For those of you without the patience to wait six months to see what happens this season, let me tell you:
- West – Giants: Hard to imagine the defending champs not winning the west again this year, considering they’ll have the same team, except with a full year of Buster Posey, another rookie of the year candidate in Brandon Belt, and probable bounce back years from Pablo Sandoval and Tim Lincecum (although he doesn’t have that far to bounce back).
- Central – Cardinals: Things didn’t start off well for the Red Birds this spring with Adam Wainwright going down for the year with Tommy John surgery. But what they are missing in elbow ligaments they make up in grit and Albert Pujols. The Cards were picked to finish 4th in 2009 and won the central. They were picked to win last year and got second. Most are picking them to miss the playoffs this year, so I’m going to follow the trend.
- East – Phillies: With Jayson Werth gone and Chase Utley’s status up in the air, the Phillies’ offense could, dare I say, struggle this year. But, lucky for them, they won’t be required to score too many runs this year. With their number four starter capable of being the ace for many teams in the majors, look for the Phils to repeat as east champs.
- Wild Card – Braves: With a good rotation, deep bullpen, and solid lineup, the Braves will make the playoffs in 2011, proving once and for all that it was Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz, not Bobby Cox, that led them to all those playoff appearances in the 90’s. In an interesting twist, the Braves will not fire Fredi Gonzalez , despite his success.
- MVP – Albert Pujols: As always, it will be a two horse race for MVP, Albert Pujols vs. the field. Only, this race will be like the 1973 Belmont and Pujols will be Secretariat (R.I.P.), in other words, it won’t be a race. In what is his first contract year, it seems impossible that Pujols’ numbers could get even better, but it sure will be fun to find out.
- Cy Young – Tommy Hanson: With all the hype surrounding the Phillies’ big four (sorry Joe Blanton), many people are forgetting about Hanson, who at the ripe age of 24 has already pitched 33o innings of 3.16 era, 1.18 whip baseball. If his K rate rises closer to his minor league level of 10.7/9 look out.
- Rookie of the Year – Craig Kimbrel: Using Neftali Feliz’s blueprint of playing an entire season with a lot of saves and K’s for a playoff bound team, Kimbrel will take home the rookie of the year hardware.
- Manager of the Year – Tony LaRussa: With Wainwright’s injury, the stage is already set. All LaRussa needs to do is guide his gritty bunch to the postseason and the award is his.
- West – A’s: I know it’s the sexy pick, but hey, who doesn’t like sexy picks?. They led the AL in ERA last season and have made some improvements to one of the leagues worst offenses. But where they will win it is with their bullpen, which even without Andrew Bailey, will be the best in the division.
- Central – White Sox: Led by Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, there will be no shortage of power at US Cellular Field. Their pitching, while uninspiring, is dependable and the back end of their bullpen is in good hands with closer Matt Thornton and rookie Chris Sale.
- East – Red Sox: It won’t be as easy as everyone thinks, considering 60% of their rotation was terrible last year, but their everyday lineup is basically an all star team, so the combined 5.00 era from Beckett, Lackey, and Dice-K won’t be that big of a deal.
- Wild Card – Rays: No Crawford, no problem. The Rays should have a good offense and a rotation that has a chance to be better than the Red Sox. The bullpen could pose problems, but if James Shields, Manny Ramirez, and Ben Zobrist can return to form, then the Rays will still be a top team in the AL.
- MVP – Evan Longoria: He may have disappointed fantasy owners last year with his 22 home runs in 2010, but he also set highs in average, obp, ops+, and won his 2nd gold glove. Without Carl Crawford, he will undoubtedly be the face of the franchise and if the Rays are to make the playoffs, it will be because Longoria had a huge year.
- Cy Young – Jon Lester: Averaging over 17 wins and 200 k’s for the past three seasons, this will finally be the year that Lester gets the hardware. With the Red Sox offense, 20 wins is not out of the question and all the other stats will be there too.
- Rookie of the Year – Tsuyoshi Nishioka: Baseball writers love first year Asian players that are older than the rest of the rookies. Nishioka will play every day, probably hit around .300, score a bunch of runs, steal some bases, and play good defense. In other words, he’ll look pretty good among the other ‘rookies’.
- Manager of the Year – Bob Geren: If the A’s make the playoffs, then there’s no other choice.
- NLCS – Braves over Phillies
- ALCS – Red Sox over White Sox
- World Series – Braves over Red Sox