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2012 MLB American League Preview

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I can feel it in the air. The greatest season of all, baseball season, is about to get underway. Hope springs eternal for every club, players have dreams of triple crowns and postseason heroics. All the teams begin with a blank slate, and for at least one day the Orioles and Astros will be tied for division leads. As we age, we realize that Christmas Eve is really for the children in your life. The anticipation fades and the realization that presents don’t magically put themselves under the tree sets in. One thing that will never fade is the feeling true baseball fans get when they enter the ballpark for the first time in a new season. The park may be brand new or 80 years old; it feels new, it feels fresh, it feels like home. With less than 24 hours until the children in all of us get to return home again, allow me to present my American League preview. Whether you agree or disagree, be thankful that we all get to witness the beauty and grandeur of the world’s greatest game.

Predicted Order of Finish for 2012 American League East

Rank

Team

Finish

Comment

1

New York Yankees

 

 

 

90-72

 

2nd in AL

 

The Yankees are certainly not getting any younger. It’s way past the point where Derek Jeter is more of a liability than a benefit, and that won’t change. A-Rod is definitely on the downside and it’s surprising that Raul Ibanez still found a starting job. Aside from CC Sabathia, the rotation is a bit of question mark. Hiroki Kuroda is underrated, but how will he react to life in NY? Will Ivan Nova continue to pitch above his head? Is there a legit issue behind Pineda’s perceived velocity loss. Will Phil Hughes ever be anything more than fragile? Why do they sign guys like Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones? All that said, the Yankees are still a good team, and if they aren’t whatever players they buy in July will help to ensure that they are.

2

Tampa Bay Rays

 

 

88-74

T-4th in AL

I’m really torn on where to slot this team. I love their starting 5. From front to back it’s at least in the top 3 in all of baseball. On flipside, the pen is a fragile mess, and aside from Longoria, Zobrist,Jennings, and (maybe, pretty-please…Upton), the lineup isn’t much to write home about. Still, I think the rotation will keep them in a lot of games and they will be able to pull out their fair share. A lot of upside here, but a lot of potential for offensive ineptitude as well.

3

Boston Red Sox

 

 

87-75

 

7th in AL

 

Their lineup is perfectly tiered.  The top 3 are all-stars, the next 3 are aging, fragile, stars of the past, and the bottom 3 are nomads. If Youkilis stays healthy, that will be a big help and 87 may be low. Unfortunately, nothing shows me that he will. I like all 5 of their starters for different reasons, but I think this Andrew Bailey is leading the way to a season-long battle with the injury bug. A battle that will definitely keep them from living up to their potential.

4

Toronto Blue Jays

 

 

78-84

 

9th in AL

This looks like a team that might have a chance to contend in a number of other divisions Unfortunately the AL East isn’t one of them. Ricky Romero is nice, I’ve always liked Brandon Morrow and hey, look at that, Dustin McGowan is back! They have a solid, power-laden lineup and I think Colby Rasmus will finally be allowed to develop in the star he will be. Unfortunately, it will take everything breaking right for them to contend in this meat-grinder.

5

Baltimore Orioles

 

 

66-96

 

14th in AL

I mean this in the most polite of ways possible… When Jake Arrieta is your opening day starter, you are in for a really, really, really long year. I like the middle of the order, but they can never seem to take the next step. I think Wieters will finally break out, but it won’t mean a whole lot as the O’s will still be deep in the cellar.

 

Predicted Order of Finish for 2012 American League Central

Rank

Team

Finish

Comment

1

Cleveland Indians

 

 

88-74

 

T-4th in AL

 

The American League Central is almost a perfect microcosm of a fantasy auction draft. In this comparison the Indians play the role of the balanced team. Nobody on the Indians would cost you half your draft budget. Carlos Santana is the headliner, but there are a lot of things to like about this lineup. Shin-Soo Choo should return to form. Even if Asdrubal is 85% of what he was last year, he will be a top 5 shortstop. Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis are nice young players. Travis Hafner and Casey Kotchman should be OBP machines and the bullpen is in the very upper echelon. The question mark lies with the rotation. Justin Masterson has to continue to miss bats, Ubaldo Jimenez needs to find himself and not turn into Fausto Carmona, err… Roberto Hernandez Heredia v2.0. You pretty much know what you will get out of Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin. Solid innings eaters with ERA in the 3.5-4.2 range. All in all, this team should be more like the squad that opened 30-15 last year and less like the team that finished 50-67.

