Monday, March 31, 2014

2014 MLB Preview and Predictions

Tomorrow is the day where the majority of teams will suit up for the first time in pursuit of a World Series title in 2014. The teams have become more competitive and the fans are more excited than ever before to begin the season. Each team starts fresh; everyone has an equal shot at the postseason and only eight of the thirty teams in baseball will advance into the real first round of the playoffs in October, which seems like it is so far away but before you know it the 2014 season will be in the books and a new World Series champion will be crowned. Last season, many of my playoff picks were a success, and one of my Cinderella teams (Cleveland) advanced to the playoffs in the Wild Card game against the Rays. This season should be a fun ride with all of the rule changes, power shifts and big contracts to players who will begin fresh with their new teams.

Team Records

AL East

New York Yankees: 91-71- Y
Tampa Bay Rays: 89-73- W

Boston Red Sox: 87-75
Baltimore Orioles: 84-78
Toronto Blue Jays: 76-86
Masahiro Tanaka

Like many, I do not see the Boston Red Sox repeating what they did in their World Series season. Everything fell into place for the Sox in 2013. Everyone was healthy and they got key hits in seemingly every single game. The postseason was a wash because their only offense was David Ortiz. In 2014, I see the Yankees returning to the top spot in the Eastern division after an injury plagued 2013 caused them to win only 85 games and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008, Joe Girardi’s first season as Yankees skipper. With the offseason additions of Masahiro Tanaka and Brian McCann along with the signings of Ellsbury and Beltran, the Yankees will be the team to beat in the AL East once again. The Tampa Bay Rays always do something with what they have on the roster. They prevail each and every year after baseball people consistently say that they do not have enough talent to make it to the postseason. With David Price on the staff guiding the other stud pitchers their starting rotation will once again be among the best in baseball. In addition, they have some young hitters coming up through their system and the Rays always strike gold with closers, having Grant Balfour sign with the team after a failed physical with the Orioles. Speaking of the Birds, despite their signings of Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz, I still do not see them as a legitimate threat in the division. The competition is much too strong.

AL Central
Detroit Tigers: 92-70- Y
Kansas City Royals: 89-73- W
Cleveland Indians: 85-77
Chicago White Sox: 77-85
Minnesota Twins: 69-93
The Tigers will have some legitimate competition this season in the Kansas City Royals who have signed Jason Vargas who can provide stability in the rotation when he is not in a funk. In addition, their young hitters have matured another year and I expect stars like Hosmer and Moustakas to have breakout seasons this year after suffering sophomore slumps in 2013. I still believe that this division will be a two-team race with a slight chance that the Indians carry over their 2013 second-half success and translate it into a better overall season from start to finish in 2014. The Twins have made improvements to their pitching staff, but they are still very far away from being competitive in the AL Central against powerhouse Detroit.
AL West
Texas Rangers 90-72- Y
Oakland Athletics: 88-74
LA Angels: 84-78
Seattle Mariners: 79-83
Houston Astros: 60-102
Prince Fielder
Last year, this was my most inaccurate division prediction. I had the Rangers winning the division and the Angels as one of the wildcard teams. This year, I still believe that the Rangers are capable of winning the division after adding Choo and Fielder, who will provide the team with more power and stability in the lineup offensively. I believe the Oakland A’s will do well this year, but I ultimately think they will just miss the playoffs. Their way of play is not sustainable as they win with no-names and keep shocking everyone. However, they will be my AL Cinderella team, as if they already aren’t in default. The Angels pitching worries me, but I do believe that Pujols and Hamilton will have better years than they had in 2013. The numbers between the two players last year were dreadful. Lastly, the Mariners will still be irrelevant in 2014 even after adding Robinson Cano to a ten year pact to play in the Pacific North West.

NL East
Washington Nationals: 93-69- Y
Atlanta Braves: 88-74
Philadelphia Phillies: 82-80
New York Mets: 79-83
Miami Marlins: 67-95

The Washington Nationals should not have a very difficult time against teams in their division. The Nats have the pitching, the offense and a new manager who can bring his baseball knowledge into the minds of his players. There are many big names on the Washington Nationals and I am fully convinced that 2013 was just a bad luck season for Washington. The Braves have lost their leader in Brian McCann and the Upton brothers have not been as good as advertised for the Braves. Their bullpen is still among the top in baseball so their wins should come in close contests. The Phillies did not do anything of any major significance to improve their chances in 2014. All they could hope for is a healthy middle of the lineup, which is also aging and has suffered multiple injuries in recent years, which has been the main cause to Philadelphia’s fall. Despite adding Curtis Granderson, Chris Young and Bartolo Colon, I expect the Mets to win no more than 79 games because of their lack of skillset in the bullpen, and the uncertainties surrounding the infield and the youth of their catcher. Not having Matt Harvey for 2014 certainly makes it difficult for the Mets to be contenders in 2014, however adding Stephen Drew would do a lot to help their shortstop situation and would provide more stability in the second half of the lineup.
NL Central
St. Louis Cardinals: 94-72- Y
Cincinnati Reds: 91-71- W
Milwaukee Brewers: 86-76
Pittsburgh Pirates: 80-82
Chicago Cubs: 70-92
The Saint Louis Cardinals seemingly make the postseason every year having some of the best home-grown talent in the game. In addition, they added shortstop Jhonny Peralta to stabilize their infield and their starting rotation shows a lot of promise and their rookies have been battle tested. The only thing that worries me about the Cardinals is their young starters suffering sophomore slumps after breaking out in 2013. The Reds should have a strong 2014 campaign as Joey Votto remains a huge threat in the lineup and Billy Hamilton coming up to play full time from the minor leagues. He will bring his speed but his hitting remains a question.
Michael Wacha

NL West
Los Angeles Dodgers: 96-66- Y
Arizona Diamondbacks: 90-72- W
San Diego Padres: 87-75
San Francisco Giants: 83-79
Colorado Rockies: 75-87
The powerhouse Los Angeles Dodgers are without a doubt the strongest team in all of baseball with their star talent throughout the roster. Their lineup is a scary proposition for opposing pitchers to face, their starting rotation from 1-5 is as good as anyone else’s in the game and their bullpen is as certain as any bullpen can be with Kenley Jansen as the team’s closer. The D’backs have improved this year as they are looking to compete with the Dodgers. Spending money is how teams garner talent in the west ever since the Dodgers went on a spending spree prior to last season. The Padres as my NL Cinderella team. They added Josh Johnson who can have a Cy Young worthy year at any time and many of their regular players are coming off bad seasons. Chase Headley will look to lead his team to the postseason, which will prove to be a daunting task against the likes of Los Angeles and Arizona. The Giants did too little and allocated their resources in the wrong way by signing Lincecum to a mega-short term deal that left them with little money to spend on external free agents.
Paul Goldschmidt
2014 MVP Predictions:
AL: Mike Trout
NL: Paul Goldschmidt
2014 Cy Young Award Predictions:
AL: Justin Verlander
NL: Jose Fernandez
2014 Rookie of the Year Predictions:
2014 Cinderella Teams:
AL: Oakland Athletics
NL: San Diego Padres
World Series: Washington Los Angeles Dodgers over Tampa Bay Rays

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