Why they deserve it: Two-time defending AL Champs bring back full offense and have added Darvish and Feliz to their rotation.
Why they don’t deserve it: They lost their best starter in CJ Wilson, Joe Nathan wasn’t great last year, questions about Feliz’s stamina are cropping up and they paid over 110 million for a pitcher who has yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues. If Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz can’t stay on the field, this team is in trouble.
- Until proven otherwise, the Rangers are the best team in the American League. And until proven otherwise, we can assume the Cruz and Hamilton are and will be healthy and that Darvish and Feliz will be fine in the rotation.
Why they deserve it: Kendrys Morales is officially back, they added Albert Pujols and Chris Iannetta to the lineup. The Mark Trumbo to 3B experiment has so far been a huge success and adds even more “umph” to this lineup. They brought in CJ Wilson to round out what promises to be a top rotation. They also added LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen to set up and mentor young fireballer Jordan Walden. There’s also a few extremely promising prospects that will arrive within the next season (Mike Trout, Garret Richards and Jean Segura).
Why they don’t deserve it: Their bullpen blew more leads than any team in baseball last season and Latroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen don’t look like the answers at age 39. Vernon Wells was plain awful last season and Mark Trumbo figures to be an awful defensive 3B.
- On paper, it appears the Angels are the best team in baseball right now. Their offense should be very good, their pitching should have no equal and they have a lot of promising prospects on the way. But baseball games aren’t won on paper.
Why they deserve it: They’re good every year, no matter what. They added Pineda and Kuroda to a weak rotation that should be solid now. Phil Hughes appears to be on the comeback trail and Andy Pettitte has come out of retirement. They’re bullpen looks untouchable and the offense should be one of the best in the game.
Why they don’t deserve it: This is an old team. There’s no gradual degradation for teams like this. One year they’re great, the next year, they won’t win 80 games. The new Steinbrenners aren’t as willing to spend money as the old ones, so the Yanks won’t be able to severely outspend everyone and buy championships anymore, they’ll have to compete with other large market teams.
- They’re still the Yankees. Even though they won’t have a payroll 3 times that of the average major league team, they won’t be poor by any means. As a general rule, in this era, under a Bud Selig commissioned major league baseball, the Yankees will be good.
Why they deserve it: Outside of Los Angeles, no team can match Tampa’s pitching depth. Matt Moore will make this team even better. Though the offense sputtered at times last year, Evan Longoria is healthy, Desmond Jennings will provide a spark and Carlos Pena and Luke Scott will hit the long ball. They also have ridiculous depth in the minor leagues. Couple that with top notch management and you can see why the Rays will be good year in and year out without spending lots of money.
Why they don’t deserve it: BJ Upton is starting the season on the DL and expecting rookies like Jennings and Moore to carry a team to the post season is foolish. Luke Scott and Carlos Pena are hardly the answers to the offensive questions of 2011. Plus, they’re playing in the AL East, where mediocre teams finish 4th. There’s no margin for error.
- Pitching wins championships and the Rays have it in the majors and at every level of the minors. And their offense will undoubtedly be better than it was in 2011, when they still made the playoffs.
Why they deserve it: They added Jason Kubel, Paul Goldschmidt and Stephen Drew to their lineup from the beginning of last year. This will be a strong offensive team led by MVP candidate Justin Upton. They also brought in Trevor Cahill to be their #3 starter. In the minors, they have Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs and Pat Corbin all waiting on a spot in the rotation. They have a Top 5 rotation right now, but by 2013, they’ll have the best in baseball.
Why they don’t deserve it: Josh Collmenter and Joe Saunders aren’t going to win a ton of games at the back of the rotation. There’s no guarantee that Kubel will hit like he did before 2011 or that Goldschmidt will prove to be anything more than a poor man’s Mark Reynolds. Will Stephen Drew even stay on the field?
- This is an extremely dynamic team. They’re capable of being one of the best in baseball, but at the same time they may not even win a tough NL West division. Still, they’re like the Tampa Bay Rays-lite. Lots of solid young players built around a strong pitching staff.
