30 March 2014

2014 MLB Predictions

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It was an emotional 2013 season for the Boston Red Sox and it resulted with them hoisting the Commissioner's Trophy as World Series champions. They parlayed shrewd free agent acquisitions and the hiring of manager John Farrell into a major turnaround after a disastrous 2013. Now, can they be the first team to repeat since the Yankees did it back in 2000?

Here are my predictions for the 2014 MLB season.
Award Predictions
East
1. Washington Nationals
I know I was not alone in having high expectations for the Nationals last year after the breakthrough of 2012, and thus was disappointed by them *only* putting up 86 wins but not reaching the postseason. They will get back to the postseason this fall by winning the NL East. They will have fresh blood in new manager Matt Williams, a very good hire in my opinion, and they have feature an even stronger rotation thanks to them fleecing the Tigers for Doug Fister, who represents an upgrade over Dan Haren at the fourth spot behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. Now that's an impressive pitching quartet and may help mask a solid but not powerful bullpen. What will be powerful will be the bat of 21-year-old Bryce Harper who seems poised for stardom, and it may come this year. The rest of the lineup is solid and make sure you are on the lookout for second baseman Anthony Rendon.
It is a two team race in the NL East, but I think the team that has less flaws will come out on top and that is the team in our nation's capital.

2. Atlanta Braves (Wild Card)
Speaking of the other team in this divisional race, and the defending division champions no less, the Braves are already starting off 2014 on the wrong foot with a number of pitchers hurt and on the DL, including Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen being lost for the season, leading to a lot of pressure on holdovers like Julio Teheran, acquisitions like Ervin Santana, and the team's organizational depth in terms of arms. It also will increase pressure on a strong bullpen, which could lead to a downturn of their performance. The offense should improve alone should B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla improve on truly awful seasons, and I think at least Upton is poised to bounce back.. The rest of the lineup with guys like franchise cornerstones like Freddie Freeman, shortstop Andrelton Simmons and right fielder Jason Heyward should be pretty solid. And Evan Gattis should be able to bring the power as he replaces Brian McCann behind the plate.
I do still think that this Atlanta club will probably be a playoff squad, but the health of the rotation may prove to be a big issue all season long.

3. New York Mets
It is a shame for the Metropolitans that was hoping to make a run this year that Matt Harvey was lost for the season thanks to undergoing Tommy John surgery in late October, but pushing .500 is not entirely out of the question in my opinion. There are high hopes for 23-year-old Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese are solid starters and I think the team made a quality signing by bringing in Bartolo Colon. Plus, we probably will be seeing Noah Syndergaard, yet another talented youngster, at some point in the summer. Bobby Parnell was solid as a closer, but the rest of the bullpen looks like a mess. The offense will in turn not be the strength but some much-needed pop was added by way of Curtis Granderson, who will finally give David Wright some protection. Expectations will be high for talented, yet seemingly injury prone, catcher Travis d'Arnaud, and it also looks like the Ike Davis Experience could be on its last legs at first.
It looks like the dark days in Queens may be coming to an end, but meaningful baseball is still at least a year away. Still, .500 is nothing to be ashamed of.

4. Philadelphia Phillies
It is easy to mock GM Ruben Amaro, but this roster would look tremendous if this were 2010, but it is 2014 and this club is not headed very much of anywhere. Amaro may be unwilling to undergo some sort of rebuilding process but with this club, the future should be worth more than the present. When Cole Hamels returns from injury, the top of the rotation with him, Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett will be a solid one, but the rotation depth is not there. The lineup is all but ancient essentially across the board, and the diminishing skills of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz will continue to drag down the lineup until fresh blood is brought into the mix. Ben Revere is a solid table-setter and Domonic Brown will bring some power, but the trend for the lineup is downward, not upward.
I think Ryne Sandberg will develop to be a quality MLB manager and at this point, that's the biggest positive for this organization that they have got.

