Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
The regular season has begun with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks clashing in Sydney, Australia for Major League Baseball’s opening series. There is nothing like baseball back in action, albeit a tease, as we will not see regular season action for another week. This gives us a perfect one week window for our staff to disclose their predictions for the long-anticipated 2014 season.
* denotes Wild Card
American League East:
1.) Tampa Bay Rays 97-65: The Red Sox won the 2013 Commissioner’s Trophy built on the premise of above average all over. Well, the Rays have all facets of their team above the average threshold and seem poised for a playoff run. A full year of Wil Myers won’t hurt, either.
2.) *Boston Red Sox 92-70: Boston has question marks at third base, catcher, and center field. As much as I am elated with the apparent reemergence of Grady Sizemore, the Red Sox won’t get anything near the value elicited from center field or catcher last season. Their decision not re-signing Stephen Drew will prove costly when Will Middlebrooks is sent down to Pawtucket.
3.) New York Yankees 88-74: A lavish offseason will establish the Evil Empire as a fierce competitor in the rigorous A.L. East. The lucrative, multi-year deals they handed out will hurt them in the long run, although it will pay off nicely in the short-term.
4.) Baltimore Orioles 83-79: If the O’s were not in the American League East, they would win many more games. Dan Duquette made a flurry of late moves that make you scratch your head, signing the erratic Ubaldo Jimenez and the one-tooled Nelson Cruz. Nonetheless, these guys project to bring above average value to the table, despite how overpaid they may be. On top of that, they have a solid team already in place. But please, Buck Showalter, let Darren O’Day be your relief ace — not Tommy Hunter. It would not be surprising to see the orange birds acquire a southpaw to strengthen the bullpen at some point.
5.) Toronto Blue Jays 80-82: The Jays have one of the strongest top of the lineups in baseball with Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, and Colby Rasmus, however, there is a grey area after that filled with question marks. They have a weak rotation, accompanied by one of the strongest bullpens in baseball. An up and down team like this usually hovers around a respectable .500 mark.
MVP: Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay)
Rookie of the Year: Xander Bogaerts (Boston)
Sleeper: Kelly Johnson (New York)
Bust: Ubaldo Jimenez (Orioles)
American League Central:
1.) Detroit Tigers 94-68: The Tigers’ offseason strategy is perplexing. Their window is closing and deciding to give up one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball (Doug Fister) for nothing; was somehow wise? Next, Dave Dombrowski; how do you want to improve one of the worse bullpens in baseball? Let Jose Veras walk, move a key piece of our bullpen in Drew Smyly to the rotation, say goodbye to a much cheaper solution at closer in Joaquin Benoit and sign “bonafide” closer (Joe Nathan). Oh yeah, and Joba Chamberlain! They are lucky they are in a relatively weak division. This team still has a lot of talent, however, despite the questionable decision-making.
2.) Kansas City Royals 82-80: Aside from James Shields and Yordano Ventura, the Royals have a bunch of mediocre (at best) pitchers filling out their rotation. Same thing can be said for their lineup, as Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez are the only consistent pieces. No doubt the Royals possess a lot of talent in their lineup, albeit most of them are inconsistent. Everything needs to go right for Kansas City to succeed Detroit. Having a premier pen won’t hurt.
3.) Chicago White Sox 82-80: Rick Hahn is a genius. He turned around a franchise destined for failure for years to come and had the best offseason of any GM in baseball. For starters, they signed Cuban slugger Jose Abreu to a multi-year deal. He projects to be an extremely potent weapon on offense, for a relatively cheap price. The White Sox dealt their “perennial closer” (Addison Reed) for a young, talented third basemen in Matt Davidson. Their lineup, which contains newly acquired Adam Eaton and a full year of Avisail Garcia, is much improved and will be solid. They have potential in the rotation, too, with All-Star Chris Sale anchoring the bunch, followed by Jose Quintana, John Danks, Erik Johnson, and Felipe Paulino. Their Achilles heel is the dicey bullpen and despite strides of improvement, it is unlikely they will compete for a postseason berth.
