Last but not least on the divisional prediction train is the American League East and National League East, the power divisions where you will find the past three World Series champs.

AL EAST
1. Yankees
2. Rays
3. Red Sox
4. Orioles
5. Blue Jays

There’s plenty of evidence of how accurate Baseball Prospectus projections are each year, which is why I was surprised to see them rank the Yankees in third place with 91 wins. I used to scoff at the experts predictions of the Yankees in first place after signing most bats in each offseason in recent years. Pitching always seem to be what they lacked. Well that changed prior to last season when they were able to land CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. Not surprisingly a world championship followed. And Brian Cashman did not rest on his laurels this winter as he went out and traded for a cornerstone center fielder Curtis Granderson and another stellar starter Javier Vazquez. This team has tons of pitching now, so I’m not sure what Baseball Prospectus sees to put them in third. There’s nowhere to go but down I guess? You could look at the increasing age of stars like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera and come to the conclusion that age has to catch up to them sooner or later, but these guys seem to improve with old age and have given no reason to assume 2010 is the year they suddenly fall off the mark. BP was also off on the Yankees record last year by eight wins, so I think that happens again the Bronx Bombers continue to dominate.

This division has some other teams too, and that’s the problem for Boston and Tampa Bay. There’s no question this division is loaded at the top, and quite possibly could hold the three best teams in the American League. Only two can make the playoffs though, and there’s the problem. So who else will get in? I like the Rays to do it in 2010. The Rays had the World Series hangover and stumbled to 84 wins and a third place finish. They upgraded in the offseason by added a closer in Rafael Soriano while not losing much to their core. They have the talent to stick with New York and Boston and are poised to make a run this year back to the postseason.

The Red Sox were busy this offseason bringing in starter John Lackey, CF Mike Cameron and 3B Adrian Beltre. Lackey is a solid pickup, but I’m concerned about the lost of Jason Bay to the Red Sox lineup. With David Ortiz another year older after already struggling through a slump last year, I’m not sure where the power of Bay’s 36 homers will come from. One thing this team has going for them is they are incredibly deep throughout the roster.

Then there’s Baltimore and Toronto rounding out the AL East. Baltimore will be an improved team and could actually surprise some teams this year, but playing in this division makes any major run into contention very difficult.

NL EAST
1. Phillies
2. Braves
3. Mets
4. Marlins
5. Nationals

The Phillies are in the midst of putting together a National League dynasty no one has seen since the ’42-’44 Cardinals when they rolled to three straight World Series appearances. If only the Phils would have held onto Cliff Lee to pair up with Roy Halladay, picking a champion would have been easy. I still do not understand that move at all, but despite my objections to their offseason move, the Phillies are still the cream of the crop in the NL East. It’s scary to imagine that Halladay could actually be a better pitcher in the National League. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if Hamels has a bounce back season, they could run away with the division. Halladay, Hamels and a loaded lineup is enough for me to crown them.

Jason Heyward fever has officially hit Georgia, hell all around the league. The Braves super prospect should make things fun for Bobby Cox’s “final” season as the Braves can definitely make things interesting in the NL East. Furthermore, if Tommy Hanson can avoid a sophomore slump and Heyward is as good as advertised, this team will give the Phils fits and compete for the wildcard all season.

It’s hard to break down the Mets 2009 season other than a complete lost season. The Metropolitans were decimated by injuries throughout the entire season and never found any momentum. This season has to go up for them, right? I mean, you can’t get much worse than the amount of lost games they had from their stars. I think a healthy Jose Reyes and Johan Santana and recently-signed slugger Jason Bay will do wonders for this team to a 10-15 plus game turnaround.

The Marlins will hover around .500 as they always do, but won’t have enough fire power to match talent with the Phillies or Braves. And then there’s Washington, who will be improved (which isn’t saying much from a 59-103 season) but are basically just counting down the days until Stephen Strasburg arrives in the show. As a Pirates fan, I know how that goes when the fans pay attention to the games in the farm club almost as much as the big league games.

That’s it for the division outlooks. We are just a short weekend away from the 2010 Opening Day!

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