One thing is for certain; baseball is the least predictable sport there is. How many people had the Kansas City Royals going to the World Series last year? (Okay, I did. But you get the point). Regardless, people make predictions because it is fun. Most of the time, people look back and wonder what the heck they were thinking before the season when they realize how far off they were. Baseball is the best thing in the world. But it is also a crazy game, and anything can and will happen once October rolls around. Without further ado, here is my best attempt to predict this unpredictable game for the 2015 season.
American League East
- Baltimore Orioles* 91-71
- Boston Red Sox 82-80
- Toronto Blue Jays 80-82
- New York Yankees 78-84
- Tampa Bay Rays 74-88
This division was once the best division in baseball. One could make a case that it is now the worst. That could make for some exciting competition though, as there is not one great team in this division anymore. The Orioles won 96 games a year ago and won the division by 12 games. I think they win it once again with getting key players in Manny Machado and Matt Wieters back from injury as well as bounce back years from J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis offensively. Adam Jones is somehow an underrated superstar. He is the heart and soul of this team and he is extremely consistent. The key to this team is finding a “true ace,” and I believe Kevin Gausman becomes that guy this season. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, and Miguel Gonzalez are solid and are more than capable of getting the job done. Losing Andrew Miller hurts (and over the long run trading Eduardo Rodriguez to the Red Sox for him will too), but Zach Britton has found a home as a lights-out closer. He will be fine there for them. The pitching will be good enough and the offense will be fine even with the departure of Nelson Cruz to Seattle. This team did not make and glaring moves over the offseason, but they did not need to.
Most people feel that the Red Sox can go from worst to first again. I don’t quite think that happens. The lineup is plenty good enough. I just do not think they have enough pitching, and their defense does not excite me either. Can Hanley Ramirez handle left field? Sure, but this is an experiment and an adjustment that he will have to make on the fly. There is no question he will be able to hit at Fenway, but the Royals and Giants showed last postseason how important defense is. It is rare nowadays for a team to just stick someone at a position where the player has zero professional experience at just to get a bat in the lineup. Offense is important, but defense has more value now than it has in a long time. Because of this, I do not love this move. Pitching wise, I see a bunch of mid-rotation guys here. They are missing a true ace, and I think the Orioles have a guy that can step up and grasp that role. I am not sure that Clay Buchholz is that guy anymore. Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson, and Joe Kelly are all nice starters, but nothing here jumps off the page. Henry Owens could be that guy, but he needs some time to develop. I am not sure the Red Sox will be able to get enough leads to their bullpen, where the Orioles also have the edge. While this team will score plenty of runs, the Orioles will too, and I like the Orioles team as a whole better.
The Blue Jays has never had a problem scoring runs, and adding Josh Donaldson to their lineup and putting him in that ballpark does not hurt. What this team has always lacked was starting pitching. Losing Marcus Stroman for the season hurts a great deal. But I think Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez are going to be key factors in this rotation for 2015 and for the long haul (I absolutely think Sanchez is a starter, not a reliever). 20-year-old Miguel Castro has really opened eyes in camp this spring, and there is an increasing chance that he could break camp with the team and pitch for them out of the bullpen (becoming the first player in the majors to be younger than me). He could be a big weapon late in games, but I hope this will be temporary if they decide to go this route, because he deserves a chance to develop into what could be a frontline starter. If Norris and Sanchez can prove to be durable starters, than the Blue Jays have to feel good about their prospects in 2016 with a healthy Stroman coming back and perhaps Jeff Hoffman as well. For now though, 2015 will be a developmental year for their young pitchers to catch up with their bats.
The Yankees had a smart off-season. They did not spend a ton of money and they did not trade away impact prospects that they actually have for a guy like Cole Hamels. This is a team in transition. I love the acquisitions of Didi Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi. Gregorius needs to be himself and not worry about who he is replacing. Just go out there and play baseball. He is a whiz with the glove and has some upside with the bat. I look at shortstop as a defense first position, so I think he will be fine there. Eovaldi has electric stuff, but he was very hittable a year ago as he led baseball with 223 hits aloud. He will be fine and is a guy to watch as a breakout candidate in 2015. Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda are excellent atop the rotation, but CC Sabathia does worry me. I think he has seen his best days behind him, and they are paying him a lot of money. This contract does not look good right now. The bullpen is excellent, and Dellin Betances should do just fine as closer if Joe Girardi decides to go that route. This is an older ball club that got younger by bringing in Gregorius and Eovaldi, but there is too much age on this roster for them to contend. Mark Teixeira’s health is a big red flag. So is Carlos Beltran. I expect Brian McCann to bounce back, but there is just too many question marks with this ball club. I would not be surprised to see the Yankees under .500 for the first time since 1992.
The one good thing about the Rays is that they can have the best starting rotation in the American League. Alex Cobb is a fantastic pitcher. Chris Archer is very good. I think Drew Smyly can be excellent learning from Pitching Coach Jim Hickey and the rest of their staff. Jake Odorizzi is solid and they will get Matt Moore back sometime around the All-Star Break. Offensively however, there just is not a whole lot here. No disrespect to Kevin Cash and Matt Silverman, but losing Joe Maddon to the Cubs and Andrew Freidman to the Dodgers do not help either. The Rays have been a blast to watch these past eight years, but this is a competitive division and unfortunately I just do not see it for the Rays in 2015.
