Normally, The Canon Review does not do previews. After all, it goes against the whole concept of The Canon Review title. However, as I have said before, I'll write about any topic requested by the readers of The Canon Review, and reader Ben W. wanted me to preview the 2010 MLB season, which starts tonight, so preview it I shall. So let's just dive right in, shall we?
AL East (*=Wild Card)
1. New York Yankees
2. Tampa Bay Rays*
3. Boston Red Sox
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays
I have the Yankees first, although this is going to be a very tough division, as the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox are arguably three of the top five teams in baseball. The Yankees have a great lineup led by 1B Mark Teixeira, SS Derek Jeter, and 3B Alex Rodriguez. However, it remains to be seen if new CF Curtis Granderson and new DH Nick Johnson can effectively replace the production of former Yankees Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. The Yankees pitching should be better with the addition of Javier Vazquez, but he wasn't very effective as a Yankee in 2004, so time will tell. The Rays have a great young lineup, but must get a better year out of CF B.J. Upton. It also remains to be seen if SS Jason Bartlett and RF/2B/Util Ben Zobrist can come close to matching their surprising production from 2009 (My take, Zobrist should be fine, but Bartlett will slip. Pitching wise, the Rays have a chance to be as good as anyone, especially if young pitchers David Price and Wade Davis develop quickly. Plus, with the addition of Rafael Soriano, the Rays bullpen should be more settled than last year. I have the Rays making the playoffs as this year's Wild Card Team.
The Red Sox are a very good team, but I do have questions about their offense, as 2B Dustin Pedroia 1B Kevin Youkilis, and C Victor Martinez are all very good, but the rest of their lineup is a question mark. The Red Sox emphasized defense over offense in the offseason, and while CF Mike Cameron, 3B Adrian Beltre, and SS Marco Scutaro have good gloves, it remains to be seen if their offense will be up to snuff. The Red Sox should have good pitching with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and new acquistion John Lackey making for a top-notch starting rotation, but ultimately, I think the Rays and Yankees will be better. If the Red Sox were in any other division, they would be the favorites to win it, but in a stacked division, somebody's got to finish third, and the Red Sox are my choice for that unfortunate distinction. As for the other teams, the Orioles seem to have a plan in place, and good young players, but they are at least a year or two away from contending. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are starting over, and this will be a rough year, even with star hitters like2B Aaron Hill and RF Adam Lind.
1. Minnesota Twins
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals
This should be a two-team battle throughout the season. The Twins have the better lineup, led by 2009 MVP C Joe Mauer, 1B Justin Morneau, DH Jason Kubel, and RF Michael Cuddyer, all of which have the potential for 30 HR and 100 RBI seasons. However, their pitching is a question mark, as Scott Baker is the only starter that I would consider above average. If former phenom Fransisco Liriano can regain his pre-injury form, than the Twins will be much better off. Meanwhile, All-Star closer Joe Nathan will miss 2010 for the Twins, although they do have enough talent in their bullpen, so while Nathan will be missed, the Twins should find someone that will be a decent closer (Jon Rauch is the current favorite for that role). The White Sox should have a heck of a rotation, with Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, and John Danks all capable of being aces on other teams' staffs. However, their lineup is a bit of a mess. If LF Carlos Quentin can come back from injury, and CF Alexis Rios can start giving a damn again, than the White Sox will have enough power to compete. If not, expect a lot of low scoring games at The Cell this year.
The Tigers nearly won the division last year, but even with star pitcher Justin Verlander and star 1B Miguel Cabrera, there are just too many question marks for me to pick them to win the division. However, the AL Central is pretty weak, so the Tigers could get lucky. I would expect a .500 season though from the Tigers. The Indians are in the same boat as the Tigers, as they have a few good players such as CF Grady Sizemore and RF Shin-Soo Choo, but they also have a lot of questions, particularly with their pitching staff. The Royals, even with 2009 Cy Young Winner Zack Greinke and top closer Joakim Soria, should continue to suck, unless about eight guys have career seasons, the Royals will likely lose at least 95 games. Too bad, because Greinke really is a top-notch talent.
