Due to the fact that Australia is on another planet, the true opening day of the 2014 Major League Baseball (MLB) season comes Sunday. A few big trends to watch are whether or not the era of incredible pitching performances will continue, and how bloated payrolls will get with the influx of new television money. Here are some predictions about how things will shake out this season.
NL East: 1.Washington Nationals, 2.Atlanta Braves, 3.New York Mets, 4.Philadelphia Phillies, 5.Miami Marlins
The Phillies are old. The Marlins are cheap. The Mets are poor. The Braves pitching staff will be spending Easter Sunday with Dr. James Andrews. The National League East is Washington’s division to lose, and looks like it will be for at least a couple of years. The Mets and Phillies are not far behind the Braves, and could compete for the wildcard with good luck and another addition or two.
NL Central: 1.St. Louis Cardinals, 2.Cincinnati Reds, 3.Pittsburgh Pirates, 4.Milwaukee Brewers, 5.Chicago Cubs
St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh all took hits to their roster this offseason with the departures of Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, and A.J. Burnett respectively. The Cardinals are still the favorites, and Jhonny Peralta fills a hole at shortstop the team had all season. If the Pirates could find a power bat to fill first base or right field they would be much more intimidating. Milwaukee is on the upswing, but the division is stacked up top. The only race the Cubs will be in is for top pick; they are one of the worst teams in the MLB.
NL West: 1.Los Angeles Dodgers, 2.San Francisco Giants, 3.Arizona Diamondbacks, 4.San Diego Padres, 5.Colorado Rockies
The Diamondbacks sure are doing things. Kevin Towers can sometimes make perplexing moves, but he is active. This offseason netted them big time power hitter Mark Trumbo, who would be a fine DH if the National League had one. The Giants will compete on the backs of their pitchers, but the Dodgers are still the class of the division. They have World Series potential even without Matt Kemp. If he returns to his MVP form they will runaway with the division.
AL East: 1.Boston Red Sox, 2.New York Yankees, 3.Tampa Bay Rays, 4.Baltimore Orioles, 5.Toronto Blue Jays
Boston lost shortstop Stephen Drew, who had a wonderful second half of the season, as well as Jacoby Ellsbury, but added a new catcher in A.J. Pierzynski, and is hoping on a return to health and form from Grady Sizemore. Just like the sun sets, the Yankees had a loud offseason by bringing in Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka. Their rotation could also be bolstered by Michael Pineda, centerpiece of a big trade with Seattle two years ago. The Rays have the best rotation in the division (and potentially in all of baseball) but their offense will only be better if their young players improve. Baltimore is a hard team to peg, but their lineup is incredible. Toronto’s big splash last offseason proved to be a dud and they have not done enough to compete in the toughest division in the MLB.
AL Central: 1.Detroit Tigers, 2.Kansas City Royals, 3.Chicago White Sox, 4.Cleveland Indians, 5.Minnesota Twins
Detroit has a pair of Cy Young winners at the head of their rotation, and the league leader in ERA is their third starter. They are a decent size step ahead of Kansas City. The Royals have made nice improvements, and have one of the best defenses in baseball. It will help their pitching staff, who are not a strikeout-heavy group. Chicago probably made the best changes since 2013, but coming off a near-100 loss season they are still a ways away. The Twins have a few of the best prospects in baseball, and their arrival by next season could be their chance to compete again. However, their overspending on mediocre to bad pitching this offseason was mind-boggling.
AL West: 1.Oakland Athletics, 2.Texas Rangers, 3.Los Angeles Angels, 4.Seattle Mariners, 5.Houston Astros
Oakland already has injuries to deal with, but they find replacements as needed like no one else; Billy Beane’s teams are consistently deep. The Rangers lineup is fantastic, especially when young Jurickson Profar returns from his shoulder injury. The Angels will be boosted by improvements from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, but their pitching is questionable. Seattle signed the biggest free agent available then decided to call it a day. They have far too many holes to compete even for a wild card, and the only thing keeping them out of last place is Houston’s move to the American League before last season.
AL Wild Cards: New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays
NL Wild Cards: Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants
The Oakland Athletics will meet the Los Angeles Dodgers in an all-California World Series, where they will come out on top for their first championship since 1989.
NL MVP: Joey Votto
AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL Cy Young Award: Jose Fernandez
AL Cy Young Award: Chris Sale
Commentary by Brian Moore