MLB Prediction Column

This is my first MLB Prediction Column I’ve written.  I’ve done three for other leagues.  Same format as always.

The season is almost here, and I can’t wait.  I really feel like this will be a very memorable baseball season.

Going division by division

NL EAST

1. Washington Nationals

2. Miami Marlins

3. New York Mets

4. Atlanta Braves

5. Philadelphia Phillies

Washington will dominate this division all year long.  The pitching is just too good.  Miami will be a lot better but not yet in the playoffs.  The youth needs just one more year to develop.  I’ve heard a lot about the Mets, and how some people seem to really like them.  I’m not sure about this year.  Their pitching staff has the potential to be great however.  Get everyone healthy first. Atlanta and Philadelphia will be the bottom feeders in this division.  I can’t say the Braves will hit 75 wins.  And the Phillies, oh the Phillies.  It’s not worth words.

NL Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals

2. Chicago Cubs

3. Milwaukee Brewers

4. Pittsburgh Pirates

5. Cincinnati Reds

One of the best divisions in baseball.  Even with all of the Cubs offseason moves, it won’t give them the division.  St. Louis has been dominate for so long and it’ll continue.  The Cubs may not win the division, but… well, wait just till the end of the column.  Milwaukee might be in it late, but with their tough division, it won’t make them as competitive.  Pittsburgh, like the Brewers, is also harmed more from the division than anything else.  It’s a good team, but won’t be able to scratch .500.  The Reds will most likely end up being big time sellers at the deadline.  Pretty much sums up their year.

NL WEST

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2. San Diego Padres

3. San Francisco Giants

4. Colorado Rockies

5. Arizona Diamondbacks

Another good division that features the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. Unfortunately, they’re going to fall off this year.  Probably because it’s an odd (2015) year.  The Dodgers just look too good yet again, until October, when it all falls apart.  I like San Diego this year, but they’re one of the wait and see teams.  We’ll just have to see how they come together. The Rockies, um, well, they’ll be better than the Diamondbacks.  So that’s a positive.  As for Arizona, In Tony We Trust. 

AL EAST

1. Boston Red Sox

2. Toronto Blue Jays

3. Baltimore Orioles

4. New York Yankees

5. Tampa Bay Rays

Preview of this division is here.

AL CENTRAL

1. Detroit Tigers

2. Cleveland Indians

3. Kansas City Royals

4. Chicago White Sox

5. Minnesota Twins

Lots of mediocrity here.  Detroit’s the safest bet (like literally, don’t put any money on anyone else yet).  They have the experience.  I really like Cleveland, and feel like this is finally their year to show that they aren’t a joke.  The Royals lost too much in the offseason, and it will kill them this coming year.  Chicago, I want to like, but I’m not totally convinced that the front office knows what they’re doing.  And the Twins, please call up your prospects.  Everyone wants to see them.  I swear, if you do, you’ll win 75 games.  Do it for the fans and my friends.

AL WEST

1. Los Angeles Angels

2. Seattle Mariners

3. Oakland A’s

4. Texas Rangers

5. Houston Astros

The Angels now only have to put it together in the postseason (Hey, wait, that kinda sounds like their cross-town foes!).  Seattle is finally going to be good.  This is their year for the playoffs (see below).  They have all this cash, and it’ll finally be used properly.  The A’s, well, it might be a rough year, but they have a great front office.  If you’re a fan, you have to trust them.  The Rangers will probably have half their roster on the DL by July, ending their season then.  And the Astros, well, it’s kinda like the 76ers in the NBA.  Just a couple more years and we’ll be good.

PLAYOFF PICTURE 

NL

1. Washington Nationals

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. St. Louis Cardinals

4. San Diego Padres

5. Chicago Cubs

Hey look!  The Cubs made the playoffs!!  The Padres aren’t a joke!  What is happening?

AL

1. Los Angeles Angels

2. Boston Red Sox

3. Detroit Tigers

4. Seattle Mariners

5. Cleveland Indians

That AL Wild Card Game is gonna be impossible to decide.

MLB Preview is complete   First game of the year is Sunday night, Cubs-Cardinals, ESPN2, 8:05 PM EST.  Opening day is Monday.  What a sports weekend this is.  

How Good Will The AL East Be? Or How Bad?

This division is by far the most confusing out of all of them.  That’s why it got it’s own column.

My main theory on the AL East this year has two different outcomes.  The first: Two teams are really good, and the others are just mediocre.  The second: One team blows everyone away and the rest just simply suck.

Or, it’s a combination of that.  Or everyone sucks.  Or, or, or.  If, if, if.  This division has so many different possible outcomes.

