One of the reasons that I am confident in a promotion challenge by Derbyshire is that I feel we have a youthful, competitive squad together.
Of the other teams in the division, Yorkshire are likely to be up there and have a strong batting line up. Bairstow, Gale, Root , Jaques and Ballance should score a lot of runs in the division, but their bowling will be heavily dependent on Ryan Sidebottom and the question is whether he will stay fit for the summer. He and Shahzad make up the highest profile opening pair but Rashid needs to rediscover his mojo to make promotion the formality seen in some quarters.
Essex should also be up there, but the aftermath of the Westfield affair might weigh heavy on them. A batting line up with Shah, Bopara and ten Doeschate shouldn't lack for runs and Masters with Willoughby makes up a fine seam attack. Like Derbyshire though, much is conditional on their staying fit. If they do, they should go up. If they don't...
Glamorgan have some good players but didn't really seem a team last year. Allenby and Wagg are good cricketers and Marcus North a solid professional, but Harris is key to their bowling and they need to get the wickets provided by Croft on turners from somewhere. They will be competitive, but we don't need to fear them.
Gloucestershire did quite well with a young team last year, but can Gidman have the same level of success? For all the fine efforts of a young team, they have lost the valuable Chris Taylor and Jon Lewis and the batting and bowling looks equally thin. For me, they will struggle this term.
Hampshire have also lost a lot of big name players over the winter and are putting their trust in youth. Simon Katich should provide valuable runs and Sean Ervine retains England ambitions, but their young players are not especially better than ours and again I can see us eminently capable of beating them.
Kent? Their batting will miss Denly and van Jaarsveld and although they have a good man as coach in Jimmy Adams, as well as having signed Charlie Shreck, Mike Powell, Ben Harmison and Mark Davies, I don't see them as Championship high-flyers.
Northamptonshire always get runs from a lengthy batting line-up, but their bowling was heavily dependent on Chaminda Vaas and the big question is whether he can retain his fitness through another long campaign at the age of 38. If he doesn't, I find it hard to see how they will bowl out sides twice. An aging side, with Sales, Middlebrook and Hall at the veteran stage, they won't be the most mobile in the field and may struggle in the later season. Perhaps last year should have been their time...
Finally Leicestershire. They have some young talent, as we saw in Barbados, but have lost the massive talent (if not stature) of James Taylor, while Harry Gurney has joined him at Nottinghamshire. With the long-serving Paul Nixon retired, they need big contributions from veterans Hoggard and Henderson, as well as big runs from Ramnaresh Sarwan. I expect them to struggle, to be honest.
That's my rationale behind Derbyshire being up there. No daring/silly promises from me, but I fully expect to be writing about a promotion push in the later stages of the season.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
Next week - the one day prospects.