American League Central
- Kansas City Royals* 93-69
- Chicago White Sox* 88-74
- Cleveland Indians 83-79
- Detroit Tigers 79-83
- Minnesota Twins 72-90
See here for my take on the Royals this year.
The White Sox had one of the most active off-seasons of any team in baseball. They went out and signed Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, David Robertson, Zach Duke, and traded for Jeff Samardzija. The rotation is headlined by one of the best in the game in southpaw Chris Sale. Samardzija will fit in well in between Sale and another southpaw in Jose Quintana, who is one of the most underrated pitchers in the game. The back end of the rotation has some question marks with John Danks likely having his best days behind him and Hector Noesi has always been inconsistent throughout his career. But Carlos Rodon is legit. He dominated the Royals in one of his starts this spring. He is mainly fastball-slider right now, but watch out once he develops his changeup. He will have a major impact on this rotation relatively soon. The bullpen was a weakness for this team a year ago, but Robertson solidifies the back-end and the addition of Zach Duke and Dan Jennings enables them to push Jake Petricka into a lower leverage role, which gives them a deeper bullpen heading into 2015. Jose Abreu is one of the most complete hitters in baseball. The reigning American League Rookie of the Year hits for average and power and uses the entire field. He could be an MVP candidate soon. Adam LaRoche is a nice left-handed complement to Abreu that adds some balance to the lineup. Melky Cabrera fits perfectly in the number two hole behind Adam Eaton and in front of Abreu. He should get on base a lot and score a lot of runs. Avisail Garcia is a key to this team. He has tremendous ability with the bat and is only 23. I think he can start to take that next step and really lengthen this lineup, which is already a good one. I think Micah Johnson can be their answer at second base. He can really run, adding some speed to the bottom of the lineup which then by turning it over to Eaton at the top makes it that much more deeper. This lineup is very good. This pitching staff is deeper in the rotation and the bullpen is improved. Their defense, speed and overall athleticism improved. General Manager Rick Hahn deserves a lot of credit. He filled in virtually every hole that his team had this off-season. This can be a dangerous team in 2015.
The Indians are an interesting team. Some people feel they can win the division, while others feel they are somewhere in the middle. I think this is a good team. Their young pitching staff is intriguing, and it is led by Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and T.J. House all are young pitchers that have yet to reach their ceilings, which makes for excitement but also a wide arrange of outcomes. Brandon Moss should fit perfectly in the lineup and in Progressive Field. Michael Brantley is no fluke and can do everything on a baseball field. Jason Kipnis should bounce back from a down, injury plagued 2014 campaign. Yan Gomes is one of the better catchers in baseball, both offensively and defensively. Francisco Lindor should be up at some point in 2015 and has potential off the charts at a premium position. Cody Allen gets the job done in the ninth inning. Not much jumps off the page about this team, but put it all together and add one of the best managers in the game in Terry Francona and you get a team that will be very competitive and can contend for the postseason.
The class of the division for a long time now, this will be the first year that the Tigers will begin to decline. This team has plenty of offense. Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Yoenis Cespedes, and J.D. Martinez make up one of the most dangerous middle of the order in the game. Their problem has never been scoring runs, and they should score plenty again in 2015. However, pitching and defense is what baseball is turning to more and more. Their defense will improve getting Jose Iglesias back from missing the entire 2014 season. But their pitching staff has a lot of question marks after David Price, who is entering his free agent season. Will Anibal Sanchez stay healthy? Will Justin Verlander bounce back? Will Alfredo Simon pitch the way he did last year in the American League? Shane Greene is a nice back of the rotation guy, but I have my doubts about the rotation. The bullpen is just bad, and there really is not much more to say here. They are hoping for a comeback from Bruce Rondon, but you just never know with Tommy John surgery. The bullpen killed them in the ALDS against the Orioles last year. It is the Achilles heel of this team and has been for some time. They were able to unload one albatross of a contract in Prince Fielder and get value in return in Ian Kinsler. They then turned around and handed out another one to Miguel Cabrera, and that one does not even begin until 2016. Justin Verlander’s contract is not a great one either. As great as these two players have been, these will easily be two of the worst contracts in baseball, and soon. Victor Martinez is one of the best hitters in baseball, but he is a 36-year-old DH and already injured (in an unfortunate, freak accident) and just got a new $68 million contract. Do they want to give David Price $200 million to keep him in the Motor City for the next eight years? Would that be smart to do for a guy who will be 30 next season and has thrown over 1,200 innings in his career? I am not so sure that is a smart move. They also possess one of the worst farm systems in baseball, so they do not have much young, cost-effective talent on the way. Maybe it’s one of my more bold predictions and I could be completely wrong here. But I have the Tigers around .500 this year and it would not surprise me if they finished below .500. Not only that, but add up the bad contracts and lack of young talent in the organization and this team could be heading for Phillies territory in the future, and that is not good.