5. Miami Marlins
Now the Marlins will not be contenders this year, but they will be fun to watch. A big reason why will be the talented young guns in the rotation, led by rising star Jose Fernandez. He may be only 21-years-old, but he showed he has the stuff to be a true ace in this league that could get into the Cy Young mix. But he is not the only one, there is high hopes surrounding Nathan Eovaldi and the team also has excitement for 22-year-old Andrew Heaney. The bullpen is passable and was surprising a year ago, but it also is not a big issue for a team destined for the cellar. There is not much there in the Miami lineup beyond some old hands and the power of Giancarlo Stanton, whose status will be one to watch all season long, but keep an eye on the talented outfielder Christian Yelich.
The rebuilding process will continue at Marlins Park, but the year to watch for this organization will be next year, if not 2016.

Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals
Before I get into it, the "Cardinal Way" does not exist and anyone who says otherwise is a joke and full of it. But that aside, the Cardinals are poised for a World Series run in 2014. They had a fantastic offseason where they shrewdly filled all their holes. They brought in a shortstop with pop in Jhonny Peralta, replaced the disappointing David Freese by shifting Matt Carpenter to third, which also opened up second for the rock-solid Kolten Wong, upgraded the outfield defense by acquiring Peter Bourjos, and replaced Carlos Beltran's bat by moving Allen Craig to right and moving up the talented Matt Adams to play first. This lineup strong and it is matched by a deep rotation. Adam Wainwright is the ace, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller are all talented and Joe Kelly, if he beats out the electric Carlos Martinez, is a solid fifth starter. If Martinez in the bullpen, he'll provide much needed depth in front of Trevor Rosenthal.
If you think the self-proclaimed "Best Fans in Baseball" are insufferable right now, how bad do you think they would be if St. Louis wins it all?

2. Pittsburgh Pirates
While I praised St. Louis's offseason, I was critical of Pittsburgh largely standing pat and assuming that they will get more of the same this year of what they got last year. That said, in a division that looks weaker and in a mediocre NL Wild Card field, Pittsburgh can get back to the postseason. If they return to October, it will be due to another fantastic season from NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, a strong season atop the lineup from Starling Marte, who is capable of it, and something of worth to develop at first base. I think the team will miss A.J. Burnett, and I am not sure that Francisco Liriano can look as dominant as he did at times down the stretch, but Gerritt Cole is the real deal and the team hopes that talented prospect Jameson Taillon makes an impact at some point this year. Nobody is expecting Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon to be as dominant as they were last year, but it would be nice.
Some regression is to be expected from the Bucs, but this team will be in the mix regardless in my opinion. The Wild Card race in the Senior Circuit will be less than stellar.

3. Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati will be taking back this offseason and their offense will be a key reason why. Their offense is really not that strong when you factor the benefits given thanks to their home ballpark (H/T Jonah Keri for that tidbit), and they will greatly miss the excellence of their former leadoff hitter, Shin-Soo Choo. Billy Hamilton looks like he'll be the first guy to steal 100 bases in a long time thanks to his game-changing speed, but he is not a great hitter by any stretch and strikes out a lot, and that is not ideal for your table-setter at the top of the lineup. Joey Votto is excellent and Jay Bruce is a bopper, but there is not much protection for either of them, and Brandon Phillips' bat is declining. The rotation is going to have to be strong and the potential is there for that to happen. Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake is a very good trio and Tony Cingrani excels at striking out batters and he has the potential to be quite good. It will be key for Mat Latos to return healthy as well. The bullpen is going to need to get healthy as injuries have beset Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall already.
The Reds can return to the postseason but a mediocre offseason will cost them when it matters most.

4. Milwaukee Brewers
Do not count out the Brew Crew and I think they can surprise and finish as high as second in the Central. And I think a big reason why will be the return of Ryan Braun. We all know about the steroid issues and Braun was a mess last year, but I think he will come out with a big chip on his shoulder and have a big season. The team will need it to augment the offense that already features center fielder Carlos Gomez, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and shortstop Juan Segura, and if left fielder Khris Davis performs like he did last year in limited time, look out. Of course, there has yet to be anything of note at first. The rotation saw a nice improvement with the addition of Matt Garza to an solid crew featuring Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada, but it will be important that they stay healthy as Estrada has struggled to do and Garza has not of late.
The potential is there for Ron Roenicke's crew to make a push in this division and surprise, but it will be based on a strong rebound by Braun and some help.

