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MLB: Predicting the 2010 AL Division Winners

For my first post here at Sports Confidential, I thought I would take a shot at predicting the winners of each division  for the 2010 MLB season. I know the season is already underway, but nothing has happened yet to change my original predictions I made prior to Opening Day.

Offseason additions and subtractions have changed the landscape in many of the divisions. While some teams look like clear-cut favorites to reach the postseason, other divisions appear to be more of a toss-up. Part 1 will cover my predictions for the American League. Without further ado, my AL division winner predictions:

AL West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The teams comprising the AL West all made changes over the offseason, some more drastic than others. Players like Cliff Lee, Joel Pineiro, Ben Sheets, Chone Figgins, Vlad Guerrero, and Hideki Matsui all find themselves on new clubs to start the season. The biggest departure was the Angels’ loss of SP John Lackey, who moved on to the Boston Red Sox.

However, after all the re-shuffling and re-tooling, I still foresee the Angels rising to the top by season’s end. The loss of Lackey hurts, but the Angels still boast one of the deepest starting rotations in all of baseball with Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir, Joe Saunders, and Joel Pineiro. Free agent RP Fernando Rodney will be asked to strengthen the back end of the bullpen, giving the Angels another power arm to help get the ball to closer Brian Fuentes.

Their lineup will take on a new look with the loss of Figgins, but I think this group will hit enough to support the Angels starters. The middle of the order looks solid, featuring veterans Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Hideki Matsui to go along with rising star Kendry Morales. The only question is whether or not Erick Aybar and company will get on base enough in front of them.

While they aren’t perfect, I still see the Angels as the most well-rounded club in the AL West. Throw in Mike Scioscia, one of the best managers in the game, and I think they have enough to bring home another division crown.

AL Central – Chicago White Sox

The AL Central has been a toss-up over the last several years, with only the Royals not tasting any recent success. I’m going out on a limb a little bit in picking Ozzie Guillen’s club (and it hasn’t looked like a great pick so far), but I think they ultimately have what it takes to win the race in the Central.

I love the 1-2 combination of veteran lefty Mark Buehrle and right-hander Jake Peavy, who was acquired from the Padres last summer. A lot depends on Peavy staying healthy, but with those two anchoring the top of the rotation to go along with the steadily improving duo of John Danks and Gavin Floyd, the Sox have the starting pitching to succeed. The bullpen features several power arms including closer Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz, and rookie Sergio Santos, a converted minor-league infielder.

The White Sox have the potential for a very strong lineup as well. Carlos Quentin is healthy, newly-acquired 3B Mark Teahen adds some power from the left side, and Gordon Beckham is only scratching the surface of his talent. I think the wild card for the Sox offense is CF Alex Rios. He has immense talent, and if he can return to the All-Star form he showed in Toronto a couple years ago, he could take this offense to a different level.

If Joe Nathan is healthy for the Twins, they are most likely my pick. However, I think he will prove to be a big loss for them, so I’m taking the White Sox instead.

AL East – New York Yankees

It pains me to do it, but I’m taking the Yankees to repeat in the East in 2010. The reigning World Series champions decided not to stand pat this offseason, as they added key pieces in CF Curtis Granderson and SP Javier Vazquez. This team was already good, and their offseason moves just made them even better.

Their rotation should be outstanding, led by ace left-hander CC Sabathia. A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Vazquez are all coming off stellar campaigns as well. Young righty Phil Hughes rounds out the group, looking to build off a strong season coming out of the bullpen in ’09. If these guys stay healthy, they will win a ton of games. Any bullpen featuring Mariano Rivera at the back end is going to be strong, and if Joba Chamberlain can take hold of the 8th inning role, it will be even stronger.

We already know what the Yankees offense is capable of, featuring All-Stars up and down the order. I think Granderson will prove to be a big addition. He should hit quite a few homers at Yankee Stadium, and he has the speed to steal bases as well. We all know the names Jeter, A-Rod, Posada, and Teixiera, but I believe 2B Robinson Cano is in for a big year. He has always hit for a good average, but I think this year he will approach the 30-HR plateau.

I don’t see the Yankees running away with the division, as Boston and Tampa Bay will put up quite a fight. However, I think the Yankees have what it takes to repeat in the East.

Wild Card – Boston Red Sox

In what I see shaping up to be quite a race in the AL East, I see Boston coming up a little short and taking the Wild Card. The Red Sox, much like the Yankees, made several offseason changes. Their biggest addition was SP John Lackey. Lackey gives the Red Sox another No.1-type starter to complement Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.

Offensively, the Red Sox won’t have as much power as last season, as Jason Bay left to sign with the New York Mets. I still like their lineup quite a bit, especially when they can roll out a 1-2-3-4 of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, and Kevin Youkilis. If J.D. Drew and Adrian Beltre produce, this lineup could be lethal. If they don’t, look for the Red Sox to be in the Adrian Gonzalez sweepstakes come July.

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