2

Detroit Tigers

 

 

88-74

 

T-4th in AL

 

If the Indians are the balanced draft, the Tigers are undoubtedly “stars and scrubs.” They have 3 of the best players in all of baseball in Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, and Prince Fielder, some adequate filler, and some hopeful performers. I think this is a normalization year for Brennan Boesch, who really profiles as a 4th outfielder at best. Austin Jackson is a 180-strikeout leadoff hitter without the pop to have that allowable. Delmon Young is a career underachiever who treats walks as if they are kicks to the teeth and avoids them at all cost. Jhonny Peralta is coming off a career year and will have a hard time replicating that. I’m not very bullish on the rotation aside from Verlander. I’ve been waiting for Max Scherzer to become the pitcher he could’ve, and at this point I don’t think it’s going to happen. He’s still fairly young, but his four-seamer has a tendency to flatten out and gives up a ton of hits; now he’s adding a two-seamer that he’s admittedly never been able to control. Fister, Porcello, and Smyly are all #4 starters. If Jacob Turner can get it together, Verlander will have his running mate. They have an above-average pen, even though losing Al Abuquerque hurts. Jose Valverde posted the 2nd highest WHIP of his career last year and was 49/49 on saves. Obviously that luck will turn this year, and he will revert back to the very good, but not elite, closer that he is. What they do not have, in any way, shape, or form is (aside from Austin Jackson who can run, but struggles at times with reads) anyone that can play defense. This team will be comically bad on defense. Miggy has already broken his face and over/under is 20 games before he does it again. That all being said, I still have the Tigers winning 88 games, not too shabby to say the least.

3

Kansas City Royals

 

 

81-81

 

8th in AL

Kansas City has had a great farm system seemingly forever. They are starting to reap the benefits with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas going along with a finally blossomed Alex Gordon. The Royals are getting better and, for some, are a sheik pick to surprise in the Central. I don’t really see how they can be any better than .500 with an entire rotation of #4 starters. Mike Montgomery could help, but not if he continues to struggle with his control.

4

Chicago White Sox

 

 

 

75-87

 

10th in AL

A year ago, I thought adding Adam Dunn to the lineup would reap major rewards, instead, he had one of the worst years in baseball history. Over 496 at-bats, he had a .159/.292/.277 slash line. He’s nowhere near that bad (hard to imagine anyone getting 500 at-bats if they were). He should bounce-back, but I’d cap it to 75% of his former self. They won 79 last year, lost the anchor of their rotation (Mark Buehrle) a 30 homer guy (Carlos Quentin) and their manager (Ozzie Guillen). There’s some talent here, but not enough to compete. They also have the worst (by far) farm system in baseball, so tough times seem to be here to stay for the south siders.

5

Minnesota Twins

 

 

74-88

 

11th in AL

 

The Twins have always been the team to win despite injuries or common rationality… until last year that is. Last year was a complete disaster at 63-99. Having their two best players back will definitely help, but questions about their health will always follow them and I don’t see a whole lot more than a 10-or-so win increase from last season.

 

Predicted Order of Finish for 2012 American League West

Rank

Team

Finish

Comment

1

Los Angeles Angels

 

 

94-68

 

1st in AL

 

What a difference a year makes. Last season they had arguably the worst offseason in baseball and had the look of an overpaid .500 team. Now with the additions of Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson, they have the feel of an overpaid, extremely talented team. Great staff, solid lineup. Yes, there are some aging question marks, but if either Wells or Morales return to form, they will score a lot of runs… Oh and they have Mike Trout waiting in the wings.

2

Texas Rangers

 

 

89-73

 

3rd in AL

 

Same great lineup, but the pitching staff lost their leader in CJ Wilson. They finally moved Neftali Feliz into the rotation and acquired the heralded Yu Darvish. It remains to be seen how much the loss ofWilsoneffects the psyche of the club. Josh Hamilton, the player with the most pure talent in the league had an alcohol-infused relapse over the offseason. Here’s to hoping he stays sober and healthy. Otherwise, high hopes could easily fade to a nightmarish season.

3

Oakland Athletics

 

 

 

72-90

 

12th in AL

Opening the season inJapanis/was/always will be a really stupid idea. This isAmerica’s pastime, anyone is free to take in a game… here inAmerica, especially the holiest of days, opening day. I digress; at least MLB had the foresight to send two of the worst teams in the league over there. Quick quiz, can you name 3 players on the A’s… OK, here’s an easier one… can you name their #3 hitter? Unless you really follow baseball, you will probably struggle with both. The answer to question #2 isCocoCrisp… While I think that Brandon McCarthy is absolutely legit, there isn’t much else to like in this lineup… at least until Manny gets back!

4

Seattle Mariners

 

 

71-91

 

13th in AL

Full disclosure. I love Dustin Ackley’s game and if he can stick at 2B, he will be one of the best offensive second-basemen in the league for a long time. They have a couple young power guys in Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero. If they can develop, the Mariners will score more than in 2011 (not saying much since they averaged about a run a game last season). I like Ichiro to bounce back and Felix is a stud, but he can’t pitch every game and there isn’t anything to get excited about otherwise.

 

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