Let’s get ready for the 2014 MLB Season with a “quick hit” preview and predictions…
1) Washington Nationals- I really think this team bounces back from a lackluster 2013 Season and wins this division. I don’t think its ‘clownish’ to see OF Bryce Harper as a MVP Candidate. P Stephen Strasburg will be part of that ‘bounce back’ and also look for a good season from P Jordan Zimmerman. The addition of P Doug Fister also will make a difference.
2) Atlanta Braves- The Braves will always challenge for a division crown; their front office is too solid to let the team take a major slide. Losing C Brian McCann & P Tim Hudson will hurt, but RF Jason Heyward, C Evan Gattis & a decent, but not flashy pitching rotation will keep them in it. One anchor that weighs them down is 2B Dan Uggla…a horrible major league player. I see them taking a NL Wild Card.
3) New York Mets- This team will challenge for the division…….some day. 3B David Wright is a great player and solid clubhouse presence. The addition of LF Curtis Granderson also will make a difference, but a lousy bullpen and batting order (other than Wright & Granderson) will kill them. Remember P Matt Harvey is out for the 2014 Season. I hope Manager Terry Collins survives 2014, he is a good leader with little to lead.
4) Philadelphia Phillies- Old team that has no chance. The Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley of 2011 are gone, the Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are more like the “Golden Girls of the MLB”, except Blanche got more ‘hits’.
5) Miami Marlins- Horrible team that is even more disgraceful when you consider how ownership (Jeffrey Loria) misled the residents of Miami to get his new ballpark. Look for star RF Giancarlo Stanton to be moved by mid-season.
1) St. Louis Cardinals- Still the class of the division talent and team wise. Reynoldsburg’s Mike Matheny has proved to be a more than capable Manager. But when you have C Yadier Molina, LF Matt Holliday and a solid rotation led by Adam Wainwright, you probably don’t have to worry much about leadership. One question though, can Jason Motte return from ligament replacement surgery last season? Is RHP Trevor Rosenthal really going to be the Cardinals’ closer?
2) Pittsburgh Pirates- Solid club that is on the rise. Clint Hurdle is a very underrated manager and he gets the most out of his roster. CF Andrew McCutchen is a superstar and while the batting order around him isn’t that impressive on paper, I think 3B Pedro Alvarez has a ‘breakout’ season batting average wise and the addition of C Russell Martin adds a lot. How big is losing P A.J. Burnett though?
3) Cincinnati Reds- Those who know me know that I am a big Reds fan. But I have to be realistic. The ‘window of opportunity’ closed on this team last season. The losses of P Bronson Arroyo and CF Shin-Soo Choo will hurt, a lot. Rising star CF Billy Hamilton should help, but won’t match Choo’s impact, at least for this season. Plus, there is the case of 2B Brandon Phillips…a great player but one with a chip on his shoulder after learning the Reds tried to unload him on the Yankees during the offseason. Also, injuries have hit hard in Spring Training….closer Aroldis Chapman was seriously injured by a batted ball and rotation stalwarts Mat Latos, Homer Bailey & Johnny Cueto are also battling injuries. Relievers Sean Marshall & Jonathan Broxton will start the season on the DL. No playoffs for my Redlegs.
4) Milwaukee Brewers- I have actually heard some pundits predict the 2014 Brewers will contend for the NL Central crown. They are fools. This is a team that is a shell of what it once was a few years ago. RF Ryan Braun is a disgrace that should be booed everywhere he goes. I do not see him having any semblance of a decent season. 3B Aramis Ramirez and CF Carlos Gomez are decent players, but they can’t save this moribund franchise. The pitching rotation other than Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse is atrocious.
5) Chicago Cubs- No. Wait till next decade.
1) LA Dodgers- Class of the division, and possibly the NL itself. Yes, RF Yasiel Puig is a headcase, but Manager Don Mattingly should thank him every day for saving his job in 2013. Puig is the reason this team went as far as it did in 2013, no question. LHP Clayton Kershaw is worth every penny of his outrageous contract. Look for him to keep up his stellar numbers. CF Matt Kemp returns after a injury plagued 2013…even though he is still a little ‘ouchy’ in Spring Training, look for him to rebound with a vengeance.