The Twins, on the other hand, have an excellent farm system. While it may be a long year in 2015, they have plenty to look forward to in 2016. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are two of the top offensive prospects in the game, but both are coming off of lost seasons as both dealt with injuries that cost them the majority of the season (or in Sano’s case, the entire season). Nick Gordon, Kohl Stewart, Alex Meyer, and Jose Berrios are just a few more names that Twins fans can look forward to watching for years to come. They added to their rotation over the off-season by signing Ervin Santana. Phil Hughes is coming off a strong year. Kyle Gibson has good stuff, but has to show more consistency. Tommy Millone has always been a guy that I liked, and I think he can get a nice opportunity here. Glen Perkins is a steady closer. They reunited with Torii Hunter, who played with the team from 1997-2007, and he will be an excellent addition both on the field and in the clubhouse to mentor the young players. Oswaldo Arcia has a ton of power, but he has some holes in his swing that need to be ironed out. He has a great deal of potential, and will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself in the Twins outfield. Brian Dozier is a nice player at second, and he was recently rewarded with a new four-year deal. Joe Mauer is not as valuable at first base as he was behind the plate. First base is a power position, and Mauer is a natural line drive hitter who sprays the ball all over the field. He was also a fantastic defensive catcher, but injuries forced him to change positions, which took away from his defensive value. The Twins were the class of this division for a long time. But right now, it is the best division in baseball in my opinion, with four teams that have a legit shot to win it (absolutely the Tigers have a legit shot to win it, I just do not see it happening). It could be another long year for the Twins, but they have done a good job building up the system and help is on the way.
American League West
- Seattle Mariners* 95-67
- Oakland A’s* 86-76
- Los Angeles Angels 76-86
- Houston Astros 75-87
- Texas Rangers 71-91
I love this Mariners team. They have always been able to pitch with King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma leading the way. I think this is the year that James Paxton breaks out and becomes elite. Taijuan Walker also has all the talent in the world and has dominated this spring. He will fit in nicely in the four spot for now and will be another ace in this staff in a few years. Adding Nelson Cruz is going to immensely help Robinson Cano in the lineup. He is a perfect fit for this team. Kyle Seager is a very good player and he got rewarded with a nice $100 million contract over the off-season. Logan Morrison still has upside with the bat and adds length to the lineup. Austin Jackson is not a prototypical leadoff hitter, but he will get the job done and fits nicely in center field. Mike Zunino can hit for a lot of power and handle the staff well. I like the addition of Seth Smith in right field. The bullpen is excellent. This is a complete team that I do not see a lot of holes in. They can be very dangerous and make a deep run into October.
Every year Billy Beane tears the team down and puts a completely new product on the field but every year his team finds a way to get into the postseason. They will find a way to do it again in 2015. Out are Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris, Brandon Moss, and John Jaso. In are Billy Butler, Ike Davis, Ben Zobrist, Marcus Semien, Brett Lawrie, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, and Tyler Clippard. The rotation will be led by Sonny Gray, who was excellent last year. Scott Kazmir and Jesse Hahn also figure to have secure rotation spots. They have always had good starting pitching, and they will get big boosts when Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin return from their injuries. Marcus Semien came over from the White Sox in the Samardzija trade and he just seems like an A’s ballplayer. Ben Zobrist also fits that role, and they are both excellent fits for this club. Brett Lawrie should improve offensively and stay off the disabled list now that he is no longer playing on artificial turf. He has always has immense raw power and he plays the game hard. He could break out in Oakland. Their bullpen is good and it got better in adding Clippard. This club is hard to predict because they are always so active. They make more trades than any other team in baseball. Most of the players on their roster have come from trades. Regardless of how the team is put together, it seems to work. Their goal now is to take that next step in the playoffs, and they should get a chance to do that again in 2015.
Now we get to what I think is the most overrated team in baseball. The Angels won 98 games a season ago, and were the best team in baseball until they got beaten by what I think was clearly a better Royals team. They did not have Garrett Richards in October, and that hurt them. Their bats were just overmatched by a tremendous pitching staff. And when they did hit the ball, just about everything was caught. They could not catch a break. Looking ahead to 2015, they have the best player in baseball in Mike Trout. While his talent and makeup are off the charts, I would like to see him cut down the strikeouts and steal more bases. There are way too many strikeouts in this game from an offensive standpoint, and I hope Trout does not become another one of those guys. He could be a 30/30 guy at least every year, or he can swing for 40 homers with 15-20 steals and 150+ strikeouts. I’m taking the 30/30 guy every day. Josh Hamilton needs to get his life in order. Baseball is secondary to him right now. It is really foolish if Major League Baseball is going to suspend this guy. That is not the answer here. This man’s life is in danger, and suspending him won’t help anything. He needs all the help he can get right now, not more people doubting him and punishing him. My prayers are with him and I hope he can get everything in order and one day return to the baseball field. Albert Pujols was one of the best players in our generation, but he is no longer that. The move that nobody is talking about is losing Howie Kendrick, and that is a tremendous loss. He was the glue that kept this team together. Now that he is gone, I would not be surprised if this thing falls apart right before our eyes. They got Andrew Heaney for him and while they needed pitching and I am a big prospect guy, I don’t love Andrew Heaney and Kendrick was way more valuable to that team than Heaney will be. Jered Weaver doesn’t thrill me. Richards is their best pitcher, and he’s coming off a serious injury. They never had an ample amount of pitching, and that is once again the case. Huston Street is very good closing games, but I worry that he will not have many opportunities to save games this year. Mike Scioscia is one of the best managers in baseball, but this is not his kind of team and has not been for a few years now. This is a team full of older players with bad contracts and one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Do not be surprised if this team starts a rapid downward spiral in 2015. It may be a bold prediction to some people, but I honestly would not be surprised if they finished under .500 this season.
