Baseball is arguably the hardest sports to make predictions in at the start of the season due to its season length. Granted I’m not going as far as some pundits with predicting win totals, but it was still a tough task panning out every division and the post season. I will go back and make updated predictions once the playoffs begin, unless of course all my predictions pan out 100%. [* denotes Wild Card winners]
This is by far the easiest division to predict. The Nationals will be run away winners, having the biggest lead of all division winners at the end of the season. The Phillies are years away from contending, and if they do move Ryan Howard they will get even worse. The Braves are in a better position than Philadelphia but they are nowhere near good enough to compete even in the league’s weakest division. The Mets will be much improved from last year, but losing Zach Wheeler for the season is a blow that knocks them out of contention, even though they were on the fringe before. The Marlins will be contenders for a Wild Card spot, snatching the last one.
The Marlins were very good last season, even without their ace Jose Fernandez for most of the year. They will get him back at some point this season, plus they made other major upgrades up and down the roster. Bringing in Martin Prado, Michael Morse and Dee Gordon not only sures up their lineup, but makes it a scary one. Adding Matt Latos and Dan Haren to an already solid rotation makes the Marlins serious contenders. The addition of flex man David Phelps cannot be overlooked either. He is someone who can be a serviceable fifth starter, long relief or middle innings guy or a solid emergency starter.
The central divisions are the toughest to predict. The National League is very tight, with not much difference between teams, making it tough to not only predict a winner, but who will finish where and ahead of who. Lots of people are high on the Cubs, but I don’t see their prospects settling in at the big league level this season. There will still be a learning curve. Their lineup has potential, but that does not translate into success. Beyond Jon Lester their rotation is a joke. I don’t even know who will be in their bullpen it’s so bad.
For me the division is a tossup between Pittsburgh and St. Louis. You can never count out the Cards, but I think the Pirates finally win their first division crown in 22 years. Making the playoffs the past two years has given the Pirates much-needed experience, and they’re entering this season with basically the same roster. I think neither team (Pittsburgh and St. Louis) has great pitching. There are concerns around both team’s aces in terms of health.
The Giants’ pitching can only take them so far. Their lineup has gotten worse from last year’s with the loss of Pablo Sandoval. Their replacement for Panda is a guy who has only hit 20 or more homeruns once in his career. For all the money the Dodgers spend the division better be theirs. The Dodgers have the luxurious problem of having too many good players to fill out a lineup. When you have Andre Ethier being a platoon outfielder and trade away a guy like Matt Kemp, to a division rival no less, you know you have a surplus of outfielders.
It’s that Matt Kemp trade, along with several other key moves that will help the Padres be contenders again. But it’s their ballpark that will be their demise. No matter how much power they add to their lineup it will never overcome Petco Park. Their rotation and bullpen are strong enough to help them contend in this division.
The Rockies could sneak up a some people, but a lot depends on the health of their two stars; Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gomez. Playing 81 games in Coors Field will always hurt them more than it helps. Either way they need to add a couple more pieces to be serious contenders in this division. The Diamondbacks hit the reset button last year, and that continues this year with a new manager after the firing of Kirk Gibson. They are years from contending, or need the well that is bankrolling the Dodgers to permanently run dry.
Cardinals beat Marlins in Wild Card Game
Nationals beat Cardinals in Divisional Round
Dodgers beat Pirates in Divisional Round
Dodgers – Nationals in NLCS
Dodgers win NL Pennant
Red Sox *
The Orioles are still the team to beat in my mind. Sure, Boston has spent a ton of money upgrading their team on paper, but it may not make them any better on the actual field of play. They will assuredly not finish dead last again, but I don’t think they have enough to win the division. I think this is the year the Blue Jays finally get over the fourth place hurdle and finish in the top three of the division, but they still don’t have enough to contend for a playoff spot. They will be the thorn in this division’s side, stealing enough wins from the real contenders to shake up the post season seeding and possibly cost a team the division had they managed to beat Toronto just once more.
There are just too many questions marks surrounding the Yankees. Enough that it will make them finish in the cellar of the division for the first time since the change to the current division format. Their entire pitching staff is a question mark that will make or breaks their season. When, not will Masahiro Tanaka’s arm give out again? Will Sabathia be able to pitch effectively as he tries to bounce back from knee and elbow surgeries? The same question goes for Ivan Nova. Can Nathan Eovaldi figure out how to actually pitch against big league batters or at least that hits are a bad thing when it’s not your team getting them? Who exactly will be their fifth starter?
The questions surrounding the Yankees don’t stop there. Will the Yankees hit this season? Will Mark Teixeira stay healthy for an entire season, or for at least 75% of it? If he can manage to say healthy will he be a run producer? Or will the shift continue to get the best of him? Will Carlos Beltran stay healthy? Can Didi Gregorious handle the pressure of being the heir apparent to Derek Jeter? This is not even mentioning the side-show that is Alex Rodriguez.
The Rays are going back into their shell for yet another season. Only this time starting from square one with a new manager who has hardly any coaching experience at any level let alone managerial experience. Maybe in three or four years their head will pop back out again.
Both Central divisions are the toughest to predict. In my eyes it’s a tossup between the Tigers and Royals for the division title. I think the Tigers will edge past the Royals when all is said and done though. Even though they lost Max Scherzer, they still have two aces in their rotation. Personally, I don’t think the Royals will carry the momentum and success they had last year into this season. Yes, they added some pieces, but I think they will just miss out on the playoffs.
The White Sox made a splash in the off-season, but I think they will be a flash in the pan. Even with the addition of David Robertson at the end of the bullpen, who will get him the ball? Their rotation has two great arms, but that is not enough to compete in this division let alone the league. Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche won’t add enough to the lineup to improve on last year’s team.
I think this is the year that the Mariners finally end their 13 year drought and make the playoffs by winning the division. The Angels and A’s lost too much to make a run at the division. The Angels will be contenders for a Wild Card spot, taking the last one. When it comes down to it they will beat out the Royals and White Sox for the last spot. Mike Trout will push them over the edge. I actually had a serious debate in my mind of who will finish last once it was learned that Yu Darvish will be out for the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Rangers are that bad without him.
Angels beat Red Sox in Wild Card game
Tigers beat Angels in Divisional Round
Orioles beat Mariners in Divisional Round
Orioles – Tigers in ALCS
Tigers win AL Pennant
Dodgers beat Tigers