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The Greyhound

2015 MLB Preview: Parity should make for thrilling season


American League East…

1. Boston Red Sox (92-70)
2. Toronto Blue Jays (91-71) *WC2
3. Baltimore Orioles (89-73)
4. New York Yankees (82-80)
5. Tampa Bay Rays (72-90)

Why not start with the most storied division in baseball? The Orioles ran away with this division last season, winning 96 games (12 games ahead of the second-place Yankees) despite losing Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Chris Davis down the stretch. However, with Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis now gone, the Orioles will not be able to suffer the same injuries they had last year and expect to win the East again. The key will be the starting rotation, which struggled to pitch deep into ballgames last season, putting pressure on the bullpen. The O’s will need that bullpen, led by Zach Britton and Darren O’Day, to be spotless once again if they want to replicate last year’s success.

After finishing in the cellar for the second time in three years in 2014, the Red Sox will hope to complete the worst-to-first-to-worst-to-first turnaround this season, and they have the firepower to do it. Over the offseason, they signed three-time World Series champion Pablo Sandoval to play third base, and Hanley Ramirez to play left field. Although they were unable to re-sign starting pitcher Jon Lester, the Sox acquired Rick Porcello from the Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes, as well as Wade Miley from the Diamondbacks. And don’t be surprised if 22-year-old outfielder Mookie Betts becomes the team’s best all-round player.

The Blue Jays should be much better after acquiring Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin to join Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in a strong lineup. They have question marks on their pitching staff, particularly with the ages of Mark Buerhle and R.A. Dickey, but the team’s offense should give them at least a wild card spot.

The Yankees have more question marks than ever entering this season. For the first time since 1995, the Bombers will not have Derek Jeter on the big league roster. The team acquired Didi Gregorius to replace the Hall of Fame shortstop. Gregorius batted a paltry .226 last season with the Diamondbacks, and will be a downgrade from Jeter, even though the Captain batted only .256 with four homeruns last year. The Yanks will rely on several aging players, particularly Alex Rodriguez. The 39-year-old A-Rod returns to baseball after a season-long suspension last year for using performance-enhancing drugs, and it will be interesting to see if his return will have any effect on the team. The Yankees will also need starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to be fully healthy after his elbow injury last season. The Bombers could very well finish a losing record for the first time since 1992, but I’ll give them 82 wins because of the way Tanaka carried them last season before getting hurt.

There’s not much to be excited about with the Rays this year. They have proved critics wrong in recently , but that was when Joe Maddon was their manager. They struggled to a 77-85 record last season, and that was with Maddon and ace David Price. With both of them gone, it’s hard to imagine the Rays being very competitive this season.

American League Central…

1. Detroit Tigers (90-72)
2. Cleveland Indians (89-73)
3. Kansas City Royals (87-75)
4. Chicago White Sox (79-83)
5. Minnesota Twins (72-90)

The Tigers have dominated this division in recent years, but the Royals were the ones who snuck into the World Series last year after a magical postseason run as a wild card team. Both clubs lost key pieces over the offseason; Detroit lost ace Max Scherzer to the Nationals and Rick Porcello to the Red Sox, while Kansas City lost ace James Shields to the Padres and Billy Butler to the Athletics. Could this leave the door open for Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians, led by 2014 Cy Young winner Corey Kluber? Expect a tight three-way race between the Tigers, Indians and Royals. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Indians get over the hump and take the division crown, but the Tigers still have David Price, and Justin Verlander should have a bounce-back season. The addition of Yoenis Cespedes will boost a lineup that already features two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera. The health of Victor Martinez will be something to monitor, though. The White Sox have some potential with MVP-candidate Jose Abreu and newly-acquired ace Jeff Samardzija, but won’t have enough depth to compete with the top three teams.

American League West…

1. Los Angeles Angels (94-68)
2. Seattle Mariners (93-69) *WC1
3. Oakland Athletics (79-83)
4. Texas Rangers (73-89)
5. Houston Astros (71-91)

As long as Mike Trout keeps being Mike Trout, the Angels will always have a great shot to not only win the AL West, but also the pennant. The Angels won’t win 98 games this time, but they should still repeat as division champions behind Trout, Albert Pujols and ace Jered Weaver. The loss of Howie Kendrick as well as the suspension and recent struggles of Josh Hamilton could hurt the Angels, though. The Mariners could certainly give the Angels a run for their money. Probably the most improved team in the AL, after acquiring 2014 homerun leader Nelson Cruz, Seattle should at the very least grab one of the two wild card spots.

