2k15 divisiOnal preview – AL East

Posted in 2015 predictions on March 24th, 2015 by The Wayward O

Baltimore comes back strong. Boston is looking to knock ‘em down a peg.

Baltimore Orioles - If a three-run homer is an Earl Weaver special, then a one-year deal is a Dan Sandwich. The Os refused to pay power-hitting Nellie Cruz the going rate, nor would they pay to re-sign Nick Markakis. But bargain-shopping, text-messaging executive Dan Duquette may have found a short-term answer for right field with Travis Snider, who by all lights is motivated to use his Oriolesque deal as a springboard. Of course, if he does, he’ll move on in 2016 to a team that doesn’t underpay. Anyway, even if Team of Blog gives back some production because of perennial chintz, they likely still have power to spare. Baltimore also features a talented bullpen, a strong defense, an unheralded-but-effective starting rotation and a great motivator for a manager. Has Manny Machado finally put the injury woes and attitude issues behind him? Don’t Schleep on Jon Schoop neither.

Boston Red Sox - The free-spending, free-agent happy BoSox bolted together quite the Frankenteam this year, plugging Hanley Ramirez into a left field situation behind Pablo Sandoval at third base and buying/trading for starting pitching. If you’re a Sawx fan, the best thing about the spring so far has to be the lack of injuries. That bodes well but their season is difficult to predict. They could finish first; they could finish last. It’s great to see MLB finally crack down on fat David Ortiz’s between-pitch wanderings. Is he looking for a bag of BBQ-flavor pork rinds in the on-deck circle? What’s he even doing? Maybe next year baseball can do something about Peedy’s annoying eye-stretches.

New York Yankees - If injuries don’t fell this aging group of mercenaries en masse then they could be pretty good. Free agents Jacoby Ellsbury and Chris Capuano already are sporting the kind of strains that tend to yield unimpressive seasons. C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka are both sort of not hurt yet but give them some time. Also C.C. is getting lit up this spring. Alex Rodriguez is not hurt (yet) either but everyone hates him including the skipper so that’s weird. Will Andrew Miller end up in the closer role over fan favorite Dellin Betances? Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann are having productive and healthy springs so they could help keep the Yanks on track – uhhhh – if they don’t get hurt. But they’re going to get hurt so.

Tampa Bay Rays - Their pitching has been depleted by injury and, in the case of Alex Colome, by pneumonia. They also got rid of their Molina. And Molinas tend to help teams get into the playoffs. But time waits not even for the stoutest Molina. Lots of young guys are going to be feeling their way here along with a new manager, Kevin Cash, who replaces the fabled Joe Maddon. Cash will field a dearth of talent at key positions and isn’t likely to be able to replicate the Rays’ recent successes. Would they trade Evan Longoria and his team-friendly contract if the right talent were made available? Blog can envision scenariOs where this could happen.

Toronto Blue Jays - What’s the point of signing Russell Martin if you have a productive, switch-hitting catcher in Dioner Navarro? Same question re: Justin Smoak and Edwin Encarnacion at first base. Navarro is asking to be traded and – oh! – lots of injuries. The Blue Jays are squandering the window of opportunity that Jose Bautista represents.

Predicted order of finish:
Orioles
Red Sox *
Blue Jays
Yankees
Rays

* wild card mix

2k15 divisiOnal preview – AL Central

Posted in 2015 predictions on March 22nd, 2015 by The Wayward O

This is a tough division to handicap. Cleveland is making it tougher. Blog had to think about this one for an extra day or two.

Chicago White Sox - They’ve had a strong winter by addition (Adam LaRoche, Melky Cabrera, David Robertson at closer) and by subtracting basepath- and roster-cloggers. Chris Sale’s spring injury was a downer but the recent news is promising. If Sale gets right they should be in the mix in September. Can Micah Johnson hold onto the starting job at second base? If things go well you won’t hear about tension between LaRoche and Jose Abreu. Both of those guys expect start in the field against both lefties and righties. But the combination gives the team intriguing options.

Cleveland Indians - Blog loves addition of Brandon Moss to this lineup. They apparently don’t trust starting pitchers over 30 (if you don’t count Gavin Floyd and Bruce Chen, who are more or less irrelevant anyway). Very Woodstock. There are so many live arms on this squad that it’s hard to imagine a broad-based failure. But it’s possible. Some of them seem like knuckleheads to be 100 percent candid. So that could be a challenge for “players’ manager” Terry Francona. Can Cory Kluber repeat his otherworldly performance from 2014?

