With the 2010 Major League Baseball season now underway, it seems like every analyst, commentator and half-witted sports fan has released some sort of season predictions.
These predictions - or, as some may say, uneducated guesses - include everything from division by division breakdowns, the most valuable players, Cy Young Award winners and even World Series matchups.
Yet, after sifting through most of them, one thing becomes very clear: they're basically all the same. Can you say boring? For those of you who want a little more spice in your life or just want to see me make a fool of myself, here are three bold predictions for the upcoming year:
For starters, enough is enough with Albert Pujols. We all know that the eight-time All-Star and three-time National League MVP is good. OK, he's more than good; he's a baseball god walking amongst mere mortals, a definite MVP candidate every season.
He's not going to win it this season though. Not only will he not win NL MVP honors this season, but neither will Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley, David Wright, Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki or Ryan Howard. So who will? Remember this name: Justin Upton.
In his second big league season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Upton hit a .300 batting average with 26 home runs, 84 runs, 86 RBIs and 20 stolen bases on his way to an All-Star selection. If he can continue to improve and the D-backs can contend in the NL West, look for Upton to be in the MVP race at only 22 years old.
Now let's look at the Nation League Cy Young Award race. Philadelphia's ace, Roy Halladay is the obvious choice, right? Wrong. Despite the fact that the 2006 American League Cy Young Award winner was traded to the best team in the much-weaker National League, I have my eye on another right-handed hurler: Florida Marlins ace Josh Johnson.
The 6-foot, 7-inch Johnson who recently signed a four year, $39 million extension in the offseason, won 15 games while posting a 3.23 ERA a year ago. Don't be fooled by his rough opening day outing, where he went five innings and gave up a total of four runs on five hits. Johnson is the real deal; he throws in the upper 90's and is destined for a breakout year.
Now let's take a look at the always interesting American League East, where things get really crazy. Despite the different scenarios that could arise, I'm going to step out on a limb and say that the Tampa Bay Rays will make the playoffs. Not bold enough? Wait, there's more. The New York Yankees will miss the playoffs.
That's right, the defending World Series champions who made a number of big moves in the offseason, including trading for center fielder Curtis Granderson and pitcher Javier Vasquez, won't even get the chance to retain their title. Here's why:
First, the Boston Red Sox have a vastly superior pitching staff and a much better defense, in addition to center fielder Mike Cameron and third baseman Adrian Beltre. Say what you want about their offense, but who are we kidding? Come the July trade deadline, the Red Sox will have first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and that should be enough to guarantee them a playoff spot.
Then we have the Rays. It was only two years ago that Tampa Bay went to the World Series and, despite having serious bullpen issues, still won 84 games in 2009.
During the offseason the Rays addressed those issues by signing Rafael Soriano to solidify the closer's roll, adding him to a bullpen that is ready to return to its 2008 form. With a starting rotation staff that includes James Shields, Matt Garza, David Price and youngster Wade Davis, the Rays have more then enough to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox on the mound.
On the offensive side the Rays are also stacked. First basemen Carlos Peña led the AL in homeruns last season and leftfielder Carl Crawford hit .305 with 60 stolen bases. With a lineup that includes other standouts B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria (my pick to win the AL MVP), the Rays could have the Yankees on the outside looking in come October.
As for the World Series, the "sexy pick" has become the Colorado Rockies who along with the Phillies, Cardinals, Red Sox, Rays and yes, the Yankees have dominated the expert's predications list. The real question, however, is whether or not I will be bold enough to pick the Chicago Cubs as the 2010 World Series champions. The answer: No way.