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Friday, October 31, 2014

MLB Picks and Awards Predictions 2011: Del’s Selections

Are you sick of meaningless regular season NBA and NHL games and tired of hearing about the NFL lockout?  Perfect.  So are we.  Fear not, my friends — that smell you’re smelling is baseball season.  It may be long, but it gives us something to do for more than half the year.  On Wednesday, Doc Brown broke down all 30 MLB teams and gave you his playoff predictions.  That means it’s Del’s turn.  It’s nice to have these picks and predictions in writing because, frankly, the season is so long even we might not remember what we had to say before it started.  Here are Del’s predictions.

NL EAST

1. Philadelphia Phillies – If healthy, their pitching should be the best in the game.  The x-factor will be Chase Utley.  Reports indicate he hopes to be back by the All Star break.  That is a long way away, and will he be 100 percent healthy when he returns?  Their lineup will be good with him, but they may not be elite.
2. Atlanta Braves – If Nate McClouth can return to form after being awful with Atlanta, their lineup can be pretty solid with the addition of Dan Uggla. Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson are getting older, but the young arms of Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson could make their rotation very good.
3. Florida Marlins – Florida has a solid rotation top to bottom, led by Cy Young candidate Josh Johnson. The lineup loses a bit of pop without Uggla, but Mike Stanton is only going to get better. We know what to expect from Hanley Ramirez.
4. New York Mets – The Mets can’t continue to get worse, can they? Jason Bay probably won’t be terrible again and Carlos Beltran could contribute, but injuries are always a concern. Their pitching staff leaves a ton to be desired.
5. Washington Nationals – Unfortunately for the Nationals, Jayson Werth’s insane dollars can’t be turned into playoff-caliber baseball.  Like the Doc said, they have the young pieces to succeed in the future.  Unfortunately, those pieces are still way too raw.

NL CENTRAL

1. Milwaukee Brewers – Unlike a lot of people, I’m not going to panic over Zack Greinke’s cracked rib. It’s certtainly better than a shoulder injury, and their top three starters could be the best in this mystery division. If Corey Hart is better than last year and Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are themselves, this could be a dangerous team.
2. Cincinnati Reds – The Reds have a very solid rotation all around if Edinson Volquez can stay off the funny stuff.  They had the highest team batting average in the NL last season, and Jay Bruce should continue to improve while Joey Votto will continue to mash.  Look for Aroldis Chapman to explode onto the scene.
3. Chicago Cubs – I would be more excited about the addition of Matt Garza if Carlos Zambrano wasn’t such a head case. Their rotation has the potential to be great if Z can return to top form. Their lineup hinges on a lot of inexperience, like Starlin Castro and Geovany Soto. That being said, the ceiling is very high for the Cubs.
4. St. Louis Cardinals – The loss of Adam Wainwright will kill the Cardinals.  They’ll score a ton of runs as usual with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday but their pitching is going to get smacked around after Chris Carpenter.  Unless they make a huge trade for an arm at the deadline, I don’t see things going well for St. Louis.
5. Houston Astros – The Astros have a poor pitching staff, a mediocre lineup, and they’re for sale.  If they start slow as usual, they not only will have players who start to give up but ownership that’s trying to get out.  They could finish behind Pittsburgh.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates – They have Andrew McCutchen and a bunch of young guys with names you don’t know yet.  They are still the Pirates, and their pitching is still very, very weak.

NL WEST

1. San Francisco Giants – The World Series hangover is always a concern, but this is a team that a lot of people haven’t been talking about despite their success last year. Buster Posey’s name is being thrown around as a potential MVP candidate. He could have a monster year. We all know what their pitching is capable of.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers – I love the Dodgers’ arms — starters and relievers. Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley can be studs. Their hitters play a lot of small ball, but lucky for them its the NL. If they fulfill their potential they could be a playoff team.
3. Colorado Rockies – We all know what Jimenez is capable of, but after that their rotation scares me a little. Pitching in Colorado certainly doesn’t help. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are one of the best 3-4 combinations in the game and can carry a lineup.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks – The Diamondbacks have decent young players in Stephen Drew and Justin Upton, but they will still be very bad. Their lineup outside of those two is weak and their pitching rotation is weaker.
5. San Diego Padres – The departure of Adrian Gonzalez signaled the end of San Diego’s shot at somewhat contending. Orlando Hudson and Brad Hawpe, the team’s projected three and four hitters, combined for 15 homers and 81 RBI last season.