I believe Boston is the best team in this division, and that doesn’t change throughout this column.  They have the most talent.  The pitching staff has lots of experience and talent.  The guys are all very good, though the bullpen might become a tad of an issue later in the year (deadline fix).

Their infield is great defensively, but has a couple questions on offense.  Dustin Pedoria is looking for a bounce back year.  Xander Bogaerts needs more work.  Those will be answered at some point, and the Red Sox will hope they’ll be answered soon.

The infield also added Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez in the offseason, giving the lineup more power.  Both guys have the chance to be great or bad on the offensive side though, as they both love to swing at everything.

Boston had a ton of outfielders in the offseason, and they did an okay job cleaning some of them out.  They still have a more than needed, but it gives them depth if an injury were to occur.  The outfield is full of mostly younger guys, who are still developing.  The Sox have a bright future back there.

As a friend pointed out to me, the Red Sox haven’t been great at spending their money in the past couple seasons.  Though they got Panda and Ramirez, they’re still risks.  Both, as said above, are highly active at the plate, swinging at almost everything.  They also are injuries risks, but that’s something every front office knows when signing players like those two.

I’m not sure there’s a whole lot that can go wrong with the Red Sox this year.  I believe they’re winning this division, no matter what.  Everything just looks too good.  The rest of the field though, has many questions.

Toronto was very busy during the offseason.  They traded for Josh Donaldson, and signed hometown kid Russell Martin.  I like this team, though the AL Wild Card is very tough this year.  The Blue Jays will have to exceed everyone’s expectations to get into the playoffs.

Toronto’s rotation was dealt a big blow when Marcus Stroman tore his ACL.  It’s an unlikely injury for a pitcher, even though Garrett Richards did darn near the same thing last year.  Stroman was supposed to be heavily involved in the rotation, after having a very nice rookie season last year.

The Blue Jays have other guys, like R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle.  Buehrle was great last year, but at his age, I can’t say how much longer he’ll keep it up.  Dickey has been consistent for awhile now, and with his knuckleball, no wonder.

The bullpen has little depth, which shows that the Jays have lots of confidence their rotation to pitch well and stay healthy.  Again, if it sucks and ain’t working, they have till July 31st to fix it.

Toronto’s infield is very good.  Guys produce on both sides.  Jose Reyes is a great defensive shortstop, and while he won’t put up huge stats offensively, he’s a great gap hitter who’ll get that single or double that’s needed.  He’s fast too, which helps on the bases.

Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders are the highlight names in the outfield.  Both are huge offensive players, and Bautista is one of the better leadership guys in the league.  It’s a great duo, though they don’t have much back there besides their starters.  Again, if it becomes an issue, they could make a trade or two.

In my opinion, I think Toronto could make the playoffs.  However, something will have to go wrong with the Mariners or Indians.  The Blue Jays will most likely see themselves just barely on the outside looking in.

The other three teams in this division are completely unpredictable.  This is where the theories  come in.  The Yankees, Rays, and Orioles are all big question marks.  Some like Baltimore, but they’ve lost too much.

Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, and Andrew Miller are all gone.  Those guys were huge last year.  Markakis is in Atlanta, where they paid him a ton of money.  That’s probably the only reason he went there.  Cruz had a huge year for Baltimore, hitting 40 home runs.  As a DH, that’s what you get paid for.  He left for Seattle, where, again, got paid a ton, and probably too much.

Andrew Miller is one of the best closers in the league, and got a nice contract from the Yankees. With Baltimore’s already weak bullpen, the loss was huge.

With the offseason losses, and the division already filled at the top, I can’t see the Orioles doing great this year.  I mean, they’ll hang around .500.  Baltimore won’t be playing in October though.  That’s for sure.

I don’t really expect Tampa Bay to be relevant this year.  I think that, by mid July, they’ll realize that they have no chance, and will really stop competing for anything.  Losing  Jon Maddon is beyond words.  He’s the best manager in baseball.  I know, most think managers aren’t important.  When it comes to Joe Maddon, that’s a different story.

With him in Chicago with the Cubs, the Rays lose their biggest leader.  Ben Zobrist is gone after being traded.  This team has lost most of what they’e known for.  The Rays still have a good rotation, but it’s always plagued by injuries.  Someone on that staff is on the 60 day DL every year.

It’s a rebuild that the Rays are going through, and it’s gonna take awhile.  They’ll most likely find themselves at the bottom of the division this year, and for the next couple to come.

Though I put the Rays ahead of the Yankees in this column, New York won’t finish last in this division.  They may come close though.

This year’s Yankees team looks quite good on paper actually.  There are quality players in the lineup.  Yeah, they’re mostly old, but the Yankees only got younger during the offseason.  They added Didi Gregorius from the Diamondbacks, an excellent shortstop.  Though he’s not great on offense, the Yankees might be able to develop him into a Jose Reyes type of player.

The A-Rod situation is just a disaster and I really don’t want to talk about it.  The whole thing sucks.  The outfield has three very good players, but all are on the wrong side of 30.  Jacoby Ellisbury will always produce on the offensive end, though injuries seem to hind him a bit.  Brett Gardner is another great offensive player, who’s pretty consistent.

The Yankees pitching staff has the potential to be good, but another mediocre C.C. Sabathia season won’t help.  They have a good amount of youth in the rotation, which is probably the youngest part of the team.  Masahiro Tanaka is looking for another good year, and I think he’ll deliver it.  He’s the ace of this pitching staff.

New York’s bullpen is also very good, and again, young.  That’s something to be thankful for.  75% of this team is in the declining years.  When the older guys are done, it won’t be as big of a problem as it is for other teams.  Why?  Because the Yankees have money, and people want to play for them.  It’s that simple.

The Yankees’ struggles this coming year will come from their lack of youth and injuries.  The Sox and Jays are much better teams.  Though, as said above, they won’t have to rebuild.

The AL East has two very plausible outcomes this year.  One, two teams are good, and everyone else is mediocre.  Two, one team dominates and everyone else sucks.

For the Yankees, Rays, and Orioles to be competitive, all will have to play very well and beat projections.  Plus, something will have to happen to Toronto or Boston, causing a collapse. It’s likely, I mean, look at what happened to the 2012 Red Sox.  The same thing could happen this year.  It’s why this division is ridiculously hard to predict.

Nothing will surprise me with the AL East this year.  Nothing.  We’ve seen this before, and we’ll most likely see it again.

MLB Preview: Who’s Going To Be Scrapping For Position Late?

This is one of the harder columns to write.  Coming into the year, we have a pretty good idea of who’s gonna be great and who’s gonna suck.  What’s tough to figure out, is who will barely make it into the playoffs or who’ll barely miss them.

This is shaping up to be a great season, with lots of drama late in the year.  I’m gonna try and figure out who those teams within the drama will be.

My first team is the Miami Marlins.  I really wanted to like this team more, but as I research, it’s gonna be really tough for them to get into the postseason.  The problem isn’t within their division, like most teams in this column.  Truthfully, the division sucks, and it’d take some big time play from the Mets to make it more competitive.  Miami won’t challenge Washington for the division, but they’ll be in the thick of a Wild Card race in the NL.

The Marlins have a lot of young talent, who’re blossoming and are in their prime.  Giancarlo Stanton got PAID, as his expectations rise.  I have no doubt he’ll have another monster year.  Their outfield, with Stanton, also features Christian Yelich, who’s very promising and will probably wound up getting underpaid these next couple years.

The Marlins rotation has potential to be really dominate, but injuries and inconsistency might plague them.  Young stud Jose Fernandez isn’t expected back till July.  That’s a huge blow, as they’ll be missing their ace.  They acquired Mat Latos from the Reds, perhaps in panic that Fernandez will miss extended time.  Latos is solid, but is a risk, and it entering a contract year. His FIP is decently high, and he’s not a strikeout guy.  They can certainly work him a bit, but he’s a six year guy at this point.

Overall, Miami’s pitching is the start of my concerns.  This offense and lineup looks very nice, but they prided themselves on the pitching.  With a slow start possible, the Marlins could fall behind other teams pretty quickly.

Lots of good divisions fill baseball this year.  The Brewers’ division is one of them.  Milwaukee’s biggest problem is probably the division.  The Cardinals are going to be good again, as they are every year.  The Cubs are re-juvanated and seem quite terrifying, though they are the Cubs.  So anyone really knows.

Aside from other teams, the Brewers main worry this year is offense.  Though they have hitters like Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun, it seems they don’t have enough power.  The infield portion of the lineup is where this gap occurs.  Milwaukee’s infielders are either poor hitters or gap guys, who hit doubles and singles.

The Brewers might have to rely on base hits to produce their offense, due to the lack of power.

On defense, it’s a different story.  The infield is great, full of speedy guys who have excellent hands.  Besides Aramis Ramirez, who’s retiring after this year, the infield is very young and has lots of future potential.  The outfield is also very good, and, similar to the infield, young.

The Brewers pitching staff all around is great, and is the least of their concerns.  Also, with Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate, younger player develop faster.  Lucroy is on the Yadier Molina level of catchers.  He makes pitchers better.

