While the St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins launched Opening Day of technically yesterday, the masses take to the field today and tomorrow. In honor of that, here is my complete MLB preview for the year brought on home. Here is how I see everybody crossing over and interweaving until there’s only one team left again. Hopefully, I will do much, much better than I did last year in this effort, but really, it can’t get much worse (sorry, I’m not forgiving myself for that).
At any rate, we’re doing the preview buffet spread here this year. Indulge in some MVP and Cy Young Picks, along with a few other predictions and possibilities as well. In addition, if you missed any of the Division-by-Division in-depth previews, which will explain much of this info, here are the links for each:
As for now, get on into it. Happy Opening Day, part deux….
Most likely to be much better than projected….
- Washington Nationals: With Stephen Strasburg returning to anchor a strong rotation, along with a solid lineup entrenched in a wide open division, the Nats could jump up make a run for a Wild Card Spot.
- Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays have been the “Best team in the wrong division” for the last three years. Eventually they’ll overcome in the fashion the Rays did before them in the AL East.
- Kansas City Royals: Like last year’s Arizona Diamondbacks proved, young teams with complete lineups can make a push, especially in a light division. The Royals are in an identical situation.
Playoff participant a year ago most likely to miss in ’12…
- Milwaukee Brewers: Losing Prince Fielder is huge, and this team could struggle to recapture the run scoring, high octane act that separated them from a tight pack in the Central a year ago.
- Arizona Diamondbacks: Momentum, mixed with a crucial injury to their prime competition’s lineup at the perfect time, propelled them into the playoffs last year. The road will not be as efficient this year.
- Tampa Bay Rays: I think the Rays are a complete team with the most to offer of any club in the game across the board. But coming out of the East is a war, and a brief slump could easily take them down, the same type they benefitted from a year ago.
If you haven’t seen this guy, you gotta….
- Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: Only Griffey and A-Rod have hit more pre-23rd birthday homers than the Marlins newly named cleanup terror.
- Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: He has every tool that Justin Upton and Matt Kemp have…only they are buried in the abyss of Pittsburgh.
- Yu Darvish, Rangers: He’s unlike any other Japanese import before him. He throws the expected selection of off speed pitches, but bases them off a very American mid-90’s fastball.
Will have a big injury bounce back…
- Buster Posey, Giants: The axis of the Giants attack, he will return to drive the least-productive offense in the NL out of the cellar and give their potent pitching some leads to work with again.
- Adam Wainwright, Cardinals: He looked back up to his former tricks in the spring: it took 10 innings for opponents to find a way to plate a run against him during his first in-game work in over a year.
- David Wright, Mets: The walls at Citi Field were moved in some, and Wright could be prone for a big season as a result in what could be an audition season for him for a move out of NY.
Worst New Injury
- Joakim Soria, Royals: The Royals have slowly been building up for a run, but their chances of starting it up early took a blow when Soria’s elbow collapsed this spring and he had a second Tommy John surgery.
- Michael Pineda, Yankees: The Yanks dealt their top prospect for the Mariners flame throwing young All-Star. However, when he showed for camp he could get out the low 90’s and was shutdown due to shoulder soreness.
- Ryan Madson, Reds: Another victim of Tommy John’s trap. His absence hurts a Reds pitching staff that looked to finally turn the corner.
Its gonna be a long summer….
- Houston Astros: Nothing’s gotten better for baseball’s worst team from last year and they are actually still moving out some of their better players as part of a franchise reboot.
- Baltimore Orioles: Tough spot for the O’s, entrenched in the AL East. But nobody wants to join their perpetual rebuilding effort, so a fire sale may start smoking soon.
- Chicago White Sox: This is every definition of baseball purgatory; stuck in the middle of the AL’s worst division in a wait-and-see approach based around several underachievers with huge contracts.
DBTH (Don’t Believe The Hype):
- Los Angeles Dodgers: Their big headline making purchase is a definitely a sign of better days to come, but that’s not going to affect them in the immediate, and another mediocre year is on deck until Magic’s money can start to save them.
- Miami Marlins: They made tons of waves by waving around a ton of cash this winter, but this is still a defensively subpar club and one that depends on its pitching heavily. That doesn’t mesh well.
- Boston Red Sox: Something about bringing in Bobby Valentine to restore order reminds me of expecting gas to put out a fire.
NATIONAL LEAGUE PICKS
- Joey Votto, Reds: He’ll have the world on his shoulders again, but the overall team should improve and his RBI numbers should as well. When combined with his Gold Glove defense and shot at a division crown, a second MVP is vision that could come clear.
