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Every year, at about the middle of March, I break down the divisions in baseball and pick how I think they will finish. As always, I will start in the AL East and finish in the NL West.

1st Place: Boston Red Sox

Lineup:

CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2B Dustin Pedroia
DH David Ortiz
LF Manny Ramirez
3B Mike Lowell
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF J.D. Drew
C Jason Varitek
SS Julio Lugo

Rotation:

RHP Josh Beckett
RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka
RHP Tim Wakefield
LHP Jon Lester
RHP Bartolo Colon
SU: Hideki Okajima
CL: Jonathan Papelbon

DL: RHP Curt Schilling

The Boston Red Sox return practically the same exact team that cruised to an easy World Series title just five months ago. Their bullpen is second to none in all of baseball and their offense is always going to be among the leagues best. The lineup should be even better than last years' if they can get bounce back seasons from J.D. Drew and Manny Ramirez who both performed way below their career standards last season. Their starting pitching is very solid, but still has some question marks. They need their ace, Josh Beckett, healthy all season, and are counting on Curt Schilling coming back strong by June. I expect Matsuzaka to be even better his second time around this year with the Sox and possibly contend for the AL Cy Young award. Keep an eye out for top prospect Clay Buchholz and young lefty Jon Lester as they should strengthen an already deep starting rotation.

2nd Place: Toronto Blue Jays

Lineup:

SS David Eckstein
1B Lyle Overbay
RF Alex Rios
DH Frank Thomas
CF Vernon Wells
3B Scott Rolen
2B Aaron Hill
LF Adam Lind
C Gregg Zaun

Rotation:

RHP Roy Halladay
RHP A.J. Burnett
RHP Dustin McGowan
RHP Shaun Marcum
RHP Jesse Litsch
SU: Jeremy Accardo
CL: B.J. Ryan

If the Toronto Blue Jays can stay healthy all year (Scott Rolen, Roy Halladay, B.J. Ryan and A.J. Burnett especially) they should be right there with the Red Sox and Yankees all year long. They have so much talent, but their talent is very fragile. I think the Blue Jays will actually take the next step this year and finish in front of New York for the first time in over a decade. Their lineup is nicely balanced. I'm expecting a nice rebound from Vernon Wells and watch for Alex Rios to continue to develop as he has over the past 2 seasons. I wouldn't be surprised if both of those names were mentioned at the end of the year regarding AL MVP honors. Also If Adam Lind comes on to be anything like he's touted to be, the Blue Jays will have their outfield set for years to come. An overall healthy year in Toronto could easily put them into the postseason.

3rd Place: New York Yankees

Lineup:

LF Johnny Damon
SS Derek Jeter
RF Bobby Abreu
3B Alex Rodriguez
DH Hideki Matsui
2B Robinson Cano
C Jorge Posada
1B Jason Giambi
CF Melky Cabrera

Rotation:

RHP Chien-Ming Wang
LHP Andy Pettite
RHP Phillip Hughes
RHP Mike Mussina
RHP Ian Kennedy
SU: Joba Chamberlain
CL: Mariano Rivera

The New York Yankees are getting older and older each year. Outside of Chien-Ming Wang, I'd be surprised if the Yankees get 30 starts out of any starter this season. Mussina and Pettite seem to be on their last legs and 2008 could easily be the final season for both. Pettite had a nice season in '07 but will need to stay extremely tough mentally to succeed with the spotlight on him this summer in New York. The Yankees are hoping Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain will breakout this year and provide the team with much needed pitching depth. Like in Boston, the offense will score a lot of runs. I really like Robinson Cano, and Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter still form the best left sided infield (offensively) the game has ever seen, but I don't think the teams pitching is strong enough allow them to win the division or even compete for a wild card birth.

4th Place: Tampa Bay Rays

Lineup:

2B Akinori Iwamura
LF Carl Crawford
CF B.J. Upton
1B Carlos Pena
3B Evan Longoria
RF Jonny Gomes
DH Cliff Floyd
C Dioner Navarro
SS Jason Bartlett

DL: CF Rocco Baldelli

Rotation:

LHP Scott Kazmir
LHP James Shields
RHP Matt Garza
RHP Andy Sonnanstine
RHP Edwin Jackson
SU: Al Reyes
CL: Troy Percival

The Tampa Bay Rays are always an intriguing team at the start of the season just because of all the potential they have. That lineup consists of 4 guys who could easily be all-stars and it seems like just about every year they pump out a new young star. B.J. Upton broke onto the scene last year and it looks like it will be Evan Longoria's turn this year. Their top player, Carl Crawford, is still looking to have that one breakout season that showcases him as one of the best all-around players in the game. He's realized his speed potential and is one of the better contact hitters in the game, but he has the power to hit 30 home runs a year and hasn't hit more than 18 yet. I like the top of the Rays' rotation a lot with Kazmir, Shields and Garza, but the bottom half needs to contribute something or else it will be another long year in Tampa. Their bullpen is their weak spot this year. It's tough to build a successful bullpen around when you have 39-year old Troy Percival and 38-year old Al Reyes leading the way.

5th Place: Baltimore Orioles

Lineup:

2B Brian Roberts
3B Melvin Mora
RF Nick Markakis
DH Kevin Millar
1B Aubrey Huff
C Ramon Hernandez
CF Adam Jones
LF Luke Scott
SS Luis Hernandez

Rotation:

RHP Jeremy Guthrie
RHP Daniel Cabrera
LHP Adam Loewen
RHP Steve Trachsel
LHP Brian Burris
SU: Jamie Walker
CL: George Sherrill

One again, the Baltimore Orioles have very low expectations, but unlike the Rays, they don't have a lot of young talent that fans can look forward to watching. In all liklyhood, their best player, Brian Roberts, will be dealt by opening day, so their lineup should even be weaker by the time the season starts. Center fielder Adam Jones, obtained in the Erik Bedard trade, should be one guy to keep an eye on. Nick Markakis is also becoming a decent right fielder. The starting pitching is in shambles though after the Bedard trade. I like Guthrie is a very solid number 3, but in the weak Oriole rotatnion, he'll be asked to be a number 1. That alone tells you how thin they are in the rotation. The bullpen isn't much better. George Sherril should be a solid presence for the ninth inning and Jamie Walker isn't bad setting him up, but then things get very unstable.

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