The word “parity” is being tossed around a substantial amount this Spring Training, due in part because it is completely true. Aside from the bottom dwellers of the league, the majority of teams will be hovering around the .500 mark all season and will likely end up being a few games around the 81-81 mark, give or take. Here are those teams.
22. New York Yankees: 2014 Record: 84-78
Projected 2015 record: 79-83
I’ve tried to look at this team through every type of lens, biased, non-biased, optimistic, pessimistic etc. The only way I can put it, the Yankees will be the most average team in baseball and will likely end up in the 5th spot in the AL East. Mediocracy is a terrible place. You’re good enough to win a few ballgames, but there is no hope for the postseason, it almost feels like a wasted season. If it were 2008, I’d argue the Yankees could win the AL East and possibly 100 games. But it’s 2015 and the Yankees have a roster filled with overpaid big names that are either trying to make their last pay check before retirement or trying to prove themselves one last time.
The Jeter nostalgia that kept Yankee fans interested last season is in the past, the present is the nightmare of Alex Rodriguez who I’ll get to at a later date. On paper, the Yankees starting rotation looks to be above average. Then you look closer and realize that the C.C. Sabathia that led the Yankees to a World Series Championship in 2009 is long gone, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova have been on the DL more than on the mound and while Masahiro Tanaka as all the potential in the world to be dominant, I have no confidence in his elbow holding up.
Other than SS Didi Gregorius, no position player is younger than the age of 30 and the Yanks and GM Brian Cashman thought it be a good idea to spend $50 million on a 31 year-old 3B in Chase Headley when they still owe A-Rod $61 million over the next 3 years. If Mark Teixeira plays half the games it’ll be a win and if the 2B and SS combine for a batting average of .250 I’d be shocked.
Not many fans care about the Yankees being bad, they’ll probably rejoice. If there is any advice I could give, or at least hope for as a fan is this: swallow your pride, pay the old guys what you owe them and rebuild from the ground up. I’m dying for a young position guy to get excited about, not over paying Carlos Beltran $45 million and another Red Sox CF (Jacoby Ellsbury) till he retires. For now, the Bronx Bombers and their fan base will have 6’8″ young, flame-throwing reliever Dellin Betances to cheer about, who posted 1.40 ERA and 135 K’s in 90 innings in 2014.
21. Cincinnati Reds: 2014 Record: 76-86
2015 projected record: 76-86
The majority of the success of the Reds in ’15 hinges on the health of 2010 MVP 1B Joey Votto, who missed 100 games in ’14 and is looking for a rebound season after an overall rough ’14 campaign. Cincy also traded away pitchers Matt Latos and Alfredo Simon leaving a rotation that now needs to be retooled and rebuilt. CF Billy Hamilton was the talk of the offseason coming into ’14 and didn’t live up to expectations (some of which were way too high) still, the man stole 56 bases and he should mature as a more patient hitter in his second full year in the bigs.
20. New York Mets: 2014 record: 79-83
2015 projected record: 83-79
There is much more optimism coming out of Flushing than in the Bronx, as RP Matt Harvey (above) is back on the mound in a Mets uniform after taking the year off to recover from Tommy John surgery. More good news, Harvey still has the juice and the electric stuff that got him the All-Star nod in ’13. The difference between now and then is Harvey now leads a strong rotation with Jonathon Niese and the never ending career of Bartolo Calon. Although, the season-ending Tommy John surgery for Zach Wheeler is a big blow. As for the Mets lineup, David Wright is still the core of their offense that won’t be up to par with the rotation still. I think the Mets can make some serious Wild Card noise in an up-for-grabs 2nd place for the NL East, losing Wheeler though will make it more difficult.
19. Kansas City Royals: 2014 record: 89-73
2015 projected record: 73-89
They were one base hit away from baseball immortality. They would have gone down as one of the greatest “Teams of Destiny” script in sports. After a season of big wins and walk-off after walk-off, the question the Royals ponder coming into 2015 is, can they sustain their success? The team that rampaged through the playoff on their way to the Fall Classic is long gone. 1B and fan favorite Billy Butler has found greener pastures in Oakland. “Big Game James” Shields left KC for San Diego and all of a sudden two of the main cogs in the ‘Yals magical run are out.
The additions of SP Edison Volquez and OF Alex Rios are considered stretches to fill the void of what Kansas City has lost this offseason. The AL Central isn’t going to be as kind to them as it was in 2014. Still, after what they accomplished, I’m not counting them out and neither should you.
18. Tampa Bay Rays: 2014 record: 77-85
2015 projected record: 87-75
Starting at the trade deadline from last summer, no team has lost more talent to other teams than the Rays, the entire core they have built over the past few seasons is elsewhere. SP David Price is in Detroit, versatile OF/2B/SS Ben Zobrist is in Oakland, RF Wil Myers to San Diego, SP Jeremy Hellickson is in Arizona, LF Matt Joyce shipped off to the Angels and manager Joe Maddon is in Chicago now. And yet, they won’t be the worst team in their division.
They still have 3B and franchise player Evan Longoria holding down the middle of the order and the pitching staff is still loaded with arms like Drew Smyly, Alex Cobb, Jake Ordorizzi and Chris Archer. After all they have lost, somehow the Rays are still a pretty decent ball club, a testament to the front office.
17. Baltimore Orioles: 2014 record: 96-66
projected 2015 record: 79-83
Some may argue that when you win 96 games in the AL East no matter the year, that’s a successful season. But after dominating the AL, the O’s were swept up quicker than vacuum by the red-hot Royals, leaving a pretty empty feeling in Baltimore. Many believed it was their year, everything had been clicking, even without young stars 3B Manny Machado and C Matt Wieters, the seemed destined for a possible World Series appearance. In 2015, they’re 40 HR short in the lineup as Nelson Cruz has gone cross-country to Seattle and longtime and reliable OF Nick Markakis is gone too.
But they return the youth of Wieters and Machado alongside All-Star CF Adam Jones, and the possible bounce back season from Chris Davis makes the impact of a Cruz-less lineup sting less. The AL East is still a possibility, but it will be difficult to repeat the success they had going for them in ’14.
Coming up next: The Sleepers Preview