Here we go. It’s time for Danny Blomster’s 2015 predictions for the AL. These have been the toughest predictions to make in a long time, as most people have the Orioles, Indians, and Mariners winning their divisions, and not one of those teams seem like a division winner to me. Let’s get started with my standings predictions for the end of the season. On the right, I have one player on each team who I believe will be their 2015 success story, bust, and ace.
AL East Success Bust Ace
1. Red Sox: 85-77 Pedroia Napoli Miley
2. Jays: 84-78 Donaldson Martin Hutchinson
3. Yankees: 83-79 Rodriguez Drew Pineda
4. Orioles: 82-78 Machado Hardy Chen
5. Rays: 75-87 Souza Cabrera Archer
1. Tigers: 88-74 J.Martinez V. Martinez Price
2. Royals: 87-75 Hosmer Ventura Duffy
3. White Sox: 83-79 Abreu Samardzija Sale
4. Indians: 82-80 Carrasco Bourn Kluber
5. Twins: 78-84 Dozier Hughes Hughes
1. Mariners: 87-75 Seager Walker Hernandez
2. Angels: 86-76 Pujols Weaver Santiago
3. Astros: 84-78 Carter Rasmus Keuchel
4. Athletics: 69-93 Zobrist Davis Gray
5. Rangers: 68-94 Fielder Andrus Gallardo
Angels defeat Royals in Wild Card Game.
Angels defeat Tigers in ALDS.
Red Sox defeat Mariners in ALDS.
Red Sox defeat Angels in ALCS.
Red Sox lose the World Series to the Cardinals.
Biggest 2015 AL surprises:
1. Mariners actually live up to their hype for the first time in what seems like FOREVER!
2. Cleveland Indians aren’t actually as good as people think they will be, and the Royals actually have a bigger shot at a Wild Card.
3. The Astros aren’t horrendous anymore, finishing within 5 games over .500, even with a rotation that has been looked at as one of the worst in the AL. It will improve though.
4. Red Sox get by with a mediocre pitching staff thanks to a huge boost in offense from additions of Ramirez and Sandoval as well as big impact rookies Castillo and Betts contributing significantly to all that success in the lineup.
5. The American League is much worse than the National League in 2015, but Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, even though Harper might just have a breakout season.
American League Award Winners:
Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
MVP: Mike Trout
Rookie of the year: Mookie Betts
Gold gloves: Perez, Hosmer, Cano, Iglesias, Machado, Gordon, Cain, Betts.
The AL East is that division in which any of the five teams can take it all. I have the Boston Red Sox winning the division because of that dominant batting lineup. I mean, facing a lineup with a bunch of experienced baseball greats like Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and David Ortiz is intimidating right from the get-go. And they don’t have to worry about their two admirable rookie outfielders (Castillo and Betts) not performing admirably; they have a lot of team depth in the outfield, with Victorino, Craig, and Nava sitting on the bench. The pitching rotation is a huge concern for the Sox though, overloaded with uncertainties. Who knows how Porcello will fare in Fenway Park when he hasn’t quite proven himself a reliable starter in the MLB? Should we put a lot of weight on Wade Miley’s rough 2014 season, or should we expect him to improve and return to 2012-2013 form? Bucholtz and Masterson are both hit-or-miss pitchers, so the question is, will they HIT, or will they MISS?
We cannot forget how great the Orioles were last year, winning 96 games and hitting the most home runs in all of baseball. They make it to the postseason in my predictions because they haven’t gotten THAT much worse. Dan Duquette didn’t partake in any action this offseason though, maybe because he is interested in leaving the ball club. If not, he did terrible this offseason, and made the Orioles no longer the dominant team they once were. But even without Cruz and Markakis, the Orioles still are good enough to win the wild card and possibly the division. Manny Machado will be back, and he’ll continue right where he left off. After losing so much for so many years though, I guess I assumed the Orioles would anxiously make huge signings to keep their fans from going through years of adversity again, but I guess not.
The Toronto Blue Jays have had some upside for the past few years, but keep falling short of the playoffs nonetheless. I think they’ll fall short again in 2015. The Blue Jays have an incredible heart of the order. I mean, is there a better 3,4,5 than Bautista, Encarnacion, Donaldson? Probably not. Bautista and Encarnacion both have hit 40+ HR in their careers and Donaldson hit 29 last season for the Athletics (not even in Rogers Centre). However, this may be the only upside for the Jays. Jose Reyes is injury-prone, making him less reliable than he seems. Also, Russell Martin had a great season offensively in 2014, but he hasn’t had any other seasons quite as good since who knows when (2007?) and I can’t say I like any of the bottom half of the Blue Jays lineup. Devon Travis, Kevin Pillar, Dalton Pompey. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these guys had a breakout season in 2015, but all 3 of these bats in the starting lineup could be a nightmare for Toronto. Then there’s the pitching staff. First off, Anthropolous has done nothing to improve that lackluster bullpen led by Brett Cecil (only 6 career saves). Also, Stroman’s torn ACL blindsided the Jays, and now the back end of their rotation consists of two youngsters (Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris). Before the Stroman injury, I had them making the playoffs by a game or two, but now considering all of their weaknesses, they should be a .500 team or only slightly better.