4.) Cleveland Indians 79-83: Putting Terry Francona biases aside, this team should not have been a 93 win team last season. Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Asdrubal Cabrera took a step in the wrong direction but the youth made up for the lack of production expected of the seasoned veterans. Jason Kipnis is in-line for another big season and Carlos Santana is an on-base machine, other than that and maybe Michael Brantley, this lineup is filled with question marks. Cleveland has a so-so rotation and bullpen, too.
5.) Minnesota Twins 63-99: The Royals, White Sox and Indians all were interchangeable. Finally, I can say with confidence, the Minnesota Twins will finish in the cellar. Joe Mauer is going to be longing all year-long for the abundance of talented prospects to get to Minnesota quick. Miguel Sano undergoing Tommy John surgery certainly does not help.
MVP: Miguel Cabrera (Detroit)
Cy Young: Justin Verlander (Detroit)
Rookie of the Year: Yordano Ventura (Kansas City)
Sleeper: Rick Porcello (Detroit)
Bust: Nick Castellanos (Detroit)
American League West:
1.) Oakland Athletics 91-71: The loss of Jarrod Parker is not minuscule, although they have depth to fill the void. The A’s have an elite bullpen and competitive lineup. It will be intriguing to see if Yoenis Cespedes and/or Josh Reddick bounce back, because both players hold keys to success. It will also be interesting to see if the Face of MLB runner-up, Eric Sogard, can prove to the world David Wright is not close to a Sogard-esque talent.
2.) *Texas Rangers 89-73: A lineup consisting of Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, and Adrian Beltre makes any manager’s mouth water. Texas bolstered their offense big-time in the offseason and have one of the best, if not the best lineup in baseball. Their rotation is a vulnerability and will stifle them from being a top team in the A.L.
3.) Los Angeles Angels 77-85: While the addition of Hector Santiago should be beneficial and form a formidable top three in the rotation with Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, the Angels have too many voids to compete in the American League. Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Erick Aybar, and David Freese‘s best days are behind them.
4.) Seattle Mariners 75-87: I know how the Mariners’ 2014 season will end: Jack Zduriencik will finally be fired. The big addition of Robinson Cano restored hope in the hearts of Mariners’ fans, but hope was soon relinquished when Zduriencik decided it would be wise to acquire Logan Morrison and Corey Hart to complement Cano. They spent too much on a closer when Ryan Webb would have sufficed in the 9th inning role for much less.
5.) Houston Astros 65-97: I love what Houston did this offseason and they are getting closer and closer to competing every game they play. 2014 will not be the year Astros fans have been long-anticipating. The only quarrel I have with Jeff Luhnow’s offseason was the acquisition of Scott Feldman. He is not a niche on the market and is just a mediocre, veteran taking up $33 million the next three seasons.
MVP: Mike Trout (Los Angeles)
Cy Young: Yu Darvish (Texas)
Rookie of the Year: James Paxton (Seattle)
Sleeper: Hector Santiago (Los Angeles)
Bust: Logan Morrison (Seattle)
National League East:
1.) Washington Nationals 97-65: The Nationals are the most complete team on paper. They added Doug Fister in the offseason, bolstering one of the better rotations in baseball. Their lineup is formidable with Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and Ian Desmond highlighting a dangerous group. They have a deep bullpen rounding out their squad. It seems likely the Nats will win the division, although I thought the same thing last year.
2.) Atlanta Braves 87-75: Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy will not pitch this season and as a result, the Braves will not make the playoffs. Atlanta has so much young talent poised for a playoff run, but they need all legs working if they are to set out what they desire to accomplish. The absence of a strong rotation will forbid them from doing so. However, they have a strong lineup keeping them competitive.
3.) New York Mets 77-85: You have heard it before, the loss of Matt Harvey will be too much for New York to overcome. They improved in the offseason, but not enough to compete with the Nationals or Braves.
4.) Miami Marlins 75-87: Miami will surprise people, as they have a solid blend of youth and veteran leadership. The talent stemming from young players like Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, Jacob Turner, and Henderson Alvarez is irrefutable. Bringing in seasoned veterans such as Garrett Jones, Rafael Furcal, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Casey McGehee will be beneficial to help develop these novices.
