5. Minnesota Twins:
The loss of Santana clearly hurts. The only thing that can save the Twins is if Liriano returns and dominates. Livan Hernandez, who's got to be like 50, is their #2 starter, after a mediocre year in the NL. I can see his ERA reaching the 7.00 marker with ease.
I do love the Twin's pen though. Neshek and Nathan are two of my favorite relievers in the game. However, Billy Smith cannot possibly hold onto Nathan all year.
4. Cleveland Indians:
I can hear you all laughing at the Indians being ranked fourth, but trust me on this one. If Joe Borowski posts an ERA under 5.00 this season, I'll be shocked. Whoever believes that a team with Joe Borowski as their closer can reach the playoffs in back-to-back years is crazy. Sure, Rafeal Betancourt, who was recently granted an extension, is talented enough to take over the closer's role if need be, but then Cleveland's middle relief would take a horrible blow.
As for the rotation, I'll give you that C.C. Sabathia is a great pitcher. I'll give you that Paul Byrd and Jake Westbrook are more-than-capable veterans. But, I will not give you that Fausto Carmona is anywhere near as good as he performed last season. If he proves me wrong, then he proves me wrong, but every time I think of him I see him blowing games a couple of years ago as the closer for the Tribe. Also, who knows how Paul Byrd will do after the HGH revelations he suffered through, or how Sabathia will do with his mind on his next contract.
3. Chicago White Sox:
They have a great back end of the pen in Jenks and Dotel. However, neither one of those two is a sure thing. While the back end of their rotation is very weak, Buehrle and Vazquez are two of the most reliable and consistent starters in the game. If Contreras returns to his old form, this team could have a solid pitching staff.
2. Detroit Tigers:
The Tigers weak pen is the only thing keeping them out of first in this category. I have serious doubts that Todd Jones holds onto the closer's role for more than a couple of months, if that. And if Fernando Rodney has to close for the Tigers, they're in serious trouble!
That being said, Detroit's rotation isn't dominant by any means. Who knows what they'll get from Willis, Rogers, Robertson, or even Bonderman (Who, I'll admit, I don't believe to be anything more than an overrated 4th starter). The only sure thing is Justin Verlander, who I'll admit I had my doubts about; however, I believe he is the AL's best regular season pitcher.
1. Kansas City Royals:
Now before you start calling me crazy, hear me out. The two teams considered to be the powerhouses of the league (Detroit and Cleveland), have Joe Borowski and Todd Jones as their closers. Whereas, although he's not as proven as Joe Nathan or Bobby Jenks, Joakim Soria is more youthful than Nathan; and, in my opinion, more talented than Jenks. Their acquisition of Yasuhiko Yabuta is perhaps the most underrated move of the entire offseason. Japanese relievers have had tremendous success (Okajima, Otsuka, ect.) in the States recently. Combine that with the fact that Yabuta will not take as much time to adjust as Okajima since Trey Hillman is an accomplished Japanese manager and I'm confident Yabuta will post an ERA well under 2.00 this season. Yabuta as well as recently signed, veteran lefty, Ron Mahay, as well as the other young, talented arms in the KC pen gives KC the best pen.
As for rotation, sure the Royals lack a true "ace" and are filled with unproven talent I believe they have the second deepest rotation from top to bottom. Leo Nunez, considering he is the #5 guy, is better than every fifth starter in that division other than Robertson. Also, I'm one of the few that thought Gil Meche was going to succeed last year (I thought he'd win 14-16 games), so I am optimistic that not only will he repeat, he'll do even better than last season!
I feel very sorry for Mauer and Morneau. The only way the Twins can come close to having an average offense is if Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young have monster seasons. I can see Gomez stealing a bunch of bases, but not much more this season. I don't trust Delmon Young as a person. He's no longer the center of attention like in Tampa. I can see him imploding because of the fact that Morneau and Mauer are going to steal his thunder. Of course he can combat that by having a monstrous year.
Question marks and potential. That's the theme of the Royals offense. The question marks include Jose Guillen who Dayton Moore over-spent on. If Guillen can have a good year, the Royals' offense won't be terrible.
There is a ton of potential in the likes of Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Mark Teahen, John Buck, Joey Gathright, and Alberto Callaspo. All of those players are capable of having an All-Star type year this year. Also, all of them are extremely capable of hitting under .250 and striking out 200 times, you never know.
The only real stars in this squad are Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, and Victor Martinez. Behind that, their probably won't be much production. Casey Blake and Jhonny Peralta will probably have average to slightly above average seasons. Other than that, there's pretty much nothing.
2. White Sox:
The additions of Nick Swisher and Orlando Cabrera make this a highly formidable lineup. They still have their potent old bats in Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, and Jermaine Dye, and now they have youth in the likes of Danny Richar, Josh Fields, Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, and Jerry Owens. Sox fans should be proud of Ken Williams for creating this potentially dominating mix.
What can I say? Just look at this for a second:
1. Curtis Granderson
2. Placido Polanco
3. Miguel Cabrera
4. Magglio Ordonez
5. Edgar Renteria
6. Carlos Guillen
7. Gary Sheffield
8. Pudge Rodriguez
9. Jaque JonesThat is better than some of the past few All-Star lineups. It's just indescribable, unstoppable, unfair, and unmatched. Imagine, Miguel Cabrera, out of Dolphin Stadium, now in Detroit, with Magglio Ordonez hitting behind him instead of Mike Jacobs. Is 73 HRs out of the question? I mean, he'll get at least 50 easily. This could be the greatest lineup of all time!
Now for the final prediction. Let me guess, you're expecting Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota, KC. If that's what you're expecting don't bother sitting down (although you're probably already sitting down since you're at a computer) cause you'll just stand up when you see this. Just know; honestly, this is NOT a joke.
1. Kansas City Royals; 89-73
2. Detroit Tigers; 89-73
3. White Sox; 84-78
4. Indians; 75-87
5. Twins; 67-95
That's right! Remember that you heard it here, at C-Goud's Ultimate Baseball, first! The KC Royals will win the AL Central in 2008. Notice the fact that Detroit and KC have the same record. I believe that the Tigers are strong enough to over-power the league... except for the Royals. Trey Hillman is a smart guy who wants to win. He'll use his strong bullpen to beat Tigers no matter how many arms he has to use. I can see the Royals beating Detroi 15 times this year!
Honestly, before the Cabrera/Willis deal I was much more confident about this than I am now. The Royals are a weak team offensively and filled with question marks elsewhere. However, I will not back down from this prediction, even if the Royals lose their first ten games this year! I just have a feeling that the KC Kiddies will use their youthfulness to shock the world! (Or it could just be a manner of my Greek pride getting the best of me.)
Awards Prediction:Division MVP: Yasuhiko Yabuta - Since I picked the Royals to win the division, I had to pick a Royal as the league MVP. Also, I do believe Yabuta will have the greatest effect on the outcome of the division. I can see him coming in and disposing of Cabrera, Maggs, and Renteria 1,2,3 several times in key games this year. Runner Up: Miguel Cabrera
Divisional CY-Young: Justin Verlander - With the offensive production he is going to get this year, he could lead the league in wins. Do I hear 23 wins anybody? Runner Up: Mark Buehrle (if Sabathia is traded)
Stay Tuned: Tommorow I will start the NL East RAPs!