Full 2015 Major League Baseball Preview

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Jack Parodi and Jarrett Perches

National League East:

  1. Nationals
  2. Marlins
  3. Mets
  4. Braves
  5. Phillies

 

Aside from the Washington Nationals, the National League East last year was a complete joke. This year, though, there are three teams that can compete for a playoff spot. The Nationals always have solid hitting year in and year out. Already having one of the best pitching rotations in baseball with Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, and Gio Gonzalez, the addition of Cy-Young winner Max Scherzer will catapult this Nationals team into serious World Series contenders for 2015.

Don’t count out the Miami Marlins, though. They have one of the best hitters in the game with Giancarlo Stanton and had one of the best offseasons out of anybody this year adding Michael Morse, Ichiro Suzuki, Dee Gordon, Mat Latos, Martin Prado, and David Phelps. Not to mention their flame-throwing star pitcher Jose Fernandez who will come back stronger than ever after Tommy-John surgery this past season. In addition, starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez had a breakout year last season and should help anchor a very solid pitching staff for Miami.

The Mets shouldn’t be too bad either. Stud pitcher Matt Harvey is coming back and combining him with Zach Wheeler should help this young team win games with their pitching. New York’s hitting got a big lift too by signing Michael Cuddyer. The dude can flat out hit. The only thing is, Cuddyer, Curtis Granderson, and David Wright are the only players that can really hit well on that team. Don’t expect them to win the division, but don’t be surprised either if they sneak in a wild card spot.

The Braves have just lost so much talent this offseason it’s hard to see them going anywhere in a positive direction. They’re still starting B.J. Upton for some reason. The guy is trash. To add to that, they have absolutely zero hitters in their lineup besides Freddie Freeman. On top of that, there’s no pitching. Yeah, Craig Kimbrel is arguably the best closer in baseball, but that doesn’t matter when you can’t bring him in that often at all. If the Braves are to make a run at the playoffs, it’ll be because Upton turns back into his former self, Freeman plays out of his mind, Nick Markakis hits over .300, and some surprise starting pitchers step up.

Now to the Phillies. There is only one word to describe them: awful. The whole team is old and washed up with no pitching besides Cole Hamels, who is likely to be traded any day now. Chase Utley and Ben Revere are solid hitters, but unless they can both hit .500 the Phillies don’t stand a chance.

 

National League Central:

  1. Cardinals
  2. Pirates
  3. Cubs
  4. Reds
  5. Brewers

 

Over the past few years the NL Central has proven to be one of the most tightly-knit divisions in all of baseball. The Cardinals, Pirates, Reds and Brewers have always seemed to remain in the playoff hunt after the All-Star break. This year, the Cubs may finally get back into the competition as well. They will have the chance to display star prospects such as Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. In addition, the Cubs have added All-Star pitcher Jon Lester and hitters Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero. If the Cubs’ prospects can live up to the hype they may be primed for their first playoff appearance since 2008.

However, the Cardinals and Pirates should still be the favorites to win this division. The Cardinals boast mainly the same roster that took them to the NL Championship last season, and we don’t see any reason why any of their players won’t perform the same way this year. Adam Wainwright will continue to be an elite ace pitcher while Yadier Molina and the three Mats (Adams, Carpenter, Holliday) will be just as good as they were last season. In addition, St. Louis added outfielder Jason Heyward who should provide more strength to this strong lineup.

Speaking of good outfielders, the Pirates are led by one of the best outfields in the MLB led by Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte. Not to mention, the Pirates also have a stellar bullpen. Mark Melancon, Jared Hughes, and Tony Watson all boasted sub-2 ERA’s. Pittsburgh will also look for help from shortstop Jung-Ho Kang who lit up the Korean baseball league last year with a .356 batting average and 40 home runs.

Although the Cincinnati Reds had a brutal season last year, their best player, Joey Votto, is back from injury and ready to contribute to a strong lineup that includes Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco.

The Milwaukee Brewers are the only team we chose to finish last that we still think may have a legitimate shot of winning their division. Their lineup is as good as any team in this division and their starting pitching is pretty average. However, the team’s fate will fall to their weak bullpen and ability to finish games.

