First of all, recipe I think it’s in everyone’s best interest for me to simply direct you to the divisional previews for the upcoming season. Look no further than Jonah Keri of Grantland, pharm who’s one of the best in the biz and an avid Expos fan, view to boot.
AL East Preview
AL Central Preview
AL West Preview
NL East Preview
NL Central Preview
NL West Preview
Here’s how I see the playoff races shaping out:
AMERICAN LEAGUE: NATIONAL LEAGUE:
East: Boston Red Sox East: Washington Nationals
Central: Detroit Tigers Central: St. Louis Cardinals
West: Texas Rangers West: Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Cards: Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics Wild Cards: Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves
ALCS: Tigers over Rays NLCS: Nationals over Dodgers
WORLD SERIES: Nationals over Tigers
The Nationals underachieved for three-quarters of 2013 before posting the best record in baseball down the stretch (26-12). They are also, on paper, more talented and deeper than the 2012 team that won 98 games. They have all the features of a champion. They are in a winnable division that really only features one threat in the Braves. A strong four-man rotation that is one of my personal favourites in baseball- I’m not sure you can find better names up-and-down a rotation than Steven Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, and (the best trade acquisition of the winter) Doug Fister. And a deep versatile offense. An offense which includes key players on the verge of breakout seasons, from MVP candidate Bryce Harper to breakout candidate Anthony Rendon.
Surprise Team: Kansas City Royals
The Royals haven’t made the playoffs since 1985 and although I have trouble picturing KC cracking the playoffs with what will surely be a log-jammed American League wild card race, the Royals are certainly on their way up. This is a team who quietly enjoyed its first winning season in a decade, posting 86 wins, and added a couple effective veterans in Omar Infante and Norichika Aoki. They had the AL’s top pitching staff last year, led by James Shield, which could even improve this season with a full season of Yordano Ventura, a potential breakout star who features a 100-mph fastball. The Royals also have a core lineup that is ready to make the leap together in Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas (who has probably been the best hitter this spring, for whatever that’s worth) and Salvador Perez. They also have Billy Butler batting cleanup as he enters his prime at age 27. With Manager Ned Yost at the helm, Kansas City is ready to win now.
2014 Hardware Winners
This is probably my favorite part of any preseason predictions because it is largely extremely pointless but is great for those who are stat nerds like me. It is also essentially an alternate universe version of fantasy baseball awards.
American League MVP:
1. Mike Trout, LAA
2. Migel Cabrera, DET
3. Adrian Beltre, TEX
To me this is a no-brainer. You could argue that Mike Trout has had the best two seasons to ever start a career. Miguel Cabrera earned baseball’s first triple-crown since 1967 in 2012, and many still believed Trout was more deserving of the MVP. He then followed up his rookie campaign with an improved 2013. If he can somehow manage to keep on improving, the only thing standing in Trout’s way of MVP is his team’s (lack of) success.
American League Cy Young:
1. Yu Darvish, TEX
2. David Price, TB
3. Felix Hernandez, SEA
In just his second season pitching in America, Darvish really made that all-important “next step.” He featured a 2.83 ERA to go along with the highest strikeout percentage (32.9%) since Randy Johnson in 2001. Entering his third season, there is still room for the Rangers ace to grow, as he starts to get ahead more often in the count, pitches more efficiently, and mixes up his pitch selection.
American League Rookie of the Year:
1. Xander Bogaerts, BOS
2. Masahiro Tanaka, NYY
3. Jose Abreu, CWS
Baseball Prospectus rated Bogaerts as the second-best prospect in baseball of 2014 after he made his major league debut last season and hit .296/.412/.481 in the postseason. With Stephen Drew out in Boston, Bogaerts will enjoy the starting shortstop position all to himself in 2014 and will prove why he’s such a highly-regarded prospect through a combination of contact and power.
American League Manager of the Year:
1. Bob Melvin, OAK
2. Joe Maddon, TB
3. Brad Ausmus, DET
Oakland has the sixth lowest payroll in baseball and lacks the star power of fellow low payroll magicians over in Tampa (Evan Longoria, David Price). In order for the A’s to make the playoffs, it will require expert managing on the part of Melvin, from defensive shifts and substitutions, bullpen moves, lefty-right matchups and pinch-hitters at the plate, and various platoons.
National League MVP:
1. Bryce Harper, WAS
2. Paul Goldschidt, ARI
3. Joey Votto, CIN
Bryce Harper has been so highly regarded as a hitting prospect and if this is the season he can a.) stay healthy for the duration of the year and b.) put it all together, his numbers could be off the charts. It will also help that he will be, in my mind, on the best team in baseball.
