After a month of the 2015 regular season, there are already several newcomers that are standing out from the crowd. The numerous rookies around Major League Baseball are all doing their best to make an immediate impact on their club, and some are making good starts to their campaigns for the Rookie of the Year award. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at who I feel are currently the top five rookies in the American League and the National League:
American League Rookies
2. Mark Canha
3. Roberto Osuna
4. Steven Souza Jr.
5. Carlos Rodon
The American League rookie players possess many future star names, however, only a few of them are playing above average at the moment. Of those, kicking things off on the list is Devon Travis, who is batting .309 with 7 home runs and 23 RBI’s for the Blue Jays. Currently the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year award if he can keep things going, Travis looks to be a star for years to come.
Following Travis on my list are Mark Canha, who is hitting a solid .271 with 4 homers and 14 runs batted in, and Roberto Osuna, who has a great 1.38 ERA through ten appearances for the Blue Jays. Those first three are off to great starts, however, Steven Souza Jr. and Carlos Rodon are merely mediocre at the moment. Souza has a .232 batting average, despite having hit 4 homers, and Rodon has yet to live up to his stardome, despite holding a 2.84 ERA. They made my list simply because the rookie talent level in the American League is currently thin.
National League Rookies
2. Alex Guerrero
3. Yimi Garcia
4. Kris Bryant
5. Archie Bradley
While the American League rookie standouts are hard to come by at the moment, the National League side is just the opposite. Joc Pederson of the Dodgers leads the way, currently living up to all of the hype surrounding him coming into the season, having hit 7 home runs already to go along with 16 RBI’s and a .260 batting average. His teammate, Alex Guerrero comes in second on my list, with a .333 average and 5 blasts to this point, as does fellow Dodger, Yimi Garcia, who has a superb 0.66 ERA over the course of 13 appearances.
Kris Bryant is the first non-Dodger on my list. Although Bryant was expected to be a big power bat in the big leagues, as he was last year in the minors with his 43 home runs, Bryant is yet to get his first major league home run. Still, Bryant has been a presence in the Cubs’ lineup, holding a .442 on base percentage with 12 runs batted in. Archie Bradley comes in at number five on my list, as despite currently being out due to an injury as a result of a ball hitting him in the face, Bradley started his season well, with a 1.80 ERA over four starts. Bradley, along with every other player previously mentioned in this post, is a star in the making.
With the first month of the 2015 MLB season in the books, I thought I’d take the first day of the new month to recap the season thus far. It’s been exciting as well as disappointing, depending on how you look at it and who you’re rooting for.
But instead of talking about the events that have taken place so far this year, I decided to make a list of different categories and beside them name the player(s) that leads that particular category. I’ve done lists like these for the past several years, and they have been well received, so I decided to do it again.
The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but not AL or NL:
MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING
Most Games Played – Twenty players tied for most (23).
Most At-Bats – Jose Altuve and Wil Myers (98).
Most Hits – Dee Gordon (38)
Highest Average – Dee Gordon (.409)
Highest OBP – Matt Holliday (.500)
Highest SLG – Adrian Gonzalez (.790)
Most Runs – Matt Carpenter and Wil Myers (21).
Most Doubles – Matt Carpenter (13)
Most Triples – Paulo Orlando (5)
Most Home Runs – Nelson Cruz and Hanley Ramirez (10).
Most RBI’s – Nelson Cruz and Hanley Ramirez (22).
Most Base On Balls – Bryce Harper (22)
Most Strikeouts – Jorge Soler (33)
Most Stolen Bases – Billy Hamilton (13)
Most Caught Stealing – Dee Gordon (6)
Most Intentional Base On Balls – Victor Martinez (6)
Most Hit By Pitch – Anthony Rizzo (7)
Most Sacrifice Flies – Five players tied for most (3).
Most Total Bases – Adrian Gonzalez (64)
Most Extra Base Hits – Matt Carpenter and Adrian Gonzalez (17).
Most Grounded Into Double Plays – Casey McGehee (8)
Most Ground Outs – Jean Segura (41)
Most Number Of Pitches Faced – Bryce Harper (440)
Most Plate Appearances – Jose Altuve (106)
MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING
Most Wins – Seven players tied for most (4).
