Posted on: March 23, 2008 3:10 am
Edited on: March 24, 2008 1:02 am

Predictions -- NL

As promised, today I'll give you the NL side of my MLB predictions (check out Saturday's blog entry for the AL side). I also picked my World Series champion at the end. Of course, I could just cut out the suspense right now and tell you it's the Red Sox.

Sorry, dudes.

Anyway, not a whole lot more to say, so let's get right into it.

NL East:
1. New York Mets
I can't make an argument against them. People like to point to Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez at the top like they'll live and die by them, but what about John Maine? He was their ace last year, and I think he still has room to grow. And if Oliver Perez does only as well as he did last year, this team has the deepest rotation in the league, probably. They also have the best bullpen in the division and an obviously no-slouch lineup. Ring them up.
2. Atlanta Braves
Yeah, OK. A lot of people like the Phillies, but I think the Braves did more to improve themselves in the offseason. They certainly added depth to their rotation with the acquisitions of Tom Glavine, Jair Jurrjens and -- maybe it doesn't technically count, but -- Mike Hampton. And while I think the signing of Glavine is a bit overrated, who do we compare him to? Buddy Carlyle? The bullpen looks good. The lineup already looked good and now should see improvements from Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur and Kelly Johnson. And don't even mention the loss of Andruw Jones. He hindered this team on offense last year.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
They have a killer offense. Killer -- I love it. But the back three of their rotation scares me to death. Maybe Jamie Moyer and Glavine compare more closely than I give credit for, but Moyer is older, and he did fare worse in 2007. I think Adam Eaton and Kyle Kendrick get bounced before season's end, and I don't see the poor bullpen having improved any in the offseason. The Phillies added Brad Lidge, sure, but they moved Brett Myers back to the rotation (as they should have). Based on the improvements the Mets and the Braves made, I don't think the Phillies can keep up this year, but they'll have one of the best third-place teams in baseball.
4. Washington Nationals
I really don't think the Nationals get enough credit. They went 73-89 last year -- the same as the Houston Astros -- but they started the year 9-25. They played .500 ball (64-64) the rest of the way. I don't know if they have any future All-Stars on their pitching staff, but Jason Bergman, Matt Chico and Tyler Clippard all have a decent amount of upside. I particularly like Bergmann to impress this year. The Nationals have some young outfielders with upside in Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes, and they get the single best offensive upgrade of any team in the division with the return of Nick Johnson from a broken leg. No, I wouldn't call the Nationals a bad team.
5. Florida Marlins
They have Mark Hendrickson as their ace, OK? That should tell you everything you need to know. More people worry about their lineup, though -- particularly in terms of protection for Hanley Ramirez -- but I wouldn't exactly call Dan Uggla, Jeremy Hermida, Josh Willingham and Mike Jacobs chopped liver. The Marlins will score a decent number of runs this year. Hermida in particular looks like he turned the corner last year, hitting .340 with a .956 OPS in the second half.

