American League 2012 Season Preview: Yankees Look Like Class Of AL East

SB Nation New York previews the American League in 2012. Follow this StoryStream for all the details

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MLB Season 2012 Preview: AL East Favorites, Sleepers And More

The 2012 MLB regular season begins Wednesday, as the St. Louis Cardinals visit the Miami Marlins at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN -- yeah, we don't care what Japan says, tonight is the start of the baseball season! Last week, SB Nation New York delivered its National League East preview, while today we're showcasing the whole American League.

For a complete rundown of each division, check out this AL Preview StoryStream. Meanwhile, here's a preview of the AL Central:


Related: Starting Pitching Will Be Key For Yankees

Favorite: New York Yankees

Despite not making a huge splashes during the offseason, almost everything for the Yankees worked out. New York added to its starting pitching rotation by trading for youngster Michael Pidena, signing veteran Hiroki Kuroda and lo and behold got Andy Pettitte to unretire.

Sure, captain Derek Jeter and third baseman Alex Rodriguez aren't the player what they used to be, but they both are still productive (despite their large costs) and fit well with new stars, second baseman Robinson Cano and first baseman Mark Teixeira.

And lets not forget that C.C. Sabathia (19 wins, 3.00 ERA in 2011) still anchors the starting rotation and closer Mariano Rivera (44 saves, 0.90 WHIP) is still in the bullpen.

In the mix: Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays

This division has reached the point, talent wise, that any team could win it. However, things will need to go right for each franchise.

For Boston, the hope is that new manager Bobby Valentine can create a new culture of winning (do they know they won 90-plus game last season?). How that winning culture is going to be implemented, well, that's the question -- obviously, it doesn't involve beer in the clubhouse. Red Sox faithful are hoping the new culture involves highly-paid player actually living up to their expectations -- (cough, couch) Carl Crawford.

The Red Sox pitching rotation does feature a solid 1-2-3 punch in: Jon Lester, the Opening Day starter, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz. After that, its hoping that Daniel Bard can easily transition from the bullpen to No. 5 starter, while No. 4 starter, Felix Doubront, is a star in the making.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is just going to do what they do best under manager Joe Maddon -- let the young guns prove their worth.

This season's young star could be outfielder Desmond Jennings, who's projected to be as good as Carl Crawford was. Add Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, B.J. Upton and newly acquired first baseman Carlos Pena (yeap, he's back!), the Rays will be playoff contenders again.

Their five-man pitching rotation will showcase: David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and rookie Matt Moore, which isn't too shabby either.

As for Toronto, well, a lot needs to go right for the 'Jays to make the postseason, but the pieces are there with outfield-slugger Jose Bautista leading the way. If the pitching staff, led by Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, can stay consistent and a few players have career years -- Edwin Encarnacion? Colby Rasmus? -- Toronto could make a run a the postseason.

Not a chance: Baltimore Orioles

The O's best player is Adam Jones and their starting rotation -- Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Zach Britton -- looks like a lineup found in one of the Major League movies. Yikes.

For a complete rundown of the American League, check out this SB Nation New York StoryStream.

World Series Predictions (via sbnation)


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MLB Season 2012 Preview: AL West Favorites, Sleepers And More

The 2012 MLB regular season begins Wednesday, as the St. Louis Cardinals visit the Miami Marlins at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN -- yeah, we don't care what Japan says, tonight is the start of the baseball season! Last week, SB Nation New York delivered its National League East preview, while today we're showcasing the whole American League.

For a complete rundown of each division, check out this AL Preview StoryStream. Meanwhile, here's a preview of the AL West:

Favorite: Anaheim Angels

It took one big, fat paycheck to make the Angels to become the favorite to win this division. The signing of first basemen Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract quickly made Anaheim a World Series contender, especially when you can add him to a lineup that features slugger Kendrys Morales and veterans Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells.

The Angles also have loaded pitching staff with aces Jered Weaver (2.41 ERA in '11), Dan Haren (1.02 WHIP), newly acquired C.J. Wilson (16 wins, 2.19 ERA) and the always entertaining Erivin Santanta.

Not to mention that the Angels have one of the best managers in baseball, Mike Sioscia, and its almost a lock that these guys are making the playoffs this season.

In the mix: Texas Rangers

After making a trip the World Series in two straight season, the Rangers will need a lot to happen to make it a three-peat.