I considered putting the Astros ahead of the Angels because they have a plan in place and I love what they are building. They possess one of baseball’s top farm systems and they started to bring up some of those guys a season ago. George Springer is legit. He has swing and miss in his game, but he can do everything on a field. Jonathan Singleton has upside at first base, though he is still raw offensively. Jose Altuve is a beast. He hits everything and can fly. He is so exciting to watch and I think he is the best second basemen in the game. They reunited with Jed Lowrie, which was a nice move. Now they do not have to rush Carlos Correa back from his injury. He will stick at shortstop, but Lowrie is a nice guy to fill that spot for now. Scouts love Jake Marsnick’s glove in center field, but his bat still needs to develop. Evan Gattis will fit nicely in the American League. He has a much power as anyone in the game. They made some moves to beef up their bullpen, signing Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek to multi-year deals. Collin McHugh broke out last year, and Dallas Keuchel also pitched well. Mark Appel should be up at some point in 2015. I think the Astros get close to .500 this year, but not quite over that hump just yet. It has been a painful past few years, but they have drafted well over the past few years (except for not signing Brady Aiken number one overall last year, who recently underwent Tommy John surgery), and they are starting to show some signs of that paying off. This year probably will not be the year, but this is a team to keep an eye on in 2016 and beyond, especially with the teams ahead of them not having great farm systems that will enable them to maintain long-term success.
Last year was a surprisingly long year for the Rangers. Just about everything that could go wrong for them went wrong. 2015 did not get off to a promising start either as they lost Yu Darvish for the season with Tommy John surgery. Former number one prospect and Little League World Series star Jurickson Profar cannot catch a break, as he will miss the season for a second consecutive year. Shin-Soo Choo disappointed in year one of a seven-year deal. Prince Fielder, who never gets hurt, missed most of the season last year. These two guys need to bounce back but both carry question marks. Rougned Odor is legit, and I think he can become one of the top second basemen in the game in the future. Adrian Beltre is still a great player, but he isn’t getting any younger. He probably won’t be on the next contending Rangers ball club. Yovani Gallardo is not the ace he used to be. Overall, this is a team that is full of question marks and injury concerns once again in 2015, and losing Darvish is a brutal way to start the season. I think it will be another long year in Arlington.
National League East
- Miami Marlins* 92-70
- Washington Nationals* 88-74
- New York Mets 84-78
- Atlanta Braves 75-87
- Philadelphia Phillies 61-101
Read my thoughts about the Marlins here.
I know. I’m insane. The Nationals are not winning the division. But I have my reasons for this. Their rotation is just sick, perhaps the best rotation in the past 30 years. But I do not think it was necessary for them to sign Max Scherzer. Tanner Roark would be a number three in most rotations. Here he is a number six. When you look at the numbers, he actually had a better ERA+ than Scherzer did a season ago. Sure he makes them better right now. But like I said with the Tigers and David Price, was it a smart move long-term? I doubt it. I think Jordan Zimmermann is the best pitcher on this staff and is going to have a monster year as he heads into his free agent year. I have my concerns about the bullpen. Losing Tyler Clippard will come back to haunt them. This is not a very deep bullpen, and that is an issue if you want to play deep into October. I think Anthony Rendon is easily the best everyday player on this team. He is such a natural hitter and he makes it look so easy. He will win a batting title at some point. Bryce Harper will be one of the best players in the game. He will be. He is not yet. It is scary to think of how good he can be considering he is still only 22 and will be for the entire season. The numbers he has put up so far are very good for his age. But people need to stop putting him in the Hall-of-Fame already. It will probably be a few more years before he reaches his sky-high potential. I think losing Adam LaRoche in the clubhouse will hurt. Ryan Zimmerman will benefit from sliding over to first base. I do not love Matt Williams as a manager and was honestly stunned when he won manager of the year last year. This team could probably win 90 games with anyone managing. I really do not believe that he had an impact on their performance like Terry Francona does annually for the Indians. Nevertheless, this will still be a very good team. But I think 90 wins is more realistic than 100 wins, and they will have to settle for a Wild Card spot in this scenario.