5. Chicago Cubs
Grantland had an excellent piece on the rebuilding process for the Cubbies and where it is going, but for 2014, they are headed nowhere but the cellar. While the talent on the farm looks very good on the offensive front, there is much to be desired in terms of arms. There will be question over what the team wants to do with Jeff Samardzija, clearly the top pitcher on the roster but also somebody that could bring a nice haul in a trade. The rest of the rotation, save for maybe Edwin Jackson, is mediocre at best and you could say the same for the bullpen, but that is fine for a club that will be around 100 losses. While the talented prospects continue to work their way up the farm system, it will be key for new manager Rick Renteria to get Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo back on track.
For Chicago, 2014 is all about making some progress but we are still a few years away.

West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Money may not necessarily buy you happiness, but it has bought the Dodgers a damn fine baseball club loaded just enough to win the World Series. Now everybody is talking about Yasiel Puig and the assorted shenanigans, but nobody can deny that the kid can play after he took the baseball world by storm when he arrived in the bigs. With how deep the outfield is, they can survive without Matt Kemp until he returns from the DL. The infield saw a huge boost when Hanley Ramirez had a tremendous 2013, at least when he was healthy which was only about half of the season, but still. Adrian Gonzalez is a very solid first baseman to boot. Clayton Kershaw starting the season on the DL could be something to watch, but even with Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley also on the DL, this rotation is still quite strong with Zach Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and the newly acquired Dan Haren. The bullpen is also deep in front of Kenley Jensen.
Los Angeles has not made the World Series since 1988 but they have a great shot to get back this year.

2. San Francisco Giants (Wild Card)
Now it is an even year, so does that mean the Giants will win the World Series like they did in 2010 and 2012? I would be shocked that happens, but in a year where the Wild Card race is as feeble as this one, I think they could be in shape to return to October. The pitching looks to be as good as usual, especially as we see the Matt Cain from the second half as opposed to the Cain from the first, and he will serve as the co-ace along with Madison Bumgarner, and the depth is solid with Tim Lincecum and Tim Hudson. The solid bullpen essentially returns intact as well. Pablo Sandoval needs to have a bounce-back season for the offense to go, but he looks to be in good shape and I think he will rediscover more of his power. Buster Posey is excellent, that we all knew, and Brandon Belt is a fine first baseman. Mike Morse should also provide some pop to the left field position as well.
With how deep the NL West is after the Dodgers, and that's no joke, Frisco could finish in last in all seriousness. But I think they will be a playoff club once again.

3. San Diego Padres
Some like the Padres to be a potential sleeper this year and I could see it, even as I am not predicting it. There is some young talent on Bud Black's club in both the rotation and in the lineup. I fashion myself a fan of Andrew Cashner and he is backed up by the solid Ian Kennedy and the talented Tyson Ross in the rotation. Huston Street was not as strong as the closer last year but the team brought in reliever help in Joaquin Benoit and Alex Torres. If Josh Johnson is healthy, a major question for him as he is already hurt, that rotation is even better. The lineup has some intriguing players like first baseman Yonder Alonso, second baseman Judd Gyorko, catcher Yasmani Grandal when he is healthy, and third baseman Chase Headley. I alluded to it with Grandal but the key for them will be staying healthy, something they struggled to do last year.
The potential is indeed there for the Friars to surprise, but with how two through five is in this division, as I said with San Francisco, they could also find the cellar.

