2012 MLB Preview: American League

The 2011-2012 MLB offseason has been chalked full of exciting developments and headlines and loaded with twists and turns that has this writer counting down the days till players start reporting to spring training camp. With the Miami Marlins splashing around money down in South Beach to the Los Angeles Angels signing perhaps the greatest player to ever play the game to a 10 year deal, this upcoming season is highly anticipated. All this coming off one of the most enjoyable World Series for fans of baseball in general that can enjoy a good matchup of teams filled with unbelievable momentum changes and exhilarating back and forth action. This leads to the 2012 upcoming MLB season and the 5 intriguing questions for the American League and the intense anticipation of how these questions will be answered in the future:

#5) Is this the breakout year for the Kansas City Royals?
After the breakout seasons of Alex Gordon and Jeff Francouer and the emergence of rookie sensation Eric Hosmer can KC compete with the Detroit Tigers and others for the Central Division crown. The arrival of Jonathan Sanchez to go with Bruce Chen still puts the starting pitching is as their biggest question mark. However, the offense on paper looks to be able to compete and the bullpen is full of young power arms but is that enough? Prediction: Much improved team and overall record, but the lack of depth in starting pitching will be too much to overcome and a postseason berth will have to wait atleast another year.

#4) Will an American league team land Prince Fielder?
With Albert Pujols signed the biggest offensive free agent is still available and his name is Prince Fielder. He comes equipped with a monster bat and could turn any team into an instant contender threat. With Scott Boras leading the tour throughout MLB cities promoting his next gargantuan commission payday, this free agent is a huge target. Only 27, Prince has averaged 580 atbats over the past 3 years and has no DH need concern over the next few years. With a massive power bat and the ability to step into any offense and be an instant threat and make everyone around him better conludes that this free agent will be signed soon. Many teams are rumored to be interested and why wouldn’t they be, however the big money spenders including the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are locked in at first base. Could a team like the Seattle Mariners or Toronto Blue Jays score a big name free agent and become an instant contender? Prediction: Out of nowhere, fueled by the paranoia of Ryan Braun’s possible 50 game suspension, the Milwaukee Brewers jump into the Prince Fielder signing race and make an offer that even Scott Boras couldn’t refuse {6 years 165 M} that keeps Prince in Milwaukee for a few more years.

#3)Can Bobby Valentine help erase the horrific September collapse of the Boston Red Sox?
Between the September struggles and the reports of clubhouse drinking, the Red Sox needed some changes. Tito Francona and Theo Epstein move on to other jobs and in comes Bobby Valentine to pick up the pieces and put this very talented-high payroll team back into the playoffs. With an unbelievably quiet offseason in terms of free agent acquisitions and seemingly endless payrolls both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees seem to be watching other teams spend money and improve their clubs. The Red Sox still have an amazing starting lineup, but have now lost their closer in Jonathan Papelbon and still haven’t addressed their major problem from last season of not enough starting pitching depth. Still some names floating out there of Gio Gonzalez, Hiroki Kuroda, and others there is still time to address their obvious needs. Prediction: The Boston Red Sox pitching struggles continue, but their offense wins many games on their own and head into the playoffs as the AL East Champions. However pitching wins championships and out the Red Sox go out quickly in the playoffs and yet another disappointing year that demonstrates again that the manager is not the issue but overall pitching depth.

#2)What to come of the Yu Darvish experiment?
Finally, we now know the winner of the Yu Darvish bid war and that is the Texas Rangers with a major bid of $51.7 million. Feeling the sting of back to back world series losses the Rangers decided to make a serious move at bringing the Japanese star over to the Major Leagues. Yu Darvish became well known after a dominating World Baseball Classic in 2009 and has dominating Japanese hitters ever since. This is a young and very talented athlete that showcases a scary arsenal of 7 pitches and will be a one of the most highly anticipated debuts that this writer can remember. The Texas Rangers appear tired of World Series runs that result in losing their last game of the season and then their best starting pitcher wearing a new uniform the following year. After losing Cliff Lee two years ago and CJ Wilson this offseason, the Rangers are making a major play reminding everyone that they are still the team to beat in the American League. Prediction: A $51.7 million bid and a 5 year-$60 million contract brings this international sensation over to the Major Leagues and he does not disappoint.

#1)Will Albert Pujols bring championships to Los Angeles?
The Los Angeles Angels appear to be tired of watching their rivals, the Texas Rangers, go to the world series the past two years and go ahead and make one of the biggest free agent signings in MLB history. Albert Pujols may go down as the best player to ever play Major League Baseball and the Angels now have him for the next 10 years. It will be interesting to see how Albert does in the last few years of this enormous contract as he approaches age 40 and beyond, but for the next few years he instantly makes the Angels a favorite in the American League. The signing of CJ Wilson from their rivals to add to an excellent starting pitching staff along with young potential stars of Jordan Walden and Mark Trumbo to go with aging talents of Vernon Wells and Tori Hunter this team is going to be fun to watch. They also have someone named Kendry Morales that many people seem to forget and he, if healthy, is another serious talent on this team. Prediction: No Miami Heat choke here and the Los Angeles Angels win a championship right out of the gate in 2012 and have a great chance of 2-3 in the next 5 years!

Stay tuned for the National League side.

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