There was a time many, many, many years ago that I did a full preview of the upcoming MLB season. I enjoyed it, but haven't had the time to do it since. I do want to get my predictions on virtual paper so everyone can see how stupid I am, you know, being one of those people who likes to bask in the glow of his own wrongness. So here are my 2015 MLB Predictions and they are all going to be absolutely correct...or not. I'll give the standings for each division with each team's record.
Baltimore Orioles (91-71): Ugh, I'm nervous about having the Orioles win this division. It's either them, the Red Sox or the Blue Jays. The Orioles lost Nelson Cruz, but essentially get back Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and Manny Machado from injury. It's not a wash, but I think having a reliable pitching staff wins them the AL East this year. I read this in "SI" but doesn't putting Ubaldo Jimenez in the bullpen as a set-up guy make a lot of sense? He'll be able to throw harder for a shorter period of time. I think it's worth a shot. Great idea, "SI"!
Boston Red Sox (89-73): Unfortunately for Dan Shaughnessy, the Red Sox may be good this upcoming season. It's quite a disappointment to him. I like this team on paper, but I can't figure out whether the pitching staff is going to be brilliant or it's fool's gold. I wasn't a huge fan of the Hanley Ramirez signing, especially since I didn't think they needed more OF's. Still, he's a game changer when he hits. I can't have them winning the division because I can't figure out if they have a great pitching staff or a bunch of #4 and #5 guys.
Toronto Blue Jays (84-78): It looks like they are going to have to outscore other teams, which they can definitely do. The pitching staff is my area of concern. I don't trust the bullpen and even the best of lineups aren't going to be able to win games with a rotation that has real questions in spots #3-#5. Is Hutchison healthy? What the hell can Sanchez and Norris do, if anything? Maybe this is where Russell Martin earns the money he was given.
Tampa Bay Rays (77-85): The Rays may have the best rotation in the AL East. In reality, they have a bunch of young guys and Matt Moore is coming off surgery and won't be ready until 1-2 months after the season starts. The Rays always beat expectations with Joe Maddon as their manager, but the lineup looks very unimpressive and is counting on a rookie (Steven Souza) to provide power. I shouldn't underestimate the Rays, but I'm not sure they will have enough hitting to have a winning record. I can't get behind a lineup of John Jaso, Nick Franklin, Rene Rivera, and Asrubal Cabrera. I can't.
New York Yankees (72-90): Oh no. They are a veteran team full of expensive players who have injury issues. I firmly believe A-Rod is going to have a good year. I think his stats will be .278/.345/.485 with 23 home runs. I know, I'm a sucker. Is Tanaka going to tear his elbow up, was last year an aberration for Sabathia or the continuing of a trend? Will they get anything from Texeira at first base? Can Carlos Beltran stay healthy? The Yankees don't have the starting pitching and I don't think McCann will rebound as much as he needs to, Tex can stay healthy and Stephen Drew should not be the regular second baseman. Basically, there are too many things that can go wrong with this team and I think injuries and ineffectiveness are more likely to occur than Beltran/McCann/Tex to remember how to stay healthy and hit, which is what it will take to win more than 80 games in my opinion.
Cleveland Indians (93-69): I am very high on the Indians this year. They have the reigning Cy Young winner, Trevor Bauer has fixed whatever ailed him and I like the rest of the rotation as well. Zach McAllister can step in and hopefully be solid for the Indians if one of the other starters falters. As far as the lineup goes, Kipnis is healthy, Brandon Moss is a great addition and I think Michael Brantley will win the AL MVP (hot take alert!). As for the negatives...Swisher isn't exactly ascending as a player and it's always scary to hear Michael Bourn isn't stealing bases during spring training because he's saving it up for the season. Still, this is the team to beat in the American League if you ask me.