4. Colorado Rockies
Colorado is always going to have pop, they play in Denver mind you. There are not too many duos in the middle of the lineup as strong Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki and they will carry the lineup after Dexter Fowler was dumped to Houston for nothing, and with a washed up Justin Morneau at first, but even could find some homers in the thin air. Michael Cuddyer was awesome last year, but there is no chance he is nearly as good in 2014. Wilin Rosario is one of the more underrated catchers in baseball. The rotation will always be the questions for the Rocks but it could be pretty solid should Brett Anderson and Jhoulys Chacin stay healthy (an achievement in itself). Jorge De La Rosa put together a career year in 2013, can he do it again?
Do not count out the Rockies, particularly if the pitching shows up because in that case, this probably would be a playoff contender.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks
The D'Backs have been .500 two years in a row but I think they will be the NL West club to indeed find the cellar, and losing Patrick Corbin for the season will be a big loss. The biggest hope will be talented rookie Archie Bradley seizing the reins but in the meantime, the pressure will have to be on Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and Bronson Arroyo to carry the rotation, and that is hardly a impressive troika. Can J.J. Putz deliver as the closer again, or will either Addison Reed or the immortal Ollie Perez seize the load? I was not a fan of the Mark Trumbo deal but at least he will provide some power to a lineup that sorely needs it, even as he brings nothing else. Paul Goldschmidt was awesome last year at first base and Martin Prado is a fine guy at the hot corner. The rest of the lineup is little more than meh.
Even as I am relatively bearish on Arizona, even they could be a Wild Card in the Senior Circuit.

East
1. Tampa Bay Rays
Yes, I do think the Rays are poised to win the AL East for the first time since 2010. The conversation has to stop the pitching and particularly the rotation, which looks to be excellent once again. David Price was brilliant down the stretch after coming off the disabled list in July, Alex Cobb was excellent last year, and the talent continues on with guys such as Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer, as well as Jeremy Hellickson waiting in the wings. Once again, Tampa Bay remade their bullpen and it looks to be improved with Grant Balfour serving as an upgrade at closer and with Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo bringing solid depth as well. The offense will be the question but if Wil Myers takes the leap that many expect him to, he will bring the lineup power that it has lacked beyond third baseman Evan Longoria. Joe Maddon exploits matchups as well as anybody and this lineup has the ability to crank out runs as needed. I also thought the acquisition of Ryan Hanigan was a very good one and  he will not only further help the pitching staff but bring a solid on-base threat at the catcher spot.
If the lineup does not show up as needed, Tampa Bay could easily find themselves on the outside looking in but as I see it, this is a legitimate AL pennant contender.

2. Boston Red Sox (Wild Card)
In a bit of an interesting move for a team aiming to go back-to-back as World Series champs, the Red Sox are going through a bit of a youth movement at a few positions, including third base, where Will Middlebrooks looked a little lost last year but he brings plenty of power, shortstop, where the talented Xander Bogaerts brings a strong bat to the lineup, and potentially center field where Grady Sizemore is looking to rejuvenate his career but the very talented Jackie Bradley is waiting in the wings. Seemingly every year, the Sox bring it offensively (playing in Fenway Park certainly helps) and this year should be no different. Meanwhile, the rotation may not be dominant but it is very good from top to bottom with guys like Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz. The bullpen was also reinforced further with the addition of Edward Mujica and Burke Badenhop.
I think you may see a little bit of growing pains from the kids in the lineup but even then, this should be a playoff club.

3. New York Yankees 
The Yankees forking out a ton of cash in the offseason? That sounds like the Yankees we all know, right? A nice chunk of change was spent on a major improvement at catcher in Brian McCann, the talented outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, more offensive pop in Carlos Beltran, and the talented Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. McCann, Ellsbury, and Beltran will help what was an inconsistent offense of a year ago, while Ellsbury will help improve team speed and outfield defense, and Tanaka may have some growing pains while he adjusts to MLB action, he should help lead a much-improved rotation if a more in-shape CC Sabathia gets back to his old self, if Ivan Nova improves even more and if Michael Pineda, who has been out for the past two seasons essentially, looks as good as he has had in spring training. However, the club does have questions in the bullpen with new closer David Robertson. And not to mention that the infield looks like a trainwreck with big holes at second and third, a retiring and declining Derek Jeter at short, and a diminished Mark Teixiera rounding out the group.
Even with the holes and the questions the club has, this team could still win the division, but they need to strike while the iron is hot.

