snowing like a bastard out, but baseball season is here so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! I am going to split the leagues this year, partly because I don't know how long it's going to take me to do the National League (now that I have gotten around to the AL) - so... here goes, part 1.
1. Red Sox - this is obviously the homer pick - but the thing is, the AL East seems to me to be even enough that you could almost throw the names in a hat and draw them out and have a convincing order. Bad as Boston, and Tampa were last year, both finished near .500 - Boston within a bad series of it - and I can find plenty of reasons why they could win it this year. So: 1) David Price and the bullpen, Kimbrel and Smith - the starters are still iffy, but Price makes things a lot simpler at the top; the bullpen has gone from a weakness to a strength - though that could be gone if Smith and Koji both end up hurt... 2) They hit pretty well last year, in the end - and without really hitting as well as they could. You figure Ortiz might slip some, and maybe Pedroia - but both are likely to contribute; Hanley looks like he's found his bat again, and should be all right; Betts and Bogaerts look like the real thing - even if last year is at the high end of their potential, they were both so good, they could slip and still be valuable - but it's not unreasonable to look at last year as their true level - maybe even their starting point. Those are 2 really good ballplayers there. Offense shouldn't be a problem, and if a couple guys improve,t hey could be very good. All that - vs. the fact that they still don't have anyone other than Price you trust; Smith and koji have looked fragile already; and age and mediocrity could still leave the offense thin... But I will hope.
2. Blue Jays - they lost Price, but they kept the offense that was so good; tghey still have some decent pitching up there - Stroman, Estrada, Dickey isn't terrible - I don't know what to say about Drew Hutchison - he looked close to breaking out last spring, then - won 13 games without getting anyone out, as far as I can tell. (Which means he's probably due for a year where he has a 2.20 ERA, strikes out 200 and has a 4-12 records on the best hitting team in baseball... in triple A, apparently) Osuna looks promising, and their other relievers have talent. They aren't likely, in short, to win 95, but 88-92 is very reasonable, though I could say that for every tea, in the division this year.
3. Yankees - they have a killer bullpen, give or take a couple injuries and a suspension; they have guys who can hit, though more than one of them started hitting in the previous millennium; I don't know about their starters - they have more than their share of cripples, bastards and broken things, though they have some talent too... eery time I think they are done, they win the division - it's not impossible they do this year. One of these teams is going to get lucky, everyone is going to stay healthy, the long shots are going to pay off - it's probably a bit more likely it's the Sox or Jays, but the Yankees are certainly capable.
4. Orioles - So are the Orioles, though it's hard to see who's going to do the pitching. They could score a ton of runs if everything breaks - Machado and Davis and Jones, and Trumbo and Alvarez in the AL - who knows. I don't think it is likely, but it is not impossible.
5. Rays - they are harder to see winning - but they do have pitchers, they have some okay offense - luck and all could get them over after all. But it's definitely a stretch.
1. Indians - it's stupid to pick against the world series champs, but I'm stupid. And Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, Timlin - that's four good reasons to pick against the Royals (and Tigers, who have sort of rebuilt.) But mostly, I suppose I just want the Indians to win.
2. Royals - the Tigers rebuilt, but the Royals are still a very dangerous team. They are flirting with disaster with their pitching - but enough starters could emerge to keep them close, they should hit, they have a strong bullpen still - so there's no reason to write them off. But it is hard to see them maintaining their position, unless someone like Ventura turns into an ace.
3. Tigers - they were awful last year, but they brought in Zimmerman and Upton, not a bad start, still have Cabrera and Martinez and Kinsler - they could be decent. A lot riding on Verlander coming back, maybe Sanchez - but there's no reason to think either is necessarily done. So they could get back into this thing. The AL as a whole was very bunched last year - and it's hard to say more than a couple teams are out of it completely this year.
4. Twins - a big surprise last year, but they have talent, they have solid pitching, some good young hitters - they are likely to regress, since teams usually do when they get that much better that fast - but who knows. Joe Mauer might remember how to hit - then where are they? I don't expect them to contend, but I won't be shocked if they do.
5. White Sox - they have some very fine pitchers, they have some offense - but what are the odds that a team that people would have forgotten existed if they hadn't staged a full scale clubhouse melt down in spring training is going to start winning when the games count? This year is likely to be most interesting for the speculation on when and for what Chris Sale gets traded.
1. Rangers - really? well - Hamels, other decent starters - and maybe Yu Darvish in a couple months? nice bullpen; plenty of offense - they aren't bad. I think this is a very tight division (4 deep), and I suppose they get a bit of the edge here.
2. Astros - another team that might regress - but probably won't. They need to move forward in a couple area - better pitching behind Keuchel, more consistency in the lineup - but they have a lot of good young players who are more likely to get better than worse - I think they remain a solid contender.
3. Mariners - everyone overrated them last year, like the Red Sox - and that tends to make their eventual season look worse than it was. A couple guys turn, this way or that - they could be back in it. Why not?
4. Angels - the theme here is, again, that whoever gets a break or two is likely to take the division. A team with Mike Trout and even the aging husk of Albert Pujols can't be written off (and guys like Calhoun help too) - pitching might be a problem, but it isn't a disaster. Like almost everyone, they were hanging around the races last year - they will again, and a break or two and there you go.
5. A's - I don't see much hope for the A's though. Which probably means they win the division.
So what do we have: Sox, Indians, Rangers + wildcards: Toronto and KC. We all know what we want - the days of Red Sox/Cubs portending the apocalypse are gone, so maybe I should pick the Indians and Cubs - Tito vs. Theo! Actually, that's not ridiculous, if the pitching comes through for the Tribe. The truth is - I have less than no idea who could win this thing. whoever gets Chris Sale? The thing is - I can make a case for almost everyone being in the mix - maybe not the A's and White Sox, and the Twins, Rays and Orioles seem a stretch - but that leaves 10 teams that could contend - whichever one has the luck and a couple breakout seasons will win the games, whichever one is hot is October will get to face the Cubs. Right?
MVP = Trout's to lose, as usual. If he does, probably be to Donaldson again or Carlos Correa, Manny Machado - Mookie Betts?
Rookie of the Year = don't really know - say Buxton?
Cy Young = Danny Salazar! why not. I have him in 2 fantasy leagues, and wish I had him in more? maybe. Kluber and Price and Archer and Gray and Keuchel again and King Felix are all oging to be hanging around... Though based on yesterday - Marcus Stroman might be the next big thing in the league...