And now for a much briefer take on the National League. (World Series pick at bottom.)
1. Phillies: This quasi-dynasty in the making had a peculiar offseason, effectively swapping proven postseason commodity Cliff Lee for Uber-Ace Roy Halladay. Very good rotation, strong lineup, postseason experience: I think you'd be a fool not to pencil Philly in to the postseason.
2. Braves: They have the most exciting young position player in baseball in Jason Heyward. The rotation is sneaky good. But they are rolling the dice with Takaski Saito and Billy Wagner at the back of the bullpen.
3. Mets: The sun will rise, the sun will set, Mets will get injured, and they will disappoint their fans, aka the fans of New York's other team.
4. Marlins: They have Hanley Ramirez going for them, which is nice. Although keep in mind that some years this front office really tries to win. But what a lousy team to root for as a consequence in all of those other years.
5. Nationals: I have Stephen Strasburg on my fantasy team just because at some point they are going to have to bring him up just to get people to go to games. This will be an improved team, but by how much, and will it matter?
1. Cardinals: Always good, rarely great (even when they won the World Series in 2005) but they have the best player in the game, a strong rotation, and a decent lineup. It is difficult to begrudge this team and their fans their success.
2. Cubs: Remember last year when they were a hot choice to win it all? That was then. Expectations are low, which might benefit this team. But I look at their lineup, their pitching staff, their bullpen, and I just see nothing that makes me think that the best thing about Wrigley this year won't yet again be Wrigley itself.
3. Brewers: Or maybe the Reds.
4. Reds: Or maybe the Brewers. Though I have to say, I love them stepping up for the moderate-risk, high-reward Aroldis Chapman signing.
5. Astros: Ever since they made their improbable run to the World Series a few years back it seems as if this team has just disappeared. I will root for Brad Mills, their first-year manager and Terry Francona's long-time right-hand man with the Sox. By the way: Is it me, or is the NL Central really freaking dull?
6. Pirates: It is nearly impossible for casual fans to have any reason to understand that this is one of the great franchises in baseball history. We need to find a way to get them in the same division as the Royals.
1. Rockies: Every year this is a competitive division, and it seems that every year someone different wins, and someone good fades. They have done a good job of developing an organization that produces players and they have built the team to their ballpark. The lineup is really disciplined too, drawing loads of walks and therefore seeing lots of pitches. It will pay off this year.
2. Dodgers*: The Dodgers seem to be in the running every year. This year won't be any difference. Manny is flying below the radar, the Broxton-Sherrill bullpen combo should shorten games, and they seem to be made up of solid if not spectacular guys up and down the lineup. That's not a key to a World Series championship, but it should keep Chavez Ravine open into October.
3. Diamondbacks: If they can just improve their OBP slightly this is a team that should score tons of runs. And if they can score lots of runs they can win lots of games, or at least keep fans entertained in the Valley of the Sun.
4. Giants: Largely because I don't see Tim Lincecum, with that frame, continuing to be an ace without dealing with some injuries. This is not, to say the least, a great hitting team. And without Lincecum it could get ugly. And yes, I am predicating my entire guess on the San Francisco season in 2010 on an injury that has shown no sign of coming.
5. Padres: Sure -- if the Pads are in the crapper in July it increases the odds that the Sox are in the Adrian Gonzalez sweepstakes. But it's not like I wish ill on them. I just suspect that illness is coming no matter what, and if I can provide a gentle nudge, well . . .
* Denotes Wild Card Winner
Phillies over Dodgers
Rockies over Cardinals
Phillies over Rockies
Red Sox over Phillies