AL East: As if it were possible for the Yankees to get any better, they did. In adding outfielder Curtis Granderson and pitcher Javier Vazquez, the Bronx Bombers solidified themselves as the favorites to repeat as champions of not only the American League East, but the entire Major League.
They definitely will be pushed by their long-time rivals from Beantown, though, as the Red Sox made a splash in the off-season adding the top free agent pitcher on the market in John Lackey. A revamped defense may push the Sox ahead of the Yankees, but all signs point at the Boston boys taking a backseat in the division and holding on to the AL Wild Card.
Projected Finish: Yankees – Red Sox – Rays – Blue Jays – Orioles
AL Central: Indians fans be prepared to get ready for Cavaliers and Browns games a little earlier than usual, as the Tribe will more than likely be out of contention for anything by the middle of the summer. The Central Division has three teams that all have legitimate chances a winning the division.
With Boston taking the Wild Card, the Tigers, Twins and White Sox have their sights set on the division crown. Arguments can be made for each of the three clubs, as they all combine solid hitting, pitching and defense. The Twins boast one of the most potent, yet underrated lineups in the Bigs. Detroit and Chicago both have concrete pitching rotations that can compete with some of the best. In the end, the M&M Boys of Mauer and Morneau from the Twin City will head into October with the division.
Projected Finish: Twins – White Sox – Tigers – Royals – Indians
AL West: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have owned this division for the last three years and it appears as though the supremacy of the West still resides in Los Angeles. Even though the Angels lost leadoff hitter Chone Figgins and ace John Lackey, their only real competition appears to be from the Oakland Athletics. The A’s made strides towards locking down a rotation with the signing of the oft-injured, yet equally dominant Ben Sheets. The job of the rotation is to get the ball to stud closer, reigning American League Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey.
The Rangers offense will be potent again, however, their pitching still looks to be one of the worst staffs in all of baseball. Even though Seattle brought in big name players like Cliff Lee and Figgins to go along with bonafide superstar Felix Hernandez, an inconsistent offense will prevent the Mariners from taking any significant steps forward in the division.
Projected Finish: Angels – Athletics – Rangers – Mariners
NL East: Coming off a tough World Series loss to the Yankees, the Phillies will be looking to bounce back in an exceedingly competitive division. They added arguably the best pitcher in the majors when they acquired Roy Halladay in a trade from Toronto during the off-season winter meetings. The two teams that stand in the Phills’ road back to the October Classic both will be relying on young talent to carry the club.
The Florida Marlins, who have the third-youngest team in the league, are carried by stats monster Hanley Ramirez. Atlanta is trying to send their longtime, and sure-fire Hall of Fame coach, Bobby Cox out on the right note with a championship, in his last year at the helm. The “other” New York team has a lot to prove after a very disappointing 2009 season, which was plagued with numerous injuries to big-time players. Don’t expect a repeat of the 2000 Subway Series this year though. Philadelphia’s starting rotation and loaded lineup make them shoe-ins for a fourth straight division title.
Projected Finish: Phillies – Marlins – Braves – Mets – Nationals
NL Central: As close as the AL Central appears to be, the NL side of the card may be the most uncompetitive division in the majors. The Cardinals are head and shoulders above every other team here. The one-two punch of starting pitchers Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright is dominant, to say the least, and that duo has the ability to produce 40 wins by themselves.
Package that pair with the best hitter in the game in Albert Pujols and all-star outfielder Matt Holliday and the Cardinals should run away with this division. The five remaining clubs will be battling for second place.
Projected Finish: Cardinals – Reds – Brewers – Cubs – Astros – Pirates
NL West: The West looks to be a genuine four-horse race as the Giants, Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks will all make serious bids to bring home a division title. The California teams are projected favorites, although each team aims to win with different styles.
San Francisco will do it with pitching as their top two pitchers are warranted Cy Young candidates and their ace Tim Lincecum has won the award the previous two seasons. Los Angeles will rely on their big bats to win them games. Outstanding young players like outfielders Matt Kemp and pitcher Clayton Kershaw are set to play a deciding role in whether or not the City of Angels sees two teams in the playoffs this year. Pitching wins championships, however, and the Giants are simply too strong in that department.
Projected Finish: Giants – Dodgers – Rockies – Diamondbacks – Padres
Rookie of the Year
AL: Brian Matusz, Orioles
This standout lefty will be the lone bright-spot in the 2010 Orioles season.
NL: Jason Heyward, Braves
Believe the hype. This kid is an absolute phenom and will show it this season.
Most Valuable Player
AL: Evan Longoria, Rays
In his third full year, expect to see Longoria put up monstrous numbers with on-base machines like Jason Bartlett and Carl Crawford ahead of him in the lineup.
NL: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
It’s tough to argue against this already three-time league MVP. He’s in the prime of his career, and facing the worst pitching in the majors in the NL Central; might as well start engraving the award now.
Cy Young Award
AL: CC Sabathia, Yankees
With lights-out stuff, and a dominant offense backing him, Sabathia is a lock to get 20 wins this year.
NL: Roy Halladay, Philies
After commanding the juggernaut of the AL East for 11 years, Halladay will have a much easier time against the weaker lineups of the National League, and should bring in his second career Cy Young award.
Cardinals over Red Sox