One of the reasons that baseball is such a beautiful sport is that it is impossible to predict. In the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers will not beat the San Antonio Spurs. In the NFL, the Jacksonville Jaguars will not beat the Seattle Seahawks. However, in the MLB, terrible teams routinely beat the best teams in the league– hell, the Astros beat the Red Sox once last year. It’s impossible to predict how an entire Major League Baseball season will play out. However, that won’t stop thousands of pundits and fans from trying and failing every year– myself included– and here’s my take on how the 2014 season will play out.
AL East Predictions:
Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
- Boston Red Sox (93-69)- The loss of Jacoby Ellsbury will hurt. However, the Red Sox still have the all-around deepest team in the AL East, featuring a top-notch offense that could even improve with bounce-back performances by Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks. If the pitching staff can stay healthy (Clay Buchholz) and not regress too much (John Lackey), then there’s no reason that the Red Sox can’t repeat as AL East Champions.
- *Tampa Bay Rays (91-71)- If that pitching staff can’t stay healthy or if they regress too much, however, the Rays will be right there to catch the Red Sox. The Rays’ offense should come together in 2014 with full seasons from Evan Longoria and Wil Myers. The Rays’ pitching should be solid as ever in 2014, though they may regress a bit as last season’s performances from Matt Moore (3.29 ERA, 3.95 FIP), Alex Cobb (2.76 ERA, 3.36 FIP), and Chris Archer (3.22 ERA, 4.07 FIP) seem unrepeatable and the bullpen will be weak behind Grant Balfour and Joel Peralta.
- New York Yankees (87-75)- After a disappointing 2013 season, the Yankees went on a major spending spree this offseason, acquiring Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran to bolster a weak offense and Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka to help anchor the rotation. Despite all these additions, however, there are still serious questions surrounding the Yankees, most notably a questionable bullpen and all-around lack of depth behind the starters. Those could be enough to hold the Yankees back from making a playoff run in 2014.
- Baltimore Orioles (85-77)- The Orioles’ lineup packs as much punch as nearly any other lineup in baseball, with a front six of Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Nelson Cruz, and Matt Wieters. However, like it did in 2013, their suspect pitching will hold them back from making a legitimate playoff run. Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez are just not true frontline starters at the Major League level and that’s what will hold the O’s back in 2014.
- Toronto Blue Jays (77-85)- Just about everything that could go wrong for the Blue Jays last year went wrong for the Blue Jays last year. After a huge offseason, the Jays suffered injuries to Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista while none of their major pitching acquisitions (R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson) worked out as planned. However, the Jays still do have a great lineup anchored by Reyes, Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion. Though they have an excellent bullpen, their starting rotation will hold them back just like it did in 2013.
- MVP Candidate: Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays)
- Cy Young Candidate: David Price (Tampa Bay Rays)
- Rookie of the Year Candidate: Xander Bogaerts (Boston Red Sox)
AL Central Predictions:
Mandatory Credit:David Manning
-USA TODAY Sports
- Detroit Tigers (92-70)- For a “win now” team, the Detroit Tigers had a very curious 2013-2014 offseason. They traded away two key players in Prince Fielder and Doug Fister and their only major addition to the lineup was second baseman Ian Kinsler. Despite the questionable moves, however, the Tigers still have the most talented and deepest team in the division with a lineup anchored by Miguel Cabrera and a rotation headed by Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez.
- Kansas City Royals (87-75)- The Royals haven’t been considered a legitimate contender for some time, but after a decent 2013 season, 2014 could be the year that they really break out. They have a great lineup with an excellent young core featuring Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, and Salvador Perez and a decent pitching staff led by James Shields. 2014 likely won’t be the year that the Royals win the AL Central, but they’re certainly getting close to that point.
- Cleveland Indians (83-79)- The Indians also have a young core and look like a team that is set to improve in the next few years. So, why the great regression from last year when the Indians won 92 games en route to a wild card berth? Well, the Indians never should have won 92 games anyway. They benefited from a late-season surge and will likely regress a bit in 2014. They’re still anchored by Carlos Santana at the dish and Justin Masterson on the mound, but they’ll likely slip a bit from last year.
