22 March 2006

2006 American League

So, here it is... my 2006 AL Pre-Season Forecast. NL and individual Sox forecasts to come later tonight/ tomorrow. Check back soon. OK, Let 'er rip-

  2. y-BOSTON RED SOX_____________1
  3. TORONTO BLUE JAYS____________4
  4. BALTIMORE ORIOLES___________12
  5. TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS________18

Really sticking my neck out on this one, huh? For the who-knows-how-many-th year in a row, it seems to me that the Yankees will eke out another AL East title, just above the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles. Sure, the Devil Rays too.

Projecting New York and Boston over the course of the season is tough, because they seem to be completely different teams- Boston has undoubtedly the deeper pitching staff, better defense, a better bench, and likely better defense. They've gotten younger in some key areas, have a deeper farm system with minor leaguers higher up and ready to fill holes if necessary. They haven't taken a serious step back at any position, and appear to be a more cohesive club than last year's team.

But, in the aggregate, I don't think this makes them better suited to the long grind season than the New York Yankees. New York's rotation is a major, major, major weakness and, if the Red Sox do pass them, it's hard to doubt that this will be why. Randy Johnson had a step-back year in 2005, while Mussina is in his decline/ injury trouble phase, Carl Pavano appears to have settled into the "perpetually injured" phase of his career, and Spring Training watchers are likely to report back Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small curiously resembling pumpkins soon enough. (On a less analytical note, every time a Yankee fan trumpets Aaron Small for their cause, I can't help but laugh to myself. That's some funny shit.) And then there's Jaret Wright, who I sincerely hope stays healthy...

All this being considered, there are some things to remember- first, is Boston's pitching depth is solid, but also subject to wild aberration. There's simply no telling what Keith Foulke, Curt Schilling, Matt Clement, and David Wells will do following various injury/ surgery rebounds. Schilling and Clement look solid thus far on that concern, while Wells is just coming back, and Foulke talks like he's healthy, but has been getting routine injections in his knees (similar to the ones Randy Johnson gets). There is also a significant injury risk on the positional Sox roster- Trot Nicon can nearly always be counted on for a month at least off in injury this year (though the Red Sox accounted for this possibility well in acquiring Pena), and Mark Loretta is coming off a thumb injury that sapped all his 2005 power (though these injuries commonly never recur).

At the corners in the infield, the Red Sox have a three-man rotation of Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis and JT Snow. Youkilis, hopefully, can shine a bit in steady playing time- last year he was a monster at AAA, not just getting on base prodigiously, but hitting with power to all fields. A starting job at 1B will likely expose his defensive inadequacies, however, and may lead Terry Francona to start JT Snow- a player with little offensive firepower left in the tank- more than he should. This should be a concern for Boston. Moreover, Mike Lowell's 2005 campaign should worry Boston. Even discounting slow spring training starts, the Red Sox should be on the lookout for a decent 3B/ 1B option anywhere they can get it- Youkilis having the flexibility of moving to 3B if need be. Mike Lowell was the price to do business with Florida on the Josh Beckett acquisition.

Outside the casual injury concern (Posada/ Sheffield/ Giambi), and a somewhat weak DH position, New York simply has no offensive concerns. None. This is where they seem, to me, to have a "win" over the Red Sox in 162 games. Their offense will be punishing. With solid OBP players in Damon and Jeter getting on base in front of a succession of impressive power in Rodriguez/ Giambi/ Sheffield/ Matsui, the sportswriter's propensity to hyperbole is safeguarded in this sense. This team will be a pitcher's nightmare. The bottom third of the lineup, however, could be a slight issue- Posada is in a decline phase, and for catchers, those can often become sharp declines in advancing years. I'm predicting a bit of a regression on Cano due to his fattening offseason, inability to consistently walk at any level, and his weaknesses being more well known after a full season in the MLB. Bernie Williams, unfortunately for a Hall of Fame player, is a shadow of his former self. It was a pretty bad idea for New York to use their DH spot on Bernie when there where likely more attractive options available.