2) Arizona Diamondbacks- Lots of pundits and publications have the DBacks finishing last in their division. I don’t see it. Kurt Gibson is a manager who like Clint Hurdle gets a lot out of his roster. This is a team that has a lot of decent players who ‘fly under the radar’. Even NL MVP Candidate 1B Paul Goldschmidt (.302, 36 HRs, 125 RBIs) is someone that most casual baseball fans have no clue about. Look for LHP Wade Miley to have a good season. I think they win a NL Wild Card.
3) San Diego Padres- This is what most people refer to as a ‘nice club’. Not flashy, no superstars, but a collection of gritty, decent players that can be fun to watch. 3B Chase Headley suffered a disappointing 2013 after a stellar 2012 (.286, 31 HRs, 115 RBIs). I think he has a good season in 2014. 1B Yonder Alonso, LF Carlos Quentin and SS Everth Cabrera once again are not stars, but solid. Major drawback- a horrific bullpen.
4) San Francisco Giants- Similar team to the Philadelphia Phillies. Lots of names that attract attention, but names that are growing old. RF Hunter Pence, 3B Pablo Sandoval , 2B Marco Scutaro & P Tim Lincecum aren’t getting younger and in my opinion, aren’t getting any better. C Buster Posey is solid, but he can’t carry this team. P Tim Hudson, nice addition….but once again, old.
5) Colorado Rockies- CF Carlos Gonzalez, SS Troy Tulowitzki & 1B Justin Morneau are great players…but they can’t overcome a horrible pitching rotation and bullpen. Coors Field is not a place for bad pitching.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPION- Washington Nationals
1) New York Yankees- Ok, I know a lot of you out there are saying, “Oh, no…you are picking the Evil Empire!?” Yes, I am. The Yankees stole CF Jacoby Ellsbury from their arch-rival Red Sox. A bold and outstanding move to make up for the loss of Curtis Granderson. Yes, the loss of 2B Robinson Cano will hurt. But the additions of C Brian McCann & RF Carlos Beltran will make up for it. I also have no doubt “The Captain” Derek Jeter will end his career on a high note. Drawback- A very shaky bullpen.
2) Boston Red Sox- The loss of Ellsbury will hurt, but only in the fact that the Red Sox will finish 2nd in the division. They still will claim a wild card. This is a solid club and DH David Ortiz, RF Shane Victorino and LF Jonny Gomes won’t let a slide happen. The addition of C A.J. Pierzynski is a solid move. The rotation is still a force with LHP Jon Lester, RHP Clay Buchholz & RHP John Lackey.
3) Toronto Blue Jays- A team that was a MAJOR disappointment in 2013. This team was built to win it all with RHP Josh Johnson, RHP R.A. Dickey, SS Jose Reyes & RHP Mark Buehrle added. That being said, I think this team bounces back. Johnson is gone, but I think pride takes over and the Jays get decent seasons from the other three. Plus, the batting order is solid….remember they have this guy named Jose Bautista in RF. I hate that ‘roider Melky Cabrera gets big money after being a cheater, but I think even he has a decent season in LF and at the plate. The Jays also have a very good bullpen.
4) Tampa Bay Rays- Manager Joe Maddon’s magic runs out. Joe is a great manager who is a genius but a bad batting order finally gets the best of him. I love 3B Evan Longoria….but the bats surrounding him are not strong. 1B James Loney is solid, but not someone who strikes fear. RF Wil Myers will be a star….some day, just not in 2014. Adding C Ryan Hanigan from the Reds is a good move though.
5) Baltimore Orioles- I love Buck Showalter as a manager…but the Orioles’ pitching staff is bad….no, really….its bad. Chris Tillman is a stud (16-7, 3.71 ERA), but after that? Bud Norris? Uh, no. C Matt Wieters, 1B Chris Davis & CF Adam Jones are very good MLB players, but they won’t overcome that horrible pitching rotation and a bullpen that may be worse.
