2k14 divisiOnal preview – AL Central

Posted in 2014 predictiOns on March 24th, 2014 by The Wayward O

If you squint a little you can see the Royals being good and taking this division if the Tigers slip even a little. If you squint a little more you can see an improbable White Sox resurgence. If you squint hard you could even see the Twins’ free agents making them competitive. Don’t hurt yourself on that last one though.

Chicago White Sox - Quite a transformation in progress here as ChiSox seek deliverance from the mire. Revamped outfield features Avisail Garcia, 22, and ol’ man Adam ‘Spanky’ Eaton at 25 years young. If they can’t trade Adam Dunn (they probably can’t) at least they can put him out to pasture at DH for good after signing of 26-year-old Cuban defector Jose Abreu to play first base. Some say they could be sneaky good but Blog sees them essentially being one pitcher injury away from another long year. Is starter Jose Quintana a flash in the pan-a – or is he the man-a?

Cleveland Indians - If you believed in the 2013 Tribe then there’s reason to believe in this year’s vintage. The high-scoring, walk-focused offense is making a return minus Drew Stubbs, who represented the weak link last year. One wonders if David Murphy will represent an upgrade. They lost Ubaldo Jimenez to free agency and will depend heavily on home-grown Danny Salazar to be a part of a playoff rotation. There also are a couple injuries — ol’ man Jason Giambi and center fielder Michael Bourn — that could pose challenges. Has any team in MLB history ever had a deeper bench at DH? 

Detroit Tigers - You’ve got sniping between organization and 21-game and Cy Young winner Max Scherzer over money. You’ve got something of a sad situation with Jose Iglesias. You also have two draft picks — Nick Castellanos and Hernan Perez — getting opportunities. [INTRADAY UPDATE: Or not?] You’ve got a new manager, Brad Ausmus, taking over after Jim Leyland’s tearful goodbye. So you’ve got a lot of variables playing into this talented squad, which valiantly is trying to retool without a down-cycle. The most important thing is Miguel Cabrera is healthy. Can he stay that way and can Justin Verlander rebound from a relatively bad year?

Kansas City Royals - Danny Valencia “is not a slouch,” says Bleacher Report. Counters Chevy Chase, he’s a “tremendous slouch.” Well Dannyyyyy? Royals of past would have Valencia starting somewhere but this team is very talented with guys every place including free-agent pickup Omar Infante who is a big upgrade in infield. Who is Yordano Ventura? He’s been compared to every guy in the book this spring including Pedro Martinez. He does have that freakish whip-arm action. Must be a Dominican thing. He’s innings-capped apparently.

Minnesota Twins - Manager Ron Gardenhire lamenting “inconsistent performances” as season is nearly upon us. Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes make starting rotation sort of semi-legitimate in that the pair likely can be there to take the ball all year. Overall you don’t see enough pitching or enough offense for them to separate themselves. Can Oswaldo Arcia keep his roster spot? There’s competition for outfield spots coming from unlikely places.

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

* wild card hunt

2k14 divisiOnal preview – AL West

Posted in 2014 predictiOns on March 22nd, 2014 by The Wayward O

Houston Astros - Scott Feldman is a pitcher in baseball. He has a 5.73 ERA in 2014 spring games. He also is Houston’s number one starter. So this really is not a fully-formed squad yet but they’re working on it. Fantasy streamers will remember Brett Oberholtzer’s fine starts from the second half of 2013. Will L.J. Hoes seize his opportunity to become an everyday outfielder? Why is it funny to Blog that Chris Carter already projects as a DH at the tender age of 27? Blog doesn’t know.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - The red-clad men about towns sulked their way through 2013 with superstars Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton trying to out-sulk one another. They might sulk their way through 2014, as well. It’s kind of hard to tell at the moment. But Blog nevertheless sees Mike Trout and this new Kole Calhoun kid as being a super-dynamic pair that will make it difficult for our sulky superstar duo not to shake off the sulkiness. Can Hector Santiago give ‘em what they need in pitching department? Throw strikes Hector – get that WHIP down!

Oakland As - Loss of Jarrod Parker for season is a blow. Yoenis Cespedes, meanwhile, is having a rough spring. But it’s the As! Their famed flowers-blooming approach yields them Sonny Gray – a pitcher you could maybe build a season around. Last year Blog blundered into picking them as sleepers but this year Blog thinks they’ll have a tougher time of it. Will Brandon Moss be an All-Star? Yes. Yes he will. Wait maybe he won’t. Probably he will.

Seattle Mariners - Give ‘em the medal for weirdest off-season. Robbie Cano obviously makes them better but his ability to be a leader will be tested. Mariners don’t have a lot of other offense to power them forward. What is going on with Kendrys Morales? They desperately need his power if they’re going to have any hope. They also desperately need to get Hisashi Iwakuma healthy and hope he’s got MLB staying power. This other Yankee castoff, 5′ 9″ center fielder Abraham Almonte, might be fun to watch.

Texas Rangers - Lots of pricey talent and more than a few “strains” and “lingering issues” with various body parts. Derek Holland ugh. The rotation takes a major blow with that “freak injury” and Joe Saunders isn’t the answer although 22-year-old Martin Perez provides a measure of hope. Can Prince Fielder un-regress? Jurickson Profar gets keys** at second base now that Ian Kinsler is outta there. It’s hard to see them hanging with the big boys at the top of this division.

