The Too-Late-Early-Season #MLB Picks!
With several games in the books for all major league teams, here is a ‘better-late-than-never’ prediction for the already-underway 2014 MLB regular season, followed by my postseason picks!
Each will have a reason why they will finish where I picked them, so enjoy!
1. Tampa Bay Rays
Why? The Rays, like the Cardinals, are a symbol of consistency in the major leagues. They always have good pitchers coming up through the farm system and have both a strong lineup with the likes of Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings. Plus, they’ll get some value for the soon-to-be-free-agent David Price, who signed a one-year, $14 million contract to stay in Tampa.
2. Boston Red Sox
Red Sox postseason repeat? They’ll make it because they have David Ortiz and brought back last year’s great team with a couple additions (here’s their roster). Starting pitching is solid and had the fourth-lowest ERA in the AL last season, but will they survive a tough AL East? I think it comes down to whether Clay Buchholz is healthy. I don’t trust the likes of Grady Sizemore and A.J. Pierzynski, but it’s not like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury were irreplaceable either.
3. Baltimore Orioles
Let’s Go O’s! My hometown team (before management unceremoniously treated O’s fans with disrespect for a decade and led to my defection to the Nationals) made some late splashes in free agency. They signed Ubaldo Jimenez, who is a solid but not spectacular starter, will help a struggling starting rotation. But for four years for $50 million? I’ll pass on Ubaldo. Nelson Cruz brings a big bat to their lineup as many expect Chris “Crush” Davis to not repeat his jaw-dropping 2013 numbers.
4. New York Yankees
The Yankees did spent A TON of money ($155 million over seven years) on Japanese pitching phenom Tanaka and brought in former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, but they are too old and have no replacement for the now-retired Mariano “Mo” Rivera (arguably the BEST closer in the history of the game). I can’t see them build a lead, even in the small Yankee Stadium (compare the new to the old stadium here), and keep those leads with their bullpen without Mo.
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Jose Bautista should get out of town. Yeah, he’s getting paid (got a $65 million, five-year deal in 2011), but his team is going nowhere with a lot of power hitters and the early injury to Jose Reyes. R.A. Dickey will be a good pitcher, even with his struggles last year, but the power-reliant lineup doesn’t strike fear in the powerful AL East.
1. Detroit Tigers
Miguel “Miggy” Cabrera will make good on his $292 million, 10-year contract. Starting pitcher and ace Justin Verlander has seen some velocity go down on his fastball with the wear-and-tear on his arm over the years, but they have one of the best rosters with pitchers like Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Rick Porcello and some great hitters like Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez. Their only drawback? They lost Jose Iglesias, the dynamic shortstop, for at least half of the season even before it officially started.
2. Cleveland Indians
They will be in contention this year, but will fall short. They lost Ubaldo Jimenez, but he is an aging veteran pitcher. They have the fun veteran and locker room guy in Nick Swisher and some great, young talent with Asdrubal Cabrera. They’ll make the Central sweat with this gritty platoon-type roster, with the great manager Terry Francona managing things. I don’t see anyone on this roster that can help put the team past the first round of playoff baseball.
3. Kansas City Royals
They were the laughingstock of the league for years, which was too bad after their glorious run back in the day. But, the Houston Astros have set a new low bar for awful baseball. The Royals look great on paper, just not good enough in this division. They traded for James Shields, the best pitcher they’ve had in years, and have great talent in Mike Moustakas. This should be a fun year to watch the Royals, for once.
4. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox may not have lit up the headlines, but they’re trying to build a team. Robin Ventura, their manager, has his hands full. Their roster consists of an aging Paul Konerko, the star Cuban defector Jose Abreu, but now have starters Gordon Beckham and Adam Dunn on the DL. This is not their year.
5. Minnesota Twins
Joe Mauer is transitioning to first base to save his knees and preserve his career, but that’s about the only noteworthy thing about the Twins. Who is on their roster? Starting pitchers are the likes of Ricky Nolasco, washed-up Yankee Phil Hughes, and Mike Pelfrey (just unimpressive). Josh Willingham, the 35-year-old outfielder, is earning $7 million this year. Aging but veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki will be behind the plate for some games, and Trevor Plouffe will be manning the hot corner at third base. Sorry Minnesota, you better turn your attention to Adrian Peterson and the Vikings.