Detroit Tigers (88-74): If I paid attention to omens, Justin Verlander starting the season on the DL would be a bad omen. Screw it, I pay attention to omens, but don't care. I don't think it will be a lost year in Detroit. David Price is a free agent and Yoennis Cespedes is a free agent after this year too. So they'll be ready to have contract years. The bullpen scares the shit out of me and I have no belief Victor Martinez will repeat his 2014 season. Still, the bullpen is a reason I won't pick the Tigers to win the World Series, not a reason I can't see them winning 88 games. They still have a strong lineup and a really good #1-#3 in the starting rotation. I think that's good for almost 90 wins.
Chicago White Sox (84-78): The White Sox spent money to put a better team on the field. When has this ever not worked? On paper, they look great. At some point there will be an injury to the pitching staff and the weak links in the lineup are going to fail to show up when the offense needs them to if the White Sox want to compete for a playoff spot. There's not much after Rodon in the minors to fill in for the pitching staff and the same goes for position players. There isn't a ton of room for things to go wrong on the season, which will inevitably happen. Jeff Samardzija had never been above 174 innings in the majors prior to two seasons ago and he's now pitching 213 innings and 219 innings over the last two seasons. I believe he is a free agent after this year, so maybe he will wait until he signs a new contract to get injured. I believe the White Sox are a very top-heavy team and the lineup isn't good enough to handle the inevitable injury or young guys like Avisail Garcia, Tyler Flowers or Conor Gillaspie not progressing throughout the year.
Kansas City Royals (77-85): Yeah, last year was fun and all...but it's a new year in a much tougher division. The Indians have been building to become the team they will be in 2015, the White Sox are better and the Tigers are still the Tigers. The Royals were one late-inning rally short of losing the one-game Wild Card playoff, and while the bullpen is intact, I see the rotation and the lineup getting worse. Alex Rios will already be battling a thumb injury all year and Kendry Morales could suck or be great. Who knows? Volquez, Vargas and Guthrie at the back-end of the rotation scares me as well.
Minnesota Twins (73-89): If it were 2017 or 2018 I may end up being more positive. For now, it's putting Ervin Santana in the rotation in the hopes he eats innings, relying on Ricky Nolasco and signing Tori Hunter for some "Remember when he played for us before, wasn't that fun?" nostalgia. Wait, Hunter is also a great clubhouse presence, so that will add at least 20 wins to the Twins' total, right? I'm being snide and the Twins will probably take a leap, but it's not going to be this year. The rotation is still bad and I don't think Brian Dozier will repeat 2014.
Los Angeles Angels (93-69): To buy this 93 win prediction you would also have to buy a few other things. Garrett Richards is for real, the Angels will figure out the issue at second base, Kole Calhoun is a MLB starter, and the Angels bullpen will be an area of strength. I think by buying on three of those things the Angels will get to 93 wins. Mike Trout is great, obviously. I think Pujols will still hit well at the age of 35 and the Angels will benefit from the fact the AL West isn't going to be very good absent the Angels and the Mariners. I like the rotation and bullpen, then think they will hit well enough to win the division.
Seattle Mariners (90-72): I love the addition of Nelson Cruz, as well as the step forward I think Taijuan Walker is going to make. I think the Mariners have improved offensively while still having a strong pitching staff. I see the bullpen regressing a bit, but they will still have a really good pen. The strength still lies in pitching. J.A. Happ is going to enjoy pitching in Seattle, Hisashi Iwakuma is an underrated starter and I've made my love for Walker clear so I won't do it again. I think the Mariners finally have some hitting to match their pitching.
Oakland A's (78-84): I always feel dumb counting out Billy Beane and the A's. It's not the lack of household names on the team that concerns me. It's that they won't have a full season of Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. If they were healthy at the beginning of the year then I may feel differently. Maybe. There is a lot for the lineup to make up for that was lost from last season. Zobrist will probably have a good year because he's playing for a new contract, otherwise the A's are counting on retreads like Brett Lawrie and Ike Davis to bust out of the struggles that has prevented them both from reaching their potential. There's just not enough starting pitching and hitting for me to believe they can win a Wild Card spot.