Most Losses – David Buchanan (5)
Best ERA – Nick Martinez (0.35)
Most Games Started – Fifty players tied for most (5).
Most Games Pitched – Eleven players tied for most (11).
Most Saves – Jeurys Familia, Joakim Soria and Huston Street (9).
Most Innings Pitched – Johnny Cueto and Dallas Keuchel (37).
Most Hits Allowed – Kyle Kendrick (39)
Most Runs Allowed – Kyle Kendrick (26)
Most Earned Runs Allowed – Kyle Kendrick (26)
Most Home Runs Allowed – Brandon McCarthy (9)
Most Strikeouts – Clayton Kershaw (43)
Most Walks – Tyson Ross (18)
Most Complete Games – Five players tied for most (1).
Most Shutouts – Josh Collmenter and Felix Hernandez (1).
Best Opponent Avg. – Dallas Keuchel (.130)
Most Games Finished – Joakim Soria (12)
Most Double Plays Achieved – Shane Greene and Alex Wood (7).
Most Wild Pitches – Matt Garza, Nathan Karns and Corey Kluber (4).
Most Balks – Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels and Edward Mujica (2).
Most Stolen Bases Allowed – Jon Lester (8)
Most Pickoffs – Four players tied for most (2).
Most Batters Faced – Corey Kluber and Jeff Samardzija (141).
Most Pitches Thrown – Dallas Keuchel (523)
Once again, Alex Rodriguez is nearing history. And once again, it would seem that no one cares.
After hitting home run number 659 of his career on Sunday night, Alex Rodriguez sits just one shy of Willie Mays on the all-time home run list. But more importantly, A-Rod is just one blast away from collecting a six million dollar contract bonus.
However, it’s the money that has more people talking than the actual record that Rodriguez is approaching. For any other player, fans would be buzzing with excitement for a current player to surpass an all-time great on the home run list. But with A-Rod, he doesn’t exactly have too many people on his side.
After serving a 162-game suspension in 2014 for PED use, the few fans that Rodriguez still had finally reached their breaking point with him and wrote him off altogether. But even so, Rodriguez is still surprising some people with the great start he’s gotten off to — myself included.
I knew A-Rod would likely hit his stride at some point, but I figured it wouldn’t add up to a whole lot. It’s been nearly five years since A-Rod hit his 600th homer, and it was nearly certain that he would be a bit sluggish with his swing. But Rodriguez has gone out there and done his best to prove everyone wrong, and he has done just that, blasting five homers to this point in the season.
It’s yet to be seen how many home runs Alex Rodriguez will finish out the season with, or, for that matter, how many he will end up with when his career has drawn to a close. But what is for certain is no matter how much fans dislike him, no matter how much they wish to see him fail, there will always be a small part of everyone that keeps them coming back to see how A-Rod performs on any given night.
For some reason, people just can’t get enough.
It’s still early, but now that the 2015 MLB regular season is over two weeks underway, fans around baseball are beginning to get a feel for how their team is going to perform throughout the year. Given, there’s still a ton of baseball left, where any team could see a major rise or fall in the standings, but for the most part teams have shown whether or not they have the talent to compete this season.
With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the current standings in each division and give my overall thoughts on where each team stands.
American League East
So far, this division hasn’t surprised me at all. Every team is close to where I felt they would be heading into the season, and each team has performed close to the way I pictured. If I had to give an answer for which team has surprised me the most, it has to be the Blue Jays. They are doing really well so far this season, and it would be great to see them keep it up as the season continues to roll along.
National League East
Unlike the American League East, the National League portion is completely mixed up to this point from where I thought it would be. For starters, the Mets being in first place simply amazes me, as does the Marlins being in last place. Both have surprised me with their play so far in the season. The Nationals also haven’t been playing as well as I thought they would have, but they have time to turn things around.
American League Central
The Tigers being at the top of the division is no shocker, but the Indians being near the bottom does come as a bit of a surprise to me. The Indians pitching isn’t as good as some of the other teams in the American League Central, however, their lineup can be just as good as any other club if they put everything together. No matter what, this will likely turn out to be one of the most interesting divisions to keep an eye on.
National League Central
After such a long time of being down near the bottom of the division, it’s nice to see the Cubs up near the top of the rankings. Admittedly, with all of the talent they possess, it comes as no surprise. What does come as a bit of a surprise, however, is the Brewers sitting dead last in the division with one of the worst starts they’ve gotten off to in years. If they don’t fix whatever their problem is, it could be an ugly season in Milwaukee.
