It’s opening night, and that smell of spring is in the air. For the baseball fans in New England and New York it’s not Happy Easter messages being exchanged, but rather Happy Opening Day. With all the moves this offseason, one that was said to have one of the worse free agent classes in sometime, there are still many intriguing new faces in new places. And injuries will always play a factor, but it doesn’t stop fans from making their preseason predictions. Here’s how I see the 2010 season playing out:
1. Yankees – The lineup may not be as strong as last season, but Granderson should return to form playing in Yankee Stadium. The addition of Javier Vasquez, and having Joba Chamberlain return to the back end of the bullpen should help strengthen the pitching staff.
2. Red Sox – The addition of Lackey should prove as their best one of the offseason. He is finally healthy out of spring training, and a return to 30+ starts should be possible. Their lineup is not as bad as many may lead you to believe. If their starters stay healthy, they do not need a 900+ run offense.
3. Rays – Longoria continues to be the staple of the lineup, and Upton should have a bounce back year, after an injury-plagued 2009. The addition of Soriano may be their best move of the offseason. They may be a division winner elsewhere in the AL, if not having to play with the Yankees and the Sox.
4. Orioles – Wieters and Adam Jones should continue to improve and play significant roles in this lineup. The return of Miguel Tejeda is a great move. The consistency of the pitching will determine if this team can approach 75-80 wins.
5. Blue Jays – Losing Roy Halladay takes away some losses. Adam Lind, newly signed to a four-year extension, is the key piece in this lineup. But the staff is not what it has been in past seasons.
1. White Sox – A full season of a healthy Jake Peavy could result in close to twenty wins in the AL Central. Juan Pierre at the top of the lineup as a full time starter could prove to be a great move. Gordon Beckham could blossom into an all-star as soon as this season. If Quentin returns to all-star form, this may be one of the most over-looked teams in the majors.
2. Twins – Perhaps one of the most over-looked lineups, they have one of the deepest lineups, in terms of consistency, in the majors. A new ballpark brings outdoor baseball back to Minnesota, but it remains to be seen if that is a benefit to this team.
3. Tigers – If the White Sox are one of the most over-looked teams in the league, the Tigers may be the most over-hyped team in the league. It remains to be seen how Austin Jackson will fair in the majors, but the Tigers staff love the kid. Johnny Damon will be the more consistent player at the top of the lineup, but the real concern is the back end of the rotation.
4. Royals – They have remained at the bottom of the division for a while, but they still have many young players, such as Alberto Callaspo and Billy Butler who are still improving, and reigning Cy Young Award Winner Zach Greinke.
5. Indians – There are so many questions both in the lineup and the rotation that it’s hard to picture this team finishing any higher than last in the division. Even if players such as Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner have bounce back seasons, will it be enough to combat the runs this rotation is sure to give up?
1. Mariners – The addition of Cliff Lee will prove to be a great move, and gives them one of the best 1-2 combinations with Felix Hernandez. But perhaps the bigger move will be the signing of Chone Figgins. Figgins gives the lineup more speed, and is a guy who can put up a .400 OBP as well. They have the ability to surprise many.
2. Rangers – A healthy Josh Hamilton will be key, but so will a healthy Vlad Guerrero, who can still hit, and will be better served staying at DH then ever playing the field this season. They key will be the continued improvement of their pitching staff, which made great strides in 2009 from 2008.
3. Angels – For the team that has long reigned at the top of the division, it is quite possible that they fall hard in 2010. The losses of Jon Lackey and Chone Figgins will hurt. And the questions in the rotation are too evident to be overlooked.
4. Athletics – Much of their offseason moves result in hoping that Ben Sheets can return to 2008 form, after a year off, and anchor a young pitching staff. The back end of their bullpen is also young, but also one of the best. Even if their pitching goes as Billy Beane hopes, it remains to be seen if the offense can produce enough runs to win consistently.
1. Phillies – The team everyone is picking to win this division and it’s no secret why. They are perhaps the most well-rounded team in baseball, and Roy Halladay could have a career year pitching in the NL.
2. Braves – Twenty-year old OF Jason Heyward has the ability to come in and find his way into the three or four spot in this order by season’s end. If Billy Wagner can pitch as well as he did for the Red Sox at the end of last season, it may be one of the best pickups by any team this offseason.
3. Mets – Offensively, the Jason Bay move makes a lot of sense, and will help this team. But with the way Citi Field played out in its first season, his power numbers may take a dip. David Wright will have to have a better 2010 then he had in 2009 if this team is to make any sort of a run at the Wild Card, there is no way they catch the Phillies.
