It’s prognosticating season! A new season is about to begin and that means new storylines, new emerging superstars, new heroes, and new villains. With a new season, though, comes everyone’s predictions. It’s simply not a baseball season if people aren’t giving their best guesses as to how the 2012 season will unfold. Our own Jason Evans posted his division preview here and our editor Chris Carelli posted his season preview here. It’s my turn now. Want to compare your predictions with mine? Check them out after the jump.
Some of you may be surprised by the placement of two of those teams. It is popular belief that the Yankees and Rays and the favorites in the division due to Tampa’s stacked pitching staff and the Yankees all-around depth. Common thought, though, is that the Red Sox will settle into third. I do not believe that thought. The Red Sox were a juggernaut for most of last season, but the biggest take away from their huge collapse is their lack of depth. They have players like Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Lavarnway, Lars Anderson, and Jose Iglesias possibly ready to enter the starting lineup, but their biggest hole is in their pitching staff. The Red Sox have a bonafide ace in Jon Lester, an inconsistent number two in Josh Beckett, and an injury-prone number three in Clay Buchholz. Beyond that, though, is a hodge podge of risk that makes me think that another slide from their aging offense could see the Sox battling to stay above .500. I am a believer in what Alex Anthopoulos is putting together in Toronto.
This looks like the weakest division on paper. The Tigers have a fantastic 3-4 in the lineup now with Miguel Cabrera and the newly-signed Prince Fielder. However, an injury to Justin Verlander could really sink this team. The team to watch in this division is the Royals. They have been quietly putting together a great young team in the mold of the Rays from a few seasons ago. Top prospects like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Danny Duffy are ready to contribute now with even more help coming. The injuries to catcher Salvador Perez and closing pitcher Joakim Soria hurt the team a bit, but bringing Humberto Quintero aboard and being able to fall back on a possible rebound from Jonathan Broxton in the bullpen could still help this team push toward a possible playoff berth.
This is a two team race. The Angels had a huge offseason, bringing first baseman Albert Pujols aboard and stealing starting pitcher CJ Wilson from the rival Rangers. The Rangers are still a strong team however and may have found Wilson’s replacement in foreign phenom Yu Darvish. The Athletics could possibly catch lightning in a bottle with a young squad, but it isn’t likely. The Mariners trade for Jesus Montero will help a fledgling offense, but not enough to get them out of the basement. Their only hope for not finishing last comes in 2013 when the rebuilding Astros join the division. Look for a strong race out of the top two horses in this division, with both possibly making the playoffs thanks to the new two wild card system.
Justin Verlander stunned the baseball universe when he won the MVP last year thanks to a stellar season and a lack of dominant seasons from offensive players. With an influx of new players and a few rebounds, Verlander will have a tough time repeating. Newcomer Albert Pujols brings three National League MVP awards with him and will look to join Frank Robinson as the only player to earn MVP awards in both leagues. Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, and Jacoby Ellsbury could compete for the award with repeats of their big years last season. My choice for the award, though, is Evan Longoria. He had a down year last year, but I think a huge bounce-back is a possibility. He pushed the Rays into the playoffs last season with solid play, but I think he takes his game to a new level this season.
The American League is filled with superstar starting pitching. Aces like Jon Lester, CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver, David Price, and Justin Verlander are perennial contenders for the prestigious Cy Young award. My pick this season, though, is Dan Haren. Dan Haren has been a solid pitcher since being traded to Oakland after the 2004 season. He has been a durable strikeout machine and I think this is the year that he beats out the field and takes home his first Cy Young award.
Rookie of the Year
The field for rookie of the year has been very strong in both leagues for the past few seasons. As some of the superstars in the league enter their decline, new players have stepped forward to fill the gaps left on major league rosters. In addition to the number of players that will be called up during the season, there is a field of new players looking to make their mark in the majors this season including Yu Darvish, Jesus Montero, and Addison Reed. My pick for the rookie of the years award, though, is Tampa Bay pitcher Matt Moore.
Manager of the Year
With a strong surge in the AL East, I think Blue Jays manager John Farrell could win this award. Joining him in the field are two-time winner Joe Maddon and Royals manager Ned Yost who both lead highly disadvantaged teams.
Call me crazy, but I’m not a Braves believer. They have a dynamite bullpen and a deep rotation, but the team lacks players who profile as emerging superstars. Top to bottom, the Braves roster looks decidedly average. The Marlins prediction may seem like a stretch, but adding Jose Reyes to a lineup that includes Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton, and Logan Morrison and Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle, and Carlos Zambrano to an already strong pitching staff greatly strengthens their chances to take over the East from an aging Phillies team.
The defending World Series champions could have packed it in after losing Albert Pujols, but they worked to replace the hole his departure left by adding Carlos Beltran. The team looks like it will still be a top 5 run producing team and has a strong pitching staff that will only get stronger when Chris Carpenter returns from injury. The Reds have an emerging young team, but the pitching staff is too inconsistent to back them as front-runner. The Brewers loss of Prince Fielder and a possible decline from Ryan Braun could send them falling down the standings.
The Diamondbacks made a huge leap forward last season to win the division, but the Giants are trying to counter this season. They bring back possibly the strongest pitching staff in the majors and will see recently signed outfielder Melky Cabrera and a returning Buster Posey attempt to help a stagnant offense. I think the DBacks still pull out a division win, but this could be a close race.
I see a very strong season from Matt Holliday. With the loss of Pujols, someone will have to step up to fill the third spot in the lineup and Holliday’s strong spring has shown he is capable. Other candidates are Hanley Ramirez, Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Giancarlo Stanton.
Reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw will look to repeat his performance from last season but will face competition from Giants pitchers Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, and Matt Cain, Marlins Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez, Brewers trio Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, and Zack Greinke, and Phillies hurlers Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. My pick for the Cy Young, though, Cole Hamels. After seeing the extension signed by Matt Cain, Hamels could push himself even more to get a huge payday this offseason. He’s always had Cy Young upside and I think this is the season he shows it.
Rookie of the Year
A lot of new players will debut in the National League this season including Yonder Alonso, Julio Teheran, Devin Mesoraco, Tyler Pastornicky, and possibly Cardinals number one prospect Shelby Miller. My choice for the award, however, is Cubs outfielder Brett Jackson. He won’t start the season on the major league roster, but I think an early June call-up and increase in playing time with a Marlon Byrd trade will open things up for the Cubs top prospect.
Manager of the Year
Taking over a defending World Series champion as your first job is no easy task, but if the Cardinals win the division and make the playoffs even after losing a Hall of Fame manager and first baseman, then Mike Matheny will earn the award. He faces competition from reigning award winner Kirk Gibson, new Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, Reds manager Dusty Baker, and Nationals manager Davey Johnson.
Will any of these predictions come true? Probably not. That’s the beauty of Major League Baseball; anything can happen. No one expected a Cardinals World Series win last season, a playoff berth for the Diamondbacks, or an epic collapse from both the Braves and Red Sox, but all three events took place. Who are your picks for the division winners and individual awards? Let us know in the comments.