Wednesday, April 1, 2015

2015 Major League Baseball Predictions

The 2015 Major League Baseball season gets underway on Sunday Night, April 5th with a match-up between the division rival Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. Not only does the new season bring a fresh start for every team but this year it also happens to mark the first season for a new commissioner, Rob Manfred. Manfred has already been vocal about new rules he'd like to see implemented. Some of these rules will take effect in 2015 and some will never get put into play. Manfred brought up the notion that not allowing defensive shifts by players might allow for more offense. This idea was completely shot down by many. Why reward a batter for being one-dimensional and punish other teams for employing strategy? This rule will not be taking effect. Manfred also wanted to see the overall pace of baseball games go quicker. Some pace of game rules will be going into effect in 2015 and if you're interested in reading up on them, this is a good article.

Rob Manfred

In 2015, Manfred is worried about the pace in between innings and maybe in 2016, he'll worry about the space in between his teeth. After all, you want this game to appeal to younger children, right? Well, you look a little creepy

With all that being said, here are my 2015 Major League Baseball predictions for the standing will finish in the AL West, AL Central, AL East, NL West, NL Central and NL East. I will also make predictions for major end of the season awards. 

American League West 
Los Angeles Angels  (95-67)
Oakland Athletics (90-72)*
Seattle Mariners (89-73)
Texas Rangers (80-82)
Houston Astros (77-85)

The American League West looks a lot different than it did in 2014, most notably the Oakland Athletics who traded 6 of their 7 All-Stars since last summer. While they lost a lot in star power, they gained a lot in young prospects. Manager Bob Melvin should be able to pull the right strings together with the new group of players he has to still contend for a Wild-Card spot. Even though Spring Training games don't count, the Athletics have made a good showing. Sonny Gray has proven himself as the ace of the Oakland A's staff. Garrett Richards of the Angels suffered a horrible injury and it was a huge blow to their team last year. While outfielder Josh Hamilton's immediate future may be in double due to reoccurring drug abuse problems, having Richards back will only help the Angels. In Seattle, they added 2014 AL Home Run Champ, Nelson Cruz, which will help give Robinson Cano protection. They still lack a bit in pitching depth and Fernando Rodney may shoot less arrows in the sky this season. The Texas Rangers are coming back after a lot of injuries in 2014 and that is not an understatement. However, their best starting pitcher, Yu Darvish, has already been ruled out for the 2015 season after having Tommy John surgery. The Houston Astros will improve in 2015 but it will not be enough. AJ Hinch will not last as a manager long for Houston as he never should have been hired in the first place. Jose Altuve will continue to rack up his hits. 

American League Central
Chicago White Sox  (89-73)
Detroit Tigers (88-74)
Kansas City Royals (84-78)
Cleveland Indians (81-81)
Minnesota Twins (76-86)

The American League Central title should come down to a race between the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers. Detroit Tigers might have the best offense in all of baseball with the addition of Yoenis Cespedes. However, they also lost two key starting pitchers in Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. The White Sox seemed to only add players to their squad including their new closer who departed the Bronx for the Windy City, David Robertson. Kansas City had a great run last year and almost found themselves winning the World Series. With the improvements in the AL Central this season, a repeat performance is going to be tough. The key player in a return them to the playoffs will be Yordano Ventura, who will take over as the Royals' ace.  Nobody seemed to know who Corey Kluber of the Indians was until he won the 2014 AL Cy Young Award. Now that people know his name, can he have a similar season to his breakout 2014? The Minnesota Twins got rid of longtime manager, Ron Gardenhire, but replaced him a familiar face in Paul Molitor. Molitor needs Joe Mauer to regain his stroke and remain healthy all season to have any thoughts about competing in 2015. 

American League East
Baltimore Orioles  (94-68)
Boston Red Sox (92-70)*
Toronto Blue Jays (86-76)
Tampa Bay Rays (80-82)
New York Yankees (78-84)

The Baltimore Orioles should be able to capture the AL East title again. Even though they lost star players like Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, they also won the AL East last season with Manny Machado out for a majority of time, Chris Davis suspended, and Matt Wieters hurt. If these three guys can come back strong then so should Baltimore. The Boston Red Sox won't make repeating easy though as they look to go from worst-to-first yet again. It will be interesting to see how Pablo Sandoval does with his new team after winning three World Series rings with San Francisco. The Blue Jays are right up there with the Detroit Tigers in terms of dangerous lineups. The addition of Josh Donaldson after a trade with Athletics, makes their lineup even more dangerous especially in a hitter's ballpark. A lot could end up riding on two rookie pitchers, Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez, for the Blue Jays to make the postseason. Tampa Bay and New York will battle it out for last place in the AL East as weird as it may seem. The Yankees have a lot of pitching questions and the Tampa Bay Rays have a new GM and Manager. Didi Gregorius has huge shoes to fill for the captain in New York but at least he isn't 40 years old.  Tampa Bay needs Matt Moore to regain his 2013 form after missing most of 2014.