I frequently rant about how awful of a GM Brian Cashman is. I won’t go off on that tangent today, but he has really screwed the Yankees over for years to come. He has been far too careless and prodigal with their surplus money, putting it to terrible use. Instead of investing in a future, he has given out huge contracts to dying out baseball players. This year, the Yankees could rank anywhere from first to last in this division, but I put them 4th because the odds of them having the opportunity of pulling off a great season is slim. Players need to be healthy for them to pull off this incredible feat, and so many players on this Yankees team are injury-prone. Tanaka is a Tommy John scare, and Pineda was out for two seasons with an anterior labral tear in his right shoulder so there’s no way of knowing what he’ll do this year. Sabathia hasn’t recovered completely from that hamstring strain. Basically, the first three pitchers in the rotation are all extremely injury-prone! Then the back end of the rotation has some potential, but Eovaldi hasn’t proven himself yet in the MLB. The offense is extraordinarily talented. The starting nine have been in 32 combined all-star games, and this lineup includes ex-superstars, Beltran, Teixeira, Rodriguez, Ellsbury, and McCann. In a dream-come-true season, this team could take the division. Let’s assume A-rod comes back and hits 25 homers, Ellsbury steals 30 bags/ hits 20 HR, Teixeira stays healthy all season and returns to being a dominant 1st baseman, Tanaka stays on the field and comes through with his Cy Young potential, Pineda has a breakout year, Eovaldi thrives with his intimidating fastball, and Robert Refsnyder gets called up for a few games. If this all happened, the Yankees would win the division. But I don’t know how many of these feats will actually happen. The concerns outweigh that slim chance of everything going right. There are just way too many question marks although it is a division where anything can happen.
The Tampa Bay Rays, just like the Yankees, could rank anywhere in this division. Good pitching wins games, and the Rays have the best rotation in the AL East. Matt Moore is coming back, and he could be a huge asset for the Rays in 2015. The Rays’ biggest weakness is their batting lineup. It is horrific. Evan Longoria is due for a solid season and I think Steven Souza will have a breakout year, but the other seven batters are all so-so. These seven guys are going to make it or break it for the Rays in 2015. If they can score more than last year’s 612 runs, along with that solid pitching staff, they can contend.
I have the Tigers winning the AL Central again in 2015. I could go with the flow and pick the Cleveland Indians to win the division, but a gut feeling won’t allow me to do that. And I don’t feel any guilt about my decision, as the Tigers still have plenty of threatening hitters. Miguel Cabrera didn’t even have an off-year in 2014. He hit a career-low 25 home runs, but led the MLB with 52 doubles, and still had an outstanding .895 OPS. I think an offense with Kinsler, Cabrera, Victor and J.D. Martinez, and Cespedes is otherworldly. I think they will be one of the best hitting ball clubs in baseball, if not the best. Also, Verlander and Price can’t perform much worse than last year, so things are looking up for that rotation. Anibal Sanchez has been a Cy Young candidate in the past, and he could definitely be back at it again. Losing Scherzer won’t quite knock them out of the postseason in 2015.
The Royals really looked good last year when they made the World Series. I had the Royals making the playoffs last year in my predictions because a lot of their players were in their prime years. Now a year later, that’s not the case anymore. A perfect example of the Royals this year is the 1970 Mets. In 1969, a bunch of decent Mets like Tommie Agie and Cleon Jones were in their prime years, leading the Mets to victory. In 1970, the Mets only won 83 games because they had a “lucky year”. Outlier seasons from Cain, Perez, and Ventura make me believe that the same thing will happen to the 2015 Royals. Also, they lost their ace, James Shields, and their rotation won’t be any good without him. But they still are clearly a playoff team. Just not a division winner in my mind, at least without an ace. With an ace, the sky is the limit.
The White Sox had an excellent offseason, where they bulked the pitching rotation with Samardzija and purchased an elite closer in David Robertson. They have something impressive going on with that pitching rotation. Quintana looks like a success to me, and when Chris Sale comes back, there’s no reason he won’t continue pitching like a savage. Now the offense is better but still brutal. I like the bats they have in Abreu, Cabrera, Ramirez, and Laroche. They do have a few weaknesses that concern me. The bottom of the rotation absolutely stinks and I don’t like the production I think they will get from their catcher, Tyler Flowers. My biggest problem with them is they don’t have players who can get on base. Overall, they are a solid team now, nothing too special, but could easily contend for a wild card or win the division.