The respective bullpens seem a bit of a wash to me- Boston has a lot more depth, while New York is much thinner, but more dominant at the top end. Here's a look at how both bullpens (assuming a 12 man staff) will shake out:

____________BOSTON_____________________________NEW YORK
CL_______Keith Foulke________________________Mariano Rivera
RP_______Mike Timlin_________________________Kyle Farnsworth
RP_______Julian Tavarez______________________Octavio Dotel
RP_______Rudy Seanez_________________________Tanyon Sturtze
RP_______Lenny DiNardo_______________________Ron Villone
RP_______David Riske_________________________Mike Myers
RP_______Jonathan Papelbon___________________Aaron Small

A couple caveats- Dotel may start the season on the DL, as the Yankees for some reason signed him for only one season following major elbow surgery- he likely won't be available/ effective for nearly the whole season. In this effect, I'm assuming Scott Proctor will take him place. Additionally, there is a chance Jonathan Papelbon ends up in AAA in order to start games to strengthen his arm, in which case Manny Delcarmen would likely replace him.

Unlike last year, when the Red Sox were scrambling for warm bodies like Mike Remlinger, Chad Harville and Mike Stanton, the team now has a stable of young relievers able to be implimented should one or more pitchers prove ineffective or unhealty. Future closer Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Cla Meredith all are strong options to slide into the depth chart should a reliever go down. A lot of talk has been made that, should Foulke falter, Papelbon could step in as the closer- I think this is unlikely, and that the team would use the entirely capable Mike Timlin instead, and Papelbon would get longer relief stints where he'd be more effective and useful. Look out as well for Lenny DiNardo, taking over for Bronson Arroyo as the team's longman- after a great year in AAA, DiNardo came in and replicated his GB/FB ratio in limited MLB innings to a lot of success, which is a good sign. He could be a major asset.

New York, on the other hand, has Rivera and Farnsworth, and that's it. Farnsworth is a pitcher who can be equal parts dominating and atrocious- a far cry from the steady hand of offered by Tom Gordon when he was adequately rested. That said, Rivera is simply a dominating force, and his presence alone, matched with decent veterans like Villone should keep the Yankees leads safe. Expect Sturtze not to make it on the roster past June, though- and expect me to be really, really happy about it, because the guy's a total douchebag.

Ultimately, I think New York's offense will simply make their teetery rotation moot, and will just slip by a more well-rounded Red Sox team.

Of course, unlike in recent years for the AL East, a third team has emerged as a serious contender, and as with anything else, the new kid is getting pumped up a bit. I think Toronto took a serious step forward this season, improving themselves greatly. Their rotation of Halladay/ Burnett/ Chacin/ Towers/ Lilly is probably the division's best, if everyone stays healthy. Their offense upgraded at 1B/ 3B, and they finally got a legitimate closer in BJ Ryan, who is one of the five best in baseball. In fact, the whole bullpen is strong- Speier, Schoeneweiss, Frasor, Chulk and Walker are a solid core of versatile relievers. Nothing dominant- though Speier was, at times in 2005- but very, very dependable. The Blue Jays have a case as the best top-to-bottom staff in baseball.

They're counting on a few things- first, that Vernon Wells rebounds. He is their only remaining plus defender (having traded away Orlando Hudson and giving 3B from Koskie to Glaus), and if he can get halfway back to 2003 levels, they have their premium player. Likewise, they're counting on Glaus' continued health, Alexis Rios' development, and a decent DH platoon between Hillenbrand and Hinske. The signing of Molina was an odd one, as it represented largely a lateral move from Gregg Zaun.