4. Marlins – The team that always seems to find themselves at around .500 or better, no matter who they lose. If Ricky Nolasco can overcome a poor 2009, it will only strengthen this rotation. The offense will score enough runs to help this team win some close games.
5. Nationals – The future is bright for this team, it just might not be the immediate future. It is hard not to imagine Stephen Strausburg finding his way into this rotation by June with the way he pitched in the spring.
1. Cardinals – Much like the Phillies in the East, they are the consensus pick by many to take their division. Felipe Lopez had one of the better seasons nobody knew about in 2009, and could find his way into the starting lineup quickly if David Freese or Skip Schumaker struggle or go down with injury. A full season of Matt Holiday batting behind him should only help Albert Pujols.
2. Reds – Joey Votto is another one of those emerging youngsters that not enough people know about. The addition of Orlando Cabrera should also help the top of this rotation. They may only go as far their rotation takes them, but the potential is there for them to have a crack at the NL Wild Card.
3. Cubs – Injuries and curses continue to plague this team on a yearly basis. If they can stay healthy and play to their potential, they have the ability to possibly make a run at the Cardinals for the division. But that’s a big if. A big part of their success will be determined by if they get the 2008 or 2009 version of Geovany Soto.
4. Brewers – They just don’t have the pitching to make a run at a playoff spot. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder will continue to anchor the lineup, but Alcides Escobar will provide the excitement in this lineup. Escobar gets his chance with the trade of J.J. Hardy and has the ability to run with it.
5. Pirates – It’s a bold prediction to put the Pirates anywhere but last in the Central, but Andrew McCutchen is a young star. Jeff Clement was such a promising hitter when in the Mariners farm system, and finished strong in the spring, he could be one to watch for in this lineup. They have enough pitching to get them out of the cellar in the Central.
6. Astros – Wandy Rodriguez was healthy last season, and took the next step, and was the team’s best pitcher. But the main pieces in this lineup, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, continue to age, as does opening day starter Roy Oswalt.
1. Dodgers – Outside of the Phillies, they may have the best staff in the NL, and if Chad Billingsley can bounce back from a down year in 2009, him and Clayton Kershaw could prove to be one of the better 1-2 combos in the league. Russell Martin needs to bounce back from a disappointing 2009 campaign, but watch out for Manny Ramirez. Yes, Ramirez will be 38 by June, but he can still hit, and may be playing for one last contract. He has the ability to put up stellar numbers, still.
2. Giants – The resigning of Bengie Molina allows them more time to groom catching prospect Buster Posey in the minors, who could make an appearance by mid-season. If they stay in contention, ownership has show the willingness to spend, and they may go out and trade for that big bat they have been desperately seeking, allowing them to possibly make the playoffs this season.
3. Rockies – Their lineup will still score runs, and youngsters Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart still have the ability to improve and become better players that can help further round out this lineup. Their rotation is still always a question from year to year however, and the injury to Huston Street to start the year could hurt in the long run.
4. Diamondbacks – The lineup is still young, but can Mark Reynolds repeat a 44 HR season he had in 2009? The star is Justin Upton, and with a new long-term contract in hand, it will be interesting to see if he can take it a step further in 2010. The rotation should not be overlooked; a healthy Brandon Webb and the addition of Edwin Jackson could help this team surprise.
5. Padres – When the biggest question of your team’s preseason is when Adrian Gonzalez will be traded, the hopes for a successful season cannot be too high. If Gonzalez is traded this season, how good, or bad, this team finishes will most likely depend on the amount of major league ready talent they receive in return.
AL WILDCARD – Red Sox - as they prove defense can win at the major league level
NL WILDCARD – Giants - if they stay in contention and get a big bat (maybe Adam Dunn?), they could do some damage in the playoffs
AL MVP – Mark Teixeira – Great year in 2009, his first in pinstripes, and he may build on it
NL MVP – Albert Pujols – Full season with the protection of Matt Holiday behind him, and always a candidate for the Triple Crown.
AL CY YOUNG – Felix Hernandez – Has Cliff Lee to lighten some of the burden in the rotation with him, allows him to go out and dominate.
NL CY YOUNG – Roy Halladay – Halladay dominated in the AL East, the thought of what he may do in the NL presents endless possibilities
AL ROY – Austin Jackson – Getting the chance to start in Detroit, that ballpark allows him some endless possibilities to present his stuff
NL ROY – Jason Heyward – Starting the year in the lineup helps his chances over a potential dominant second half from Stephen Strasburg
BOLD PREDICTION – Albert Pujols becomes the first player to hit for the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, and first NL player since Joe Medwick in 1937
Right or wrong, it should be a fun year to watch this season.