It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the start of the Major League Baseball season! As predictions go this year, well, some things have changed a lot more than they normally do coming out of Spring Training. The amount of injuries certain teams have sustained have opened the door for other teams to take their respective division.
AL East Division Champions: Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays will take this division over this season as they are the most balanced team, and if Boston gets off to a fast start again it will be a tight race to the finish. The Red Sox will be in the playoffs again this season, but as a wild card. I think some their low-risk, high-reward acquisitions from 2013 will level out a bit and their rotation is bit suspect. They need to nurse Jake Peavy through an entire season and John Lackey is not good. Still they have weapons in Will Middlebrooks, who should improve this season, and what looks like a revitalized Grady Siazemore. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Rays are stacked. The infield alone makes you cringe from first to third base; Loney, Zobrist, Escobar, and Longoria, then add in the rotation of Price, Cobb, Moore, Archer, and Hellickson (returning late May) and there’s no reason to think they can lose this division. Meanwhile, the Yankees will be in the thick of it and lot of it will have to do with the improvement of team chemistry without A-Rod in the dugout. They’ve put together a pretty solid team and will be battling for a Wild Card berth. The Blue Jays, I have to believe will be competitive but fall short as usual, I do not believe they have the proper coaching staff based on last seasons results.
AL Central Division Champions: Kansas City Royals
I’m off the Tigers bandwagon, I think a rookie manager and the weight of choking again in the post season will be too much for the Tigers to overcome this season. The Tigers are a talented team, but they do not have any of the intangibles that the Kansas City Royals posses, one huge one is team chemistry. The modern-day bash brothers have been separated as the Tigers sent Price Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler, a legitimate lead-off hitter. The Royals have balance and young talent ready to take the next step in Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, while more seasoned talent such as Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. On top of that add a very serviceable rotation of Shield, Vargas, Guthrie, Chen, and Ventura and I see AL Central winner. Part of the reason I’ve picked KC to win is because I believe 88 wins will win this division, partially because of how much the other teams have progressed. The White Sox made some very solid move in the off-season and with a healthy John Danks have one of the better rotations in the division, and its safe to say that the Minnesota Twins are already on the upswing. I believe this years seller dweller will be the Indians as all the money they spent on mediocre talent will be just that this season.
AL West Division Champions: LA Angels of Anaheim
While I hate their name, I still haven’t figured out why this team has not taken control of the AL West. I’m confident this is their year, but it will not be easy since they have to contend with the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, and an improved Seattle Mariners team. The Angels however have an improved pitching staff along with a healthy Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. They should not struggle to score runs, and let’s not forget that we’ll see an even better Mike Trout this season, especially after his contract extension. Put all that together and they will definitely take this division.
AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s
The AL Wild Card gets harder and harder to predict every year, but the BoSox will be in it again and so will the A’s. The hardest thing for me to do was not pick the Tigers for this spot, but I have not faith that Brad Ausmus can keep the ship together. I look at the Tigers on paper and say they should be right there, but I think they will fall just short.
NL East Division Champions: Washington Nationals
With the Braves starting rotation basically starting the season as the MASH unit, I do not foresee any issues with the Nationals taking hold of this division. I like the make-up of the Braves, but a healthy Nationals’ team has all the makings of a division winner and would have been right in it with the Braves, anyway. Bryce Harper will only be better this year and Gio Gonzalez will have a bounce back year. While the Marlins maybe on a bit of a rebound they still have a long way to go, but might turn a few heads this season. The N.Y. Mets continue to make bad off-season decisions like over paying for Curtis Granderson and Bortolo Colon.
NL Central Division Champions: Pittsburgh Pirates
That’s the right, my pick to win the AL Central is the Pittsburgh Pirates, I don’t care what Baseball Prospectus predicted. They have the best team in the NL Central and the Cardinals reign of terror is due to end. I love the make-up of the Pirates, it’s balanced like a Moneyball-team. “We’re not going to replace Giambi, but we may be able to recreate him.” Those were Billy Beane’s words when trying to build a contender with a low-budget, and the Pirates have done just that through low-cost free agents and a minor league system that out spent everyone for 5-years straight.
NL West Division Champions: San Francisco Giants
As much as we look at the Los Angeles Dodgers and say what a powerhouse, they have absolutely no team chemistry and the injury bug is slowly working its way through a veteran heavy line-up, meanwhile the Giants have done their usual shrewd maneuvers and have put together another solid team. With top pitching locked-up for the foreseeable future the Giants will always be part of the conversation, and this year will be no different. Again, much like last year, the Arizona Diamondbacks are lying in the weeds and could make some noise with a very balanced line-up, but they can not compete with the Giants pitching staff. As for the Padres, they are still trying to recover from the Jed Hoyer hangover.
NL Wild Card: St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers
The Cardinals will make the playoffs again, what new? They will be an early exit as will the Los Angeles Dodgers. Injuries will plague the Dodgers this season.
World Series: San Francisco Giants over the TB Rays in 7 . The Giants will bore non-Giants’ fans with another World Series championship in 2014. The Rays will put-up a fight, but the rotation of Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, Lincecum, and Vogelsong will be too much to handle, along with the best bullpen in baseball.
AL MVP: Mike Trout, LAA
AL Cy Young: James Shield, TB
NL MVP: Andrew McCutcheon, PIT
NL Cy Young: Madison Bumgarner, SF