The Mets will be improved this year. They have a fantastic pitching staff, even after losing Zack Wheeler for the season. It is a good thing that they held onto Dillon Gee, because they are going to need him. Matt Harvey looks incredible this spring. He should be fine, even though Bartolo Colon is starting Opening Day. I think the Mets are going to try and limit his innings by skipping him here and there, but Harvey should get back to being one of the best pitchers in the game once again. Jacob deGrom is for real and is the complete package of stuff and makeup. He will be an excellent number two starter in this rotation for years to come. While Noah Syndergaard gets more attention (and he deserves it), I would not be surprised if Steven Matz makes his debut first. He can be scary good from the left side and I think he is more polished than Syndergaard is at this stage in their respective developments. He could be a rookie of the year candidate depending on when he debuts. I know Bobby Parnell has been their closer, but I would not take the job away from Jenrry Mejia. Parnell has been frustrating with inconsistency over the years. Mets fans will tell you this. Just when he begins to find himself at the back end of the bullpen, he requires Tommy John surgery. I would have moved him to a team that needed bullpen help at the deadline in 2013 (Tigers?). Instead, they kept him and unfortunately, but probably not surprisingly, he got hurt. Right now I would have him somewhere in the middle of that bullpen, but his peak value has come and gone. Mejia, Jeurys Familia and Vic Black are more than capable of being a quality back of the bullpen for the foreseeable future. Moving in the fences every year is not going to help the strength of this team, which is their pitching staff. David Wright does not have the power that he used to, and neither does Curtis Granderson. But these two have been in the league for a while and are professional hitters. Pure power hitters are not going to be successful here. They need to adjust and use the entire field and look for more doubles and drive in runs rather than try to hit the ball out of the park if your ballpark does not allow that. I have always said that Citi Field was built for Jose Reyes, who won a batting title in his only year there. Juan Lagares is an incredible defender in center field. He needs to evolve into a leadoff hitter and utilize his speed more on the bases. Daniel Murphy is a DH playing second base because they have no one else to put him. He is another guy I would have moved and still would move considering he is a free agent after the season and they are not signing him to an extension. Let Dilson Herrera play second base and see what he can do. The Mets have an excellent pitching staff. They need to now focus on improving their defense and especially their team speed to be successful in their park. Their middle infield defense with Murphy and Wilmer Flores is far from ideal. The Royals and Giants went to the World Series last year because they built their team to their park. Until the Mets realize this and stop looking for power and focus on speed and defense, they won’t be going very far. But they do have one of the better farm systems in the game and are deep in various positions down on the farm. At the end of the day I do like this pitching staff and this is a club that can take the next step and finish over .500 in 2015, but not quite into that Wild Card picture.
It will likely be a long year for the Braves, but John Hart knows what he is doing. Unlike the next team in this division, the Braves realized the right time to move pieces and add to their farm system while they had the chance to do so. The Braves were the biggest feast or famine team in baseball last year. John Hart came in and immediately left a statement by moving guys like Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, who were both entering their free agent year and were unlikely to sign an extension with the club. Hart made good baseball trades and acquired young, controllable talent in guys like Shelby Miller, Tyrell Jenkins, Max Fried, Jace Peterson, and Dustin Peterson. Hart also traded Evan Gattis to Houston for prospects Rio Ruiz, Andrew Thurman and Mike Foltynewicz. The farm system looks a lot better now than it did when the 2014 season ended. Freddie Freeman might not see many pitches to hit this year, but he is still an excellent player that you can build a team around. Holding onto him was smart because this team will be competitive again in a few years. Nick Markakis grew up in Atlanta and he will fit in nicely into that clubhouse. They gave him a lot of money knowing that he was going to require neck surgery, but I like the addition. Andrelton Simmons is ridiculous defensively and he can hold his own offensively. The kid is a special player at a premium position. They have some pieces in place and locked up, and they also added to their farm system. But it appears they are targeting the 2017 season, when they will open the new SunTrust Park, to become a force again.
With the first selection of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft, the Philadelphia Phillies select…. Remember this, because it will be happening. The Phillies have really become a lost cause. They were great for a long time. But they decided to lock up too many of their core guys who are now for the most part well passed their primes, have no value in trades or immovable contracts, and do not have much to look forward to in the farm system. They need to trade Cole Hamels and get back what they can for him. Same with Papelbon. And honestly, anyone else who has any ounce of value left that can bring back something to add to their system. Ken Giles is nasty, and is definitely capable of closing games. I have never been high on Domonic Brown. His 2013 season may be his ceiling, and he is no more than a platoon player who cannot hit lefties. I think they should have traded him after that season and maximized his value because I do not see him doing that again. Ben Revere is a nice player who can cover ground in the outfield and steal a good amount of bases, but he needs to get on base more. I would start Darin Ruf over Ryan Howard at first base every day. He needs to play somewhere on this team, he has nothing left to prove in the minors. Howard was a fantastic player, but those days are long gone and you are not moving that contract anywhere. They should be grateful that the Dodgers took Jimmy Rollins off their hands. I said last year they would lose over 100 games. I was probably a year early with that. This team had a great run, but they did not handle this well in terms of maintaining that success long term. They kept all of their guys throughout the years and even traded from their farm system to add to their team (that Hunter Pence trade sure looks like a steal for the Astros). Sorry Phillies fans, but it will be some time before you can start thinking about October baseball again.