I just don't see the Blue Jays scoring enough runs to make a serious run at Boston or New York in 2006. They'll be a tough series every time around, and they could make a run at first place late in the season with their pitching- but I don't see much of an improvement on offense, there's a huge regression in team defense, and an injury to Halladay/ Burnett/ Lilly (all of whom with injury histories) would basically cook them for the year.

Baltimore has a couple things going for them- an all world SS, a ritually underappreciated 3B, Daniel Cabrera and Rodrigo Lopez pitching under Leo Mazzone, and having 15 catchers on their roster. Always nice to have insurance, right? Other than these things, the Orioles are woefully inept in nearly every capacity, and at best average in spots. They have one of the worst hitters in baseball in Corey Patterson playing CF, now corner OF power, a thin bullpen, and a porous defense. Enjoy Camden Yards and your Yankee/ Red Sox montages, Orioles fans!

Were it not for the still notoriously thin pitching in Tampa, I would have slotted them ahead of Baltimore. Truth be told, I think, if a few things break right, 2007 will be the last year Tampa Bay stays in last place. They have such a huge infusion of incoming talent, it's remarkable- Delmon Young, BJ Upton. What needs to happen, and happen this season, is for Tampa Bay to trade Aubrey Huff for pitching, move Upton from SS to either 3B or a corner OF position, promote Delmon Young and play him in RF, yesterday. If Upton's defense demands he be an OF, then you trade Rocco Baldelli for even more pitching, play Crawford in CF with Upton and Young at the corners, and resign Julio Lugo to an extension. The Rays have a little pitching on the horizon in the minor leagues, but nothing knocking down the door- Jeff Niemann, Jason Hammel, Wade Davis. Chad Orvella showed a really good fastball in the majors last season, and Scott Kazmir is going to be a great pitcher once his control comes around (that Kazmir-for-Victor Zambrano still makes me laugh, in spite my fondness for the Mets). The Edwin Jackson acquisition from LA for Danys Baez was a strong step, and a great plan for a project- the Rays can survive a rebuilding year with a touch-and-go relief ace philosophy, if it means the chance to see if Jackson can make good on his initial promise.

  2. CHICAGO WHITE SOX___________2
  3. MINNESOTA TWINS_____________6
  4. DETROIT TIGERS_____________12
  5. KANSAS CITY ROYALS_________29

I've been pretty surprised, personally, at how certain everyone seems that Chicago will repeat as AL Central champs, without much competition. That counters two of my perceptions- one, that the Indians would be a popular pick, and two, that Chicago played way over their heads last season.

This isn't a knock against Chicago, who is certainly a very, very good team, that I think even got better this year. Their rotation is improved- Garland/ Buehrle/ Vazquez/ Contreras/ Garcia is outstanding, and big prospect Brandon McCarthy is right there to take a slot if an injury or trade pops up. This part of their roster is more or less beyond reproach- though I think Garland will come back to earth this season, as may Contreras.

Here's where my concern lay for Chicago- first, the bullpen. Let's look at the major 2005 players still with the team, and their respective ERAs.


Now, without delving too deeply into these players' histories, with the possible (but strained) exception of Jenks, this represents the very definition of pitchers playing above their heads. Moreover, they've replaced Damaso Marte (45.3 IP/ 3.77 ERA) and Luis Vizcaino (70 IP/ 3.73 ERA) with Matt Thornton (57 IP/ 5.21 ERA) and Sean Tracey, a 25 year old rookie. PECOTA projected every one of the aforementioned RPs to regress, some as much as doubling their ERAs. That won't help an offense that simply isn't that deep.

They have infield depth- by my count, nine on their active roster as of today. Konerko is obviously a very, very talented hitter, especially plying his trade in Comiskey II. The Thome trade was an interesting one- he's a perfect DH fit, but his recent history is pretty troubling. After back issues nagging him in 2003 and 04, Thome's on-field play was finally effected by it, pulling him out of the lineup and dragging his SLG numbers to a scary-low .362. Jim's 35 now, and if his back and other ailments are starting to catch up with him, his decline could be really rapid. That said- something in the 250/360/475 neighborhood out of a healthy DH would probably work fine for Chicago.