NL Central:
1. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have a fearsome middle of the order, with all of Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy having room to grow. They have an overloaded starting staff to account for the unexpected, such as Yovani Gallardo going down for the first two weeks of the season. And they have five former closers in their bullpen in Eric Gagne, Derrick Turnbow, Salomon Torres and Guillermo Mota -- and that's not even counting David Riske. They look like one of the best teams in the NL.
2. Chicago Cubs
I know they look like the favorites going into the season, but when trying to make such broad predictions involving so many uncertainties, you have to play a few hunches. I have a hunch Carlos Zambrano is going the wrong direction statistically. I don't think he pitches like an ace this season. I also have a hunch Ted Lilly takes a step back in his second year in the NL. So basically, I don't think the Cubs will have the pitching they need. I also think their middle of the order -- Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez -- is a tad overrated, particularly when compared to Fielder, Braun and Hart in Milwaukee.
3. Cincinnati Reds
Don't get me wrong: I don't trust Dusty Baker as a manager, but I can't help but love the talent the Reds have assembled. Between Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Matt Maloney, Josh Fogg and Matt Belisle, they should find a serviceable three to fill out the rotation after Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. And you have to appreciate Brandon Phillips, Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey in the middle of the lineup. Just wait until Joey Votto and Jay Bruce start paying dividends.
4. Houston Astros
Oh, they have bats aplenty -- that much I can't deny. Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee form one of the most underappreciated slugging duos in the majors, and now they have Miguel Tejada and Hunter Pence with them -- not to mention Michael Bourn and Kaz Matsui tearing up the base paths up top. Unfortunately, the Astros' pitching staff consists of Roy Oswalt and, what, Wandy Rodriguez in his home starts? I'm not buying.
5. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have overachieved for the last few years now, including when they won the World Series in 2006, so I can see them surprising me and finishing as high as second in the division. Then again, I can't. They simply don't have the talent. Troy Glaus adds some nice thump to go along with Rick Ankiel, and I guess you could stick Chris Duncan in the same category. Oh, and then there's Albert Pujols, but for how long? Even if he keeps his elbow together all season, I don't see this team having the offense it needs with no bats up the middle of the diamond. (Cards fans, pray for Colby Rasmus.) And the pitching staff? Forget it after Adam Wainwright. If not for my confidence in Tony La Russa, I might place the Cardinals last.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates finally switched out their front office, and any would be better than the one they had (except maybe for Chuck LaMar's reign of terror in Tampa Bay). I want to take a few moments here to interject just how much I love expected center fielder Nate McLouth. I know he wasn't the biggest prospect in the world, but he seems to have figured something out at the major-league level. Look at his stats last year and project them over a full season of at-bats. He's had a great spring and knows how to take a pitch, so I could see him having a 20-20 season -- if not this year, then eventually. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much help outside of Adam LaRoche and a possibly recovered Jason Bay. On the pitching staff, I think the Pirates have a developing ace in Ian Snell, and Tom Gorzelanny is good, I guess -- I guess. Otherwise, I'm not impressed. Too bad all those early draft picks didn't pan out.

NL West:
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't point out that their actual record last year (90-72) far exceeded their Pythagorean win-loss record of 79-83. But the Diamondbacks have something the Mariners don't: upside. All across the diamond, from Stephen Drew at short to Conor Jackson at first to Chris Young in center -- really, everyone except for Eric Byrnes in left and Orlando Hudson at second -- I expect the Diamondbacks to improve. And now that they have an ace tandem atop their rotation with Dan Haren joining Brandon Webb, what weakness do they have, really? Oh, I didn't even mention I expect a few more starts from Randy Johnson and all-around improvement from Micah Owings. Trust me: This roster is loaded with talent.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
I don't buy the acquisition of Andruw Jones as a major improvement. However, I do buy full seasons from James Loney and Matt Kemp as something that'll help this team in the standings. Rafael Furcal should bounce back, and Russell Martin looks for real. The only reason I place the Diamondbacks ahead of the Dodgers is because of their starting rotation, where the Dodgers have plenty of depth but lack a legitimate ace (and the Diamondbacks have two). At least by having Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito in the bullpen, games end after seven innings.
3. Colorado Rockies
Plenty of offense, for sure. Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton can all slug and get on base -- and I didn't even mention Troy Tulowitzki, who everyone seems to love. I just don't like the Rockies' rotation. It's not a complete wasteland like it's been for much of the team's history, but ace Jeff Francis strikes me as a little overrated, looking at his strikeout rate and WHIP, and after the unrefined Ubaldo Jimenez, what is there? Aaron Cook -- seriously? Granted, Franklin Morales and Jason Hirsh have some potential, but I don't see it yet. This team got a little ahead of itself last year.
4. San Diego Padres
The Padres are my only projected fourth-place team that I could see winning their division. I perennially underrate them -- except for last year, when overrated them because I knew I perennially underrate them and overcompensated. Anyway, starting rotation -- Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Greg Maddux -- all fine. Offense? Boo. Other than Adrian Gonzalez, I can't see any of these guys representing the NL in the All-Star game. I think Kevin Kouzmanoff is solid, I think Chase Headley has upside, and I look forward to the arrival of Matt Antonelli. But for now, I have this team falling out of the race because of its lineup.
5. San Francisco Giants
What a sorry bunch. I know: How can a strikeout-and-WHIP-dominated guy like myself not love Tim Lincecum at Matt Cain? Rest assured, I do. But I don't love Bengie Molina batting cleanup. I don't like him batting higher than seventh. And unless you think Aaron Rowand or Randy Winn is a sufficiently better answer, you don't have a lot to love about the Giants either.