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Texas Rangers
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Oakland Athletics
Other than the ridiculously stacked AL East, this might be the most competitive division in baseball, as you can make a case for all four teams to win the division. The Angels, winners of the division for the last three years, and five of the last six, suffered major losses with the departure of free agents 3B Chone Figgins and SP John Lackey. However, the Angles should have the deepest rotation in the division, especially if Ervin Santana bounces back, and have a powerful lineup led by 1B Kendry Morales, CF Torii Hunter, and RF Bobby Abreu. Plus, they added Hideki Matsui from the Yankees to be their new DH, and if 2B Howie Kendrick and 3B Brandon Wood can finally live up to their immense potential, than the Angels could have a very potent offense. The Rangers can hit the ball, and rookie CF Julio Borbon should be an excellent leadoff man for the team, but while the Rangers have pitching talent, most of it is either unproven (Derek Holland, Matt Harrison) or a health rish (Rich Harden). Watch out for prospect Neftali Feliz, who has a 100-mph fastball and should be a key contributor to the Rangers this season, either out of the bullpen or in the rotation. Ultimately, I chose the Angels over the Rangers because while the Rangers have talent, I trust the Angels' players to perform a bit more than I do the Rangers.
The Mariners are a chic pick to win the division this year, according to a lot of people that follow baseball. However, I don't see it. While the Mariners should have great pitching, led by Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, two of the top 10 starting pitchers in baseball, the rest of the rotation is a bit of a question mark, and while closer David Aardsma had a great season last year, it remains to be seen if he can do it again. Meanwhile, the Mariners have emphasized defense over offense the past two seasons, and while it did lead the team to a surprising 85 win season last year, it also has left the lineup a bit lacking in power. While Ichiro Suzuki is a top notch leadoff hitter who should bat around .325 this season, the Mariners may not have anyone to drive him, unless they believe that 1B Casey Kotchman will finally develop into a power hitter, that LF Milton Bradley will stay healthy and happy, and that DHs Ken Griffey Jr and Mike Sweeney can turn back the clock five years or so. The Mariners were an 85 win team last year, and even with the addition of Lee, I don't see them winning more than that this year. As for the Athletics, if they get enough hitting, then they might be able to compete. However, they are relying on a lot of question marks in the lineup, like 1B Daric Barton and RF Ryan Sweeney, who have yet to develop the way people thought they should some 3 or 4 years ago. The pitching should be good, especially if Ben Sheets is healthy and Justin Duchscherer is over his physical and mental problems, but the A's probably won't have enough offense to compete.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Atlanta Braves*
3. New York Mets
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Nationals
The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and went back to the World Series last year, and in the offseason added Roy Halladay, arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Despite trading Cliff Lee, the Phillies are the odds-on favorite to represent the NL in the World Series again. Offensively, the Phillies have oodles of power, led by 2B Chase Utley, 1B Ryan Howard, and RF Jayson Werth. Add to that expected bounce-back seasons from SS Jimmy Rollins and SP Cole Hamels, and the Phillies are loaded. The Braves may have the best rotation in the league, led by young gun Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, and veteran Tim Hudson, who has looked sharp in spring after recovering from elbow surgery. Offensively, the Braves are led by C Brian McCann, and are hoping from a bounce-back season from 3B Chipper Jones. However, the Braves player everybody is excited about is rookie RF Jason Heyward, who is the most hyped prospect since Alex Rodriguez and is only being compared to guys like Hank Aaron. While expectations may be out of control, it looks as if Heyward, only 20, will at least be a solid right fielder this year, and should only get better in the next few years. I expect a .270 BA and 20+ HR from Heyward this year, which should be enough to help the Braves make the playoffs as a Wild Card team.
The Mets are a mess from the ground up, but still have some talented players in 3B David Wright, SP Johan Santana, and new LF Jason Bay. The Mets battled a lot of injury problems last year, and with CF Carlos Beltran and SS Jose Reyes already on the Disabled List, 2010 may be more of the same. If the Mets are healthy and have their heads on straight, they have enough talent to win 90 games. However, I wouldn't expect the Mets to be any better than a .500 team this year. The Marlins have and MVP Candidate in SS Hanley Ramirez, and two potential aces in Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco, but ultimately do not have enough talent to hang with the Phillies and Braves. They should be good, however, and if they get a few breaks, the Marlins could be a team to watch for. The Nationals have two star hitters in 1B Adam Dunn and 3B Ryan Zimmerman, but ultimately are not a very good team. The most interesting thing about the Nationals will be when and if phenom SP Stephen Strasburg is called up to the majors. Expect him up by mid-May, as Strasburg is just too good for the Nats to keep in the minors.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Other than the Cardinals, I really don't like the chances of any team in this division. The Cardinals have the top hitter in the game in 1B Albert Pujols and the two best pitchers in the division in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Picking the Cardinals to win this division is the easiest choice in this baseball preview, even if some people believe the Brewers or Reds might win. The Brewers should be a decent team, as 1B Prince Fielder and LF Ryan Braun are top-notch hitters, and the staff, led by Yovani Gallardo, should at least be decent, if not as good as the Cardinals and Cubs. Speaking of Chicago, if Carlos Zambrano has his head on straight, and if Ted Lilly recovers from injury, the Cubs have the makings of a very good pitching staff. Their offense might be a different story, as too many players are either a little old (1B Derrek Lee), coming off of bad seasons (C Geovany Soto), or both (LF Alfonso Soriano). The Cubs look like a mediocre team to me.
