The NFL season is done, for now and maybe for a bit longer, and the baseball season is upon is in just a few days. The big free agent signings and trades of the offseason are all but finished, and mlbdepthcharts.com is a great place to look at expected lineups, benches, and rotations if you want to participate in the comment section.
Here are a few words on my personal predictions, which are sure to be at least a bit off, but there is some rational thinking behind the picks. I'll start with the AL.
AL EAST: Boston. I actually don't think this team is as dominant as most are expecting. While adding Gonzalez they lost Beltre, and Beltre was a huge part of their defense and run production last year. While Gonzalez should get a boost from Fenway, I don't think he'll be as productive as Beltre was last year. Even so, with Crawford and the bullpen acquisitions, this team has set itself up as the best team in the tough A.L. East.
AL CENTRAL: Chicago: The Chi Sox didn't do too much in the offseason, but their pick-up of Adam Dunn should do wonders for the offense, along with expected improvements from Gordon Beckham and at third base with their No. 2 prospect Brent Morel. Chris Sale should make some type of impact this season, and they have a sturdy rotation. This was probably the toughest decision, but I think the Sox can get it done. Detroit and Minnesota are both very reasonable picks as well.
AL WEST: Oakland: The Rangers haven't gone down as many assume. If Feliz is used as a starter, which seems possible although a tad unlikely, they should have just as formidable of a rotation (they only had Lee for some of last year) and Beltre is a big addition offensively and defensively over Michael Young. Even so, I'm sipping the A's Koolaid. They have some power with Willingham and Matsui (old, but 21 HR in '10) as well as tremendous defense and some decent OBP guys. They'll need the rotation to be just as stellar as last year, and Trevor Cahill be more good than lucky unlike last year, but an underrated bullpen, solid rotation, and great defense should give them a serious chance this season.
AL WILDCARD: Tampa Bay: The Rays are going to be a different team in '10, but not necessarily a worse team. Damon will need to improve and Manny will have to show more power, but Ben Zobrist should be able to up his ISO this season. I love the young arms and the defense more than anything involved with this team, and they have some very nice pieces in reserve roles that could end up playing a big part later in the year. The bullpen took a big hit, but they are relying on young arms to do the dirty work, and it is not unfathomable to expect a decent year from Kyle Farnsworth.
NL EAST: Philadelphia: The Phillies are definitely the most talented team in the NL, but they are full of older players in the rotation and in the lineup. The injuries last year were not exactly fluke injuries, so a few bad breaks could keep them with the rest of the pack or even worse. With that said, going into the season it is tough to say the odds aren't in their favor.
NL CENTRAL: St. Louis: The Cardinals have a lineup with a few top notch bats but not much depth. The rotation is definitely impressive, and the bullpen is not terrific nor terrible. The division is not all that competitive, and I haven't been sold on the Reds despite their nice '10. I would project the Cardinals to have the worst record of any of the four playoff teams.
NL WEST: Rockies: Not much to dislike about them. The Giants will be the only legitimate competition, with the bottom three teams all having at least a chance to stick around, but the Rockies are the more talented team. Although their rotation is far from the same quality as San Francisco, the lineup has a lot more potential and they have some depth in case of injury.
NL WILDCARD: Atlanta: The Braves biggest losses were Wagner, Saito, and Infante, but with the bullpen depth they have developed and the fact that Infante was simply a super-substitue, the Braves should not be too hurt by any losses. The Dan Uggla acquisition is huge for the offense, but should not help an already bad defense. Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson are near locks for a quality season, barring injury, but there are at least a few questions about the rest of the rotation. They have the depth to compete even with injuries, and are probably the second best team in the National League entering the season.
That's my take, what's yours?