American League West
I surely never saw the Houston Astros in first place of their given division two weeks into the season. They have plenty of time to slow down their hot start and fall back down in the standings, but so far they are looking pretty good. One of the teams that has surprised me in a negative way is the Mariners. Sitting in last place, they have the talent to pull out of this early hole, but it will take a full team effort to do so.
National League West
The Dodgers look to be in mid-season form extremely early in the season, standing atop the division board in the National League West division. San Diego is also doing their fair share of winning games, sitting just behind the Dodgers and looking really good to this point. The Giants have been doing worse than I had anticipated to this point in the year, but as with every other team around the league, there’s still numerous games to play for them.
This quite possibly could be one of a million articles written about Kris Bryant making his Major League debut on Friday afternoon, but it was such a big deal that I felt the need to write a little bit about it as well.
As nearly everyone around the baseball world is aware, Bryant has quickly made a name for himself down in the minors to this point in his career. After being the second overall draft pick in the 2013 draft, Bryant proceeded to slug a league leading 43 homers in the minors last season.
This year, he picked up where he left off. Following a great Spring Training showing, Bryant headed to Triple-A where he hit .321 with 3 homers and 10 RBI’s over 7 games before his call up, forcing the Cubs to bring him up.
Now that Bryant is in the majors, I expect him to make a solid run at the National League Rookie of the Year award. It’s truly his to lose, as his power is already as good as any other player in the majors.
But you wouldn’t have known that by just watching the Cubs game on Friday. In Bryant’s big league debut, he went 0-4 with three strikeouts, and simply looked lost at times at the plate. Even so, he made a couple of good plays at third on the afternoon, and finally ended the never ending question of when Bryant would make his debut.
Despite the poor showing by Bryant, the Cubs are off to one of their best starts in years — given, it’s still early. But if Bryant can begin to contribute the way many people feel he can and will, the Cubs could be celebrating a postseason appearance in October after such a long playoff drought.
Red Sox phenom, Mookie Betts, can do it all. He’s a great outfielder, a fast runner, and can even tap into some power every now and then.
Things got kicked off for Betts in the very first inning of the game. Bryce Harper cranked a ball deep toward the outfield bullpens, which looked to be gone off the bat. But Betts did a great job getting a jump on the ball, making the leap at the wall and robbing Harper of a home run.
In the bottom half of the inning, Betts continued his great day. After a walk, Betts slid in safely to second on an attempted steal attempt. Wisely noticing that no one was covering third base, due to the shift on the current batter, David Ortiz, Betts took off for third and successfully swiped that bag as well. Two stolen bases on one attempt.
But not to go without showing off all of his tools, Mookie stepped to the plate in the bottom of the second and cranked a three-run homer over the green monster in left field to give the Red Sox a 4-0 lead.
All in a day’s work for Betts.
With all of the contributions from Betts — who went 2-4 on the day, with 4 total RBI’s — the Red Sox cruised to a 9-4 win over the Nationals. If things can continue to go the way they did on Monday for both Mookie Betts and the Red Sox, 2015 could end up being special years for both of them.
While my first official baseball game of 2015 took place just a few days ago, with the Miami Marlins taking on their Single-A affiliate in Greensboro, North Carolina, tomorrow is set to kick off my 2015 minor league baseball regular season.
With the Wilmington Blue Rocks in Myrtle Beach to take on the hometown Pelicans, it’s sure to be a good game, as both teams have a decent roster. However, the Pelicans’ overall roster is stronger and full of more prospects — nine of their top 30 prospects — so that’s the team I’m going to be trying hardest for autographs from.
Every year for the past several years, I’ve headed out to a baseball game a dozen or so times a year to get autographs from some of the best up and coming talent in the game. On Friday, I’m looking forward to seeing the likes of Billy McKinney, Duane Underwood and Jen-Ho Tseng, among many others. It should be a fun time and lead to a fun game against Wilmington, which possesses Bubba Starling and Dominique Taylor — two of the Royals top prospects.