Some people are high on the Reds' chances this year, but I am not one of them. Their pitching is promising, but I'd like it a little more if Edison Volquez wasn't out for the season. Their hitting could be decent, provided that RF Jay Bruce recovers from an off season and 1B Joey Votto is a successful as he was last year. The Astros are poorly built team, although they have a few good players such as RF Hunter Pence, 1B Lance Berkman, and starting pitchers Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of help around them, and Berkman's going to start the season on the DL. The Pirates have had 17 straight losing seasons, and there is no reason to believe that this year won't be number 18. If things go well, the Pirates might have a winning season in 2011, but they are too inexperience to make any noise this year.
1. Colorado Rockies
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. San Francisco Giants
5. San Diego Padres
This division could become a four way battle between the Rockies, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Giants. Ultimately, I picked the Rockies because they have the least weaknesses of any team in this division. Their pitching staff, led by ace Ubaldo Jimenez, should be very good, especially if starter Jeff Francis and closer Huston Street can come back from injuries suffered during spring training. Their offense is good, led by SS Troy Tulowitzki and potential superstar CF Carlos Gonzalez. The Dodgers still have a solid lineup, led by their outfield of Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier. However, their rotation is a mess after Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, and both of them have questions about their durability. At least they have a top closer in Johnathan Broxton, and if they find a pitcher or two to go with Kershaw and Billingsley, and if 1B James Loney can finally hit for power or C Russell Martin plays like he did in 2007 and 2008 instead of the way he played last year, the Dodgers could make the postseason for the third straight year.
There are some people that feel that this is the year the Diamondbacks' young talent finally lives up to their promise, I am not one of them, but I will say that the team has a couple of stars in RF Justin Upton, 3B Mark Reynolds (despite the strikeouts) and SP Dan Haren. Ultimately, it won't be enough this year. The Giants have excellent pitching, led by two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, but other than 3BPablo Sandoval, the Giants lack offense, and unless you believe that CF Aaron Rowand, 1B Aubrey Huff, and SS Edgar Renteria will regain their previous form, Don't hold your breath on that happening this year, though. The Padres have some good young players, like SP Mat Latos, LF Kyle Blanks, and SS Everth Cabrera, but are at least a year away from contending. The only suspense surronding the Padres is if and when they trade star 1B Adrian Gonzalez. I would hope they could keep Gonzalez, a San Diego native, but the small-market Padres might not be able to afford a player of his caliber.
1. Joe Mauer, C, Twins
2. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees
3. Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels
Dark Horse: Nelson Cruz, RF, Rangers
Mauer, who recently signed an 8-year, $184 million extension, was last year's MVP, and his excellent fielding and powerful bat make him the favorite to win the award again and become the first catcher to win 2 MVP Awards since Johnny Bench in 1970 and 1972. Both Teixeira and Morales are powerful first basemen in the prime of their careers, and both should be the top RBI men on contending teams. Since MVP voters love RBIs, that should give both Teixeira and Morales an advantage. Keep an eye on Nelson Cruz, a powerful right fielder for the Texas Rangers. If the Rangers make the playoffs, Cruz will be a large reason why, and he also has the ability to hit 40 home runs this season.
1. Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies
2. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals
3. Ryan Braun, LF, Brewers
Dark Horse: Justin Upton, RF, Diamondbacks
In recent years, both 1B Ryan Howard and SS Jimmy Rollins have won MVP awards for the Phillies. However, many people believe that Utley has been the largest reason for the Phillies' success over the past few years. Other than Albert Pujols, Utley may be the best hitter in the NL, and I think that 2010 will finally be the year Utley gets his own Most Valuable Player Award. Pujols is a three time MVP winner, and at 30, is still in the prime of his career. Braun is one of the best hitters in the game, and has the potential to hit 40-45 home runs this season. Upton might be the most talented player in baseball, and at 22, is just starting to put it all together. The sky's the limit for Upton, and if the Diamondbacks sneak into the playoffs, Upton will be a large reason why.
