2014 MLB season preview–Part 2 (Division preview)

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American League

AL East

We start in the division that produced last year’s World Series champion Boston Red Sox, the AL East.  Everything kind of fell right in place for them last year and they all started to heat up at just the right time: especially DH David Ortiz in the postseason.  What an unbelievable run he had batting over .700 at one point in the World Series.  He was the driving force behind the  team.  The team has added a few players including outfielder Grady Sizemore from Cleveland and catcher A.J. Pierzynski from Texas.  Can they avoid injuries to their starting pitching staff?  That is going to be key.  It is for every team.  They have one of the best relief pitchers in Koji Uehara.  The Red Sox are certainly capable of winning 90 plus games this year and winning this divison.

C.C. SabathiaWe’ve already documented the New York Yankees big moves that they’ve made this offseason.  Is it enough to get them back to the postseason?  It might be.  C.C. Sabathia anchors the starting pitching staff and with the addition of Tanaka, they may be the dominant 1-2 punch the Yankees have needed for a few years now.  They play in a friendly hitters ballpark.  1B Mark Teixeira looks to be the best hitter on this team.  The evil empire appears to be back and ready to win this division.

The Tampa Bay Rays tried to trade starting pitcher David Price this offseason, at least that is the way it sounded.  He’s still on the team though and the pitching staff that the Rays have is the best part of their team.  They have guys who can come out and shut you down anytime they feel like it.  Matt Moore is good.  Alex Cobb has the chance to be dominant.  They have outstanding relief pitching.  The Rays have a great chance to win the AL East because of their pitching.  Plus they have 3B Evan Longoria.  He’s pretty good too.

A team that could surprise this year is the Baltimore Orioles.  Signing starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez is a great addition to the team.  They are a very young team overall.  Can 1B Chris Davis repeat what he did last year when he belted out 53 homeruns?  He could do it again.  There are a lot of nice components on this team that make the Orioles an attractive pick to win the AL East or a wild card.

The Toronto Blue Jays, thanks for playing.  The additions they got last year made them a very trendy pick to win the division or at the very least make a wild card spot.  They didn’t.  They were bad, almost right out of the gates.  I like outfielder Jose Bautista and his bat, but that’s pretty much it.

AL East predictions:

  1. Tampa Bay Rays
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Toronto Blue Jays

AL Central

Justin VerlanderThis may be one of the most boring races in baseball this year.  The Detroit Tigers are loaded and the clear favorites to win the division.  They boast the best pitcher in the league in Justin Verlander and they have Max Scherzer.  That’s a pretty good 1-2 combo.  Not to mention the addition of Joe Nathan to the closer role.  Miguel Cabrera recently signed a ten-year $292 million deal.  He’s definitely worth the money.  He swings a mean bat.  Price Fielder may be gone to Texas, but Ian Kinsler will be just fine with the team.  And outfielder, Austin Jackson, is among the most exciting young players in the majors.  If they don’t win the division, something is wrong.

One team that could give the Tigers troubles is Kansas City.  The Royals finished above .500 last year and as mentioned previously, they have a lot of good young talent on this team.  They may be a year away from really competing with the Tigers for the division, but they certainly could get a wild card berth this year.  The Royals are on the upswing.  When did you think we’d ever say that?  Hop aboard that bandwagon with me.

The Cleveland Indians surprised many people by making it to the playoffs last year in the first year under manager Terry Francona.  However, they were stopped dead in their tracks by the Tampa Bay Rays and yet another postseason came and went for the Indians.  Grady Sizemore is gone.  They have one catcher on their roster.  I just don’t see the Indians having enough firepower to make it back to the postseason this year.

Then there are the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins who most likely will bring up the rear of this division.  The Twins are still at least a year away from the minor league prospects making a big impact on the team.  At least they host the All-Star game this year at beautiful Target Field.  And for the White Sox, starting pitcher Chris Sale may win the AL Cy Young award, so they have that going for them which is nice.

AL Central Predictions

1. Detroit Tigers

2. Kansas City Royals

3. Cleveland Indians

4. Minnesota Twins

5. Chicago White Sox

AL West

Josh Hamilton This may be one of the most interesting divisional races to watch.  Surely the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. of Orange County, of California, of the USA, of the planet Earth, of the Milky Way Galaxy, (GET ON WITH IT!!) won’t be quite as big of a disappointment this year as they were last year. Right?  Well Albert Pujols better be healthy.  He was terrible last year.  Maybe switching leagues and going for all of that money wasn’t for the better.  Same could be said for Josh Hamilton and pitcher C.J. Wilson.  The Angels have perhaps the best player in the game in Mike Trout and he doesn’t disappoint.  Last year, pitching was a major issue for this club.  They should be better this year.  Good enough to win the division?  We shall see.

The Oakland A’s are a trendy pick to not just win the AL West, but also make it to the World Series.  They may play in a sewer of a stadium, but this team is legit.  Have you seen some of outfielder Jason Reddick‘s catches?  They have a lot of complimentary guys that can and will make plays.  Combine that with some superb pitching and the A’s may just be the team to beat in this division.

The Texas Rangers have run into a streak of bad luck before their season has even begun with some injuries to their starting pitching staff including Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison who are on the 15-day DL.  Derek Holland is on the 60-day DL.  They could be in some trouble.  Starting catcher Geovany Soto is on the 60-day DL as well.  At least they have Prince Fielder.  Hooray?  Injuries may derail their season.  It’s a long season no doubt, but I have my own doubts about this team.

