MLB preseason rankings with new 10-team playoff format

Word has it that by sometime tomorrow, Major League Baseball will expand their playoff format from 8 to 10 teams by adding 1 wildcard to each league. The change comes with very little resistance as Bud Selig continues to make his impact as commissioner felt before he steps down, which is hopefully sooner rather than later. Issues that the league still needs to address in the short-term include: HGH and additional drug testing, expanded video instant replay, and eliminate the DH (I kid, I kid). The idea of more baseball should always be seen as a good thing, especially extra inning All-Star games. Given this pending change, here is a very early look at the preseason favorites heading into the 2012 season.

American League

  • East: New York Yankees (Improved rotation with Michael Pineda, Hiroki Kuroda and a maturing Ivan Nova, team goes as Curtis Granderson goes, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez may fade from the spotlight with emergence of younger talent)
  • Central: Detroit Tigers (Prince Fielder won’t let fans forget the absence of Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander to get MVP consideration again, Jim Leyland will continue to cement his legacy as one of the game’s greatest managers)
  • West: Texas Rangers (Strongest lineup top to bottom, World Series experience(s) should help, Josh Hamilton should have a career year)
  • Wildcard 1: Tampa Bay Rays (Most athletic team in baseball, Joe Maddon is a dark horse candidate for manager of the year, will the fans attend home playoff games?)
  • Wildcard 2: Boston Red Sox (Bobby Valentine will start slow but finish strong, underrated pitching staff, expect Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis to carry to the load)

National League

  • East: Atlanta Braves (Bullpen is lights out, lots of young bats if they stay healthy, win it for Larry “Chipper” Jones)
  • Central: Milwaukee Brewers (Above-average pitching staff, Ricky Weeks to have a bounce-back year, Ryan Braun will continue to mash but to showers of boos)
  • West: San Francisco Giants (Best starting staff in the league, aggressive on the base paths, killer P’s — Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Angel Pagan)
  • Wildcard 1: Arizona Diamondbacks (Small ball park with a scary offense, rotation will log lots of innings, Ian Kennedy to get serious Cy Young consideration)
  • Wildcard 2: Philadelphia Phillies (Full year of Hunter Pence will be scary, Cole Hamels to prove the doubters wrong, is Howard a health risk long-term?)

Very premature 2012 World Series prediction before Spring Training starts: Braves over Rays