Opening Day is tomorrow, so it's time to predict what's in store for this season. I'll illustrate each division with a card that I got in my recent free haul from the team I expect to win.
Sure, it's fashionable to rag on the Yankees because they have a few injuries, but Jeter, Teixeira and Granderson should all be back before the end of May. Obviously they can't afford many more injuries, but they still have a decent lineup and the best pitching staff, rotation and bullpen, in the division.
I'd take the Yankees' starting lineup over one that features Yunel Escobar, James Loney, Jose Molina and Kelly Johnson, with no promise of mid-May reinforcements from the DL.
This is going to be a really good team for the next few years, but will probably take a step back a bit this year, just because that's usually what happens to teams that have a sudden jump in the standings.
4. Blue Jays
The Blue Jays won 73 games last year - one fewer than the Mets. They pick up the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best players from a 69-win Miami team, and suddenly they're favorites? I don't see it at all.
5. Red Sox
It's very weird to pick them last, and I'm still kind of afraid of them, but it seems like they're just not the same without Terry Francona.
1. White Sox
This looks like a very solid team with few weaknesses. Robin Ventura will learn from some rookie manager mistakes.
Hard to pick against this team in this division, but they could be in trouble if Miguel Cabrera goes Josh Hamilton on them.
Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi will make this team fun, but they're probably a year or two away. A bold prediction - they will do better than Toronto.
The Royals seem to be one of those teams whose prospects are always overhyped.
It's time for their manager to go and probably their GM too.
Too many big names in the lineup, and too much upside in the rotation, not to pick them.
They were a fun surprise last year, but they're not going to sneak up on anyone anymore.
Last season ended ugly, and that usually carries over.
They seem to be returning to the Mariners teams of the 1970s and 1980s.
The road from 107 losses to contention is pretty long. The Astros will probably be a little better, but not a lot.
Atlanta and Washington look like they will be battling for the top of the division for a few years. Last year Washington edged out Atlanta; this year it will be the reverse.
See Baltimore and Oakland comments. This team, with Harper and Strasburg, does have more upside than those two.
They still have a great rotation, even if they're a bit long in the tooth.
This year they should be more interested in developing their top young prospects rather than worrying about competing for a wild card. If Harvey, Wheeler, etc become as good as they hope, the Mets could be really good in another year or two.
I guess they'll lose 100 games.
They have a lot of good young talent and will bounce back this year.
Like the NL East, there are two clearly dominant teams that will be neck-and-neck all year.
Maybe this is the year they quit teasing and actually finish over .500?
Norichika Aoki? Jean Segura? Marco Estrada? Wily Peralta? Who are these guys?
With all the hype about the Astros, no-one noticed the Cubs lost over 100 games last year, too.
Dynasty? They're best players are all still pretty young.
They have a lot of good young talent, and this could be their year. I say that every year - at some point I'll be right.
For a team with a payroll as high as the Yankees, they have a lineup with a lot of mediocre names - Luis Cruz is batting sixth on opening day. Their rotation could really be boom-or-bust depending on how Beckett and Greinke deal with some high expectations.
This could be the type of good young team that surprises - the Padres do that sometimes. They haven't in a while, though.
It would have been awesome if they named Jason Giambi as their manager. Taking Walt Weiss from a high school coaching job is pretty funny, though.