MMD March 28, 2014 0

The 2014 Major League Baseball season is less than a week away.  Who will win it all this year?  Who will get caught with a needle in their ass?  How long will it take for A-Rod to do/say something stupid?  These questions and more will be answered in our six-part series breaking down each division.  So let’s get started with round one:

Prediction: 1st Place

Projected Lineup:
C – A.J. Pierzynski
1B – Mike Napoli
2B – Dustin Pedroia
3B – Will Middlebrooks
SS – Xander Bogaerts
LF – Daniel Nava
CF – Jackie Bradley
RF – Shane Victorino
DH – David Ortiz

C – David Ross
INF – Jonathan Herrera
1B/OF – Mike Carp
OF – Jonny Gomes
OF – Grady Sizemore

Projected Rotation:
Clay Buchholz
Jon Lester
Jake Peavy
John Lackey
Felix Doubront

RP – Koji Uehara
Edward Mujica
Junichi Tazawa
Andrew Miller
Craig Breslow
Burke Badenhop
Brandon Workman
Chris Capuano
Rubby de la Rosa

The defending champs come into 2014 with pretty much the same squad that won the series last year with a few exceptions.  They replaced one catcher that had a ridiculously long last name with another catcher that has a slightly less, yet nonetheless ridiculously long name – Pierzynski is 38 years old but still has pop and is a lot easier to pencil  in to a scorecard than Saltalamacchia.  (Does anyone do that anymore?) Will Middlebrooks struggled mightily last year but has so much power he’ll start again at third.  Xander Bogaerts came up big in the postseason as Middlebrooks replacement at 3B, but this year he’ll look to be the new shortstop now that everyone figured out how to pronounce his name, and Stephen Drew is gone.  Drew (and agent Scott Boras) turned down a one year, $14 million offer.  No wonder he still hasn’t signed on with any team.  How psychotic has Boras become that he advises a shortstop that has a .264/.329/.435 career slash line to turn down 14 million bucks?  How much does he think he’s going to get?  The Yankees won’t need a shortstop until next year.  The Sox also picked up Jonathan Herrera who had two nice seasons as a platoon player in Colorado to supplement the loss.  The biggest downgrade for the champs was having Jacoby Ellsbury jump ship to the hated Yankees.  They will look to replace him with either Grady Sizemore (yes, that guy) or Jackie Bradley.  Sizemore is finally healthy and having a great spring.  He looks to share the center field job with top prospect Jackie Bradley.  The Sox definitely want Bradley to be the center-fielder of the future, but his bat is still a little weak.  Pedroia, Victorino, Napoli, and Big Papi still make up the heart of an excellent lineup, and they have a very deep bench.
When Clay Buchholz got hurt last year he was arguably the best pitcher in the A.L., and Boston still went on to win the series without him.  Getting him back as well as not losing any of their other starters should mean they’ll have one of the best starting staffs again.  Koji Uehara transformed into one of the best closers in baseball last year striking out 101 batters in 74 innings.  They also signed Edward Mujica, the closer from the team they beat in the World Series.  Add that to an already stellar pen and the Sox have it all.  They are the rare team that looks to have every single one of their 12 pitchers be an above average player, a great lineup and lots of options on the bench.  Boston really has no weakness, and will surely challenge for the championship again.  Or as they say in Boston: “Sawx look like some wicked pissas this ye-ah.”

Prediction: 2nd Place

Projected Lineup:
C – Jose Molina
1B – James Loney
2B – Ben Zobrist
3B – Evan Longoria
SS – Yunel Escobar
LF – David DeJesus
CF – Brandon Jennings
RF – Wil Myers
DH – Matt Joyce

C – Ryan Hanigan
UT – Sean Rodriguez
UT – Logan Forsythe
OF – Brandon Guyer
INF – Wilson Betemit

Projected Rotation:
David Price
Alex Cobb
Matt Moore
Chris Archer
Jeremy Hellickson

RP – Grant Balfour
Joel Peralta
Jake McGee
Heath Bell
Juan Oviedo
Cesar Ramos
Josh Lueke
Brandon Gomes
Alex Colome
Jake Odorizzi

The Rays are an amazing franchise.  Somehow, with the third lowest payroll in baseball ($77 million) they remain competitive year after year in a division in which every other team is a big spender.  Each of the other teams in the division spent more than $107 million this season and three teams in the A.L. East rank in the top ten in payroll.  Yet every year, with nowhere near the money or resources of their division rivals, the Rays contend for the postseason.  Manager Joe Maddon deserves a lot of the credit, for his choice of shades and for his managing.  He employs the most drastic infield shifts of any manager, even shifting for righties.  He puts a premium on defensive, and has an excellent club in that regard.
Over the last decade the Rays have put together one of the best minor league systems in the sport.  They seem to bring up at least one stud pitcher every year.  The oldest pitcher in the rotation is David Price and he is only 28.  With Price, Moore, Cobb and their annual break out star Chris Archer, this isn’t just one of the best starting staffs in baseball today – but it should be one of the best for years to come as well.  They reacquired closer Grant Balfour and look to have a solid bullpen.  Every year they seem to have a great young pitching staff and enough offense to contend and this year is no different.  All this team really lacks is a nickname that makes sense and a fan-base.

