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American League


Preseason Picks

  • MVP: Alex Rodriguez, SS, Seattle
  • Rookie of the Year: Eric Chavez, 3B, Oakland
  • Cy Young: Pedro Martinez, Boston Red Sox
  • A.L. Champion: New York Yankees
  • Wild Card: Anaheim Angels

East

  1. New York Yankees
    It'll be tough to keep up the motivation to repeat last year's 114-win regular season, but it'll be even tougher for this team to win less than 100 games. They're loaded. Strengths: everything. Weaknesses: well, um, uh... sometimes the starting pitching is too good, causing the relievers to feel neglected and ignored. OK, no weaknesses.
  2. Baltimore Orioles
    Fiery additions Will Clark and Albert Belle will provide the offensive firepower in the middle of the lineup, but if things start to turn sour, they'd better be sitting at opposite sides of the dugout.
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
    It never helps to lose the best pitcher in baseball over the last two years (Roger Clemens), but newcomer David Wells will fit nicely into what is the best starting rotation outside of New York.
  4. Boston Red Sox
    Without Mo Vaughn in the lineup, shortstop and MVP runner-up Nomar Garciaparra had better get used to a healthy dose of breaking balls out of the strike zone. His ability to handle them and the added pressure of being the team leader will be pivotal.
  5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
    A healthy Jose Canseco will bring 40 homers to his home state, but the Devil Rays still have too many holes to come close to the .500 mark. They're on the right track in terms of bringing their young players along, but they're still a few (light) years away.

Central

  1. Cleveland
    In Omar Vizquel, Roberto Alomar, and Kenny Lofton, the Indians' defense up the middle is the best in the majors. They'll win the relatively weak Central Division without breaking a sweat, but they're still a top starter short of posing a serious threat to the Yankees.
  2. Detroit
    Pitcher Justin Thompson is a legitimate No. 1 starter and could win 17 games this season, but things get a little shaky after that. Still, Tony Clark and Bobby Higginson anchor a lineup that will have the team departing Tiger Stadium on a winning note.
  3. Kansas City
    Last year's top slugger Dean Palmer and top on-base threat Jose Offerman left via free agency, leaving behind a team that was uninspiring even with them. The White Sox and Twins will keep them out of the cellar, but the Royals will be worse than bad — they'll be boring.
  4. Chicago
    Frank Thomas will be back hitting above .300 and 2B Ray Durham will continue to impress on the bases and in the field, but the name of the game is pitching, and the White Sox have very little.
  5. Minnesota
    They could be one of the top teams in the league — the Pacific Coast League. In the majors, however, they'll lose 100 games.

West

  1. Seattle
    Shortstop Alex Rodriguez will make a strong push to be the first 50 homer-50 steal player in history. And then of course there's that Griffey guy. Despite all the offense, the key to the team is new closer Jose Mesa's ability to gain some early-season confidence and return to his 1996 form (39 saves).
  2. Anaheim
    The off-season signing of Mo Vaughn and the less talked-about acquisition of pitcher Tim Belcher is worth an additional 10 wins from last year's 85. They'll be in the division and/or wildcard hunt all year.
  3. Texas
    Their pitching rotation is solid, if unspectacular. However, the Rangers may live to regret their decision to dump the heart and leadership of Will Clark for the empty statistics of Rafael Palmeiro.
  4. Oakland
    Most people don't realize that the As finished with just two fewer wins than the Mariners last year. Rookie of the Year Ben Grieve and this year's leading candidate Eric Chavez will make 85 wins a very attainable goal.



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