The MLB Preview / Prediction Post

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I will not be able to bring a week-long celebration of all things baseball to EJSIC this season. Instead, it will be a giant entry found below. I’ll provide a snippet of each team in each division, ranking the teams in order of my projected finishes. Then, as an added bonus, I’ll throw in some major award predictions and playoff prognostications sure to be wrong. Enjoy.

AL East

Red Sox New LF Carl Crawford

1. Boston Red Sox: The Sox won the off-season with additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Now they look to bring a third championship to Chesapeake Bay since 2004.

2. New York Yankees: Jeter’s building mansions and signing new contracts, A-Rod is toning his body and being fed popcorn by a superstar, C.C. cut out Captain Crunch, and the rest of the news is meaningless in Yankee country. Joe Girardi has his toughest challenge ahead in catching the Sox with a battered starting rotation.

3. Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays bring in some new faces this season in key positions (LF, 1B, and SP). They’re probably too green to beat the Red Sox this season, but that’s why they play 162.

4. Baltimore Orioles: The O’s showed signs of life under Buck Showalter last season. Can they carry it over to April and beyond? Depends upon how good future ace Brian Matusz is in his second year in the bigs.

5. Toronto Blue Jays: Just when the birds of the Great White North finally shed the albatross contracts of Vernon Wells and Alex Rios, they commit $62 million to a guy who had never hit more than 16 HRs in a season until mashing 54 last year. Oh well, they’re not winning any time soon anyway.

AL Central

1. Minnesota Twins: Some injuries and slow starts have dominated Twins’ news in Spring Training. These guys always find a way to win though. Don’t count ‘em out (unless they play the Yanks in October, then bet your house against it).

2. Chicago White Sox: I really wanted to list the South-siders as numero uno in the AL Central. They may very well finish there, but on-going health concerns with Jake Peavy and other pitchers leave the Chi Sox behind the Twins on paper.

3. Detroit Tigers: I liked Detroit’s off-season, until Miguel Cabrera’s DUI. Even then, not sure they have the talent to overtake the Twins.

4. Cleveland Indians: Shin Soo Choo is probably the best RF in baseball you’ve never heard of, and they have a future star at catcher, Carlos Santana (not the rock legend), but this team is still not close to competing.

5. Kansas City Royals: It could be really bad in KC this season. I mean, extremely, never-before-seen Royals bad. But the future is bright. Numerous outlets labeled the Royals’ farm system the best in baseball. That has to count for something, right?

AL West

Oakland's Young Ace Dallas Braden

1. Oakland A’s: Want a team that could replicate last season’s Giants? Look no further than north of the bay. The A’s are loaded with pitching; in fact their staff led all of baseball in quality starts last season. The downside? Like the defending champs, a struggling offense could derail their season.

2. Texas Rangers: Cliff Lee is gone which leaves a huge hole in their rotation. Plus, their starters were taxed to career highs last season. I still love this offense with Josh Hamilton in the middle, but their pitching is worrisome.

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: They dominated the late off-season by foolishly taking on Vernon Wells’ contract after whiffing on target Carl Crawford. Their pitching will be good enough to keep the halos alive through the summer, but unless a mid-season bat arrives, they probably just don’t have quite enough.

4. Seattle Mariners: King Felix Hernandez rightfully won the Cy Young last season. And he’ll probably be in contention for the award throughout the next decade. He, along with Ichiro, are lone bright spots for a struggling franchise.

NL East

1. Philadelphia Phillies: They have to be favorites in the division because of their rotation. However, Chase Utley’s long-term health is a major question mark as is the replacement of RF Jayson Werth who moved to Washington in the off-season. Most analysts are putting the Fightin’s on a crash course with the Bo-Sox in the World Series.

2. Atlanta Braves: The Braves finally addressed their need of a power hitter by trading for 30 HR man Dan Uggla. Their pitching staff will remain a strength of the team. Atlanta may be closer to the Phillies then some analysts originally thought.

3. Florida Marlins: The Marlins are dark-horse team in this division. They traded away Uggla, but they also rebuilt their bullpen after it cost them numerous games last season. Josh Johnson is a Cy Young in waiting.

4. New York Mets: I wanted to peg this team for the cellar, but they can’t be that bad, can they? Maybe they can. Their pitching staff is horrendous, and there’s no telling when Johan Santana will return or how effective he’ll be. Jose Reyes could be on the move by mid-season.