4. Baltimore Orioles
Chris Davis was truly awesome at the dish last year for the O's but while he is bound for a step backwards, he will continue to be a force for a lineup that will need to perform if this club wants to get back to the postseason. Manny Machado will start the season on the disabled list after having surgery on his left knee back in October, but he showed last year that he is a star on the rise at the hot corner with both the bat and the glove. Nick Markakis is rock solid in right field, Matt Wieters should rebound behind the plate and late acquisition Nelson Cruz will be a major upgrade at DH. However, the success of this club will come down to the pitching staff and the rotation. Ubaldo Jiminez will need to show that his excellent second half in Cleveland was not a fluke, as the rest of the rotation looks decent but not imposing by any stretch. The bullpen also has some questions as well as it looks like former starter Tommy Hunter will be the closer.
In such a deep division, Baltimore is going to need their rotation to exceed expectations to solidify a playoff berth, but prospect Kevin Gausman could be their potential ace in the hole.

5. Toronto Blue Jays
In this division, somebody will have to finish in the cellar and it will be the Jays once again. One of the biggest disappointments of 2013 after raising expectations that led to folks like me thinking they would be a playoff team, Toronto enters 2014 with much lower expectations after what was a relatively quiet offseason. And that is not necessarily a bad thing because with better health and better luck, this is a team that should improve after what was a worst case scenario a year ago. This is a solid lineup with a talented table-setter at the top in shortstop Jose Reyes and power in the heart in Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus. The arms are solid in the bullpen, provided they stay healthy, but there are a lot of questions in the rotation, including if R.A. Dickey is anything more than an average pitcher at this point, can Mark Buerhle keep it together as he gets older, and will Brandon Morrow ever deliver on his talent?
Toronto, if they strike it right, can get into the Wild Card race, but to do that they are going to need much better luck than they got last year.

Central
1. Detroit Tigers
With the two teams immediately below them, the Tigers better not get too comfortable and complacent because they could easily not win the division. That said, I think they will hold on under first-year manager Brad Ausmus. Even as Jose Iglesias was lost for the season, leaving a hole at shortstop, the no-look infield looks to be in solid shape as the Prince Fielder trade allows Miguel Cabrera to move back to first, with Ian Kinsler bringing more pop to second base while the top prospect Nick Castellanos mans the hot corner. The middle of the lineup is strong as always with Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson. The rotation is pretty good, even after giving away Doug Fister for no reason, with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez. Naturally the bullpen is a mess save for Joe Nathan as the closer.
Detroit could be a team that cracks the World Series, but they could also be a team that misses the postseason. An interesting one to watch to say the least.

2. Kansas City Royals (Wild Card)
Could we see KC back in the postseason this year? Even in a division that is pretty tight at the top, I think they have a great shot to get to October. A couple of reasons why will be a couple of names that are not exactly of the household variety, Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante. Aoki, acquired from Milwaukee, gives the Royals the leadoff hitter they desperately needed while Infante, signed from Detroit, gives them a serious upgrade at second. The middle of the lineup is very good with Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and the excellent catcher Salvador Perez, and I think we could finally see third baseman Mike Moustakas have the breakout year folks have been expecting. The rotation will be something to watch beyond ace James Shields, although hopes are high for the young right-hander Yordano Ventura. The bullpen, led by Greg Holland, is really good.
Not only do I think the Royals will get into the playoffs via the Wild Card, they could win the division outright as well.

3. Cleveland Indians
Cleveland was awesome down the stretch as they rocketed into a Wild Card spot, and even came within a game of the division winners in Detroit. The offense is quite good with a number of key contributors, even as I am not sure of the fit of Carlos Santana at third base instead of DH to help open up a spot for Yan Gomes, a much better battery mate for the pitching staff. Jason Kipnis is awesome at second, Michael Brantley brings a quality bat to the left field spot, and Santana's bat should come back alive thanks to being free from catching duties. But while the lineup is strong, the rotation does have some questions and will need the talented Danny Salazar to fulfill his considerable talent to give the Indians a pair of strong arms in him and Justin Masterson. John Axford could be an improvement at closer, but he is far from being a guy you can have full confidence in.
While I do have them on the outside looking in, Cleveland could very well win a tight AL Central. Their pitching depth concerns me, though.

