The NBA season is wearing down, March Madness is almost over, and the NFL is far, far away. That means it is time for baseball season! After an eventful winter where two of baseball’s best hitters, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, changed uniforms, it is time to look at the upcoming season and make some predictions!
First, the division winners:
American League East: New York Yankees
Can you find a weakness on this team? Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner are at the top of the lineup and excel at getting on base. The Yankees middle of the lineup hitters are Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Alex Rodriguez. Pretty great. Pitching, a weakness the last several seasons, is now a strength: C.C. Sabathia is a legitimate ace, Hiroki Kuroda a solid No. 2, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova capable of handling the middle rotation, and Phil Hughes an excellent No. 5. When Michael Pineda regains his velocity and comes back from the DL, the Yankees will have one of the deepest rotations in baseball. So, it will be very hard for them not to win the division.
American League Central: Detroit Tigers
This team has the 2011 CY Young and MVP, Justin Verlander, the best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera, and just added a top five slugger in Prince Fielder. The Tigers have the best lineup in baseball and one of its deepest rotations with Verlander, Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Jacob Turner all capable starters. If anything stops this team, it will be their atrocious fielding defense. But count that as a long, long shot.
American League West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
This divisional battle is a toss-up between the Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels added Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the top free agent pitcher, which means they will have an excellent rotation and lineup. Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, and C.J. Wilson are the best front four in baseball. The Angels will soon have a core lineup of Pujols, Kendrys Morales, and Mike Trout. For their part, the Rangers still have baseball’s best hitting lineup and deep pitching but they lack a legitimate ace (we have to wait and see on Yu Darvish) and just don’t look quite as good as their West Coast rival.
National League East: Atlanta Braves
It’s tempting to call this division for the Philadelphia Phillies. But that team has serious injury and aging problems: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins are all big names but they are aging and frequently injured. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are both 33 and above, which spells coming problems. Atlanta, by contrast, has a deep roster of young pitching led by Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Tommy Hanson and closer Craig Kimbrel and their hitters all should improve from last year. Considering that in 2011 they should have been the wild card and won more than 90 games that is very, very encouraging.
National League Central: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals lost longtime superstar Albert Pujols and it will hurt. But they get back Cy Young candidate Adam Wainwright, will add future ace Shelby Miller, and signed slugger Carlos Beltran in free agency. The Brewers are reeling from losing Prince Fielder and the Ryan Braun scandal and I am not sold on the Reds, particularly in light of Ryan Madson’s season-ending surgery.
National League West: Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona is young, talented, and deep. They have a good young core of starting pitching and a slugging middle of the lineup. But the long-term future of this division is with the Los Angeles Dodgers who could field the best team in baseball as early as 2013.
Paul Grossinger writes for The Best Sports Blog