Five teams…and I would be somewhat surprised if any of them won 90 games.  But odds are someone comes very close to doing so. 

Cleveland Indians:  By default, I choose the Indians.  They have some serious question marks in their rotation.  And they don’t exactly have a great defensive alignment, the scouts actually pose a rather serious question as to whether it is the correct one.

Offense:  Travis Hafner was once a great, great hitter.  For three consecutive seasons, Hafner posted OPS+’s that were not lower than 162.  That put Hafner, obviously, among the absolute best players in the game. 

But what can one expect from Hafner this season?  “Big Pronk” has done very little the past two years, and coming off an injury, and exiting his prime, rather than entering it…Is there any legitimate reason we should have for Hafner returning anywhere close to form? 

A one-dimensional player that may fare well enough in 2009, however, the contract for a club that doesn’t love to spend money, well, if they could move it, then they would do so.

Victor Martinez should get back on track upon returning from injury.  Martinez may not be a great catcher, but he actually has value outside of the batters box, unlike Hafner.  I expect good things out of Martinez this season, maybe not great things, but good.  Shoppach will handle some of the duties behind the plate as well, which will help Victor stay rested.

If Carlos Santana can make his way up to the big leagues this season, Victor could basically stay at first, and Shoppach could be moved for another piece, since they will need something, somewhere, eventually… 

Grady the Great should be in line to compete for an MVP award for the next, say, 6 seasons.  Sizemore has already been near-worthy in recent years, however, we have probably not seen the best from him yet.  I wonder if this is the year that he cracks the .400 OBP barrier, something I have been expecting him to do.

The offense as a whole should undoubtedly improve from last seasons OPS+ of 99.  With Peralta expected to improve some more, Hafner expected to play, and Victor Martinez taking time away from Garko at first, they should hit more.  Do not expect great things out of this unit, merely a solid offense.

Rotation:  Huge question marks here.  Cliff Lee will regress.  WILL regress.  Fausto Carmona should definitely be better, but how good will he be?  Everyone saw the great stuff that he flashed in 2007, but he has showed little since. 

After that is Pavano.  Carl Pavano.  If he stays healthy, he should be OK.  But what evidence do we have that says he will actually stay healthy?  Well, there is evidence, it just hurts his case, significantly I might add.

So, maybe the Indians have some serious unknowns in their rotation.  However, every team in this division has some serious unknowns.  They seem to have the fewest overall.

Minnesota Twins:  Joe Mauer.  If your health was a sure thing, I would have a little more faith in the Twins.  When arguably the best player in the AL is an uncertainty, for a team that needs help getting on base and scoring runs, well, it isn’t a good thing. 

Offense:  Other than Morneau and a banged up Mauer, where is it going to come from?  Crede might be ok.  Delmon Young might put it all together.  Carlos Gomez might get on base near the league-average.  Michael Cuddyer might be a decent corner outfielder. 

…The Twinkies may have trouble scoring some runs this year.

Rotation:  With the return of Francisco “Santana” Liriano, the team has some young promise in its “arms.”  Now, let us give Liriano some time to actually be a great pitcher before everyone pins the “Next Johan” label on him again.  But these pitchers are going to experience the same “growing pains” that most pitchers experience.  This team could be just a tad below .500, however, they could compete for the division title again, if things break right, again. 

The Twins surprised us all in 2008.  I just don’t see them to be a serious threat in 2009.  Not that they won’t stay competitive.  But 84 wins makes a lot more sense than 90.

Detroit Tigers:  Well, the days when the Tigers might score 1000 runs are gone (and were numbered to begin with).  And their pitching is still a pretty large question mark, like it was last season.

Offense:  Miguel Cabrera is a great hitter.  And he should be a serious
MVP candidate this season.  But Magglio is aging, still solid, but
aging.  Carlos Guillen is still a decent enough hitter.  But if he
DH’s, lets just say that he there might be an issue there if Guillen
continues to decline (issue as far as how good a DH he is).

The offense should be okay enough, but not like it was supposed to be last season.

Rotation:  If Verlander rebounds…

There are issues here once again. 
Talk to me when the team has some legit arms that we actually know what
to expect from.

The team lost offense, gained defense.  .500?  Somewhere around there,
I would guess.  Their pitchers have a better supporting cast, but the
pitchers themselves may struggle, again.

White Sox:  If the organization didn’t have a knack for “overachieving” then I might have them lower.  But until the bottom team proves that they are actually better, I must stick with the ChiSox. 

Offense:  The “loss” of Nick Swisher actually does hurt some, believe it or not.  Swisher was bound to regain his form.  He just isn’t a bad player.  And his BABIP was low, as Rob Neyer pointed out not so long ago. 

The White Sox could have four or five spots in the lineup that just can’t hit.  But if Konerko regroups, Dye continues to be a solid hitter, and Quentin stays great.  They could be an okay enough offense.  And by okay, I mean literally, mediocre.  The unit could be worse, too. 

Rotation:  Well, I hope that Contreras and Colon can be effective, because odds are, they cannot.  Bartolo Colon might give the team some decent innings, but how many innings will he give them?  70?  80?  50? 

Jose Contreras is more than likely finished as being anywhere near the top of a rotation.  But if the team thinks he has something left, then maybe he actually does.  I’ll believe it when I see it.   

Gavin Floyd probably isn’t as good as last season.  But Danks is the real deal.  And Buehrle should put up an ERA+ of 120 or so. 

The team could go .500, but I wouldn’t expect too much more out of them than that.

Kansas City Royals:  A sleeper, some say.  I am not sold.  Too many things could go wrong, or go the way they are supposed to.  And if things go the way they are “supposed to,” the Royals will have troubles. 

Offense:  If Alex Gordon and Billy Butler start to play well, they they have a shot at finishing higher.  Coco isn’t much of a hitter.  And very few players get on base enough on this team.  Scoring runs will be hard to do, most likely.

Rotation:  Zack Greinke is the real freaking deal.  But can he and Gil Meche carry this rotation by themselves?  The answer of course, is no. 

The 3-4-5 starters could be absolutely horrendous, unless Kyle Davies’ really is back on track. 

If everything breaks right, the Royals are going to be decent.  But everything usually doesn’t break right.  When Alex Gordon turns into George Brett and Butler slugs like Jim Rice (when he was good) then we can project the Royals to do a little better.

The division is up for grabs, but the teams aren’t exactly thrilling to pick.  The Indians should win, but a lot of that is due to the teams having so many issues.

NOTE:  I believe in PECOTA, but I do not sit there and look at it when I do my projections.  From where I am coming from, it takes some of the fun out of projecting when there is a very good base to start from, as PECOTA is.  I believe starting with PECOTA and going from there would prove to be more accurate, more often than not.  I simply feel that since I write for enjoyment, that this is more enjoyable.