With the NL Predictions in the books and the Mets projected to advance to the World Series let’s see who they’ll be taking on from the American League.
2008 AL Predictions:
1. Boston Red Sox
The defending World Champs come back with essentially the same roster that dominated much of the regular season in 2007. In fact they probably come back a bit stronger with the additions of youngsters Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury on the roster as well. The big question for the Red Sox will be whether they can overcome some of the age in the starting rotation. This depth is being tested early with Curt Schilling’s injury and Josh Beckett’s minor set-back (no pun intended). The offense should again be potent led by Manny Ramirez in a contract season and the reliable David Ortiz. The offense has some room for improvement out of CF, SS, and RF that should help alleviate the inevitable regression back to earth for Mike Lowell. All-in-all they head into the 2008 season with the most talented roster and great depth, which makes them my pick to win the most competitive division in all of baseball, the AL East.
Overvalued: Mike Lowell, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacoby Ellsbury
Undervalued: Clay Buchholz, JD Drew, Julio Lugo
Deep Sleeper: Manny Delcarmen
2. New York Yankees
A part of me wants to be bold here, because I do love the Rays and Jays this year, but the Yankees make the most sense in this slot because of the overwhelming offensive talent. The Yankees can score runs, we all know that, but the big challenge this year will be their ability to prevent runs and do so while managing their young pitcher’s innings limits effectively. The Yankees pitching depth is something that concerns me very much heading into the season and is one of the reasons I could legitimately see either Toronto or Tampa Bay pushing them a bit this season. The Yankees have significantly better pitching depth than either of those teams but the problem lies in that all their pitching depth is in young players whom they’re trying not to over-work at a young age. This leaves new manager Joe Girardi in a precarious position and one that I think will be the key to the Yankees success this season. If the young pitchers can be managed effectively and they stay fresh throughout the season the Yankees could be the best team in baseball, but I could also see a scenario in which a few injuries ripple through and really decimate the Yankees SP. Right now I’m projecting them for a 2nd place finish in the East and a run at a Wildcard slot, mainly because I think their margin for error is a bit smaller than the Red Sox.
Overvalued: Joba Chamberlain, Cheing-Ming Wang
Undervalued: Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui
Deep Sleeper: Melky Cabrera, Ian Kennedy, Allan Horne
3. Tampa Bay Rays
I love both the Rays and Blue Jays this year, but I think playing in this division will hide how good they really are from the casual baseball fan. The Rays have supplemented their incredible farm system with astute low-cost gambles like Carlos Pena and even Edwin Jackson, Dan Wheeler, and Al Reyes to some extent and they seem poised to break-through the .500 barrier this year. The offense should score plenty of runs with studs like BJ Upton, Carl Crawford, and Carlos Pena carrying the load and the pitching should be improved as the Rays have finally assembled a major league caliber bullpen, which has been the major weakness over the last few seasons. Matt Garza adds some nice upside behind established starters James Shields and Scott Kazmir and the Rays have a boatload of high ceiling pitching on the way as well. I can see the Rays challenging the two big market teams all year long but much of it will be dependent on their pitching. If they can pitch all year long even to a league average level, they should be legitimate contenders.
Overvalued: Scott Kazmir, Evan Longoria
Undervalued: James Shields
Deep Sleeper: Andy Sonnanstine, Jacob McGee, Wade Davis
4. Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays might have the most underrated pitching in all of baseball. Their rotation is deep with 3 potential #1’s on their staff and their bullpen has good depth from both sides. Their lineup is what’s going to be the difference maker this year. The Jays have talent up and down the lineup, but much of that talent comes with question marks. Can Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay bounce back? Can veterans Frank Thomas and Scott Rolen stay healthy? If the majority of those answers come back YES, the Jays will challenge the Yanks, Sox, and Rays in this division. However if a large number of those questions come back NO, the Jays could struggle to keep their head above water.
