Will the Yankees repeat?
Although we are fighting off 40-degree weather, Spring Training has basically come and gone. Bats have been swung, pitches have been thrown, rotations have been set and injuries have been recorded. And as April 4 approaches, teams are ready to take the diamond for another 162-game season. The editors at The Spectrum have compiled a brief list of teams to watch and ones that will flop and have set in stone their predictions. Enjoy.
Teams to Watch
Texas Rangers: Coke scandals aside, the Rangers are the real deal. They missed the playoffs last year, but the Rangers have a young core of talented players and made a serious push at the end of last season. Although the AL West has been dominated by the Los Angeles Angels for the past five years, the 2010 playoff spot will be home to the Rangers. Scott Feldman is their No. 1 pitcher and went 17-8 last season. Look for him to have a breakout 20-win campaign and lead the Rangers' rotation to a trip to the postseason. He'll receive plenty of help from Rich Harden on the mound and Vladimir Guerrero in the outfield and at the plate. One word for the Rangers this season: dangerous.
Philadelphia Phillies: It's the easy choice, but it's also the right one. Look for the Phillies to repeat as National League champions. Their lineup is absolutely loaded from top to bottom and they are also one of the MLB's best defensive teams. Philadelphia's three, four, and five hitters, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth, respectively, all have slugging percentages over .500 at their batting positions. Though they lost left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners, they acquired six-time All-Star Roy Halladay, who dominated as a Toronto Blue Jay last season. Their lone question mark remains Brad Lidge, who should be making his yearly decision about whether to play brilliantly or horribly any day now. Expect another deep playoff run and many more Jimmy Rollins commercials.
Teams to Flop
Boston Red Sox: Everyone is back on the "Baastin" bandwagon after the team seemingly bolstered its rotation in the off-season by adding John Lackey of the Anaheim Angels. While pitching may win championships, you do need some semblance of a line-up to compete. Don't get me wrong here, the Red Sox could be "wicked good," but I don't feel they did enough to combat the Yankees in the division. The Boston rotation is filled with guys that are familiar with the disabled list. Josh Beckett is the key for Boston to make it back to a World Series. If he returns to the dominating force he once was, opposing batters beware. He won 17 games last year and struck out 199 batters, but got knocked around by the Angels in the first round of the playoffs. The Sox hope that by adding Lackey, who also couldn't beat the Yankees in October, the combo will be enough to take out the hated Bronx Bombers. I don't see it happening.
New York Mets: No hometown favoritism here: the Mets are just that bad. We all know how the last two seasons panned out, but I love bringing it up anyway. Injuries and late season collapses have plagued the squad from Queens and even a brand new multi-million dollar stadium won't help the blue and orange. Jose Reyes has already struggled with injuries this season, and although he looks like he may start the first game, it's only a matter of time until someone else goes down. Even with Carlos Beltran out, fans swear that this is their year. I can't deny that the team's offense can do damage, but that's only if they stay healthy. And as the past few seasons have shown, that's a big ‘if'.
AW: Felix Hernandez. He went 19-5 last year with a 2.49 ERA and he's only 23. This Venezuelan has dirty stuff and will make batters looks silly all season long.
MP: C.C. Sabathia. He won 19 games a season ago and as he get more comfortable in the big apple I fully expect him to improve on that total. The Yankees got better in the outfield defensively and will provide a more solid backing for the pitching staff.
AW: Mark Teixeira. He was the heart and soul of the World Champs just a season ago and has found his home in New York.
MP: A-Rod The Bronx Bomber will return to icon status this year and continue where he left off last season when his team won the World Series. His numbers will look more like they have in past MVP years and his contributions will help the Yankees win the AL East.
AW: Roy Halladay. He was a powerhouse on a struggling team last year, so just imagine the damage he'll do when all of his games will matter. Expect another stellar year.
MP: Roy Halladay. I think this award was won the day the Phillies executed the trade to bring the best pitcher in baseball to the Phillies. He gives the club the closest thing to a guaranteed victory every five days as there is in the league.
AW: Ryan Howard. Coming off of a season where he hit 45 homers and drove in 141 RBIs, the lefty is looking to show the league he's as dominant as he was when he won the NL MVP in 2006. The middle of the Phillies' lineup is lethal and Howard is its driving force.
MP: Albert Pujols. Look for Pujols to lead the league in home runs this season as he adds another 50 or so to his total. Albert is one of those players that can single handedly put a team on his back late in the season.
AW: Yankees over Cardinals in 6 games.
MP: Yankees over Rockies in 7 games.