- Justin Upton, D’Backs: He’s 24 and already leading a very talented cast in Phoenix. Jumps to a .300 average and 30 steals, along with steady power numbers slides him steadily up the best in the game discussions.
- Ryan Braun, Brewers:He’s all on his own leading the Brewers now, but another run at a batting title and repeat 30/30 season, along with most importantly keep the Brewers in the NL Central race should net him a shot at back-to-back MVP honors.
NL Cy Young
- Roy Halladay, Phillies: The Phillies are going to need pitching more than ever this year, and even an average, lax by his standards year from Doc is a default Cy Young for him. So imagine if he’s in crunch mode all year?
- Cole Hamels, Phillies A contract year will propel Hamels into his finest offering yet, and land him a Cy over his two former winners of the honor teammates in Halladay and Cliff Lee.
- Tim Lincecum, Giants: His numbers look a lot better when he gets the run support to turn his performances into wins. An improved Giants lineup should get him in the running again.
NL Rookie of the Year
- Zach Cosart, Reds: He showed the potential last year before quickly having his year ended due to injury. Now mixed into one of the league’s best lineups in Cincinnati, he’ll be able to produce without much spotlight solely on him.
- Yonder Alonso, Padres: He will be the day one cleanup hitter and first baseman for the Padres, and will have a surplus of chances to drive runs home.
- Devin Morasco, Reds: The Reds catcher could have a chance to make an offensive impact similar to Posey’s in Frisco two summers ago.
NATIONAL LEAGUE POSTSEASON
Wild Cards: Marlins (90-72) & Reds (88-74)
Phillies (93-69) vs. Cardinals (91-71)
Giants (95-67) vs. Marlins
Phillies vs. Giants ….
AMERICAN LEAGUE PICKS
- Albert Pujols, Angels: The best player in the game will make no delayed impact in his new league, and will be the catalyst for the Angels reclaiming of the AL West with a career year.
- Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: He’ll benefit hugely from protection Prince Fielder provides behind him, and will chase all three legs of the Triple Crown once again, winning at least one.
- Evan Longoria, Rays: Longoria is the driving force in the Rays all-around attack, and after a down year average wise, he’ll find his form again and set career marks across the board. And perhaps steal an MVP nod as well.
AL Cy Young
- Justin Verlander, Tigers: What he did last year was just so special that it’s foolish to think it was just a high water year. Another 24 wins is unlikely, but another pitcher’s Triple Crown is.
- David Price, Rays: He pitched in tough luck a lot last year, but a classic performance could be on hand if he brings his winning ways from ’10 along with his dominant style of ’11 together.
- CC Sabathia, Yankees:The game’s premier winner hasn’t won less than 19 games since reaching the Bronx, and he’ll continue to end up in 20 victories neighborhood again.
AL Rookie of the Year
- Jesus Montero, Mariners: He can kill the ball all around the park and has a legit shot at hitting both .290 and 25-30 homers. As a catcher, that’s a ROY year.
- Yu Darvish, Rangers: He’ll pitch in a lot of big games and will have a ton of expectations, but if he can stretch out his stamina and stay sharp, he’ll be an All-Star this year.
- Matt Moore, Rays: This can’t miss kid is the top pitching prospect in the game for a reason. He’ll be a huge matchup bonus for the Rays and could rack up huge strikeout numbers.
Wild Cards: Texas Rangers (93-69) & New York Yankees (94-68)
Detroit Tigers (99-63) vs. Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels (97-65) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)
Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Angels ….
2012 WORLD SERIES
Los Angeles Angels vs. San Francisco Giants: How rare is an all-west coast World Series, that pits two teams against each other that missed the postseason completely the year before? (No seriously, I’m asking because I’m not looking that up.) However long it has been, both of these clubs land here due to submarine-deep pitching staffs, as well as lineups that have received major jolts in the run producing department, via trades, signings and young talent that can boost solid, yet previously stagnant lineups.
In the end, pitching wins out, and I firmly believe that if you have a pitching staff that can shoulder the load and make leads stand up, you’ve got the game’s ultimate winning formula. Via that equation, you have the San Francisco Giants, and you have my prediction for World Championship ballclub in 2012.
Of course you just as easily, could have the Chicago White Sox go on a final month (or even day) blitzkrieg, and throw all of this out the window. WHO KNOWS? But my logic says this is logic, so that’s what it shall be.
For more baseball, and life, coverage in the moment it comes to my mind, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.