1) Detroit Tigers- Prince Fielder goes to Texas? So what? This team is still loaded and wins the Central again. Miguel Cabrera moves to 1B and that should make things easier for the superstar. 2B Ian Kinsler is a very good addition to offset the Fielder loss. Pitching? Yeah, this team’s got it. RHP Justin Verlander is in another universe…but RHPs Max Scherzer & Rick Porcello are not ones to sleep on. The bullpen? It’s not strong, but this team will overcome it.
2) Kansas City Royals- I am sold on the Royals. This team is on the rise and I think 2014 will be a good year for them. I see 1B Eric Hosmer building on his 2013 season (.302, 17 HRs, 79 RBIs) and DH Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler should keep mashing in the middle of the batting order. The pitching? It’s not the most intimidating rotation, but RHP James Shields should be solid and don’t overlook RHP Jeremy Guthrie (15-12, 4.04 ERA).
3) Cleveland Indians- If the Indians proved one thing, it’s that Terry Francona is a DAMN GOOD manager. This is not the most stellar roster of players, but ‘Tito’ got them to grind and make it into the Wild Card Playoff. CF Michael Bourn though, is starting 2014 on the DL and while 1B Nick Swisher brings a lot of energy, his line (.246, 22 HRs, 63 RBIs) does not impress. Plus, C Carlos Santana is moving to 3B. His play recently has been ok at the ‘hot corner’, but it started miserably in Spring Training. I am not sold on him being a good 3B, but when Lonnie Chisenhall is the other option, you got to do what you got to do. The pitching staff and bullpen, with the exception of RHP Justin Masterson, are both potential ‘dumpster fires’.
4) Chicago White Sox- A team in flux. Can 1B Cuban phenom Jose Dariel Abreu help them contend? No, not this year. The Sox were in such shambles that they brought back their captain Paul Konerko. Where does he play? Who the hell knows? Plus, DH Adam Dunn returns to swing and miss for another season.
5) Minnesota Twins- I feel for Manager Ron Gardenhire. 12 years of service to the Twins; he deserves better than this AAA team Minnesota will put on the field. The only fun Twins fans will have in 2014 is watching Joe Mauer at 1B.
1) LA Angels- Here is my ‘long shot’ prediction. I believe 1B Albert Pujols and LF Josh Hamilton will rebound and have monster years in 2014. Add them to MVP Candidate CF Mike Trout and I think the Angels’ offense will crush opposing pitching. The pitching rotation also isn’t that bad. RHP Jared Weaver (11-8. 3.27 ERA) & LHP C.J. Wilson (17-7, 3.39 ERA) will benefit from the revived offense. The bullpen? Ehhhh, let’s not talk about that.
2) Texas Rangers- Ok, I admit it. A ‘sane person’ would pick this team to win the AL West. I mean, look at them, they added 1B Prince Fielder and CF Shin-Soo Choo. But 2B phenom Jurickson Profar and stud RHP Yu Darvish start the 2014 season on the DL and LHP & Newark, Ohio native Derek Holland is out for awhile due to torn cartilage on his left knee, which he said he hurt tripping over his dog, Wrigley. Hmmmm…… Even with that, I do think the Rangers win a Wild Card.
3) Seattle Mariners- The addition of 2B Robinson Cano to the team was a bold move, but at what cost? The Mariners are not a ‘big budget’ team and as years go by, his 10 year, $240 million contract will kill this team. The 2014 Mariners are really not that impressive a team once you get past Cano and RHP “King” Felix Hernandez.
4) Oakland Athletics- ”Moneyball” will become bankrupt in 2014. The A’s pitching rotation has been decimated by injuries. So badly that RHP Sonny Gray (5-3, 2.67 ERA in 10 games started) will be the Opening Day Pitcher. And while Cuban Sensation LF Yoenis Cespedes made a big splash during in 2012, his average fell in 2013 to .240 from .292. Ouch.
5) Houston Astros- A team that is building for 2017. Let’s get real, this team lost 111 games in 2013. Let’s move on.
AL CHAMPIONS- Detroit Tigers.
2014 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS- Detroit Tigers