Toronto Blue Jays (10-4): The Jays are in first place Puckheads! The Leafs might not have made the NHL playoffs, but Canadians have their baseball team to follow now. Roy Halladay has been his normal dominant self, but the rest of the pitching staff has performed beautifully. Offensively, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Marco Scutaro are outdoing any stats that anyone had them pegged for at this point.
New York Yankees (7-6): Everyone had the Yankees in first place from the outset of this season. they’re opening a new stadium, and spent close to half a billion dollars on free agents in the offseason. Those guys haven’t looked especially sharp and neither have the Bronx Bombers as a whole. Nick Swisher, in addition to being the team’s ERA leader, is dominating opposing pitchers and currently leading the Yankees in home runs and RBIs.
Baltimore Orioles (7-6): Who expected the Orioles to be above .500 even at this point? I did. Nick Markakis is flat out raking, and leads MLB in RBIs (16). Once Rich Hill comes back from the DL, and assuming Adam Eaton, Jeremy Guthrie and Mark Hendrickson can get on track, the O’s pitching staff could really turn some heads.
Boston Red Sox (6-6): Kevin Youkilis is second in the AL in batting average, and shows no signs of letting up. The team as a whole has underperformed thus far, but that will not continue for much longer, especially once Josh Beckett has served his 5-game suspension for throwing at Anaheim’s Bobby Abreu.
Tampa Bay Rays (5-8): Last year’s AL champs are in the AL East cellar, which they were no strangers to up until last season. This young club will climb out of the basement soon, and attempt to prove that 2008 was no fluke.
Kansas City Royals (7-5): Mark it down now, the Royals will be contenders this seasons.
I know, that sounds insane, but it will happen. The pitching staff is anchored by Gil Meche, who has been severely underrated for his entire career. Zack Greinke is currently 3-0, and has yet to allow a single run this season. Coco Crisp gives the team a legitimate base-stealing threat, and a genuine athlete to patrol center field. if catcher John Buck keeps up his hot hitting, the Royals will be extremely tough to beat.
Detroit Tigers (7-5) : The Tigers are done. They have a wealth of talent, namely Miguel Cabrera. However, they lack the stamina to put together a full season of good ball, and will drop off shortly, and stay dropped off.
Chicago White Sox (7-5): The Sox have the potential to win this division outright if several things happen; One, Mark Buehrle will need to put together a great season (I’m thinking 17-5ish, 3.30 ERA). Second, John Danks will need to be a decent option to follow Buerhle. An 11-6 campaign would be admirable. And finally, Carlos Quentin will need to prove that his 2008 performance was no fluke, and he’s off to a great start so far (6 homers, 11 RBIs).
Minnesota Twins (7-7): I kind of root for the Twins every season, simply because I was always a Kirby Puckett fan growing up. Even with Francisco Liriano healthy and Justin Morneau crushing the ball, this team has no shot of winning the divison.
Cleveland Indians (4-9): This might be one of the biggest shockers so far for me. I figured that the Indians, having competed last season, and signing a seemingly dominant closer on Kerry Wood, would completely dominate the competition so far. Grady Sizemore and Mark DeRosa have looked excellent thus far, but the rest of the Indian offense has been fairly flat. Reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee has looked merely “ok,” and will need to step it up like crazy if the Tribe want to win this division from KC or Chicago. Will they? My guess is absolutely.
Seattle Mariners (8-5): The case here? Great pitching staff and not much else. Felix Hernandez, should he stay healthy, is among the elite pitchers in the AL. Erik Bedard, Carlos Silva and Jarrod Washburn round out a pitching staff that could be one of the best in the AL if everything goes well.
Texas Rangers (5-7): Texas scores a slew of runs. The issue is that their pitching staff can’t keep the opposition from doing the same. Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Nelson Cruz are killing the ball though, and that could lead to a lot of W’s for the Rangers.
Oakland Athletics (5-7): We’ll see how things go for the A’s for the remainder of the season. Matt Holliday is expected to drastically pick up the offense, but hasn’t been explosive yet. The pitching staff is pieced together, and has no real dominant player. Truly, I would be shocked if this team did not finish in last place in this division, maybe even the AL.
Florida Marlins (11-1): The Marlins have looked incredible thus far, I’ll admit it. I’m told that their pitching staff is vastly underrated, but I refuse to buy into it. Josh Johnson and Matt Lindstrom could one day be great starting pitchers. Johnson might get there this season, none of the other hurlers will. Luck eventually runs out, and that will happen here. When will they begin their slide? My guess is just prior to the All-Star break, when these young guys will begin to wear down. Elsewhere, Hanley Ramirez is a dynamic player, and could very well be the NL MVP by the end of 2009.
