Spring is here, you know - though the wind is howling outside, it's still frigging cold, and there's still been snow flying around (though most of it went out to sea - up to Nova Scotia, judging from what my cousins up there are saying...) - but it is spring: baseball season is underway, and all is well. Better anyway.
So what do I think will happen this year? well - roughly:
Boston - last year, all my Red Sox Ifs came true - they stayed healthy, the solid pros they brought in all performed to reasonable expectations, Farrell stabilized the pitching staff, and so on. This year - they brought back most of the team, and I'd say, most of the same ifs apply. If they stay healthy - if people perform to expectations... It took a lot of luck to do what they did last year - but it's at least partly luck they made. They stocked up on players - they had cover for the positions where people were hurt (filling up the bullpen like they did.) They've done much the same thing this year - bringing in Mujica and Badenhop and Capuano to stock the pen, bringing in position players, and so on - and they have a deep farm system, that's a year further along. They have risks - Ortiz and Uehara are not young; Napoli, Victorino, Lackey, the catchers have been around the block a few times as well - but they have a good team and lots of depth and should be in the running once more, and might as well be the favorites.
Tampa - as always, they don't have a lot of room for error, but they have a really good core and outstanding pitching - so they should be fine. There's nothing there to make you think they won't be in the thick of things.
Toronto - after making fools of many a prognosticator last year (me included), people are likely to write them off - but I don't think they are hopeless. If they get a bit of luck this year, they could get back to respectability or better. Though they are quite capable of another stink bomb.
NY - I look forward to their decline every year and was finally rewarded last year. Sort of. They had a strange off-season - bringing in a bunch of outfielders and letting Cano walk, which is an odd approach, given that they had decent outfielders last year and nothing beyond Cano in the infield. This year could be grim, unless they put Soriano back at second. Still - it comes down to pitching, and there is at least a chance that could be solid. Or awful - is a crap shoot. Will Sabathia decline? Will Tanaka be Darvish or Dice-K? what kind of pen can they field? I don't think they will be awful (alas), but I don't see a lot of ways they can get into the post-season.
Baltimore - I wish they had more pitching - they could get past the Yankees. They have a nice team on the field - but the pitching seems more than a little suspect. They strike me as being in a difficult race with Toronto and NY for the honor of being the best last place team in baseball.
Detroit - they remain prohibitive favorites. Building on last year - excellent starting pitching; a better bullpen; good lineup, probably balanced better than last year, and better with the gloves (though losing Iglesias hurts.) A solid team in a weak division, and, I think, the safest post-season berth in the game. And a real chance at the world series.
KC - they made great strides last year, and I think they will hang around this year. Maybe slip on the hill, improve with the sticks - who knows. Still - they aren't far off respectability.
Cleveland - likely to regress, but there's still enough talent, and Terry Francona, to be respectable.
Minnesota - I think they could sneak back into the high 70s this year, though probably not much more - they tend to be capable of over-achieving, and I can see people like Hughes and Nolasco giving them a definite bump.
Chicago - they have Chris Sale, right? Actually, they have some interesting young outfielders, who may or may not get them past awfulness.
Texas - I think they will do all right. Just as the Tigers are better balanced with Kinsler than Fielder, I think Texas is better balanced with Fielder than Kinsler - that trade should help them. They might not be great, but I think they have the best chance of staying clear of the rest of the division.
Anaheim - can't stay sucky forever. Though soon enough they are going to suck and have to pay Albert Pujols to do nothing: but I suspect before that day arrives he has a throwback season or two. If he and Hamilton have their throwback seasons together, they could be dangerous.
Oakland - they are deep and well put together, but they have been a bit lucky with the pitching the last couple years, and that luck might run out on them. They have some injuries - and a bit like Tampa, I don;t think they have the resources to absorb too many losses. Though they do a very good job of rooting up has beens who still are...
Seattle - there are hints and signs that they could be in a position to improve - they certainly laid out a lot of cash. They should be decent - if they got a dose of luck, they might improve dramatically.
Houston - not much to talk about here yet. Might be in a couple years.
Washington - they sort of disappeared for a lot of last year, but were coming on fast at the end - they have arms and talent and should be back at the top this year. It helps to have the competition fall apart of course...
Atlanta - They lost some players (McCann notably), and their pitching has been slammed this year - 2 Tommy Johns so far? They're still pretty good - and could get better, if Heyward and the Uptons bounce back - but probably not past second.
Philadelphia - they haven't really addressed their problems, but have talent hanging around - and the rest of the division is not good.
NY - they added a few people, but not really from the top drawer. Unless Granderson returns to form, which is possible, or Colon's deal with the devil still has some years to run.
Miami - I hope they lose, anyway. They deserve to lose. They don't deserve players like Stanton and Fernandez. They probably won't have them more than a year or so more.
St. Louis - they moved some pieces around, but basically brought back the team, all those young arms - if they stay healthy and develop, they should stay good for a while.
Pittsburgh - they need to make the transition from developing into a good team to staying a good team, which is the hardest thing to do. They should still be pretty good this year, though.
Cincinnati - solid team that should stay solid for a while. As usual, the health of the pitching is probably the difference.
Milwaukee - one of the real wild cards, I think - I expect Braun to pick up where he left off (I'm inclined to think steroids, if they have an effect, mostly keep players on the field, and inflate the overall offensive numbers - individuals tend to stay around where they were, relative to everyone else. Maybe spend more time on the DL. So while Braun's numbers might be down, everyone's numbers are down, and he should stay roughly where he always was, relative to the league.) I hope Segura develops, and Davis too (since I drafted both of them for fantasy...) They could be very good - they could be completely irrelevant. I think. Probably 77 wins and utter mediocrity - the Blue Jays! - but you never know.
Chicago - they seem to add a player a year, though someone else seems to regress. Not likely to factor in any pennant races.
Dodgers - yes, they do look very good. I don;t like the Dodgers, but there's not much to say against this team.
San Francisco - this is their On year, right? they still don't have much offense, they still have a bunch of good arms - we'll see. They like the even numbers...
Colorado - why not.
Arizona - Corbin's out - there's not much going on there.
San Diego - they could be a bit better than this - they could menace .500.
AL: Boston - Detroit - Texas + Tampa and Anaheim, I suspect. I'll pick Boston to come out of it, because I want them to, though Detroit, Texas and Tampa are all quite capable.
NL: Washington - St. Louis - LA + Pittsburgh - San Francisco. I want Washington to come out, but suspect SL and SF have the advantages. Not LA, for all their talent.
AL MVP - should be Trout, for the third year in a row.
NL MVP - likely to be McCutcheon again, I think.
AL Cy Young - there are lots of candidates, really - I suppose Verlander is the default choice, but Scherzer, King Felix, Darvish are all good choices, Price maybe, even Lester maybe - Anibel Sanchez - Weaver. Right?
NL Cy Young - all Kershaw until he fails. Though Strasbourg, Cain, Wainwright, Fernandez etc. will be hanging around.
AL Rookie - might as well be Bogaerts. or Tanaka, I suppose.
NL Rookie - Wacha? why not?
And World Series Champions? Time for the Red Sox to go back to back! though - it's unlikely - they still need a bit too much luck. a couple years, when Bogaerts is established, and they've traded for Jose Fernandez, then - you know... now - Boston's still the best team if everything goes to plan - but since going to plan twice in a row would be very rare - Detroit is my safety pick.