Rob’s 2012 MLB Predictions

Posted: March 27, 2012 by Rob Barros in MLB

With Opening Day approaching, I decided to make my predictions for the 2012 Major League Baseball season.

Divisional Winners

AL East – New York Yankees. As biased as this sounds, I do believe the Yankees are clearly the best team in the AL East. The additions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda to the rotation to go with Sabathia, and Ivan Nova will only make the Yankees better. The Yankees still have a battle going on between Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes for the 5th spot in the rotation, and Andy Pettitte expected to return in May, it is clear that the Yankees have a ton of depth in the rotation. The bullpen will also be a huge factor. With the MLB’s greatest closer Mariano Rivera still going strong, and guys like David Robertson and Rafael Soriano to pitch in the set-up roles, the Yankees have the most complete pitching staff they’ve assembled in a long time. The lineup is more of the same, plenty of homeruns. Much will depend on the health of key vets like Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod is coming off surgery, and during Spring Training, his swing seems to be back to normal. Derek Jeter ended the 2011 season red-hot. Hitting well over .300 after returning from a 2 week DL stint. Also, the numerous options off the bench will keep these two guys healthy.

AL Central – Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are the clear front-runners in the Central this season. After coming just 1 series short of a World Series appearance, the Tigers added Prince Fielder to a lineup that already features Miguel Cabrera, Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch, Johnny Peralta, Austin Jackson and Ryan Raburn. The Tigers could have the best power duo in all of baseball with Miguel Cabrera and Prince hitting back to back. Expect these two to account for most of the Tigers’ run production. Leadoff hitter Austin Jackson seems to have limited his strikeouts this spring, and if that carries into the regular season, the Tigers lineup will be a force. Then there is the pitching staff, anchored by the 2011 AL MVP and CY Young winner, Justin Verlander. Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello give the Tigers are very strong front 4 in the rotation, with the 5th spot still being fought for in the Spring. The bullpen got a nice added boost with the addition of durable veteran, Octavio Dotel. Dotel has played for a bunch of teams in the MLB but proved last season he can still be a reliable option, helping the Cardinals win a World Series title. Add him into a bullpen with Phil Coke, Daniel Schlereth, Joaquin Benoit, and Jose Valverde, who went 49/49 in saves last season, and the Tigers have one heck of a pitching staff.

AL West – Texas Rangers. The Rangers are still the best team in this division, even with the Angels adding Albert Pujols. The Rangers have made it to two consecutive World Series, even though they haven’t won, they have kept the bulk of their team together for 2012. Adding closer Joe Nathan has helped Neftali Feliz’s transition to a starting pitcher much easier. Feliz will be expected to fill the void left by CJ Wilson when he left for the Angels. Who can forget about Yu Darvish? The man the Rangers paid over $50 million just to negoitate with will also be a huge boost to the Rangers rotation. Whoever the Rangers select as their #1 starter (Holland, Darvish, Feliz) they will have made a smart choice. As for the Rangers offense, whenever you have a lineup that has Nelson Cruz batting 6th, you have a chance to win. The Rangers have had, and will continue to have one of the scariest lineups in all of baseball. Elvis Anrus, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre, and Nelson Cruz. Those 6 players can carry any team far into the playoffs, and will do so for the Rangers.

AL Wildcard Team – Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox have all the offensive firepower you could want. They should have been in the playoffs last season, if not for a few crushing injuries to players like Kevin Youkilis and Clay Buchholz, Boston could have been the team to beat the Texas Rangers. But, the game is not played on if’s. Entering 2012, the Red Sox have a lineup that will make any pitcher cringe, and when they do get Carl Crawford back, they will be even better. The addition of Adrian Gonzalez proved to be worth every penny last year, as A-Gon was 2nd in the AL in batting average hitting .338 with 27 homeruns and 117 RBI’s. Boston still has a quality pitching staff going into 2012. With Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz heading the rotation, and fireballer Daniel Bard making the transition to starter, the Sox have some big time arms. Adding Andrew Bailey to replace Jonathan Papelbon in the bullpen will give the Sox a great young arm to close out the 9th inning.

AL Wildcard Team – Los Angeles Angels.The Angels added Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson to the roster this season, making significant changes to the lineup and rotation. Pujols gives the Angels’ lineup a power hitting monster that they have lacked for a long time. Pujols easily makes the entire Angels lineup better as teams will want to avoid him at all costs. That will open up possibilities to players like the returning Kendrys Morales, young phenom Mark Trumbo, and veteren outfielder Torii Hunter. The Angels already had 2 very good starting pitchers heading their staff, now they will add former Rangers ace CJ Wilson to the mix. Wilson will give the Angels a much needed 3rd arm in the rotation, as they still have some question marks in the rest of the pitching staff.

NL East – Philadelphia Phillies. They will be without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, but the Phillies still have a solid lineup, and more importantly, a very good pitching staff to keep them atop the NL East. In the absence of Howard and Utley, Hunter Pence will be asked to carry the lineup, not a bad player to have carrying your offense. But again, the Phillies pitching staff will keep them going until the offensive bats come back. Roy Halladay is still arguably the best pitcher in baseball, and he is followed by 2 very good lefties in Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Vance Worley and Joe Blanton are good options to have in the 4th and 5th rotation spots. If Blanton can stay healthy, he will be a key factor for the Phillies this season. Jonathan Papelbon comes into the Phillies’ bullpen as their closer. Papelbon should fit in nicely and help anchor a ‘pen with guys like Antonio Bastardo, Chad Qualls and Jose Contreras as well.

