Here follows my preview of the 2012 Major League Baseball season. I listed teams by division and in order of my predicted finish. I have included a few lines for each team outlining a player or storyline to follow during the season. At the end, you’ll see my way too early to be anywhere near accurate playoff predictions as well as my sure to be even more inaccurate MLB awards predictions (MVP and Cy Young only).
NY Yankees: They’ve got a revamped rotation that puts them solidly atop this division; if the answer to the following question is “yes”: can Michael Pineda handle NY? Keep an eye on whether or not the aging superstars hold up.
Tampa Bay Rays: NY revamped their rotation but it’s still not as good as the Rays. The only reasons I don’t have the Rays on top is the rotation is very young and the offense, while good, isn’t on NY’s level. Players to watch: Desmond Jennings and Matt Moore.
Boston Red Sox: Biggest story for the Sox is Carl Crawford. If he regains his past ability and hits at the top of the lineup, he’ll be a tremendous table setter and put the Boston offense in the stratosphere as one of the best in baseball. The rotation is too suspect for them to finish higher than third.
Toronto Blue Jays: Many think they could be a surprise team in the AL East and take one of the top spots. I’m not one of those people. Very good offense, ok pitching, but not on the level of the top 3 AL East teams. Watch Brett Lawrie to see if he lives up to the hype.
Baltimore Orioles: This team sucks. That’s pretty much all you need to know.
Detroit Tigers: Come for Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder; stay for what will be a hilariously bad infield defense. The best team in a weak division.
Kansas City Royals: I’m going out on a limb and picking the Royals over the Indians. Full of good young talent like Eric Hosmer and a suddenly very good Alex Gordon, this team will score plenty of runs. But can the rotation keep them afloat? In this division, I say yes.
Cleveland Indians: Some people really love their under the radar rotation but I’m not sold. The lineup is just decent, though Carlos Santana is very good. Keep an eye on second baseman Jason Kipnis.
Minnesota Twins: The story for the Twins revolves around Joe Mauer: can he regain old form? There’s not a ton to love about the Twins anymore.
Chicago White Sox: There’s even less to love about the White Sox. When Adam Dunn needing a big comeback year is integral to team success, you know you’re in trouble. Probably the second worst team in the AL, after Baltimore.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: They got Albert Pujols. That’s enough to make the offense scary. They have a legitimately great top 3 in the rotation (Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, CJ Wilson) and a good bullpen. How they solve the logjam in the OF so they can get uber-prospect Mike Trout regular major league playing time will be interesting to follow. The Angels are a legit World Series contender.
Texas Rangers: Offense still very very good, though another year older. Rotation is pretty much the same as they replaced CJ Wilson with a similar, yet more interesting to watch, Yu Darvish. The only reason I have the Angels ahead of them is because they have Pujols and a better rotation after stealing Texas’ best starter from last season. The battle for the division will be tightly contested.
Seattle Mariners: My bold prediction this year is that the Mariners will not finish with a losing record. I think the offense will improve and the pitching will be good enough after Felix as there are lots of good young pitching prospects on the way, a couple of which should see the Majors this year. How good will Jesus Montero be?
Oakland Athletics: They traded two of their best starters, their closer, and they lost some key parts of the offense. They have good prospects again but I think the Mariners improved enough to put Oakland in the AL West basement.
And now on to the NL, which I think will be very exciting this year.
Philadelphia Phillies: The rotation is still great with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and youngster Vance Worely. Health is the big concern, as usual, but the pitching is good enough to carry this team to the division title. It will, however, be very close as there are some young NL East teams on the rise. I still believe they finish on top even though Ryan Howard and Chase Utley could miss extended time. That pitching really is very very good.
Washington Nationals: It’s not just because of Tim that I love this team. Lots of exciting young players on the team and more on the way (Bryce Harper!), a rotation that got much better with the addition of Gio Gonzalez, solid innings eater Edwin Jackson, the return of phenom Stephen Strasburg, and a very good bullpen led by young closer Drew Storen. The offense will be good. The defense will be good. The pitching will be good. There is nothing about this team not to like. I think they get a wild card spot this year. If Bryce Harper comes up and makes a big impact, they could challenge for the division.
