season in Trevor Bauer. They should be a fantastic team this year.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers aren’t a great team by any stretch of the matter, but after Arizona, this is a weak division. Los Angeles is good enough for second because they have four solid to okay pitchers after Clayton Kershaw to go along with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier leading the mediocre offense.
3. San Francisco Giants – The Giants just aren’t a very good team. They have a great top three in their rotation with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner, but Ryan Vogelsong can’t be expected to repeat his 2011 season, and Barry Zito is extremely mediocre. Also, their third best hitter is Melky Cabrera, and their best is Pablo Sandoval. That is a horrendous lineup.
4. San Diego Padres – Even after trading Mat Latos to the Reds, the Padres are still better than Colorado. San Diego has a decent rotation, with Cory Luebke, Clayton Richard, Tim Stauffer, Dustin Mosely, and Edinson Volquez. But the real reason they aren’t in last place is because the Rockies are absolutely awful.
5. Colorado Rockies – I haven’t seen a rotation as bad as Colorado’s since, well, I can’t remember one. Their “ace” is Jeremy Guthrie, who had a 4.33 ERA last year. Their #2 pitcher is Jamie Moyer, who didn’t play last year after having a 4.84 ERA in 2010. He’s 49 years old. Their #3 pitcher is Juan Nicasio, who posted a 4.14 ERA last season. Their #4 and #5 starters combine for 57 career starts. Oh, and their offense stinks, too.
1. Cincinnati Reds – Despite the Reds losing their closer, Ryan Madson, for the year, they still have a very good pitching staff. Their rotation sports Mat Latos (3.47 2011 ERA, 2.92 2010 ERA), Johnny Cueto (2.31 2011 ERA, 3.64 2010 ERA), Mike Leake (3.86, 4.23), Bronson Arroyo (5.07, 3.88), and either Homer Bailey (4.43, 4.46) or Aroldis Chapman (3.60, 2.03). That goes along with a very solid lineup, with Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, and Scott Rolen along with a couple of good rookie prospects.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (wild card) – The Cardinals get Adam Wainwright back this year after missing all of 2011, but also lose Chris Carpenter for an undetermined amount of time. St. Louis has a solid rotation and a solid lineup, and are a solid overall team. But solid is all that they are.
3. Chicago Cubs – The Cubs aren’t a very good team. They have a decent top two in their rotation with Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, but they then finish the rotation with Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad, and Paul Maholm, with Maholm being the only one rotation-worthy. Their lineup has some good players sprinkled in, but lacks a great hitter.
4. Milwaukee Brewers – The loss of Prince Fielder is a killer for the Brewers, as he was a huge part of that lineup. I don’t expect Rickie Weeks to have the same kind of season he had last year, and the same goes for Nyjer Morgan and Aramis Ramirez.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates’ rotation is made of five #4 starters, with AJ Burnett, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton, and Erik Bedard. They have a solid bullpen and a solid lineup, with underrated players like Garrett Jones, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, and Andrew McCutchen. But they don’t have a rotation to finish much higher than fifth.
6. Houston Astros – Houston is by far the worst team in the league. I have talked about how bad the Rockies, Orioles, Mariners, and White Sox are, but none of them compare to the disaster that is the Astros. After Wandy Rodriguez, their rotation consists of Bud Norris (#3 Triple-A starter talent level), JA Happ (long relief talent level), Jordan Lyles (Triple-A starter talent level), and Kyle Weiland (Double-A starter talent level). At catcher they have Jason Castro, the worst catcher in the majors, including backups, Carlos Lee, an aging veteran who is just okay now, Jose Altuve, a utility infield talent at best, Jed Lowrie, also a utility infield talent, Chris Johnson, a .260 hitter with about 10 homers a year, JD Martinez, who is also not deserving of a big league role, Jordan Schafer, who isn’t good enough to be a backup outfielder, and Brian Bogusevic, who would be in Triple-A with any other franchise. They are truly awful.
1. Philadelphia Phillies – I think this is the last year that the Phillies will be a playoff contender for a while. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are both aging, and Cole Hamels is a free agent this offseason, and is probably leaving for the highest bidder. That means their rotation is sliding quite a bit. And their hitting is subpar already, and will just deteriorate more. Philadelphia has to have the oldest lineup in baseball. Their window of opportunity is closing fast, but they’ve got one more year in them.
2. Washington Nationals (wild card) – While the Phillies are falling downhill, the Nationals are skyrocketing in talent, with a really good young rotation, and a solid lineup to go along with it. The Gio Gonzalez trade they made this offseason should help them tremendously, and I think, will be a huge reason they make the playoffs.
3. Atlanta Braves – The Braves are like the Phillies. They are an aging team that has about one more good year in them before their window closes. However, I don’t think their year this season will be good enough, because they are just an okay team. They have an okay rotation with an okay lineup with a fantastic bullpen. If they make the playoffs, their bullpen will have to carry them there.
4. Miami Marlins – Miami made a big splash this offseason. They have a new stadium, new players, new ugly uniforms, a new manager, but not a new amount of success. The players they got (at ridiculous prices) are either injury-prone, old, or overrated, or all. I also don’t see that group of guys meshing well in a clubhouse and I see them being more of a circus than a baseball team.
5. New York Mets – The Mets are the only team that could make a claim to being worse than the Astros. They aren’t worse, but you could make an argument. They have no players that are All-Star worthy, and only about half of their team is major league worthy. They should finish double-digit games behind fourth place.
MVP: Evan Longoria, TB
Runner-up: Jose Bautista, TOR
Cy Young: David Price, TB
Runner-up: Jeremy Hellickson, TB
Rookie of the Year: Jesus Montero, SEA
Runner-up: Matt Moore, TB
Manager of the Year: Ned Yost, KC
Runner-up: Ron Washington, TEX
MVP: Joey Votto, CIN
Runner-up: Matt Kemp, LAD
Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Runner-up: Mat Latos, CIN
Rookie of the Year: Zack Cosart, CIN
Runner-up: Devin Mesoraco, CIN
Manager of the Year: Dusty Baker, CIN
Runner-up: Davey Johnson, WAS
Wild Card Round:
Tampa Bay Rays over Los Angeles Angels
Washington Nationals over St. Louis Cardinals
Texas Rangers over Tampa Bay Rays
New York Yankees over Detroit Tigers
Cincinnati Reds over Washington Nationals
Arizona Diamondbacks over Philadelphia Phillies
Texas Rangers over New York Yankees
Arizona Diamondbacks over Cincinnati Reds
Texas Rangers over Arizona Diamondbacks
Come back next week for an interview with Rangers pitcher Robbie Ross.