AL Central: 41 (7)
AL East: 20 (1)
NL East: 15 (1)
NL Central: 6 (1)
NL West: 6
AL West: 2
In 2006, the American League Central sent two teams to the postseason for the first time since the addition of the wild card playoff format.
The Minnesota Twins captured their fourth division title in five years, and the Detroit Tigers – the surprise team of 2006 – rode an excellent young pitching staff and solid offense all the way to the World Series. With the 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox and the young and talented Cleveland Indians also in the division, it comes as little surprise that Scout.com's baseball publishers came to a near universal consensus that the AL Central is the toughest division in baseball.
The vote reflects what has been a remarkable turnaround. Indeed, it wasn't long ago that the AL Central was considered one of baseball's weakest divisions, with only the Minnesota Twins fielding a legitimate playoff contender each year. The division now boasts four teams that are expected to compete, and the fifth – the Kansas City Royals – boasts some of baseball's best young prospects. It's anyone's guess as to what will unfold this season, but there's little doubt that a bloodbath will ensue.
And the Indians, who stumbled to a disappointing fourth place finish last year, return a young core that has many predicting a World Series title for the Tribe in the next couple of seasons.
Among the also-rans, the American League's East Division finished a distant second. The always strong Yankees are a heavy favorite to win their tenth straight division crown, although the strength of their starting pitching is a major question mark. The Red Sox, with the additions of Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka and right fielder J.D. Drew, once again figure to make a strong run. The Toronto Blue Jays will look to build upon last year's second place finish, and the addition of DH Frank Thomas figures to give a boost to what was an already powerful offense.
Over in the senior circuit, the NL East figures to remain the National League's toughest division. The Mets in 2006 ended the Braves' remarkable string of 14 straight division crowns, winning the pennant by 12 games. With David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran, the Mets boast one of baseball's most dynamic offenses, and if the pitching staff can hold up, a repeat crown is not out of the question. Of course, reigning 2006 MVP Ryan Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies will have something to say about that, and both the Braves and Marlins return exciting young rosters that can make some noise.
All Scout.com MLB publishers contributed as the panel of voters. First place was awarded five points, second place awarded three and third place received one.