Miami Marlins: Another very good, exciting team. They added Jose Reyes to set the table, have lots of speed at the top of the lineup and 22 year old Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton to drive them all in. Plus new manager/sound bite artist Ozzie Guillen. If I was certain Josh Johnson could stay healthy I’d have them second in the division, but I don’t think the pitching holds up for the whole season.
Atlanta Braves: This team will also be good. That’s how good the NL East is this year; the 4th place team will likely also finish about .500. If the Braves rotation stays healthy (looking at you Jair Jurrgens, Tommy Hanson, and Tim Hudson) they could finish as high as second in the division and win a wild card. They have some very good young pitching prospects that could contribute. If Jason Heyward bounces back the offense will be effective as well.
New York Mets: Then there are the Mets. They suck. The fences moved in at Citi Field though, so maybe they will hit more home runs? But it won’t matter. They suck.
Cincinnati Reds: They added Mat Latos and Ryan Madson, which is a huge improvement for the pitching and, I think, puts them over the top in this division. The offense, with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Philips is very good. Watch out for Chris Heisey, who could make noise if Dusty Baker lets him play every day.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun was the story of the offseason and he’ll be the story of the regular season. He will be a monster offensive player again but without Prince Fielder I think the offense suffers. The pitching is good, but not quite good enough to overcome the loss in offense. Probably a wild card team after a close race with the Reds for the division.
St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright is back but now Chris Carpenter’s health is a big concern. They lost Albert Pujols, which is a massive loss to the middle of a lineup now anchored by Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday, both of whom are good but not great anymore. They were fortunate to win the World Series last year but they won’t make the playoffs this year.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutcheon. Enjoy the ride. 30-30 is possible. He is perhaps the most exciting player in this division and one of the only reasons to watch the Pirates.
Chicago Cubs: They are lucky the Houston Astros are in this division so they can beat someone. The best storyline on this team isn’t even a player: it’s new front office exec Theo Epstein. Can he do for the Cubbies what he did for the Red Sox? Young shortstop Starlin Castro is the only Cubs player worth tuning in for.
Houston Astros: Worst team in baseball. If you want to watch a team strive to make history as the worst ever in the history of the game, watch the Astros. It’s that bad. And it won’t get better any time soon.
Arizona Diamondbacks: They added another good pitcher in Trevor Cahill to an already good rotation. They have Justin Upton, who could end up one of the favorites to win MVP honors and be one of the best players in all of baseball. I think they are the best all around team in the division and maybe the best all around in the NL.
San Francisco Giants: Same great rotation. Same crappy offense. They did add Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan to get a little more speed and a little more power. I stress “little.” They might be a wild card team. If you follow this team, get used to the #freebrandonbelt hashtag. Enjoy watching Pablo Sandoval, who I think will hit 30 home runs this year.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw. Matt Kemp. Those two are good enough to put the Dodgers third in a tough division but they will be given a run for their money by the next team.
San Diego Padres: The pitching is better than people think. Cameron Maybin may break out this year and they added Carlos Quentin, who always gets hurt, but when healthy hits the ball well. (Quentin already got hurt.)
Colorado Rockies: Every season it seems like they should be better. But the pitching isn’t great and outside Troy Tulowitzki, who is maybe the best shortstop in all of baseball, if not one of the best overall players, and Carlos Gonzalez, there isn’t much to the offense. This might be the ultimate home/road team.
Division winners: Angels, Tigers, Yankees. Wild Cards: Tampa Bay over Texas. ALDS: Angels over Tampa Bay, Tigers over Yankees. ALCS: Angels over Tigers.
Division winners: D’Backs, Reds, Phillies. Wild Cards: Brewers over Nationals. NLDS: D’Backs over Brewers. Reds over Phillies. NLCS: D’Backs over Reds
World Series: Angels over D’Backs
NL Cy Young: Cole Hamels
NL MVP: Justin Upton
AL Cy Young: Jered Weaver
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera