2014 MLB Preview

No posts in months and then two in the same week? I’m on a roll!

Division winners, award winners, World Series winner…all that fun stuff below.  Enjoy!

AL East

1. Tampa Bay Rays

I have a ton of respect for the Rays. Being as good as they’ve been in a powerhouse division with such a massive payroll disadvantage impresses the hell out of me.  They kept David Price and get a hopefully improved Matt Moore and a full year out of Alex “The Next James Shields” Cobb (he pitched just 136 innings last year after taking a line drive to the head) gives then a nice rotation and a full year of Wil Myers should give them that extra bat they seem to always be lacking.

I love a good bat flip and Wil Myers has a great one.

2. Boston Red Sox

I think I typed enough in this post to not go into a ton of detail here, but I’ll give the shorter version.  I think the Sox are going to be a really good team again, but take a step back from last year.  I didn’t want them to give Jacoby the type of contract the Yankees gave him, but for this year losing him will hurt. I could also see Victorino, Nava and Ortiz’ numbers dropping a bit from their phenomenal 2013.  I love me some Xander Bogaerts but as a 21-year-old rookie, I think this year will be him holding his own with some real nice hot streaks and bad slumps too.  A (hopefully) full year of Clay and a step forward from Doubront keeps the rotation in a good place (as do the young pitchers that should be ready to contribute in case of an injury).  The Sox should be very good, but I’ll guess 91 wins and a spot in the Wild Card game for them, rather than the 97 and division title from last year.

3. New York Yankees

The Yankees certainly added talent in the offseason.  I don’t know what to expect from Masahiro Tanaka, but he’d have to be a complete disaster to not be an improvement over whoever the 5th starter was going to be.  Brian McCann is an indescribably big upgrade over the shit sandwich they used at catcher last year.  But is replacing Curtis Granderson with a soon to be 37-year-old Carlos Beltran a big upgrade? Does losing Robinson Cano and signing Jacoby Ellsbury help you THAT much? The infield could also be a total mess.  Teixeria’s numbers got worse each of the last 4 years, then he missed all of last season with a wrist issue that still isn’t fully healed.  Brian Roberts is 36 and has played a COMBINED 192 games in the last 4 years.  Derek Jeter turns 40 in June, and sucked defensively BEFORE missing basically all of last year with an ankle injury.  Kelly Johnson is Kelly Johnson.  I think the Yanks will be in the Wild Card hunt, but I don’t think this will be like their last offseason spending spree when they signed CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixiera and won the World Series.

4. Toronto Blue Jays

Last season’s Offseason Champions didn’t quite pan out in the regular season (just like the Marlins the year before and the Red Sox the year before that). If Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista stay healthy, they’d combine with Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus (who quietly had a breakout season last year) to form a potent lineup.  They haven’t shown the ability to stay healthy though, and even if they do, the pitching staff could still be a disaster. R.A. Dickey was a disappointment last year and its bleak after him.

5. Baltimore Orioles

Speaking of strong offenses and questionable pitching, it’s the Orioles! Chris Davis should quiet down after a ridiculous 2013, but still hit a ton of HRs.  So should Adam Jones. Manny Machado has a bright future but after that scary knee injury, I’m not so sure about him this year.  It was a cheap signing, but I’m not psyched about Nelson Cruz and his bad OBP, bad defense and coming off the 50 game PED suspension.  I’m also not sold on Ubaldo Jimenez’s second half, contract year surge which was done mainly by feasting off of bad teams.  The rotation will need top prospect Kevin Gausman to be ready to contribute at some point soon to stay afloat.  I don’t think the O’s or Jays will be bad teams, but I do see them as a step behind the Rays, Sox and Yanks.

Come back soon, Manny Machado.

AL Central

1. Detroit Tigers

I really wanted to be bold and pick the Royals or Indians but I just couldn’t do it.  I’m not sold on Ian Kinsler outside of Texas and think they could have some trouble scoring runs this year. Butttt they still have Miggy (and will until like 2045 after that ridiculous contract extension), the defense should be way better with Miggy at first and Jhonny Peralta gone and they have the best 1-2-3 in the rotation in baseball.