No matter what happens on Friday, this is just the beginning of what is set to be an exciting 2015 season of baseball game outings. I’m not sure of any specific games I plan on going to past this Friday, but I’m really looking forward to the next five months of baseball ahead . . . .
Exactly three years to the day after the last time I attended a major league exhibition game against one of their minor league affiliates, I was back out at the ballpark on Friday (along with my grandpa) for the first time in nearly seven months. This time, however, it wasn’t the home of the Mudcats or Bulls — the ballparks I normally attend — but rather the home of the Grasshoppers. With the Miami Marlins in town, I made the long trek out to the stadium with the sole purpose of grabbing some autographs from the numerous good players their roster possesses.
With that in mind, my grandpa and I arrived to the ballpark an hour before the gates opened, which allowed me to be one of the first people inside when people were first allowed in at 1:00 on the dot. But despite being through the gates first, due to the long walk to the tunnel where the Marlins would be coming in and out of, there were numerous people already surrounding the area. And thus, I had settle with a spot behind a couple of people — a spot I had to squeeze my way into.
The Marlins were already on the field taking batting practice when I first arrived . . . :
. . . so I just stood there with everyone else and waited for the Marlins to return back through the tunnel and into the clubhouse.
But the wait certainly wasn’t a boring one. When Giancarlo Stanton — one of the greatest power sluggers currently in baseball — stepped into the cage, all eyes were placed on him, and he didn’t disappoint. Stanton quite simply put on one the most unbelievable batting practice show I’ve ever seen. I had heard a ton about the displays of power he shows off during BP, but actually seeing it in person was amazing.
A few minutes after Stanton concluded his showing off, the Marlins began to wrap up their on field activities and one by one exited the field. As they did so, a great number of the players stopped to sign autographs — with the exception of Michael Morse, who I didn’t see sign a single autograph all day long — but I had an extremely hard time getting them to sign for me. Everything was going wrong — whether it was people blocking me out, the players signing on the opposite side of the tunnel, or them just skipping over me. It was appearing to be one of those days.
With all that went wrong, I only managed to get an autograph from Brett Butler and Donovan Solano before the game. Giancarlo Stanton signed for a lot of people . . . except me. And even Ichiro signed some autographs . . . on the opposite side of the stadium. (Like I said before — it was one of those days.)
Once it became apparent that I wasn’t going to succeed in getting anyone else’s autograph, I reunited with my grandpa back at our ticketed seats to take in the pregame introductions. For the most part, the Grasshoppers didn’t have any extremely noteworthy players, however, they did have the 2014 number two overall draft pick, Tyler Kolek, as part of their roster (on the right below):
For the Marlins, Ichiro and Stanton by far received the biggest applause when they were announced, but it was equally exciting to see every player on their team in person. (Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton and Michael Morse, all pictured below, were the ones I enjoyed seeing the most):
Starting the game for the Grasshoppers was the Marlins’ A.J. Ramos, who gave up a home run to Giancarlo Stanton on the very first pitch he saw. Coming back from a gruesome injury to end 2014, Stanton crushing one during an actual game setting against a big league caliber pitcher appeared to prove that he will be unaffected during the season as some suggested he may be.
Off to a quick 2-0 lead in the first, thanks to the Stanton blast, the Marlins put out Tom Koehler as their starter on the mound against the Grasshoppers, and he was terrific on the day. It was nice to see the Marlins — both their pitching and lineup — do so well with all of the high expectations placed on them for the 2015 season.
It was also nice to see Ichiro in person once again:
Going one for three on the day, this was more than likely the last time I’ll ever see the future Hall of Famer in person, and I did my best to take it in. There are very few players that I would pay just to see them play, but Ichiro is definitely one of them — as is Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout.
Once all was said and done, the Marlins pulled out the win (not surprisingly), 9-6. However, I wasn’t around to see the final few innings of the game. After getting removed from the game in the fourth and fifth innings for replacement players, Giancarlo Stanton, Ichiro, Michael Morse and Christian Yelich, among others, made their way to the clubhouse during the seventh inning stretch. With me not wanting to miss the possible chance at getting an autograph from any of them, I made my way out of the ballpark gates and down the corner to where the players’ exit/entrance is located.
I was one of the first 50 people down there, but before too long, there were around 200 people, I would estimate, trying for autographs from the players as they left. It took around an hour of standing around for the players to begin emerging from the ballpark, but before long they began coming out in bunches.