Billy Beane’s Moneyball tactics won’t be able to save the A’s this season. Oakland nearly suffered a historic collapse last season after trading Cespedes, and that was before they would go on to lose Josh Donaldson, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Brandon Moss and Derek Norris. Back to the drawing board.

National League East…

1. Washington Nationals (98-64)
2. Miami Marlins (83-79)
3. New York Mets (80-82)
4. Atlanta Braves (76-86)
5. Philadelphia Phillies (69-93)

Not much to say here. Even if the Nationals massively under perform or suffer a barrage of injuries, it’s hard to picture any of the other four teams winning enough games to leapfrog the defending division champs. It seems like the Phillies still have the same roster that won the 2008 World Series (which isn’t a good thing), while the Braves lost Justin Upton and Evan Gattis. The Mets should be much improved with Matt Harvey returning from Tommy John surgery, but they are still well behind the Nats. If anybody shocks the world and overtakes the Nats, it would be the Marlins. Miami has a great young outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, along with pitcher Jose Fernandez, who should return from Tommy John in June. But nobody is going to get past Washington’s rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez.

National League Central…

1. St. Louis Cardinals (92-70)
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (90-72) *WC1
3. Chicago Cubs (84-78)
4. Milwaukee Brewers (77-85)
5. Cincinnati Reds (74-88)

The Cardinals are contenders for the pennant every year, and this season is no different. Even after losing Pujols and manager Tony La Russa a few years ago, St. Louis has remained a World Series threat each year. Behind Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay, Adam Wainwright and newcomer Jason Heyward, the Cards should win the Central yet again. But don’t be surprised if they make a trade for Phillies ace Cole Hamels at the deadline to compliment Wainwright and fellow pitcher Michael Wacha.

Watch out for the Pirates as well. Andrew McCutchen is a perennial MVP candidate, and they also have Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco to top off an exciting young outfield. Francisco Liriano and the young Gerrit Cole will lead the rotation for Pittsburgh, which will be looking for its third straight playoff appearance.

Just in case this is one of those crazy years, watch out for the Cubs as well. Yes, the Cubs. They acquired the top free agent pitcher on the market in Jon Lester, who should perform even better after moving from the AL to the NL. Outfielder Kris Bryant is arguably the top prospect in the game, and has clubbed nine homeruns so far this spring to go with a .406 batting average. It appears Bryant will start the season in the minors, but he’s too good to stay there for very long, and should be up by May at the latest. Worst case scenario for the Cubbies: they finish in last place again but have a bright future to rely on. Best case: Joe Maddon works his magic and gets the Cubs back to the postseason.

National League West…

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (93-69)
2. San Diego Padres (89-73) *WC2
3. San Francisco Giants (85-77)
4. Colorado Rockies (70-92)
5. Arizona Diamondbacks (68-94)

Despite losing Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp, the Dodgers still have the offensive firepower and pitching to win the division once again. The team acquired Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins to join All-Stars Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig. Clayton Kershaw might not win the NL MVP again, but he is the clear favorite to win the Cy Young Award again. Zack Greinke also provides a solid punch in the Dodgers’ rotation.

The Padres were the clear “winners” of the offseason, acquiring Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers and James Shields. This doesn’t necessarily guarantee a playoff spot, but the team already had solid pitching in 2014, led by Tyson Ross, and now they have some much-needed offensive firepower.

The Giants missed the playoffs as defending champions in 2011 and 2013, and it will be the same story in 2015. They may have won the whole thing last year, but they still backed into the playoffs with just 88 wins, and now they are without Pablo Sandoval. Also, will Madison Bumgarner be worn down from his postseason and World Series performance last October? The champs have a lot of question marks.

AL Wild Card game: Mariners over Blue Jays
NL Wild Card game: Pirates over Padres

ALDS: (1) Angels over (4) Mariners
(2) Red Sox over (3) Tigers

NLDS: (1) Nationals over (4) Pirates
(2) Dodgers over (3) Cardinals

ALCS: (2) Red Sox over (1) Angels
NLCS: (1) Nationals over (2) Dodgers

2015 World Series: Red Sox over Nationals (7 games)

The past six World Series champions missed the playoffs the year before, and that trend will continue in 2015, as the Boston Red Sox will win their fourth world championship in 12 seasons by taking down the favored Nationals. The Sox have the perfect combination of veteran postseason experience (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino) and young, exciting talent (Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Xander Bogaerts) to win it all. Boston’s pitching remains a question mark, but Clay Buchholz has the ability to pitch like an ace, while Rick Porcello and Wade Miley should improve the rotation. Like it or not, the New England area gets another title.

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    sbobetApr 28, 2015 at 6:04 am

    i Thanks to your information

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2015 MLB Preview: Parity should make for thrilling season