The rest of the infield starters- Uribe, Crede, and Iguchi all had years that in line with expectations- the former two being nearly all-defense players at well below league average hitting, and the latter being a decent defender and a plus hitter, especially considering his position. The lack of production on the left side of that infield is pretty troubling, especially comparing to their Cleveland counterparts. The outfield isn't much different- this isn't a team that is well rounded offensively, or that gets on base with much proficiency. Podsednik is fast becoming one of the more overrated baseball players alive- all speed- and they've filled the defensive prowess of Aaron Rowand with rookie Brian Anderson, who came off an 829 OPS season in AAA in 2005. He'll likely be similar to Rowand offensively, but a defensive downgrade. Jermaine Dye remains one of the only non-1B/ DH offensive threats. The White Sox survived on otherworldly pitching defense last year- this year, a dip in the quality of that pitching is going to cause some trouble for a team that is a mediocre offensive club (9th in the AL in RS in 2005).

The Indians, on the other hand, are far more well-rounded. At the top of their rotation are the dueling "aces" of CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee- the latter due for a big breakout, and the former looking to add on his stellar 2005. Lee can give a quality number 2 starter presence, with innings eating and decent groundball ratios. Replacing Kevin Millwood is Paul Byrd, who has a better chance at maintaining a level of performance than Millwood- who is prone to erratic performance. Westbrook and Jason Johnson both will keep the Indians offense in games- and also eat a ton of innings. It's worth noting that every SP in this rotation except Sabathia (196.2) worked 200+ innings in 2005. That's a very "hidden" bit of value.

It is worth mentioning that Cleveland's bullpen was also a bit of lightning in a bottle- but acknowledgment of the fickle nature of relief pitchers, GM Mark Shapiro has revamped the bullpen. Gone are Arthur Rhodes, David Riske and Bobby Howry. The Indians are using a slew of young arms to replace them- Fausto Carmona, Andrew Brown, Jason Davis. Additionally, the Indians picked up Guillermo Mota and re-signed Bob Wickman.

Offensively, the Indians have some seriously premium talent- Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta. These four players represent an unbelievable core of young players- three up the middle potential superstars (Sizemore, Peralta and Martinez), along with the middle-of-the-lineup thumper in Hafner. In addition, the Indians have a number of solid veterans holding down positions for some promising prospects; Ben Broussard will eventually give way to Ryan Garko, Aaron Boone to Andy Marte (sting). Their current weakness seems to be in corner OF- where they'll flank Sizemore with Jason DuBois/ Jason Michaels/ Casey Blake.

Michaels should do well in an increased role- a great OBP guy, he doesn't have a surfeit of power, but he can play defense and hit (guessing) in the 2 hole rather perfectly. DuBois is a decent option off the bench for a little power, and Blake is a pretty weak starting OF for a contender. They should be looking to upgrade somehow over him. Other than that, I don't see a huge hole in this team. They run the bases well, they have some great defensive players, a deep lineup with a solid bench (Phillips, Vazquez, DuBois, Shoppach, Eduardo Perez). Their pitching is well rounded, flexible and deep in SP. Of course, injuries or regressions from Sizemore and/ or Peralta could really stall them- but I guess I'm not predicting that, as it were. Also- keep an eye on Marte. I'm guessing that either a hot start for him in AAA or a really bad one for Boone will mean call-up time for him. I think the Indians are the best team in baseball.

Minnesota is an interesting case- a team that could easily make a little noise. They have the best pitcher in baseball (Johan Santana), the two best control pitchers in baseball (Radke/ Silva), the best pitching prospect in baseball (Francisco Liriano- if you don't count King Felix), and a damn good bullpen (Rincon, Nathan, Crain). There's a lot of reason to believe that Justin Morneau will have his 30 HR breakout, and that Joe Mauer will start to become a perennial MVP candidate soon, if not in full in 2006. Torii Hunter is still a great all around player- though there should really be some concerns about his ankle/ foot (I should know, I was at the game he hurt it in).

