One Beast of the East is getting long in the tooth.
A landslide may occur in the Central.
Hall of Fame presence changes the guard in the West.
In this first of two installments, here is what to expect as the American League season debuts Wednesday across the Pacific Ocean as the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics play a two-game set in Japan.
Start with the East Division. Even with its lofty payroll, figure the New York Yankees to see the effects of an aging ballclub. First-year manager Bobby Valentine has instilled a new attitude in Boston, while Tampa Bay gets it done with pitching year after year. Rays manager Joe Maddon does not do things by the book either, which keeps opposing teams on their feet.
While all three teams figure to be in the hunt, my sleeper pick happens to be the Toronto Blue Jays. Not necessarily as a division champ. That honor goes to Tampa Bay. Rather, the Blue Jays will make their move toward one of the two available wild-card berths.
Their ace, Ricky Romero, has Cy Young stuff. Their lineup is explosive. Not only are Jose Bautista and Adam Lind scheduled to bat 3-4 in the lineup, but third baseman Brett Lawrie is a rising star in the seventh hole.
In the Central, an eye injury to Detroit Tiger third baseman Miguel Cabrera is only a temporary setback. Otherwise, the Tigers' vaunted offense will produce mind-boggling numbers with the arrival of Prince Fielder. It doesn't hurt to have Justin Verlander as the ace of the staff after wrapping up both Cy Young and MVP honors last season.
Even if Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau return to form, the Twins will finish a distant second, while Cleveland, Chicago and Kansas City fight to stay out of the basement.
The absence of Grady Sizemore continues to plague the Indians. In the Windy City, Robin Ventura experiences the harsh reality of having no managerial experience. Perhaps Year 2 will pan out for the former White Sox star. For the Royals, injuries to catcher Salvador Perez and closer Joakim Soria take a toll on their youthful squad.
Detroit may have a prince, but in the West the Los Angeles Angels have the king. Not only did the Angels sign future Hall of Fame first baseman Albert Pujols in the offseason, but they also acquired C.J. Wilson - taking away one of the more stabilizing forces behind the Texas Rangers' run of two straight World Series appearances.
The Angels' rotation now consists of four potential aces in Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Dan Haren and Wilson. Texas will look to Japanese sensation Yu Darvish as their savior. Jury's still out on the extent of his contribution.
One thing for sure, Rangers won't be cellar-dwellers with the presence of Seattle and Oakland.
So look for Tampa Bay, Detroit and Los Angeles as division champs with Toronto as one wild-card winner. As for the Blue Jays' opponent in the winner-take-all first-round playoff game, take your pick between Boston and Texas.
Follow the leader for your A.L. pennant and go with Pujols appearing in the World Series for a second consecutive year.
Contact Kerry Patrick at email@example.com