The Gargantuan MLB Prediction Post

By: Josh Wasserman and Dylan Elder

In the Bay Area, people recognize the advent of baseball season when the Bay Bridge Series commences. Banter between A’s and Giants fans abounds as dreams still have the potential to be realized. With only two teams having played so far, imaginations run rampant as every team can share idyllic views of the near future.

The proverbial stopwatch becomes tangible as the majority of the league starts play within the week. The season has technically begun, as the loaded Dodgers took two games from the depleted Diamondbacks in Australia last week, but today is the real and official opening day. And with that, we have to present our list of yearly predictions, which will include projected final records, projected playoff matchups, and every award presented at the major league level for each league. Baseball is upon us once again, so let’s not waste any more of our precious time.

Division Predictions (with projected records) 

AL East

1. Boston Red Sox (93-69)Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 12.16.48 AM

2. Tampa Bay Rays (91-71)

3. Baltimore Orioles (84-78)

4. New York Yankees (82-80)

5. Toronto Blue Jays (73-89)

Annually the toughest division in baseball, 2014 is no exception for the AL East. There are four legitimate playoff teams that reside here, and even the Blue Jays can make a run if they stay healthy all year long. Alas, with news that Jose Reyes will once again hit the DL, hope is already spreading thin in Toronto. For the Bronx Bombers, a plethora of signings over the offseason will hope to offset the loss of Robinson Cano, but what really worries me is their infield. Mark Teixiera, Brian Roberts, Derek Jeter, and Kelly Johnson may have been considered formidable six years ago, but in 2014, they form the worst infield in the big leagues. For Baltimore, their lineup is extremely potent, especially with the addition of Nelson Cruz to provide protection for Chris Davis, but can their pitching staff handle a 162 game season? That remains to be seen, but I think the answer will ultimately be a resounding: almost. I see this division as a two team race between Boston and Tampa Bay. Both pose astounding depth in all areas, but what gives the Sox a two game edge is their exponentially superior lineup. The Rays simply cannot hang with the sluggers employed in Boston. In addition, the Red Sox have the deepest farm system in the sport and can use that to their advantage to strike a deal at the trade-deadline to better their squad.


AL Central

1. Detroit Tigers (94-68)Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 12.20.10 AM

2. Kansas City Royals (89-73)

3. Cleveland Indians (85-77)

4. Chicago White Sox (73-89)

5. Minnesota Twins (60-102)

The Twins will undoubtedly be cellar-dwellars for yet another season, but with two of the top ten prospects in baseball (Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano) in the farm system, hope appears to be on the horizon in Minnesota. Maybe Adrian Peterson can take a few at-bats this year. The White Sox have a dominant starter in Chris Sale, and I absolutely love the signing of Jose Abreu (serious 30 HR potential) but they just have too many weaknesses to be mentioned in the same breath as the top three teams in this division. The Indians, a playoff team from a year ago, bring back most of their core lineup and pitching staff. However, their fielding remains suspect and their rotation isn’t very deep and I believe those two things will ultimately hold them back from reaching October again. The Royals are a trendy pick to reach the postseason for the first time since Reagan was President, but just reaching the playoffs is a tall task for such an inexperienced team. If their various young-ins can put together the tools they most certainly have, then a trip to the playoffs is not out of the question. Detroit has been king of this division for what seems like an eternity now. Their embarrasment of riches will once again serve them well and lead them to the best record in the American League.


AL West

1. Oakland Athletics (92-70)

2. Texas Rangers (87-75)

3. Los Angeles Angels (85-77)

4. Seattle Mariners (80-82)

5. Houston Astros (65-97)

The Astros are getting better, but they are no where close to a credible major league team. An abundance of prospects in the minors can give fans hope, but don’t expect 2014 to be any less tumultuous than 2013. Seattle loaded up this offseason with the biggest splash of the winter: 10 years, $240 million for Robinson Cano. He will inject some small amount of life into a floundering offense, but it wont be enough to make the playoffs. The top three teams in the AL West all of talent, but each has a considerable flaw too. The Angels pitching staff is borderline atrocious, the Rangers start the season as the most injured team in baseball, and the A’s have sewage problems on the daily at O.co Coliseum. Oakland’s problem is the least severe, so they get the nod for the division title, even if losing Jarrod Parker stings a good amount.


