Continuing with the staff's pre-season predictions, here are mine.
AL East: New York Yankees. The American League's best regular season team improved it's pitching with the acquisitions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda while also bringing Andy Pettitte back into the fold. The bullpen is loaded, the bench has great depth, and the lineup had the second highest wRC+ in all of baseball last season at 113. Can this team be stopped in 2012? Well, Kentucky won the NCAA Men's Basketball title, so you already know the answer to that question.
AL Central: Detroit Tigers. This is an easy decision, and unless a massive amount of injuries occur, this should be another cake walk for the Tigers. Will another N.L. Central team top .500?
AL West: Texas Rangers. I wasn't sure where to go with this one, because the Angels probably added ten wins with the additions of C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols. However, the Rangers' lineup is loaded and their pitching is very good. Hopefully for the Rangers, Japanese import Yu Darvish will be able to mitigate the loss of staff ace C.J. Wilson.
AL Wild Card #1: Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim. As stated above, the Angels added two impact players, and will also get some young blood in the form of Mike Trout sometime soon. The rotation is loaded with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Wilson, and the offense should receive a boost from Pujols and a finally healthy Kendrys Morales.
AL Wild Card #2: Tampa Bay Rays. No Red Sox for the third straight year. Tampa's pitching, which was great last year, now gets a full season from super-prospect Matt Moore. They also brought Carlos Pena back into the fold, and Evan Longoria should bounce back from a down year at the plate.
NL East: Atlanta Braves. There are a lot of question marks for the Braves, and a third of their lineup is about my age, but there are a lot of things to like about this club. The rotation is great and the bullpen is loaded, but the lineup is suspect at this point. They will need bounce-back seasons from Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla, but I think that is very much within the realm of possibility.
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers. They lost Prince FIelder, but Ryan Braun isn't suspended for 50 games and they also signed Aramis Ramirez to help replace the lost production. If Rickie Weeks can stay healthy, they have another very good offensive threat. The rotation is headlined by Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo, while the bullpen features John Axford, one of the best closers in the game.
NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks. In addition to Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson, the Diamondbacks added Trevor Cahill to the fix to form an exciting trio for the future of the organization, while closer JJ Putz headlines the bullpen. They also have top pick Trevor Bauer waiting in the wings at Double-A. On the offensive side, they added Jason Kubel to go along with Justin Upton and Chris Young to form one of the best outfields in the game. Paul Goldschmidt will take over at first base, Aaron Hill responded very well to his change of scenery, and Miguel Montero is a great all around catcher. This could be a very good team in 2012.
NL Wild Card #1: Philadelphia Phillies. The rotation is still great, but who will hit for this team? Ryan Howard is out for a long time and no one knows when Chase Utley will return. Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino will need to be just as good as they were in 2011 to keep the Phillies afloat in a revamped NL East.
NL Wild Card #2: Cincinnati Reds. They have a very good 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation in Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto, and feature a strong core in Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, and Brandon Phillips. God bless them if they allow Bronson arroyo to throw 200 innings again, though. I thought about the Cardinals, but the loss of Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright not having pitched in a year, and the questionable return of Chris Carpenter keep them out.
Playoffs: Let the road to revenge begin.
ALDS: Yankees over Rays; Rangers over Tigers.
NLDS: Phillies over Brewers; Diamondbacks over Braves.
ALCS: Yankees over Rangers.
NLCS: Diamondbacks over Phillies.
World Series: Yankees over Diamondbacks.
AL/NL MVP: Robinson Cano, Joey Votto.
AL/NL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw.
AL/NL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Fredi Gonzalez.
AL/NL Rookie of the Year: Matt Moore, Zack Cozart
Most Wins/Losses at the End of the Season: Yankees/Astros
AL Disappointment: Boston Red Sox - three straight seasons without making the playoffs.
NL Disappointment: St. Louis Cardinals - last year's World Series champs miss out on postseason play.
Yankees Surprise Player: Brett Gardner - I'm predicting a .285/.385/.390 line with his usual elite defense and baserunning, which would add up to an elite year. His home runs have been trending upwards (3, 5, 7 in the last three seasons), could he crack double digits?
Yankees Disappointing Player: David Robertson - Hard to top last season's 410 ERA+ (Wow, D-Rob was unbelievably good in 2011).