Other than that, however, there's not much here. Luis Castillo was a good pickup, but with his recent leg issues, his dependence on speed for leg hits, and playing on the turf- there should be some cause for concern there. Between Bartlett and Castro, there's not much going on at SS, and I don't think I need to go too deep into why signing Tony Batista to play at all at 3B was a pretty amazingly bad idea.

In the interest of keeping him healthy, the Twins would do well to use Rondell White primarily as a DH- maybe stick him in the OF on road grass days, but I'd keep his brittle self away from extended turf time, myself. If healthy, he's a nice power option for them. Shannon Stewart appears to be in serious decline, though and Lew Ford/ Jason Kubel round out the underwhelming OF corps.

What of Detroit- in an effort in the last few years to regain some relevance, they signed some big ticket FAs- Fernando Vina, Troy Percival, Magglio Ordonez, Ivan Rodriguez. Vina and Percival are effectively retired, Ordonez is getting paid a ton of money to try and avoid hurting his knee, and Rodriguez walked eleven times last year.

Nevermind Rodriguez- that walk rate screams aberration, and he's still a defensive savant behind the plate. But unfortunately, all that cash spent didn't lead directly to too many wins. Thankfully for the Tigers, Brandon Inge has turned into a very solid 3B, Placido Polanco is a great 2B, and Chris Shelton could also be another "solid" role player. Their young pitching- Bonderman and Verlander and even Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney- looks promising. Nothing much else to get worked up about- they're a pretty long way away from contention- but good young pitching is good young pitching. Hooray.

Kansas City is Kansas City. Their Greg Maddux of the future essentially quit baseball because he stopped liking it and the situation of the franchise, they've kept exactly zero impact players they've had come through their system while getting nearly nothing in return, and continually sign washed up veterans to take up roster spots and eat up incremental dollars that could be used to hold onto even better younger players (you know, instead of trading ALL of them).

David DeJesus (CF) looks like a possible star, and Affeldt, Burgos, Sisco and Wood all look like good, promising relievers (Affeldt is 26, lefty and throws 96- something's gonna click eventually). That's basically it. They actually spent money on bringing in Doug Mientkiewicz, Mark Grudzielanek, Scott Elarton and Joe Mays this offseason. Why? Maybe one or two of them- but all of them? That's burning cash. Unbelievably poor franchise. The front office there deserves last place.

  2. OAKLAND ATHLETICS__________3
  3. TEXAS RANGERS_____________10
  4. SEATTLE MARINERS__________16

Let me first say that I think John Lackey could very easily win the 2006 AL Cy Young. His peripherals keep improving, including his K rates, his K/BB rates, his GB/FB ratios. He's cut down on his HR allowed, opponents OPS. He's entering his prime seasons, and I really think this year could be a big breakout season for him.

So, couple his presence in the rotation with Bartolo Colon, who is beginning to establish a solid level of performance as a horse with nice strikeout numbers and solid run prevention. On a personal level, one of my favorite pitches in baseball is Bartolo's little two seamer that screams back over the edge of the plate inside to LHH. Unbelievable.

The rest of their rotation is interesting- replacing Paul Byrd (204.1/ 3.74) and Jarrod Washburn (177.3/ 3.20) with newly healthy Kelvim Escobar, and free agent signing Jeff Weaver. Weaver is simply not a great pitcher- a decent guy for innings at the back of the rotation, and maybe even likely to outperform what Washburn would have given you in 06, but nothing special. Escobar, however, is the nice new "addition." He'll be back in the rotation after surgery sidelined him in 2005 for most of the year, and while they'll miss his arm in the pen, 175+ innings out of him makes the Lackey/ Colon/ Escobar top three rather formidable. The Angels hope Ervin Santana, rounding out the rotation, can take a solid step forward this year after a solid 2005.

