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 the American League and give you our division winners and postseason award winners.
| ||East ||Central ||West ||Wild Card |
| Mike Chiari||NYY||CLE ||SEA ||BOS |
| Bjoern Hartig||BOS ||DET ||LAA||CLE |
| Nicholas Kramer||BOS||DET ||SEA ||CLE |
| Jonathan Leshanski||BOS||DET ||LAA ||CLE |
| Daniel Paulling||NYY ||DET ||LAA ||BOS |
| Matt Sounders||BOS ||DET ||SEA ||CLE |
| David Wagner||BOS ||CLE ||LAA ||DET |
| Justin Zeth||NYY ||DET ||LAA ||BOS |
(Note: Italics denotes writer’s pick for pennant winner.)
Most Valuable Player
Mike Chiari - 3B Alex Rodriguez (NYY). The more I scan over the American League, the more apparent it becomes that A-Rod is far and away the class of the league. There’s really no position player that comes close to him as far as talent and importance to their team goes. I fully expect A-Rod to lead the Yankees to the playoffs yet again, and collect his second MVP award in a row in the process.
Bjoern Hartig – David Ortiz
Nicholas Kramer – Alex Rodriguez
Jonathan Leshanski - Magglio Ordonez; as good as A-Rod is the MVP should come from a playoff team.
Daniel Paulling – The formula for MVP is simple, according to the voting committee. Gaudy statistics + good team = MVP award. That means Miguel Cabrera.
Matt Sounders - Miguel Cabrera (.323/39/145)
David Wagner - Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers 3B. Miguel joins a lethal lineup that will bring him better pitches with more RISP and RBI opportunities, and look for him to capitalize on those chances.
Justin Zeth - Derek Jeter. If the Yankees win 101, the MVP is going to have to be a Yankee, and they won't give it to Alex Rodriguez again if they can help it.
Mike Chiari - SP Justin Verlander (DET). While I think that the Tigers will disappoint this season, I know Justin Verlander won’t be the problem. This guy has all the tools, including a fastball that can touch 100 MPH, even in the latter stages of a game. In just two seasons, Verlander has already won Rookie of the Year honors, pitched a no-hitter, and pitched in the World Series. No other pitcher has ever done this. If the Tigers want to have any chance, Verlander needs to be lights out, and I expect him to be. He has a great shot at 20 wins due to the run support that he should receive.
Bjoern Hartig – Josh Beckett. He gets the runs support to get 20 wins.
Nicholas Kramer – Erik Bedard
Jonathan Leshanski – Erik Bedard
Daniel Paulling – CC Sabathia; he’s pitching for a fat, new contract, isn’t he?
Matt Sounders - Erik Bedard (2.85/232 K/20-6)
David Wagner - Fausto Carmona, Cleveland Indians. The young sinkerballer will further improve his great numbers from last year and become one of the league’s most dominant starters.
Other considerations: C.C. Sabathia, Josh Beckett, Erik Bedard, Roy Halladay
Justin Zeth - C.C. Sabathia. I can't predict win totals, which almost exclusively decide the Cy Young, with any degree of success except to predict things like John Lackey is likely to record more wins this year than Mark Buehrle. I expect Sabathia to once again be the best pitcher in the league, and to pitch the most innings. Take note, though, that in light of my predicting the Yankees will win 101 games, it's very easy to see Chien-Ming Wang going 24-5.
Rookie of the Year
Mike Chiari - 3B Evan Longoria (TB). It seems to me that there will be much stiffer competition for this award in the NL than in the AL. There aren’t very many studs that are expected to start the year in the majors in the American League. One guy who is, however, is Evan Longoria. Longoria is expected to be the opening day starter at third base for the Rays. He’ll be put into a good position to succeed, as there will be a lot of talent surrounding him in the lineup. He’ll likely be put in the 6 or 7 spot in the order, and there shouldn’t be too much pressure on him. He should see plenty of good pitches as the opposition will be occupied with the likes of Crawford, Upton, and Pena.
Bjoern Hartig – Brandon Wood. I don't actually think that, it's more wishful thinking.
