With Spring Training in full swing now (pun-alicious), I think now is good of a time as ever to give my predictions for the upcoming season. This will encompass everything from team records, finishes, playoff brackets, and award winners. Last year at the All-Star break, I predicted Red Sox over Cardinals in 7 games in the World Series, Red Sox over Tigers in 6, Cardinals over Braves in 5. I was better in the AL than NL but I’m still proud of how close I was.
So here we go!
1. Boston 100-62
The defending champs are in a position to do exactly that: defend their championship. Many are picking Xander Bogaerts as the AL ROY as he takes over on the infield for the Sox. Though Ryan Dempster announced that he will not pitch in 2014, their rotation will still be tough to beat. Buchholz will be healthy, and Lester will be classic flamethrowing Lester. Napoli and Papi will be back, but they lost Ellsbury and Saltalamacchia. They did add veteran winners Grady Sizemore and AJ Pierzynski; Sizemore’s health is always a huge if, but he could be an excellent coach for Jackie Bradley, Jr. The signing of Mike Carp (.296/.362/.523 in 86 games) will also be a great 4th/5th outfielder.
2. Tampa Bay 93-69
This was a tough pick over the star studded Yankees, but I think they are better managed. Reigning ROY Wil Myers will patrol the outfield and have a .300/25/100 season, David DeJesus will supply great speed and get on base for a team that is foreign to stealing. David Price, my Cy Young pick if he stays healthy, is going into a contract year and will undoubtedly go back to his old self, much of what we saw late in 2013. Chris Archer will settle in nicely as a 3rd starter and Grant Balfour will calm many nerves that Rodney frayed during his stay.
3. New York 91-71
Arguably the most active this offseason on the free agent market, signing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Masahiro Tanaka. They also are getting back Jeter, Teixeira, and Sabathia from annoying and nagging injuries that kept them sidelined. A-Rod is out of the picture now, so the team can focus on the field and not the clubhouse. They will be back to the Bronx Bombers we know and love to hate, but I don’t think we’ll see them past the play-in game. Here’s why: they lost not only a closer, but the best closer ever and their only answer right now is David Robertson. I’m not putting a lot of stock in Tanaka yet, I’m guessing he’ll be about where Yu Darvish is down the road, but his first year will be good not great. They have a lot of stars, but that’s it – not a lot of good role players for backup.
4. Baltimore 82-80
Though they are well managed behind Buck Showalter, the rotation is an area of concern. Though Chris Tillman had an All-Star season, how much can the rest of them hold up? Similarly, the bullpen is another worry. I know Jim Johnson had a down year compared to 2012, but now he is all the way across the country in Oakland which will do them no good. Balfour’s physical fiasco held them up from getting a solid closer so when it comes ninth inning they’ll be throwing question marks. Their offense is second to none, with Hardy, Machado, Weiters, Davis, and Jones, and I reckon that will be the source for most of their wins. Earl Weaver said the key to winning baseball was pitching, defense and the three-run home run. Seems like Showalter follows suit.
5. Toronto 72-90
The Jays are not a bad team by any stretch of the imagination but because they play in the vicious AL East, I do not have high expectations. Josh Johnson and JP Arencibia left for warmer weather, Rajai Davis left for a similar climate but a different division, and Emilio Bonifacio is now in the Windy City. A lot of folks left, but they will also have the Joses healthy, Reyes and Bautista. Colby Rasmus is a solid player coming into his own, but unfortunately, I don’t think the Jays will be competing this year.
Player to watch: Masahiro Tanaka, NYY
Comeback player of the year: Derek Jeter, NYY
Thanks for reading! Next post will be the AL Central. Take it easy folks.