The Angel bullpen got better, on paper, adding JC Romero after years of having no discernable lefty option (and, it should be noted, not struggling too badly as a result- they simply pitched the best arms available). The Angels have two of the most valuable relievers in baseball with Francisco Rodriguez and Scot Shields, but one thing is to be stressed really highly- KRod's going to get injured this year. His motion, his declining velocity, his leaning on that slider- there's a lot to be worried about as an Angels fan there. Hopefully he can avoid it somehow, but while I was thinking the same thing late last season, BP more or less stated it in the 2006 book. Thankfully for Los Angeles, there's absolutely no reason Shields couldn't close out games, though it would be a serious waste of his ~100 IP a year rubber arm.

The Angel offense, on the other hand, is wildly overrated. They have one superstar (Guerrero), and a TON of overpaid, underproducing veterans, the leader of which is Darin Erstad. Erstad had a .371 SLG last year, and and added to that a .325 OBP. His only demonstrable skill is defense, and while the Angels did the smart thing in cutting bait on Steve Finley and moving him to CF, he is an epic offensive black hole- and they BAT HIM SECOND! Bengie Molina is gone, replaced in tandem by Jose Molina and Jeff Mathis, neither of which is a league average hitter. Adam Kennedy, Orlando Carbrera, Garrett Anderson (who, with age and injury, is going to hit the downslope pretty hard soon)- these are the very definition of "average" to below average offensive players- and not one of them is especially gifted as defenders.

The Angels hope is that one or two of Dallas McPherson, Kendry Morales and Casey Kotchman break out. It's not totally clear where Chone Figgins will fit in, but it would be smartest to fit him into LF, Garrett into DH, and to let McPherson, Morales and Kotchman dogfight it out for the 3B/ 1B slots. If a couple of these guys can catch fire, there may be some hope for the Angel offense. Otherwise- blech. Why they continue to hold on to the Kennedy/ Anderson types with the likes of Wood, Aybar, and Kendrick right on the cusp is beyond me. That said- when those players start breaking through, the Angels could begin to take dynastic shape. As soon as they clear the old, dead wood out and start banking on the youth they've patiently cultivated, they may have a really special, dominant core.

The A's are more well-rounded; the Zito/ Haren/ Harden/ Blanton/ Loaiza is damn solid, and for a mid-market team, having rotation depth like Joe Kennedy and Kirk Saarloos is a typical Beane-like masterstroke. The bullpen is thick as ever, countering the Angels' Shields/ Rodriguez tandem with Duchscherer/ Street. Even Juan Cruz began to come around for them- it seems like Oakland knows exactly when to swoop in on a player teams have given up on and use him to his strengths. Cruz was a great example of that last year. Kiki Calero is pretty much death on a RHH, too.

Their offense is punchy, but not overwhelming. The tendency would be to get carried away at the way they hover above league average at nearly every position- but there's a lot of potential for injury and regression there as well I think. Jason Kendall seems to be their only really deleterious part though, on paper.

Dan Johnson at 1B, with the great Mark Ellis at 2B, Bobby Crosby at SS and Eric Chavez at 3B. Chavez needs to hit more like 04 than 05, but being the best defensive 3B in baseball in the last 30 years doesn't hurt either. This compliments Crosby, who does nearly everything you could want a baseball player to do well. He's not outstanding yet- he seems a little green at times, still- but still quality. Ellis last year put up a 316/ 384/ 477 line in 122 games in 05, making him one of the small handful of best 2B in baseball. In his age 28 season, he's in his prime, so staying healthy could make for a breakout year.

