2014 MLB Preview: East meets West in the Series?

You don’t always earn credibility for predicting the winners in sports. If you picked the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl this past season, kudos, but let’s face it, Seattle was hardly a shocker to anyone following football. But if you picked the Red Sox last year, well, you were… me. Because I think I was the only one who did. And that does buy me some margin for error this year, not that I plan on needing it. I wrote that the Yankees could be this year’s Red Sox, and while that would be much less of a surprise, the biggest obstacle for them will be the actual Red Sox. In the Senior Circuit, the Dodgers need to prove they have enough depth to get past the Cardinals this time around. Is a Boston-LA ratings-monster-of-a-series inevitable? Time will tell. So a quick glance at the season ahead, and let’s circle back here at year’s end and see if I can say “I told you so” for a second straight year.

*-Denotes Wild Card team

American League East
Projected Order of Finish
1. New York Yankees, 95-67*
Consider every single thing that went wrong last year and then remember the Yankees still won 85 games. Give Joe Girardi a ton of credit.
1. Boston Red Sox, 94-68
Yes, some personnel losses, but some returns too, including a full season from Clay Buchholz. A ton of depth at both the major and minor league levels.
3. Baltimore Orioles, 86-76
The O’s will hammer away on offense and have some solid starters, but bullpen questions once again.
4. Tampa Bay Rays, 84-78
The Rays are always in the mix, but will they get enough runs? The burden on the rotation to carry the team could be too great.
5. Toronto Blue Jays, 72-90
A chic World Series pick a year ago, the Jays are back to being East cellar-dwellers. No clear-cut ace, among other issues.

American League Central
Projected Order of Finish
1. Detroit Tigers, 89-73
Could the Tigers take a step back after three straight ALCS appearances? Possibly, but the rotation is too strong in a middling division.
2. Kansas City Royals, 87-75*
Come on, Royals, is this the year? A time to hope. They won 86 games a year ago and have a lock-down bullpen. Offense is a question mark, but if the Tigers take a step back, KC could step up.
3. Cleveland Indians, 80-82
Speaking of taking a step back, is there a more prime candidate in 2014 for that than the Indians? They were 92-70 a year ago, but more telling, they went 36-52 against teams with winning records.
4. Chicago White Sox, 70-92
There could be some excitement with some young studs in the lineup, but the pitching and overall talent of the roster is just too far off.
5. Minnesota Twins, 67-95
Ron Gardenhire keeps losing and gets an extension, so perhaps he can reward management by “improving” on last year’s 66-96 record.

American League West
Projected Order of Finish
1. Oakland Athletics, 91-71
Somehow, some way, the pesky A’s will find a way to win the American League West… and then falter in the playoffs.
2. Los Angeles Angels, 83-79
With lowered expectations, the Angels show some moderate improvement and perhaps Mike Scoscia sticks around a few more seasons despite continued underachieving.
3. Texas Rangers, 82-80
Injuries are mounting, and the Rangers have seemingly had their chances and never capitalized. Maybe this is the year things come crashing down a little bit.
4. Seattle Mariners, 79-83
79 wins doesn’t seem like much but it would be a big step forward, especially if Robbie Cano helps generate offense for a team long starving for it.
5. Houston Astros, 63-99
Somehow, some way, the Astros will find a way to avoid 100 losses. A miracle on the season’s final day, perhaps?

American League Playoffs
Red Sox over Royals
Red Sox over Athletics
Yankees over Tigers
Yankees over Red Sox

American League Award Winners
MVP – Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees (runner-up: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox)
CY – Clay Buchholz, Red Sox (runner-up: Justin Verlander, Tigers)
ROY – Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees (runner-up: Xander, Bogaerts, Red Sox)

National League East
Projected Order of Finish
1. Washington Nationals, 96-66
The Nationals bounce back from a sub par season behind stellar starting pitching and post the Majors’ best mark.
2. Philadelphia Phillies, 83-79
Better than people think, the Phillies, with a now-underrated rotation, will atone for consecutive losing seasons.
3. Atlanta Braves, 82-80
It’s back to earth for the Braves, unless B.J. Upton can somehow learn to play like his brother.
4. New York Mets, 73-89
The loss of Matt Harvey leaves a gaping hole for a team in need of star talent.
5. Miami Marlins, 65-97
Fans in South Florida will be left feeling Salty, but at least Jose Fernandez is worth the price of admission.

National League Central
Projected Order of Finish
1. St. Louis Cardinals, 94-68
Depth – check. Talent – check. Young stars – check. Another National League Central title – check.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates, 86-76*
It’s tempting to say the Pirates will take a step back this year, but Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen are reasons to believe otherwise.
3. Cincinnati Reds, 80-82
If things go bad early, some big names (Phillips? Bailey?) could be on the move by midseason.
4. Milwaukee Brewers, 74-88
Matt Garza better fix his Spring Training ERA.
5. Chicago Cubs, 70-92
For Cubs fans, there’s always next year. And the year after that. And the year after that…

National League West
Projected Order of Finish
1. Los Angeles Dodgers, 95-67
The Nats may win the most games, but the Dodgers may be the NL’s best team. Injuries, and a potential soft spot in the bullpen, would be the only potential roadblocks to a pennant,
2. San Francisco Giants, 87-75*
It’s an even-numbered year, so the Giants should at least enjoy a postseason trip.
3. Colorado Rockies, 80-82
The Rockies can score runs, especially at Coors Field, but just how many runs can their seemingly-improved pitching prevent?
4. Arizona Diamondbacks, 77-85
The D-Backs appeared poised for a breakthrough year, but the Patrick Corbin injury is a major setback.
5. San Diego Padres, 75-87
They play hard for Bud Black, they really do, but it’s hard to envision much more than 75 wins for the Friars.

American League Playoffs
Giants over Pirates
Giants over Nationals
Dodgers over Cardinals
Dodgers over Giants

Yankees over Dodgers in 5
Carlos Beltran

National League Award Winners
MVP – Allen Craig, Cardinals (runner-up: Buster Posey, Giants)
CY – Cliff Lee, Phillies (runner-up: Adam Wainwright, Cardinals)
ROY – Billy Hamilton, Reds (runner-up: Chris Owings, Diamondbacks)

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