Prediction: 3rd Place

Projected Lineup:
C – Brian McCann
1B – Mark Teixeira
2B – Brian Roberts
3B – Kelly Johnson
SS – Derek Jeter
LF – Brett Gardiner
CF – Jacoby Ellsbury
RF – Carlos Beltran
DH – Alfonso Soriano

C – Francisco Cervelli
INF – Scott Sizemore
INF – Eduardo Nunez
INF – Brendan Ryan
OF – Ichiro Suzuki

Projected Rotation:
Hiroki Kuroda
CC Sabathia
Masahiro Tanaka
Ivan Nova
Michael Pineda

RP – David Robertson
Shawn Kelly
Matt Thornton
David Phelps
Adam Warren
Cesar Cabral
Dellin Betances
Preston Claiborne
Vidal Nuno

The Yankees apparently have been making a concerted effort to lower their payroll for the last few years and it’s actually starting to show.  For the first time since 1999 the Yankees will not have the highest payroll in baseball, trimming their expenditure all the way down to $204 million.  Just to reiterate, they significantly lowered their payroll, and still spent $128 million more than the Rays – $128 million being itself more than 2/3 of the teams in the league spend.   Somehow $204 million still leaves them without a starter-quality player at 2B or 3B and a bullpen whose second best pitcher is some dude named Shawn Kelly, who had an ugly 4.39 ERA and 1.31 WHIP last season.  Combine that with a questionable starting staff including the ever-expanding waistline and ERA of CC “mmmm I eat a box of Capt. Crunch everyday mmmm” Sabathia, and the mystery that is the new Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka.  Most pitchers that have come over from the land of the rising sun have faltered (e.g. Hideki Irabu) with a few exceptions (e.g. Yu Darvish).  The fact that the new rules allow for Tanaka to come to the majors at 25 years old whereas all the others had to wait until they were 30 could be a factor leading to great success, but the Japanese starting pitcher imports don’t have a very good track record.  Michael Pineda hasn’t pitched in two years and also looks as if he partakes in some Capt. Crunching.  David Robertson has never been a closer before and despite him seeming like he would make a great one, replacing Mariano Rivera won’t be easy, especially with all the crap they have behind him in what looks to be a pretty weak pen.
If everything breaks right they can be a playoff team but it will be asking a lot.  On the infield they’ll start a declining Teixeira and a declining/retiring Jeter, whom both hit under the Mendoza Line in limited action last year, Kelly Johnson coming off a bad year, and Brian Roberts (yes, the Brain Roberts from Baltimore who last played a full season in 2009), yikes.

Prediction: 4th Place

Projected Lineup:
C – Matt Wieters
1B – Chris Davis
2B – Ryan Flaherty
3B – Manny Machado
SS – J.J. Hardy
LF – David Lough
CF – Adam Jones
RF – Nick Markakis
DH – Nelson Cruz

C – Chris Snyder
UT – Steve Pearce
INF – Jonathan Schoop
INF – Jemile Weeks
OF – Nolan Reimold

Projected Rotation:
Chris Tillman
Ubaldo Jimenez
Miguel Gonzalez
Wei-Yin Chen
Bud Norris

RP – Tommy Hunter
Darren O’Day
Brian Matusz
Ryan Webb
Troy Patton
Suk-Min Yoon
T.J. McFarland
Zach Britton
Jairo Asencio
Johan Santana

The O’s come in to 2014 looking to build on two consecutive winning seasons.  The last time that happened Cal Ripken was manning shortstop and Tony Tarasco was being Jeffrey Maierd.  Last year Chris Davis had one of the great seasons in Oriole history smashing 53 homers with 138 RBI.  Manny Machado (who will start the season on the DL) added 51 doubles and Adam Jones continues to prove he is one of the game’s best all-around players.  Add J.J. Hardy’s 25 jacks and the Orioles should have an excellent lineup.  They get ranked fourth here, but in part because they play in such a tough division, and in part because of their questionable pitching.  If Tommy Hunter becomes a reliable closer, and if Chen and new acquisition Bud Norris can be solid at the bottom of the rotation, they are definitely capable of competing for the playoffs.

Prediction: Last Place

Projected Lineup:
C – Dioner Navarro
1B – Edwin Encarnacion
2B – Ryan Goins
3B – Brett Lawrie
SS – Jose Reyes
LF – Melky Cabrera
CF – Colby Rasmus
RF – Jose Bautista
DH – Adam Lind

C – Erik Kratz
INF – Maicer Izturis
1B/OF – Moises Sierra
OF – Kevin Pillar
OF – Anthony Gose

Projected Rotation:
R.A. Dickey
Brandon Morrow
Mark Buehrle
Drew Hutchison
Dustin McGowan

RP- Casey Janssen
Sergio Santos
Steve Delabar
Brett Cecil
Aaron Loup
Jeremy Jeffress
Luis Perez
Kyle Drabek
J.A. Happ

Toronto spent approximately one bajillion dollars last year and loaded up with all-stars only to finish in last place.  They’re like a can of Diet Yankees.


Article By: Anthony Schiano

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