Now, between DH/ 1B and the OF, the A's have Dan Johnson, Frank Thomas, Nick Swisher, Jay Payton, Milton Bradley, Bobby Kielty, Mark Kotsay, Charles Thomas and Matt Watson. That's nine players for five positions. My guess for how it shakes out:

DH- Frank Thomas
1B- Nick Swisher
RF- Bobby Kielty
CF- Mark Kotsay
LF- Milton Bradley

DH- Frank Thomas
1B- Dan Johnson
RF- Nick Swisher
CF- Mark Kotsay
LF- Milton Bradley

I could see Jay Payton getting some DH time against LHP if Thomas goes down, and maybe getting some ABs over Swisher against RHP. But other than that- he's a 4th OF again. No word on whether that will precipitate a huffy puffy foot stomping session again. They'll have a great bench though, which will also feature (unexplained) BSMemorial all-time fave Marco Scutaro. Which is nice. Look for Danny Haren to be near the top of AL SPs in VORP at the end of the season. Wouldn't be surprised to see Jay Payton dealt at some point as well to a team for a LHP/ prospect.

So here's the news- Texas still doesn't get it. Their starting rotation for 2006: Kevin Millwood/ Vicente Padilla... anyone? I'm looking at their roster, and I can't make out definitively a rotation, especially after Eaton went down nearly nano-seconds into Spring Training. Kameron Loe? Juan Dominguez? JOHN WASDIN?! Yikes. A staff like that at Ameriquest is like a match near gasoline.

That said, the Rangers have, in Michael Young and Mark Teixeira (especially Tex), two absolute superstarts. Teixeira could be holding a couple MVPs before all is said and done. They improved their OF offense by adding Wilkerson, and improved via addition by subtraction in dealing Soriano to promote Ian Kinsler. Blalock, after a down year, needs to improve his road performance lest he become a Dante Bichette type home-park masher and nothing more. I still think he can- and he'll need to improve against LHP or else he'll find himself platooning with Mark DeRosa.

The team gets offense, but does not get pitching. At all. You have to wonder if they even care about it. Trading (essentially) Chris Young for Adam Eaton was ridiculous even before the injury. The Adrian Gonzalez for Akinori Otsuka was not completely favorable either, even considering how Gonzalez was blocked.

They'll have a hot month or two and completely suck otherwise. They have Buck Showalter though, which I consider a good thing.

Seattle Mariners- for the first time in my life, I'll be watching them in between Red Sox innings on every fifth day. Not for Sexson, not for Beltre, not for Ichiro, and not for all the other boring Mariner parts floating out near Puget Sound. Nope.

King Felix. It's on, baby.


These are my generalized awards predictions, keeping it simple and vague. The ones picked are not expressed in order of preference or whatever- just alphabetically. These things are notoriously impossible to forecast. Keep in mind, too, they're predictions on WINNERS, not deserving candidates necessarily. I happen to think Jow Mauer could be one of the most valuable AL players in 06, but I think he has zero chance of recognition for it.


  1. Vladimir Guerrero OF, LAA

  2. Victor Martinez C, CLE

  3. Manny Ramirez LF, BOS

  4. Alex Rodriguez 3B, NYY

  5. Mark Teixeira 1B, TEX


  1. John Lackey, LAA
  2. CC Sabathia, CLE

  3. Johan Santana, MIN


  1. Brian Anderson OF, CHI

  2. Jonathan Papelbon P, BOS

  3. Justin Verlander P, DET


  1. Travis Hafner DH, CLE

  2. David Ortiz DH, BOS

  3. Mark Teixeira 1B, TEX


  1. Coco Crisp CF, BOS

  2. Derek Jeter SS, NYY

  3. Grady Sizemore CF, CLE


  1. Victor Martinez C, CLE

  2. Alex Rodriguez 3B, NYY

  3. Mark Teixeira 1B, TEX

EDIT: Almost immediately after posting this I began to regret not picking the A's in the West. I think it'd be a pig's trick to go back and change it, but let it be duly noted that I think I was a bonehead for picking against them.

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