PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: NL/AL EAST
5. Miami Marlins
There’s no way this team doesn’t finish last. With the team’s massive exodus of stars via trade, all you can do at this point is feel bad for the fans, the Miami taxpayers, and Giancarlo Stanton. Hopefully he hits a ball hard enough to break that piece of trash in center field.
4. New York Mets
The Mets are dealing with a ton of injuries. Johan Santana is hurt again, and their outfield is banged up as well. They have newly named captain David Wright (who is questionable for the start of the season), but lost NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. This team will have bright spots (Matt Harvey will be fun to watch, and David Wright is always good), but there are more question marks, due to injuries especially, than bright spots. Considering the talent on the Phillies, Braves, and Nationals, I just don’t think this team can compete.
3. Philadephia Phillies
The Phillies are an old team. They spent most of their young guys in their “win now” mode of the past few years. In order for this team to compete, the key is health. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard must stay healthy if this team wants to even think about doing anything. There are big questions about the health of Roy Halladay and his velocity. If he can’t get his speed up, or figure out how to pitch with a slower repertoire, major league hitters will knock him around. Cole Hamels should have a big year, but Cliff Lee isn’t getting any younger. If the veterans on this team can have a very productive summer, they might be able to snag a wild card, but don’t count on it.
2. Atlanta Braves
The only reason I don’t see the Braves winning the division is pitching. They have a lot of good pitchers, to be sure, but a lot of them are young guys, and they lack a clear “ace”. That being said, they have good pitching and an even better lineup, featuring the newly acquired Upton brothers. This team is going to be very, very good, but when you compare them with the Nationals, you have to give Washington the edge. Atlanta should have no problem securing a wild card berth, though, and given their speed and pitching (including top notch closer Craig Kimbrel), they could make some noise in the playoffs. It all depends on the guys who have to knock the runs in, though. If Freddie Freeman has a big year, look out.
1. Washington Nationals
This team could very well win the World Series this year. They have speed in Denard Span and Bryce Harper. They have Jayson Werth back. They have all around hitter Ryan Zimmerman at third. Their rotation has a potential two Cy Young candidates in Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, along with other solid starters in Jordan Zimmermann and Dan Haren. Oh, and have you seen their bullpen? Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, and Rafael Soriano. There are almost no holes in this team, and as long as the players who need to put up numbers do that, they will easily make the playoffs and go very far.
5. Baltimore Orioles
It really bums me out that I have to put the Orioles here. I really like the team and what they are doing. It was awesome watching them make the playoffs last year. Unfortunately, it won’t happen again this year. They were unbelievable in 1 run games last year, but frankly, that is impossible to duplicate. They’ve lost some players, and their younger pitchers and position players are in position for a slump. I expect good years from Adam Jones and Chris Davis, but this team frequently deals with injuries to key players. This team could be a couple years away from a good run. Look out.
4. New York Yankees
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. There has been a plethora of statistics thrown around all offseason for the amount of Home Runs the lineup is missing due to injuries, as well as the amount of money they are paying to players on the DL. It looks like they will be without Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson for at least part of the season. Robinson Cano should have a good contract year, but the rest of their lineup is lined with players that are either offensive zeroes or players past their primes. Staff ace Sabathia should have another good season, but I can’t see the rest of the staff compensating for the deficient, injury-ridden offense against the ever-potent AL East. Who knows, the team might buy its way to contention, but with their intentions of getting below the luxury tax threshold, and the rumors of the team being sold, I doubt that will happen. Overall, this team just isn’t good enough to make a run in this loaded division.
3. Boston Red Sox
This franchise has done a lot of work attempting to ensure the debacle of the past two years is behind them. It really should be behind them, too. Bobby Valentine is gone, and they’ve brought in a mixture of veterans and young guys to reinvigorate the team. I think the team will be back to their winning ways. Shane Victorino, while past his hey day, should be able to get on base enough for newly signed Mike Napoli and Boston old timer Pedroia. Will Middlebrooks looks promising, but he is a rookie and won’t put up huge numbers. The Sox will need bounce back years from Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester (which I think they’ll get). I don’t think Ryan Dempster will be good in this division, and the rest of their rotation and the bottom of their batting order leave a lot to be desired. Their bullpen looks solid, but they will need to be handed leads, not doing frequent stints of long relief to be utilized correctly. This team will be good this year and might even snag a wild card, but I can’t see them finishing better than third in the division.
2. Toronto Blue Jays
These guys are extremely favored to win this division thanks to the mammoth trade with Miami in the offseason. Don’t get me wrong, the Jays will be a good team. However, there are a lot of variables involved with their success. Jose Reyes has to stay healthy for a whole season. Melky Cabrera needs to be able to succeed without PED’s. The bottom half of their order needs to be productive. Edwin Encarnacion needs to produce like he did last year and Mark Buehrle needs to have a throwback season to his White Sox days. I struggle to buy into Encarnacion, Buehrle, and Dickey. I think all three will have less than stellar seasons. However, with the bat of Jose Bautista and the fear it instills in opposing pitchers, the talent around him should be able to flourish. I can see this team getting a wild card, but don’t count on a deep run in October.
1. Tampa Bay Rays
Two things define the Rays: young guys and pitching. Look, their lineup doesn’t boast big names of veterans who have already put up big numbers. Some of their players might wind up stars, some role players. Evan Longoria, their star, should be healthy all year and theoretically, should help the rest of the younger lineup around him. Their pitching, led by AL Cy Young winner David Price, will be good again this year. Ultimately, this team is going to be in a dog fight all year, especially because their hitting isn’t as potent as Boston or Toronto. However, their pitching should be able to lead Joe Maddon’s Rays to a division title in an AL East where the traditional powers are having down years.
That’s it! All six divisions have been predicted. How do mine stack up? Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know! Coming your way in the next couple days are the MVP, Cy Young, and RotY award predictions, as well as who I think will win each championship and, finally, the World Series. Be on the lookout! Don’t forget to follow me on twitter (@peterosespeedo) and like the page on Facebook (facebook.com/peteroseinaspeedo). Thanks!