Yeah, yeah. The season already started. But I completely forgot to put up my predictions (mainly for myself to go back to). Over at FBJ I have my fantasy predictions up, with Yovanni Gallardo as the Fantasy MVP (based on draft position...Eriq is trying to get me in some hot water I swear). Obviously, I think the overall top contributor to a fantasy team will be Albert Pujols. And it's not even close. Anyway, here are my real-word predictions:
AL East Champ: New York Yankees
AL Central Champ: Minnesota Twins
AL West Champ: Texas Rangers
AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox
NL East Champ: Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central Champ: St. Louis Cardinals
NL West Champ: Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wild Card: Colorado Rockies
Surprise AL Contender: Seattle Mariners
Surprise NL Contender: Florida Marlins
AL Champ: New York Yankees
NL Champ: Philadelphia Phillies
AL MVP: Joe Mauer
AL ROY: Sean Rodriguez
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
Surprise Award Candidate: Evan Longoria (maybe not a surprise, really)
NL MVP: Albert Pujols
NL ROY: Jason Heyward
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay
Surprise Award Candidate: Yovanni Gallardo
I chose the Mariners as my surprise team with the hopes that they remain healthy, but honestly could completely switch them with Texas. I think the Angels' reign ends in 2010. They'll still be a solid team, but the improvements in the Rangers (on both sides) and Mariners (especially on the run prevention side) Remember how many games the Mariners won last year? 85. EIGHTY FIVE. Who knew? The Angels certainly aren't the same team they were a year ago, and if the Mariners can hold off the Texas Rangers lineup when they're in Arlington, they should be in for a solid year (barring any more setbacks from Cliff Lee). If they have any prospects left, I could see them trading for a 3rd starter in the middle of the season. The reason they're the 'surprise' is the rotation after King Felix and Lee is atrocious. That's why Texas wins the division.
The Marlins are a sneaky team. The NL East should be a bit better than last year, with the likes of Jose Reyes and Johan Santana back. Don't sleep on the Braves, either. But I think the Marlins have as good of a 1-2 punch in Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco as any team out there. They'll need to keep the injury and bad luck 'bugs' away from that staff, but they could be formidable. With the rise of Coghlan and the dominance of Hanley, a slight defensive improvement could put them in contention. They won 87 games last year, and that was with Nolasco's terribly unlucky first half.
Other than the Padres, I don't see any real bottom-dwellers in the NL West. That's going to make it tough to have the Wild Card come out of there. BUT, I've gotta take the Rockies. The Giants did absolutely nothing to help themselves this offseason if you ask me (they needed a hitter). One hitter, and they're the surprise team. But unfortunately, Aaron Rowand isn't the answer. They'll need another fantastic season from Cain again to get 88 wins. I like the Marlins and Braves to challenge the Wild Card, though. The NL is going to be a LOT of fun to watch this year.
I almost mentioned the maturing Diamondbacks as my surprise team, but I think they need Brandon Webb healthy to make a real run. I love the top of their lineup, and think it's going to make for a great year from Adam LaRoche. I don't think it can ever hurt going from the Pirates lineup to hitting between Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds. I think they got the short end of the stick in the Edwin Jackson trade, but maybe they know something I don't about Max Scherzer's arm (maybe it feels as terrible as mine when I try to throw a baseball these days...that's bad for Detroit).
The AL Central is the Twins and I don't think it's close. The Tigers just don't have the hitters, and the White Sox aren't as complete as the Twins. I think it ends up Twins-Sox-Tigers there. The Indians are going to have to try rrrrreally hard not to finish below the Royals with Fausto Carmona at the helm of the rotation. Yikes.
Most of my picks outside of the ones I explain are pretty boring. Nothing is certain in baseball, but I'm not sure I have to explain why I picked a rematch in the World Series. However, watch out for the Cardinals in the playoffs. With a healthy Carpenter-Wainwright, they can make a run in playoff series.
I just don't know what to choose for the AL ROY. Honestly, it could be Matusz or Brandon Wood. I don't know. I'm not overly excited about any rookies at this point in the AL (and I'm not waiting for the next Manny Ramirez in Jason Heyward, either). Does Wood even have eligibility? Here's a surprise candidate: Terry Evans. He has a terrible walk rate in his minor league career, but have you seen what he's done to those poor poor pitchers? He's a legitimate 35-35 candidate against minor league pitching (he was 33-37 in 2006 at 2 levels), which won't necessarily translate to MLB. He had a 34.5% K rate in 2008 and 27.2% last year in the minors...yikes! Granted, Sean Rodriguez sits in that range as well. But you've got to like Evans' chances to make some impact if any of the Angel outfielders slip up and someone decides to throw him fastballs down the middle.
Okay...time to do some real work.