National League Cy Young:
1. Clayton Kershaw, LAD
2. Steven Strasburg, WAS
3. Jose Fernandez, MIA
Kershaw is flat-out the best pitcher in baseball and has won the NL ERA title the past three seasons. At 26-years-old, he is only just entering his prime. The only thing preventing Kershaw from another Cy Young are injuries.
National League Rookie of the Year:
1. Kolten Wong, STL
2. Billy Hamilton, CIN
3. Archie Bradley, ARI
When you think of Kolten Wong, the first thing that comes to mind is how he got picked-off at first to end Game 4 of this past season’s World Series. In 32 games with the Cards last year, the 23-year-old hit just .153 in 59 at-bats. However, he has done nothing but hit in his three minor league seasons (posting a .301/.356.446 line) and hit .372 in spring with two homers. If he can hold onto the starting job over veteran Mark Ellis, he should be able to finish with better numbers than any of his peers, not to mention the 59 at-bats he saw last year will shorten the learning curve.
National League Manager of the Year:
1. Matt Williams, WAS
2. Don Mattingly, LAD
3. Bryan Price, CIN
Awards voters love it when a new manager can come in to a new situation and have instant success. Because I don’t foresee any under-the-radar teams sneaking into the National League playoff picture ( Pittsburgh or San Francisco replacing one of my predicted playoff teams are the only strong possibilities in my mind), this award has Williams’ name all over it. As he takes over for Davey Johnson, I see him leading Washington to the NL’s best record. By far.
An important note to start off with is that this will look extremely different from the actual Midseason Classic all-stars, but not for the reason you may think. Firstly, fan voting makes this mostly a popularity contest and although I won’t be entirely against it, a player like Derek Jeter playing in his farewell season will surely be the starting American League SS, despite the fact that he probably won’t be close to the top five AL shortstops of 2014. As well, the majority of players hate playing in the All-Star game and you can’t really blame them. In a sport where you’re playing 6 days a week, who wants to play an exhibition game during the only multiple-day break of the season? Without further ado, the following are the players who should be 2014 all-stars.
American League: National League:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF 1. Carlos Gomez, DH
2. Jason Kipinis, 2B 2. Andrew McCutchen, OF
3. Mike Trout, OF 3. Bryce Harper, OF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B 4. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
5. Chris Davis, DH 5. Carlos Gonzalez, OF
6. Adrian Beltre, 3B 6. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
7. Adam Jones, OF 7. David Wright, 3B
8. Joe Mauer, C 8. Buster Posey, C
9. Elvis Andrus, SS 9. Brandon Phillips, 2B
SP Yu Darvish SP Clayton Kershaw
Carlos Santana, C Yadier Molina, C
Brianc McCann, C Jonathan Lucroy, C
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B Joey Votto, 1B
Prince Fielder, 1B Freddie Freeman, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B Matt Carpenter, 2B
Dustin Pedroia, 2B Chase Utley, 2B
Evan Longoria, 3B Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Josh Donaldson, 3B Pedro Alvarez, 3B
Jose Reyes, SS Hanley Ramirez, SS
JJ Hardy, SS Ian Desmond, SS
Alex Rios, OF Ryan Braun, OF
Jose Bautista, OF Yasiel Puig, OF
Shin-Soo Choo, OF Giancarlo Stanton, OF
Yoenis Cespedes, OF Justin Upton, OF
Ian Kinsler, 2B Jay Bruce, OF
Felix Hernandez, SP Cliff Lee, SP
David Price, SP Adam Wainwright, SP
Max Scherzer, SP Stephen Strasburg, SP
Chris Sale, SP Madison Bumgarner, SP
Justin Verlander, SP Jose Fernandez, SP
Anibal Sanchez, SP Zach Greinke, SP
James Shields, SP Homer Bailey, SP
Jared Weaver, SP Matt Cain, SP
Masahiro Tanaka, SP Matt Latos, SP
Alex Cobb, SP Gio Gonzalez, SP
Greg Holland, RP Craig Kimbrel, RP
Joe Nathan, RP Kenley Jansen, RP
Koji Uehara, RP Trevor Rosenthal, RP
Glen Perkins, RP Aroldis Chapman RP
David Robertson, RP Sergio Romo, RP
Jim Johnson, RP Addison Reed, RP