Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day Predictions - American League

Yesterday I posted my NL predictions and here are my AL predictions:

AL East: Red Sox - Boston's lineup is getting older and soon they will need a new thumper in the middle as Manny and Big Papi decline, but I think they've got another big year in them. I also think that Daisuke Matsuzaka is going to have a Cy Young quality year now that he's got a year of American baseball under his belt and should be more comfortable. The Schilling injury won't hurt as bad as some think as Clay Bucholtz will soak up the innings without missing a beat. I'm not sure about Bartolo Colon, but as a #4 or #5, it isn't a bad risk to take (since they have Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield to pick up if Colon falters).

While I like Boston better this year, I think the Yankees are set up better for the future. A-Rod will be the centerpiece for the foreseeable future and Wang, Hughes, Kennedy, and Chamberlain provide long-term solutions for the rotation. A lot of big contracts will be gone after this year or next: Giambi, Abreu, Damon, Pettitte, Matsui, Mussina and while they might resign some (Pettitte and Abreau possibly), the others will create a vacuum that will certainly be filled with other high-dollar players (Mark Teixeira, I'm looking at you). While they aren't ready to retake the division, they should still win the Wild Card this season and come back even stronger for 2009.

AL Central: Detroit - As I wrote in an earlier post, the Tiger's window is open. They've got an amazing lineup, with Granderson at the top, Sheffield, Ordonez and Cabrera in the middle, and Pudge Rodriguez, Carlos Guillen, Renteria, and Polonco as complementary pieces. The rotation is strong with Verlander and Bonderman at the top and Rogers, Willis and Robertson filling out the bottom. The bullpen could be the best in baseball if they could stay healthy, but injuries to Zumaya and Rodney present the biggest internal speedbump to Detroit.

The biggest external speedbump to the Tigers is the Indians. Cleveland is walking a fine line with their team this year - if a couple of things go against them, they could be mediocre quickly. Travis Hafner is on the wrong side of 30 and his production is in decline. Victor Martinez isn't far behind him and you have to wonder if staying at catcher will take a toll on his offensive production. The top of their rotation is great, with Sabathia and Carmona, but Bryd, Lee and Westbrook all fail to inspire.

AL West: Seattle - I predict that the AL West will be the worst division in baseball this season and I have the Mariners winning almost by default. The acquision of Erik Bedard gives them a true Ace at the top of their rotation and Felix Hernandez could develop into an Ace before the end of this season. The rotation is shaky thereafter. The lineup probably doesn't have a legitimate 30 homerun threat, but is solid top to bottom with Ichiro, Lopez, Beltre, Sexson and emerging youngster Wladamir Balentien. They are, at best, the fifth best team in the AL, but that should be enough to win a weakened West.

The Angels would be the team that provides the West with some legitimacy, but injuries have them depleted. John Lackey should come back after missing the first month, but Kelvim Escobar might be done for the season and Scot Shields' future is cloudy. I like Jared Weaver, but I'm not sure he's ready to step up and carry the team while Lackey and Escobar are out. Offensively the club still revolves around Vladimir Guerrero and there isn't a lot of power to be found elsewhere, but I think that Howie Kendrick has a chance to be a quality doubles and average kind of hitter.

MVP: Alex Rodriguez - I wanted to put someone else here, I really did, but every time I thought about another player (Grady Sizemore, Manny Ramirez - who I think will have a great season this year, Miguel Cabrera) I kept asking myself if I really thought that they would have a better season than A-Rod and I could never say yes.

Cy Young: Daisuke Matsuzaka - As with Ben Sheets in the NL, I figure if I'm going to make a bold prediction, I might as well take it all the way. I really think he's got the stuff and makeup to be a top shelf starter in this league. He had a very good year last year and he was still adjusting to the schedule and cultural differences in America.

ROY: Adam Jones - If Evan Longoria had started the season in the majors, I think this would be his. Jones is going to be very good and his two month head start on the counting stats will give him the ROY over Longoria.

Nik Markakis: .274/.355/.482 22hr

Miguel Cabrera: .317/.402/.554 32hr

Erik Bedard: 16-6, 3.26 ERA, 204 K's

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