Was this preview way too late? Absolutely. Between the Masters and the end of the NBA season, there is only so much one man can do. No need to fear though, there’s only 156 games remaining in the season for all my predictions to prove me wrong anyway. Fans of these teams probably don’t need me to tell them that their favorite baseball team is going to be a major contender for the World Series in 2015, but just in case your team started off like the Nationals, Angels or Indians, here I am to calm your nerves. Trust me, they’re still really good.
9. Toronto Blue Jays: 2014 record: 83-79
2015 projected record: 80-82
In a wide open AL East, 2015 may finally be the year the Blue Jays return to the playoffs after 21 years, currently the longest active drought amongst any team. The additions of catcher Russell Martin and 3B Josh Donaldson give the ‘Jays one of the best top half of the lineups in baseball. Bautista and Encarnacion may both hit 40 HR’s, making them an absolute offensive terror. CF Dalton Pompey is a potential Rookie of the Year candidate, a switch-hitter with a strong defensive game.
It’ll ultimately come down to their rotation, R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle are past their best days, but if they can consistently be able to pitch every 5th day, Toronto can go far. Drew Hutchinson is the pitcher with the highest upside in the rotation, as he completely shut down the Yankees Opening Day, although, that isn’t saying a whole lot anymore.
8. Boston Red Sox: 2014 record: 71-91
2015 projected record: 88-74
After an utter-disaster of a 2014, the Sox are all in on offense this upcoming 2015. And with five solo home runs to start off the season, that type of production must continue in order for this team to win the division. Snatching up the signatures of SS Hanley Rameriz and 3B Pablo Sandavol revamps the entire left side of the infield and middle of the order and CF Mookie Betts proved in the first game that he can become a total stud this year.
The question marks remain in the rotation with no real number one starter, Boston will have to rely on Buchholz, Porcello and Masterson to have career years if they are thinking about another pennant run, which knowing Boston, is likely regardless.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates: 2014 record: 88-74
2015 projected record: 81-81
Last season I thought Pittsburgh was going to make that big step and get into the World Series. Except they ran into Madison Bumgarner and the Giants and the rest is history. That’s how wide open the MLB and the postseason in general has become, it’s not ridiculous to think that two WC teams can make it all the way to Fall Classic.
Obviously the engine of this team is former NL MVP, CF Andrew McCutchen who at 28, is amidst the prime of his career and is critical to the Pirates postseason aspirations. The lineup is littered with guys who can both hit for power, average and are versatile in the field, (3B/OF Josh Harrison) but the loss of Russell Martin to Toronto could prove to be a huge loss defensively. The revival of Francisco Lirano and uprising of Gerrit Cole in the rotation give the Pirates a real chance to push St. Louis for the NL Central.
6. Cleveland Indians: 2014 record: 85-77
2015 projected record: 80-82
It has been 51-years since Cleveland last won a Championship. With the Cleveland Cavaliers peaking at the right time, they look to be the first Cleveland team to achieve and erase the drought, but don’t sleep on the possible double. The Tribe front a roster full non-superstar names, but with plenty of superstar talent. Corey Klubler won the AL CY Young a season ago, garnering the reaction of, “Who?” Guys like Bourn, Brantley, Santana and Kipnis are the core of team that has all the tools in place to contend for a championship.
The rotation is led by Kluber, but the 2-5 spots are full of young talent in Carrasco and Salazar. In an AL Central where only the man above knows who is coming out of that division, the Indians are your best bet, even if Baseball Prospectus rankings don’t agree.
5. Seattle Mariners: 2014 record: 87-75
2015 projected record: 87-75
That was back ’95, when Seattle Mariners hype was quite possibly at an all-time high. Sure it has been 14 years since they last made the playoffs, but it’s not as if they haven’t had any talent in those seasons. In 2015, they may make the ultimate jump, even in a tough AL West with LA and Oakland, Seattle could certainly win the AL West and some how find themselves in the World Series because who knows what will happen come playoff time.
With King Felix, they have a dominant number one and solid bullpen backup an already sturdy rotation behind Hernandez. The signing of Nelson Cruz gives them a right-hand bat with power in the middle of the order to sit behind Robinson Cano. 3B Kyle Seager is the best kept secret in baseball who plays the hot corner well and consistently will hit 20-plus homers and 90 plus RBI’s. In a world of parity, don’t be too shocked if Mariners end up in the Fall Classic.
4. St. Louis Cardinals: 2014 record: 90-72
2015 projected record: 89-73
They showed Opening Night that this is still their division to lose, and that the Cubs still have a long way to go. Adam Wainwright still is a big time pitcher and true number one and young star Michael Wacha looks to continue his rise to a potential number one pitcher as well. St. Louis might have the most balanced lineup in the majors. They have defense in Molina, power in Adams, Holliday and new addition Heyward, and speed with Jon Jay in center.
The fact they’ll be there in October like the past decade is a testament to this organization. Completely underrated in all aspects, the Cards are still a World Series threat that no one wants to talk about, besides every kid at Missouri, at least.
3. Los Angeles Angels: 2014 record: 98-64
2015 projected record: 91-71
The Angels might have peaked a year ago, but with Mike Trout on your roster and he hasn’t even entered his prime yet, the Angels are still on track to win 90 games, despite the rough start. Even without Josh Hamilton, the lineup is one of the better one’s in the AL. In his mid-30’s Pujols doesn’t produce as much as he did while in St. Louis, yet he will continue to get plenty of chances to drive in runs behind Trout, who by the way, is my MVP for 2015, ’16,’17,’18,’19, and ’20, at least.
The pitching staff is over-paid and injury prone, but getting top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney in a blockbuster with the Dodgers and Miami is a lefty who could become a top #1 in the future and will get starts in the big leagues this season.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers: 2014 record: 94-68
2015 projected record: 98-64
You can make the argument that they are the most talented team to win right now in all of baseball and the moves they made this offseason positioned themselves to truly make a World Series run. Trading 2B Dee Gordon for basically Howie Kendrick was one of the smartest moves GM Farhan Zaidi made. Then he went and picked up SS Jimmy Rollins who has already proven that he definitely has plenty left in the tank, and it also solidified a strong veteran defensive presence in the middle of the infield.
The outfield is not a cluster funk anymore with Matt Kemp out and young gun Joc Pederson in. Adrian Gonzalez is off to a scorching hot start, Yasiel Puig continues to show-off his gifted talents each day and Clayton Kershaw will win another Cy Young leading a strong staff behind them. A whole lot to like here.
1. Washington Nationals: 2014 record: 96-66
2015 projected record: 91-71
Best overall team with a loaded rotation and a prolific lineup, on paper. For more about the best team in baseball (on paper) read this.
NL MVP: CF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
AL MVP: OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (Dark Horse: Sonny Gray, Oakland A’s)
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (Dark Horse: Jordan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals)
World Series Prediction: Seattle Mariners vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Last season I picked Oakland and Pittsburgh, both ended up in the Wild Card and both lost to the two teams that went to the World Series. That is the state of the MLB these days. So going chalk usually ends up with you looking like a fool. I really have no idea who is coming out of the AL, so I went with the team that could really make noise if Felix, Cano, Cruz and Seager all stay healthy, and I believe they will. I think the Dodgers are primed to finally get there, Kershaw wants to prove he can pitch in the postseason and if he can do it in the World Series, he could go down as an all-time great.
BUT, if they run into St. Louis in the playoffs, no way they get past them, because St. Louis is annoyingly good in the playoffs with Wainwright at the helm and living around Cardinals fans make me believe that they are actually the least talked about great team in baseball for the last decade.