1. Oakland Athletics
Somehow Moneyball still works. The Dodgers may have Yasiel Puig, but Yoenis Cespedes is the real deal and is a solid hitter. They did lose two starting pitchers before the season began, but they always find the right combination of young pitching and great situational hitting to score runs. I can’t count them out even if they don’t look great on paper.
2. Seattle Mariners
The Rangers and Angels just don’t look good enough to fight for a wild-card spot or even second place in this division. The Mariners have King Felix and Iwakuma as their top two pitchers, plus they have some hitters that can blossom this season as many have been waiting for. And Fernando Rodney should anchor their back end of the bullpen. I like their cheap, but potential-filled roster. ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield, has a great take on why they could be the surprise team this year.
Oh yeah, they did pay a big contract to some Dominican guy who played for the Yankees named Robinson Cano. He can hit too.
3. Texas Rangers
They don’t have Derek Holland, a starting pitcher to a freak accident while running with his dog (had microfracture surgery as a result) and ace Yu Darvish is also hurt. They traded away Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder during the offseason and let Nelson Cruz walk. Kinsler wasn’t happy about it, calling chief executive Jon Daniels a “sleazeball” and wishing the Rangers go 0-162. They lost their star phenom in the infield, Jurickson Profar, to a shoulder injury in spring training for 10-12 weeks of the season. Too many injuries and subtractions, and even with their farm system I can’t see them making the playoffs this year with this roster.
4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
First of all, the Angels are not “The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” to me. Weird scrolling to find Anaheim and they’re listed under Los Angeles.
Unlike the Dodgers, the Angels don’t have any starting pitching but yet spend almost as much as the Dodgers. Jered Weaver hasn’t been electric the past year and I honestly don’t know anyone else in their starting rotation other than him and the forgotten C.J. Wilson (and I consider myself an avid baseball guy). For the record, and thanks to Baseball Reference, Weaver record his third-worst strikeout count last year, the worst since his first two years in the majors. And, his ERA went up to 3.27, a far cry from his high standard of sub-3.00 the past two seasons. Mike Trout will do damage, but I don’t know if Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton will ever be the same. Just a bad roster.
5. Houston Astros
This is automatic. No hope with this roster, no great prospects coming up and an awful TV contract controversy (with Comcast Houston going bankrupt) getting Houston fans upset (as if losing so many games is not upsetting enough). They lost 107 out of 162 games in 2012 and lost 111 games last year.
1. Washington Nationals
Although they lost their starting catcher Wilson Ramos to an injury on Opening Day, their overall roster is in great shape. Their pitching rotation is rock-solid. Strasburg, Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister (being spelled while on the DL by Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark). Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Denard Span and Ian Desmond are a good lineup trying to make up for an awful 2013 season. Their bench is much improved and hopefully their bullpen holds up with Rafael Soriano closing and Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen being the late relievers. Yet they’re awful against the Braves, with a 6-15 record against them since 2013.
Disclaimer: I’m a Nationals fan, so I’m being optimistic that the Nationals will edge the Braves this year for the pennant.
2. Atlanta Braves
Losing Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen are a huge blow as they were two great starting pitchers last year. But, they’ll cause problems with Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman’s hitting. Dan Uggla will Dan Uggla (and not get on base), but I don’t think any team can realistically recover, even with their roster, from losing two starting pitchers before the season began.
3. Miami Marlins
Big stadium, they kept Giancarlo Stanton and had a fire sale last year. That’s about it. Even as a NL East fan, I only recognized a couple of names on their roster this year. They just have slightly better pitching than the Mets and Phillies to be this high.
4. Philadelphia Phillies
They haven’t been the same since their great runs in the late 2000s and after Roy Halliday never recovered from his injuries. Their roster looks and feels old, or overpaid. Longtime Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins doesn’t like how the new Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg is running things, and the Phillies are going through a transition where they have the fat contract of Ryan Howard ($125 million for five years, signed in 2010) hanging over their heads. They’ll go and play every day and night, but won’t be a contender for another year or so, if that.
