Baseball season is back! After the two-game series in Australia where the Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks, the MLB season was officially underway. Tomorrow will mark opening night in America with those same Dodgers taking on the San Diego Padres and Monday will be opening day league wide.
So before the season gets fully underway, I felt it was time to make my predictions for each league in 2014 and who I think will win it all.
The Yankees will probably miss out on the division crown by only a few games and the Rays will not be far behind. The Bronx Bombers lost Robinson Cano and Mariano Rivera, but were able to throw money around again and bring in veterans Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and sign the highly talked about rookie Mashiro Tanaka. If Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira can keep it going next to the new additions, this team could be a force. The only question is, will they all play like its 2007 or like its the end of their careers? Its playoffs or cellar this year.
As for the Rays, they certainly have the pitching to carry them all season with David Price, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi. But I think outside of Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings and Wil Myers, their batting isn't strong enough to get it done in 2014.
Baltimore has loaded up once again after signing Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez. Throwing Cruz into that lineup gives the Orioles a scary middle of the order with Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Manny Machado. As for their pitching, it still lacks that ace starter and in the AL East, batting will only take you so far.
In 2013, a lot of people pegged the Blue Jays for the world series. Now, most people are predicting them for last place as am I. The Blue Jays have a solid batting lineup, the only problem is they all tend to get hurt. If Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion can all avoid DL stints, the Blue Jays could challenge in the East. But betting on healthy seasons in not a wise choice.
As for Texas, every year we have the same question; Can they pitch? We know they can score runs, especially after adding Prince Fielder to a home run park. But for pitching, outside of Cy Young nominee Yu Darvish, the Rangers really are hurting. Derek Holland's offseason injury has him out half the year. Martin Perez and Tanner Scheppers haven't proven much. And Matt Harrison and Joe Saunders are about the least scary pitchers in the AL West. Fortunately for the Rangers, they face a weaker division than most and can get by with mediocre pitching, but I don't see them winning that wild card spot by any large margin.
Moneyball in Oakland is going to flounder in 2014. With the loss of Jarrod Parker for the season, the staff takes a major hit. In an American League where power bats flourish, the A's don't have any arms that can go out there and shut hitters down. As for their batting, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson are the two guys to worry about, but I wouldn't be afraid to go right after everyone else. I don't see the A's taking third place by much.
Moving from New York to Seattle was definitely a money move for Robinson Cano because the Mariners are still a ways away from the playoffs. Their pitching is getting better and better though with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker leading the way. But outside of Cano, the Mariners batting will need Justin Smoak, Mike Zunino, Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley to live up to the hype and veterans Corey Hart and Logan Morrison to help protect Cano. A lot of variables in order for Seattle to make any threat at playoffs, but I'm not willing to bet on it in 2014.
And for last place, it was an easy choice. The Houston Astros continue their rebuilding years and come into 2014 with a first place in AAA caliber team. Led by Jose Altuve and newcomer Dexter Fowler, the Astros are still lacking that feared bat they had back in the day with Lance Berkman. Fortunately for the Astros, their farm system is home to the monster George Springer, who hit 40 home runs and stole 37 bases last year. Springer will be that all-star bat they lack and if they're lucky, SS Carlos Correa will be up soon as well. Correa has been compared to a young Alex Rodriguez, so a punch of Springer and Correa could be something we see for the next 10 to 15 years. But as for 2014, don't be surprised to see the Astros with the worst record in baseball.
My sleeper team for 2014 is the Kansas City Royals. Led by Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, the Royals have a young batting lineup that could make a name for itself this year. As for the staff, veteran Big Game James Shields leads the way with fellow vets Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas bringing experience to the squad. Rookie Yordano Ventura has the ability to strikeout 180-200 with his 100+ MPH fastball and figures to compete for Rookie Of The Year in 2014. I wanted to give the final wild card spot to the Royals, but I think they are still a year away.
The Indians moved forward last year thanks to big years from Jason Kipnis and Justin Masterson. This year, the Indians have a young strikeout machine in Danny Salazar to fill in for Ubaldo Jimenez and bolster the staff and John Axford will now be coming in to slam the door in the ninth after Chris Perez was released. The Indians will remain in the race for playoffs this year with the Yankees, Royals and Rays for the final wild card spot, but I see them fading out towards the end.
