Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Baseball is Back: NL, AL East Preview and Prediction

March Madness is happening right now and I bet some of your brackets are already busted but let’s not forget baseball season in right around the corner! Or you can say it has already started with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks playing a two game series in Sydney, Australia. Like always, there were some major off season signings that will impact the season. Over the next few days, I will be taking a dive into each division in baseball and giving some key notes. I will be predicting the standings because I’m still in March Madness mode.

Who takes the NL East?
National League East

Atlanta Braves (2013 record: 96-66): The offense is led by the first basemen, Freddie Freeman who is coming off a nice 2013 season. They have some potential to have a good offense with the Upton brothers but it will be interesting to see if they play up to their potential. The pitching is led by Julio Teheran and Ervin Santana who signed late in the offseason. Mike Minor is on the disabled list to start the season but once he comes back they will have a very good top of the rotation. Finally, the bullpen will be dominant once again with Craig Kimbrel, arguably the best closer in baseball, holding it down.

Key additions:  C/OF: Ryan Doumit, SP: Ervin Santana

Miami Marlins (2013 record 62-100): Yikes, looking at the Marlins is brutal. They will likely be one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball once again. They do have a few bright spots on the team including Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich to lead the offense. Jose Fernandez is one of the best pitchers in the game and may be a dark horse in the National League Cy Young race. Besides those three, it looks like it will be another rough season for these Marlins.

Key additions: SS: Rafael Furcal, 1B: Garrett Jones, C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

New York Mets (2013 record: 74-88): The Mets made a splash in the free agent market by signing Curtis Granderson to a four year $60 million deal. They also signed Bartolo Colon who had a nice year in 2013. Both these signings will definitely help the team. The Mets will not be as bad as people think. Having Granderson and David Wright leading the offense is a good start. Even though Matt Harvey is out to start the season after going Tommy John surgery, the pitching staff will be a bright spot in the future with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Not to mention they have one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball in Noah Syndergaard lurking. There is hope Met fans.

Key additions: SP: Bartolo Colon, OF: Curtis Granderson, RP: Jose Valverde, OF: Chris Young

Philadelphia Phillies (2013 record: 73-89): The Phillies aren’t getting any younger any time soon. Many of the players are getting up there in age including Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz etc. With that being the case, being a Phillies fan I want to see them make the playoffs. Ryan Howard still needs to learn how to hit a breaking ball. Domonic Brown had a breakout year in 2013 so as long as he continues to improve the offense may be alright. Signing Marlon Byrd and AJ Burnett will improve this team, but by how much? The pitching staff led by Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and AJ Burnett is respectable. If Cole Hamels remains out a while the start of the season from his injury, that definitely does not sit well with Phillies fans. ESPN writer David Schoenfield writes here they will be the second worst team in all of baseball. Let’s hope he’s wrong.

Key additions: SP: AJ Burnett, OF: Marlon Byrd

Washington Nationals (2013 record: 86-76): Arguably the best team in baseball. The offense is led by 21 year old phenom Bryce Harper. He has a very good supporting cast around him as well. Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, and Ryan Zimmerman to name a few. The pitching staff is very good with Stephen Strasburg leading the way. They signed Doug Fister in the offseason who could easily be a #2 starter on a different team but he will be the #4 starting pitcher in Washington. The team is deep and talented and could make a deep run in the post season.

Key additions: RP: Jerry Blevins, SP: Doug Fister, OF: Nate McLouth

The Washington Nationals are the clear favorites for the division title and I don’t see any teams challenging them for the top spot. However, there will be a battle for second as I see the Braves, Phillies and Mets all being bunched together. Here is how I think the NL East plays out.

1. Washington Nationals
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins

Who takes the AL East?

American League East

Baltimore Orioles (2013 record: 85-77): Chris Davis had a monster season in 2013 while making the Orioles a playoff competitor. This offseason they made a few moves signing starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and outfielder Nelson Cruz. Both these signings make sense since they want to win now. They will be without the franchise player, Manny Machado, to start the season who is recovering from a knee injury. The offense will be dangerous with Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Nelson Cruz providing the punch. The pitching is a bit questionable as Chris Tillman will be leading the way. Chris Tillman has potential to be very good so hopefully he takes a step in the right direction this year. It will be interesting to see how they replace Jim Johnson as their closer. Tommy Hunter is set to be the new closer and it will be a new role for him.

