First of all, let's state the obvious - Houston is the worst team on earth these days and will now be playing in the AL West. And since division teams play one another 18 times per year, it means that Texas, Anaheim, and Oakland are good for 3 to 5 more wins for the season.
And that means that both wild card teams will be coming out of the AL West, which in turn means that only the AL East division winner will make the playoffs. What a difference a year makes.
1. Baltimore Orioles
. I'm not being a homer here. I think the most well-rounded team should win this thing, and the O's are very well-rounded. Excellent mix of starting pitching, relief pitching, speed, power and batting. Any of the top three can win, but all things being equal, the Birds should squeak it out.
2. Toronto Blue Jays
. Christmas, of course, came early for the Canucks, thanks to Miami. They went from being mediocre at best to being very good. Excellent rotation and an excellent infield. But a two-thirds Melky and Colby outfield - along with a formerly hurt Batista - cannot match up with the O's. Throw in a 'maybe' relief corps and they are, at least until they prove otherwise, a big fat maybe.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
. Best rotation in the division and maybe in the league and maybe even in all of baseball. You're talking about a team in which James Shields
was trade bait!! And good pitching beats good hitting. Unfortunately, they will have to scrape and scratch for every run. Only Evan Longoria
is a lock for power, but can he stay healthy? Neck injuries go on forever. Their Bernie Madoff type of deal with KC netted them Wil Myers
and even a top pitching prospect, so they will have another slugger, but, unless the kid pulls a Trout, it won't be this year, at least not all that much. But Maddon is an amazing manager so stay tuned.
4. New York Yankees
. Yes I know, the Evil Empire somehow always manages to pull it off no matter what happens. But not this time. They are simply awful. Every healthy player is old and every injured player is... well, also old. And Arod has become a national laughing stock. They have Sabathia in the rotation and Cano in the lineup and that pretty much wraps that up. The only reason they are even being picked fourth is that they will somehow manage to avoid being dead last thanks to Girardi, who is a great manager.
5. Boston Red Sox
. Right off the bat, there will be addition by subtraction after dumping Bobby V. And they have more - and healthier - talent. But other than a terrific upgrade in their bullpen, their binge shopping spree netted them shaky talent with no cohesive plan. They simply signed every free agent they could find. But Victorino and Napoli have maybe one year left in them at best, and Stephen Drew
is useless. Dempster has Yankee disease - he's about 80-years old. And Ellsbury is unhappy with his role for some reason. Lester and Bucholz are both very good pitchers, but must both make injury comebacks. Bottom line: problems, problems, problems.
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