Houston Astros (72-90): The Astros are a punchline in some circles for the way their front office thinks. I consider them the same way I consider the Philadelphia 76ers (I know, that's not a good start to any paragraph). They have their way of rebuilding their team and we will see in the next year or two if it works out. Evan Gattis will be brilliant as a DH, because he's a disaster in the field, but the Astros have the makings of a good lineup with Altuve, Carter, and Springer in there as well. Their problem is the same problem a lot of MLB teams have. Starting pitching. Is a rotation with a back end of Scott Feldman, Brett Oberholtzer, and whoever ends up with the 5th rotation spot for most of the year going to win more than 80 games? Nah. The bullpen is improving, which is good, because it has to be.
Texas Rangers (67-95): I did say earlier I was ignoring omens, so I will try to ignore the Rangers managed to lose their top prospect and their best pitcher prior to the season beginning. Last season was a lost season for the Rangers and I'm afraid this year is looking the same. Everything that went wrong last year can't go wrong again, right? They will hit the ball well, as long as Prince Fielder is healthy, Shin-Soo Choo bounces back and Elvis Andrus remembers that he actually has to hit the baseball. The starting pitching is where I struggle. The loss of Darvish moved Holland up to #1 and he's already feeling some injuries, which means the two guys I'm supposed to have faith in are Yovani Gallardo and Colby Lewis. The bullpen doesn't feel set other than Feliz as the closer. I feel like even if the hitters who need to turn it around manage to do so, I don't think the Rangers can win more than 75 games.
Wild Card Game: Seattle over Boston
ALDS: Cleveland over Seattle, Baltimore over Los Angeles
ALCS: Cleveland over Baltimore
Washington Nationals (98-64): You may have heard, but the Nationals have gotten themselves a pretty good starting rotation. This is a team that I would have to nitpick to say something bad about. I'll try. Umm...Ryan Zimmerman has never played first before and Yunel Escobar can be a cancer in the clubhouse. Will the high expectations take a toll on a team that hasn't really ever met the expectations some have had? The Nationals are expected to win. What happens when a few injuries hit (like Span's injury to start the year) and the team maybe struggles? That's all I got. Otherwise, the big question around the Nationals is whether the bullpen can be strong again without Tyler Clippard. The Nationals are a very good team, even if they are a team whose best players have suffered injuries over the past few years. The only thing stopping this team are factors like injuries and perceived expectations that are impossible to predict.
Miami Marlins (88-74): I love this team. I do. I originally had them down at 93 wins and had them in the World Series. I won't take credit for this if it happens, but the ceiling is there. If Jose Fernandez comes back strong (which is questionable after TJ surgery) then he is as good as any pitcher in the National League. Dee Gordon will regress from his hot start last year, but Yelich and Ozuna are on their way up, while Alvarez, Cosart, Latos with Haren as the 5th starter isn't a bad rotation. Of course, the Marlins also have Giancarlo Stanton in their lineup. I think they are going to be very good this year and I could see a World Series appearance as long as their hitters don't disappear or regress.
New York Mets (82-80): Jake deGrom didn't come out of nowhere last year to pitch well, but I had barely heard of him and I try to pay attention to these sorts of things. The Mets are being sneaky in my opinion. They are improving steadily and Michael Cuddyer was an interesting addition. He can hit for sure, but he's 36 years old, coming off injuries and hit .282/.316/.418 away from Coors Field last year. The Mets will probably improve again this year, especially given Matt Harvey is back from TJ surgery (isn't every pitcher back from TJ surgery at some point these days?...it's like a one year sabbatical all pitchers end up taking), and the rotation is deep with more guys like Syndergaard on the way up. I'm still a little unsure they put it all together and make a play for the Wild Card.
