Notice I didn't have a Wild Card coming from the West. I don't think Seattle has to improve much to push past Texas and Oakland, who I think are both due for a major step backwards.
Texas' problems have been well documented. They're going to play a lot of games like last night's loss to Houston. With Oakland, they somehow managed to cobble together enough runs (via the long ball from some very odd sources) to finish in the middle of the pack. A lot of people are picking their offense to get better with the additions of Lowrie and Young, but I don't see another 53 HR's from Reddick and Moss. I also think there was a lot of smoke and mirrors with that pitching staff last year. You can't survive that long pitching to contact.
So I think Seattle can move up to 2nd place with a modest 10 game improvement to 85 wins. Presumably, Morse swaps in for Casper Wells and Morales effectively swaps in for Olivo. That could be worth 6 or 7 wins right there. Their OF depth is also much better this year with the addition of Bay and Ibanez. So they only need some mild progression from Ackley and Montero to be a much more effective offense. They don't even need to be in the top half of the league, just better. Oakland won 94 games with the 8th best offense last year. Of course, I don't know how good Seattle's pitching is going to be behind Felix.
Your last sentence is why I was surprised with the Seattle pick. They have a ton of young pitching in the farm system. If Hultzen and Walker come up this season and do well. Then they could make a run like the A's did last year. And I may have a few questions about Wilhelmson. Ithink Pryor or Capps could be the closer for them by the end of the season. I just wonder what they are going to do with Montero. Their best hitting prospect is a catcher. Montero can't play the outfield. And they Smoak at first and kendry at DH. I wonder if this is a do or die season for Smoak. If he doesnt do well. They could just sign Kendry to a long term deal and put montero at DH.
I don't like what the Braves did this offseason running off Michael Bourn and bringing in the Upton brothers. Both of them have had attitude problems by themselves. How can that possibly get better with them together, and playing for Fredi Gonzalez, who got run out of Miami because he couldn't handle Han-Ram? I think some of their pitchers, particularly Minor and Maholm, pitched a little bit over their heads last year, and I think losing Chipper means more than it would appear on paper. Add that all up and I can see them dropping back 8-10 wins from 94 into the mid 80's.
The Phillies finished at .500 last year, so they're not far off if the Braves drop back into the 80's. Howard and Utley both missed huge chunks of the season. Both are healthy to open the year and both had great springs. I know both are risky, but it's April 1st, I'm making my prediction based on what I know April 1st. I also like the Ben Revere acquisition and I like Dominic Brown to finally figure things out. Michael Young may not have much in the tank, but he's an upgrade at third over...well, nothing. I think the big question mark for them is Halladay, but he's a gamer, I think he'll figure it out. Once they reach the postseason I'd match Hamels and Lee up against any other 2 starters in the NL.
As for the Red Sox, do I expect them to go 69-93 again? No. I expect the AL East to be very compressed, with maybe only 10-15 games separating first and fifth. So if the Rays win 90 like they did last year, the Red Sox could win between 75-80. There's potential for them to play a lot better, but I just don't see it all coming together for this group. Somebody has to finish in last in that division. I'm not sure I'd argue against any of the 5 teams finishing in last place. I just think the Sox have the most questions and the most holes of all the teams.