2011 AL East Predictions
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Baltimore Orioles
The AL East is probably the most talented division in baseball. Outside of the Baltimore Orioles, I think every team in this division has the ability to play at or above .500 on the season. Why do I think the Red Sox will win? First off, I’ll say that Boston’s “poor” 2010 season – I’m reluctant to even call it poor because the Sox still had a record of 89-73 which is fine by most team’s standards – was largely due to a plethora of injuries. The Red Sox suffered more critical injuries than anyone else in the MLB. Jacoby Ellsbury played only 18 games all season due to a rib injury. Dustin Pedroia was placed on the 15 day DL due to a broken foot, and was ruled out for the season after opting for surgery on his foot on August 14th, 2010. Kevin Youkilis and Mike Cameron suffered season ending injuries four days apart, on August 3rd and July 31st, respectively. Victor Martinez missed significant playing time, and that’s not even all the injuries.
Already one of the most talented teams in 2010, the Red Sox only got better by adding 1B Adrian Gonzalez (31 HR, 101 RBI, .904 OPS) and Carl Crawford (.307 BA, 90 RBI, 47 SB). Take a look at this projected batting order:
1) Jacoby Ellsbury
2) Dustin Pedroia
3) Carl Crawford
4) Adrian Gonzalez
5) Kevin Youkilis
6) David Ortiz
7) J.D Drew
8) Jarrod Saltalamacchia
9) Marco Scutaro
Along with the rotation…
1) Jon Lester
2) Clay Buchholz
3) Josh Beckett
4) John Lackey
5) Daisuke Matsuzaka
If the Red Sox can avoid the injury plague this season and stick with a roster close to the one they have (maybe shaking up the batting order a bit) then I would say they’re easily one of the best teams in baseball.
2011 AL Central Predictions
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Cleveland Indians
The AL Central proved to be a little more difficult to predict because it seems as though three of the teams in the division could contend for the title. I’m opting out of picking the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox, although I think it will be a close race throughout the season, decided by less than three games if I had to say as of now. While the White Sox probably have a better rotation (if Jake Peavy can effectively recover from his injury he could be the best starter on the team aside from Buehrle), my gut feeling points me towards the Tigers.
Austin Jackson, Magglio Ordonez, and Ryan Raburn/Brennan Boesch make up a solid outfield, and a (healthy) 2B Carlos Guillen along with 1B Magglio Ordonez (maybe the best hitter in the MLB last season) constitutes a solid right side of the infield. Also, the Tigers made a key transaction by acquiring Victor Martinez in the offseason, as he should prove to be an effective DH and offer some rest days for catcher Alex Avila. While the Tigers starting rotation (Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Phil Coke, and Brad Penny) isn’t the best in the league, you can make an argument that the Tigers closer Jose Valverde is.
Flip a coin for this division between the Tigers and the White Sox, but also keep an eye on a possibly dangerous Minnesota team as well.
2011 AL West Predictions
1. Texas Rangers
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
3. Oakland Athletics
4. Seattle Mariners
The Texas Rangers, coming off their best season in team history, will be looking to continue the success of last season under the reign of Nolan Ryan. The Rangers lost a few players in the offseason (and rumors have Michael Young leaving soon, too) but a couple of strengthening acquisitions were made during the offseason as well.
The Texas Rangers already have two of the best power hitters in the majors in RF with Josh Hamilton and LF with Nelson Cruz. All-Star Elvis Andrus and CF Julio Borbon offer plenty of options for the Rangers on the base paths with their speed.
The acquisitions made by the Rangers in the offseason added depth to the roster, including All-Star Arthur Rhodes, and catcher Mike Napoli, but no addition was as big as 3B Adrian Beltre. Coming off a great season with the Red Sox, Beltre (28 HR, 102 RBI, .919 OPS) compliments Andrus very well, and the two could make up the best left side defensively speaking the majors.
If the Rangers do have a possible weakness it is their starting rotation. The addition of P Brandon Webb was undoubtedly a gamble, but if Webb can get even close to replicating the stats he put up while pitching for the Diamondbacks then he would be the best #3 starter in the MLB.
I’ve picked the Rangers to win the AL West, but it should be an interesting and heated race between the Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels as the season progresses.
2011 AL Wild Card Predictions
1. Chicago White Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Chicago added Adam Dunn to their roster, giving them a huge power hitter that compliments Magglio Ordonez. Add that to the fact that the White Sox have an impressively deep rotation (I think Peavy could be huge if he stays healthy) and I think you have the 2011 AL Wild Card winner, and possibly the AL Central winner.
The Yankees have two proven starters in C.C. Sabathia and Phil Hughes, and depending on A.J. Burnett’s up-and-down play, a third. But with Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre listed as the 4th and 5th pitchers in the rotation, how will they fare?
The Angels starting rotation could be one of the best in the league, and by obtaining Vernon Wells, the Angels should make a legitimate case for the Wild Card, if not the AL West title.
American League Champions: Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox, with their revamped lineup and killer rotation are the team to beat in the American League. The reliability of CP Jonathan Papelbon is something the Red Sox should keep an eye on, but aside from that one possible slipping point it’s hard to argue against the Red Sox being the best team in the AL.