Wild Card: Los Angeles Dodgers
MVP: Prince Fielder
Cy Young: Johan Santana
Rookie of Year: Chase Headley
League Champion: Arizona Diamondbacks

World Series: Red Sox over Diamondbacks in seven
Category: MLB
Tags: Predictions
Posted on: March 22, 2008 1:37 am
Edited on: May 8, 2008 7:52 pm

Predictions -- AL

Picks -- everyone loves to make them.

And I'm no exception. Going into every baseball season (or football season, for that matter), I like to predict the full standings for every division, even giving a little synopsis for why I placed each team where.

So this year, I decided I'd post my predictions for all the world to see. After all, it's not a totally useless exercise for Fantasy purposes. At least it gives you a good foundation for my line of thinking going into this season, an idea how I think the league will play out.

I've included the division standings, wild card winner, award winners and league champion. I'll start today with the AL before posting the NL tomorrow.

AL East:
1. Boston Red Sox
How can you go against the World Series Champions? OK, in a lot of years, you could, but the Red Sox look more like a team on the rise than the decline -- if you can say such a thing for a team that just finished at the top. Sure, Mike Lowell should take a step back and Manny Ramirez is probably on the decline, but David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Varitek, Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury all reach base at an abnormally high rate for players at their respective positions. If Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz step up as expected, the Red Sox shouldn't even miss Curt Schilling.
2. New York Yankees
The Yankees probably don't have the pitching to be a big-time contender. Don't get me wrong: I like the long-term prospects of Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain -- once he gets out of the bullpen, of course -- and Chien Ming-Wang has proven himself consistent enough. But Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina look like nothing more than innings eaters at this stage of their careers. At first glance, I'm tempted to drop the Yankees even further in the standings, but with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Hideki Matsui in the middle of the lineup -- each of whom you almost expect to hit .300 -- the team just has too much offensive firepower to overcome. What other teams can boast players like Jorge Posada and Melky Cabrera as "holes" in its lineup?
3. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays' greatest asset is Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and Dustin McGowan at the top of their rotation -- and Shaun Marcum isn't too bad either. Their lineup clearly lacks thump with the loss of Troy Glaus, however, and they'll need Alex Rios to take a step forward, Vernon Wells to return to form, and Frank Thomas to avoid a steep regression if they hope to compete for the wild card. A swift return of B.J. Ryan would work wonders for their bullpen.
4. Tampa Bay Rays
I like the Rays as a sleeper team and think they'll finish closer to third place than fifth place, but they need too many things to go their way to take a dramatic leap forward this year. The loss of Rocco Baldelli hurts, and if Carlos Pena takes more than half a step back, their lineup doesn't have enough thunder with only B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford and, assuming he doesn't begin in the minors, Evan Longoria. Scott Kazmir and James Shields form a nice one-two punch at the top of the rotation, but the other young arms, led by Matt Garza, probably still need time to develop.
5. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles have a handful of nice offensive players, including cornerstone Nick Markakis, veteran Brian Roberts and sleeper Luke Scott. But their rotation is a mess, and they'll have to fight all season to avoid having the worst record in baseball.

