Now that the constant threat of legal action has died down (go to this post and scroll down to the comments) and my big presentation at work went off without a hitch today (which had me working 12+ hours both the last two days, which would be why I haven't put up any posts) I have decided to buck up, toughen up, and get through it and give you people the American League preview you so richly deserve - mostly because I said I'd have it up something like a week ago.
Now yes, there have been some games played and you could say I am cheating, but I swear to you I already have the teams written down in order and I promise I won't change it. You'll just have to believe me, but I'm telling the truth or I'm not a Schilling's uncle.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
1. NEW YORK YANKEES. This team is getting older than dirt, or is already older than dirt with Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano the only starters under 30 and nobody under 28, but I think they have one more run in them, particularly with a revamped pitching staff. Of course, the Michael Pineda thing is a bit troubling since he was so freaking good last year and I'm all confused about how bad he could have been this Spring to fall out of the rotation, but even if somehow the probably best rookie pitcher of our generation is out of commission or goes all Joe Charboneau just adding Kuroda and Hughes to that rotation is a major upgrade. Of course, any or all of Jeter, A-Rod, Rivera, or Ibanez could suddenly be done, Granderson and the whole bullpen are probably due to regress, and Texeira has been trending downward. They could conceivably fall off a cliff this year, but I don't think that happens until next season.
2. TAMPA RAYS. Wade Davis didn't make the Rays rotation, and would be the unquestioned ace of the Twins. Alex Cobb didn't make the roster, and he'd be considered a future ace for the Twins. So yeah, pitching-pitching-pitching. It's the way to win, but the Rays do it better than anybody else and can also acquire a lot of great young talent in the lineup. Add to that a front office who recognizes the team's needs and knows how to go and get what they need on the cheap and that's how Tampa can contend in the AL East despite a minuscule payroll (for the division). Need some left-handed power? Sign Carlos Pena (1 yr/$7M). Looking for a utility infielder with a specific skill (crushing lefties)? Sign Jeff Keppinger (1 yr/$1.5M and a far, far, far better signing than Jayme Carroll). Luke Scott, Jose Molina, Fernando Rodney, and even Kyle Farnsworth fit that same type of mold. I don't want to just go ahead and give out virtual HJs here, but the Rays ability to both find, draft, and develop talent along with their free agent acumen should be what every GM studies.
3. BOSTON RED SOX. There are a million reasons to not believe in the Red Sox this year, and none of them have to do with friend chicken or beer which is the stupidest, media-drivenest story since the supposed Moon Landing (YOU CAN SEE THE FLAG WAVE IN THE BREEZE PEOPLE!). You can look at the rotation where starter #3 is talented but injury-plauged Clay Buchholz, #4 is a converted middle reliever (Daniel Bard), and #5 is some dude nobody's ever heard of. Or you can look at the bullpen, where Alfredo Aceves, a jack of all trades type, is being pushed into closing. Or you can take a look at the lineup and see mediocrity in an awful lot of spots (Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney, Mike Aviles, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia) and really, this Sox team just isn't very good, and might finish as low as fourth. My favorite part is how they traded both their starting shortstop (Marco Scutaro) and back-up and up-and-comer (Jed Lowrie) to get a middle of the road prospect and a middle reliever and are now stuck with Aviles until Jose Iglesias is ready, which may never happen because he can't hit (.235 with a grand total of 10 extra-base hits at AAA last year). And thank god. The Red Sox can go back to sucking in a hurry please, I'm sick of the bandwagon douche-tards.
4. TORONTO BLUE JAYS. In any other division I'd be calling the BJs (ha ha BJ) my sleeper team and singing their praises, but the AL East just isn't fair, no matter what the Jays do. They have two guys who could jump up into Cy Young territory and it wouldn't shock me in Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, a future young stud pitcher in Kyle Drabek, the biggest home run hitter in the game today in Jose Bautista, and a lot of good young talent around him (Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia, Yunel Escobar) with some reclamation cases in Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind who, if they get it turned around, could decide this thing. I love this team. If they can find a good trade for Adam Snider (say, an SP or a decent reliever, maybe a 2b or lf) they could jump up and finish in third. Seriously it's totally not fair to be in this division. It's like Hitler or something.