5.) Philadelphia Phillies 75-87: Jack Zduriencik will not be the only general manager given the boot, as Ruben Amaro Jr. will join him in the 2014 class of fired GMs. Chase Utley is the lone consistent player in the lineup, which is dependent on his health. The Phillies do have an imposing top three in the rotation with Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and A.J. Burnett, which is their silver lining.
MVP: David Wright (New York)
Cy Young: Cliff Lee (Philadelphia)
Rookie of the Year: Travis d’Arnaud (New York)
Sleeper: Garrett Jones (Miami)
Bust: Justin Upton (Atlanta)
National League Central:
1.) St. Louis Cardinals 98-64: The National League Champions had few needs to fill, but the few they did were addressed accordingly. John Mozeliak brought in power-hitting shortstop Jhonny Peralta to occupy that position for the foreseeable future. He also acquired defensive-wiz Peter Bourjos, fortifying outfield depth.
2.) *Cincinnati Reds 90-72: The Reds have a grandiose rotation which is one of the best in baseball. Dusty Baker finally was fired and the managerial malpractice we saw in 2013 should not resurface in 2014. Jay Bruce should be in the four hole and Cozart at the bottom of the lineup, eliciting maximum lineup potency.
3.) Milwaukee Brewers 85-77: The Brew Crew’s lineup has been strong and will be strong this season. Their rotation was holding them back, but with the addition of Matt Garza and potential reemergence of Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse, it may not be half bad.
4.) Pittsburgh Pirates 78-84: With the exception of Gerrit Cole, the Pirates’ rotation will be abysmal this season. It is apparent Pittsburgh’s rotation caught lighting in a bottle and not retaining staff ace A.J. Burnett will come back to bite them.
5.) Chicago Cubs 69-93: The Cubs, like the Astros, are inching closer and closer to contention with every pitch. Unfortunately, their premier prospects are not ready and until they are, neither is Chicago.
MVP: Joey Votto (Cincinnati)
Cy Young: Adam Wainwright (St. Louis)
Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati)
Sleeper: Khris Davis (Milwaukee)
Bust: Francisco Liriano
National League West:
1.) Los Angeles Dodgers 97-65: The Dodgers have everything going for them with an elite bullpen, rotation, and lineup, and it seems likely they will run away with the N.L. West. Hopefully Don Mattingly minimizes his managerial blunders and if he can, L.A. could exceed 100 wins.
2.) *San Francisco Giants 89-73: The Giants went against the norm in 2013, struggling in the pitching department and thriving on offense. If their rotation bounces back, Matt Cain in particular, then the Giants will be competitors. The addition of Tim Hudson won’t hurt, either.
3.) Arizona Diamondbacks 83-79: The D’Backs success lives and dies with Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley — the top two in the rotation with Patrick Corbin out for the foreseeable future. Cahill, the sinker ball pitcher, struggled inducing ground balls in his first start and that should set off alarm bells. Miley struggled with location in his start in Sydney, Australia, which, with his high-80’s-mid-90’s fastball, is essential if he is to succeed. Both pitchers did not look good, and if this continues, it will spell disaster out West.
4.) Colorado Rockies 82-80: Colorado invested a lot trying to find pitching to make them competitive. Last year they made significant strides towards this goal, as Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, and Tyler Chatwood all pitched splendidly. Chacin, unfortunately, is injured, but La Rosa and Chatwood are back, along with an underrated Brett Anderson and should be just as good from a starting pitching perspective. The bullpen is where they really improved with the additions of LaTroy Hawkins and Boone Logan.
5.) San Diego Padres 80-82: A lot of people see the Padres as the team to breakout in 2014. I, however, am not sold on the notion yet, even though they have an abundance of young talent. They project to be a very adequate team, but in a rigorous division, this placement is not an insult.
MVP: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
Rookie of the Year: Chris Owings (Diamondbacks)
Sleeper: Nolan Arenado (Rockies)
Bust: Mark Trumbo (Diamondbacks)