With Opening Day just a week and a half away, it’s time to roll out picks for the 2012 Major League Baseball season. With superstars Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder switching squads and the arrivals of newcomers such as Yu Darvish and Matt Moore, this year’s MLB landscape is in flux. But despite the massive player migration, most of last year’s playoff contenders remain the likeliest teams to hoist the World Series trophy come October.

AL East Champion: New York Yankees

As a Red Sox fan, it pains me to pick the Bronx Bombers, but it’s impossible to ignore that the Yankees are one of the most balanced teams in the league heading into 2012. After their starting rotation — outside of ace C.C. Sabathia — was a weakness in 2011, New York added up-and-comer Michael Pineda from Seattle who joins veterans Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte to give the Yanks formidable rotation depth. These additions give New York the edge.

AL Central Champion: Detroit Tigers

Despite losing catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez to injury for all of 2012, the Tigers ponied up for slugger Prince Fielder. Alongside Miguel Cabrera, the addition of Fielder gives Detroit arguably the strongest combination of hitters of any MLB team. Unless catastrophe strikes, the Tigers should run away with the division in 2012.

AL West Champion: Texas Rangers

Although Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson joined the Rangers’ divisional rivals in Los Angeles, back-to-back defending AL champion Texas countered by adding Japanese sensation Yu Darvish and closer Joe Nathan. The Angels will undoubtedly be in contention, though, so the loser of this division should gain one of the league’s two Wild Card slots.

AL Wild Card Winners: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim & Boston Red Sox (Contender: Tampa Bay Rays)

The Angels and Red Sox appear to have a slight edge over the Rays heading into this season. Tampa Bay has the best rotation of the three, but the other two have better lineups and the financial flexibility to fill gaps in midseason. It’s been a mistake to count out the Rays, though, and they could steal a Wild Card bid from one of the two powers. But right now I would bet on the squads that have Albert Pujolsand Adrian Gonzalez at the heart of their respective lineups.

NL East Champion: Philadelphia Phillies

The NL East will be a bloodbath, with the Nationals and Marlins closing on the Phillies and Braves after several major offseason moves. Despite injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the Phillies should maintain control of the division with a rotation headlined by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels.

NL Central Champion: Cincinnati Reds

With St. Louis and Milwaukee losing Pujols and Fielder, respectively, I expect the Reds to take the division, with help from new acquisitions including ace Mat Latos and closer Sean Marshall. The Cardinals and Brewers did find adequate replacements for their sluggers — Carlos Beltran for the Cardinals and Aramis Ramirez for the Brewers — but the Reds should still have a slight edge in 2012.

NL West Champion: San Francisco Giants

Buster Posey’s impending return should stabilize an otherwise weak Giants lineup, and that should be enough for the 2010 World Series champs to get by in a division without a truly great team. The Diamondbacks, Rockies and Dodgers will all be factors, however, and any one of those three could get hot and take the title.

NL Wild Card Winners: Atlanta Braves & Washington Nationals (Contenders: Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers)

With the exception of a few bottom feeders, virtually every NL team has a shot at the Wild Card. I like the Braves and Nationals to come out on top at the end of the year because of the balance in their lineups, starting rotations and bullpens.

World Series: Yankees over Phillies

I may be ostracized for picking the Evil Empire to win the World Series, but it’s impossible to ignore their re-establishment as the title frontrunner. With off-season upgrades and an experience-laden roster, the Yankees seem to be on their way to winning a 28th World Series championship.

Preston Barclay is a sophomore in the McDonough School of Business. TURNING TWO IN THE 202 appears every Tuesday.

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