Detroit Tigers - They have done a great job staying competitive year upon year. Will the Yankees regret the three-team trade that saw starter Shane Greene go to Detroit? One is tempted to say success depends upon Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez staying healthy but with so much talent — Yoenis Cespedes, J.D. Martinez and Jose Iglesias in particular — Blog thinks the two old hands can play loose and sit more often.

Kansas City Royals - The 89-win Powder Blues regained consciousness Oct. 21 after winning eight straight playoff games and let the Giants out-grind them in the World Series. But to Blog the offseason body of work doesn’t inspire confidence. Free agents Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales don’t separate what has been a power-challenged offense. That job will have to fall to their trio of young stars Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas. Is Yordano Ventura good enough to lead a major league rotation? He might be, especially given their otherworldly bullpen. No starter here is likely to crack 200 innings this year.

Minnesota Twins - Uhhh. They’ve got some guys but Blog doesn’t really see Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana as the tickets back to the top of this tough division. What do people think about Hunter’s Hall of Fame chances? Blog guesses he’s kind of on the outside looking in. But, to paraphrase the departed Harold Ramis, Blog is willing to learn. You have to like them for last place again barring some kind of injury implosion by a division rival.

Predicted order of finish:
Tigers
Indians *
White Sox *
Royals
Twins

* wild card mix

2k15 divisiOnal preview – AL West

Posted in 2015 predictions on March 20th, 2015 by The Wayward O

Houston Astros - They seem confused about whether they’re still in full rebuild/tank mode or whether they’re in some kind of hybrid tank mode. Confusion wouldn’t be too surprising given well-documented off-season turmoil. Trading Dexter Fowler brought back a potentially viable starter in Dan Straily but also blocked young Matt Dominguez from getting more experience at third base by bringing in Luis Valbuena. The baffling signing of Colby Rasmus clogs an outfield full of seemingly comparable guys. Looking forward to watching another year of the young starting trio of Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Brett Oberholtzer. Can they field two All-Stars this year? Jose Altuve and Keuchel?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - The Angels wear red, which is the devil’s hue. So that’s weird. They used to have Brad Fullmer. That’s super weird. They exist in a quantum netherworld in which they purport to represent two cities at once. Just really weird here. They don’t talk about the left fielder and the thing. They talk about the center fielder who is a fresh-faced guy and hasn’t begun to sulk yet. And they talk about that even fresher-faced guy in right field to boot. And they talk about that other guy who is a great, great ballplayer over at first base who by all reports is ready to continue his assault on the 3,000-hit club. They also got pitchers. And they made good trades for infielders and don’t have to worry about losing the guy with the cop moustache who signed with the L.A. Dodgers. Will C.J. Wilson stink again?

Oakland Athletics - They had trouble with their late-inning relief last year. So, after a series of interlocking deals worthy of a Chapter 11 case, they seem to have slotted Tyler Clippard in behind putative closer Sean Doolittle. But Doolittle is hurt – among other spring gimps – so we’ll see. Meanwhile they also traded for a promising starter named Jesse Hahn, traded away All-Star first baseman Brandon Moss and gave fan-favorite outfielder Sam Fuld a job. Since this is Oakland, ground zero for self-aggrandizing baseball stat onanism, Blog will ask: Is Sonny Gray going to regress? BONUS QUESTION: Is Ike Davis going to clog the sensitive stadium plumbing?

Seattle Mariners - Last year’s 87-win vintage is bringing back a strong pitching staff and last year’s deadline acquisition Austin Jackson. And it massively upgraded its putrid DH situation with premier AL batsman Nellie Cruz. Some of their lesser-known guys, your Kyle Seagers and your Dustin Ackleys and your Logan Morrisons, are poised to make big contributions. Can starter James Paxton stay healthy? They’re going to be good. Blog is thinking they and the Angels will drive each other toward high win totals as they both seek to stave off a wild-card berth.

Texas Rangers - They’re better off with a healthy Derek Holland and a healthy Prince Fielder. Baseball is better off too. Those guys are fun. The Rangers were ravaged by an historic tide of injury last year and already have suffered the loss of Yu Darvish this spring. Even so maybe there’s enough here for them to hang around if nobody else gets hurt and if guys like Colby Lewis and Yovani Gallardo outperform their track records. Blog sees ‘em as pack middle. Can young Texas draftee Ryan Rua win and hold the left field gig?