5. New York Mets
The Mets are a mess with their roster. They have an aging Curtis Granderson, struggling Ike Davis and a hopeful star in Travis D’Arnaud. Pitching is solid, but not great. Do the names Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, John Lannan or Dillon Gee strike fear into hitters’ hearts? Nope. Hitting will be just as bad as last year, where they ranked 14th out of 15 National League teams. Plus there was the whole paternity leave controversy to start the season. Waste of energy and sports radio talk. Another sad Mets season coming up.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
Murderer’s Row of starting pitchers and bullpen, and you add good hitters like Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Allen Craig or Pete Kozma, good night Cards’ opponents. They hit 0.269 in 2013, or second-best in the National League. I mean, look at their lineup and roster. You will have to beat pitchers Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, and Shelby Miller? Their ERA last year was fifth-best in the NL last year. I hope my Nationals don’t have to face them in the playoffs this year, or ever.
2. Cincinnati Reds
With Dusty Baker gone, now the Reds pitchers can last longer than Kerry Wood and Mark Prior did when Baker wore them out as the Cubs manager. Here’s an even-handed piece on the perception of him killing pitcher’s careers for good measure, but the perception seems to ring true. Joey Votto is back, but they do lose their aged-but-great-on-base center fielder Chin Soo Choo. Can’t count them out with Brandon Phillips manning the middle infield or their hitting. It’s a good roster and will be fun to watch.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates
They finally made postseason, but without a true number one pitcher (AJ Burnett left this past offseason) they don’t have a chance this year. Look at their roster. Andrew McCutchen can make up for a lot of things, but he can’t make up for pitching or for hitting. Other stalwart hitters, but by no means scary hitters, are Starling Marte, Gaby Sanchez and Neil Walker. Also, Wandy Rodriguez, Gerrit Cole and Edinson Volquez are good pitchers, but are they playoff-caliber pitchers? I don’t think so.
4. Milwaukee Brewers
Ryan Braun is back and should give them a much-needed boost in the lineup. But, I don’t see them making it out of this division without stronger starting pitching other than Kyle Lohse or Matt Garza. You could say Yovanni Gallardo is good, but I don’t see him as a top pitcher in the division. And, their roster isn’t impressive, with a 35-year-old Aramis Ramirez (earning $10 million this year), 37-year-old Lyle Overbay, but they do have Braun and Carlos Gomez.
5. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs will be the Cubs. The only bright spots could be Starlin Castro, a budding star, and Jeff Samardzija, the former Notre Dame wide receiver who is a good starting pitcher. Their starting rotation consists of Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, Justin Grimm, and Samardzija and that doesn’t scare me. A couple journeymen pitchers never scares hitters. And Mike Olt, a former Rangers prospect, and Anthony Rizzo will be the other sole bright spots on this roster.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Too much money, too much talent on paper. Should wax everyone in the West. My top concern is Yasiel Puig’s stamina as the season progresses, and his problems with manager Don Mattingly are well-documented. Oh, and the whole “Clayton Kershaw, our seven-year, $215 million pitcher, has a mysterious back injury” is also a major concern.
2. San Francisco Giants
Can’t count the Giants out. Somehow they pitch well enough and hit well enough to make the playoffs. I like their roster, but it would’ve been nice if they made some power upgrades other than a streaky Michael Morse. Even with Tim Lincecum’s decreasing velocity, he is an okay pitcher and isn’t a lost cause. Buster Posey, now having a full year back from a terrible knee injury, should rebound well.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
Too much Dodgers and Giants for them. They’ll be chillin’ in the Arizona desert this fall with this roster, even if Paul Goldschmidt partially repeats his 2013 numbers of .302 batting average, 125 RBI’s and 36 home runs.
4. Colorado Rockies
The World Series run back in 2007 seems so far away right now and it won’t get any better, based on their current roster. They have some older guys in Drew Stubbs and Justin Morneau, with their only stars being Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.
5. San Diego Padres
They’re used to being in last place, or close to it. Cheap payroll, small-market team. The life of a league without a salary cap. But Chase Headley, their best hitter and player, will be fun to watch and will be the only good player on this team.
AL East: Tampa Rays
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Oakland A’s
- Wild Cards: Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles
NL East: Washington Nationals
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
- Wild Cards: Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants
NL Champion: St. Louis Cardinals
- Too much great starting pitching and bullpen to go around.
AL Champion: Tampa Rays
- They find a way to win and you can’t count them out. After surviving a brutal AL East schedule, they should be more than ready to beat any other AL team. Also, I don’t trust Tigers hitting in the postseason other than Miggy Cabrera.
World Series Champion: St. Louis Cardinals
- St. Louis’ pitching and lineup are solid. I just don’t see the Rays beating the Cardinals toe-to-toe in the World Series.