MLB 2011 Predictions
Atlanta (Wild Card)
There is a case to be made for Atlanta winning this division, but the Phillies have proven they can overcome the type of adversity people are expecting, and the stamina and professionalism of their pitching staff will overcome a weaker offense. Atlanta, however, will win the wild card.
Milwaukee has finally put some starters alongside a great offense. I'm concerned about the bullpen, but this is a better team than won the 2008 Wild Card. I'm expecting sophomore slumps from Cincinnati's pitching staff. If everything on their own team happens like the Cubs hope it will, they will win this division as they did two years ago, but I'm guessing that won't happen until next year.
The Giants are developing a strong young offense to produce runs for a pitching staff that equals or surpasses the Phillies'. Given that, I can see them not just winning the division, but am picking them to return to the World Series as NL champions.
Even if Boston were to suffer the same level of injury horror they did last year, Crawford and Gonzalez will make up for it. This team will win the World Series. The Rays still have parts to plug in, which will keep them ahead of the aging but still dangerous Yankees.
Minnesota (Wild Card)
The White Sox have put together complete packages on both offense and at the plate, and represent Boston's biggest competition for the pennant. Minnesota is, as usual, stronger than people think. What pushes me into picking them for the Wild Card is that with the unbalanced schedule, improvements in Toronto and Baltimore will hold back Tampa Bay and potentially the Yankees.
Oakland is following the San Francisco blueprint, but isn't quite there yet. I'm not fully sold on Texas's pitching staff, but it got them by last year, and they can prop it up through trades.