Michael Morse and Christian Yelich were the first two out, with both briskly walking past everyone without stopping. Next out was Marcell Ozuna, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Ichiro, who simply waved before making his way onto the bus.
It began to seem as if every player was going to make a nonstop trek to the bus. However, when Giancarlo Stanton came through the doors, he became the first to decide to stop and sign autographs. But before I had the chance to blink, things went from two deep to a cluster of 50 or so people pushing and bumping into each other all surrounding Stanton and making it virtually impossible for me to get within arms distance of him. So with all hope lost for an autograph, I settled for a picture of him instead, which I had to take by raising my camera high above my head:
After Stanton boarded the bus, things settled down again, and I was finally able to get to the front row. By doing so, I succeeded in getting an autograph from Tom Koehler, as well as Steve Cishek, who I got a better picture of than Stanton due to the quieted crowd:
In the end, I didn’t walk away with an autograph from Ichiro or Stanton (I truly didn’t expect to when the day began), but I did walk away with yet another memory of a great time out at the ballpark. Every time I go to a ballgame, I always have a different, but special, experience.
My sights are now set on the 2015 minor league season, which begins on Thursday.
Each and every season, there are always players with something to prove. Whether they’re looking to show that they can play at a competitive level that they’ve never lived up to; looking to show that they can be the dominant player they once were; or simply are looking for a good year for their team to have a good year — there are numerous players that you could categorize as having very important seasons coming up.
With that said, not every player that needs a good season is on the list I put together below. I can think of a few dozen players that arguably need to post solid numbers in 2015, but I couldn’t include them all, and had to make some difficult exclusions. Just the opposite, there could be a few players on my list that you don’t think need a good season. Either way, this is just a list of ten players — not necessarily the “top ten” — that I feel need a good 2015 season for one reason or another:
1.) Justin Verlander
For the majority of his career, Justin Verlander has been an unbelievable pitcher. But for the 2011, 2012 seasons, he was on an entirely different planet. Going 41-13 with a 2.52 ERA over those years, and racking up a Cy Young award and MVP for his efforts in 2011, Verlander was arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Lately, however, he hasn’t been the same player. Since 2013, Verlander has posted a combined 3.99 ERA over the course of 66 starts. Given, some of that may have been due to some injuries — injuries that Verlander claims are completely healed now. Now that Max Scherzer is gone, if the Tigers stand any shot at making the World Series like they play for every year, they need a dominant Justin Verlander each and every start throughout the coming regular season.
2.) Ryan Howard
Injuries have not been kind to Ryan Howard over the past three years or so. The once feared slugger, with MVP caliber numbers year after year after year, hasn’t put up very much production for the Phillies in quite awhile. After hitting 58 home runs in 2006, and putting up 45+ home runs and 136+ RBI’s in the three years following that historic season, Howard has failed to hit more than 23 home runs in a season since. Battling aforementioned injuries, Howard played in less than half the Phillies games in 2012 and 2013, but had a decent season last year, with 23 homers and 95 RBI’s over 153 games played. But those numbers aren’t good enough for the Phillies or their historically verbal fans. If he wants to regain both his stardom and the support of the fans, Ryan Howard needs a healthy, productive 2015.
3.) Jackie Bradley Jr.
Unlike the previous two players on my list, Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t make the top ten for me because he has fallen from previously good seasons. Bradley still has something to prove — both to the Red Sox and their fans. Once one of the top prospects in all of baseball, Bradley’s Gold Glove caliber defense has been shown off at the big league level, however, his ability to hit hasn’t yet arrived. It needs to do so in 2015. With so much outfield depth for the Red Sox — including Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo — it may already be too far gone for Bradley to make his all around game appear for the Red Sox. However, if he does in fact get the chance this season, he needs to show the Red Sox that he isn’t just a good outfielder but an all around good baseball player.
4.) Bryce Harper
As with Jackie Bradley Jr., the 2015 season is a crucial one for Bryce Harper. While Harper hasn’t underperformed, he hasn’t lived up the unbelievable hype either. Cranking out just 13 home runs last season, all while battling injuries, Harper needs to have a healthy, breakout year this season. If Harper can stay healthy, and can fully tap into his power, he truly has 40 home run potential. And remember, despite the fact that he’s been in the big leagues for three seasons, Harper is still just 22 years old. There’s still plenty of time for him to develop into the superstar player he was coined when he was drafted first overall in 2010. If the Nationals can perform well as a whole, along with their pitching staff staying healthy, and with Bryce Harper thrown into the mix, the World Series is theirs to lose.