Milwaukee’s lack of offense is their biggest team issue.  The NL Central looks to be quite fascinating yet again, and with the tough division, the Brewers will struggle against some of the loaded pitching staffs in the division.

This next team is a really tough one to write about.  And really, it’s quite surprising.  It’s the defending World Series Champions:  The San Francisco Giants.

This is really tough as a Giants fan, and someone who kinda half-follows baseball would go “Really, you think this team is going to have a hard time?”

I get it.  And again, as a Giants fan, it’s tough.  But, if you’re knowledgeable, and know what you’re talking about, then you understand.

This, in no way, is a bad team.  The Giants were fueled by fantastic pitching last year, and it carried them to the World Series.  They open the season with the same starters that got them there.  Matt Cain will be back, at some point, this season.  I’m a little worried about how he’ll return, and how good he’ll be.  The Giants should feel no need to rush him back however.

Overall, San Francisco’s pitching staff is really good.  The bullpen was great last year, and they didn’t lose anyone.  They’ll be alright.

Where the Giants concerns linger deals with their offseason.  Losing Pablo Sandoval is killer.  I honestly didn’t think he’d leave, especially after the Word Series win.  Even though he’s a tad sketchy on offense, he solidifies third base, and is a vital loss on both sides.  The rest of the infield is okay, but is much better when everyone is healthy.

Health also plagues the outfield, where Hunter Pence will be out until at least the start of May.  Pence is the only injury back there, but man, he’s huge on both sides of the field, and it’s really just a bummer.  Angel Pagan is also a health question, as it seems he’s hurt every year.

San Francisco’s division has improved much so.  With San Diego and Los Angeles on top, the Giants are gonna have to play very well to make the playoffs.  They’ll be in a bind late in the year, and man, is it unfortunate that I’m saying that.

Shifting to the AL, the Blue Jays sit in kinda an awkward position.

I won’t get into to it too much, as I have a column tomorrow looking at the AL East, and how confusing and unpredictable it may be this season.  I don’t see Toronto as the best team in the division, but the possibility that they will make the playoffs is there.

Though the AL Wild Card race looks insane, the Blue Jays have quality pitching, which includes many experienced guys.  Toronto’s lineup looks very balanced, and could be quite terrifying.

Again, I’ll have more on this team tomorrow, but there are two very different outcomes possible with the Blue Jays this year.

The AL Central is another tough division to figure out.  Detroit and Cleveland seem like the two main front-runners, but say they both have rough seasons.  Or, below-projected seasons.

Behind them sits the Kansas City Royals, and if you’re bold, the Chicago White Sox.  The White Sox seem to have the higher celling for this year, after making a ton of moves in the offseason.  I wrote about them in mid-January, talking about whether their moves made sense or not.  In some way, they did, but I’m not totally convinced that the front office knows what they’re doing.  It kinda seemed they made a couple “Hey, let’s do this and that, but not do what we really need to moves.”  It might work though, I mean, the roster is pretty talented.  But, too much has to go right for the White Sox, and too much has to go wrong for the rest of the division.

The Royals, after making a Cinderella-like run to the World Series last year, suffered some big blows in the offseason; losing James Shields bites.

Shields is a dominant force on the mound and has great stuff.  His fastball is his go-to pitch, while the nasty changeup is a nice addition to his game.  Losing that hurts the Royals.  He can go six plus innings every game, and was really the ace for the Royals.

Kansas City has younger guys to replace Shields, but they’re are still developing.  The Royals lack depth, especially in the infield.  With injury-prone players, that’s not great.  Thankfully, the talent in their infield is very good, so with a healthy starting lineup, they’ll be fine.

The Royals main problem might be the division, kinda like the Brewers.  It’s gonna be super tough, and it’ll probably leave them out of the playoffs, giving a collapse from Detroit.

The last team I’m looking at in this column is the Oakland A’s.  The A’s had a very busy offseason, trading away many what I would call stars and getting back prospects and depth.  While it may leave a bad impression on the average fan, the A’s simply built for the future with their moves.  In the process of doing that, they got depth back, preventing a similar collapse like last season after the Trade Deadline.

Oakland has a ton of infielders.  They’re all good players, but that’s not where Oakland will go wrong.  First off, the division is really tough, with Seattle and the Angels looking to have big years.  Oakland doesn’t have enough to surpass those teams.  The combination of talent isn’t normal, and may not even work.  The A’s are gambling on certain guys to have good years, like Billy Butler and Brett Lawrie.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem those guys will deliver, based on projections, injuries, and common sense.

The A’s have a bright future.  While this season will likely be a down one, the A’s have a lot to look forward to.  Don’t worry, they know what they’re doing.  That’s for sure.

More MLB Preview to come…..