2015 Predictions: Part One
I concur that this division belongs to the Nationals. Their lineup is solid and with Gio Gonzalez as your 5th starter, you’re doing something right. As a Mets fan, I’m hopeful they pull it together for their first playoff run since 2006. Losing Wheeler will hamper that somewhat, but there’s hope that fireballer Noah Syndegaard will break in with the team sometime this year. The Braves and Marlins could flip flop for 3rd and 4th place, but losing Justin Upton and Jason Heyward will deplete the Braves. The Phillies are still too old, too injured, and haven’t been able to rebuild yet. Miracles do happen, but the situation looks bleak for the Fightin Phils.
I hope the Pirates can pull out the division and make a deep playoff run, but the Cardinals are just so balanced of a team. Adding Heyward should help, and their staff is still strong with Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn at the top. I don’t think the other 3 teams in the division will put up much of a fight for a playoff spot. The Reds get Joey Votto back, but his numbers were declining before the injury last year. The Cubs have some nice young talent and they’re very much anticipating big things from Kris Bryant, whenever they bring him up. I think they’re a year or two away from being a big presence in the NL Central.
I think the Dodgers are still the favorites in this division, but the Padres have made some bold moves in the off season. The Dodgers lost their middle infield, but defensively their replacements in Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick should succeed. Yasiel Puig should come into true form negating the loss of oft-injured Matt Kemp. Two Cy Youngs helming the staff in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke should provide plenty of wins. The Padres added Upton and Kemp to their outfield as well as Big Game James Shields as their #1 starter. Scouts and pundits are also expecting a good showing from Andrew Cashner as well. I don’t think it’s enough to overrun the Dodgers. The Giants are always that team you don’t think will be good and then they win the World Series. They replaced Pablo Sandoval with comeback player of the year Casey McGehee. Madison Bumgarner is a legit Cy Young candidate, but the rest of the staff is either old or shaky (ahem..Tim Lincecum). Brandon Belt could have a breakout season. There’s no major reasons to be optimistic for either the Rockies or Diamondbacks this year.
2. Blue Jays
3. Red Sox
The AL East is one of the hardest to predict. I think every team except the Rays have a shot at the division. The Red Sox seem to go last to first every other year, so who knows how they’ll perform. The Yankees get Tanaka back from injury along with hit or miss Michael Pineda and aging CC Sabathia. I’m sure the lineup will produce runs, but consistency will be a key factor in their success. Josh Donaldson was a homer and 2 RBI away from a 30/100 season last year and he bolsters the bash bats of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. The key for Toronto will also be consistency of their pitching. If crafty and aging pitchers RA Dickey and Mark Buerhle can fool hitters, they could make a run. The Orioles also suffer from pitching, and I don’t think they’ll repeat as Division champs. Or I could have it completely wrong.
2. White Sox*
Another tough to call division, the Tigers have the bats to produce runs, but pitching is a bit of a question mark here as well. They lost a Cy Young ace in Max Scherzer to Washington and Justin Verlander begins the season on the DL. If he bounces back and they get typical performances from Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and newly acquired Yoenis Cespedes, it’s theirs to lose. The White Sox and Indians will battle for the top spot all year as well, both of whom have solid young talent ready to produce right now. I don’t think the Royals did enough with the rotation to be a viable threat, and the Twins don’t look very promising either.
The Mariners and Angels should jockey positions throughout the season. The M’s added Nelson Cruz to give Robinson Cano some additional weight in the lineup. For the Angels, a lot will rest on the type of season they get from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. The Rangers have Prince Fielder coming back but lost their ace Yu Darvish to Tommy John. The Astros are a year or two away from making some noise in this division.
AL Champ – White Sox
NL Champ – Cardinals
WS Champ – Cardinals
I think the Cardinals are just too balanced and solid with scrappy players that find ways to get hits and score runs.
Dodgers made some big changes over the winter and I like the moves. They should be better defensively with Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick. The Giants have a lot of questions with starting rotation and I don't see a repeat. Padres are improving. Going with more offense after years of trying to win with just pitching. Rockies are just bad.
2. Cardinals *
3. Cubs *
I think this may be the Pirates year.They have some good young players who I think are going to get better. I think the Cards have weaknesses, but I think getting Heyward will pay off big for them. Cubs will make the playoffs, but that's all. They're a few years or less from being ready. Joe Maddon will lead them there. Reds lost too much of their rotation.
There's no reason for the Nats not to win the division. First, there's no one to challenge them. At all. Mets are improving and are loading up with good young pitching. Yes they lost Wheeler, but there's arms in the minors just waiting. They don't have enough bats to carry them to more than a .500 record this year. The Marlins have improved, but don't get Jose Fernandez back till mid-season, that will put them at third place. Braves are rebuilding and traded away a lot of offense. But no team will be as bad as the Phillies this year, I see 100 losses for them.
2. Angels *
Mariners look ready to take this division. Adding Nelson Cruz should help Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith should also help put runs on the board. I think the experiment by the Angels of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton has burned out. A's traded away too much to repeat with a winning record. Astros are improving and wouldn't be surprised if they do finish 3rd. Rangers have too many injuries to rebound from and Yu Darvish could be out for awhile.