- Chicago White Sox (75-87)- The White Sox are still a few years away, but in the last eight or so months, they’ve made serious strides towards being a competitive ball club. The ChiSox have added legitimate young talent to an anemic 2013 lineup, acquiring Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton, and Matt Davidson in recent months. Of course, that’s forgetting the big addition: Cuban import Jose Abreu, who has a chance to be a fearsome slugger as soon as this season. On the mound, the White Sox have a solid rotation headed by Chris Sale and a supporting staff of Jose Quintana and John Danks among others. The White Sox won’t contend in 2014, but they might within three years.
- Minnesota Twins (70-92)- The Twins added a bit this offseason to what was a terrible 2013 team– the Twins went 66-96 and finished in fourth place. However, it won’t be enough to significantly improve their team in either the present or the future. Neither Ricky Nolasco nor Phil Hughes will be enough to fix 2013’s second-worst pitching staff in baseball and Kurt Suzuki won’t be nearly enough to help last season’s 25th best offensive team. There’s help on the way, as the Twins have two of baseball’s top prospects in Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, but 2014 will be another rough year for the Twinkies.
- MVP Candidate: Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
- Cy Young Candidate: Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers)
- Rookie of the Year Candidate: Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox)
AL West Predictions:
Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
- Oakland Athletics (91-71)- The A’s have been the most surprising team of the last two seasons. Despite a team which, on paper looks like it should finish no higher than fourth in this division, GM Billy Beane and manager Bob Melvin have squeezed an incredible amount out of the Athletics. The team isn’t in great shape to begin the 2014 season with ace Jarrod Parker on the shelf for the season with Tommy John surgery, but with a powerful lineup anchored by Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, and Josh Reddick; the A’s should persevere and post another solid season in 2014.
- *Texas Rangers (89-73)- After looking like one of the best teams in baseball just a month or so ago, the Rangers have been absolutely decimated by injuries this spring. They’ve been struck with injuries of varying degrees to Derek Holland, Jurickson Profar, Geovany Soto, Matt Harrison, and Yu Darvish— counting from worst injuries to the “best.” However, the Rangers still have an excellent lineup consisting of Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, and Alex Rios and should contend even with all of the injuries.
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (85-77)- The Angels have been the opposite of a model franchise over the last two years. They’ve thrown huge contracts at Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, neither of whom have worked out yet, and they’ve missed the playoffs both years. With Pujols and Hamilton fully healthy and the best player in baseball in Mike Trout, the Angels could make a run in 2014. They’ll need to improve their pitching, as their rotation is very weak behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, but 2014 could be the Angels’ year with both Oakland and Texas dealing with significant injuries.
- Seattle Mariners (82-80)- The Mariners shocked the world this offseason by signing superstar Robinson Cano to a 10 year/$240MM contract to bolster their lineup. However, the addition of Cano will only be able to do so much as the sweet-swingin’ lefty will join a relatively weak lineup in Seattle. The pitching is also relatively weak behind superstars Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. The Mariners do have a young core of players and talented rookies James Paxton and Taijuan Walker will play big roles in 2014, but if you’re expecting Cano to lead the team to their first playoff berth in over a decade, you’ll probably be disappointed.
- Houston Astros (64-98)- The Astros have had the worst record in baseball for three straight seasons, but 2014 could be the year that the Astros finally break that streak. The team’s stockpile of prospect depth is finally beginning to surface at the big league level, and the Astros even added some talent to the Major League squad for the 2014 season– signing Scott Feldman and Jesse Crain and trading for Dexter Fowler. The Astros won’t shock the world in 2014 and will likely fall far short of contention, but we will get to see some of the youngsters that could make them a powerhouse in just a few years.
- MVP Candidate: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
- Cy Young Candidate: Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners)
- Rookie of the Year Candidate: Taijuan Walker (Seattle Mariners)
American League Postseason:
- Wild Card Game: Tampa Bay Rays over Texas Rangers
- ALDS: Tampa Bay Rays over Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers over Oakland Athletics
- ALCS: Detroit Tigers over Tampa Bay Rays
National League Postseason:
- Wild Card Game: Atlanta Braves over Arizona Diamondbacks
- NLDS: Los Angeles Dodgers over Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals over Washington Nationals
- NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers over St. Louis Cardinals
- Los Angeles Dodgers over Detroit Tigers