Key additions: OF: Nelson Cruz, SP: Ubaldo Jimenez, 2B: Steve Lombardozzi

Boston Red Sox (2013 record: 97-65): Defending World Series champions. What more do you want? The team lost Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees but will that hurt them badly? Maybe. The Red Sox are led by David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia on offense. It will be interesting to see how big of an impact the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury will affect the team. As of now Grady Sizemore looks to be the one who will fill in for Jacoby Ellsbury. Grady Sizemore who was once a very dangerous player is raking in spring training and seems to have won the starting centerfield spot over Jackie Bradley Jr. They have a few young players in Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks who will have to pick up the slack but they are very capable of it. The pitching s led my Jon Lester with John Lackey and Clay Buchholz following. The Red Sox are a very balanced team and will be a very dangerous team, once again.

Key additions: RP: Edward Mujica, C: AJ Pierzynski, OF: Grady Sizemore

New York Yankees (2013 record: 85-77): Coming off a disappointing year where the Yankees failed to make the playoffs, the Yankees certainly made a splash in the offseason. Taking Jacoby Ellsbury away from the Red Sox probably made Red Sox fans angry but hey guess what? Money wins this time Red Sox fans. They also signed Brian McCann who will help control the pitching staff. You could argue the biggest move was the Jacoby Ellsbury signing but the Masahiro Tanaka signing will probably be the most impactful. The Yankees pitching struggled last year so acquiring Masahiro Tanaka who dominated in the Nippon Professional Baseball’s Pacific League in Japan. Will his success there translate over to Major League Baseball is the question. The Yankees seem to never have a quiet offseason. I didn’t even mention Carlos Beltran as they signed him as well. This team is significantly better than last year’s team and Yankee fans should be excited. Yes, I didn’t want to mention Alex Rodriguez’s name here. He’ll be suspended the entire year. Will the Yankees make the playoffs in Derek Jeter’s last season?

Key additions: OF: Carlos Beltran, OF: Jacoby Ellsbury, C: Brian McCann, SP: Masahiro Tanaka

Tampa Bay Rays (2013 record: 92-71): The Rays seem to find a way to be successful even with such a low payroll. The team has done a great job building their team through their farm system. The pitching staff is all home grown and they are all very young and talented. The offense will be led by Evan Longoria as well as Wil Myers who they acquired last year after dealing James Shields. This offseason they signed Grant Balfour to become their closer and he was very reliable while he was with the A’s. This team is a fun team to root for since they don’t have the money to spend like the Yankees or Red Sox. They have one of the best pitching staffs, led by David Price, in all of baseball so I see them making the playoffs again.

Key additions: RP: Grant Balfour, RP Heath Bell

Toronto Blue Jays (2013 record: 74-88): Coming off a bad season the Blue Jays will be looking to be competitive. The offense is actually very dangerous but then when you look at the pitching it’s another story. The offense is led by Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion. Look for Brett Lawrie to breakout this year. Even though the offense looks to be good, the pitching is the totally opposite. R.A Dickey is their ace and the knuckleballer seemed to get hit around last year. Drew Hutchinson is young and is having a phenomenal spring training so if he can come in and do well, then maybe they will be competitive in this division. Oh and Jose Reyes is hurt again. He had to get an MRI on his hamstring so if he is out a while, the team may be in more trouble.

Key additions: C: Dioner Navarro

This division is probably the most difficult to predict. I’m going with my gut here and saying the Tampa Bay Rays take the division led by their pitching staff. They may not have as much offense as Yankees or Red Sox but the pitching is just that good.  There will be three teams from this division in the playoffs.

1. Tampa Bay Rays
2. New York Yankees
3. Boston Red Sox
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays

No comments:

Post a Comment