Predicted order of finish:
Mariners
Angels *
Rangers
Astros
As

* wild card

2k15 divisiOnal preview – NL East

Posted in 2015 predictions on March 17th, 2015 by The Wayward O

Atlanta Braves - One of MLB’s more significant year-over-year makeovers (make-unders?) here. Even the remaining outfielder from the forgettable 2014 vintage has changed his name. The rotation and bullpen are decent, with some young arms. But predictions of a power outage resulting from trades of Evan Gattis, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward seem legit. Can catcher Christian Bethancourt wield the bat at all? Dude has yet to hit a major league home run. Nick Markakis and Jonny Gomes may help stave off irrelevancy.

Miami Marlins - Where the Braves cycled down, the Fish geared up. Mat Latos and Dan Haren augment a rotation that should see Jose Fernandez return at some point. Dee Gordon is coming off a great year in L.A. and will produce. They’ve also added known professional baseball players Martin Prado and Mike Morse. Will Giancarlo Stanton have another MLB-caliber year? That contract makes Blog kind of dizzy. Blog will be seriously considering retirement options by the time it runs its course.

New York Mets - David Wright yelled at Noah Syndergaard and threw his lunch away! Then Zack Wheeler popped his UCL! Good thing they didn’t trade ol’ Dillon Gee! So much Met madness this March! Addition of Michael Cuddyer is a nice plus. Can 2nd-year catcher Travis d’Arnaud add to the offensive alchemy? Blog thinks they’re going to be decent, maybe good even, with more home run pop then the Flushing faithful are accustomed to.

Philadelphia Phillies - Blog happened to watch the Phillies on Monday. They looked undermanned and listless. Their pitching staff looked especially undermanned and listless, with Cole Hamels seemingly sleep-walking ahead of an oft-rumored trade to [YOUR TEAM HERE]. Last month the Inquirer quoted Phils’ bench coach Larry Bowa as saying “There’s nothing in the contract that says you’re going to be playing on a team that is over .500.” Oy. Ryan Howard looks like he’s having a nice spring though. Can he play well enough for a team in need of a bat to take a look?

Washington Nationals - The lone team to finish above .500 in this division last year, the Nats are coming back and they’ve got Max Scherzer to boot. They have a few injuries to fret about – the Denard Span thing could be a headache – but they have viable options. Can Ryan Zimmerman match the production of departed first baseman Adam Laroche? Can Tanner Roark close? Tanner Roark was born to close! The Nats are the best team in the NL this spring and they’re hungry — so look out!

Predicted order of finish:
Nationals
Marlins *
Mets
Braves
Phillies

* wild card mix

2k15 divisiOnal preview – NL Central

Posted in 2015 predictions on March 16th, 2015 by The Wayward O

This division has a lot of Tonys and Anthonys in it. More than the usual amount of Tonys and Anthonys. Pirates are the clear favorite. Ranking the pig-pile below seems a little tougher this spring because of the Cubs’ improved outlook. Here’s a prediction: Not seeing a Wild Card berth from out of this division this year.

Chicago Cubs - There are reasons for hope — maybe not hype — on a team that has of late re-established itself as a basement dweller. Offseason moves included bringing Jon Lester, Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler on board. They join a mix of talent at various stages of development including bomb-hittin’ Anthony Rizzo. Blog sees fate of Cubbies tied closely to prospects of No. 2 starter Jake Arrieta, who last year seemed to shake off years of inconsistent results and channel his big talent. Whose this Kris Bryant kid? Is he awesome or what?

Cincinnati Reds - Depending on injuries and the performance of a couple youngish starters (Tony Cingrani and Anthony DeSclafani) the Reds project anywhere from last to pushing for first. Jay Bruce is looking for his mojo again after a putrid 2014. Joey Votto is a good bounce-back candidate. Not loving the ancient Marlon Byrd in left but Skip Schumaker is on the club for a depth — and he’s talking playoffs! Will they make the playoffs? If you put a gun-shaped sausage to Wayward O’s head and demanded an answer, Wayward O would have to say no.