NL East

1. Washington Nationals (91-71)Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 8.36.36 AM

2. Atlanta Braves (86-76)

3. New York Mets (78-85)

4. Philadelphia Phillies (69-93)

5. Miami Marlins (67-95)

Jeff Loria’s club has two bright spots: Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez. Both players are building blocks for any organization and are being used as such in Miami. Sure, Christian Yelich is a fine prospect who might put together an exciting season, but he’s not on that elite level of stardom that the aforementioned players are. The problem is that the Marlins pretty much have no one else to rely on, which will cause Stanton trade rumors to swirl even harder this season. The Phillies should be in desperate rebuild mode, yet GM Rueben Amaro must be delusional because the team will trot out 5 starters age 34 or older. The Mets have put together some interesting pieces, but with the loss of Matt Harvey and the injury prone nature of Travis d’Arnaud, I don’t see them going places in 2014. The Braves did a fantastic job this winter of locking up their homegrown talent, but the injury bug bit them hard over spring training (Brandon Beachey and Kris Medlin will miss the season and Mike Minor will start on the DL). The losses to three vital pieces of the rotation, two for the entire year, is almost impossible to overcome. The Nationals were a favorite to win the World Series last year, but injuries and inconsistent play doomed them right from the start. But what about this season? All the pieces are in place, and with the expansive young talent on the roster, there’s no reason to think that they can’t win the division, or maybe even the World Series.


NL Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals (93-69)

2. Pittsburgh Pirates (89-73)

3. Cincinnati Reds (87-75)

4. Milwaukee Brewers (74-88)

5. Chicago Cubs (62-100)

General Manger Theo Epstein has done a fantastic job of putting young talent in place so that the Cubs can compete for year to come. But that year wont be this year because sadly, most of that talent currently plays in the minors. The Brewers are an interesting case because of their exciting lineup that posses an abundance of power and speed, but their pitching staff leaves much to be desired and will ultimately doom them. It now seems like an annual tradition, but the Reds, Pirates, and Cardinals will once again battle each other out down the stretch for what is likely just two playoff spots. Each team has a better than decent shot of winning the division, but the Cardinals’ depth, especially from their entire pitching corps, ultimately wins out.


NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (96-66)

2. San Francisco Giants (88-74)

3. Arizona Diamondbacks (77-85)

4. Colorado Rockies (74-88)

5. San Diego Padres (65-97)

The Padres have done a great job in recent year of building up their farm system, but it wont show this year, as they will once again reside at the bottom of the NL West. The Rockies have an interesting collection of talent, but aside from Troy Tulowitzki, it just doesn’t compare to that of the Diamondbacks, Giants, or Dodgers. Each of those three teams has a legitimate MVP candidate (Goldschmidt, Posey, or take your pick from LA) but the Dodgers have too much star power to not be the best team in baseball this season.


 

The Postseason (American League)

Play in game: Rays over Royals

-These new style play in games often favor the team that has the better pitcher on that day, and with four starters that I’m comfortable pitching in a playoff game, the Rays get the nod here.

ALDS: Red Sox over A’s (in 4 games), Rays over Tigers (in 5 games)

-Oakland has lost in the ALDS two consecutive year, and unfortunately for A’s fans, a third is on the horizon. Even though they somehow always find a way to scrape together runs, their sluggers don’t compare to those of the Red Sox… a team that will out-hit them on their way to the ALCS for the second time in as many years. In the other series, two fantastic teams face off against each other in what will surely be a series of instant classics. David Price vs Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander vs Evan Longoria, the salivating match ups go on and on. However, I believe that with two teams as evenly matched as these, managerial skills play a very important role. Joe Maddon of the Rays is possibly the best in the business at getting his team prepared and making all the right in-game adjustments, whereas first year manager Brad Ausmus will be getting his first taste of playoff baseball (as a manager). Tough call here, but Tampa moves on.

ALCS: Red Sox over Rays (in 7 games)

-Two bitter division rivals, these teams know each other incredibly well. Because of this, the simplified version of the overarching question then becomes: Can David Ortiz hit Grant Balfour’s fastball in the bottom of the ninth when he knows it’s coming? The answer to that has been yes more times than not, so I think the Red Sox have a great chance to move on here if this match up eventually comes to fruition. Boston’s lineup is just so much more powerful than that of the Rays, and even though Tampa gets the edge in the pitching department, I don’t see how they’ll be able to score enough runs to stave of the Red Sox in a seven game series.