Jose Iglesias’s injury is a major bummer for the Tigers because they have no SS (I really think they should sign Stephen Drew) and for baseball fans in general because we ton’t get to see plays like this:

2. Kansas City Royals

I love Eric Hosmer and think he takes a huge step forward this year.  Salvador Perez is quietly one of the better catchers in baseball and Billy Butler AKA Country Breakfast (actual nickname) is due for a bounce back.  Omar Infante and Nori Aoki aren’t world beaters, but they’re big upgrades over their 2B and RF from last year.  James Shields is damn good and rookie flamethrower Yordano Ventura looks primed for a nice rookie year.  I worry about every starter not named Shields or Ventura though.

3. Cleveland Indians

Not super high on Cleveland this year. Former Red Sox great Justin Masterson is a solid pitcher, but lefties crush him and he scares me as a teams best pitcher.  Danny Salazar was a stud when he got called up last year and should continue to do so, but the rest of the rotation isn’t great.  Jason Kipnis is possibly the best 2nd baseman in the league not named Pedroia or Cano, but after him and Carlos Santana (who they are playing at 3rd this year which seems like a potential disaster), I’m not sold on the offense.

4. Minnesota Twins

The Twins will suck again this year, but there is help on the way.  Byron Buxton is the consensus top prospect in baseball and Miguel Sano isn’t far behind (although Sano is out for this year with Tommy John surgery). Also in Alex Meyer and Kohl Stewart, they have pitchers in the system who can actually strike people out, which recent Twins pitchers have been allergic to.

5.  Chicago White Sox

The White Sox won’t be good this year, but I still liked their offseason.  Adam Eaton is a nice young player who was supposed to start in center for Arizona last year before getting hurt in the preseason and never really finding his footing.  A bad team also doesn’t really need  a great closer, so I liked trading Addison Reed for 3rd base prospect Matt Davidson too.  They paid Jose Abreu a ton of money for a guy who has never had an MLB at bat, but the reports on him have been positive and I think he’ll hit for a ton of power.  I don’t think they’re good this year, but they have some nice young pieces and could have the Rookie of the Year (Abreu) and Cy Young (Chris Sale).

AL West

1. Anaheim Angels (I will forever refuse to call them the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)

I’m feeling a bounce back for the Angels this year.  Mike Trout is Mike Trout and Mike Trout is the best. I don’t think Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are all of a sudden gonna be in their primes again, but I also think they’ll be much better than last year.  I also really like Kole Calhoun, who gets a starting OF job after the Peter Borjous trade.  The pitching really screwed them last year, but I think guys like Tyler Skaggs (a former top prospect who fell out of favor in Arizona) and Hector Santiago will help solidify the back of the rotation over the disasters they had pitching for them last year (Hi Joe Blanton!)

Here is two-time defending Actual AL MVP Mike Trout:

2. Oakland Athletics

They have an underrated lineup filled with former Red Sox greats (Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie, Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick) and a guy who I think will bounce back from a down year last year (Yoenis Cespedes).  The loss of Jarrod Parker to Tommy John surgery hurts badly, but I think Sonny Gray is due for a huge year as their ace. I worry about the depth in the rotation without Parker though.

3. Texas Rangers

I’d have picked them 1st or 2nd if healthy, but 2/3s of the rotation (Derek Holland and Matt Harrison) are out for a while and Yu Darvish is missing the start of the season with neck problems.  They also lost starting 2nd baseman Jurickson Profar for 10-12 weeks.  The lineup should be potent again this year with the addition of Prince Fielder and Shin Soo-Choo, but the pitching injuries scare me.

PS Adrian Beltre’s hatred of people touching his head might be my favorite random thing in baseball. I’m glad Elvis Andrus has taken the torch from Victor Martinez as Adrian Beltre Head Toucher.

I need a reality show about Andrus and Beltre.

4. Seattle Mariners

I don’t get the Mariners.  I assumed after signing Robinson Cano to the huge deal they signed him to, there were more moves coming to try and build a contender, but they never really came (unless Corey Hart or Logan Morrison excite you).  King Felix is a stud, but Iwakuma and top prospect Taijuan Walker are already hurting and its bleak after them.  I think it’s another year of mediocrity in Seattle.

5. Houston Astros

I remain a fan of what the Astros are doing.  Three years ago they were a horrible team with an equally horrific farm system.  Now, they’re still not good but the minors are loaded with talent and they have another 1st overall pick coming this June.  Some of the young guys should be up this year (OF George Springer, 1B Jon Singleton and SP Mark Appel) and others are a year or two away (SS Carlos Correa, SP Mike Foltynewicz and Lance McCullers SP), but the help is on the way.