Atlanta Braves (6-6):The Braves are one of the teams in the league that I’m very anxious to watch. Derrick Lowe made their pitching staff legit the moment that he signed. Javier Vasquez will also add a bunch of wins…if he’s the Javier Vasquez of 2007, not 2008. However, Chipper Jones is aging, and often injured, and is no longer the dynamo that he once was. My guess, the Braves will finish third in the division at the end of things this season.
New York Mets (6-6):Mets fans don’t fret. Not yet at least. Johan’s looked pretty good, so have most of the good position players (Carlos Delgado especially). Wait a few weeks and let John Maine and Ollie Perez shake off the rust. Mike Pelfrey has looked merely ok, but should turn things around. I’d expect the Mets to win this division if the pitching staff can get it togehter, which chronically has been their Achilles’ heel. Offensively, I truly expected Daniel Murphy to be the one to get his playing time cut by the Gary Sheffield deal. Instead, Murphy is proving he belongs in the big leagues, leading the team in runs scored, while batting .286.
Philadelphia Phillies (5-6):The defending champs are playing possum, trust me. This team is for real. Very little has changed since I saw them play last season, and they will be a true threat come playoff time, where they will likely win the wild card. The pitching staff has what it takes to hang with anyone, and the offense boasts Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, certainly three players that NO team wants to face.
Washington Nationals (1-10): The Nats are horrendous. Manny Acta has no business being in charge of a professional sorts franchise after what he pulled concerning Elijah Dukes (https://haastilesports.wordpress.com/2009/04/20/the-ridiculous-ity-has-reached-a-limit/).
Chicago Cubs (7-4): This is my pick to win the Central, if they can keep the Cardinals and Astros at bay. On paper, this is the strongest team in the Central, and a top club in the MLB overall. The offense is led by Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Theriot, and Derrick Lee. The pitching staff is completely stacked, boasting Rich Harden, Carlos Zambrano, 17-game winner (2008) Ryan Dempster, and the improving Ted Lilly. The bullpen is also strong, and completely capable of holding down a Cubs lead.
St. Louis Cardinals (8-5): A perennial contender, the Cards might not have it this year. Albert Pujols is always electric, and Ryan Lutwick is severely underrated, and an excellent player. Lutwick is currently top three in the NL in batting average, hitting over .400, and tied with Soriano for the NL lead in homers (5). If the pitching staff can hold it together, the Cards could be pretty dangerous down the stretch.
Cincinnati Reds (6-5): Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are a season or so away from being superstars. The Reds pitching staff is among the best on paper in the majors. However, they have a tendency to get mired down, and hitting slumps. If the Reds can get their pitchers on track, this team could be a whole lot of trouble for the other teams in the Central.
Pittsburgh Pirates (6-6): The Bucs are at .500! Stop the presses. No, forget it, that won’t stay the case for very long. Apologies to my buddy Tim, but this year ain’t their year. However, Nate McLouth is a special kind of player, and will be excellent trade bait quite soon.
Milwaukee Brewers (4-8): The Brew Crew have what it takes to be a real thorn in a teams’ side. However, they rarely do so. Sorry Milwaukee, this won’t be your year.
Houston Astros (4-8): This lingering in the basement will not continue for the ‘Stros.There is far too much talent (Berkman, Tejada, Bourn, Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence) here for them to remain mired in the muck. In fact, this team has a great shot of winning the Central…if they play well against Chicago and St. Louis.
Los Angeles Dodgers (10-3): The Dodgers have a real shot at not only winning this division, but of aking a deep run into the playoffs. Any team with Joe Torre at the helm is automatically credible. Add Manny Ramirez to the mix, and you’re in truly good shape. With the exception of Manny, the remiander of the teams has no superstar players. Just a ton of really good ones.
San Diego Padres (9-4): If Jake Peavy can win 20 games, this team will be in good shape. However, the Dodgers and Dbacks are going to make it real fight in this division. I always find this division to be a real firefight, and that won’t change this season.
Colorado Rockies (4-7): There’s a ton of talent on this squad, but I can’t see them coming anywhere near the top of this division this season. Maybe with another top flight starter, but not the staff that they currently have. Brad Hawpe is a true talent, and could put up excellent numbers for the remainder of the season.
Arizona Diamondbacks (4-8): This is a team with endless potential, but little drive. They are young, but not hungry. Brandon Webb (though he’s hurt), Dan Haren, and Jon Garland are as good a trio of hurlers s any team can boast. Offensively, Felipe Lopez is a jack-of-all-trades, and Mark Reynolds is going to be a huge power guy in the future. If he can get his batting average up, we’ll be talking about him for years to come.
San Francisco Giants (4-8): I won’t write off the Giants entirely, because they do have a pitching staff with limitless potential. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum could win 20-plus games, no problem. If Barry Zito can dial in his 12-to-6 curveball again, he’ll be practically unhittable. Randy Johnson adds a nearly 7-foot tall intimidation factor, and is still a very good pitcher, though no longer an ace. It will be certainly be interesting to see how things shape up by the bay.