Author's note: we're already about two hours into Opening Day, so me putting off my MLB Preview has left me scrambling just to get some predictions on the record. Here they are...
East: Red Sox - They're just too strong. Their offseason reminds me of what the Yankees did in '09 which led to a World Series run. Also, just imagine what they can do with a healthy Youkilis, Pedroia, and Ellsbury...
Central: White Sox - Chicago seems to be the trendy pick. There's nothing exciting about this team, but they're steady and would've been the Division champ last year if not for a late-season fade. The Adam Dunn Factor (teams suck when they acquire him) worries me.
West: Athletics - A casual baseball fan won't know much about their starting rotation, but it's enough to make a baseball nerd drool. For what Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Brett Anderson lack in big name appea, they make up for in talent and effectiveness. Don't sleep on Dallas Braden either - he was 11-14, but only had a 3.50 ERA in 2010.
Wild Card: Yankees - With Tampa Bay falling off, it's hard to see anyone else coming up here and grabbing this spot. If the AL Central was a college basketball conference, it would be a one-bid league. Texas had a lot of things go right last year, and the Angels aren't back (yet). From a talent standpoint, New York is still one of the three best teams in the league.
East: Phillies - This team isn't as invincible as everyone makes them out to be. Chase Utley likely won't be back until mid-May, and promising prospect Dom Brown is hurt, and still may need some more seasoning when he returns. The success of this squad falls on their starting pitching, which with the addition of Cliff Lee, is one of teh best we've ever seen on paper.
Central: Reds - I think they're a safe pick because there are more answers than questions with this bunch. They aren't flashy, but they have a wealth of solid starters, a young lineup with no glaring holes, and are possibly the best defensive team in all of baseball.
West: Rockies - I've been burned by them the last couple of years, but the law of averages says that I'll have to be right eventually. Ubaldo Jimenez can't be expected to have the same season as he did last year, but if the rest of their rotation can pick it up, they'll be in good shape.
Wild Card: Braves - It's tough leaving the defending World Champs out of it, but the Braves look like they're back. It's taken a few years for them to retool, but they have terrific pitching depth. Nate McClouth can't be worse than he was last year, and the addition of Dan Uggla can only help.
I'm not going to give you my World Series pick for fear that this entry will end up similar to my Bracket picks (see below, if you dare). But, I'm leaning towards Red Sox/Rockies in a rematch of a non-competitive 2007 Fall Classic, with the same end result.
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