AL EAST
1. Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox needed to have a strong offseason, and Theo Epstein may have put together the best one in team history. If two of Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and John Lackey are effective, they could be close to unstoppable.
2. New York Yankees – If the Yankees are healthy, they could challenge the Red Sox for first place.  Their biggest issue is depth.  With aging superstars and unproven starters, New York is not in position to sustain a significant injury or two.  Look for them to be big buyers at the trade deadline.
3. Tampa Bay Rays – Despite losing Matt Garza, the Rays still have a very solid rotation.  Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez still have some pop left in their bats, and it should lead to Tampa winning a lot of close games.  Unfortunately, the competition is far too steep as usual.
4. Baltimore Orioles – With the additions of Derek Lee and Vladi, the Orioles should score plenty of runs.  Buck Showalter talks a big game, so we’ll see if he can pick up where he left off with this team last season.  They could surprise some people with the new pieces they’ve added.
5. Toronto Blue Jays – Jose Bautista is not going to have a repeat performance.  Toronto’s pitching staff is very inexperienced and their lineup won’t have as much pop as it did last year.  Their pitching will likely get shelled by the rest of the division.

AL CENTRAL
1. Minnesota Twins – Carl Pavano’s return to form last season makes the Twins the best team in this division.  Matt Capps saved 42 games last season, and Minnesota still has a progressing Joe Nathan.  If he returns to form, their bullpen will be very good.  Mauer and Morneau will carry the offense.
2. Chicago White Sox – I wouldn’t be surprised if the White Sox finish in first place if they can get a healthy Jake Peavy back at some point.  The addition of Adam Dunn to an already potent offense gives them a ton of pop.  Edwin Jackson will need to bounce back, but this is a team with a ton of potential.
3. Detroit Tigers – Adding Victor Martinez will help, but they need Miguel Cabrera to care about baseball in order to win.  Magglio Ordonez’s best years are behind him.  If Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer take the next step, they have a shot.
4. Kansas City Royals – The Royals got rid of a Cy Young pitcher, so I wouldn’t expect much from them.  Their pitching staff lacks experience and depth.  They have some guys who can slap the ball around and score runs, but it won’t be enough to keep them from the bottom of the division.
5. Cleveland Indians – The Indians pitching staff has been completely stripped down and that will hurt them as usual.  After Fausto Carmona, their starters won a combined 24 games in 2010.  Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner once carried the lineup, but neither has shown he can stay healthy.

AL WEST
1. Texas Rangers – While their pitching is very weak beyond the top two, this is one of the best hitting lineups in the AL.  If Adrian Beltre can be close to the player he was with the Red Sox, this team will score a ton of runs.  The addition of Mike Napoli gives them great hitting depth at catcher.
2. Oakland A’s – David DeJesus and Josh Willingham should fit right in with what the A’s do every year.  The top three of their rotation is as strong as any if you believe in Trevor Cahill, which I do.  Brian Fuentes should help the bullpen if he can revert to his Angels form.
3. Los Angeles Angels – The Angels had about as bad an offseason as they could have had.  They missed out on Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Beltre.  Still, they grabbed Vernon Wells and we all know Mike Scioscia is the best in the business at working with what he has.
4. Seattle Mariners – The entire first half of the Mariners will consist of teams offering players for Felix Hernandez.  Seattle really has nothing going for them besides the 2010 Cy Young Award winner, so he will probably be the only storyline of the season.

MLB PLAYOFFS
NLDS: Phillies over Reds, Giants over Brewers
ALDS: Red Sox over Rangers, Twins over Yankees
NLCS: Phillies over Giants
ALCS: Red Sox over Twins
World Series: Phillies in 7 Over the Red Sox

MLB AWARDS
MVP: Buster Posey, Adrian Gonzalez
Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Jon Lester



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