I think it's going to be a dark year in Chicago in 2014. The White Sox come into the season after what I think was the beginning to the fall of the power house in 2013. Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn remain on the roster, but don't expect anything out of them. The only people I would really be afraid of are Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton. Outside of them, it's nothing but mediocrity and thats not including the pitching staff. Chris Sale sits atop a weak starting five and nobody in the bullpen has separated themselves to claim the ninth. I would almost say don't be surprised if they are in the cellar of the division, but the Twins have that guaranteed.
100% guaranteed to be exact. Joe Mauer will hit .330 probably, the rest of the team, .230. The staff led by Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes is below average and the bullpen has nobody but Glen Perkins. Looking at the entire roster, I bet an average sports fan couldn't name more than four players on the team. The only race the Twins will be in this year is for last in the MLB with the Astros, Marlins and Cubs.
The poor poor Braves. Coming into Spring Training, the Braves were easily one of the favorites to make playoffs. Now, they would have to hope for a miracle. With the losses of Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to tommy john surgery for the season, the Braves rotation has been cut down. Their top starter Mike Minor is also dealing with arm issues and could be out a month. Ervin Santana was added, which gives them some help next to Julio Teheran and Alex Wood, but outside of that, the Braves are really hurting. Offensively, the Braves still have enough to stay in games with Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons. This season is not completely lost, but if nobody steps up in the rotation, the Braves could free fall in 2014.
For the Phillies, the one thing you can say for them is they have experience. With veterans Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and AJ Burnett, the Phillies know how to win. The only question will be; can they stay healthy?
The sleeper of the East is the Mets. Well in 2015 it is. The Mets are without Matt Harvey this year and prospect Noah Syndergaard will remain in the minors for a few months. Zach Wheeler will lead the young Mets, but you have to be excited to see that trio in 2015. But to get back to this season, it will probably be a long one. Offensively, the Mets have veteran star David Wright and newcomer Curtis Granderson leading the charge. Eric Young Jr. is a sleeper this year in the outfield with his speed and I wouldn't be surprised if he's challenging for the stolen base lead this year. Catcher Travis d'Arnaud is the future for the Mets behind the plate and the hope is for him to take another step forward in 2014. All in all, the Mets are probably going to have a brutal year, but the future is bright in New York.
Oh Marlins. How fast you have fallen. Not to long ago they were supposed to win the division and head to the World Series after moving to Miami and signing all these players. Fast forward two years later and now the Marlins are competing for last in the MLB thanks to their owner. The only players on the roster now that people fear are power hitter Giancarlo Stanton and fireballer Jose Fernandez. Outside of those two, no pitcher is afraid of going after their hitters and no hitter is afraid to step in the box against their staff. Maybe 2014 will be the year they grow as a team, or maybe it will be another year where they trade their best players.
The Giants come into this season hoping to see some players bounce back. Their ace in 2012, Matt Cain, put together his worst season last year with an ERA of 4.00. Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner, had yet another bad season with an ERA above 4.30 and offensively, Pablo Sandoval had another mediocre season with less than 80 RBIs and an average below .280. On the bright side, Madison Bumgarner took another step forward as the new ace of the club and Hunter Pence and Buster Posey put together great seasons. If the Giants staff can rebound in 2014, they could be a team to watch come October.
Don't forget about the Arizona Diamondbacks. The addition of Mark Trumbo gives the Diamondbacks a scary power duo of Goldschmidt and Trumbo. Veterans Miguel Montero, Martin Prado and Aaron Hill give the Diamondbacks a solid batting order with the only question being pitching. Patrick Corbin was lost for the season to tommy john, but prospects Randall Delgado and Archie Bradley should be able to fill in all season. Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and Bronson Arroyo give the Diamondbacks an experienced, but average rotation that could be enough to hold them in the race for playoffs. Don't sleep on Arizona.
Actually, don't sleep on San Diego either. The Padres rotation and bullpen has been one of the most effective and consistent squads in the last couple years. and their offense is no slouch. Though nobody is above and beyond the star, they all have their specialties and play well together. I'm calling the Padres my sleeper in the National League.
