Pitchers and catchers have about a week to report for spring training. This means that the season will soon be starting. That also means that anybody waiting to make predictions until the free agent pool whittled down is really out of time. I am sure a few more of these guys will be signed before the season starts (I am assuming Manny Ramirez will end up accepting a short-term deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers) and I am sure after the first round of pennant crippling injuries a few more will find a home, but it has come time to bit the bullet and make a few regular season predictions.
In the American League East the New York Yankees will celebrate their first season at the New Yankees Stadium with a second place finish. They will lose out to the Boston Red Sox in the closing days of the 2009 season.
The Tampa Bay Rays will find that the magic from last season is no longer as easy to create now that they know they can play and must try to produce team chemistry rather than letting it surprise them and carry them to an AL pennant. The bottom two in the standings will go the Toronto Blue Jays and then the Baltimore Orioles. The Blue Jays starting pitching took a hit this offseason, but the organization has proven it can play in the shadow of the Evil Empire and the Red Sox Nation.
The Minnesota Twins will take the division in a close race thanks to the breakout season of Delmon Young. Young, Justin Morneau, and Joe Mauer will be the catalyst for the offense while Francisco Liriano wins nearly 20 games and heads another solid Twins starting rotation.
The Cleveland Indians will bounce back from a disappointing 2008 and the offense will be among the league’s best. The White Sox will take third, bare edging out the fourth place Detroit Tigers and last place Kansas City Royals. The White Sox undoing will be an unhappy Jermaine Dye and a terrible season by Barton Colon in his second tour as a Sox starting pitcher.
The Los Angeles Angels will take the division from day one. They will not be the clear winners until two-thirds of the season is done and Billy Beane trades away Jason Giambi and Matt Holiday for prospects. The Oakland A’s will then limp to a second place finish. The Texas Rangers pitching will again be awful, but the offense will be enough for them to finish just ahead of the all around terrible Seattle Mariners. The Mariners will finish with the worst record in all of MLB.
The New York Mets will start the inaugural season at Citi Field with a long awaited first place finish in the East. The hitting will be incredible and inspired and the pitching staff will be among the upper tier in the National League. Meanwhile the Philadelphia Phillies will take second place and the wild card. The team will be hindered by Jamie Moyer finally pitching his age and Chan Ho Park reminding everyone why he was reprimanded t the bullpen.
The Florida Marlins will inexplicably be unable to win despite one of the most powerful hitting teams in the NL and a starting pitching staff that ranks among the leagues best. The closer and the bullpen will prove to give too many games away in the end. The Atlanta Braves will have great pitching, but too few hits to support its low ERA. The Washington Nationals will, not surprisingly, continue to play some of the worst baseball in the NL.
The Chicago Cubs tickets will again lead to the postseason. The team is simply too talented to be beaten by the many flawed clubs in the Central Division. Houston will finish second and come close to earning the Wild Card, but come up short with a bad stretch in the last month of baseball.
The Cincinnati Reds will find hope for 2010 after the young pitching staff and a few young hitters (Jay Bruce and Joey Votto) manage to give the fans at the Great American Ball Park a thrill. The rest of the division will go the Milwaukee Brewers, St. louis Cardinals, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Brewers will find C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets departure too much to bear, the Cardinals will ride Albert Pujos in another MVP caliber season wasted in an impossible situation, and the Pirates will try and create a stir by letting their Indian prospects play a few disastrous major league games.
The Wild West will live up to its name in the National League. The Los Angeles Dodgers will go from first to worst without hitting to make up for an unhappy Manny in the locker room. The Colorado Rockies will come back with a vengeance as its pitching staff again confounds all thought and ranks among league leaders.
The San Diego Padres surprise their fans overcoming the Arizona Diamondbacks incredible pitching staff. The Padres will feature one of the best pitchers in Jake Peavy and one of the best hitters in Adrian Gonzalez. The Giants will suffer another season as Barry Bonds fallout still haunts the clubhouse as his trial dominates the San Francisco sports pages.