AL Central:
1. Detroit Tigers
Raaaaaar! That's the sound that echoed through the offseason (if that's the sound a tiger makes), as Detroit acquired Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Edgar Renteria and the Rob Schneider of the group, Jacque Jones. No doubt, with Cabrera joining Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson and a fully charged Gary Sheffield, the Tigers have quite possibly the best offense in baseball. But whether Willis qualifies as ace-worthy is still a matter up for debate -- I say no, by the way -- after his stinker in 2007, and Jeremy Bonderman has to prove his health after struggling with pinched cartilage in his pitching elbow. Even if the Tigers don't get the breaks in their pitching staff, they should still cruise to a division title. They probably would have won the division last year if not for a string of misfortunes after the All-Star break.
2. Cleveland Indians
The Indians claim this spot in the standings more by default than anything else, as they appear the only other team in the division capable of making a run. They remain more or less intact after winning the division last year, but their rotation lacks luster after C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. So does their lineup outside of Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore. Still, they managed to succeed last year even with a down year from Hafner, so they certainly deserve consideration in the wild-card mix. Setup men Rafael Betancourt and Masahide Kobayashi headline their bullpen more than does closer Joe Borowski.
3. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox clearly aimed to improve their offense in the offseason, acquiring Nick Swisher, Orlando Cabrera and Carlos Quentin in three separate trades, and considering Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko both had down years in 2007, I have to think the White Sox will climb out of the abyss simply due to their run-scoring potential. Unfortunately, their rotation lacks zip after Javier Vazquez, who stands to take a step back himself after a near-career year, and their bullpen doesn't look overly dominant. Count the Sox out as contenders.
4. Minnesota Twins
Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Delmon Young in the heart of the order save the Twins from a last-place finish behind the upward-rising Royals. Of course, a return to form for legitimate ace Francisco Liriano after Tommy John surgery would only help their cause, and I do project more good starts than bad for the left-hander. Boof Bonser looks back on track and Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker have potential, but none really strike me as frontline starters. Don't overlook Mike Lamb at third base, though. He always had nice peripherals in part-time duty and now gets a chance to play every day.
5. Kansas City Royals
I have a soft spot for the Royals, and every fiber of being ached to place them higher than the Twins -- well, every fiber but the objective one. I like the steps they continue to take in the rebuilding process, but unless Alex Gordon and Billy Butler take dramatic leaps forward in their development and Mark Teahen parties at the plate like it's 2006, the Royals simply don't have the offense to compete with the Twins. As for their rotation, Gil Meche and Zack Greinke look solid -- but my no means studly -- at the top, but not much follows unless you buy Brian Bannister as totally legit. I don't.

AL West:
1. Los Angeles Angels
The losses of John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar for at least part of the season make the Angels less of a slam dunk than originally thought, but they benefit from having nothing but garbage behind them. Jered Weaver better step up in a big way if they want the world to take them seriously as contenders. Same with Howie Kendrick and Casey Kotchman because, unless you see Torii Hunter as some kind dynamic offensive force, the lineup still begins and ends with a slowly declining Vladimir Guerrero.
2. Seattle Mariners
A pretender -- plain and simple. If you buy all that Bill James hocus pocus, which I do because it seems more like logic than hocus pocus to me, the Mariners had a Pythagorean win-loss record of 79-83 last year. Their actual record of 88-74 suggests they got really, really lucky. Then again, they also got a new ace in Erik Bedard, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and a second-place finish this year. A big season for Raul Ibanez or Felix Hernandez, a breakout for Yuniesky Betancourt, or a return to form for Richie Sexson would go a long way to helping them. So would clearing a spot for Wladimir Balentien.
3. Oakland Athletics
Again, I really, really wanted to have the guts to predict a second-place finish for a club most prognosticators consider a doormat this season. I just have too much confidence in GM Billy Beane to think the Athletics have really gone into rebuilding mode. Didn't they pretend to do the same a few years back, when they traded Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, only to have a few of their acquisitions, most notably Dan Haren, prove so major-league ready that they almost won the division title? (Look it up: the year was 2005.) Dana Eveland and Greg Smith -- both acquired, ironically enough, in the Haren trade -- looked so good this spring that I wonder if they might make a similar impact. And Gio Gonzalez likely isn't too far behind. Plus, if the Athletics get a full year from Jack Cust, Daric Barton, Travis Buck and -- Emack help me, I'm saying it -- Bobby Crosby, their offense doesn't look half bad. Rich Harden might stay healthy for once, too. Hey, stranger things have happened.
4. Texas Rangers
The Rangers have already lost Brandon McCarthy this spring and much of this year's hope along with him. He wasn't an ace by any means, but it's just a bad omen to lose an up-and-comer for a team desperately trying to build up its starting staff. Unless they get rebound seasons from Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla, they might as well let a bag of marshmallows take the hill. Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler bring some nice upside to the lineup, and I can see the bounceback potential in Michael Young and Hank Blalock. But who else can they count on to hit? Hopefully, not Milton Bradley. Yup, the Rangers still have a long way to go.

Wild Card: New York Yankees
MVP: Alex Rodriguez
Cy Young: Justin Verlander
Rookie of Year: Ian Kennedy
League Champion: Boston Red Sox
Category: MLB
Tags: Predictions
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com