Maybe the Red Sox will win the wild card? As much as we may despise them, Yankees are still the team to beat in the A.L. East
Baseball season is here again, the time of year when my productivity drops significantly and my most visited page in Firefox is my fantasy league’s page. (A coincidence?) Here are my picks for the MLB teams that will make it to the postseason…
A.L. East: New York Yankees
This is unquestionably baseball’s toughest division, its “Group of Death”, so to speak. Three teams — the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays — have a legitimate shot at not only winning the division, but the World Series as well; only two will advance to the postseason.
The American League pennant winner has come from the East the past three years, once for each team. The Yankees, with a lefty-heavy lineup playing in Yankee Stadium (aka, the Great Wiffleball Park in the Bronx) will hit home runs like nobody’s business; they’ve also bolstered their starting rotation. The Evil Empire, with their ridiculously high payroll, is the favorite again after winning it all last year.
A.L. Central: Minnesota Twins
The Central is a relatively even division, and according to an ESPN simulation, all five teams have a chance to finish on top. The Twins are opening their new stadium, Target Field, and gave Joe Maurer, the A.L. MVP and face of the franchise, an eight-year extension during the offseason.
They lost closer Joe Nathan for the season to elbow surgery, but the Twins should be able to get around the loss, especially with former MVP Justin Morneau back in the lineup. The big question is, however, how many of their October postseason games will get snowed out?
A.L. West: Seattle Mariners
I’m going to have to go with my Mariners for the West. The Angels have owned the division in the past decade, but lost some key players in the offseason (Vladimir Gurrero to the Rangers, John Lackey to the Red Sox, and Chone Figgins to the Mariners).
Seattle is looking to get in the postseason for the first time since 2001; they had the worst offense in the majors last season, but focused on upgrading their pitching and defense rather on offense.
They’ll be playing a baseball war of attrition, of sorts (“If we can’t score runs, we won’t let you score any, either.”), and will win plenty of low-scoring games… as long as they can stay healthy and Milton Bradley doesn’t blow up the clubhouse.
A.L. Wild Card: Boston Red Sox
Tough luck for the Rays, who would be in the playoffs if they were in any other division. Boston’s biggest improvement this year is their defense, with Adrian Beltre at third and Mike Cameron in center. Supplementing an already-potent offense, they’ll keep the division race interesting and end up with the wild card. (Maybe it’s just because I want to see a playoff game in Fenway…)
N.L. East: Philadelphia Phillies
After making their second straight World Series appearance last year, the Phillies seem on the verge of establishing a new dynasty in the East. The Braves, with much-hyped rookie Jason Heyward, will challenge the Phillies, and the low-budget Florida Marlins will stay in the race for most of the summer, but Philadelphia is the team to beat in the National League. Another interesting “race” in the division will be when the Mets (and their players) fall apart again.
N.L. Central: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have two of the best hitters in baseball in Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, and two of the best pitchers in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter – when he can stay healthy. Their biggest weakness is their bullpen and ninth innings might be more exciting than Cards fans might like, but St. Louis is the favorites in the division (and the Cubs will continue their streak of futility). With Mark McGwire as their new hitting coach, however, we have to wonder if the Cardinals are looking at…other ways to enhance their performance?
N.L. West: San Francisco Giants
The Giants have had excellent pitching the past couple of seasons, but didn’t have the offense to support it. Tim Lincecum aims for his third consecutive Cy Young award, while teammate Matt Cain is a potential candidate as well. If Barry Zito miraculously pitches anywhere near the expectations of his huge contract, the Giants might have the best rotation in the league. Led by Pablo Sandoval, the Giants offense should provide enough run support.
N.L. Wild Card: Atlanta Braves
The Braves are full of young talent — from outfielder Jason Heyward, who supposedly is the next coming of Hank Aaron, to starter Tommy Hanson, to catcher Brian McCann. They have the ability to win with both their pitching and offense, and will beat out the Dodgers for the Wild Card.
Feel like your team was left out? Don’t think the Mariners are going all the way? Want to challenge me in fantasy baseball? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org!