I acknowledge the absurdity of previewing a division nearly 2 weeks into the season. No matter, you'll read it anyway. The real test of your loyalty will be when I get around to my NL West preview around Labor Day.
Cleveland Indians: 93-67 (AL Central Winner)
Joe Borowski has to be the best fella in the world. I mean, he must be the kind of guy who makes unsolicited air pressure checks on his teammates' tires, just to make sure their safe. The Lord knows there is no baseball-related justification for his strangle hold on a closer spot.
The Indians have as good a nucleus as anybody in baseball. Sizemore, Peralta, Hafner, and Martinez are All-Star caliber players in their prime. Sabathia and Carmona are as good a 1-2 punch as anybody has. To be a great team, they will need to add some decent complementary players. Another middle of the rotation starter and a solid hitter at one of the corners would go a long way to making this the team the best in baseball.
Detroit Tigers: 92-68 (Wild Card Winner)
I sensibly adjusted my forecast for the Tigers down from 96 to 92 wins because of their horrible start. However unlike many analysts I am careful not to go off the deep end based on a bad 11 game stretch. The sports media lives to jump all over an underachieving team with a high payroll. By rote they churn out a bunch of drivel about the team lacking the requisite spunkiness and the need for role players. In a sense, this team will be adding three to five All-Stars to their lineup shortly. Curtis Granderson will soon return. Miguel Cabrera will commence to mashing baseballs, because he is a baseball mashing cyborg, the likes of which rarely start to malfunction until well into their 30s. They will also be trading the stiffs currently embodying Ordonez, Sheffield, Rodriguez, and Renteria for the genuine articles. Their pitching staff remains a source of mild concern. Dontrelle Willis seems to have read Steve Avery's "How to Go from Dominant Southpaw to the Independent Leagues by Your Late Twenties". The Tigers pen looks weak, but bullpens are notoriously unpredictable. So who knows how the Tigers' relief situation will play itself.
Chicago White Sox: (79-83)
This is probably the least compelling team in baseball. They are awash with known commodities on the down sides of their careers. Too bad that there is probably juuuust enough juice in those old bones to prevent the ChiSox from being a bonafide laughing stock. I guess that's why God made 2009. Until then only the odd Ozzie Guillen meltdown will keep this in the news.
Kansas City Royals: (78-84)
For the first time since the Saberhagen era, the Royals might actually be building towards something. That something is likely a 3 year run of slightly above .500 baseball ('09-'11), but beggars can't be choosers. They have developed a nifty little pitching staff and Billy Butler will be destroying the ball for many years to come. Without a whole lot left on the farm or the money to get big time free agents (Meche and Guillen don't count) they will have a hard time becoming a true contender.
Minnesota Twins: (77-85)
Unless Francisco Liriano returns to 2006 form, this is going to be a tweener year for the Twins. While they continue to feature the best bullpen in the sport, they have too much youth in the outfield and the starting rotation. This squad is hard to predict as any, as I can easily envision scenarios in which they disappoint and win 70 games or shock the world and win 90. Bold prediction: The 2009 Twins go from worst to first like they did in 1991.