Predictions for the 2012 baseball season:
American League East: 1. New York Yankees; 2. Tampa Bay Rays; 3. Boston Red Sox; 4. Toronto Blue Jays. 5. Baltimore Orioles
Both the Rays and Red Sox are missing their closers to start the season, and the Yankees have an embarrassment of riches in their pitching rotation and their typically deep bullpen. (And, of course, their typically great lineup.) The Red Sox will make it close, but will lose out in a close wild-card race with the Rays and Rangers. Look for the Blue Jays to contend to the end, too.
American League Central: 1. Detroit Tigers; 2. Cleveland Indians; 3. Kansas City Royals; 4. Minnesota Twins; 5. Chicago White Sox
This is a slam-dunk division. The Tigers have the most talent in the division by far. It would be a monumental upset if any of the other teams even come within 10 games. Look for Detroit to have the best record in baseball, and if Miguel Cabrera can be servicable at third base, they could win more than 100.
American League West: 1. Los Angeles Angels; 2. Texas Rangers; 3. Seattle Mariners; 4. Oakland Athletics
Adding Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson should be enough to tilt the balance of power in the AL West, even though the Rangers should still be strong and will be a wild-card factor. The Mariners and A's won't be.
American League wild cards: Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays
American League MVP: Albert Pujols. The last time the Angels added a big-time hitter from the National League as a free agent, it was 2004. Vladimir Guerrero hit .337 with 39 homers and 126 RBI. Expect Pujols to put up similar numbers in the NL West, especially with so many games against the A's and Mariners. Other contenders: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays; Evan Longoria, Rays.
American League Cy Young: Jered Weaver, Angels. It's tough to repeat, so Justin Verlander won't quite make it. In fact, no pitcher has repeated as the AL Cy Young winner since Pedro Martinez (1999-2000), and it's only happened two other times (Roger Clemens and Jom Palmer). Weaver was right there with Verlander for most of last season before fading down the stretch. He'll finish the deal this year. Other contenders: Justin Verlander, Tigers; James Shields, Rays.
American League Rookie of the Year: Yu Darvish, Rangers. Like Ichiro Suzuki 11 years ago, this big-time Japanese import will be one of the best pitchers in the league from the outset. Other contenders: Matt Moore, Rays; Yoenis Cespedes, A's.
National League East: 1. Atlanta Braves; 2. Philadelphia Phillies; 3. Miami Marlins; 4. Washington Nationals; 5. New York Mets
The Phillies are getting a little old, and the Braves seem ready to make a big push. This should be one of the most entertaining divisions in the game, because the Marlins and Nationals look like they're just about ready for prime time as well. But they look a year away, at least. The Mets? Much more than a year away.
National League Central: 1. St. Louis Cardinals; 2. Cincinnati Reds; 3. Milwaukee Brewers; 4. Pittsburgh Pirates; 5. Chicago Cubs; 6. Houston Astros
The Cardinals came from the wild card to win the World Series last year, and get Adam Wainwright back. If he's healthy and productive, they'll win the division even without Albert Pujols. Look for the Reds to make a move behind a rebuilt rotation. The Brewers will be around until the final week as well.
National League West: 1. Arizona Diamondbacks; 2. San Francisco Giants; 3. Los Angeles Dodgers; 4. Colorado Rockies; 5. San Diego Padres
The Diamondbacks and Giants have the best pitching in the division, but the Arizona bats are a bit better, so give them the edge in what looks like a competitive division. The Dodgers are talented, but not quite deep enough.
National League wild cards: Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds
National League MVP: 1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies. If Tulowitzki stays healthy -- he dodged a bullet when he got hit on the elbow by former teammate Ubaldo Jimenez in the last week of spring training -- it looks like it's Tulo's time. Other contenders: Matt Kemp, Dodgers; Joey Votto, Reds
National League Cy Young: 1. Cliff Lee, Phillies. He can become the sixth player to win the honor in both leagues. The others? Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gaylord Perry and current Phillies teammate Roy Halladay. Other contenders: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Madison Bumgarner, Giants
National League Rookie of the Year: Devin Mesoraco, Reds. The native of Punxsutawney, Pa., won't see his shadow. He plays a premium position (catcher) and will get some protection in a lineup that has Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips. Other contenders: Bryce Harper, Nationals (won't be called up until June), Yonder Alonso, Padres
- Wild card: Phillies over Reds; Rays over Rangers
- Division Series: Yankees over Rays; Tigers over Angels; Braves over Cardinals; Phillies over Diamondbacks
- League Championship Series: Yankees over Tigers; Braves over Phillies
- World Series: Yankees over Braves