5. BALTIMORE ORIOLES. I can't decide if I think the Orioles are finally moving down the right path or if they're perpetually effed, because right as Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, and Robert Andino are starting to come into their own and mesh with J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds to give the O's a good offense their pitching consists of mediocre prospects, failed prospects, mediocre journeymen, and a bullpen full of castoffs. Plus their current 1B, Chris Davis, is one of the only players around who can match Mark Reynolds (the O's 3B) when it comes to striking out only he comes without all the hitting and stuff. Same shitty fielding though.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
1. DETROIT TIGERS. Do you remember there ever being a more prohibitive favorite in any division ever? I'm sure it's happened, but I can't recall anything off the top of my head. That lineup is absolutely loaded and they have Justin Verlander and that's all you need in the central. I like how people are all like "their defense is terrible" and "after Verlander there are too many questions in the rotation" and "no way Valverde can go 49-49 again." None of that even matters. As long as Valverde is competent and the rest of the rotation approaches average this team will win 90 games, which is all it will take in the central this year. If they want to contend for the World Series they'll need to do more than that and somebody like Fister or Scherzer will need to take a nice little leap forward, but they can sleepwalk to the central crown.
2. CLEVELAND INDIANS. Their contending status took a bit of a hit when Grady Sizemore hit the 60-day DL (SHOCKER!), and struggling prospect Matt LaPorta and promising prospect Lonnie Chisenhall were both sent to the minors, but both will be back soon since they're both crushing AAA pitching so far and you'd have to be an idiot to depend on Sizemore, so I think they'll be just fine. Outside of SP Justin Masterson, SS Asdrubel Cabrera, and C Carlos Santana it's really a pretty mediocre team unless Ubaldo gets back to his unhittable form which is pretty unlikely at this point, but luckily for them the AL Central is still the NFC West of the baseballers so they look good for second, and being something like 10 games out of that second wild card spot.
3. KANSAS CITY ROYALS. Not yet. Not quite yet. The pitching is quite there yet to keep pace with the hitters, because pretty much the hitting has arrived. Gordon-Cain-Moustakas-Hosmer-Butler are all the future and are all primed to have big years. On the pitching side, the Sanchez trade was the right move, Hochevar needs (and gets) another shot, and Duffy, Mendoza, Collins, and Crow are the future, I just don't know if they're the present. The loss of Soria is a killer, not necessarily because of his closing ability, but because he'd be a huge chip for them to trade in order to acquire a top line starter because that's what they need and either Collins or Crow could close with little issue, particularly Collins because I think, and I could be remembering wrong, that Crow could/should be a starter down the line. Things are progressing in Kansas City. They need to break .500 this year and then improve the starting pitching for next year and they could make a playoff run. Anything less and this whole rebuilding process was a waste of time and I'll burn my KC hat.
4. MINNESOTA TWINS. If Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau get back to normal it's conceivable the Twins could get up to second here, but there is a zero percent chance they can possibly win the division with that pitching staff, especially with Moon Shot Scott out for the year. I don't know what's more embarrassing, trotting out a rotation of Liriano-Pavano-Marquis-Blackburn-Swarzak, or hoping/waiting/expecting, for the 25th year in a row, that Francisco Liriano is going to become an ace. Did you know his career ERA+ is 100, meaning in his career based on ERA he's been completely average? And that includes that insane 2006, which gives you an idea of how awful he's been since then. FUN FACT: Since 2009, seventeen pitchers have given up at least 215 hits in a year in a season in which they struck out less than 115 batters as well - three of them (Nick Blackburn, Jason Marquis, and Carl Pavano). They also have 2 of the last 3 league leaders in hits allowed (Blackburn 2009, Pavano 2011). All this AND Matt Capps as your closer? We're truly blessed.