Overvalued: BJ Ryan
Undervalued: Dustin McGowan, Jeremy Accardo, Aaron Hill
Deep Sleeper: Travis Snider
5. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles are a team in transition. They finally seem committed to rebuilding and as a result are one of the least talented rosters in MLB who happens to play in the most difficult division in all of baseball. This combination is a lethal one and as a result should be one that makes the Orioles among the worst teams in all of baseball record-wise. Orioles’ fans will have to take solace in watching the development of Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.
Overvalued: No one’s valued highly enough…
Undervalued: Ramon Hernandez, Luke Scott
Deep Sleeper: Adam Loewen, Matt Wieters
1. Cleveland Indians
Despite the Tigers impressive off-season additions, I’m sticking with the Indians as my pick to win the AL Central again in 2008. It seems far away but the Indians were just 1 game away from playing for a world title and this year’s team returns all of its major pieces from last season. My main concern for the Indians this year will be the workload placed on Fausto Carmona and CC Sabathia last season. If they can come back strong and unaffected by the large innings bump, the Indians should give the Red Sox a run for the best record in the league. If either one of them falter, the door opens up considerably. For now I’m sticking with the Indians because I like their depth and the Tigers bullpen terrifies me early in the season.
Overvalued: Fausto Carmona
Undervalued: Joe Borowski
Deep Sleeper: Franklin Gutierrez, Andy Marte
2. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers lineup is going to be incredibly deep and could, when healthy, be even more potent than the Yankees. The problem with the Tigers will be the bullpen where there are plenty of question marks. Todd Jones has beaten down rumors of his replacement in the closer’s role for two years in a row, but enters this season as the Tigers only reliable option that is healthy. If the Tigers bullpen can even provide league average production they should be terrific this season. I just don’t see how they’re going to be able to get it and as a result I have them ever so slightly behind the Indians heading into the season.
Overvalued: Curtis Granderson, Justin Verlander, Dontrelle Willis, Ivan Rodriguez
Undervalued: Gary Sheffield
Deep Sleeper: Yorman Bazardo
3. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox remind of the AL’s version of the Cincinnati Reds, a team that continues to convince itself it’s a contender. The White Sox added in the off-season by bringing in Nick Swisher, Octavio Dotel, Scott Linebrink, and Orlando Cabrera and then Kenny Williams made the infamous comments about the Tigers acquisition of Miguel Cabrera bringing the Tigers closer to the White Sox! The White Sox should be able to score more runs this year now that they’ve brought in some table-setters in front of the Konerko, Thome, Dye trio, but the pitching should continue to be a weakness. I like the steps John Danks has taken forward and think he could be in line for a breakout season, but Jose Contreras and Gavin Floyd don’t inspire much confidence from me. The bullpen is loaded with some high-priced/low production talent and as a whole I think the pitching will continue to be the Achilles ’ heel.
Overvalued: Jim Thome, Mark Buehrle, Bobby Jenks
Undervalued: John Danks, Carlos Quentin
Deep Sleeper: Alexei Ramirez
4. Minnesota Twins
The Twins off-season was a debacle. They traded Johan Santana for cents on the dollar and then the Twins decided to invest money in Joe Nathan as opposed to upping their offer to Santana. Outside of the acquisition of Delmon Young, the off-season was a mess. The Twins head into this season with some good young chips in Mauer, Morneau, Young, Liriano, etc but seemingly lack an overall direction. I think they’ll be in the same range as the White Sox this season, winning somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-80 games. In the AL that’s not going to be close to competing for a playoff spot and as a result the most interesting thing to watch for the Twins’ fans will be the development of Delmon Young and the health of Francisco Liriano. If those two move to the superstar level many have predicted, the Twins rebuilding process could be a quick one.
Overvalued: Joe Nathan, Carlos Gomez
Undervalued: Joe Mauer
Deep Sleeper: Jason Kubel
5. Kansas City Royals
Same old story for Royals fans as the never-ending rebuilding process continues. The good news is the Royals at least have two players who they can legitimately pin their hopes on: Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. These youngsters should help improve the Royals offense to the point where they’re league average this year, but the pitching remains far away. Gil Meche lived up to his contract in year 1 but consistency has always eluded Meche and year 2 will be a good test. The Royals continue to struggle producing starters from within and as a result are relying on retreads like Brett Tomko. The pitching should continue to be a mess this year, and the overall team results should follow suit.
