With the Major League Baseball season beginning on Sunday with the Astros hosting the Rangers in their first American Laegue game...I am going to throw out my AL Central pickst today and the AL East on Thursday during my "Baseball with Bob" segment.
1. Detroit Tigers - To me this is the most obvious pick in baseball. The Tigers are clearly the best team in the division. The returning AL Champs are strengthened by the return of Victor Martinez from injury. He will give protection behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Quality starting pitching led by Justin Verlander. Biggest question is the closer, as the Tigers let Jose Valverde go. They are hoping that Bruce Rondon will make the jump from AA. If he can, they should coast home.
2. Chicago White Sox - They are closer to third than to first. A couple of aging power hitters - Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko - are in the middle of the order. Alex Rios had a big year coming over from Toronto last year and should duplicate it (.304, 25 HR, 91 RBI). Addison Reed is in his second year as the closer and looks like a strength.
3. Kansas City Royals - We'll see whether winning in spring training can carry over. The Royals have the best record in both the cactus and grapefruit circuits. They acquired starting pitcher James Shields from Tampa Bay for some top prospects. They also added Ervan Santana as a high priced (for them) free agent. Billy Butler is the big bat in the middle of the order. Last year experts were touting a breakout year for KC. Maybe they were a year early.
4. Cleveland Indians - New manager Terry Francona has a lot less in place taking over the Tribe than he did in Boston. Nick Swisher (from the Yankees) and Mark Reynolds (from the Orioles) were signed as free agents to try and give them some offense. Lucky the Twins are in the central, otherwise they have the making of a last place team.
5. Minnesota Twins - Joe Mauer remains the top player. The Twins want him to catch less. Justin Morneau has been the one-two punch with Mauer, but a thumb injury hurt his second half. If the Twins fall out of the race early, they could trade Morneau, who is in his last year of a contract, for prospects. Starting pitching looks weak, going to the scrap heap to pick up Kevin Correia from Pittsburgh and Mike Pelfrey from the Mets as free agents. The Twins have had a long run as contenders, but those days appear to be over.