So here is the obligitory 2015 prediction list. Obviously one cannot predict injuries, trades, suspensions, etc., but I consider team depth in these picks as well.
1. Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays went with youth and added six rookies, but these young guys have exceptional talent. Then add Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson and you’ve got a winning formula.
2. Red Sox
While weak in their starting pitching stable, they have the means to develop someone into that role. Yes, I’m looking at you Cole Hamels. Blake Swihart has had his chance and it might be time to move on. Trade bait?
The birds lost Nelson Cruz AND Nick Markakis, so they need Machado to be out-of-this-world amazing. Was Chris Davis a fluke? Matt Wieters, will you be back soon? So many unanswered questions.
Age and injuries bring this veteran squad down to the also-rans. A-Rod comes back and it’ll be a scar on this team’s psyche all season long. Too bad he has a 3-year contract with huge money invested.
More pitching injuries plague this team, with both Drew Smyly and Alex Cobb out til the end of April. The Rays need them back, and soon. Rays bats have been quiet and there’s not much to be excited about this year.
1. White Sox
The Sox will need breakout seasons from the younger end of their lineup, like Micah Johnson, Avisail Garcia, and especially Carlos Rodon. But the sheer talent on this squad is impressive and if the stars align, could go all the way.
Kind of like the White Sox, pitching is crucial. Danny Salazar needed to step it up, but a por showing in Spring Training forced the Tribe to send him down to regroup. But the Indian’s front office hasn’t given up and perhaps the time away can give them a mid-season boost, especially if Trevor Bauer continues his impressive ascent. But will that be too late?
Sadly, this mighty squad had it all in place before superstarts Bruce Rondon and Justin Verlander got hurt. That said, there’s still hope for the playoffs if Verlander doesn’t miss too much time.
Yeah, I know, the AL representative in the World Series surely deserves better respect from me, but how do you explain off-season moves in pickups like Alex Rios, Edinson Volquez, and Kendrys Morales? Maybe KC knows something I don’t and they prove me wrong, and if so, expect another playoff run.
Another year in the cellar for the Minnesota squad. Despite hiring one of baseball’s all-time good guys, Paul Molitor, as manager, I don’t see how the Twins survive Ervin Santana’s suspension. At least the Twins are making progress, but Santana was signed to help keep the pitching rotation stable, and now that’s out the window. Twins’ pitching was the worst in the AL last year, and they have a serious uphill climb this year again.
Serious contenders if the pitching squad is healthy. Taijuan Walker and James Paxton both had serious time on DL last year, and Felix Hernandez threw the most innings in the entire MLB since 2006. Health is key for Seattle.
Sorry to sound like a broken record, but injuries are key for the Angels pitching as well. Garrett Richards just had knee surgery, but should be back in the lineup come late April/early May. He could hold the key to an average team or a breakout.
Need bats. Period. When no player on the team hits more than twelve homers in a year, the A’s need to light some fires to support their strong and solid pitching.
A questionable pitching rotation combined with strikeout team of the year. This is a team that could excel with a small-ball strategy. Some quality base-running in 2015 could put up desperately needed runs.
Many people’s pick for the bottom, I agree. Again – injuries and recoveries from Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, Derek Holland are all necessary. Add the question marks of Yu Darvish and Elvis Andrus, and the Rangers also have a tough row to hoe.
As with any sport, the parity in the league requires that each team operate on all cylinders. Pretty tough when injuries throw off the balance. But that’s why good scouting, drafts, and off-season conditioning are so important.
Watch for my National League predictions coming soon, and thanks for checking this out!!