National League Central
- St. Louis Cardinals* 93-69
- Pittsburgh Pirates* 87-75
- Milwaukee Brewers 82-80
- Chicago Cubs 79-83
- Cincinnati Reds 76-86
The Cardinals really know how to run a baseball team. They have a beautiful stadium, great fans and a consistent team that wins year after year after year. They do this the right way. They develop their own players from a consistently strong farm system that has more talent on the way. Yadier Molina is without question the best catcher in baseball. He is so valuable with that pitching staff and consistently helps the young arms that they develop every year. I think that he is one of the most valuable players in baseball and is somehow underrated in that regard. Albert Pujols, one of the best players of our generation, left and they did not miss a beat. It is really incredible. I like that they are moving Carlos Martinez to the rotation. He will be an excellent starter for them. Michael Wacha needs to bounce back from a harsh ending to his team’s season a year ago. That is a hard memory to erase as a pitcher, especially for Wacha coming into a situation like that out of the bullpen that he is not accustomed to. I think he will be fine and he will be a workhorse in this rotation for years to come. I do worry a little bit about Adam Wainwright’s health. But the thing with this team is that no matter what happens they always find a way to get to October. I think they are not only the class of the division, but the class of the entire sport. This is how you want to build and run a baseball team. Congratulations St. Louis, because you are the best baseball town in the world and have a pretty good team to go along with it.
The Pirates have really built some team over on the Allegheny. They endured a lot of hard times, but had good drafts as well as international signings that landed them Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Gerrit Cole, and hometown kid Neil Walker. They also have a good farm system, so they should be in this for the long haul. Their pitching coach Ray Searage has a way of getting the most out of his pitchers. He rejuvenated Francisco Liriano’s career and also got a nice year out of Edinson Volquez in 2014. A.J. Burnett had two good years with the Pirates from in 2012-13 and he came back for this year because he enjoyed it there so much and is a great fit with them. This team has a good pitching staff, a solid offense, an extremely talented outfield and a nice infield mix with Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer/Jung Ho Kang. Their bullpen is solid. Mark Melancon is a reliable closer and Tony Watson is fantastic. This is a well balanced team that should be in contention for the postseason not only in 2015, but for years to come as well.
The Brewers were one of the better teams in baseball for the majority of last season, but then went 9-17 in September to drop them to 82-80 on the season, missing the playoffs by eight games. Carlos Gomez is a superstar who can do everything in center field. It took him a while, but he has put it all together. Ryan Braun and Khris Davis can both hit and play a solid outfield. Braun is probably not the player that he used to be though. Gerrardo Parra is an excellent fourth outfielder, though he can easily be starting on a lot of teams. I like the addition of Adam Lind to play first base. I think he can bounce back in that ballpark. I like Scooter Gennett and Jean Segura up the middle. They can both play well on both sides of the ball. Aramis Ramirez has had a tremendous career and is a nice veteran to have in that clubhouse. He won’t put up the numbers he used to with the Cubs, but he will still be a quality producer in his final year. Jonathan Lucroy could be the most underrated player in baseball. He is fantastic defensively and is very good offensively as well. He is a complete player and is extremely valuable to this team. I think they have enough pitching and I expect Wily Peralta to take the next step this year and become that ace. The bullpen is okay. Francisco Rodriguez is back closing games and I like Tyler Thornburg’s upside. Jonathan Broxton and Will Smith also pitched well last year. Overall I think this is a pretty solid team that will end up around .500, maybe a little higher than that. They could contend for a wild card spot, but I think will ultimately fall a little short.
The Cubs have a lot to look forward to, but let’s take it easy here for a minute. Are they going to win the World Series this year? No. Are they going to make the playoffs this year? No. Are they going to be .500 this year? Maybe. I really do not know how signing Jon Lester and adding Joe Maddon as manager make them one of the favorites to win the World Series. That is just silly, really. They have as bright of a future as any team in the game, and that could come as soon as 2016. But not 2015. In the meantime, either Kris Bryant or Jorge Soler could win Rookie of the Year. I’ll go with Bryant because he is the bigger name, though Soler may be the better all-around player. Dexter Folwer was a nice addition to add to the top of the lineup. I like Arismendy Alcantara and am glad he will get a chance to play second base, though I also like Tommy La Stella and am puzzled on why the Braves decided to move him. Anthony Rizzo is excellent at first base and a tremendous story as a cancer survivor. Jon Lester, another cancer survivor, will help this staff a great deal. But after him I don’t see a whole lot that makes people think this is a World Series team this year. Jake Arrieta had a nice year, but I want to see him do that again. Jason Hammel is okay, nothing really special. Kyle Hendricks is a nice story but again, I want to see him do it again. The bullpen isn’t all that good either. This team has a lot of potential. I didn’t even mention Addison Russell. That’s how much potential they have. But until potential becomes performance, there’s no real reason to place all of your chips on this team for this season. They will improve on last year, but maybe by six or seven games, not 20.