Overvalued: Same problem as Orioles…
Undervalued: Billy Butler, Joakim Soria
Deep Sleeper: Daniel Cortes
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Before some of the Angels pitching injuries this spring I thought the gap between the Mariners and the Angels was significant. But the gap has narrowed some with Lackey likely out 6 weeks and Escobar’s status completely in doubt. Even so, I think the Angels are a bit ahead of the rest of the pack in the West in most facets of the game. The Angels have by far the best lineup with Torri Hunter’s acquisition adding some depth to the middle of the order, and the Angels trademark strong bullpen remains ahead of the other groups as well. The key for the Angels will be their ability to hang tough early in the season while their starters get healthy. If they can do that I think they’ll pull away quite a bit in the 2nd half. This won’t be a 90 win team in my opinion, but it’ll be good enough to win a weak division.
Overvalued: Jered Weaver, Howie Kendrick
Undervalued: Casey Kotchman
Deep Sleeper: Nick Adenhart, Brandon Wood
2. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners mild success last year was pretty much a fluke, so while some members of the Mariners’ front office may think the acquisition of Erik Bedard helps put them over the top, I think it might get them back closer to their 2007 record, which was a whopping 9 wins above their Pythagorean Record. The Mariners offensively look on paper to be pretty inept, and this is one of the main reasons I’ve been suggesting they should look at Barry Bonds. Unfortunately the Mariners’ ownership have already refuted this idea, making them a likely a decent pitching staff with no offensive support. As a result I see them pushing .500 this year but finishing a distant 2nd to the Angels.
Overvalued: Felix Hernandez, Ichiro Suzuki
Undervalued: Brad Wilkerson
Deep Sleeper: Jeff Clement
3. Oakland Athletics
The A’s are a team that I think is going to be a bit better than most people are anticipating. As always the A’s offense is built on some underrated hitters who don’t often fit as well into a fantasy lineup as they do a real lineup, but their offense should be able to produce league average numbers. The pitching isn’t horrendous either, as it has decent depth in the rotation behind Blanton and Harden and the bullpen has some nice depth as well. The A’s aren’t likely to contend this year but Billy Beane, once again, has done a tremendous job rebuilding on the fly. I can see them pushing the Mariners for 2nd place in this division.
Overvalued: Huston Street
Undervalued: Travis Buck, Jack Cust
Deep Sleeper: Dana Eveland
4. Texas Rangers
As usual, I think the Rangers can score some runs this year and be a pretty good offensive ball-club. The problem is I have no idea how they’re going to stop anyone from scoring. Their rotation is arguably one of the worst in the majors and it’s littered with guys with injury histories. There isn’t much depth immediately in the farm system behind these guys, so the Rangers pitching should be an uphill battle all season long. The good news is the Rangers should be exciting with Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton leading the way. If Hank Blalock can bounce back, as his 2nd half last season indicates the Rangers could be a pretty strong offensive ball-club, especially in their home-park.
Overvalued: Any Rangers Pitcher
Undervalued: Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Hank Blalock
Deep Sleeper: Milton Bradley
AL Playoff Predictions:
Division Winners: Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Wildcard Winner: Detroit Tigers
Wildcard Round: Detroit Tigers defeat Boston Red Sox
Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Championship Round: Cleveland Indians defeat Detroit Tigers
World Series Prediction:
Cleveland Indians defeat New York Mets
So there we have it, I've got the Indians ending the World Series drought and championship drought for the city of Cleveland and doing so over the NL powerhouse Mets. Along with predictions on the division standings I’ve also provided a healthy list of players I think are under-valued, over-valued, and potential deep sleeper options heading into this season. Now only time will tell just how foolish I’ll end up looking! But for now, I’ve still got another two days before hope begins its annual bout with reality so for another two days I can count on these predictions still looking good!