I’ll go division by division. This is my very first FanPost and I'm looking for critiques. Any help from my fellow McCoven would be greatly appreciated. And give your predictions as well if you feel so inclined.
There is no clear favorite in the East. The Blue Jays are the trendy pick to win because of the megadeal with the Marlins. However, they have too many injury risks and question marks for me to put them anywhere above a wild card. Jose Bautista is looking to rebound, Jose Reyes has hamstrings made of wet tissue paper, and Josh Johnson is not a sure thing anymore. R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera will certainly regress in the more difficult American League. In addition, Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos weakened the team at catcher in the long term by trading away über prospect Travis D’arnaud for Dickey. With a catching core of JP Arencibia and Josh Thole, the Jays will be only average behind the dish instead of having one of the more promising young catchers in the game.
The Orioles played very well last year, using an outstanding bullpen and timely hitting, a proven formula, to get to their first postseason since the mid 90s. Despite their success, were they good or just lucky? The orange birds were 29-9 in one run games last year, due in part to the ridiculous seasons had by closer Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day and Pedro Strop. That kind of success can’t last. The Orioles will be good, with Manny Machado getting a full season and Dylan Bundy beginning his march toward world domination. However, I believe that the Orioles will have a team-wide regression, dropping them just below the two wild card teams.
The Yankees have Chris Stewart as their starting catcher. Yeah, they look a little flaccid. Derek Jeter is coming off a broken ankle, Mariano Rivera from a torn ACL, and Alex Rodriguez from having an Alex Rodriguez postseason. That’s a third of their lineup and their future Hall of Fame closer that are all questionable. All 4 are on the wrong side of 30 as well, with Rivera and Jeter over 40. The Yankees lost two outfielders to free angency in Nick Swisher and Raul Ibanez, making the three starters Curtis Granderson, a still gimpy Brett Gardner and an aging Ichiro. Robinson Cano looks to rebound from a down year as he hits free agency in November. The pitching behind C.C. Sabathia features the uninspiring Phil Hughes and the fossil Andy Pettitte. The Yanks will certainly compete in 2013, but they will fall short as the offense won’t put up enough runs, even with the jet stream in Yankee Stadium’s right field.
The Red Sox stayed mostly neutral this offseason. They added Mike Napoli to replace Cody Ross’ production, hoping that the former Ranger can rebound, but its more than likely that Napoli’s 2011 stats were more the exception than the rule. They also added the ever unpopular Shane Victorino, hoping he can be better than Carl Crawford, which could be accomplished with a piece of cardboard with a glove stapled to it. However, with Victorino inching closer to Aaron-Rowand-with-speed territory, the move is questionable since the money could have been spent on the younger Michael Bourn, who is still on the market. An aging David Ortiz anchors a line-up where the only impressive player is Dustin Pedroia. The wretched 2012 pitching staff will almost assuredly improve, with John Lester and Clay Buchholz rebounding from rough years. Unfortunately, John Lackey will continue John Lackeying, as will Ryan Dempster, a less impressive pick-up than believed. In the ‘pen, Joel Hanrahan literally picks up the pieces of Andrew Bailey’s pitching career, and slides into the closer role. With this move, GM Ben Cherington is hoping for even a quarter of Hanrahan’s 2012 season with the Pirates. The Red Sox will dog fight with the Yankees and the Orioles throughout the summer for 3rd and 4th place.
Now we get to my pick to win the division: the pitching factory known as the Tampa Bay Rays. The rotation, anchored by Cy Young winner David Price will be spectacular once again, as both Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson are set to have big years. Alex Cobb and Chris Archer will compete with Jeff Niemann and
Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez for the final two spots, a battle that should be won by the two youngsters Archer and Cobb. The bullpen will again be nameless and adequate, despite the guaranteed regression of Fernando Rodney at the back end. There are a few question marks on offense, namely James Loney’s existence, Yunel Escobar’s eye black, and Evan Longoria’s durability. If Longo can stay healthy though, he can carry the team. He’s that good, and we as fans have known it for a while.
Overall, the Rays are the most likely team to win the East, as they have the good young pitching that takes teams a long way.
Next up, the AL Central, where I rave about Miguel Cabrera and the peasants he reigns over.