The Reds are a team that have a wide range of possible outcomes for 2015. They have had a great run with this core group. But I think that this is a very competitive division and they will not be in the mix around the trade deadline. Should that be the case, I could easily see impending free agent Jonny Cueto, who is extremely underrated, heading elsewhere. They had a lot of guys, especially in the rotation, that all hit free agent at the end of this season. Cueto is the biggest name and Mat Latos, who they shipped to Miami, was another one of those guys. They gave Homer Bailey a $100 million deal prior to last season. Homer Bailey is a nice pitcher, but I think that was a little extreme. He has loads of potential, and hopefully he can harness it because that could be a good contract if he does. Right now though, that’s not looking so well. Marlon Byrd was an okay move. He’s getting up there in age, though he should be able to hit at Great American Ballpark. Billy Hamilton is electric, but he needs to get on base more. He made great strides of doing that in the second half of last season which is an encouraging sign. Jay Bruce has too much swing and miss to his game and he saw his power numbers drop last season, as well as his average. The deal they had with Joey Votto could be the downfall of this team. Not because of Votto at all. But because a small market like Cincinnati simply cannot afford to have one mega contract like that. He will be 31 this season, dealt with injuries last season and has nine years and $213 million left on his deal (if the $20 million option for 2024, his age 40 season, is bought out for $7 million). Joey Votto is a great guy, but a team that plays in a market like this cannot handcuff itself with this kind of megadeal because it limits when they can do, in this case, for the next nine years. Aroldis Chapman should never start a game in the majors. At times he can’t throw strikes for one inning, forget about six innings. He is lights-out where he is, leave him there. But I fear that the Reds are kind of stuck in the middle which is never a good place to be in. I think they end up selling off Cueto at the deadline and look toward the future, but finishing this season at the bottom of this competitive division.
National League West
- Los Angeles Dodgers* 94-68
- San Diego Padres 84-78
- Arizona Diamondbacks 78-84
- San Francisco Giants 75-87
- Colorado Rockies 66-96
I really think the Dodgers win this division by default. This is not a good division. But that does not mean the Dodgers do not have a good team. Clayton Kershaw is in another world during the regular season. Their starting pitching is very good, though Hyun-Jin Ryu will begin the season on the DL. They gave Brandon McCarthy a lot of money. He is a good pitcher, but $44 million was a vast overpay. Even Brett Anderson got $10 million for one year. Again, he is a good pitcher, but he has not been able to stay healthy at all during his career. The bullpen is fine, though they just lost Brandon League for at least two months. They still have a logjam in the outfield even after moving Matt Kemp. Joc Pederson can play and will be fine in center field, but they have to do something with Andre Ethier. He is better than a fourth outfielder, and they have to move him before the situation becomes a distraction. Speaking of distractions, Yasiel Puig is immensely talented and has a lot of passion for the game. But his antics at times are more bad than good for his team. He is still only 24, but he needs to grow up on the field a little bit. Jimmy Rollins is nearing the end, but he should be fine for one year to man shortstop before Corey Seager is ready to take over. Julio Urias’ story in incredible to be pitching the way he is as an 18-year-old. It would not be crazy to see him in LA sometime before he turns 19 in August. This has the feel of a team that is from Hollywood, but maybe there’s a little too much Hollywood here. Regardless, this is a good regular season baseball team. The Dodgers can win 96 games or they can win 86 games, but either way it will be enough to win this division.
The Padres needed to add bats, and they sure did that adding an all-new outfield of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp. They also acquired third basemen Will Middlebrooks from the Red Sox and catcher Derek Norris from the A’s. But they only have one lefty in their lineup in Yonder Alonso and the outfield defense is likely to be below average in a spacious outfield. They added James Shields to the top of a deep rotation that also consists of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy who all can provide the rotation with 200 innings. Brandon Morrow can be a big piece to the rotation if he can stay healthy. The pitching staff is excellent and the offense should improve, but I do worry about the defense as well as the lack of balance in that lineup. I can see this team jumping over the .500 mark, but not quite leaping into the postseason picture.
This may be a surprise, but I like what the Diamondbacks are doing out in the desert. Paul Goldschmidt should bounce back to being one of the best all-around players in the game. He has plenty of protection in the middle of the lineup with Mark Trumbo and Yasmany Tomas. Aaron Hill should bounce back and he is a nice fit in the two hole behind AJ Pollock. Pollack is a similar player to Adam Eaton, who the Snakes traded away to the White Sox for Addison Reed. He is a sparkplug atop that order, which I think will score a lot of runs this year, and can play a good center field. The rotation does have its flaws, but I like Jeremy Hellickson moving over to the National League. I also like Ruby De La Rosa and they have Daniel Hudson coming back from Tommy John surgery as well. They should also see some midseason reinforcements when they call up Archie Bradley and perhaps Braden Shipley as well and get Patrick Corbin back from surgery. Overall I like this team more than most do, and I think they can be around .500 this year.
Here are the defending World Series Champions. I have them finishing in fourth place. They had a great run last year, and seem to every other year. But when I look at this team, nothing really jumps off the page. In the rotation, Madison Bumgarner is the clear ace of this team and showed that he can literally handle anything. Nothing phases this guy on the mound. But other than him, this rotation is not impressive. Their other starters combined for an ERA just below 10.00 in the World Series. Matt Cain is a question mark coming off an injury. Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson have seen their best days go by. Tim Lincecum is done. This is just not a very good rotation. They still have Hunter Pence who does everything awkward but well on a baseball field. He fits in with what they have going on. He is a tremendous leader and is a winning ballplayer. Losing him with a broken forearm for the first month of the season is a big loss. They will miss Pablo Sandoval a great deal. He was arguably the face of this franchise for the time he was there. He meant so much to that team both on and off the field. Casey McGehee is a solid hitter, but Sandoval’s presence will be greatly missed. Other than Bumgarner, Joe Panik won the World Series for the Giants by making that diving play on Eric Hosmer in the third inning of game seven. He is a nice player who plays the game hard and should man second in the bay area for the next decade. Angel Pagan is also coming back off of an injury and has had injuries throughout his career. I look at this team and see a less than stellar pitching staff and an offense that lost one of its biggest contributors for good and one that will not be there at the start of the season. It may be a coincidence, but an odd number year means a sub .500 season for the Giants and I do not see them winning the World Series again in 2016, either.