And in the cellar of the west is the Rockies. We know they can hit thanks to Coors field and stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. What keeps the Rockies towards the bottom of the standings ever year is their pitching. With no clear ace or even young pitcher grooming for the role, the Rockies are no threat to teams because they can simply be outpitched every game. You would think after continues years of losing and no starter being better than average, they would trade for one or sign one. I'm a fan of Colorado, but they have no shot at moving up in this division until they get someone to lead the rotation.
Year in and year out the Cardinals make the playoffs. Just when you think they are getting too old and the decline is coming, their veterans find another gear and their minor leaguers fill the void. Last year, we watched as Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller cemented themselves as the future for the staff of St. Louis behind Adam Wainwright. And don't forget about Trevor Rosenthal coming in at the end of the game to strike everyone out for the next 10 years. Offensively, veterans Yadier Molina, Allen Craig and Matt Holliday continued doing what they've been doing the last couple years and led the Cardinals lineup. Young first basemen Matt Adams figures to get everyday playing time and looks poised to breakout. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Cardinals go deep in the playoffs.
Last year's breakout team finally made the postseason. The Pirates had been inching closer and closer to playoffs the previous two years, but in 2013 thanks to an MVP season from Andrew McCutchen, they finally made the step. Unfortunately for them, I think they are going to take a step back in 2014. The loss of AJ Burnett and Garrett Jones will hurt them, and the waiting period on Gregory Polanco will take too long. But the future remains bright for Pittsburgh. I could see them easily winning the division in 2015 after a few more additions in free agency and call-ups of not only Polanco, but Jameson Taillon as well.
Not putting the Brewers in the cellar was tough for me. Getting Ryan Braun back will help after a horrible 2013 season, but I'm not quite sure how things will go. After lying to his teammates, Braun wasn't exactly the most popular guy in the clubhouse and to fans. If his big production did come when on PEDs, we may see a huge regression from him. It really is a complete toss up. Outside of Braun though, the Brewers did see Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez break out and become forces in the offense. But batting was never really the problem in Milwaukee, it was the pitching. The Brewers picked up Matt Garza to lead the rotation, but they will need guys like Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada to rebound from horrible season. Kyle Lohse brings the experience to the table, but who knows how much he has left. 2014 will be a year of questions for Milwaukee and don't be surprised when they fall down the ranks.
Last but not least, the little Cubs. I'm actually excited for the future in Chicago. Though it may be a few years away, the Cubs have a lot of young prospects on the way. A projected lineup in a year or two of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Junior Lake, Wellington Castillo and Mike Olt should only make Cubs fans excited. Pitching wise right now, Jeff Samardzija leads the way with Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel following behind and Jose Veras closing. With some additions to the rotation, the Cubs could be headed in the right direction. But in 2014, it will still be a year of rebounding.
Tigers in 7
Game 1 - Stephen Strasburg vs. Justin Verlander
Game 2 - Jordan Zimmerman vs. Max Scherzer
Game 3 - Gio Gonzalez vs. Anibal Sanchez
Game 4 - Doug Fister vs. Rick Porcello
Game 5 - Stephen Strasburg vs. Justin Verlander
Game 6 - Jordan Zimmerman vs. Max Scherzer
Game 7 - Gio Gonzalez vs. Anibal Sanchez
A Tigers and Nationals World Series would be about as even as possible. I almost had the Dodgers in there, but I think the Nationals bats carry them past the Dodgers in seven.
In this 2014 World Series between Detroit and Washington, I see this going seven games easy.
Above, you see the most likely pitching match-ups and they will be as good as advertised.
I could see Game 4 being the make or break for each team with both squads first three starters probably evening out the six games. What this world series really will come down to is the bullpen. We know both teams can hit and pitch the first 6-7 innings, but what happens in the later part of the game is the deciding factor.
I think the Tigers have the edge with a deeper bullpen as long as they all pitch to their capabilities from the regular season. We saw the Tigers fall apart a few years ago against the Giants in the World Series because of the bullpen, but I think it's different this time around. The addition of Joe Nathan and Joba Chamberlain to go with Al Albuquerque, Phil Coke, Bruce Rondon and long reliever Drew Smyly makes the Tigers the team to beat.
2014 will be the year of the Tigers and World Series MVP Miguel Cabrera can put a few more trophies on his mantle.