Thursday, April 2, 2015
A Few Sandwiches Short (2015 American League Preview)
So, let's get this thing done.
1) Baltimore Orioles (94-68)
I waffled on this pick mainly because I really don't know who in the AL East improved the most (although I know who didn't and they'll come later) but it doesn't seem too farfetched to say that the Orioles will take this division again after winning it last year with relative ease and coasting all the way to the ALCS. This is a good, young team with a wealth of pitching and guys that sneak up on you like Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen. Adam Jones I suppose is the breakaway star on this team, but there's no one standout, just a lot of guys that do their jobs well, which is the trademark of a Buck Showalter team.
2) Boston Red Sox (89-73)
I guess the Red Sox are sort of trying this every-other-year thing again, because they went from last in 2012, to World Series Champions, to last again. So, to retool, the following people were either signed or traded for in order to fix the mess: Pablo Sandoval (who I'm happy to see leave the NL), Hanley Ramirez (who I never liked anyway), Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson, Wade Miley, Alexi Ogando. Large-scale remakes like this involving big names and the Boston pressure cooker can sometimes backfire but my hunch is that these guys should gel and have a decent year. After that, who knows.
3) Toronto Blue Jays (86-76)
Since the Royals went to the World Series last year, the onus of Team with the longest playoff drought now falls on the Blue Jays, who haven't sniffed a postseason since 1993. That's now a long time ago. And unfortunately I don't know if they have enough pieces in place right now to change that this year. They're not a bad team and they still have our dear friends R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes on board, they're just not quite on the level as many of the big time contending teams. Losing Marcus Stroman, a real bright spot for them last year, is a killer kind of the way Harvey's injury stung the Mets and outside of him and Dickey it sort of seems like a real no-name pitching staff.
4) New York Yankees (79-83)
After so many years of being laughed at and scoffed at and being told to take my hat off by any number of obnoxious Yankees fans, I can't tell you how glad I am that this team is finally seeing the other side of the coin again. All the champions and heroes are gone and the only savior for the Yankees this season is going to be A-ROD! Yes, Alex Rodriguez is back from his year-long steroid suspension, ready to poison the back pages with his general lack of self-awareness and me-first attitude, and a few Home Runs that will probably get more ink than they deserve. It's about time the Yankees were laughable. and it's about time the Mets took the city back from them. #lolyankees
5) Tampa Bay Rays (70-92)
Of the 25 men that were on the Rays roster to start 2014, only 9 of them are still around as we move to 2015. A team known for inventive ways to build winning teams has to start from scratch once again, basically, but I suppose if any team is capable of doing so, it's the Rays. Evan Longoria still leads the show and Chris Archer and Alex Cobb are solid pitchers, but it's what's behind them that counts and right now, there's not that much to get excited about.
1) Cleveland Indians (90-72)
It seems like no division is more up in the air than the AL Central, where literally any team makes sense as a division champ but I'll go with the Indians. They look the best right now, they have the reigning AL Cy Young award winner in Corey Kluber, a talented young Outfield led by Michael Brantley, and some other great bit part guys like Trevor Bauer that are better than you might give them credit for.
2) Detroit Tigers (87-75)
For years, the Tigers have sort of traded high on their ability to loaf through the first few months of the season, get hot when they need to and beat back the lesser teams in their division. That worked for a few years but now they're getting older and the other teams around them are getting better. The nucleus that sustained the Tigers for so long, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, are now reaching the downside of their fine careers and once that goes, there go the Tigers with them.
3) Kansas City Royals (84-78)
The intrepid Royals captured the hearts of all Baseball fans with their wild ride all the way down to the 9th inning of the 7th Game of the World Series last year, the first time they'd been in the Playoffs in 29 seasons. It probably won't be 29 years before they return, but this year, they won't sneak up on teams like they did last year. It's the problem of a young team perhaps overachieving their way into a deep October run. The pieces are still there, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Yordano Ventura, etc, but Shields got poached and so did Butler and the replacements, Kris Medlen and Kendrys Morales, aren't quite the same thing.
4) Chicago White Sox (81-81)
I have no feel for this team. I noticed somewhere some people think they can win the division and if they say so, that's OK with me. I know that Jeff Samardzija was signed and Chris Sale is great but hurt right now, and Jose Abreu had a Ron Kittle-like Rookie Campaign, and they basically stole David Robertson from the Yankees (which made me laugh to no end), but is this really a team that can win this division? Although I would love to see Robin Ventura do well, I don't think the Sox are there yet.
5) Minnesota Twins (68-93)
Still waiting on some of these prospects to hit the show. They'll bring some excitement to a team that's been rather moribund the past few seasons, to the point where the big story for them in Spring Training was that Mike Pelfrey, our old friend, was moved to the bullpen and was unhappy about it.
1) Seattle Mariners (89-73)
I still am not 100% convinced on how good the Mariners are but they look like the team to beat in this division. Felix Hernandez is himself, as is Robinson Cano, and other guys like Kyle Seager and James Paxton look like the real deal, which is refreshing for a team that's seen literally every one of their prospects come up and shit the bed in one way or another. Nelson Cruz, who can hit Home Runs anywhere, was brought in to give this group some sock as well.
2) Anaheim Angels (85-77)
This team has some holes, but it's OK because MIKE TROUT.
3) Oakland Athletics (82-80)
Remade their team almost entirely, true to Moneyball precepts. The big trade was controversial as talented and popular Josh Donaldson was traded to Toronto for Canadian Brett Lawrie so the deal was weird on both sides but it happened, and so Lawrie is in Oakland, joining newcomers Billy Butler, Ben Zobrist and old friend Ike Davis who resurfaced here after flaming out in Pittsburgh. I can totally see Ike Davis remaking himself as a DH and hitting 30 Home Runs and Mets fans tearing their hair out, but that's probably a stretch at this point.
4) Houston Astros (78-84)
The Astros are finally starting to creep back upward towards being a good team again and maybe could surprise some people this year because nobody's expecting them. But George Springer leads this group of rapidly ascending youngsters that includes Jon Singleton, Dallas Keuchel and Brett Oberholtzer, and it's encouraging enough that management actually spent money to bring in established players like Meathead Evan Gattis (who won't bother me as much now that he's not in the NL), Colby Rasmus and Pat Neshek, and of course Jose Altuve is still there being great.
5) Texas Rangers (70-92)
Yu Darvish is probably out for the season with Big Boy surgery and that's a big blow to a team that actually finished behind the Astros last season and didn't do much to improve other than bring in Yovani Gallardo. Bwah bwah.
AL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels
AL Cy Young: Dallas Keuchel, Astros
AL ROY: Taijuan Walker, Mariners
AL Wildcard Game: Red Sox over Tigers
ALDS: Orioles over Red Six, Indians over Mariners
ALCS: Orioles over Indians