National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers  (96-66)
San Francisco Giants (87-75)*
San Diego Padres (84-78)
Arizona Diamondbacks (72-90)
Colorado Rockies (70-92)

The San Diego Padres were the noisemakers of the NL West  during the offseason as they acquired Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Derek Norris in trades to help bolster their lineup. They later signed James Shields to anchor their pitching staff. Although they didn't make any huge offseason moves, the San Francisco Giants look to improve with the return of a healthy Matt Cain in their rotation. Health will be the key for the Giants as they look to repeat as champs. The Diamondbacks have a new GM in Dave Stewart and Manager in Chip Hale. Their first full season should prove to be quite the test. One player on the Diamondbacks to keep an eye on is centerfielder, Ender Inciarte, who impressed as a rookie last season. The Colorado Rockies success depends much on the success of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Can these two stay healthy? Even if they do, I'm not sure if the Rockies have enough pitching.  The Dodgers should repeat as the NL West Champs but it won't do them any good if Don Mattingly cannot properly manage a  game when it comes time for the playoffs.

National League Central
St. Louis Cardinals  (90-72)
Pittsburgh Pirates (85-77)
Chicago Cubs (83-79)
Cincinnati Reds (75-87)
Milwaukee Brewers (73-89)

The Chicago Cubs aren't going to finish in last place! As much as I would like to see the Cubs make the playoffs in 2015, I think they are still a year away. My apologies to the Back to the Future movie fans. The Cubs definitely improved during the offseason though. They landed a good starting pitcher in Jon Lester as he reunites with team President, Theo Epstein, in the Windy City. The player with the best 2015 Spring Training, Kris Bryant, will start the season in the minors due to some stupid rule where they can avoid having him become a free agent sooner than they want by keeping him in the minors for a few weeks. It won't be long until he gets called up though and should be the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. The Central is still the Cardinals division to win. Even if Adam Wainwright isn't 100% healthy, they have a good pitching staff. The Pirates will continue to play well but need A.J. Burnett to be the same pitcher he was when he last played for the Pirates and not the pitcher he was last season with the Phillies. The Reds traded away two of their top starting pitchers and while their offense is great, they can't have Johnny Cueto pitch everyday. The Brewers could very well surprise and finish in first place instead of last place. I don't expect Jonathan Lucroy to have the same type of season as last year though.

National League East
Washington Nationals (95-67)
Miami Marlins (87-75)*
Atlanta Braves (80-82)
New York Mets (76-86)
Philadelphia Phillies (66-96)

The Washington Nationals already had an amazing starting rotation and then they went out and spent a lot of money to bring Max Scherzer into the fold. The Miami Marlins have a good young core of talent in guys like Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton. If Jose Fernandez can rebound nicely from Tommy John surgery last year then they should compete for a Wild-Card spot.  The Atlanta Braves lost some key members of their team and while they got a nice pitcher in Shelby Miller from the Cardinals it won't be enough.  The New York Mets have one guy returning from Tommy John surgery in Matt Harvey and another guy who will miss the season due to the same surgery in Zack Wheeler. The Philadelphia Phillies will likely be the worst team in all of Major League Baseball in 2015. They lost guys like Jimmy Rollins (to the Dodgers) and Cliff Lee (to injury). The guys that they do have still are old. Their star pitcher, Cole Hamels, will most likely be traded by the July 31st trade deadline. 

Wild Card Games:
Boston Red Sox defeat Oakland Athletics (hope I'm wrong to pick against my team)
San Francisco Giants defeat Miami Marlins 

Division Series:
Baltimore Orioles defeat Chicago White Sox (3-2)
Boston Red Sox defeat Los Angeles Angels (3-1)
Los Angeles Dodgers defeat San Francisco Giants (3-1)
Washington Nationals defeat St. Louis Cardinals (3-2)

Championship Series:
Baltimore Orioles defeat Boston Red Sox (4-3)
Washington Nationals defeat Los Angeles Dodgers (4-2)

World Series:
Washington Nationals defeat Baltimore Orioles (4-1)

AL MVP:  Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels 
NL MVP:  Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
AL CY YOUNG:  Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles 
NL CY YOUNG:  Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers 
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Kris Bryant , Chicago Cubs 
AL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Derek Holland, Texas Rangers 
NL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds 
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Bob Melvin, Oakland A's 
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins

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