NL Central – St. Louis Cardinals. The defending champions, minus their best bat, and now their best arm. Losing Albert Pujols in the offseason to the Angels, and now losing ace Chris Carpenter will easily knock the Cardinals out right? Wrong, Adam Wainwright is back from injury, and should be the ace of this Cardinals staff with the arms of Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Jake Westbrook behind him. The Cardinals could be in the running to sign veteren starter Roy Oswalt to fill the void left by Carpenter. The Cardinals bullpen will also be strong this season, with Lance Lynn, Mitchell Boggs, Kyle McClellan, and Jason Motte to come in for the later innings. Even without Albert Pujols, the Cardinals still feature a strong lineup. Adding Carlos Beltran to play RF will move Lance Berkman to first base. Berkman, Holliday, Beltran, and the hero of the playoffs, David Freese, with these 4 carrying the Cardinals offense, the defending champs should be just fine for 2012.

NL West – Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona could be a team that surprises a bunch of people in 2012. They have a very strong lineup with Justin Upton and Chris Young being their best hitters. Other key batters are 2nd baseman Aaron Hill, catcher Miguel Montero, and newly signed power hitting outfield, Jason Kubel. The Diamonbacks pitching staff was led by CY Young candidate, Ian Kennedy, who won 21 games in 2011, and Daniel Hudson, who won 16 games with an ERA of just 3.49. 10 game winner Josh Collmenter will be the 3rd starter in the rotation with newly acquired Trevor Cahill taking the 4th spot. Lefty Joe Saunders will take the 5th spot to fill a strong looking rotation in Arizona. The bullpen is led by closer JJ Putz, Takashi Saito, and Craig Breslow.

NL Wildcard Team – Milwaukee Brewers. The defending NL Central champions lost Prince Fielder in the off-season, but still hold a strong lineup, with Ryan Braun leading the charge. Aramis Ramirez should bring some of the power left by Prince’s departure back at the 3rd base spot. The Brewers will need big time seasons from players like Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, and Jonathan Lucroy to help Braun produce the runs in the lineup. The real strength of the Brewers comes with the pitching. The starting 5 for the Brewers isn’t going to wow anyone with name, but they are good pitchers. Yovani Gallardo, Zach Greinke, Randy Wolf, Shaun Marcum, and Chris Narveson. Those 5 should be enough to get the Brewers into the playoffs. The bullpen is led by closer Jon Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, who pitched very well for the Brewers after his trade from the Mets, Jose Veras, and Kameron Loe. The Central race should be close with the Cardinals and Brewers, and it could be anyones division to take.

NL Wildcard Team – Atlanta Braves. Yes, the Braves collapsed big time at the end of 2011, but they still have a very talented roster. Michael Bourn proved to be a very nice addition at the top of the lineup, and the Braves will need Jason Heyward to hit like they know he can. Young stud Freddie Freeman will also be a big time hitter in 2012 for the Braves, after hitting .282 with 21 homeruns and 76 RBI’s in 2011. Second baseman Dan Uggla, third baseman Chipper Jones, and catcher Brian McCann will all need to have big years as well in order for the Braves to get back into the playoffs. Health will be a key concern for guys like Chipper and McCann. The rotation is anchored by Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, and Brandon Beachy with arms like Minor, Delgado and Julio Teheran fighting for the 5th spot. Craig Kimbrel will need to anchor this bullpen at the closer spot with prospect Arodys Vizcaino getting  shot at the MLB level.

Teams To Watch

AL – Tampa Bay Rays. A very strong rotation, maybe the best in the Majors, but a questionable bullpen, and lineup could hold them back from the Yankees and Red Sox.

AL – Cleveland Indians. Made a run last season, but died out towards the end. If Travis Hafner can return to form, this young Indians team can make strides in 2012.

AL – Kansas City Royals. A ton of young talent. Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Mike Moustakas in the lineup. Solid rotation headed by Bruce Chen, and Luke Hochevar, and an improved bullpen with Jonathan Broxton as the closer.

NL – Miami Marlins. Made big time moves in the off-season. Adding Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle, and Carlos Zambrano. Could definitely get a wild card spot over the Braves or Brewers, but some minor work needs to be done for this team to take the next step.

NL – Washington Nationals. A healthy Stephen Strasburg, adding Gio Gonzalez, and Edwin Jackson to a rotation with Jordan Zimmerman and John Lannan. Adding Brad Lidge to the bullpen with Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett, and Craig Stammen. Jayson Werth needs to be the player the Nationals paid for and lead the lineup with Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam LaRoche. When Bryce Harper is ready….look out for the Nationals.

NL – Cincinnati Reds. Lost Ryan Madson, but still have some young fireballers in the bullpen to take over the closer job. Strong rotation with Cueto, Latos, Arroyo, Leake, and Bailey. If Chapman can be lights out from the bullpen, the Reds will have some good pitching. Lineup is anchored by big bats like Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce.

Leave your predictions in the comments.

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