National League East By Garth Shanklin
1. Washington Nationals
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins
This was actually a pretty close race for most of spring training. The Nats and Braves were on pace for a classic battle all season long. Then injuries started.
Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Gavin Floyd are all starters, and they’re all hurt. Tim Hudson left for the Giants this offseason, and Paul Maholm bolted for the Dodgers. It’s so bad in the ATL that the team just signed Aaron Harang. As a Reds fan, trust me: that’s not good.
All the injuries to starters mean they’re forced to name Julio Tehran their opening day starter. Tehran’s career ERA of 3.44 isn’t terrible, but he’s nowhere near ready to be called a top pitcher, which is basically what your opening day starter is.
The Phillies are aging quickly, something we saw last year. The Mets are still a mess, even after signing Curtis Granderson away from the crosstown rival Yankees.
The Marlins have exactly two players on their entire roster worth caring about. Slugger Giancarlo Stanton will provide pleanty of pop and spend most of the summer wishing there were people ahead of him in the lineup who can get on base.
Their staff is led by Jose Fernandez, who showed flashes of dominance for most of last season but, in the end, is still a Marlin.
It’s not that the Nationals are that great, but the rest of the division is a hot mess. If the Braves can get their pitching in order, they have a shot to make it a race again. If not, the Nats will run away with the East.
American League East By Garth Shanklin
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays
I can’t really see any reason to put the defending World Champs anywhere else but at the top of the list. Their closest competition will probably be the Yankees, but they’re not exactly young anymore. They lost their top offensive threat in Robinson Cano, and while they did sign Masahiro Tanaka, they’ll need offense from someone to win games.
I don’t think Brian McCann can do it. Carlos Beltran left St. Louis, and whatever magic dust they sprinkled on him to make him a threat, so I doubt he has a gigantic impact either. Jacoby Ellsbury’s an interesting signing, but he needs help.
The Rays will have their normal solid season, and like normal, they won’t go far in the playoffs. Once you get past David Price, their staff is too young and untested to make a big splash.
Baltimore intrigues me, but can you name two of their starting pitchers? I can’t. Pitching is extremely important, especially in the American League, and I don’t see anyone on their staff that stands out. It’ll be solid, and they’ll probably finish close to .500.
As for Toronto, they need Brandon Morrow to remember how to pitch and Jose Reyes to not get hurt. I don’t think Edwin Encarnacion will hit 50 homers again, ever, so someone will have to replace that offensive output. I don’t think that’ll be Dioner Navarro.
To be honest, any of these teams could win this division, but some need more help than others. It’ll be a fun division, but the defending champs are clearly the top dog.
National League West By Aaron Freeman
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. San Francisco Giants
4. San Diego Padres
5. Colorado Rockies
With one of the best overall leagues in baseball this season, the NL West looks to be one of the most fun races come October.
The Dodgers have one of the highest payrolls in baseball and proved that this offseason by signing a seven-year, $215 million deal with Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw, along with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Grienke, will help the Dodgers have one of the best starting three pitchers in baseball.
Los Angeles will run away with the division and lock up their playoff spot early on in the season, while Arizona and San Francisco will likely battle out for a wild card spot in the National League.
Arizona made a splash this offseason by signing former Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trumbo and adding depth to their pitching staff. The Diamondbacks may surprise some people by making a deep run at the end of the season. The team will also bring back MVP runner-up Mike Goldschmidt who will most likely continue his production from last season.
The rest of the division does not look that exciting. But, as we have seen in the past with the San Francisco Giants, you never know when they can make a run that will lead them to the playoffs and even the World Series. With a pitching rotation that includes Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong, they have probably the deepest rotation in baseball. If the Giants can stay healthy, I would not be surprised to see them make a run at the Dodgers or Diamondbacks for the division or Wild Card spot.
American League West By Aaron Freeman
1. Oakland Athletics
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Houston Astros
Like the NL West, the AL West division will be the strongest in the AL. You can expect three teams from this division to head to the playoffs and a divisional race that will be one to watch at the end of the season.
With a couple of big name signings this offseason, everyone in the AL West will be slugging it out, except the Astros.
The Oakland Athletics return key players from last season’s playoff squad, and now, after two straight seasons of winning the division, are not going to surprise anyone. Led by outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and third baseman Josh Donaldson, along with veterans Nick Punto and Brandon Moss, the A’s will put together another fun team to watch. Although the A’s lost pitcher Bartolo Colon, I don’t see that being a problem.
With the acquisition of stars Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, the Rangers have put themselves in a position to contend with the Athletics as a powerhouse in the AL West.
With those key offensive players, the Rangers are bound to score many runs and with the pitching led by Yu Darvish, Texas may have the full package to contend for the AL West championship.
Angels fans may have been disappointed with Pujols last year, but don’t count him out. He, along with star Mike Trout, could possibly lock up the second Wild Card position and do some serious damage in the playoffs, if they stay healthy.
National League Central By Chris Kwiecinski
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. Pittsburgh Pirates
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Milwaukee Brewers
Last season, the NL Central was one of the best in baseball, as it sent three teams to the postseason.
One of those, the St. Louis Cardinals, went on to win the division and played in the World Series. However, the NL Central’s success may be short lived.
The Reds and Pirates, the other two postseason teams, lost key parts of their teams that were crucial in their runs into the postseason.
The Pirates found relevance for the first time since 1992, but they lost key late season additions such as Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd and rotation anchor A.J. Burnett. After losing Burnett, the Pirates replaced him with Edinson Volquez, who has a career 4.75 ERA.
While the Reds lost clubhouse leaders Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo, they also have a new manager – Bryan Price. While a new manager doesn’t spell doom for a team, losing major talent does, which will be Cincinnati’s downfall.
Now, the Cardinals have also lost players that sparked their postseason run, but unlike Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, St. Louis found ways to fill them through their farm system.
Some of these farm system players, such as Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams, emerged strong late last season and ignited the run to the Fall Classic.
This made players like 2011 World Series hero David Freese and veteran Carlos Beltran expendable.
Beltran left for a bigger deal with the Yankees while Freese was dealt to the Angels. Yet it looks like the Cardinals have little to no drop off in talent.
While the Cardinals may not replicate last year’s success, they will take the division behind the infusion of young talent and the league’s best farm system.
American League Central By Chris Kwiecinski
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Kansas City Royals
3. Cleveland Indians
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Minnesota Twins
The Central is a toss up.
Well, for the right to second place that is.
The AL Central division has been the Detroit Tigers’ to lose for years.
Ever since they signed Prince Fielder, Detroit has enjoyed the emergence of 20-win and Cy Young winning pitcher Max Scherzer, a Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, and got major success from 2012 Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander.
The Tigers then rode their success and made it to 3 straight American League Championship Series (ALCS).
However, they only won the ALCS one out of three times, and were defeated in the World Series by the San Francisco Giants.
Now, after the second loss in the ALCS in three years, the Detroit Tigers will have a different look.
Gone are manager Jim Leyland, Fielder and shortstop Jhonny Peralta, and in come second baseman Ian Kinsler, closer Joe Nathan and manager Brad Ausmus.
The Tigers may have a different look, but they aren’t in any danger of losing the division, as Kansas City and Cleveland are clearly behind in terms of talent.
As for second place in the division, it comes down to offseason moves.
The White Sox and Twins will be non-factors for the next couple years, and between Cleveland and Kansas City, the Royals made the better moves.
While the Indians may have more talented players on their roster than Kansas City, they have more holes than the Royals, which propel them to second in the division.
However, barring major injuries to Detroit, the Tigers will once again run away with the division, and have a chance to bring a title home to their fans.