For 28 Major League Baseball teams, the start of the regular season looms just days away. Hopes and ambitions are high as they typically are in April, and for good reason. In the American League, there are perhaps only a handful of teams that – at this point – appear to have no realistic chance of winning the pennant in 2014. Here’s how the season will conclude from my view …
Boston Red Sox (94 wins) – Many would claim that the Sox’ success last season was due to the stars’ alignment or a lot of luck. The truth is, the Sox won because they had the depth to do battle throughout the 162-game season – with something left for the postseason. They have the deepest roster in the division (and the American League) again this year and they have the best chance of remaining competitive for the long haul.
Tampa Bay Rays * (92 wins) – Few teams wouldn’t envy the Rays’ starting rotation or their talented lineup. Barring injury or misfortune the Rays are pennant contenders, but there are always unpleasant surprises along the way. The Rays do not have the roster depth to make moves as necessary when possibly needed.
Baltimore Orioles (87 wins) – The Orioles are tenacious. Last year fortune eluded them despite such a productive lineup. The O’s pitching will be the weak link. Their starters are not at a level to go deep into late innings consistently and the bullpen will be overtaxed.
New York Yankees (85 wins) – The captain’s swansong year is filled with promise to start the season, but injuries have plagued this aging team and they are without their all-world closer. The Yankees will battle but their reinforcements are meager and their endurance will be tried.
Toronto Blue Jays (75 wins) – The Jays have a lineup to match most clubs in run production, but their rotation has little depth. Look for a reprise of 2013 where the Jays learn early in the season that their deficiencies cannot be overcome on a daily basis.
Detroit Tigers (91 wins) – The Tigers arguably have one of the best starting pitcher rosters in baseball, but the onus is on the team to win this year before they potentially lose top-of-the rotation talent. Detroit has had had a few hiccups during spring training, but the pitching will help the team prevail.
Kansas City Royals * (90 wins) – The race is going to be tighter than many imagine. The Royals are for real in their defensive prowess and bullpen talent. The rotation is not deep but improved from last year and the team, which has been on a steady rise, will manufacture more runs than in recent history. This will be a breakout season for the Royals who have not earned a playoff berth in 28 years.
Cleveland Indians (80 wins) – The Tribe seems bound to take a step back from its 2013 performance, losing some rotation depth and seeing better competition within the division. Unproven arms and a lineup without superstar quality will cost the Indians several wins.
Chicago White Sox (76 wins) – The ChiSox will make significant improvement in 2014 as well, but the team is still not ready to contend. The White Sox are a team on the rise, but need maturity and seasoning before the team climbs above .500.
Minnesota Twins (62 wins) – The Twins are one of the AL teams who don’t need to stock up on champagne this year. Their promise is in the minor leagues. Don’t look for the team to match its win total from last season.
Los Angeles Angels (88 wins) – The rotation was deficient to division rivals before spring training began. The powerhouse lineup now stands out in comparison to the other teams. The Angels rebound in a big way and claim the division’s only playoff berth.
Oakland Athletics (84 wins) – A tenacious team with a shrewd manager, the A’s will keep it an interesting race. Spring training injuries to starting pitchers will ultimately cost them the ability to stay in contention, however.
Seattle Mariners (82 wins) – The team will take a step ahead, but not a stride. The Mariners offseason changes are not enough to put this team into playoff contention.
Texas Rangers (82 wins) – Injuries will be the Rangers’ pitfall. Without the spring training roster decimation, this team would claim the division again.
Houston Astros (53 wins) – No parades planned in downtown Houston for awhile. The Astros have a distance to go to be playoff worthy. They have a strong farm system but their roster is still not at a skill level that makes it remotely competitive.
MVP – Mike Trout (Angels)
CY Young – James Shields (Royals)
Rookie of the Year – Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox)
ALCS: Boston over Kansas City
National League East
New York Mets
St Louis Cardinals
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants*
San Diego Padres
* Wild Card teams
MVP: Bryce Harper (Washington)
CY Young: Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles)
Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati)
NLCS: St. Louis over Washington
World Series: St Louis over Boston