AL Cy Young Award:
1. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
2. C.C. Sabathia, SP, Yankees
3. Zack Greinke, SP, Royals
Dark Horse: Brett Anderson, SP, Athletics
Hernandez is an elite pitcher playing his home games in a pitchers park with the game's best defense behind him. Even if the Mariners don't score enough for King Felix, Hernandez has the stuff and should dominate the league in 2010. Sabathia is an ace pitcher playing for the best team in the league, so he should have a high win total to go along with his usual high strikeout total and low ERA. If so, Sabathia could nab his second Cy Young Award. Greinke was the best pitcher in the American League last year, and there's no reason to believe that he won't have an excellent season in 2010. Keep an eye on Anderson, an immensely talented 22-year-old who many experts believe will have a breakout season in 2010.
NL Cy Young
1. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies
2. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants
3. Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals
Dark Horse: Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies
Halladay has a lot of factors going for him. For one, he'll be on the best team in the NL instead of a mediocre Blue Jays squad. Also, he'll be pitching in the National League, which is much easier for pitchers. Halladay is likely to win at least 20 games this year, and some feel he could get 25 wins. That might be a little much, but Halladay is my pick for Cy Young Winner. Lincecum has won the last two, so it would be stupid to discount him. As long as he's healthy, Lincecum should be a Cy Young contender for the next decade or so. Carpenter also is a former Cy Young Winner, and pitched well enough to win last year. As long as he's healthy, Carpenter is one of the best pitchers in the game. Jimenez has electric stuff and while Coors Field is still a hitter's park, the effects are not as extreme as they were a decade ago, making it possible for Jimenez to put together a Cy Young caliber season for the Rocks.
AL Rookie of the Year:
1. Wade Davis, SP, Rays
2. Scott Sizemore, 2B, Tigers
3. Brian Matusz, SP, Orioles
Dark Horses: Lou Marson/Carlos Santana, C, Indians
Davis is expected to be the Rays fifth starter for now, but has the stuff and command to be a key starter for Tampa Bay this year. Don't be surprised if Davis wins 15 for the Rays and puts up an ERA around 3.50. Sizemore will start at second base for the Tigers, and has a solid glove and pop in his bat. While fellow rookie CF Austin Jackson may be getting more headlines for the Tigers, Sizemore is considered more ready to excel at the major league level. Matusz is one of the top pitching prospects in the AL, and impressed many in his few starts last year for the Orioles. If the Orioles score enough runs, Matusz could have a very good rookie year. Marson will start at catcher for the Indians, but many people feel that Santana has more potential and is the better hitter of the two. If Marson struggles, look for Santana to be called up from the minors. However, Marson has enough talent to contend for the Rookie of the Year Award himself, so it should be interesting to see what happens in Cleveland.
NL Rookie of the Year:
1. Jason Heyward, RF, Braves
2. Alcides Escobar, SS, Brewers
3. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals
Dark Horse: Pedro Alvarez, 3B/1B, Pirates
Heyward has been talked about in terms usually revered for Chuck Norris (i.e. "Jason Heyward will win Rookie of the Year twice" or "Jason Heyward covers more ground than grass"). In fact, it is widely believed that while the Boogeyman may check under his bed for Chuck Norris, Chuck Norris checks under his bed for Jason Heyward. While Heyward has been incredibly hyped, he should be good enough to deliver on at least some of it, as the Braves have wisely decided to start him in right field this season. Escobar may not be able to cover more ground than grass, but he is a solid player and will be the Brewers' everyday shortstop. Strasburg will start the season in the minors due to financial reasons, but he should be back by May and much like last year's ROY, Chris Coughlin, Strasburg very well could win the award despite spending a month or so in the minors. Alvarez might be the Pirates best hitter other than CF Andrew McCutheon, but his glove needs work and like Strasburg, the Pirates may have kept him in the minors due to financial reasons. There's no doubt that Alvarez can rake, though, and he could be in the Pirates lineup before you know it.
World Series Prediction: Phillies over Yankees in 6
Like last year, these two teams are clearly the class of their respective leagues, although the Red Sox, Rays, Angels, Cardinals and Braves might disagree. But in my mind, at least, we will see a repeat of last year's World Series, only this year the Phillies, led by new acquistion Roy Halladay and new closer Ryan Madson, should have the pitching to shut down the Yankees' bats. Add that to the Phillies' potent offense, and Philadelphia will celebrate their second World Series title in three years.
Well, that was long, but hopefully it was at least a decent preview for the 2010 season. It should be an exciting season, even if you are a Royals fan, because at least you have Zack Greinke pitching every fifth day. Thanks for reading, and let me know your thoughts on the 2010 MLB season if you any.