With spring training almost over, it is time for all of the baseball experts to make their picks for the upcoming season. Over the course of the next two weeks, the AHP staff will be releasing their picks. Today, we tackle some general team predictions and tell you who we think will win the World Series.
Mike Chiari - New York Mets. With the acquisition of Johan Santana, the Mets appear to have all the pieces necessary to dominate in ‘08. Not only do they have the best lineup in all of the National League with the likes of Wright, Reyes, and Beltran, but they now have a formidable pitching rotation, especially if Pedro Martinez remains healthy. On top of all that, they have one of the league’s best bullpens with Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez setting up Billy Wagner.
Bjoern Hartig - Boston Red Sox
Nicholas Kramer – Boston Red Sox
Jonathan Leshanski – Boston Red Sox
Daniel Paulling – Detroit Tigers, because their offense should be much improved over last year -- Gary Sheffield is healthy, we all know who Miguel Cabrera is -- and their pitching could be better with Kenny Rogers healthy and the addition of Dontrelle Willis.
Matt Sounders – Boston Red Sox (98-64)
David Wagner - The Boston Red Sox are back with, more or less, the same team that won the World Series last year. I expect their success to continue.
Other considerations: Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Anaheim Angels, New York Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks
Justin Zeth - New York Yankees (101-61). This lineup is loaded, and the much-improved pitching will easily cover for a big decline from Jorge Posada and a small one from Alex Rodriguez, and then some.
Mike Chiari - Baltimore Orioles. There were plenty of candidates for this dubious distinction including the Giants and Rangers, but the Orioles take the cake. The Orioles may have the worst pitching staff in all of baseball with Jeremy Guthrie as their ace and no defined closer. The lineup isn’t much better, especially if catalyst Brian Roberts is dealt which seems more and more likely. Add in 18 games each against the Yankees and Red Sox, and you get a recipe for disaster. And you thought they were bad WITH Bedard and Tejada.
Bjoern Hartig - Washington Nationals
Nicholas Kramer – Baltimore Orioles
Jonathan Leshanski – Baltimore Orioles
Daniel Paulling – Well, the San Francisco Giants are playing in a great division with no great position players and two starting pitchers.
Matt Sounders - Baltimore Orioles (61-101)
David Wagner - The Florida Marlins have no leadership and no big names. Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla, the club’s future stars, aren’t nearly enough to keep this team from being the game’s leader in losses.
Other considerations: Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers
Justin Zeth - San Francisco Giants (62-100). Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum is all they have. As it stands they're a 70-74 win team; one injury and it's all going to go to hell.
AL Surprise Team
Mike Chiari - Tampa Bay Rays. After years of futility, the Rays are finally ready to make their move in the AL East. Their supremely talented offense is another year older, and they’ve now added a nice looking pitching rotation to the mix. Scott Kazmir and James Shields are legitimate top of the rotation guys, and Matt Garza could prove to be one too. It won’t be easy as they’ll have to contend with the Yanks and Sox, but this could be the year the Rays start to realize their true potential.
Bjoern Hartig - Tampa Bay Rays
Nicholas Kramer – Tampa Bay Rays
Jonathan Leshanski - Tampa Bay Rays - Tampa will reach .500
Daniel Paulling – Kansas City Royals, since they added a great lineup piece in Jose Guillen, Alex Gordon’s a year older, and Zach Greinke is ready to step up and pitch every fifth day.
Matt Sounders - Tampa Bay Rays (81-81, holy Hannah, they don’t suck!)
David Wagner - Tampa Bay Devil Rays: While they’ve only had more than 70 wins once in their 10 years of existence, I think they’ll have as many in 2008. They still won’t contend, but it looks like they’ll be a more solid team than they’ve been.
Other considerations: Kansas City Royals
Justin Zeth - I don't think the Rays going 83-81 really qualifies as a surprise; everyone that's paying attention knows they have a lot of young talent. I'm going to pick the Oakland Athletics as the surprise team, not necessarily by making the playoffs, but by being respectable at 86-76 or so in a year when everyone's expecting them to be rebuilding.
NL Surprise Team
Mike Chiari - Cincinnati Reds. It’s pretty hard to call any team in the NL and surprise team because it’s so wide open. In my estimation, there are at least ten teams with a legitimate shot to go to the World Series. I thought I’d pick a team nobody’s really high on. The Reds have a powerful lineup that features Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, and Brandon Phillips. They also sport a pitching staff with some great potential. Aaron Harang is an ace, Bronson Arroyo is a reliable arm, and young phenom Homer Bailey will get his chance. They also brought in Francisco Cordero to close games. The Reds could surprise in the NL Central.
Bjoern Hartig – Cincinnati Reds
Nicholas Kramer – Washington Nationals
Jonathan Leshanski – Cincinnati Reds
Daniel Paulling – How about ‘dem Bums? The Los Angeles Dodgers have a chance to ride a deep pitching staff all season long.