Perhaps only second to the Angels, the Seattle Mariners are the most intriguing team in this division because they were able to lure 2B Robinson Cano away from the Yankees for a very lucrative $240 million.  Unfortunately they don’t have a ton of talent surrounding him, at least not in my estimation.   He thinks they should have tried to get another bat and a pitcher.  Well maybe if you didn’t ask them to break the bank for you, they would have.  They still have King Felix dominating on the mound as usual, but between him and Cano, they simply can’t carry this team.

Then you have the Houston Astros making their second season in the American League.  They’ll be better, but still expect them to lose 100 plus games.

AL West Predictions

1. Anaheim Angels

2. Oakland Athletics

3. Seattle Mariners

4. Texas Rangers

5. Houston Astros

AL Playoffs

1. Detroit Tigers

2. Tampa Bay Rays

3. Anaheim Angels

Wild cards: Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics

ALCS

Detroit Tigers vs. Anaheim Angels

AL Cy Young

Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners)

AL MVP

Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)

National League

NL East

Bryce HarperThere is no doubt that one of the biggest disappointments of the 2013 baseball season last year was the Washington Nationals.  They just could not get it going.  For all of the talent they have on this team including pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper they just could not put it completely together.  Perhaps they soaked in all of the praise.  Well that’s about to end this year.  A new year, new confidence and plenty of optimism.  If there is a team equipped to make a run at the World Series out of this division, the Nationals are it.

I like the Atlanta Braves, but like the Texas Rangers, injuries to their pitching staff will doom their season.  Starting pitcher Kris Medlen underwent a second Tommy John surgery.  He won’t pitch this season.  There is a total of six guys on the DL for the Braves, all of them pitchers!  Their offense is good enough to keep them in games led by the Upton brothers B.J. and Justin.  Freddie Freeman won’t be stranded on any interstates this year so he’ll be just fine.  And Jason Heyward is downright amazing.  All said though, pitching will hold this team back and it is all thanks to injuries.

The rest of the division, forget about them.  The Philadelphia Phillies will be pretty competitive, but that franchise is going through some changes and Ryan Howard can’t carry them.  The New York Mets are a bit of a joke. They may be better this year and the Miami Marlins want to play faster games in hopes that people won’t see their terrible product on the field except for Giancarlo Stanton.  Oh yeah, starting pitcher Jose Fernandez is pretty good too.

NL East Predictions

1. Washington Nationals

2. Atlanta Braves

3. Philadelphia Phillies

4. Miami Marlins

5. New York Mets

NL Central

This is going to be the most competitive division in baseball.  The Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals will all be gunning for the division crown.  I’m already looking and counting on the Pirates to have another good season.  Last year cannot be a mirage.  The Cardinals are a model of consistency in baseball.  They are the best baseball city in America and they claim to have the best baseball fans, but this may give you reason to disagree.  There is no denying though how good they are in the starting pitching rotation led by Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha who put up staggering numbers in the postseason.  They boast plenty of depth amongst their position players, who can all for the most part, hit and field very well.  They are the favorites to win this division.

The Reds may have something to say about that.  Their starting pitching staff may be better than the Cardinals.  They gave Homer Bailey a fat pay day.  Johnny Cueto can be one of the best pitchers in the league, Aroldis Chapman is one of the game’s most exciting closers.  He needs to get healthy first after getting hit by a line drive earlier in spring training.  They have good bats.  This is going to be a fun race.

The Milwaukee Brewers better get used to the sound of booing, because apart from Miller Park, every stadium they go to will boo Ryan Braun.  At least he’s back.  And that will make the Brewers somewhat competitive and interesting to watch.

The Chicago Cubs? They are the loveable losers.  They will continue to lose again this year as GM Theo Epstein attempts to put a competitive team, one that will end the curse and long World Series drought, on the field.

NL Central Predictions.

1. St. Louis Cardinals

2. Pittsburgh Pirates

3. Cincinnati Reds

4. Milwaukee Brewers

5. Chicago Cubs

NL West

Yasiel Puig,One team dominated the headlines during the offseason in the NL West.  Can you guess who?  That would be the Los Angeles Dodgers of course.  With all of the talk regarding Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw and the oodles of cash the Dodgers are spending, it’s hard not to look at them as the favorites in this division.  The Dodgers spent all of this money with one goal in mind.  Win the World Series.  With all of the star power on this team like Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and the like, the Dodgers have to win this division…or else.

The San Francisco Giants certainly could be a thorn in the Dodgers side though.  If Tim Lincecum can get back to his old form and the rest of the rotation continues to pitch the way we know they are accustomed to (Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, etc.), the Giants will be breathing down the Dodgers’ necks for a while.

Don’t count out the Arizona Diamondbacks either.  Unfortunately, one of their best pitchers, Patrick Corbin, had to go undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire season.  With bats in the lineup like Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo, the Diamondbacks shouldn’t be counted out.

I’m not sure what to make of the Colorado Rockies or San Diego Padres.  Both teams will be decent, but I don’t consider them viable threats to win the division or competing for a wild card berth.  They certainly could play a role in how the division shapes out, but neither will be fighting for that division lead in September.

NL West Predictions

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2. San Francisco Giants

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

4. San Diego Padres

5. Colorado Rockies

NL Playoffs

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Washington Nationals

3. St. Louis Cardinals

Wildcards: Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds

NLCS

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals

NL Cy Young

Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals) (Jose Fernandez of the Marlins comes in a close 2nd)

NL MVP

RF Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers)

 

World Series prediction

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Detroit Tigers

World Series Champion

Los Angeles Dodgers

Enjoy the season everyone!  Play ball!

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