Early projections for the 2014 baseball season

Fair or Foul?


Will Vragovic

The new season is set to start up on March 31.

Steven Bettler, Staff Writer

With the 2014 baseball season on the horizon, it is time for speculation about the upcoming campaign. After several months of maneuvering stars and prospects alike, all thirty MLB teams look ready for the season, with a few teams standing out from the pack as front-runners for division crowns. So without further ado, here is a look at my projections for the upcoming season.

American League West: Texas Rangers

The Rangers lost very little this offseason, and picked up All-Star slugger Prince Fielder, who could be a dark horse MVP candidate. The Houston Astros are no threat this season as they are still growing their young talent. The Seattle Mariners may win a few extra games because of Robinson Cano, but he will not provide enough wins to launch the Mariners into the playoffs. The Los Angeles Angels have potential to compete if Albert Pujols can play like he did in St. Louis, though it is not likely. The Oakland Athletics have the best shot at challenging the Rangers, but without any stars to speak of and no real ace pitcher, it is safe to say that the Rangers have a tight grip on the AL West.

American League Central: Detroit Tigers

There is not much competition in the division for the Tigers. The Kansas City Royals are improving gradually, but not enough to rival the Tigers. With the rest of the division (Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox) being fairly weak, it does not seem like the loss of Prince Fielder will affect the playoff hopes of the Tigers. They still possess one of the most complete rotations in baseball, spearheaded by Justin Verlander and the reigning Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer, who both could lay claim to being the “ace” of this stellar pitching staff.

American League East: Tampa Bay Rays

The AL East may well be the most competitive division in all of baseball at this point. The New York Yankees dished out a lot of money this offseason to bring in established stars, but it may not be worth it in the end, as most of their hitting is over thirty-years-old at this point. The Boston Red Sox are facing the same problem, but their problem is the age of their pitchers. The Baltimore Orioles are strong, but not strong enough to challenge the rest of the division at this point. The Rays have young, yet experienced, players, all of whom are capable of delivering quality seasons. That young drive and experience will likely lead to a division crown for the Rays this year.

American League Wild Card Play-In Game Winner: New York Yankees

The Red Sox and the Yankees are the most likely teams to face-off in the play-in game for the American League, but the nod goes to the Yankees. While most of their hitting is getting up there in age, history tells us that an ace is necessary to succeed in a win or go home scenario. The Red Sox may have experience on their side, but the Yankees have a deeper, stronger pitching staff that will lead them into a playoff berth, even if it is short-lived.

National League West: Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers may have depth issues in their fielding and hitting, but their pitching staff may rival the Tigers’ in terms of effectiveness. Clayton Kershaw, now in the first year of a seven-year contract worth $214,000,000, is almost a lock for the NL Cy Young Award. Yasiel Puig will continue to thrive as the Dodgers’ resident shining star, possibly en route to a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger Award at the end of the season. Some may say that the San Francisco Giants are playoff bound based on the possibility of several players “poised” for break out seasons (Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Pablo Sandoval), but this is not likely. They do have good players, but their chances of making the playoffs this year are slim to none.

National League Central: St. Louis Cardinals

The NL Central is full of talent, but no team is as consistent as the Cardinals. The Milwaukee Brewers have taken a nosedive in recent seasons, so they are out. The Pittsburgh Pirates cannot seem to keep up the pace for an entire season without an established ace, and they have no real prospects for the role. The Chicago Cubs are in no position to battle for a division crown, as they have been “rebuilding” for the past several years. The Cincinnati Reds may surprise this season, but they are more suited to take down a Wild Card position, and if they can manage to get into the playoffs, then Jay Bruce and Joey Votto could turn a few heads with their consistent production. As it stands though, the Cardinals get the nod based on how consistently great they have been over the past five years.

National League East: Washington Nationals

While the Atlanta Braves made great signings in the off-season to lock up key players, those moves will not pay-off immediately. The Braves are more likely to go deep into the postseason in a few years, when their young studs like Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward hit their prime (both are under 25). For this reason, the NL East will likely be claimed by the Washington Nationals. Stephen Strasburg is the quintessential ace pitcher, and with more time being placed between him and his Tommy John surgery, he should not have an innings limit placed on him. Bryce Harper will continue to be his brash and arrogant self, but that will not stop him from being of the best young players in the league. With the Philadelphia Phillies, Miami Marlins, and New York Mets sitting on the sidelines, it should be Atlanta and Washington battling it out for division glory. Given that Washington is poised to get off to a much better start than they did last year, the nod goes to the Nationals.

National League Wild Card Play-In Game Winner: Cincinnati Reds

With Kris Medlan out for the season due to Tommy John surgery, the Braves are left without their only credible ace pitcher. While Ervin Santana may be able to replace him, the Reds may just be too good to beat in a single-game playoff. With two MVP candidates in Jay Bruce and Joey Votto in their lineup, the Reds just have a more powerful lineup than the Braves at this point. The Braves may change that by making a move at the trade deadline for a better second baseman than Dan Uggla, but the Braves are stubborn, and just a little gun shy after their failed experiment with Mark Teixeira back in 2007-2008 at the trade deadline. That being said, the Reds have little chance of reaching the World Series this year, but they have a slightly better chance than the Braves do at this point.