I was asked this week for my early (very early) regular season projections on the 2012 final standings.
Granted the most influential offseason moves are over and done with at this juncture (Pujols, Fielder, Reyes..etc.), spring training is still more than a week away!
Considering the Cuban dynamo of power-hitting outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Solar are still unsigned, not to mention, Roy Oswalt remaining another late addition that could potentially put a contender over the top, there’s still a bit of wiggle room for division foes to separate themselves before Opening Day.
But working with what we know right now, here are my predictions:
NL Central – Cincinnati
The Reds have quietly put together one of the strongest offseasons this winter—strong enough, in fact, to win the division. St. Louis is a close second, but will rely heavily on the healthy return of Adam Wainwright. Milwaukee is interesting, but less threatening with Braun’s 50-game suspension. As for our Cubs: .500 or above would be a step in the right direction.
NL East – Philadelphia *WC Atlanta
No question Miami had a terrific and financially historic offseason. The Fish won’t finish last, but they still lack enough pitching to top Holliday, Lee, Hamels & Papelbon. And had it not been for a historic September collapse, the Braves would be repeating as winners of the Wild Card.
NL West – San Fran
A healthy Buster Posey will go a long way towards helping the Giants regain the division crown. And simply put, there’s too much solid pitching by the bay for Arizona to repeat as division champs.
AL East – New York *WC Boston
The Yanks may not reach the 97 wins they did a year ago, but they’ll win enough games to repeat as division champions. The Red Sox are likely to compete for the top spot, although I’m not completely sold on Bobby V righting the ship in his first season in Bean Town–but a supremely talented roster makes the Wild Card very doable.
AL Central – Detroit
The arrival of Prince makes Mo-Town legit October contenders. That is, if Justin Verlander follows up his brilliant, but taxing, 2011 campaign with another Cy Young worthy season. If there’s an upset in the making it’s Minnesota, who should be far, far better than it’s 63-win season in 2011.
AL West – Anaheim
Josh Hamilton drama aside, the Rangers appear to be the team to beat on paper. But adding one of the game’s all-time great players in Albert Pujols gives Anaheim the edge, as it did for so long in St. Louis.
The voting is being held and tallied by Yankees blogger Kate Conroy. Her results will be posted on her blog LadyLovesPinstripes. Check it out.