What can I say? Alex Rodriguez could hit 80 home runs this season and people still wouldn’t like him. But while Rodriguez can’t win back the majority of the fans around baseball, he still needs to have a good season, for his sake at least. Coming back from a 162-game suspension in 2014 for further performance enhancing drug use, A-Rod is heading into the season having not produced for the Yankees since 2010, when his streak of thirteen straight seasons with 30+ homers and 100+ RBI’s ended. No one expects him to return to that form this year, but the Yankees need him — even if they don’t want him. Their team is still a big question mark, with all the talent in the world but no guarantee things will go as planned. Alex Rodriguez needs to perform for the Yankees season to have a shot at a great one.
6.) Curtis Granderson
Curtis Granderson has never been a superstar player, but he has been a consistent outfielder over the course of his eleven year career. For six straight seasons (2007-2012), Granderson was able to post upwards of 20 home runs a season, with 2011 and 2012 being his best years by far, with 40+ homers and 100+ RBI’s. Since then, however, Granderson hasn’t been the same. While he hit 20 home runs last season for the Mets, he only batted .227. Though he’s never been a guy that hits for a high average — an all or nothing type hitter — Granderson still needs to hone things in a bit in the coming season. The Mets are getting Matt Harvey back, and if Curtis Granderson can produce along with the rest of the team, the Mets could end up shocking some people.
7.) Melvin Upton Jr.
Formerly known as B.J. Upton, Melvin Upton Jr. definitely needs to have a good season. After losing Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis, and Melvin’s brother, Justin Upton, in trades this offseason, the Braves are widely regarded as a much weaker team than they have been recently. While they could still be a playoff team, it will take production from every single player — and that includes Upton Jr. Since leaving the Rays following a 28 homer, 78 RBI 2012 season, Upton Jr. hasn’t been the same, batting a combined .198 over the past two years. He needs to step up his game and bring his totals back to the former standout player he used to be. However, with reports that Melvin Upton Jr. will miss the first month or so with a foot injury, things aren’t starting off too well for his 2015.
Tim Lincecum has picked up two World Series rings over the past three years (he has three rings overall), but he did little in those two seasons to produce for the Giants. After back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, when Lincecum went a combined 33-12 with a 2.55 ERA, Lincecum hasn’t been anywhere close to that level over the past few seasons. Since 2012, Lincecum is a combined 32-38, with a staggering 4.76 ERA. Those are certainly subpar numbers for ‘The Freak’. For a guy who has gone from a dominant starter to a part time reliever, it truly is unfathomable what has gone wrong with Lincecum and his performance. With so much uncertainty, this is a make or break season in my mind for Tim Lincecum. I’ll certainly be rooting for him.
9.) Joc Pederson
The only rookie on my list, and the second youngest player (Bryce Harper is six months younger than Pederson), Joc Pederson is the player that you don’t really know what to expect, but needs to have a good year anyway. It’s a lot of pressure on Pederson, but with the Dodgers trading away Matt Kemp to the Padres this offseason, they’ve now cleared the spot for phenom prospect Pederson to take over moving forward. After having the first 30 homer, 30 stolen base season in the Pacific Coast League since 1934, Pederson made his major league debut in 2014, but didn’t really live up to the hype, batting just .143 and striking out 11 times in 28 at-bats (admittedly, a small sample size). Even so, there are a lot of people who still believe Joc Pederson will be able to fill Matt Kemp’s shoes.
10.) Ichiro Suzuki
This is an interesting case. Ichiro Suzuki could quit right now and have Hall of Fame worthy numbers. But with him stating that he wants to continue playing for several more years, and not getting a lot of offers this past offseason, he needs to play well. Unlike last year with the Yankees, he should see more playing time with the Marlins in 2015, which should allow his always consistent numbers to be there. But with the Marlins only willing to offer him a one-year contract, he needs to prove that he is worth taking a chance on in the future. Sitting just 156 hits shy of 3,000 for his major league baseball career, Ichiro may not get there in 2015. So if he wants to reach the amazing milestone, it’ll take at least one more season, which will likely come from a good season this year.