5. CHICAGO WHITE SOX. Trainwreck city and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it. They have the shitty contracts (Adam Dunn - 3 yrs, $44 million left, Alex Rios 3 yrs, $35 mill left, John Danks - 5 yrs, $65 million and signed this offseason for some strange reason), the broken farm system (ranked 30 out of 30 by Keith Law and he says "they aren't particularly close to 29"), a mid-tier pick + only one supplemental pick in the upcoming draft, and their best player is 36 years old, and their "young" up and coming infield is made up of three guys who each hit worse than the league average last year. Their only decent asset which might net them any prospects is Jake Peavy, but he's only got one year left on his deal and he's making $22 million in that year. He's going to have to pitch almost exactly like the Peavy of old to get any interest, and I still don't know if anybody would be willing to pay that kind of money plus give up decent prospects. Basically they have no young future stars, no contract flexibility, and no way to add prospects. Freaking awesome. I love it.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
1. LOS ANGELES ANGELS. Have you looked at this pitching staff? Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and C.J. Wilson? Their #4 is Ervin Santana, whose ERA last year was 3.38 which, by the by, is better than any Twins' pitcher has had since 2007 and if you don't count Johan Santana it's better than any Twins' pitcher since Joe Mays in 2001. And he's there #4. Oh, and in case you missed it they also signed Albert Pujols, the best hitter of this generation. It's a bit of a negative that their three best hitters all play the same position, their infield is full of mediocrity, and two of their starting outfielders are overpaid and semi-washed up, but would you look at that pitching? I'd look again but I'm already spent.
2. TEXAS RANGERS. Well they lost C.J. Wilson and that's a negative, and overall there are a lot of questions with the pitching. Can Neftali Feliz transition into a starter's role after being a shutdown closer? Why would a contending team even consider installing Joe Nathan as their closer? What happened to Alexi Ogando at the end of last year? What really happened at the Alamo? Will Yu Darvish be more Hideo Nomo (when he was good) or more Hideki Irabu? Can a team with Derek Holland and Colby Lewis at the top of the rotation win anything? I don't know, but what I do know is that just writing a bunch of questions without answering them is really lazy writing, and I don't want to do that, so their lineup is really good.
3. SEATTLE MARINERS. I want this team to be good so bad. I love Dustin Ackley more than I love my kids, and I might love Justin Smoak more than him. I loved Michael Pineda but can learn to love Jesus Montero now that he's over here, and that gives them three solid hitter prospects, and they still have King Felix at the front of that rotation and you could easily argue he's the best pitcher in the league. It's a good base, but there are lots of other issues here, particularly owing Chone Figgins $26 million over the last three years and having basically nothing left in the rotation behind Felix after trading Pineda and Doug Fister last season. If Seattle is really smart, they trade away Ichiro (contract up after this season) and Felix (2 years after this one) and acquire prospects, although perhaps getting rid of Ichiro isn't a smart decision from an attendance/money perspective. I dunno. But they aren't in good shape now and they should probably do something about it. Like me and the treadmill.
4. OAKLAND ATHLETICS. At some point you gotta make a move, right? I'm starting to wonder if Oakland hasn't become some kind of prospect turnover factory where they do nothing but acquire and develop prospects and then trade them away when they begin to develop for more young people. It's like some kind of kiddie labor ring - like Nike or Apple - but without the massive prophets. The good news is they have a top 10 minor leagues system after shipping off Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey and very little in the way of contract obligations with only something like $28 million committed next year, $12 million the next year, and just one player signed for 2015 (Yeonis Cespedes) so if they ever do get that move to San Jose approved and it does increase revenue as much as they're saying they'll have the flexibility somehow become a major player and oh yeah now I see what the plan is, but it's not really a a winning plan for right now. I really hope they end up with that stadium or whatever.
PREDICTIONS FOR THE YEAR:
NL WEST: Arizona
NL CENTRAL: Cincinnati
NL EAST: Philadelphia
NL Wildcards: Miami, Milwaukee
AL WEST: Los Angeles
AL CENTRAL: Detroit
AL EAST: New York
AL Wildcards: Tampa, Texas
NL Pennant: Arizona over Philly
AL Pennant: Detroit over Tampa
Series: Detroit over Arizona
NL MVP: Justin Upton, Arizona
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles (if they don't shutdown Strasburg for innings he wins this)
NL rookie of the year: Zack Cozart, Cincinnati
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Detroit
AL Rookie of the Year: Matt Moore, Tampa