Why they deserve it: Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in the same lineup will scare a lot of starting pitchers. Brennan Boesch is healthy and primed for a big season. Alex Avila will be handling a staff led by arguably the best pitcher in the game Justin Verlander. The Tigers also have one of the deepest pens in baseball, capable of shortening a lot of games.
Why they don’t deserve it: Outside of Fielder and Cabrera, there are a lot of question marks on offense. Miguel Cabrera clearly isn’t an adequate defensive 3B, teams can bunt on them all day long. Fister isn’t nearly the pitcher he showed last season and after Verlander this team simply doesn’t measure up with the Yankees, Sox, Rays, Rangers or Angels.
- The good thing for the Tigers, they don’t have to be better than the Rays, Yanks, Sox, Rangers or Angels, they simply need to be better than the Royals/Indians/Twins. Essentially all they need to do is play .500 ball and they’re in the playoffs.
Why they deserve it: They’ve got Youkilis and Pedroia back healthy to pad an offense that already has Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez. Losing Jon Papelbon isn’t a bad thing when you can replace him with Andrew Bailey or Mark Melancon. It appears Daniel Bard will bring his high 90’s heat to a rotation that has a healthy Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buccholz.
Why they don’t deserve it: Ellsbury played far over his head last season and the Red Sox will go without Carl Crawford, Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey for a large part of the season. Can Bobby Valentine manage Boston to glory int heway Terry Francona did? Is Mike Aviles really an everyday shortstop? Will the Red Sox be alright without Theo Epstein?
- There are a lot of questions regarding the Sox this season. But let’s face it, they still have Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and more in the lineup. They’ll bring back a strong front three in the rotation and an even stronger bullpen. They may not be an elite team anymore, and there may be some turmoil within the management and front office, but this is still a capable team.
Why they deserve it: They still have one of the Top 5 pitching staffs in all of baseball. The second half of the season will bring back two big bats in Chase Utely and Ryan Howard, so all they need to do is keep afloat until the all-star break. Jim Thome should be a fine fill-in at 1B until that time. The bullpen looks strong and this is a competitive team.
Why they don’t deserve: The lineup is clearly missing the punch it once had. Without a good lineup, how are the Phillies any different than the Giants who have deep pitching but questionable offense? The back end of their rotation is very weak.
- The Phillies still have arguably the best front end of the rotation in baseball. That combined with their bullpen will make them a .500 team alone. Their push toward the end of the season should help make them a strong playoff contender.
Why they deserve it: This team I serious about making a run in next five years. Bryce Harper will arrive sometime this season. Ryan Zimmerman was extended. Anthony Rendon isn’t far off. They also have a pitching staff featuring Steven Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez. They measure up with any second tier team in baseball.
Why they don’t deserve it: Ryan Zimmerman is coming off an injury/down year. Werth has provided nothing. Harper isn’t an adequate defensive CF and can hardly be expected to succeed in the majors at age 19 when he couldn’t hold his own in AA at age 18. Storen is beginning the season on DL and Strasburg/Zimmerman have never topped 200 innings.
- This team is simply too talented to fail. The minor league system isn’t in bad shape, the major league team has some serious talent. They’re playing in a large media market, fans are excited and this should all mean higher revenue which in turn brings about better free agents. The Nats are here to stay folks.
Why they deserve it: Pitching, pitching, pitching. When you can offer up Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner in any given serious, you have a great chance at winning. Not to mention their bullpen is one of the Top 3 in baseball. Their offense isn’t great, but it doesn’t need to be. It isn’t as if Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval AREN’T middle of the order hitters.
Why they don’t deserve it: They’re coming off an 86 win season and they didn’t exactly improve that much in the offseason. Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan are question marks as are Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff. Too much uncertainty.
- Getting Buster Posey back and Matt Cain locked up will be a huge boost for this team. Though Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan aren’t great, they’re better than what they had last season. This has the look of a 90 win ball club.
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