NL East

1. Washington Nationals

I LOVE the Nats.  I was all about them last year and they were a bit of a bust, but I’m doubling down this year.  Bryce Harper was headed for a monster season last year before running into a wall and I think he picks up where he left off prior to the wall incident last year.  Stephen Straburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimermann is already a hell of a top of the rotation and adding Doug Fister to it makes it even better.

Hey Bryce, let’s try to avoid that this year man.

2. Atlanta Braves.

The Braves are already ravaged by injuries with Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy both undergoing their 2nd Tommy John surgeries.  Oof.  This is still a very good team though.  BJ Upton HAS to be better than last year and I’m predicting a full breakout for Jason Heyward this year.  Andrelton Simmons is so phenomenally good defensively at short that if he improves his offense a bit, he’s a legit MVP candidate.  Seriously.

DMX + Baseball = SomethingI will Laugh At Forever

DMX + Baseball = Something I will Laugh At Forever

3. New York Mets

I think the Mets would consider this season a success if Zack Wheeler (already in the rotation as of last year) and Noah Syndergaard (in the minors now but should be in the rotation soon) are healthy and pitching well by the end of the year and ready to join Matt Harvey in what should be an exciting young rotation in 2015.  Don’t worry Mets fans, I just knocked on wood.

4. Miami Marlins

The Marlins may be a despicably run organization, but as long as they have Giancarlo Stanton hitting 809 foot bombs and Jose Fernandez being all around phenomenal, they’ll be worth watching.  Also, did you know that Rafael Furcal is A. Still in baseball and B. The Marlins starting 2B?

Jose Fernandez hit his first major league HR and Guardian Of Playing The Game The Right Way Because Baseball Is The Most Important Thing In The World And We Must Preserve It’s Sanctity: Brian McCann was not happy about it.  McCann is a tool.  He’ll hit right in on the Yankees.

5. Philadelphia Phillies

I think the Phillies are a disaster and only getting worse. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz are all highly paid an in decline. Their big offseason signing was Marlon Byrd, whose 2013 season SCREAMS fluke. I love Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels (when healthy), but I don’t see how this team scores runs and there is not much help in the minors.  I still can’t believe there were people in Boston who were upset that the Sox didn’t match the absurd contract that they signed Papelbon to.

NL Central

1. St Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have pretty much zero holes.  It’s kind of amazing.  They bring back basically the entire team that made the World Series last year, but filled the GAPING hole they had at SS with Jhonny Peralta, filled the CF hole by trading for David Freese for Peter Borjous (who at worse is fantastic defensively).  To fill 3B after trading Freese, the moved Matt Carpenter from 2nd to 3rd and put solid prospect Kolten Wong at 2nd.  They also have a stacked rotation and bullpen and a good farm system, led by top 3 prospect in baseball Oscar Taveras.  They’re an awesome team, but whenever someone mentions the Cards have “the best fans in baseball!!!!!”, please direct them here.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates

I don’t think last year was a total fluke for Pittsburgh. Andrew McCutchen could easily win a 2nd straight MVP and Starling Marte should only get better with another year of experience.  If they call up Gregory Polanco at some point, they’ll have one of the best defensive OFs in baseball (basically with 3 centerfielders).  Gerrit Cole has top 5 pitcher in baseball upside (though he likely won’t be THAT good this year) and Jameson Taillon should join him in the rotation sooner rather than later.  I do think they’ll take a slight step back from last year because I can’t see Francisco Liriano being that good again and they’ll also miss what AJ Burnett did for them.

Pedro Alvarez’s only talent is hitting HRs.  But he hits a lot of em and they go FAR.

3. Cincinnati Reds

I’d be pretty surprised if the Reds made the playoffs again this year and it’s mainly because they lost Shin Soo-Choo.  Billy Hamilton has the potential to be one of the most exciting players in baseball and is by all accounts, one of he fastest players in the history of baseball. But he also had just a .308 OBP in AAA last year. Choo had a .423 OBP last year. Hamilton is miles ahead of him defensively, but I feel like the Reds had enough trouble getting on base even with Choo and without him it could get ugly.  I am psyched just as a fan to see what Hamilton can do this year.  Even with a .300 OBP he could steal 100+ bases.

4. Milwaukee Brewers

Meh.  I don’t really have much to say about the Brewers.  Kinda boring.  I think Ryan Braun is gonna be a monster again though.  Like 90% of what he was prior to the PED suspension.  I’m not gonna pretend I know the science of just how much PEDs enhance your performance, but I have a hard time believing Braun was as good as he was entirely because of whatever he was taking.  He may be a douche for the way he handled everything, but hes a douche that’s really good at baseball.