The Cleveland Indians truly deserve this division, at least on paper. I do think that this rotation will be stellar eventually, if not this year, the next. I like Carrasco and Bauer a lot, as well as Kluber, but I must say, they are a little too young for me to fully buy into them. I also think the offense is going to crumble down and not live up to all the hype. I think Jose Ramirez has a bright future, but this year won’t be a great one for him. Also, Michael Bourn will be a huge bust in 2015. But again, on paper, they look excellent. They have a load of big bats in Brantley, Santana, Moss, and Gomes. They also have Rookie of the Year candidate Francisco Lindor, who may win a starting role at some point this season. In 2016, I probably will predict the Indians to win the division, but first I need some proof that this rotation is legit. Until then, fourth place in this division is the best spot for them.
The Twins are ranked last in the AL Central solely because they have a bunch of nobodies in their rotation. Phil Hughes is their ace, but there’s no way he will repeat his 2014 campaign, and as a Yankees fan, I can’t trust Phil Hughes. And there’s no way he is coming anywhere close to that 0.7 BB/9 he had last year (2.4 career BB/9). Also, Ervin Santana, their biggest 2015 offseason aquisition, just got suspended for 80 games. The rotation gets worse and worse. Mike Pelfrey. Kyle Gibson. Ricky Nolasco. What more can I say?
There will be change in the AL West. This year, I have every reason to pick the Seattle Mariners except for the fact that the Mariners always know how to disappoint. This year though, Felix Hernandez looks golden (my Cy Young winner) and Hisashi Iwakuma proved that 2013 was not a fluke, as he now has put up good numbers for two straight years. James Paxton has a lot of upside too, although we haven’t seen enough of him. That bullpen will be great in 2015, as they have 3 solid late inning relief pitchers. Even if closer Fernando Rodney fails miserably, Wilhelmsen and Farquhar are two great options to replace him. The offense will improve a ton; players like Zunino, Morrison, and Seager are in for career-best seasons. Austin Jackson won’t get worse than he was in 2014, so things are even looking up for him. And I like the Smith and Ruggiano platoon going on. Finally, they signed Nelson Cruz (aka 40 homers last year) to a four year $57M contract.
The Angels will hang in there in 2015 and just snag a Wild Card spot. The Angels have star potential. I think Pujols will return to the days when he hit 40 homers and batted .300. I think Mike Trout is going to lead this Angels offense and win the MVP once again. The pitching is what will keep the Angels chasing tail with the Mariners all season long, until the unpromising starters eventually make it impossible for the Halos to catch up. After Weaver wins a game for the Angels, Wilson gives up five runs. Then, Shoemaker gets bombed. But then, Andrew Heaney and Hector Santiago both are awesome. Garrett Richards comes back from his injury and joins the rotation. He dominates and Shoemaker exits the rotation. Now the rotation is half-decent.
I believe this will be the first time the Astros place third in the AL West. During their first year in the AL (2013), they had a franchise-worst 51-111 record, placing last in the division. In 2014, they jumped to 4th place. Now, this young and improving ballclub will move up to 3rd place not because the Astros are any good, moreso because the Rangers and Athletics are worse. The Astros have a solid batting lineup, led by Jose Altuve and big power hitters Evan Gattis and Chris Carter. The rotation could be phenomenal or brutal, as the young pitchers are unproven, but the Stros have a legit pitching coach in Brent Strom. I think Keuchel, McCullers, and Mchugh could have solid years, but I don’t feel the same way about Brett Oberholtzer and Roberto Hernandez.
The Oakland Athletics lost EVERYBODY this offseason. Their heart of the order has weakened drastically from Donaldson-Moss-Cespedes to Davis-Butler-Reddick. Ike Davis was a one-hit wonder for the Mets, and with the Pirates last year he only slugged .378. Butler was once good years ago, but he’s on a big decline, and already is a permanent DH, making it seem like he’s 38, not 28. Reddick has been struck by injuries the last couple years, and although he is a power threat whenever he steps up to the plate, he has produced a -0.5 oWAR over the last two seasons. The pitching rotation took a step down when Jon Lester departed. Sonny Gray won’t be enough to make them contenders.
Finally, we have the Texas Rangers. Entering this offseason, I thought the Rangers were going to improve coming into 2015. But that was before I heard that Yu Darvish would be out all season. With him out, they have no chance at October baseball. They now have absolutely 0 good pitchers in their rotation. Holland and Gallardo are leading a rotation that follows with a few no-names. The Rangers have a future that they are investing in, with Rougned Odor and Jurickson Profar and all, but that is not ready yet. It is in the process of developing right now though. Soon enough, the Rangers will be competing the AL West once again.
HR Leaders BA leaders OPS leaders
Pujols-42 Trout- .336 Trout-.986
Trout-36 Altuve- .328 Encarnacion-.944
Bautista-36 Brantley- .327 Cabrera-.925
Davis-35 Pedroia- .314 Abreu-.918
Abreu-34 Cabrera-.313 Bautista-.906
JD Martinez-34 Fielder – .310 Brantley-.896
Moss-33 Martinez- .307 Ramirez-.882
Encarnacion-32 Beltre- .305 Donaldson -.867
Cruz-32 Abreu- .302 Martinez-.867
Cabrera-30 Kipnis – .300 Fielder-.858