I’ve  been tossing around ideas of how I wanted to put together a proper preview to the 2010 season. But instead of doing an elaborate breakdown of each division in its own post, I’ve decided to take two divisions at once, list my predicted order of finish and talk about a couple of highlights in each division. Let’s start with out West with the NL West and AL West.

NL WEST
1. Dodgers
2. Rockies
3. Giants
4. Diamondbacks
5. Padres

The NL West is always a fun division to predict. It seems like it had a different winner every year until the past two years when the Dodgers have taken over. I think that trend will continue for the Dodgers third straight division title. The bums are loaded with talent especially with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier emerging as superstars in the league. Clayton Kershaw will take a step this year to become the team’s No. 1 ace that Joe Torre doesn’t think he has right now, and I see the Dodgers winning a tight race with the Rockies again.

The Rockies are close. I think their chances hinge on whether or not Jeff Francis can return from injury and be the front line starter Colorado needs him to be again. If Francis is healthy and exceeds expectations, the Rockies could definitely steal this division title.

The Giants will have the pitching to hang around with anyone thanks to the Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, but I’m not sure there’s enough power in the bats to help this team turn the corner. As for the Diamondbacks, I fell for their potential last year and won’t do it again this year especially with Brandon Webb’s setback in spring training. Padres? Ah, not this year…their offense could be putrid.

AL WEST
1. Rangers
2. Angels
3. Mariners
4. A’s

The Rangers made a four-game improvement in 2008 and then significantly improved their game by eight games in 2009. I believe they are ready to take the next step, win the AL West and get back to the postseason for the first time since 1999. The reasoning behind this pick is twofold—1) the Rangers are loaded with hitting and will score runs sometimes at will, plus they currently own probably the top minor league system in the game that is close to taking over especially with the pitching staff. 2) Second part is the Angels had some key losses none bigger than John Lackey. I think the Lackey loss will be tough for the Angels to replace. Don’t get me wrong though, I think this will be an extremely tight division with three teams pretty much in contention down the stretch.

I like what the Mariners did in the offseason, and they seem to be everyone’s trendy pick at the moment. When you boast studs like Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee at the top of the rotation, that will draw attention. If both guys are healthy, the M’s won’t go on many long losing streaks which is why they will remain in contention all year. You probably couldn’t ask for a better 1-2 punch in baseball this season. The problem for me is the rest of that rotation especially when Lee is going to start the year suspended and now on the DL, you have guys like Ian Snell, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Erik Bedard. Like I said, the rotation gets thin quick. If Bedard can get his head on straight and pitch like the guy they thought they were getting in the Adam Jones trade, this team will be a surprise team. They have been in talks with Jarrod Washburn, who had a sub-3.00 ERA last year with Seattle before being dealt to the Tigers on his way to a horrible second half. At this point, Seattle needs to sign Washburn to provide some depth to the staff.

I said it would be a three-team race and that’s because I struggle to see how the A’s are going to score runs this year. And I’m not feeling the Ben Sheets project working out too well for Billy Beane…that has the potential to be a horrible signing at $10 million for 2010. The A’s do have some talent coming up (Michael Taylor, Chris Carter) that could see some time this year, but it’s too early to expect big things from this team in 2010.

UPDATE: Actually Bedard is out until at least July with a shoulder injury, so consider the Mariners rotation even thinner than mentioned above. Look for them to get a deal done with Washburn prior to Opening Day next week.

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