Philadelphia Phillies (68-94): I don't expect Cliff Lee back this season. The Phillies should trade Cole Hamels for a ton of prospects and they probably will. The Phillies are rebuilding while trying to shed some of the large contracts they have on the books (which doesn't explain the Utley extension to me), but they will compete on days when Hamels is on the mound. Plus, they get to play the Braves many times this year, which always helps. The Phillies seem to be headed on the right track to a rebuild. That's progress.
Atlanta Braves (66-96): I'll start off positive. They did a great job rebuilding the farm system that was becoming barren. Alex Wood and Julio Teheran are really good pitchers. Trading every good hitter they had was probably smart, because the team wasn't going anywhere with Upton, Gattis and Heyward in the lineup. No matter how good Wood, Shelby Miller and Teheran are going to be, the offense is awful. There is one player other teams really have to worry about hurting them, surrounded by a bunch of low OBP guys. They may score 0.8 runs per games this year, but hey, they kept Kimbrel around to close the 10 games where they have the lead in the 9th inning. Brilliant! Right idea to rebuild, but the wrong year to expect anything but awfulness.
St. Louis Cardinals (88-74): The odds of Jason Heyward staying healthy and having a career year are off the charts. Then he'll sign a new contract, lose his power, and go back to being just a really good hitting excellent defensive outfielder. There's nothing wrong with that. The Cardinals have a deep farm system, so a few injuries won't have a huge impact, and they have strengthened their bullpen with the addition of Jordan Walden while also having one of the best rotations in the National League. A lineup of Adams, Heyward, Holliday, Carpenter, Wong and Molina is going to be good enough to win the National League, even without a rotation and bullpen that doesn't have too many holes. I see no reason the Cardinals don't win the NL Central and they can call up prospects to perform well in September and October for them.
Cincinnati Reds (85-77): I probably like the Reds more than others do. Others don't pick the Reds to be second in the division because the rotation has gotten worse on paper. The Reds suffered an enormous amount of injuries last season and I can't see that happening again. They have one of the best pitchers in the NL (Johnny Cueto) and one of the best hitters in the NL (Joey Votto). All questions surround the pitching staff. Mike Leake eats innings, which isn't a terrible thing when the lineup has the potential to score enough runs to win a game, while I think Robert Stephenson gets called up as soon as possible. I am nervous about this pick because I'm counting on the Reds' staff to all pitch well and the bullpen that seems rather unsettled to being settled with Tony Cingrani surprisingly being in the pen.
Chicago Cubs (82-80): Not quite yet. The Cubs are a popular pick in the National League this season. They have improved, no doubt about that. While I just got done betting on the Reds, I'm not quite as ready to bet on Hammel, Arrieta, Wood, and Hendricks all having good seasons. If they do, great, the Cubs have a chance to win the division. Kris Bryant will come up to the majors at some point and with Rizzo, Soler and Baez also in the lineup the Cubs will score runs. I'm not sure it's going to be this year when it happens. I'm interested to see how Joe Maddon manages when there is more pressure for his team to succeed. The Rays were always expected to contend in a "Man, they are going to do it again" way, like it wasn't expected, but the Cubs and their fans are expecting to compete. Theo Epstein has done a good job. One more year...
Pittsburgh Pirates (76-86): I think losing Russell Martin is big. He got A LOT of money from the Blue Jays, but he handled the Pirates staff well. I think the starting rotation margin of error is so thin. Gerrit Cole has never gone above 138 innings, Francisco Liriano hasn't thrown more than 162 innings since 2010. I don't see the rotation depth being there and once they start counting on A.J. Burnett and Vance Worley then I think the run prevention strategy for the Pirates starts to break down a bit. The Pirates should have a great outfield, but I'm shaky on them replacing Russell Martin with Francisco Cervelli. I'm not sure the Pirates are able to make the playoffs for a third straight year.