Milwaukee Brewers - Pink eye? Gross! Kyle Lohse playing role of ace? Yikes! If you squint – and if Matt Garza doesn’t strain anything or whatever – then a playoff push is not completely out of the question. Here’s a positive: Blog likes Adam Lind at first base a lot more than Mark Reynolds at first base. Oh Adam seems to have pulled something too. Not high on the Crew this spring. If they did make the playoffs, somehow, the no-handshake thing could be a fun, you know, thing.

Pittsburgh Pirates - Viable, even swashbuckling, starters. Maybe the best outfield in the National League depending upon how well young Gregory Polanco fares. Good depth everywhere. The transitioning of Pedro Alvarez over to first base appears to be working. Fans will be watching Jung Ho Kang’s progress carefully to see if he can crack an already-talented infield picture. If you want to be a worry wart you can ask: Is Mark Melancon the answer at closer? Hey, if he’s not they can do a deal. Proceed with confidence!

St. Louis Cardinals - The perennial contenders appear poised to be in the mix again with a good-if-not-great starting rotation; known professional baseball players Jon Jay, Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta and Yadier Molina coming back; and a resurgent Jayson Heyward joining the outfield. But are Adam Wainwright’s finest days behind him? He’s got a mean case of the gimps right now. To Blog’s lights they look like about a 90-win team again, which isn’t likely enough. And that’s if Waino — and Lance Lynn — get right and stay right.

Predicted Order of Finish:
Pirates
Cardinals
Cubs
Reds
Brewers

2k15 divisiOnal preview – NL West

Posted in 2015 predictions on March 15th, 2015 by The Wayward O

Blog’s back! with a question for every team. Spring training is in full swing. Ligaments are fraying, rosters are evolving and bloggers are bolging. The balance of power is shifting in this division! It’s a tough one to handicap.

Arizona Diamondbacks - Moved their putative ace, Wade Miley, to Boston and appear to view the trade as a full-employment ticket with Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster filling in a troublesome rotation. Can they get a full season out of their exciting center fielder A.J. Pollock and a bounce-back year from Mark Trumbo? That will decide if they can crawl out of the basement behind what could be a dynamic offense. In other news they’ll be selling a massive desert (dessert? you pick) Churro Dog for Snakes fans needing to augment calorie intakes after consuming the behemoth, bacon-armored corn dog that debuted in 2014.

Colorado Rockies - One thing Blog of Team values in making pre-season predictions is a team’s continuity. The Rocks have this in both the starting rotation and at most positions. That’s a good thing. Can the Rockies challenge in this division? If they stay healthy — and, with respect to Tulo and CarGo, get healthy — then the answer is yes. In fact Blog is kind of penciling them in as one of 2015′s “surprise” teams but also is using jarring scare quotes to indicate this is a qualified consideration given the injuries and the fact that they play home games in outer space.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Last year the Dodgers were built for a World Series run. And they fell victim to the Medusa-gaze of October. This year Blog sees them as being marginally weaker overall and sees the division (San Diego and Colorado especially) as having closed the gap. It’s difficult, for example, to imagine middle infielders Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick matching the production of the departed Hanley Ramirez and Dee Gordon. Then again a couple more calm veterans might be good for the club’s notoriously unpredictable chemistry. They’ll need to find some magic at closer, from a spare-parts bullpen, if they want to stay on top. Will young Joc Pederson seize stardom in center field this summer at Chavez? ¡Vamos a ver!

San Diego Padres - The rotation, which had been in rebuild mode in 2014, now appears ripe to compete with the addition of James Shields at the top. They’ve gapped up their offensive potential by adding Derrek Norris, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton. And young Wil Myers gets the keys in center field. Does Blog like what Blog sees here? Yes. Yes Blog does. Blog sees starter Andrew Cashner’s performance as being particularly important to their playoff hopes.

San Francisco Giants - Right now World Series Champs’ website has Yusmeiro Petit at 7th on the rotation depth chart. Don’t believe it. He’s the best thing they’ve got going this spring next to Madison Bumgarner, who famously logged huge innings totals last year. This is going to be a down year in San Fran, and not just because its an odd-number year. Not that 88 wins during last year’s regular season campaign was anything spectacular. In fact Blog sees them as being an injury or two away from last place. Will we ever see 2006/2012-vintage Matt Cain again? He and his brutal contract seem to have joined Tim Lincecum in the perma-zone of overpaid mediocrity. Garlic fries though. Garlic fries!

Predicted Order of Finish
Padres
Dodgers *
Rockies *
Giants
Diamondbacks

* wild card hunt