4. Chicago White Sox 
The team of Chicago's South Side was a fiasco in 2013 after surprising many in 2012 and while they will not be contenders this year, their fantastic offseason gives them the opportunity to push .500 if the luck strikes positive. From buying low on Adam Eaton, who projects to be a very good leadoff hitter from the center field position, to investing in Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, who I think could be a legitimate AL Rookie of the Year contender, or swiping Arizona for intriguing third base prospect Matt Davidson, GM Rick Hahn did himself well. It also does not hurt when you have an ace helming the rotation like Chris Sale, although it hurts that Chicago has nothing behind him of note, with the possible expection of Jose Quintana. Hahn also made some solid moves to shore up the bullpen with Ronald Bellisario and Scott Downs getting in the mix.
The playoffs are out of reach in all likelihood, but at least this is a club that may start to trend back upwards.

5. Minnesota Twins
The Twins have been bad for a few years now and that will continue for at least this year while the game's top farm system slowly begins to hit the bigs. Their starting rotation is far from looking elite, but the club made a pair of quality signings in Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, who could benefit from moving to a pitcher's park as compared to Yankees Stadium. Beyond those two, and Hughes is a question mark, the rest of the rotation is pretty mediocre. While it generally the bullpen is irrelevant for a mediocre team, at least Minnesota's is pretty good with closer Glen Perkins and setup guy Casey Fien. In the lineup, Joe Mauer remains the leader and with him moving to first base, perhaps his offense will tick upwards. The rest of the lineup looks to be little more than placeholders with limited future with the team but hopes are high for one of the prospects that has hit the bigs already, center fielder Aaron Hicks.
Ron Gardenhire is a good manager, it is a shame that he has not been able to show it. But the reinforcements are on the horizon in the Twin Cities.

West
1. Oakland Athletics
Hate on Moneyball and all that jazz all you want, I think Billy Beane and the Athletics know what they are doing, or at least give off the appearance that they know. The roster is deep and importantly, the pitching is deep and that is key considering Jarrod Parker is out for the year. They spent some change to bring in Scott Kazmer, and he will join the Cy Young darkhorse contender Sonny Gray for a fine top of the rotation. The rest of the staff will consist of guys like Tommy Milone, Jesse Chavez and Dan Straily before A.J. Griffin returns from elbow tendinitis issues. The bullpen was remade again and looks to be even stronger. The lineup was very good last year thanks to some crafty work by Bob Melvin and if Yoenis Cespedes' bat comes back to town, look out. Josh Donaldson was really good last year at the hot corner, Jed Lowrie is an offensive plus at short, and the remainder of the pieces are solid.
Could the A's make the World Series? This division is tough, but why not?

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Will the Angels of Anaheim finally get out of their rut of disappointing seasons? If they do, a big reason why be the work of Mike Trout. He is only 22 and is the top all-around player in baseball. Just think about that. The keys for the lineup will be if Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton bounce back from relatively disappointing seasons in 2013, and I think they can. David Freese was awful last year, but the change of scenario could be good for the new third baseman. Raul Ibanez should provide some more offense and the team is excited for new right fielder Koke Calhoun. Jared Weaver and C.J. Wilson were pretty good last year, but the rest of the rotation was a mess in 2013 so the team better hope to get something out of Tyler Skaggs, who was acquired in the Mark Trumbo deal. The bullpen has been atrocious so the hope is that Joe Smith will be the answer as a closer.
You know, the Angels will be back this year but it will not be easy to get back to the postseason. They could even win this division.

3. Texas Rangers
The lineup in Arlington looks tremendous thanks to a pair of strong offseason moves. Prince Fielder is in decline but even then, he is a fantastic fit for whatever they are calling that bandbox (Globe Life Park in Arlington). And Shin-Soo Choo finally gives the team the leadoff type they have been craving for years. The Ian Kinsler-Fielder trade opened up second base for talented prospect Jurickson Profar, but now he is out for a few months due to a shoulder injury, and starting catcher Geovany Soto is also on the injury docket. But the biggest guy on the injury list is ace Yu Darvish, who will not be starting on Opening Day due to neck stiffness but it is not thought to be serious. That would be a huge blow considering the rest of the rotation is a mess with fellow injured starters Matt Harrison and Derek Holland on the pine. Joakim Soria is going to be the closer, but he was hit or miss out of the pen last year.
The lineup looks to be loaded but the pitching injury issues will be enough to keep Texas out of the postseason.