Milwaukee Brewers (66-96): The good news for the Pirates is they are not the Brewers. Adam Lind is an upgrade at first base. Of course, that's an upgrade over Mark Reynolds. The best way for the Brewers to make the playoffs is if the rotation stays healthy AND Mike Fiers/Jimmy Nelson live up to expectations. The Brewers have a pretty good lineup, but they have redone the bullpen this year. Most people know bullpen variance from one year to another is almost unpredictable at times, so I expect a redone bullpen probably will have more variance. K-Rod is back and is effective even if he isn't K-Rod anymore. The margin of error is too thin for the Brewers with their lack of depth to overcome the eventual injuries. I try not to predict injuries, but when it comes to lack of depth it's a concern for me.
Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68): I didn't hate the moves the Dodgers made. Joc Peterson needed an everyday spot in the lineup and Howie Kendrick is an upgrade at second base. I think he helps to make up for the loss of Kemp's bat. I'm still shaky on the rotation after Greinke and Kershaw, especially given McCarthy, Ryu, and Brett Anderson are not the least injury prone trio of pitchers. Still, the Dodgers have some minor league depth in the starting rotation. The addition of Grandal will give the Dodgers some pop at the catcher position and the bullpen should be good enough to take the division. I can't buy the Dodgers to go too far into the playoffs though.
San Francisco Giants (86-76): It's an odd numbered year, so the Giants should suck, right? Maybe not suck. The starting pitching is really good and deep, but Casey McGehee isn't going to replace Pablo Sandoval any time soon. The Giants still have a really good bullpen and they have really good starters. I'm perpetually worried about the Giants hitting the baseball and this year is no different. Especially with Pence starting off the season injured, I don't see where they can win the division or get a Wild Card spot in an increasingly deep National League.
Colorado Rockies (81-81): Every year I feel like I sort of buy the Rockies to exceed expectations and every year I look more stupid. It's tradition though. The rotation is frightening on paper (in a bad way), but I think Jordan Lyles and Tyler Matzek are on their way up. Counting on Tulo and CarGon to stay healthy is a fool's errand, but I've proven over and over I'm a fool. Jon Gray could end up being in the rotation at the end of the year. I think the Rockies are buoyed by good health and a pitching staff that overachieves. That includes the bullpen, which has an 87 year old closer.
San Diego Padres (77-85): It's a cliche at this point to mention the terrible outfield defense. Still, this outfield defense will be terrible. Justin Upton is a disaster in left field, Will Myers isn't a centerfielder if you ask me and Matt Kemp is bound to pull some muscle at some point. I've seen this lineup of mashers before and it didn't turn out like that team thought it would. I'm afraid that will happen here too. There are so many quality right-handed pitchers in the National League that the lineup will struggle at times against righties. The starting pitching is pretty good, though Shields is getting older and "Big Game James" is really just "Innings Eater and Doesn't Kill You by Giving Up Runs James." My issue with the rotation is with the 5th starter. If Brandon Morrow doesn't get the spot, I'm not sure who will. Joaquin Benoit is the closer, which he has done once before. He's 37. We'll see. I feel a letdown coming for the Padres.
Arizona Diamondbacks (65-97): Not that Trevor Cahill is great, but trading him pretty much ensures the Diamondbacks are absolutely rebuilding this year. It's a shame, because Paul Goldschmidt is a great hitter and Yasmany Tomas could be fun to watch. The Diamondbacks' rotation did not pitch nearly enough innings last year and there were moves to have this change in the offseason, but I'm not sure it's going to change. I'm much more positive about some of the pitching they have in the minors than I do in seeing Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson front the pitching staff. It's hard to say if the bullpen is good because I'm afraid it will be overworked again. While the Diamondbacks are going to hit home runs on offense, I'm afraid the opposing team will hit quite a few bombs of their own.
Wild Card Game: Miami over San Francisco
NLDS: Washington over Miami, St. Louis over Los Angeles
NLCS: St. Louis over Washington
St. Louis over Cleveland