Matt Sounders - Cincinnati Reds (86-76, no post-season, but they give it a run)
David Wagner - Washington Nationals: The Nats look like a team that, while they won’t contend, will tend to impress more than be a laughing stock. They have a lot of young talent capable of building toward success in a few years.
Other considerations: Cincinnati Reds
Justin Zeth - Washington Nationals (83-79). The Phillies and Mets get all the attention, but I don't have a hard time seeing the Nationals hanging around the fringes of the wild card picture all the way into late August or September. In particular, Lastings Milledge could be a star as soon as right now, and the rest of the lineup is pretty high-quality overall. I have a lot of faith in Manny Acta.
AL Bust Team
Mike Chiari - Detroit Tigers. Everybody is super high on the Tigers this season after their deal to acquire Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from Florida. They may have a high powered offense, but the fact remains that beyond Justin Verlander, the pitching staff has many questions. Jeremy Bonderman suffered through injuries last season, Dontrelle Willis didn’t look himself, and Kenny Rogers certainly isn’t getting any younger. Furthermore, they’ll be without Joel Zumaya again, and Todd Jones is as shaky as they come when it comes to closing out games. I think a let down is very possible.
Bjoern Hartig – New York Yankees
Nicholas Kramer – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Jonathan Leshanski - New York Yankees - Won’t make the playoffs with this payroll
Daniel Paulling – After acquiring Carlos Silva and Erik Bedard, the Seattle Mariners will realize they still don’t have the pitching depth to fight with the big dogs in the American League
Matt Sounders - Los Angeles Angels (86-76, Escobar completely ineffective)
David Wagner - New York Yankees: Joe Torre’s exit will be a blow very hard for them to overcome. Despite a lot of big-name talent, Joe Girardi has his work cut out for him.
Justin Zeth - Seattle Mariners (76-86). Bill Bavasi thinks the Mariners were an 86 win team last year; they were really an 80 win team. Their lineup is weaker than last year's, and if Felix Hernandez or Erik Bedard hurts himself--neither pitcher is, individually, a good bet to go the entire year without seeing the DL--it's going to get ugly for Seattle.
NL Bust Team
Mike Chiari - Colorado Rockies. The defending NL champions will have an uphill climb this season. They’re in a division where four of the five teams could conceivably win it. They did little to improve this off-season, and that could come back to hurt them. The D-Backs added bona fide ace Dan Haren, the Padres may have the best pitching staff in the majors, and the Dodgers have new life with Joe Torre taking over the reigns, as well as the signing of Andruw Jones. The Rockies have only one sure thing on their pitching staff (Jeff Francis) so they could have a rough go of it if their young arms don’t continue to develop. This season “Rocktober” could easily be spent on the golf course.
Bjoern Hartig – Arizona Diamondbacks
Nicholas Kramer – Los Angeles Dodgers
Jonathan Leshanski - Philadelphia Phillies - After last season not making the playoffs will be a bust.
Daniel Paulling – Philadelphia Phillies, since they do not have much pitching behind Myers/Hamels or in front of Lidge
Matt Sounders - New York Mets (88-74, missed play-offs again)
David Wagner - Houston Astros: Is it possible for a team that finished last year 16 games under to be a “bust”? The answer is yes, despite adding Miguel Tejada to the rest of the big-name talent the team has (Lee, Berkman, Oswalt).
Justin Zeth - Philadelphia Phillies (85-77). I don't like their vaunted three-fourths of the infield's chances of collectively duplicating their 2007 performance, I don't like Cole Hamels' chances of avoiding Dr. Andrews for another year, and I really don't like the rest of their pitching staff.
World Series Winner (in how many games)
Mike Chiari - New York Yankees over the New York Mets in 6 games. Is this match-up too good to be true? Probably, but it would be nothing short of perfect. The Yanks’ last season in Yankee Stadium. The Mets’ last season at Shea. One more “Subway Series” before things start anew. While it is a dream scenario, it’s entirely possible. Both these teams have the talent to get to this point. This would be the most hyped World Series match-up of all time, bar none. While the Mets may have the better all around team, I think that the Yanks would take down the Mets in this scenario. It’s safe to say that Yankee Stadium means more to the Yankees and has more historical significance than Shea Stadium has to the Mets. The Yankees should have the advantage sentimentally, and ride the wave to World Series Championship number 27.
Bjoern Hartig - Boston Red Sox over New York Mets in 5 games
Nicholas Kramer - Arizona in 7
Jonathan Leshanski - Red Sox over Mets 7 games
Daniel Paulling – Arizona Diamondbacks over Boston Red Sox in six games
Matt Sounders - Boston (in 5 games over the Cubs)
David Wagner - Atlanta Braves over the Boston Red Sox in 7 games. Pitching will propel both teams to this year’s Fall Classic.
Justin Zeth - New York Yankees over San Diego Padres in 5 games.