2. White Sox *
I think if the Indians can carry the momentum they had the end of last year into this year, they will be strong. The starting rotation had an ERA of 2.95 after the all-star break last year. I like the moves the White Sox made, which is why I picked them 2nd. With Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn gone, they should strikeout a lot less. I don't see the Royals repeating what they did last year - that bullpen will come back to earth. I've been picking the Tigers here the last few years and they have disappointed. Justin Verlander looks like he might be losing a little and losing Max Sherzer will hurt.
1. Blue Jays
2. Red Sox
Eveyone is picking the Red Sox this year and I don't see why. I think they have too many people who should be DH's. Their defense will be bad. With the addition of Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, the Jays look ready. If Dickey and Buehrle hold up, they can do it. Yanks are getting younger, but still have too many players that are done. Orioles didn't do anything to improve and Showalter can't work magic every year. The Rays will miss Maddon.
2. *Blue Jays
4. Red Sox
Tough to pick a front runner in this one. The Orioles won it last year but this is the AL East where teams other than the Yankees rarely seem to win twice in a row… the Yankees finished second last year despite losing Tanaka and I really think they’re a much better team heading into the season this year than they were last year IF their pitchers can stay healthy. The Red Sox offense looks really scary but their pitching doesn’t wow me at all. The Blue Jays are a popular pick and I guess I’m buying into it by putting them second and making them a wild card selection… losing Marcus Stroman hurts and not having Melky Cabrera certainly doesn’t help but they have really good depth across the diamond and some young arms who could surprise some people.
1. White Sox
This is going to be a fun division to watch. The White Sox look like a team destined for the postseason – solid pitching, young studs at multiple positions (Jose Abreu could hit 40 HR) and some veteran leadership to keep the clubhouse in order. The Tigers have a sneaky good lineup and a very formidable top 3 in their rotation. Of course, the Royals surprised a lot of people last year… they won’t sneak up on anyone and I could very easily see them missing the playoffs (the World Series hangover is real). The Indians are a fun team to watch – in this division, it’s all about chemistry and momentum. Who can maintain momentum and keep things moving in the right direction…
The Mariners appear to be destined for the playoffs… The 'Stros appear to be a year or so away but I think they’ll be competitive this year. They have one of the deeper rotations in this division and upside at every position – certainly enough to land them in the top three. Where the Mariners set themselves apart is their star quality (namely Robinson Cano, King Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager) and the depth they have in their rotation and their bullpen. It’s easy to say that the Angels should be in the playoffs given the fact that they won it last year and they have the best player on the planet in Mike Trout and perhaps the greatest first baseman of all-time in Albert Pujols but I think they’re going to miss Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton (who combined for 7 WAR last year). The Rangers and Athletics have both been nearly decimated by injuries in the early going… not a good omen for their upcoming seasons.
Horrid division… Nationals run away with it, boasting the best lineup and rotation in this division (perhaps in the all of baseball – Gio Gonzalez is their fifth starter). Mets losing Wheeler hurts, otherwise I’d say they supplant the Braves here but the Braves pitching should hold up. Phillies and Fish duke it out for last.
Competitive division… the Cubs could have enough to sneak into the playoffs as a wild card in this division (either passing the Pirates who I have in second or earning the second wild card in this division) but the Cardinals seem to be the cream of the crop. They just always seem to do the right things. They re-tooled their lineup without selling the farm… it’s a shame we will never get to see Oscar Taveres patrolling the outfield at Busch Stadium and a loss like that will hurt in many ways but the Cardinals traded one of their young arms (Shelby Miller) for Jason Heyward which opened up a spot in their rotation for Carlos Martinez, who arguably deserved the spot in the rotation, last year.
Another competitive division… the Padres might have a better lineup on paper but the Dodgers still have the best rotation and better star quality. Some of those battles out west will be fun to watch – I expect a lot of fireworks. I’m not sure it’s ever smart to bet against the Giants but there’s just not enough there for me to bet on. One of these years we’ll see a full season of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowistzki… or maybe we won’t. Love that Rockies lineup but can’t get excited about the rotation… Kyle Kendrick would be their opening day starter (with the amount of work that bullpen will be getting, I expect Latroy Hawkins arm to fall off). Diamondbacks don’t enamor me. Traded away a bunch of young arms and left themselves with not a whole lot…
AL Champ – Mariners
NL Champ – Nationals
WS Champ – Mariners
This is a wild pick but I think that the Mariners and Nationals both appear to be in a position to make the playoffs and if either of those teams are in the playoffs, they have the quality at the top of their rotation to win it all. I think that the Nationals can out-muscle the Dodgers in a long playoff series… until the Dodgers prove otherwise, they’re not gritty enough to grind out big playoff wins. I think that there are a lot of up-start teams who will just be happy to be there which bodes well for hungry teams. I’m excited to see what King Felix and Stephen Strasburg can do against each other on the big stage… all that being said, it will probably be a Yankees/Cardinals World Series.