 

The Postseason (National League)

Play in game: Giants over Pirates

-If the Giants can stay healthy this season, take improved performances from their stars (looking at you, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum), and get substantial contributions from Michael Morse and Tim Hudson, then they should be able to clinch a playoff berth fairly easily. For Pittsburgh, it’s all about maintaining their success from a season ago. Andrew McCutchen needs to play near his MVP level again if the Pirates have a shot of reaching the postseason, but a full year of Gerrit Cole should aid the process as well. Overall, this play in game comes down to pitching, experience, and pitching experience… and the Giants have all that in spades.

NLDS: Dodgers over Giants (in 3 games), Nationals over Cardinals (in 5 games)

-Sorry Giants fans. I know it’s an even year (the team has won championships in 2010 and 2012) but 2014 doesn’t have the same magic. The Dodgers, a bitter division foe, are much more talented than the team in San Francisco. If they can trot out Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in back to back playoff games against a notorious offensively challenged team, then brooms are most definitely in order. The other NLDS series has the chance to be much more interesting. The Cardinals may have the deepest team in the league, but the Nationals aren’t far behind. In addition, Washington’s lineup, and run producers in particular, is far superior than the Cardinals’. This series could go either way, but I see Washington coming out victorious.

NLCS: Nationals over Dodgers (in 6 games)

-Not only do the Nationals have the arms to go toe-to-toe with the Dodgers, but their lineup stacks up favorably as well. When he’s locked in, Stephen Strausberg can be every bit as good as Clayton Kershaw. Similarly, a lineup lead by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman can score runs with the best of them, and because of this extreme balance, I’m picking the Nationals to win the National League.


 

World Series

Nationals over Red Sox (in 7 games)

Both teams are so immensely talented that each game is essentially a coin flip (hence the 7 game prediction). However, in a do-or-die game 7, I’m trusting Stephen Strausberg more so than anyone the Red Sox trot out on to the mound. This will unquestionably be an exciting series, but when push comes to shove, the Washington Nationals will be your 2014 World Series champions. That should make for a quick and easy trip to the White House.


 

AL MVP

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers. But what about Mike Trout, I thought this was supposed to be his year? Well, yes, Mike Trout will most definitely be a stud in 2014. He even homered in his first at bat of the season. But the voters have spoken, and they clearly prefer RBI and home run totals over WAR and other various sabermetrics in which Trout excels. Another 40 HR, 120 RBI, .340 BA season is looming for Miggy, and that should be enough to crown an MVP.

NL MVP

Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks. It’s hard to be an MVP when you play for a losing team, but that just shows the faith I have in Goldschmidt’s abilities. He’s a supremely talented hitter with virtually no holes in his swing, and the friendly confines of Chase Field should aid his numbers significantly. If we are talking old school baseball players, and the MVP voters definitely are, then Goldschmidt fits the bill as an MVP winner.

AL Cy Young

Chris Sale, White Sox. Yu Darvish of the Rangers was the odds-on favorite to win this award before suffering an injury that landed him on the 15 day DL to start the season. If Sale can get off to a fast start, then he has the chance to run away with this award due to his unfathomable plethora of pitches. He’s a workhorse on the mound and even though the White Sox wont get him many wins, voters have been able to look past that (i.e. Felix Hernandez in 2012) so I believe Sale has a great chance at this award.

NL Cy Young

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals. Like Darvish, Clayton Kershaw was considered by many to run away with this award before a back injury landed himself on the disabled list. This injury is somewhat severe, and if Kershaw misses significant time, Wainwright has a perfect opportunity to assert himself as one of the best pitchers in the National League. He doesn’t throw very hard, but his changeup is deadly and his command is otherworldly which allows him to get strikeouts by the boatload. If Wainwright can stay healthy all year, I predict he not only wins the Cy Young, but runs away with the award.

AL Rookie of the Year

Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox. Stepping into a pivotal role during the 2013 postseason, Bogaerts clearly handled himself with immense poise and looked like a 10 year veteran both at the dish and in the field. Expectations are sky-high for the Aruba native, but if his maturity carries over to 2014, there’s no reason to think anyone else can steal this award from him.

NL Rookie of the Year

Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks. This kid will start the season in the minors, not for extra-seasoning, rather to delay his arbitration year by one. Bradley is already a bona-fide star. His sizzling fastball and ultimate control of each pitch allows him to pound the strike-zone against hitter while also being careful with his placement at the same time. If he gets enough starts this season, Bradley will impress the baseball community enough to win the rookie of the year, if not more.

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