Happy February!

Man, I’m getting anxious for the season to start. All I can do for now, though, is make some quick predictions. Let’s count the teams down from #30 to #1.

30. Houston Astros. Not exactly taking a huge risk on this one; the Astros were last in the league last year and show no signs of things improving in the near future.
29. Seattle Mariners. Likewise, no real signs of imminent improvement. I wish I knew what it was they wanted most, because I don’t believe their claims that they’re going to let King Felix play out the rest of his contract and reach free agency without trading him first. That could affect the playoff contenders.
28. San Diego Padres. No promising signs here, either.
27. Kansas City Royals. These guys basically exist to develop talent for other teams nowadays. Their biggest offseason move this year involved trading their best position player (full-year, anyway; Eric Hosmer is indeed a potential rising star) for another team’s #4 starter, who will probably slot into their rotation at around #2. So sad…
26. Chicago Cubs. Like the other four teams on this list, but with a bigger budget.

25. New York Mets. The talent is there, sort of, although their pitching is suspect. But their front office situation is as volatile as they come.
24. Baltimore Orioles. Basically the Mets with a more stable front office. And more offensive stars. And a better bullpen but even worse starters. Okay, maybe they’re not that similar to the Mets at all.
23. Pittsburgh Pirates. They probably overachieved with that hot start last year, but it did show that the talent actually does exist.
22. Washington Nationals. Could easily exceed this spot, though; they’ve got a lot of young talent, which means they could have a very surprising year.
21. Cleveland Indians. Another very young team.

20. Oakland Athletics. Personally, I thought they underachieved last year, but they’re being talked about as a team with no chance, and I have to admit that they’re quite lacking on the offensive side.
19. Chicago White Sox. Something just seems lackluster here. Maybe it’s the lack of star power?
18. Minnesota Twins. If they can avoid injuries, they could be good…but what are the chances of this crew doing that?
17. Toronto Blue Jays. As usual, handicapped by having to share a division with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays.
16. Colorado Rockies. Certainly nothing wrong with being in this position, even if it is outside of a playoff spot. They’re good, but they just don’t have that “WOW!” factor needed to crack the top half.

15. Florida Marlins. Plenty of big offseason acquisitions to beef up the offense and bolster the rotation. Now let’s see if they can actually get a full season out of Josh Johnson.
14. Atlanta Braves. They’re not as bad as they looked in September, but I do believe that that exposed them as not as good as they initially seemed.
13. Cincinnati Reds. They can certainly hit. Can they pitch?
12. St. Louis Cardinals. Yeah, this is as high as I can put the defending champions. Even without Albert, their lineup is still loaded, but unless they can bolster that leaky bullpen, they won’t be able to repeat.
11. Milwaukee Brewers. Wait, did I just put the Brewers–minus Prince Fielder and with Ryan Braun suspended for 50 games–atop their division? Yeah, I guess I did. That rotation is still quite impressive, and they’ve got other hitters to carry some of the slack.

10. Los Angeles Dodgers. Wait, seriously? Hey, take a closer look at last year’s standings. The Dodgers had the 13th-best record in the majors, so this isn’t really a huge jump. They played great in the second half, and as we clearly saw, they’ve got some supreme talents on this team. I forget, is the new playoff format starting this year? Because if so, the Dodgers are the second NL wild card in these predictions.
9. Tampa Bay Rays. Damn, it’s so tough to split hairs between the top AL teams. Tampa seems like the odd one out because their low budget prevented them from making any big-time signings, but…I don’t know.
8. Arizona Diamondbacks. You know, I keep forgetting about these guys, probably because they’re buried out west where I rarely get to see their games. I’m pretty sure they’re pretty good, but…I’m really kind of clueless.
7. San Francisco Giants. We’re only at #7 and already we’re at the NL 2-seed. San Fran underperformed due to the loss of Posey; they’ll be a strong team to contend with once again.
6. Boston Red Sox. Offseason moves have done little to patch up the areas that failed them last year; the Sox are hoping that they can win with the same players but better discipline. I just want to know why neither Lowrie nor Scutaro are part of the team anymore.

5. Texas Rangers. They lost C.J. Wilson, but added Yu Darvish, and of course, they’re still gonna rake. This may be a bit of a disappointment given that they’ve won back-to-back AL pennants, but they should at least return to the postseason.
4. New York Yankees. I still have no idea how the Yankees continue to be the Yankees these days, building pitching staffs out of smoke and mirrors, but that lineup is still as awesome as ever. In the long run, Montero for Pineda will favor the Mariners, but for the immediate future, with the Yankees possessing two major league catchers in Martin and Cervelli and another capable prospect in Romine yet sorely lacking starting pitching, it’s a good deal for the Yanks.
3. Detroit Tigers. Fielder is a nice addition, and the Tigers should definitely be a force, but I don’t think they’re deep enough in either rotation or lineup to be among the top 2.
2. Philadelphia Phillies. They might take a slight step back, as the stars are starting to age and their Big Four is back down to a Big Three, but they should still be the team to beat in the NL, at least for the regular season.
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. They sent a clear message this year, signing two of the top free agents on the market. What exactly does their depth chart at first base look like, anyway? They had a promising rookie last year in Mark Trumbo, and let’s not forget Kendrys Morales, out for the past year and a half due to injury. Looking at the team’s site, it looks like they want to teach Trumbo how to play third base and have Morales as the main DH. If they can make this work, they have incredible flexibility. Great rotation, too, and plenty of veteran relievers despite the young closer. I think they’re the team to beat.

Playoffs:

New first round: Dodgers over Diamondbacks (they have enough time to set up their rotation to give Kershaw the ball); Rangers over Red Sox
LDS: Phillies over Dodgers in 3, Giants over Brewers in 4, Angels over Rangers in 3, Tigers over Yankees in 5
LCS: Giants over Phillies in 7, Angels over Tigers in 5
World Series: Hey, didn’t we see this World Series 10 years ago? Fewer games; same result: Angels over Giants in 6.

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