 

National League West:

  1. Dodgers
  2. Giants
  3. Padres
  4. Rockies
  5. Diamondbacks

 

Arguably the most impressive team in the last decade, the San Francisco Giants are coming off their third world series title in five years. This season, their pitching staff and hitting look no better than average. However, we have never looked at the Giants opening day roster and felt really confident that they would make the playoffs, let alone win the World Series, yet somehow they do. From the calmness of Buster Posey to the psycho bug-eyed antics of Hunter Pence to the fighter’s mentality of Madison Bumgarner, the Giants always find a way to win. The fact of the matter is, don’t doubt the Giants. Although it is an even year we could see the Giants squeaking their way into a wild card game, and possibly making another run at the title.

With anger built up from San Francisco’s recent success, the Dodgers are certainly ready to get a ring of their own. The Dodgers’ pitching is what can get them one. Clayton Kershaw will win almost every single game he pitches and Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu are also top-of-the-line starters. The Dodgers’ hitting, led by Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez is also quite good and should earn the Dodgers another NL West title; what they do from there should be interesting.

With the Dodgers and Giants at the top of the division, the Padres have come surging back from their recent struggles by signing many big names over the offseason. James Shields, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and Wil Myers are the big pieces of this new-look roster. The Padres new pitching rotation is one of the best in the MLB. Don’t believe us? Shields posted a 3.21 ERA in 2014, Andrew Cashner earned a 2.55 ERA, Tyson Ross recorded a 2.81 ERA, and Ian Kennedy had a 3.63 ERA. While the Dodgers and Giants should place one and two in the NL West, we would not be surprised if the Padres made the playoffs as a third place team.

After that, this division really drops low: the Rockies and Diamondbacks. Both teams have a poor pitching staff, but the Rockies should be a little better because they can actually hit. The Diamondbacks are terrible all-around except for Paul Goldschmidt, who could be a dark horse to win the MVP award this season.

 

American League East:

  1. Red Sox
  2. Blue Jays
  3. Yankees
  4. Orioles
  5. Rays

 

Last year, the American League East had a solid year with three out of the five teams finishing above .500. This year, the Boston Red Sox will go from worst to first with yet another impressive offseason. With the additions of Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, and Rick Porcello, this team has what it takes to go all the way this year. The hitting is insane with Pedroia, Ortiz, Hanley, Pablo, and Napoli. The only question mark with this Boston team is its pitching. If the pitching can step up, they are American League favorites.

The Blue Jays had a huge offseason this year as well, adding Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin. Their hitting combined with Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, and Edwin Encarnacion produces a scary good offense that is quite possibly the best in the Majors. If R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle can come back to their CY-Young selves, watch out. Toronto’s pitching is definitely the factor in whether or not the Blue Jays will make the playoffs this season.

Now to everybody’s favorite team to hate: the New York Yankees. Their roster may be considered old to a lot of people, but you can’t deny the talent they have. Their hitting is stellar with Mark Teixeira, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, and dare I say it, A-Rod. C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka provide a great 1-2 punch in the New York pitching rotation that also boasts Michael Pineda. They could be very good, but also very bad. Because the roster is fairly old, these players could either get hurt or simply not play up to the level they have for their entire career. That’s not something that’s predictable though.

Now to the 2014 American League East champions: the Baltimore Orioles. Yeah, they won 96 games last season, but this offseason their roster took a major hit losing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis; their two most productive hitters last season. Chris Davis proved to us last season that his outbreak in 2013 could very well have been a one-hit-wonder. Thank God Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Manny Machado are still in Baltimore. If they weren’t this team would be horrendous. Bad isn’t usually a fitting word for anything; but the Orioles pitching this season is bad. You just can’t win games without any pitching and only a couple hitters to carry the load offensively. That’s why the O’s are finishing 4th this season in the American League East.

Mark my words: the Tampa Bay Rays will be the worst team in baseball this season. The Rays have no above-average players on their team besides Evan Longoria who, quite honestly, is past his prime. They’re just plain awful.

 

American League Central:

  1. Tigers
  2. Indians
  3. Royals
  4. White Sox
  5. Twins

The American League Central has been one of the MLB’s worst divisions over the past few years and has been predominantly controlled by the Detroit Tigers; who, as of late, seem to be frequently winning the division. However, this year, the division will be more tight down the stretch.

The Kansas City Royals come into the season with supreme confidence after taking the MLB by storm last season and advancing from the wild card all the way to the World Series. The Royals still have Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera to lead the magnificent bullpen that carried their team all of last year. However, their starting pitching and lineup have each suffered some significant losses as frontline starter James Shields and starters Billy Butler and Norichika Aoki signed with different teams over the offseason.

