American League East
A division that used to feature a couple of the biggest spenders in baseball has become an anyone-can-win-it division. Health and age will be the most important factors in winning the East; New York and Boston are old while Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa Bay are young.
I’m picking Toronto to win the division – they have the best lineup, rotation and defense in the East, and may well have turned the worst bullpen into the division into one of the better ones by adding a couple young fireballers. The bench is still shallow, and so is the depth – they can weather the season-ending knee injury suffered by potential ace Marcus Stroman, but that’s probably it. Baltimore lost a couple of their better performers from last season, and I think they won about 7-8 more games than they should have in winning a weak A.L. East. Boston’s rotation and pen are average, and while the offense is potent, it relies on a lot of older players that are prone to breakdown. Tampa is rebuilding and the Yankees are one injury away from an entire lost season, their offense built largely on feast-or-famine players.
- Toronto Blue Jays – 89-73
- Baltimore Orioles – 85-77
- Boston Red Sox – 83-79
- Tampa Bay Rays – 82-80
- New York Yankees – 80-82
American League Central
This may prove to be the toughest division in the American League. It featured two playoff teams last year, one of which took the San Francisco Giants to Game 7 of the World Series. And, with arms like Corey Kluber, David Price, Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija, it may come down to pitching.
Look for Kansas City to drop in the standings – they still have probably the best bullpen in the game but are short on offense and starting pitching with the departure of ace James Shields to San Diego. Detroit, aging and more injury-prone and missing Max Scherzer after he defected to the Nationals, may also drop. Look for Chicago and Cleveland to benefit.
- Chicago White Sox – 88-74
- Cleveland Indians – 87-75
- Detroit Tigers – 84-78
- Kansas City Royals – 82-80
- Minnesota Twins – 63-99
American League West
This division stood out in the off-season because of losses and additions. Oakland, one of the reigning powerhouses of the division, lost Jon Lester, Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Derek Norris. They also acquired players like Ben Zobrist, Tyler Clippard and Brett Lawrie. It may be unwise to count Billy Beane out, but this is a team that struggled mightily down the stretch last year after dealing away Yoenis Cespedes, and losing the their next two best offensive threats in Donaldson and Moss sure exacerbates the problem on offense. They’ll have good young pitching, as always, but they may well have given up too much.
Seattle remade themselves, Texas will be awful again especially after having lost Yu Darvish for the year, and Houston is still getting better every day.
- Seattle Mariners – 93-69
- Los Angeles Angels – 88-74
- Oakland Athletics – 81-81
- Houston Astros – 77-85
- Texas Rangers – 60-102
National League East
While this division features the best team in baseball (and perhaps one or two of the worst), it also features some young up-and-coming clubs. Really, it would be an amazing story if the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins – compatriots in that huge trade at the end of 2012 that saw established veterans like Mark Buerhle, Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson head to Canada in exchange for a package of prospects including Henderson Alvarez, Miami’s opening day starter – both made it to the postseason in the same year. It would be even more amazing if the New York Mets joined them, seeing as they dealt reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Jays a few weeks later. It just might happen. What isn’t a mystery is that the Nationals – headed by co-aces Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmerman, with Steven Strasburg just a blip behind them – will win the division.
- Washington Nationals – 103-59
- Miami Marlins – 88-74
- New York Mets – 85-77
- Atlanta Braves – 66-96
- Philadelphia Phillies – 62-100
National League Central
A tough division to be sure, and maybe all the tougher by the combination of excellent youth and free agent signings that came out of Wrigley Field (even if Kris Bryant and Addison Russell will both start the year in the minors). I’m still going with experience and talent over potential in this division, and that means St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
- St. Louis Cardinals – 92-70
- Pittsburgh Pirates – 90-72
- Chicago Cubs – 84-78
- Cincinnati Reds – 74-88
- Milwaukee Brewers – 73-89
National League West
The Dodgers revamped their roster, and not in the conventional way that a team of their largess would generally go about it. They dealt away Matt Kemp and lost Hanley Ramirez to free agency, but acquired Jimmy Rollins, Brandon McCarthy and Yasmani Grandal. The big story though came out of southern California, as the San Diego Padres remade their team in a matter of weeks. They brought in Matt Kemp, James Shields, Justin Upton, Will Myers, Will Middlebrooks, Derek Norris, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson. Tyson Ross may well build on a strong season in 2014 as well. And, in the middle of it all, you’ll find the defending World Series Champions (and winners of three of the last five World Series). This is going to be a slugfest.
- Los Angeles Dodgers – 93-69
- San Diego Padres – 88-74
- San Francisco Giants – 86-76
- Colorado Rockies – 63-99
- Arizona Diamondbacks – 60-102
- AL Play-in: Cleveland over L.A. Angels
- ALDS: Toronto over Chicago; Seattle over Angels
- ALCS: Seattle over Toronto
- NL Play-in: Miami over Pittsburgh
- NLDS: Washington over Miami; Dodgers over St. Louis
- NLCS: Washington over Dodgers
World Series: Washington over Seattle
Awards (winner in bold)
AL Manager of the Year: Lloyd McLendon (Mariners), Terry Francona (Indians), John Gibbons (Blue Jays)
NL Manager of the Year: Mike Redmond (Marlins), Mike Matheny (Cardinals), Don Mattingly (Dodgers)
AL Rookie of the Year: Daniel Norris (Blue Jays), Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays), Rusney Castillo (Red Sox)
NL Rookie of the Year: Joc Pederson (Dodgers), Kris Bryant (Cubs), Jorge Soler (Cubs)
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale (White Sox), Felix Hernandez (Mariners), David Price (Tigers)
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Johnny Cueto (Reds), Jordan Zimmerman (Nationals)
AL MVP: Mike Trout (Angels), Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays), Jose Bautista (Blue Jays)
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins), Yasiel Puig (Dodgers), Andrew McCutchen (Braves)