First, Texas needs newly acquired Japanese pitcher, Yu Darvish, and youngest Neftali Felix to fill the shoes of last year's ace C.J. Wilson ((16 wins, 2.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP). Second, former MVP Josh Hamilton needs to shake off his off-the-field issues and, again, become a MVP candidate. Add bunch more answers to small questions, and then the Rangers could have a shot.

Sleeper: Seattle Mariners

There's no beating around the bush, the Mariners were bad last season. However, if the move of sending Michael Pineda to New York for future catching-slugger Jesus Montero works out right away, they have a shot. Its a slim one, but its a shot.

Not a chance: Oakland Athletics

Even if the signing of Manny Ramirez and Yoenis Cespedes workout, there's no way this team is winning a bunch of games with Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon as its 1-2 punch.

For a complete rundown of the American League, check out this SB Nation New York StoryStream.

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MLB Season 2012 Preview: AL Central Favorites, Sleepers And More

The 2012 MLB regular season begins Wednesday, as the St. Louis Cardinals visit the Miami Marlins at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN -- yeah, we don't care what Japan says, tonight is the start of the baseball season! Last week, SB Nation New York delivered its National League East preview, while today we're showcasing the whole American League.

For a complete rundown of each division, check out this AL Preview StoryStream. Meanwhile, here's a preview of the AL Central:

Favorite: Detroit Tigers

When you ink a slugger like first basemen Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract and added him with, maybe, the best hitter in the game, third basemen Miguel Cabrera, and last season's AL CY Young and MVP Award winner, pitcher Justin Verlander, your team should be considered the favorite to win your division.

On paper, the Tigers are stacked and ready to complete now with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Anaheim Angels, but what's going to get Detroit over-the-top is its young pitcher.

Verlander is going to be Verlander, however, from No 2-5 there are question marks like: Is Max Scherzer a real No. 2 starter? Can Rick Porcello have a bounce-back season? Can rookie pitcher Andrew Oliver figure things out in the minors and be ready for the big time by the playoffs?

The Tigers will make the playoffs, especially in this re-building division, but what they do after that is, well, a question mark.

Sleepers: Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox

In my other division previews, I featured an "in the hunt" category, however, I couldn't with the AL Central. That's because Detroit is the odds-on favorite to win this rebuilding division, and if somebody else wins it, then, it would shock the baseball world.

With that said, yes, the Royals are a sleeper to win the Central this season. According to Baseball America, Kansas City owns the rights to five of the top 19 best prospects in baseball, and two of them -- first basemen Eric Hosmer and third basemen Mike Moustakas -- debuted last season. Add that long-time, top-prospect Alex Gordon (.303, 23 home runs, 87 RBI in 2011) has finally come out of his shell, the Royals actually have something cooking.

However, the excitement for Kansas City fans ends there, as Bruce Chen (3.77 ERA, 1.30 WHIP in '11) is expected to be the No. 1 guy. That fact alone tells you the story on the Royals pitching staff.

As for the Twins, I like their chances. But a lot will need to go right for Minnesota to contend with Detroit.

First, catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau need to be 100-percent healthy, and that's asking for a lot. Currently, the Twins have a lot of expectations and dollar bills tied up into those two franchise players, who just have had a lot of bad luck in the past few seasons.

Second, young hurlers need to step-up. Carl Pavano has found new life in the Twin Cities, but Francisco Liriano, and Nick Blackburn haven't despite a lot of patience from the organization. The hope is, newly aquired Jason Marquis can bring some stability and veteran leadership to the staff, while closer Matt Capps and set-up man Glen Perkins can anchor the bullpen.

Meanwhile, the White Sox are the only other team having a shot at the division crown and even that is stretching things.

There's no doubt that Chicago has the talent, but a lot of that talent -- i.e. Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, Phil Humber -- is extremely inconsistent. And in baseball, inconsistency doesn't pay dividends over a 162-game season.

Not a chance: Cleveland Indians

For Cleveland to battle with Detroit, it will need for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to have a bounce-back year, catcher Carlos Santana to have a break-out year, shortstop Asdrubal Cabera to have a MVP-like year and pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to have a CY Young-like year.

Can it happen, well, yes. However, it more than likely will not.

For a complete rundown of the American League, check out this SB Nation New York StoryStream.

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