American League Preview
By Guest Blogger Brian Murphy:
Besides the fact that most of the baseball cities in the Mid-Atlantic and East Coast have been succumb to downpours and even snow, it is almost April and it’s beginning to look a lot like baseball season. Teams are wrapping up spring training in their sunny southern ballparks and ready to get the 2011 season underway. I will take a look at the three AL divisions and predict a surprise team to watch out for, a player to watch, and which team will win the division.
The AL East will be the strongest and most competitive division in baseball this year. The traditional powers, Red Sox and Yankees, are extremely strong and world series contenders. The Red Sox are the preseason favorites after some monster moves in the offseason. They picked up OF Carl Crawford and 1B Adrian Gonzalez, and if they’re pitching can stay healthy watch out. The Yankees picked up some veteran pitchers in Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia to try and fill in their pitching staff. My surprise team of the AL East is the Orioles. When Buck Showalter took over the struggling birds last year, they started playing real well. Baltimore will surprise some people after acquiring infielders J.J. Hardy and Derrek Lee and OF Vladimir Guerrero. As for a player to watch in this division, I would love to say Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixiera, but they are the frontrunners for AL MVP. So, I say look down in Tampa at the newest Ray, Manny Ramirez. It will be very interesting to see how Manny (and Johnny Damon, for that matter) fit in with the Rays and if he can produce at the plate like when he was in Boston. Toronto may finish last in the AL East this year but it will be interesting to see if Jose Bautista can have another 50+ home run season. As much as I hate to do it, the Red Sox will win the AL East. The Yankees will compete until late season, but without a solid five pitching starters, I don’t know if they can win more games than the Red Sox. The Yankees will get the AL Wild Card.
The “big three” of the AL Central will all be looking to compete for division titles in 2011. These teams include the Twins, White Sox, and Tigers. Minnesota is heading into opening day with a couple of injuries, including one “M” of the M&M brothers, Justin Morneau. Joe Mauer will compete for AL MVP and I think they will win the division and make the postseason for the third straight season. A player to watch in the AL Central is White Sox DH Adam Dunn. The powerful lefty moved to the Windy City this year from D.C. and will add a huge bat in a lineup with fellow slugger Paul Konerko. The Tigers are my surprise team to watch with their solid pitching and hitting. Even though Detroit is usually in the division title race, this year could be the year for them to retain the crown. The Indians and Royals will continue to be bottom-feeders of the MLB that they have been.
The defending AL Champion Texas Rangers will look to get back to the World Series in 2011. However, they have to beat out the Angels this year who have a stud pitching staff. The Angels will be hungry this season after a disappointing 2010. I think the Angels will come out as division winners since the Rangers lost ace Cliff Lee. No matter what team, other than the lowly Mariners, Lee has been on he has taken them to the postseason with his dominant pitching. Texas still has a powerful lineup that make pitchers cringe, but I don’t think they can repeat their magical run of 2010. My surprise team of this division to watch is the Oakland Athletics. With the highly publicized Beanball philosophy, the Athletics are a young squad as always and have a great pitching staff. The Mariners need to beef up their lineup and keep King Felix if the want to start competing in the division. Hernandez is my player to watch in the AL West. The 2010 Cy Young Winner had a remarkable season on a team that provides him with no run support. If the Mariners can get some increased production, King Felix’s numbers will only get better, even though they can’t get much better (other than wins).
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Minnesota Twins
AL West: Los Angeles Angels
AL Wild Card: New York Yankees
AL Champions: Red Sox