Speaking of douche, I thoroughly enjoyed Carlos Gomez angering Guardian Of Playing The Game The Right Way Because Baseball Is The Most Important Thing In The World And We Must Preserve It’s Sanctity: Brian McCann.

5. Chicago Cubs

I think the Cubs would consider the season a success if Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, two young players who were supposed to blossom into stars last year but didn’t, take big steps forward.  Otherwise, it’s all about the minors with the Cubbies.  You’d be hard pressed to find a better group of hitting prospects that Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.  With that young talent and the money the Cubs have at their disposal, the Cubs could be dangerous in a few years

NL West

1. San Francisco Giants

Madison Bumgarner is a stud and I expect Matt Cain to bounce back and give the Giants a 1-2 punch that you can put up against any in the bigs.  If healthy Tim Hudson should be a solid veteran addition to the rotation and while Tim Lincecum isn’t what he used to be, you’re in solid shape if he’s your 4th starter.  On offense, Brandon Belt was awesome in the 2nd half of 2013 and I think he carries that over to form a nice lineup with Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

I remain unconvinced that the Dodgers are the unstoppable force that many think they are, but we’ll see. Clayton Kershaw is obviously terrific and Greinke and Ryu are very good too, but are you sold on Dan Haren and Josh Beckett at the back of the rotation? I’m not. Hanley Ramirez put up MVP type numbers in a half season worth of at bats and I think despite all the off field stuff, Yasiel Puig will build on his very good rookie year, but Matt Kemp is a complete question mark, Carl Crawford is a shell of his former self, Andre Ethier still can’t hit lefties and I’m not sure if any of those guys can play center field anymore.  The Dodgers are good, but I don’t see a ton of difference between them and the Giants.

Some people are offended by Yasiel Puig’s showboating. I, however, am fully in favor of it in case you couldn’t already tell that by my support of Jose Fernandez and Carlos Gomez against Guardian Of Playing The Game The Right Way Because Baseball Is The Most Important Thing In The World And We Must Preserve It’s Sanctity: Brian McCann.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

I continue to not really like the D’Backs offseason moves. I know Mark Trumbo has a TON of power and that gives him value, but they guy also had a .294 OBP last year and has the potential to be an epic, epic failure defensively if he’s an everyday outfielder.  Also not overly thrilled about trading Matt Davidson for a reliever, even a good one like Addison Reed.  They lost Patrick Corbin (probably their best starter) to Tommy John surgery and what is left of the rotation is a bunch of number 3 starters.  One young guy they have managed to avoid trading is Archie Bradley and I imagine he will be up and in the rotation by June.  There is no shortage of guys he can replace.

4. San Diego Padres

The Padres rival the Brewers in the “I really don’t have anything to say about them” department.  I like Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross as young pitchers who can put up big numbers (especially pitching in Petco).  They could have a somewhat decent offense for the first time in a while if Chase Headley bounces back, Everth Cabrera is still the same after the PED suspension and young-ish guys like Jedd Gyroko (who I like) Yasmani Grandal and Cameron Maybin bounce back from injuries and finally make good on their potential.

5. Colorado Rockies

The Rockies are going to be badddddd again.  They’ll score runs, because if you play in Coors Field and have Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzi and Wilin Rosario, you’ll score runs.  That pitching is a disaster as usual, but there could be help coming.  Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler are as good a pair of starting pitching prospects as there are in the minors and they could both arrive in Denver this year.

Playoff Teams

AL: Rays, Tigers, Angels (Division Winners) Sox and Royals (Wild Cards)

NL: Nationals, Cardinals, Giants (Division Winners) Dodgers and Braves (Wild Cards)

World Series: Nationals over Rays

AL MVP: 1. Mike Trout (3rd in a row!) 2. Miguel Cabrera 3. Wil Myers (a bit of a stretch, but I love Wil Myers so whatever)

AL Cy Young: 1. Yu Darvish 2. Chris Sale 3. Justin Verlander

AL Rookie of the Year: 1. Xander Bogaerts (like I was gonna pick anyone else) 2. Jose Abreu 3. Yordano Ventura

NL MVP: 1. Bryce Harper 2. Andrew McCutchen 3. Jason Heyward

NL Cy Young: 1. Stephen Strasburg 2. Clayton Kershaw 3. Madison Bumgarner

NL Rookie of the Year: 1. Kolten Wong 2. Archie Bradley 3. Billy Hamilton

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