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Yesterday, Umpbump posted our predictions for the 2009 season. Some of these picks were easier than others – for instance, all five of us chose the Cubs as NL Central champs, and four of us picked the A’s and Dodgers to win their respective divisions. A slim three-person majority also favored the Mets to win the NL East and the Indians to take the AL Central.

But some of these picks were downright tricky. The AL East appears to be a total toss-up between the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees, and our picks reflect that (2 chose Boston, 2 Tampa Bay, and 1 New York).

Similarly, it was hard to choose an AL Rookie of the Year because at least three candidates – David Price, Matt Wieters, and Travis Snider – all have a legitimate shot at vying for it. Should these three fail to live up to expectations, Elvis Andrus and Austin Jackson are waiting in the wings to claim their hardware. Then there’s always the chance that one of the AL’s younger, high-ceiling prospects – Neftali Feliz? – could force himself onto the big-league club sooner than expected and surprise us all.

But it was hard to pick the NL Rookie for the opposite reason: none of the NL’s most exciting talents are big-league ready. Atlanta’s Jayson Heyward is only 19, and topped out at high-A last year. The Giants’ Madison Bumgardner isn’t slated to make it to the bigs until 2010 at the soonest. And the Mets’ Fernando Martinez has already been rushed, and New York won’t want to hurry him further. So who will it be? In the end, four of us settled for Cameron Maybin, who seemed to figure things out a bit last September, while the fifth chose Colby Rasmus, another valid choice. Beyond that, Jordan Schafer’s torrid spring won him Atlanta’s starting CF gig, while Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen has been returned to Triple A – but probably not for long. But by far the most fun rumor is that the Nats would draft Stephen Strasburg and immediately bring the college pitcher to the majors. According to BP’s Kevin Goldstein, “every scout thinks he’d be fine.”

So, while our AL ROY picks came down to politicking – who’ll get more votes for being on a contender, who’ll get penalized for being a pitcher, who’ll get more support for starting the season with the big-league club – the NL picks all come down to who steps up and does the best job. And when it comes to preseason predictions, there’s nothing more boring than “well, it depends…”

Who did we miss, Umpbumpers? What rookies and prospects are you most excited about? What are your picks? Let us know in the comments!

6 Responses to “The Toughest Pre-Season Predictions”

  1. James McDonald could be the darkhorse for NL ROY. It looks like he’ll be the Dodger’s 5th starter and he has some nasty stuff.

  2. Sarah Green says:

    Hmm, in his case, maybe the penalty the voters seem to levy against pitchers will be balanced out by the bonus they grant to players on contending teams!

    After reading Goldstein’s article, I sort of wish I had gone with Travis Snider as my AL ROY pick. It seems like the Rays may be too careful with Price to let him accrue enough wins, innings, and strikeouts to really impress the voters. Goldstein really savaged Tampa for sending Price down.

  3. I think you’re right. I’m curious how Price’s situation will work out. He’s starting the season at AAA but he is arguably the biggest name in rookies this season. Will his big name overcome his late start and the fact that he is a pitcher? I don’t think so.

  4. Sarah Green says:

    Well, in recent years, both Evan Longoria and Ryan Braun (admittedly both hitters) were kept back to start the season and won anyway. As long as the voters think the player in question was held back to keep the arb clock from starting, I think they’ll disregard a late start. So that could be the case this year with Matt Wieters, at least, if not Price.

    But the voters are so obsessed with wins for a pitcher, and Price is sure to lose out on a certain number of wins just due to innings limits and pitch counts, that in the end it’s probably just too much to overcome – unless he’s REALLY lights-out. And there I go back to the whole “well, it depends…” boring nonsense.

  5. I’ve got Schafer as my ROY, but only because I’m a completely unabashed Braves homer.

  6. Sarah Green says:

    Jake, we’re all pretty much homers, aren’t we? I mean, Coley, the Phillies fan, chose the Phillies to win their divison. I picked my beloved Sox to win the AL East AND Kevin Youkilis to win AP MVP. Nick, the Dodgers fan, picked Manny Ramirez (!) to be the NL MVP, and the Dodgers to win the West. And Alejandro, our Palehoser, picked the ChiSox as division champs. And Paul, our resident long-suffering Mets fan, chose the Mets to win the NL East. Pretty sad, all around!

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