Now that the AL is beginning play, here are my predictions. I will add commentary later, but for now, here’s the breakdown:

AL West

  1. Oakland Athletics
  2. Los Angeles Angels
  3. Texas Rangers
  4. Seattle Mariners

The Mariners.  I mean, what can I say?  They’ve started out the season with Russell Branyan hitting cleanup.  The Rangers have a potent lineup of young hitters, but I don’t think this is the year for them.  Salty still needs some “seasoning” and Kinsler will have to show he can stay healthy all year, and I don’t think their pitching is quite ready for a playoff run.  The Rangers’ bullpen is mostly full of scrubs with 6+ ERAs last season, and their rotation contains Kris Benson, who never was good and is now on his first season back from surgery.  I believe the Angels will slip from last year.  They swapped Tiexeira and Rodriquez for Abreu and Fuentes, neither of which were ridiculous downgrades, but they didn’t exactly move forward.  Their lineup now centers entirely on Vlad Guerrero, who is good but appears to be on the decline the last few years.  Plus, they start the season lacking a couple of their key starters.  Oakland I think kind of wins this division by default.  Billy Beane is a good GM and I think a standard Beane team beats the other teams in this division.  He picked up probably the best hitter from the National League to go with his usual mix of cheap youngsters and aging or mishapen players that no one else wants (see Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Giambi).

AL Central

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Cleveland Indians
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Chicago White Sox

The Chicago White Sox I believe will fail miserably.  I’m sorry, there is just not too much fear struck in my heart by the likes of Jermaine Dye, Carlos Quentin and Paul Konerko.  I could be wrong, since this team somehow always seems to pull three to four extremely good pitchers out of a heap of pitching shit.  The Royals have a decent mound of good young talent, including a pretty good rotation, but they also have the likes of Jose Guillen and Tony Peña Jr.  I really don’t have too much to say about the Tigers here.  Galaraga looks good, their lineup is OK, but they are going to be feeling that HUGE payroll for years now.  Where’s Sheffield by the way?  I don’t think the Indians are the second best team in this division, but they’ve always seemed to come out pretty good the last few years.  Cliff Lee is not going to pitch anywhere NEAR 22-3 2.54 ERA.  Try more like 4.75.  Maybe.  Finally, I think the Twins will come away with this division, but I don’t think they will next year.  Their new batch of youngsters (Gomez, Span, Casilla) don’t seem to be up to the par of what the Twins usually farm up, but with a pretty well rounded team I think they take the division.

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Tampa Bay Rays
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Toronto Blue Jays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles.  These guys might race the Mariners for the worst record in baseball.  Their rotation has been plundered of everyone but Jeremy Guthrie, who would actually probably have a good record and such on a decent team.  Barring Markakis, Roberts to an extent, and Wigginton, who actually puts up some pretty decent stats for any team not named the Pirates, their lineup is stone cold barren.  Opposing pitchers could walk these three every time they come up and just take their chances with the rest of the lineup.  And they would probably win.  It’s a shame the Blue Jays are in the AL East.  Any other division they could probably compete very well, they have a pretty athletic and solid lineup, but with the loss of Burnett and Marcum on the DL recovering from “Tommy John” surgery, I don’t think they’ll challenge the Yankees for third this year.  The Yankees have the most godawfully high payroll and a new godawful stadium to play their mercenary ball in, but baseball is about more than money.  At least I hope it still is.  The Rays have a sweet young team and should challenge for the division every year of the next four or five.  The Gabe platoon is the only real hole they have in the lineup, and their pitching is scintillating, with a couple different pitchers who could make a run at the Cy Young.  However, I think the Sox will blast their way to the division, with the Rays picking up the wild card.  Finally, the Red Sox, with probably the best lineup in baseball, although the Dodgers are pretty close.  They’ve started the season with Jason Bay hitting sixth.  I know that no one in the civilized baseball world realized he existed untill last year, but the guy has slugged .520 over his career and he’s batting sixth?  THAT is a deep lineup.

Now, for some awards:

MVP

Probably deserves it: Josh Hamilton
Dark horse: Jason Bay
Will end up being: Mark Teixeira

Cy Young

Probably deserves it: Roy Halladay
Dark horse: Scott Kazmir
Will end up being:CC Sabbathia

Batting Champion

Probably deserves it: Kevin Youkilis
Dark horse:
Will end up being: Someone out of left field like it always is

Most Improved/Bounceback Season

Probably deserves it: David Ortiz
Dark horse: Hideki Matsui
Will end up being: Derek Jeter, regarldess of how poorly he plays

Rookie of the Year

Probably deserves it: Matt Wieters
Dark horse: Jeff Niemann
Will end up being: Matt Wieters