While many of you, myself included try to keep up with the first few rounds of the NCAA Tournament, silently Opening Day creeps ever so closer. The countdown clock shows nine days and change, which means it’s time for MLB beat writers like myself to make their 2014 MLB predictions. And since I really want to get back to watching the Duke v. Mercer game streaming in the background, let’s get to it!
AMERICAN LEAGUE PREDICITIONS (Stay tuned for next week’s National League predictions).
New York: A busy offseason coupled with the curtain call for Derek Jeter spells promise for the reloaded Yankees. Having nabbed Jacoby Elsbury and Carlos Beltran, the Yanks outfield is one of the best in baseball. CC will return to his old self and the shadow of A-Rod won’t be a distraction. The Yanks win 95 games and the division.
Boston: Boston’s worst to first season of 2013 is proof that team’s can still win championships with great chemistry, resilient pitching, and clutch hitting. The key pieces are still in place, and so is the confidence. The Sox win 92 games, the Wild Card, and are contenders for another World Series in 2014.
Tampa: Joe Maddon’s formula of great defense and solid pitching has been proven time and time again. Longoria is still scary good and the likes of Ben Zobrist and James Loney provide some potential offensive explosion. David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Grant Balfour are 15-win guys, but Tampa’s offensive inconsistencies add up to 86 wins and keep them from the 2014 postseason.
Baltimore: Buck’s got Baltimore abuzz, and for good reason. The last three seasons, the Orioles have been for real. They are young, they are tough, and they are a ton of fun to watch. I don’t see Chris Davis bombing 50-plus homers, and Manny Macahdo’s knee injury isn’t right yet, despite the optimism seeping from the O’s camp. Their youth makes them exciting, but it also costs them during a long, grueling season. 84 wins.
Toronto: 2013 was a microcosm for the Blue Jays franchise. Lofty expectations fell through the roof, and they sunk to the bottom of the AL East. They’ll be there again this year. Jose Reyes isn’t the same as he was in New York; Jose Bautista has no one to protect him in the lineup, and up and coming star Colby Rasmus isn’t enough to lift Toronto. 70 wins.
Detroit: The Tigers have been postseason disappointments two years in a row. Their roster has changed, but not their talent level. Miggy is still the best hitter in baseball, when healthy; and having Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander in your rotation means you’re going to win plenty of games. The Tigers are poised to win the division, and maybe this year is their year to win Detroit a World Championship. 98 wins.
Kansas City: The team no one wanted to face coming down the stretch in 2013, the Royals grew into a future playoff team before our eyes. They’ll sneak in this year and clinch a wild card on the shoulders of Alex Gordon, Jeremy Guthrie, and James Shields. 89 wins.
Cleveland: I love Terry Francona, I love the “Bro-Hio” culture the club has bred. I just don’t love ’em both enough to put them in the playoffs this year. With a substantial roster change, the Tribe will be a tough test for Coach Tito this year. 76 wins.
Minnesota: Joe Mauer moving to first base will be the best thing for Twins and Twins fans. He’ll likely stay healthy and produce better at the plate this season. Outside of that bright spot, Minnesota won’t produce anything exciting in 2014. 69 wins.
Chicago: Who would have thought the city of baseball futility would be Chicago? The Cubs’ drought is infamous, and the White Sox tallied up 99 losses last season. Relying on Adam Eaton for an offensive boost is a long shot. The Chi-Sox rummage 59 wins.
Oakland: I’m a firm believer in pitching, and Oakland’s got it! The loss of Colon and Balfour won’t affect the team as much as believed. Names like Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Nick Punto, and Yoenis Cespedes will become household names as the A’s repeat as AL West Division Champs.
Texas: The Prince is in Texas. The question surrounding the Rangers this season is whether or not he’ll be able to bolster the Rangers offense. Replacing Ian Kinsler may not seem like much, but it’ll be more difficult than expected. 86 wins.
Seattle: The only word that comes to mind when you think Mariners baseball now is Cano. Will there be an ROI on the money spent in Seattle? I think the Yanks let him walk for more than just financial reasons, and I respect Brian Cashman. King Felix is still the best kept secret in baseball, but even the Cano-Felix combination won’t be enough to end the 12-year postseason drought in the Northwest. 85 wins.
Los Angeles: Who would have ever thought that a roster with the names of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton would not be making the playoffs. Albert’s age has caught up with him, so has Hamilton’s calf. Though Mike Scioscia likes what he sees, Hamilton will never return to the days of the claw in Texas; and even Mike Trout can’t carry a team by himself. 80 wins.
Houston: I’m in love with Houston’s “Moneyball” approach. Unfortunately, I’m probably the only one. And a 111-loss 2013 campaign doesn’t bode well for the scheme. The talent in Houston is there, it just needs some time to mature. Scott Feldman and Jerome Williams will develop into solid starters, but not during a winning season. Houston improves, but not by much. 60 wins.
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