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2011 MLB American League Preview

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I can feel it in the air (along with the snowflakes that are currently battering my window). 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 Royals and Pirates 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 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 2011 American League East

Rank Team Finish Comment

1

 

Boston Red Sox

96-66

1st in AL

The Red Sox lost two of the most productive offensive players in the league in Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. The scary part is that they got better with the acquistions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. If Josh Beckett can stay healthy they could win 100. I don’t think he will, still, 96 might be a low estimate.

2

 

New York Yankees

88-74

2nd in AL

The Yankees are still loaded, but the chinks in their armor are becoming full-blown holes. Aside from CC Sabathia, their pitching staff is a huge question mark. Anytime you have Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia in the rotation on purpose you’re asking for trouble. Aside from pitching, they are old and one of these years everyone will fall apart at the same time. I have them at 88 wins, but if the perfect storm hits it could be 78.

3

 

Tampa Bay Rays

84-78

T-5th in AL

The Rays window sure closed in a hurry, but such is life in a league without a salary cap. Aside from the obvious loss in Carl Crawford, the Rays have to replace half of their ‘pen, Matt Garza and Carlos Pena. Picking up Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon should help bridge the gap to their prospects, but they will still need a lot of good fortune to make the playoffs.

4

 

Toronto Blue Jays

77-85

11th in AL

The Blue Jays lineup is packed with power bats headlined by the surprising 50 homer season from Jose Bautista. I don’t see a repeat performance by any means, but their rotation will be improved with Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek in the mix. Unfortunately for Toronto they are in the wrong division and even under the best of circumstances 3rd place seems like the ceiling for the Jays.

5

 

Baltimore Orioles

74-88

12th in AL

I can’t say as I have any idea what Baltimore’s plans are when it comes to team building. They brought in veterans Vlad Guerrero, Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, & JJ Hardy. The lineup improvements will help them win a few games this season, but won’t have them anywhere near contender status. Aside from two outliers their farm is bare, so the only thing that would make sense is if they flip their new toys at the deadline.

 

Predicted Order of Finish for 2011 American League Central

Rank Team Finish Comment

1

 

Minnesota Twins

86-76

4th in AL

The Twins lost Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau last season and still won the Central. They enter this year under the radar because they lost a big chunck of their bullpen and their only new addition is 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Regardless the Twins will always be competitive. If their ‘pen holds and they get the Morneau of old back, I give them the nod in what will certainly be a tight division.

2

 

Chicago White Sox

84-78

T-5th in AL

Bringing in Adam Dunn certainly has the White Sox on top of many people’s AL Central predictions. I do like Gordon Beckham to have a bounce-back year but don’t trust the back end of the pitching staff. Peavy is already hurt, can’t figure out why people are so high on Edwin Jackson and Phil Humber is more AAA than MLB. Still, they will outmash a lot of teams and in a wide-open division, they certainly have a shot.

3

 

Cleveland Indians

82-80

8th in AL

A bit high for the tribe? Not in my mind. Their lineup will score runs. Shin-Soo Choo is a top 3 outfielder in the league, Carlos Santana is soon to be one of the best players in the league and I like Matt LaPorta to break out in 2011. All of this without mentioning a healthy Grady Sizemore. The Tribe’s success will come down to if they can keep runs off the board. They have a solid ‘pen but their rotation is very unproven. That said, I’m bullish on the Indians this year and beyond.

4

 

Detroit Tigers

80-82

10th in AL

Full disclosure, when a team faces problems in spring training, the superstitious part of me says sell, sell, sell. Miguel Cabrera, drunk or not, will rake, that’s just what he does. Austin Jackson seems to have learned some plate discipline, which will certainly help and Justin Verlander is my sleeper for AL Cy Young. However, every year one team or another seems snakebit… this year, for me, I think it’s the Tigers.

5

 

Kansas City Royals

66-96

14th in AL

Kansas City has a phenomenal batch of prospects, they should, 20 years of losing had better show its face one way or another. While these future stars will be headed to an MLB park, it won’t be anytime soon. I’m honestly not certain that the would win a AAA title with the team they are putting out there. Zack Grienke got a reprieve, here’s to hoping Joakim Soria gets his.

 

Predicted Order of Finish for 2011 American League West

Rank Team Finish Comment

1

 

Texas Rangers

87-75

3rd in AL

The Rangers should have enough to hang onto the AL’s smallest (and worst) division. If their lineup stays healthy they will score a ton of runs.  Their staff will feel the loss of Cliff Lee, but has enough arms to challenge for 90 wins. They made a big mistake by keeping Feliz in the ‘pen, but there’s something to the thought “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

2

 

Oakland Athletics

84-78

T-5th in AL

The A’s seem to be this year’s “it” team. In my mind this is partially due to the “Billy Beane” effect where everyone overrates every move he makes. However, the A’s do have young (and talented) pitching on the front end and may compete into August. Their lineup on the other hand reads like a who’s who of big-market castoffs. I don’t see how they will score enough runs to really push the Rangers.

3

 

Los Angeles Angels

81-81

9th in AL

Hard to find a team that had a worse offseason than the Angels. They had Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre in the bag but let them go. Instead they brought in the much-maligned, but talented Vernon Wells. I may be in the minority, but I like Wells this year. They also have to deal with the lingering effects of the leg injury to Kendrys Morales. They have the feel of an overpaid .500 team.  They do have talent up and down the roster and the best manager in the game in Mike Scioscia. If things break right they could win West.

4

 

Seattle Mariners

68-94

13th in AL

The Mariners look lousy on paper and will look even more lousy in 3D. With reigning Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez and Ichiro still rolling his old bones out to center they are viable in fantasy baseball. Adding to the intrigue are prospects Michael Pineda and Justin Smoak. If these two can transform into stars, the Mariners will be on to something, otherwise the future looks bleak in the Pacific Northwest.

 

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