5. Washington Nationals: No Strasbourg or Harper this season, but they have the $100 million dollar Grizzly Adams in RF (Jayson Werth). The Nats do have, in my opinion, the best 3B in all of baseball, Ryan Zimmerman. He really should receive more attention.

NL Central

1. Cincinnati Reds: A little magic and an easy schedule propelled the Reds back into the postseason where they were promptly swept by the Phillies. Cincinnati returns most of that team plus the added experience of playoff baseball. I like the Reds to repeat as NL Central champions.

New Brewers' Ace Zack Grienke

2. Milwaukee Brewers: A trendy pick to win the division with their off-season acquisitions of Zack Grienke and Shaun Marcum, the Brew Crew are exciting fans in Milwaukee. And although I can see them winning the division, there’s still some reservation with this team; particularly defense.

3. St. Louis Cardinals: No Adam Wainwright will be the death-nail of the Cards in 2011. Pitching coach Dave Duncan has worked miracles before, but losing one of the best 6 pitchers in all of baseball (check the stats if you don’t believe me) cannot be replaced. And so begins a long season with the fate of the game’s best player unknown.

4. Chicago Cubs: Mike Quade performed admirably down the stretch after Sweet Lou rode into the sunset, but the Cubs still remain a cash-strapped, aging team. I don’t think they have enough to compete for 162.

5. Houston Astros: The Astros believe they can win this season with their pitching. I’m not so optimistic. They’re always a second half team so maybe they turn a few heads and make things interesting in August, but there’s not enough on this team currently to make any objective viewer believe they can compete with the top of the division. Then again, this is the weakest division in baseball again.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez are solid young franchise centerpieces that could help return the Pirates to past glory. They need some pitching help first though. The Bucs are a franchise on the (slight) rise, but not this season.

NL West

1. Colorado Rockies: I picked them to go to the World Series last season, and I’m not backing off too much after a less-than-expected performance last year. Ubaldo Jiminez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez mark the core of a Rockies franchise that should be regularly competing for the next decade. They get the job done this season.

Future 2011 MVP Troy Tulowitzki

2. San Francisco Giants: The defending champs rode their strength (pitching) to a championship last season. But their talented hurlers threw career-highs in innings last season. Will it affect them Giants? Historical stats point to yes. Giants come up a little short this season.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers: Look for LA to bounce back this season and remain in the hunt for the division title through September only to come up a little short. Matt Kemp will be a name to keep an eye on as he looks to bounce back from a career worst season.

4. San Diego Padres: The Padres won 90 games last year and barring a late season 10 game losing streak, would have been the NL West champs. Now they’ve shipped Adrian Gonzalez off to Boston for prospects which means their offense probably takes a step back this season. Their pitching will keep them in ball games in the tough NL West.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks: The highlight of the D-Backs’ season will be hosting the 2011 All Star game. The lowlights will be everything else. New GM Kevin Towers will rebuild Arizona into a winner, but not this season.

Playoffs Predictions

NLE Phillies v NLC Reds: A rematch of last season’s opening round repeats itself. Phillies advance.

NLW Rockies v NLWC Braves: Rockies hand the Braves a second straight playoff exit at the hands of a NL West team.

ALE Red Sox v ALWC Rangers: Texas misses Cliff Lee’s postseason brilliance as it loses to the Sox.

ALC Twins v ALW A’s: The Twins’ playoff misery continues as the young Oakland staff gets it done.

NLCS Phillies v Rockies: Funny how often history repeats itself, huh? The NL West champion Rockies send the Phillies home again in the NLCS as they march on to the World Series.

ALCS Red Sox v A’s: Oakland pulls the upset on the heavily-favored Bo-Sox as Moneyball GM Billy Beane assembles his franchise just enough offense to survive.

The World Series Trophy

World Series: Rockies v A’s: The Oakland dream ends in the Fall Classic as Rocktober finally brings home a championship to the Mile High City. Tulo claims World Series MVP.

Regular Season Awards

NL Cy Young: Josh Johnson (Fla)

AL Cy Young: Jon Lester (Bos)

NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki (Col)

AL MVP: Josh Hamilton (Tex)

So there you have it folks, my predictions surely to be wrong. Take it to the bank and enjoy the season.