Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bold Predictions for the 2014 MLB Season

Wild card teams are marked with an asterisk (*). 

AL East:
1. Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox have had a quiet off-season, but they've returned their core that lead them to a World Series last season. They'll probably have a bit of a regression from their best record in baseball last year, but it's hard to see anyone taking their place at the top of the AL East. It's had for me to find a situation this season where the Red Sox don't have 90+ wins.

2. Tampa Bay Rays*
Somehow, the Rays where able to keep Atlanta's hands off David Price this winter, which was good for the Bay, I guess. Like the Red Sox, the Rays have had a very quiet off-season, but have still held on to their core of players that lead them to a playoff berth. I don't see the Rays regressing from last season, and I think they grab the first spot in a tight AL wild card race. 

3. New York Yankees*
As the Toronto Blue Jays will tell you, money can't buy happiness, and that's bad news for the Yankees considering they spent massive amounts of money bringing in a slew of players to help fill the void that Robinson Cano left. Unfortunately, when you look at New York's new lineup, it's hard to see more than 90 wins. A regression in the AL west; however, will allow the Yankees to narrowly escape the regular season with the second wild card spot. 

4. Baltimore Orioles
Pieces from Baltimore's short-lived 2012 playoff run are still there, but I don't think those pieces are enough to bring Baltimore back to the post season. A lot of other AL teams have been getting stronger over the past few years, and the O's aren't one of them. It's possible for Baltimore to crash Boston and Tampa Bay's party at the top of the AL East, but it's not that likely and I don't see it happening.

5. Toronto Blue Jays
The talent is there in Canada, it's just sitting there, watching the Red Sox and Rays rule this division. The Jays are the reigning most disappointing team in the league, but I don't think they'll be able to defend their title because nobody thinks they'll be good this year. The thing about this division is that every team has a bunch of talent, and could easily win the division; I could put literally any one of these five teams at the top of this division and be able to give a really good justification as to why I did so. There's a reason I put the Jays at the bottom of this division: because a bunch of really good players wearing the same uniform don't win games, a team does, this is a lesson the Jays learned last year, and until they find some team chemistry, I don't see them getting into the playoffs.

AL Central:
1. Detroit Tigers
Losing Prince Fielder isn't that big of a deal when you (a) have the best hitter in the world on your team, and (b) play in the weakest division in the league. Even with the loss of Doug Fister, the Tigers still have an amazing rotation. The Tigers have a really solid roster, and in this division, that's all it takes to compete.

2. Kansas City Royals
The Royals have been slowly rising each of the past few years, but I think they're still one year away from the playoffs. The Royals have a very Braves-esque bullpen, rarely blowing leads. With all of that said, there's a reason they won't catch the Yankees for that sweet wild card spot: the uncertainty in the rotation. At the front, they have James Shields, who's legit. Other than him, they don't have very much, though. It seems like KC is oh so close to contending, but just not there yet.

3. Cleveland Indians
After taking the AL's first wild card spot last year, the Indians don't look very poised to do that again this year. Losing Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez doesn't will probably hurt. Justin Masterson is still in their rotation, which is nice. This team isn't really that interesting, which is why I'm have trouble thinking of thinking of things to say to make this team's write-up longer.

4. Chicago White Sox
The Sox finished at the bottom of the AL Central last season, and could very well do it again this year. The White Sox have made some good acquisitions this off-season, which will allow them to improve form last year, but none of the acquisitions they made where very major. Chicago will be a little better this year than last, but after this season is over there will still a lot of room for improvement.

5. Minnesota Twins
Minnesota looks a lot like the Astros or Marlins, because they are focusing solely on the future this year. The future is bright in Minnesota, and they could be back as early as 2015, but for now, last place in their division is their most likely landing spot.

AL West:
1. Texas Rangers
The Rangers made some news when the got Prince Fielder in a trade a while ago, but other than that they have been flying under the radar this off-season. One thing separates them from the rest of the AL West: they might have the best offense in baseball. With the acquisitions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, Texas has built what could be a dominate offense this season. I'll even go as far to say that the Rangers won't have an epic collapse at the end of this season.

2. Los Angeles Angels
Like I said before, I think the AL West won't be as strong this year as it was last year, and by AL West I mean the Athletics. Upgrades in their rotation, Albert Pujols being healthier, and Mike Trout will allow the Angels to improve from last year, but I don't think they can improve enough to catch the Yankees. I think the Angels will probably get to the Wild Card in 2015, though.

3. Oakland Athletics
I don't know why, but something tells me that the A's will be irrelevant this year. In fact, with an improving Angels team above them and two teams with really bright future below them, they could be bottom dwellers in the AL west as early as 2016. I think that this team has reached its ceiling with it's current set up, and will begin to fall this year. The best thing for them to do would be to hit the reset button at around the trade deadline, and start rebuilding next year.

4. Seattle Mariners
Seattle spent over $250 million on Robinson Cano, Fernando Rodney, and Corey Hart, but I still think they're a year or to away from passing Oakland. The majority of their roster is young prospects who will need a year or to to learn on the job in the majors. Don't expect Seattle to make much noise in the playoff race this year, but this team is on the up swing.