Nicholas Kramer - Evan Longoria
Jonathan Leshanski - Adam Jones
Daniel Paulling – Evan Longoria
Matt Sounders - Evan Longoria (.286/21/75 and a big part of Rays’ second half surge)
David Wagner - Clay Bucholz, Boston Red Sox, SP. Author of a no-hitter last year, Bucholz will continue to impress this year.
Other considerations: Joba Chamberlain, NYY
Justin Zeth - Daric Barton. I'm expecting a better 2008 out of Barton than Evan Longoria, and Oakland being unexpectedly respectable would help.
Comeback Player of the Year
Mike Chiari - OF Jermaine Dye (CWS). Dye had a miserable 2007 season, as did the entire Chicago White Sox team. Dye was coming off an MVP caliber season in 2006 in which he hit .315 with 44 homeruns and 120 RBI. He seemed to be set up to fail as did the team as a whole. Dye looked great down the stretch and regained a power stroke as he ended with 28 homeruns. He hit only .254, so it won’t be too difficult for him to improve upon that. I expect a big year from Dye, granted he, Paul Konerko, and Jim Thome can all stay healthy in the middle of the lineup.
Bjoern Hartig – Travis Hafner
Nicholas Kramer – Richie Sexson
Jonathan Leshanski – Roy Halladay
Daniel Paulling – Francisco Liriano
Matt Sounders - Richie Sexson (back to something close to 2005 production)
David Wagner - Jacque Jones, Detroit Tigers LF. I’m betting that Jones will return to form this year, posting 20+ home runs and 80+ RBI.
Justin Zeth - I don't know. Francisco Liriano?
One Surprise Thing that Will Happen
Mike Chiari - The Tampa Bay Rays will finish with a winning record for the first time in franchise history. It’s been ten years of failure for Tampa Bay in the AL East. Having to contend with two superpowers of the league is no easy task. It seems as though they finally have a conglomeration of great young talent and some experienced major leaguers. The Rays gave both the Yankees and Red Sox fits at certain times last season, so they definitely have the guns to succeed. As long as the pitching staff can hold up over the course of the season, especially the bullpen, the Rays should have their best season ever.
Bjoern Hartig - Tampa Bay will finish third in the division
Nicholas Kramer - The Toronto Blue Jays will have a better record than the New York Yankees
Jonathan Leshanski - Barry Bonds will play in the AL East.
Daniel Paulling – The Kansas City Royals will have a win streak longer than eight this year.
Matt Sounders - The Blue Jays will have to fight very hard to stay in third in the East.
David Wagner - C.C. Sabathia, winner of the 2007 Cy Young Award, will drop off from last year’s tremendous year. He’ll still be a force in the AL Central, but not nearly to the extent of last year’s campaign.
Justin Zeth - B.J. Upton will rank among the five best players in the American League.
One Player to Watch
Mike Chiari - 2B Ian Kinsler (TEX). This guy has all the tools and he’s primed to finally break out, granted he stays healthy. Kinsler has shown a great power/speed combination in his two years at the major league level. Kinsler was already a 20-20 guy last season, even though he missed 32 games due to injury. His hot start had fantasy owners salivating over his possible production at the second base production. The next step for Kinsler is a 30-30 season, which he is more than capable of. The Rangers need Kinsler to ascend to the next level in order to have a successful season. I think he will.
Bjoern Hartig – Howie Kendrick, batting champion
Nicholas Kramer – Jose Guillen
Jonathan Leshanski – Carl Crawford
Daniel Paulling – Zach Greinke
Matt Sounders - Daisuke Matsuzaka – Lot of folks down on him after mediocre debut. Don’t be fooled…he’s still an ace.
David Wagner - Chone Figgins, Anaheim Angels. Figgins has turned into a fantasy favorite, posting strong SB and average totals. Look for him to continue improving and become one of the game’s top leadoff hitters.
Other considerations: Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox; Joba Chamberlain, Yankees.
Justin Zeth - I guess I just answered this question with the last response, didn't I? Here, I'll give you another surprise thing: Johnny Damon will experience a minor renaissance.