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UCB Project: AL Predictions

Posted on March 30, 2009 at 9:01 AM
Filed Under: United Cardinal Bloggers
It's United Cardinal Bloggers prediction week.  The member blogs are making their predictions about how things are going to go this year, now that we are down to the final week of spring training.  The schedule is as follows:

Monday: American League
Tuesday: National League East
Wednesday: National League Central
Thursday: National League West
Friday: Postseason play and awards

Since we follow the Cardinals, the American League generally isn't within our normal purview.  So we'll get the inferior league out of the way with a quick run around it today.  You can find links to all the blogs on the new United Cardinal Bloggers website.

Let me explain first how I went about making these selections.  I used the ESPN depth charts and ranked the teams within the division.  The player I liked best at catcher got a 1, the least a 5 (or 4 in the AL West).  Added this up for all the teams and sorted by lowest score.  I'll discuss the teams as we go.  (Note: Top Players refers to those players that I ranked number one in their position in the division.) 

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AL East

1) Boston (34 points): I was surprised that the Yanks didn't wind up on the top of the standings.  Boston, though, has very few weaknesses, as the only player I ranked out of the top three in the division was Jason Varitek.  A lot will depend on which Josh Beckett shows up.  On the whole, I like the Yankees' pitching more, but I think Boston has enough of that plus a stronger offense and so takes the division.  Top players: Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, David Ortiz, Jon Lester.

2) New York (35 points): The Yanks were hurt by having Alex Rodriguez on the DL.  If he was at third, they'd have gotten the nod since they have the best pitching staff (three of the five starters were ranked first in my book) and a solid offense all the way around.  Having unproven players at third (for who knows how long) and center might be just enough to lose the division to the Sox, though they'd easily take the wild card.  Top players: Jorge Posada, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, Mariano Rivera.

3) Tampa Bay (42 points):The Rays are going to be a strong pick to take the division and it's not something I can argue too much with.  They've got good young talent and should be able to hang with the big boys for another year.  Last year's experience probably will help as well.  Still, on an overall talent basis, I think they come just short of making it back to October.  There will be no sneaking up on people, which is probably overrated but in this division, every little bit makes a difference.  Top players: Evan Longoria, BJ Upton, David Price (ranking before he was demoted to AAA).

4) Toronto (52 points): As was noted in the Playing Pepper entry on the Blue Jays, Toronto and the Cardinals wound up with the same number of wins last year and set a record for most wins by a fourth place team.  There doesn't seem to be much hope of the Blue Jays sneaking up and getting past the big boys or the new Rays power, while they definitely seem better than the Orioles.  Could be a long year in Toronto.  Top players: None.

5) Baltimore (62 points): Well, at least there is the Matt Wieters watch.  As Anthony noted in that Playing Pepper outing, Wieters was sent to AAA to get a little seasoning and, most likely, to wait on starting his arbitration clock.  Until he returns, there won't be much excitement at Camden Yards.  It's a tough division to do rebuilding in unless you go all the way like the Rays had to do.  Top players: Nick Markakis.

AL Central

1) Minnesota (38 points): This is a very competitive division.  On my point scale, first and last place are separated by just 16 points.  Just about anyone could take home the title, though it'd be surprising if the wild card came out of this division.  The Twins have a solid one-two punch in Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano, plus an offense that is effective even though it has some holes in it.  All the AL Central teams are flawed.  Minnesota just seems to be less so than the others.  Top players: Joe Mauer, Joe Crede, Liriano, Joe Nathan.

2) Chicago (41 points): No points were given for managers, but you know Ozzie Guillen will do something that will either inspire his team or get them ticked off enough to compete. Chicago's rotation doesn't quite measure up to the rest of the division, but they may score enough runs to make up for it.  Top players: Alexi Ramirez, Carlos Quentin, Jim Thome, Gavin Floyd, Jose Contreras.

3) Cleveland (46 points): Cleveland should be in contention all season, but you can say that about all the teams.  A bounceback season by Victor Martinez is a must, along with Cliff Lee's inevitable dropoff being a small one. There is strength up and down the roster, but not a lot of players that just stand out.  Top players: Grady Sizemore, Lee.

4) Detroit (46 points): If the Tigers weren't running out the weakest left side of the infield in baseball, maybe they could be given a little more credit for contention.  That and they have issues in the pitching staff as well.  Having a strong offense is good if you aren't giving a lot of it back.  Top players: Miguel Cabrera, Placido Polanco, Magglio Ordonez, Armando Galarraga.

5) Kansas City (54 points): The Royals aren't the automatic last place team that they've been the last few years/decades.  Dayton Moore seems to be working on a plan for the team on the other side of Missouri and it is starting to bear fruit.  They still have a lot of holes, enough to return them to the cellar after a year's hiatus, but the thoughts of them finishing third are not quite unbelievable.  Top players: None.

AL West

1) Los Angeles of Anaheim (30 points): The clear winner in this division.  While they probably will take a step or two backwards with the loss of Mark Teixeira and the aging of some of their outfielders, it'd take a lot going wrong for them not to play in October yet again.  The rest of the division may be improving, but they still have some work to do.  The pitching staff is where the club really separates itself from the pack, though its offense is solid up and down the lineup as well.  Top players: John Lackey, Joe Saunders, Dustin Moseley, Brian Fuentes.

2) Oakland (38 points): Give Billy Beane some time and some resources and he'll put together another winner.  His surprising trade for Matt Holliday will either pay immediate dividends or have a delayed payoff when he shops him at the trade deadline.  The lineup looks pretty intriguing and if the young pitching prospects pan out, they could make the Angels sweat in 2010.  There may be too much of a gap for them to make up this year, however.  Top players: Kurt Suzuki, Orlando Cabrera, Holliday, Jack Cust.

3) Texas (41 points): I'm a bit of a Texas fan, so I give them the nod when they tied point-wise with Seattle.  Obviously that offense is a potent one, but it has to be just to stay in game in Texas usually.  If the Rangers are able to develop some pitching--their top prospect Nefali Perez looks like a keeper and may be up this year--they could make a run in this division soon.  Top players: Chris Davis, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton.

4) Seattle (41 points): Remember last year, when people thought Seattle was going to be good?  Well, at least I did, picking them as an upset winner of the division.  Which goes to show just how much you should take these picks seriously.  A healthy Eric Bedard would help the pitchign staff out a lot, but there's still not a ton of offense to help it out.  A lot of work before this team seriously threatens.  Top players: Ichiro Suzuki, Bedard, Brandon Morrow*.

Come back tomorrow and we'll start looking at the National League.

*This writeup was done before Morrow was announced as the closer.  As a fifth starter, he was probably the best fifth starter in the division.  As a closer, he'd drop to at least second, so Seattle's point total would increase.


1 Comment | Leave a comment

My picks for the East and West are dead-on with yours... it's only the Central were our predictions diverge.

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