Troy Tulowitzki has been one of the most talked about trade pieces for the past few seasons because of the team he plays on and the trade value that he has (if he can stay healthy). The Rockies have always been able to hit, but it is difficult to attract free agents to pitch in the thin air at Coors Field. They need to develop their own pitching, and they have some power arms coming in Eddie Butler, Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland (anyone who watched the draft last year saw Kyle Freeland’s awesome reaction to getting picked by his hometown team). Jorge De La Rosa is actually pretty good at home, but the rest of the staff does not have a whole lot to offer. I think that if Tulowitzki can stay healthy and build value then trading him for a king’s ransom is the right thing for the Rockies to do. A team to get that kind of player on both sides of the ball as a shortstop could be a real difference maker. Nolan Arenado is a terrific young player that they could look to build their next winning team around. I expect a Tulowitzki trade to happen at some point, which would mean the Rockies are heading for a full rebuild, making a last place finish the likely outcome.
American League Wild Card: White Sox over A’s
You have a pretty good chance to win throwing Chris Sale in a one game playoff. Unfortunately for the A’s, it will likely be one-and-done once again for them in this scenario.
ALDS: Mariners over White Sox
This will be a good series, and the White Sox could definitely win this. But I think the Mariners win this in five games.
Royals over Orioles
A rematch of last year’s ALDS, these are two similar teams. Both teams play defense and have a good amount of speed. While the Orioles have the edge on offense, pitching wins in October, and the Royals’ bullpen gives them the slight edge. Sorry Jim Hunter, but Royals in five.
ALCS: Mariners over Royals
Again, this could go either way. And a Royals White Sox series would be a lot of fun to see here as well. But I just think this is the Mariners year to get to the World Series. Their rotation and lineup are deeper than the Royals and their bullpen can match up. They are the better team. Mariners in six.
American League Champions: Seattle Mariners
National League Wild Card: Pirates over Nationals
Surprise! The mighty Nationals get to the playoffs and are one-and-done. I really like the Pirates this year and playing in October, you need to have good clubhouse chemistry. I’m not sure the Nationals have that.
NLDS: Pirates over Dodgers
Clubhouse chemistry comes into play once again. The Dodgers have a lot of personalities in that clubhouse and I do not think Don Mattingly is the right man for that group. The Dodgers can win their division all they want, but they are never going anywhere in October with this group. Pirates in three.
Marlins over Cardinals
As much respect as I have for the Cardinals, I just have a feeling about the Marlins this year. Especially if they get Jose Fernandez back in the second half of the season, he will not have many innings on him for this season. The Marlins pitching staff is very good, and I think they have more athleticism than the Cardinals do. Marlins in four.
NLCS: Marlins over Pirates
Forget the TV ratings. This would be a fantastic series for the game of baseball and for people who are actually true baseball fans. These could very well be the two best outfields in the game. However, I think the Marlins are the superior team. Marlins in five.
National League Champions: Miami Marlins
World Series: Miami Marlins over Seattle Mariners
As Bob Costas said in 1997: “The Florida Marlins have won the World Series.” Only this time it is the Miami Marlins. As good as the Mariners are, I look at this Marlins team and just see the kind of team that is built for October. They have a fantastic rotation, especially when they get Jose Fernandez back. They have the best outfield in the game. They have a great bullpen and one of the most consistent closers in the game in Steve Cishek. They have speed at the top of the order in Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon. Power in the middle in Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Mike Morse. Martin Prado is as steady as they come. Adeiny Hechavarria is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game and is so much fun to watch. This team has everything. They bring a ton of energy to the field everyday and are a lot of fun to watch. They have fun playing the game, and that is the way it should be. There is going to be a party in South Beach come October as the Marlins will win their third World Championship.
World Series Champions: Miami Marlins
AL MVP: Mike Trout, LAA
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton, MIA
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, CWS
NL Cy Young: Jordan Zimmermann, WAS
AL Rookie of the Year: Carlos Rodon, CWS
NL Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant, CHC
AL Manager: Bob Melvin, OAK
NL Manager: Mike Redmond, MIA
Well there you have it. If am correct, the Marlins will be World Champions in 2015. Of course I have respect for all 30 organizations, these are strictly my predictions on what I think will happen this season. But baseball is the least predictable sport there is, so all we can really do is just watch and enjoy the season and hope it does not go by too quickly, as it always seems to (from a fan’s perspective). Because America’s grand pastime is, and always will be, the best thing in the world. So enjoy the season, because like always, it will surely be one to remember.