Sunscreen, check. Cracker Jacks, ready. Lucky glove, already on my hand. That’s right, baseball season is around the corner!
Technically, the “Opening Series” in Japan between Oakland and Seattle marked the start of the season. But let’s be honest, neither team will be suiting up in October anytime soon. So who will be left standing when the September page is ripped off the ManTeam calendar and October begins?
AL East: Tampa Bay Rays
The pitching staff consists of Cy Young candidates David Price and James Shields. Throw in 2011Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson and MLB’s No. 1 prospect Matt Moore, and the Rays rotation looks as intimidating as any in the MLB.
Breakout Player: Desmond Jennings
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
When you combine Prince Fielder and last year’s AL batting champ Miguel Cabrera, the duo alone could easily surpass the .200 RBI mark. Oh yeah, and the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander? He’s leading the charge in the rotation.
Breakout player: Doug Fister
AL West: Texas Rangers
Besides the flashy acquisition of Japan’s finest, the Rangers have enough firepower to eradicate a small nation. Hamilton, Cruz, Napoli, Beltre, Kinsler, all hit over 25 home runs last year. Throw in Joe Nathan (comeback prediction) to close up shop? Yes please.
Breakout player: Joe Nathan
AL Wild Card Slot No. 1 New York Yankees
The Yanks are poised for another run at the World Series. With a rotation that seems to have improved by adding Kuroda and Pineda, and an offense that is capable of putting up 4+ runs a night, NYY looks solid. But can a team with age at critical positions (SS,3B) stay healthy?
Breakout Player: David Robertson
AL Wild Card Slot No. 2
The Angels are coming into 2012 with a very well rounded team. They have sufficient talent in the rotation with Wilson, Haren and Santana. L.A. also has several players (Pujois, Trumbo, Aybar, Hendricks, Hunter) who can put runs on the board.
Breakout Player: Howie Kendricks
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies may not have the potent offense they had when they won the World Series in 2008, but they still have one of the best rotations in the MLB with Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Worley. Although their offense is on the older side, they can still do some damage with Pence, Victorino, Rollins, Howard and Utley. The only question is if they can stay healthy.
Breakout player: John Mayberry
St. Louis Cardinals
Despite losing Pujois, the Cards still have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. With Wainwright coming back this year, the rotation will look stacked (Wainwright, Carpenter, Garcia, Lohse). Offensively, they still have Holliday, Beltran and rising star David Freese.
Breakout Player: Jon Jay
The Diamondbacks have quietly improved their pitching this off-season by adding Trevor Cahill to an already stout rotation (Hudson, Kennedy, Saunders). Combine that with a young lineup featuring Justin Upton and Paul Goldschmidt, and the Diamondbacks are looking more and more like a legitimate threat.
Breakout Player: Paul Goldschmidt
NL Wild Card Slot No. 1 Atlanta Braves
Alas, this is the fairwell season for Chipper Jones which puts a tear in Braves fans’ eyes everywhere. However, this season the Braves look poised to recover from their collapse last year. Atlanta has a deep lineup that has that sexy combo of speed and power (Bourn, McCann, Uggla, Heyward, Prado, Jones, Freeman).
Breakout Player: Jason Hayward
NL Wild Card Slot No. 2 Milwaukee Brewers
Despite losing Prince, the Brewers still have a solid offensive core. NL MVP Ryan Braun should have another stellar year. Plus with Hart, Ramirez and Weeks in the lineup, the Brew Crew can still put up a run or two. Although the strength for the Brewers right now is in their pitching, Zack Grienke leads the charge from the rotation, followed by Yovani Gallardo, Shawn Marcum and the ageless Randy Wolf.
Breakout Player: Mat Gamel