Which division champion was the hardest to pick?
Tom Verducci: Yankees, AL East.
Nothing against New York. It's just that the AL East has the three best teams in baseball, all of whom should win at least 92 games. One of them is going home.
Jon Heyman: Red Sox, AL East.
Any of three teams could easily win this division. The Rays won it last year and should improve with added experience, plus a full year from emerging star Evan Longoria and the presence of Pat Burrell, a needed right-handed threat. Yet I still have them third.
Ted Keith: Yankees, AL East.
People are no doubt tired of hearing it, but there are three teams in this division that not only could win 90 games but should win 90 games. No final order would truly surprise me.
Joe Posnanski: AL Central.
The American League East is a war zone, but I think the American League Central could be the most competitive. All five teams have flaws.
Gennaro Filice: Twins, AL Central.
I lost sleep over this one -- seriously. For three straight nights my mind was clouded with thoughts of Grady Sizemore, Zack Greinke's psyche, Detroit's payroll, Minnesota's rotation and Chicago's blue-collar efficiency. I wouldn't be surprised by any of these five teams winning the division (OK ... a Royals title might catch me off-guard a bit). In the end, I went with old faithful, Ron Gardenhire's Twinkies.
Cliff Corcoran: Red Sox, AL East.
The three best teams in baseball are in the American League East, where the Red Sox and Rays finished two games apart last year. The Rays will counteract the regression they're likely to experience with the additions of David Price in the rotation, Pat Burrell in the lineup, a revamped right-field platoon and the possibility of a fully healthy B.J. Upton. The Yankees made dramatic improvements over the winter, both by making a big splash in the free agent market (CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira) and by getting some of their old war horses back in fighting shape (Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui). And they have a chance for even more improvement with Joba Chamberlain moving to the rotation full time, Robinson Cano trying to bounce back from an awful season and Brett Gardner facing an equally low standard in center field. Those three could finish in any order atop the division. It's just a shame that one of them will miss the playoffs.
David Sabino: Twins, AL Central.
The AL Central is anybody's guess because every team has obvious flaws yet also has the potential to win if the stars align correctly. The constantly overachieving Twins got the nod simply because of the addition of third baseman Joe Crede and the continued improvement of Francisco Liriano in the second year of his comeback from Tommy John surgery. But Chicago (hole in center, inexperienced infield), Detroit (iffy rotation, barren lower third of the lineup), Kansas City (defensively challenged) and Cleveland (annually underachieving) all have a chance to win a division that may be separated by 10 games from top to bottom.
Jonah Freedman: Indians, AL Central.
The AL Central will be this year's version of the '08 NL West: Any team that approaches 82 wins has a shot. And pretty much any team in the division can get there -- even the Royals.
Which division is the best in baseball, top-to-bottom?
Tom Verducci: AL East.
We know about New York, Boston and Tampa Bay. Baltimore is going to take a noticeable step forward, and Toronto once again will be among the elite pitching teams in the league.
Ben Reiter: AL East.
The three best teams in baseball might all reside in one division -- and that's awful news for one of them.
David Sabino: AL East.
The AL East is clearly the class of the majors. The Orioles have a strong bullpen and are building a solid young nucleus that stresses speed and defense. Toronto has taken a step back but still has the league's most consistently great starter (Roy Halladay), the division's best lefty relievers (B.J. Ryan, Scott Downs) and a lineup that will have no trouble scoring runs now that Travis Snider has stabilized left field.
Joe Lemire: NL East.
From top-to-middle it's the AL East; the narrowest margin for error from top-to-bottom belongs to the AL Central; but for the best overall talent it's the NL East, even with the Nationals among the dredges of baseball. Each of the other four teams has a reasonable shot at the division or wild card. The Mets and Phillies remain the class of the East, but the Braves' improved rotation will keep them in the running until September and the Marlins will find a way with their patchwork, pre-arbitration-eligible nucleus.
Albert Chen: NL East.
The Mets and Phillies aren't as good as the Rays and Red Sox, but the NL East is the deepest -- deeper than the mighty AL East -- with the Braves and Marlins lurking as potential sleepers. Any of those four teams has a shot at playing in October.
Jonah Freedman: AL East.
The AL East, by far. I'm not exactly sticking my neck out here, but the three-way battle between the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays is perhaps the top storyline in the majors. And it's about time a third team -- with staying power -- broke up the duopoly.
Which division is the worst?
Ted Keith: NL West.
No surprise here. No team in the division has won more than 90 games since 2004 and until it shows otherwise there's no reason to think any team will this year.
Cliff Corcoran: AL West.
The West was the Angels' almost by default last year. Yes, the Halos won 100 games but that was in large part because the second-best team in their division, the Rangers, went 79-83. The Angels were 36-21 (.632) against the rest of the AL West last year, and only the A's have improved, though not dramatically.
Ben Reiter: NL Central.
This division, which is filled with mid-market teams, appears as if it will bear the brunt of the recession, and no club except the Cubs made any significant offseason moves (I'm not counting the Brewers' acquisition Trevor Hoffman, who's already hurt). I actually think that the economy could make this one of the most competitively imbalanced seasons in recent history, and seven of my eight playoff picks are big-market clubs.
David Sabino: NL Central.
The top of the division isn't so bad, as Lou Piniella's Cubs and Tony La Russa's Cardinals will be in the thick of the race all season. But if any of the four remaining teams somehow contends for a spot in October, it would be a major surprise. The Pirates and Reds are finally cashing in on their farm systems, while the Brewers and Astros have serious pitching questions and are both in decline.
Albert Chen: AL Central.
There's not a 90-win team in the AL Central, which means the opportunity is there for the Royals to make some noise if Billy Butler and Alex Gordon have breakout seasons.