While the Royals should finish over .500 this year we don’t see them taking the AL Central crown this year. Instead, we see the Indians as a greater threat to dethrone Detroit. Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber heads a young and solid Indians rotation while Michael Brantley (.327 batting average, 20 home runs) is the main threat in the Indians lineup.

While the Indians could be primed for a breakout year, the Tigers are still the best team in the AL Central. Although they lost all-star pitcher Max Scherzer, the Tigers still have a great rotation which includes David Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and the addition of 2014 all-star Alfredo Simon. Plus, the Tigers still have two of the best hitters in the game in Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

The Chicago White Sox have been pretty dead the last couple of seasons, however, with the signing of Jeff Smardzija, Emilio Bonifacio, and Melky Cabrera, the White Sox are looking to compete and may be the fourth AL Central team above .500. Although we do think the Sox will be solid behind star pitchers Chris Sale and Smardzija and AL rookie of the year Jose Abreu, they do not have a whole lot of depth which is key to being a successful teams.

Minnesota’s season should be a long one, with few hitters and no pitching, the Twins may be the worst team in the MLB.

American League West:

  1. Mariners
  2. Angels
  3. Rangers
  4. Astros
  5. Athletics

 

The American League West was one of the most stacked divisions in all of baseball last season. The Angels and Athletics made the playoffs with the Mariners barely behind the two.

This offseason, the tides have turned the Mariners’ way. They already have one of the best starting pitching duos with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and one of the best hitters in the game with Robinson Cano. Seattle added Nelson Cruz, an all-star run producer at the designated hitter position. The Mariners’ hitting is pretty solid, but their elite pitching staff will win them the division this year.

Honestly though, it’s quite a toss up between them and the Los Angeles Angels. When you’ve got Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, and Erick Aybar in the same lineup, you’ve always got a good chance to win. Adding Matt Joyce to that could make this the best hitting lineup in baseball. The x-factor for the Angels this season is their pitching. If Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson can return to their old selves as franchise aces, there isn’t a single team that can stop them. But if they keep going down a path of mediocrity, the Angels’ pitching simply can’t win them games.

Now to the Rangers. Yeah, they only won 67 games last season; the worst in the MLB. But their pitching is reloaded and ready to go. Yu Darvish is absolutely filthy, and signing Yovani Gallardo in his prime makes this pitching staff a force to be reckoned with. Many forget that Prince Fielder was hurt most of last season; his return should spark hitting throughout the entire lineup. Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre are studs on the field and at the plate. The addition of Shin Soo Choo this offseason should give their lineup a solid balance of contact hitters and power hitters. Texas could be a dark horse to take this division.

The Houston Astros have some raw, young talent. George Springer showed everybody last year that he could very well be a future star in the league. Jose Altuve hit an insane .341 last season and will anchor the offense this year without a doubt. The guy is an animal. All-star catcher Jason Castro is always very consistently hitting around .280 or so and will add to the solid Houston lineup. The addition of Evan Gattis this offseason gives the lineup some much needed power that only designated hitter Chris Carter could supply last season. In addition, the Astros signed Colby Rasmus, who is a streaky player, but if he can return to play at the level he’s capable of, they could be scary good. The only question mark of this team is their pitching. It’s not too good, with Dallas Keuchel as their opening day starter. This year isn’t their year because of the pitching prospects they have still developing in the Minors, but they’re getting close to being the best team in the MLB.

I’m sorry in advance to any A’s fans who may feel offended for what I’m about to write here. It’s not my fault that your team gives away every good player that has ever come to them. No Cespedes, no Donaldson, no Lester, no Samardzija, no Moss, no Norris. The replacements for those studs? Ben Zobrist, Brett Lawrie, Marcus Semien, Billy Butler, Ike Davis, and Yunel Escobar. None of them are above average players at all. Out of the seven all stars the A’s had last season, only one returned: Sean Doolittle. I have nothing but positive things to say about the guy. His pitching is even more impressive than his beard. The A’s have a very solid fielding outfield that is one of the best in the majors. But none of them can really take over a game with their hitting. The infield hitting… oh boy. Don’t get me started. It’s atrocious. Davis is absolute trash, Butler is way past his prime, Semien just isn’t good, and Lawrie has anger issues. Thank god Oakland kept Steven Vogt though, he’s the man. Okay, so now to the pitching: Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir are beasts, I can’t argue with that. But the rest of the rotation is just very below average. You can’t win games with no pitching, and that’s why the A’s will finish last in the AL West in 2015.