Predicted order of finish:
Angels
As *
Rangers
Mariners
Astros

* wild card hunt

** so much for that

2k14 divisiOnal preview – NL East

Posted in 2014 predictiOns on March 20th, 2014 by The Wayward O

The accusation is this is a weak division. Maybe it is. But Nats and Braves both are balanced and powerful squads. They’ll be battling for playoffs in most proper and entertaining fashion, Blog will wager.

Atlanta Braves - Julio Teheran isn’t hurt. Ervin Santana isn’t hurt. Alex Wood isn’t hurt. Evan Gattis is a baby giant. The baby giant isn’t hurt. The Upton Boys aren’t hurt. Freddie Freeman isn’t hurt. Can they get just a skootch of consistency from rotation back-ender “Sweaty” Freddy Garcia? Playoffs would be no surprise despite some well-publicized injuries and, though Blog thinks Nats are better, division repeat wouldn’t be shocking.

Miami Marlins - So the Fish are excited about additions to their pitching depth including Jacob Turner. Rotation looks maybe passable, Blog supposes, but additions of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Garrett Jones don’t really suggest a fearsome offense that will depart upward from a putrid 2013 attack. They’ll be better. Will they be better enough to stay out of last place? Either way it would be fun to go to park and watch Giancarlo Stanton’s moonshots and Jose Fernandez’s heaters.

New York Mets - Manager Terry Collins says there’s no reason why his team can’t be in mix for a playoff spot. But NYC media has all-but written off 2014 Amazins, citing loss of Matt Harvey. Feels like THE MEDIA might be right. But they might be able to crack the .500 mark and, from there, you never know. Blog likes the Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares, Chris Young outfield. Can they find a guy to play first base? Lucas Duda is probably a better ballplayer than Ike Davis.

Philadelphia Phillies - They’re going to get award for most spring drama as new skipper Ryne Sandberg tries to put fear of Jesus into clubhouse full of big-butted millionaires. With Cole Hamels hurt (for now) rotation looks middling. Recent addition of A.J. Burnett doesn’t really move the needle. The question that terrifies Phillie fans is: Does Ryan Howard suck? It’s not the hardest thing to envision them cellar-dwelling — and that vision gets clearer if they start making trades to get younger.

Washington Nationals - Matt Williams has ‘em running. And he has legacy third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (a right-handed bat) amenable to starts at first base along with Adam LaRoche (a left-handed bat). Everyone said Nats fleeced Detroit by trading some dudes for Doug Fister but Fister’s health – if it does not improve – may reveal lamb’s rear end pointing the other way. Fister or no Fister, however, Nats looks like second-best team in NL. They’re poised to bounce back from a chokey 2013. Blog’s question, like so many Beltway topics, is fairly academic: Is Danny Espinosa still a Major Leaguer?

Predicted order of finish:
Nationals
Braves*
Mets
Marlins
Phillies

* wild card hunt

2k14 divisiOnal preview – NL Central

Posted in 2014 predictiOns on March 17th, 2014 by The Wayward O

This strong division has four teams that could contend and one very obvious doormat. It’s a tough one to handicap.

Chicago Cubs - On Feb. 8 the Chicago Tribune asked of Theo Epstein’s winter, “Was this the worst off-season in Cubs’ history?” Yikes. Of course the owners appeared to throttle the aging Wunderkind worse than your greedy mobile carrier throttles you every month. It’s true there are reasons for hope — they’re certainly stocking up on talent — but it’s hard to see them contending in 2014. Can they improve upon their 2013 total of 66 wins? You’d like to unequivocally say yes but the other teams in this division are strong so you have to say … maybe.

Cincinnati Reds - The Reds lost Shin-Soo Cho to free agency but they’re excited about young Billy Hamilton. The young ‘un appears to be an on-base and base-stealing machine but of course it’s early. Having extended Homer Bailey in off-season, Reds are loaded with talent, and fat contracts. What’s popping with Johnny Cueto? Remember when he dropped the ball? Blog was bullish on ‘em last year, and division doesn’t get any easier this year. They also have some injury issues with their pitching staff — especially with Mat Latos.

Milwaukee Brewers - Who is Scooter Gennett and why is he ahead of Rickie Weeks on depth chart? With a chastened Ryan Braun coming back, Jean Segura coming off a strong 2013, and Khris Davis taking over in left field, Milwaukee appears to show Oriole-esque power potential up and down lineup. Addition of free agent starter Matt Garza leaves them with a solid — though perhaps not formidable — starting five. Most improved! There’s no reason why Crew fans can’t be optimistic.

Pittsburgh Pirates - Will Jameson Taillon get up to the big club this year? Looks that way. The Buckos are deep with starting pitching. That bodes well for ‘em. But Blog is skeptical about their offense and whether it can drive them to another 94 wins. Can Pedro Alvarez keep up his furious home run pace and get on base a little more and lay off the chunky chews?

St. Louis Cardinals - They’ve assembled a ferocious and young pitching staff. Really it’s the best in the Majors. You could argue they maybe didn’t “add a bat,” except they did! Addition of Jhonny Peralta might be a slight defensive downgrade but dude’s good for 20 dongs. Red Birds also have set up competition in center field by bringing in Peter Bourjos to compete with super sub Jon Jay and at first base with Matt Adams and Allen Craig in the mix. Can they get to 100 wins?

Predicted order of finish:
Cardinals
Brewers *
Pirates
Reds
Cubs

* wild card hunt