4. Seattle Mariners
Seattle surely spent a boatload of cash this offseason and even then, they do not look like strong bets to be in playoff contention. The biggest check went to star second baseman Robinson Cano and while his contract is sure to be an albatross on the long run, players like him do not hit the open market that often. He will immediately be the key cog in the lineup but beyond him and third baseman Kyle Seager, the rest of the lineup really is a big question mark. Anytime you have an ace like the man they refer to as King Felix, your rotation is going to start out strong but it would be stronger if Hisashi Iwakuma was healthy and thus the arrival of prospect Tijuan Walker will be awaited as the rest of the rotation is a mess. Fernando Rodney will likely be the closer, but does anybody expect he will look like the Rodney of 2012?
The M's definitely took a step forward this offseason, but not as big of a step as one that would land them in the postseason.

5. Houston Astros
There will be progress in Houston, although that is not saying much when last year's team won a hearty 51 games. hile Scott Feldman is a solid pitcher, when he is your ace, you have a long way to go. Beyond him, the remainder of the pitching staff is very feeble, and the bullpen is not any better either, although a number of arms were added including Jesse Crain and Chad Qualls. The lineup is not much better, with perhaps second baseman Jose Altuve, catcher Jason Castro and center fielder Dexter Fowler, acquired from Colorado for nothing, looking like the only players of note.
This team will probably lose around 100 games again but that is okay. After all, this team is a long way towards legitimate contention as the rebuilding process continues onward.

2014 MLB Postseason
NL Wild Card
Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants
The pitching concerns for the Braves could make their playoff pitching selection something to watch, and that question mark is why the Giants will win and advance to the NLDS.
San Francisco

AL Wild Card
Boston Red Sox vs. Kansas City Royals
The Royals will finally get back to the postseason, but it will be awfully tough them to go to Fenway Park and take out the defending champions. Their only hope would be with James Shields on the mound but I just have more confidence in the Sox here.
Boston

NLDS
St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants
The Giants do have the front-line of the pitching staff to make it interesting, but they do not have anywhere near the offensive depth that the Cardinals have. Frisco may steal a game but St. Louis will have little trouble getting to the NLCS.
St. Louis in 4

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals
This would be a great series, likely the best of either LDS. Both teams can win the World Series with their strong pitching and their fine lineups. However, I think the Dodgers would have a slight, slight edge as I think their pitching is a little better, even as I think Bryce Harper would be the best player on the field.
Los Angeles in 5

ALDS
Oakland Athletics vs. Boston Red Sox
I think the repeat dreams will end here, even as some could think that the Red Sox could be favored despite being the Wild Card team. The homefield advantage will be key for the A's as O.co Coliseum will help neutralize the Boston offensive attack, and the deeper Oakland pitching staff will outlast their counterparts.
Oakland in 5

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Detroit Tigers
If you are going to take down the Rays, you need your pitching to be top-notch but while the Tigers have an excellent one-two in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, I am not as confident in their pitching depth nor do I think their offense will be powerful enough.
Tampa Bay in 4

NLCS
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
You could really go either way in this series as both could both be favorites to the win the World Series. But even with all the expenses spent on the Dodgers roster, I do think that the Cards have better depth. Chalk that up to what you want, but St. Louis will be headed to the Fall Classic this October.
St. Louis in 7

ALCS
Oakland Athletics vs. Tampa Bay Rays
As both teams have solid offenses that play off the matchups, I think they will generally even each other out and leave this series up to the pitching. And in that case, I have to go with the Rays as I think they are the superior pitching club from top-to-bottom.
Tampa Bay in 6

2014 World Series
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay's pitching staff will keep them alive in any series; I have confidence in that. But St. Louis's pitching staff is just as good if not better than the Rays' are. Not to mention that while the Rays can uncork runs by playing the platoons and the like, and will get a big boost from a big season from Wil Myers, they cannot touch the offensive depth of the Cardinals, who will win their 12th World Series championship.
St. Louis in 5

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