5. Houston Astros
The Astros have an extremely bright future, but for now, I can't see them any where but the bottom of the division.Trading for Dexter Fowler, and signing veteran relievers Chad Qualls and Matt Albers shows that Houston would like to speed up the rebuilding process. I think Houston improves a lot this year, and actually doesn't break 100 in the loss column. I don't see Houston losing more than 99 games, which shows that the Astros are right on track to become relevant in a few years.

NL East:
1. Atlanta Braves
The thing is, there are people saying that the Braves spent too much money this off-season, and others saying that they didn't spend enough, and you can't say the either of them are wrong. The Braves spent their new stadium money by giving their best players top dollar, multi-year extensions. On the other hand, they spent a very limited amount of money on free agency and trades. The players that the Braves lost this off-season are very replaceable, and I don't think they will affect the Braves very much this year. Look for Atlanta to stay atop the NL East and maybe even start another dynasty in the years to come.

2. Washington Nationals*
The Nationals acquired Doug Fister to make their rotation even better, but contrary to what most people think, I just don't see them kick Atlanta off of the throne. The Braves and Nationals are very similar; both teams have exceptional pitching and deep, powerful lineups, as well as similar color schemes. It's gonna really tight at the top of the NL East this season.

3. Miami Marlins
The Marlins are basically the Astros of the NL. Both teams where in full rebuilding mode while the lost 100+ games last season, both teams tried to speed up the rebuilding process by acquiring solid veterans over the off-season, and both teams will show bright spots and improvement this season. The combination of Giancarlo Stanton and Jarrod Saltalamcchia will lead to a lot of home runs in Marlins Park this season, and for that reason I think the Miami will take a much bigger leap this season than Houston. A lot of people think that the Marlins will finish last in the division this year, but I'm not one of them. Miami will be able to use the fact the this division is top heavy to their advantage, and get ahead of New York and Philadelphia.

4. New York Mets
Don't let this fourth place finish fool you, the Mets aren't gonna be irrelevant this year. The beasts in Atlanta and Washington plus an up and coming Marlins team will keep this team in fourth, but make no mistake, the Mets are on their way up. Lead by David Wright, the Mets might even be able to crash the Braves and Nationals' playoffs party.

5. Philadelphia Phillies
Things have changed in Philadelphia. The once dominant Phillies have fallen into the fray, and won't contend for anything this season. With a core of aging, unproductive players and a rotation of question marks behind Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, the Phillies look poised to free fall this season. It will be ugly. There will be blood. Be on the look out for a fire sale around the trade deadline or after the season ends.

NL Central:
1. St. Louis Cardinals
With St. Louis' two biggest threats (AJ Burnett and Shin-Soo Choo) out of the division, the Cards could very well dominate what used to be the best division in baseball. Like always, the Cardinals are one of the deeper teams in the league lead by Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, plus a farm system loaded with talent, St. Louis will continue to be a force in the NL.

2. Cincinnati Reds
With the loss of Shin-Soo Choo, Cincy's offense has been significantly weakened. The Reds weren't that good to begin with last year, and they've regressed this off-season. I look for them to contend for the second wild card spot, but I don't see them making it.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh had their first winning season in a really long time last year, which is good, but they won't replicate that success this year. Their starting rotation takes a big hit withe the loss of AJ Burnett, but it's not like he would've made them a playoff team this year, anyway.

4. Milwaukee Brewers
The Cubs and Brewers are light years away from the top three teams in this division. The return of Ryan Braun should be enough to lift the brew crew past the Cubs, but not anywhere else. One thing to watch this season will be the race for second to last place in the NL Central, because it'll be pretty close.

5. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are back in their traditional place, last in the NL Central. This team is basically in the same situation as the Astros where last year, full rebuilding mode. The Cubs farm system; however, has put them in position to challenge for a playoff spot much sooner than the Brewers.

NL West:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
After getting off to a slow start last year, the Dodgers surged to the top of the division and all the way to the NLCS last year. The only difference between this year and last year for the Dodgers is that this year, LA won't get off to a slow start, and because of that, is capable of winning 100+ games this year. With Zack Greinke, Hanley Ramirez, and Yasiel Puig playing the whole season this year, look for LA to stay at or around the top of the MLB this year.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*
The D-backs where kinda good last year; they lead the NL West until the Dodgers starting being good. With the offensive fire power of Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo smashing home runs all over the place, defense will be Arizona's limiting factor this season. With the Nationals running away with the first wild card spot, look for the D-backs to compete in a really tight three team race against the Red and Giants for that second wild card spot. I think Arizona's power-hitting gives them the edge.

3. San Francisco Giants
The Giants a far from spectacular, but they are solid enough to contend for the second wild card spot. For the first time in a while, offense could actually be the Giants strength this year, but I don't think they'll be strong enough to get that wild card.

4. San Diego Padres
San Diego could be a surprise team this year, but I don't think they will. Acquiring Josh Johnson and Joaquin Benoit, their pitching staff has some legit veterans, but other than that, I don't see any difference between this team and last year's Padres. Their lineup doesn't have a superstar, and every other team in this division does. The Padres can contend, but the won't.

5. Colorado Rockies
Things aren't that bad in Colorado, but they aren't that good either. Nothing about this team screams "CONTENDERS!" or "LOSERS!" like most other teams. The team looks like they could compete at any time now, but they still haven't. Should things fall apart in the mountains, look for stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to be moved out of Denver.

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