2. Rays: Starting rotation could compile 1,000 innings this year and Longoria could rise to MVP status after unlucky 2011. X-factor: Desmond Jennings; Could be a 20 homer, 50 steal guy.
3. Red Sox: Bobby Valentine has work cut out for him after questionable pitching decisions (ie: Daniel Bard in rotation, Alfredo Aceves closing), though Boston has elite offense, could finish fourth in AL East. X-factor: Daniel Bard; If Bard struggles in rotation look for him to shift back to ‘pen.
4. Blue Jays: Jose Bautista is the best in the game, Brett Lawrie a superstar in the making, fixed leaky bullpen though rotation has questions. X-factor: Brandon Morrow; if he harnesses his electric stuff (Led AL SP’s with 10.19 K/9 in 2011) he could contend for the AL Cy Young.(In Photo: Matt Wieters)
5. Orioles: Have absolutely no chance of winning AL East, though Matt Wieters is one of best catchers in baseball. X-factor: Zach Britton; one of the O’s best young pitchers. If they want to see any improvements they need Britton to mature.
2. Indians: Got off to great start last year, but faded badly in second half. Justin Masterson is a future marquee name anchoring the Indian rotation, Chris Perez and Vinny Pestano one of best 8-9 inning combos. X-factor: Travis Hafner; needs to stay healthy for full season to even dream about overtaking Detroit.
3. Royals: Oodles and oodles of young talent in majors and minors, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alex Gordon among others are future stars, very thin rotation. X-Factor: Luke Hochevar. Former number 1 overall pick pitched 198 innings in ’11, needs to take step to the next level.(In Photo: Adam Dunn)
4. White Sox: GM doesn’t know if contending or rebuilding, loss of Mark Beuhrle is huge for rotation, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn are terrible contracts and dead weight to the team. X-Factor: Adam Dunn; He can’t be worse than last year, right?
5. Twins: Suffered insane amount of injuries last year, don’t know if Francisco Liriano is taking the next step to be consistent, elite starter. X-factor: Health of Joe Mauer and Justin Mornaeu; both have laundry list of injury concerns, almost a given they’ll miss a chunk of team each.
(In Photo: Kendrys Morales)
2. Angels: Incredible 1-4 in rotation, not much offense after Pujols, questions in the bullpen with Jordan Walden closing. X-factor: Kendrys Morales; If he stays healthy and produces 2009 numbers, look out.
3. Mariners: Felix Hernandez, Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, Rally Fries, and their commercials are all they have. Virtually no offense, though Montero and Dustin Ackley are future stars, Ichiro is over the hill. X-factor: Justin Smoak; Still find it hard to believe Jack Z traded Cliff Lee for this guy, needs to show results and fast.
(In Photo: Brandon McCarthy)
4. A’s: Brandon McCarthy is the most underrated pitcher in all of baseball, should be 3-ring circus when Manny Ramirez returns. X-factor: Yoenis Cespedes; Had good showing in Japan, could have big rookie year.
ALCS: Yankees over Rangers
MVP: Evan Longoria
Cy Young: CC Sabathia
Rookie: Jesus Montero
Comeback player: Phil Hughes
Manager of the year: John Farrell
I’m sure there are some picks that I’ve made that you disagree with, and that’s fine. Feel free to sound off in the comments. Look out for our National League predictions and our World Series pick on Saturday or Sunday. After all, I can't give you our World Series pick if I didn't give our National League predictions yet, right?
--Jesse Schindler, BYB Lead Staff Writer
Follow me on Twitter @SchindlerJesse
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