*Originally, I had Josh Hamilton on this list, but in light of his current off the field battle, I decided to replace him with Curtis Granderson. I certainly wish Josh Hamilton the best.
For the fourth season in a row, I’m making predictions (you should too) as to how I feel each Major League Baseball team will fare throughout the coming season. Although I haven’t come close yet to predicting the exact finishing order of each division (I picked the Giants finishing third in their division in 2014 and they won the World Series), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.
I posted my predictions for the American League several days ago, and today I’m going to give my predictions for the National League (along with my reasoning), starting with the National League East:
If the Nationals don’t win 100 or more games this coming season, it would absolutely shock me. They have such a good team from top to bottom that there is a really good chance of them repeating as National League East division champions. After winning 96 games in 2014, the Nationals spent this offseason getting even better. Adding Max Scherzer to a rotation that now includeds Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, each and every game allows the Nats a good shot at a victory. Their bullpen is just as good, and their lineup is one the best in baseball. With Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper, among many others, Washington has forces both offensively and with their pitching staff. Combining together their amazingly good starting rotation with their talented lineup, the Nationals should be able to win a ton of games.
Coming up second to the Nationals, I think the Marlins will be really improved in 2015. Playing in a weaker division, with the Braves taking a step back and the Mets and Phillies still finding themselves, the Marlins should easily pull out a Wild Card spot this year. Although they’ll be without phenom Jose Fernandez until midseason, their pitching rotation is still very solid. Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos and Dan Haren should perform well for Miami, with their bullpen consisting of one of the most underrated closers in the game today, Steve Cicshek. If their pitching staff can do well, then they should be a good team. Their lineup is going to be good either way, however. With speedy Dee Gordon, superstar Giancarlo Stanton, and veteran Ichiro Suzuki, the Marlins have a nice combination of players. They will surely be a really good team in the coming regular season.
For the Atlanta Braves, it’s a true mystery how they will fare in the coming season. On one hand, they still have a decent team with a lot of good players. But on the other hand, they lost a few key pieces of their team this offseason. And therefore, your guess is as good as mine. Nonetheless, I have the Braves coming in third, just ahead of the Mets. They lost Jason Heyward, but picked up a decent replacement in Nick Markakis. And despite having a below average outfield now that Justin Upton is a Padre, the rest of their lineup isn’t that bad. With Andrelton Simmons, Chris Johnson and Freddie Freeman still apart of their offensive squad, they should be able to score runs. Their pitching should do a good job of preventing runs as well. Though not overly dominant, the Braves have Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller and Alex Wood, along with Craig Kimbrel to slam the door in the ninth. Things could be interesting in Atlanta.
I was somewhat of a believer in the Mets having a special season up until the news came out that Zack Wheeler needed Tommy John surgery. Now, however, I feel that they will likely come up just short of a potential second Wild Card spot. But even so, they have a decent team that will win a good chunk of games. Juan Lagares had a breakout season in 2014, and if Curtis Granderson can bounce back, along with David Wright, the Mets could surprise me. Their rotation isn’t great, but it isn’t horrible either. Jacob deGrom should have another solid season, with Bartolo Colon doing well. Beyond that, they have Dillon Gee, and the return of phenom Matt Harvey. In the end, it’s how their pitching fares that will determine what kind of year they have. The Mets may not end up pulling out a spectacular season, but they could definitely have a few impressive streaks throughout the year.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Phillies were the most dominant team in the National League East, and one of the best in all of baseball. But things have gone downhill very fast. With virtually no pitching, beyond Cole Hamels, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies are going to have a difficult time keeping opposing teams off the board in the coming year. On the flip side, they will likely also have struggles of their own of scoring runs. No longer with Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies have to rely on Chase Utley and Ryan Howard — two players who have been up and down over the past several years — to produce for the majority of the team’s run. But while the fate of those two players are up in the air, the Phillies still have the speedy Ben Revere and talented third baseman Cody Asche. They should help out what is otherwise a worn out team. I truly don’t think things will be too pretty in Philadelphia in 2015.
The Cardinals are sure to have a battle on their hands to win the division with the resurgence of the Cubs and the always good Pirates, but I think they have the talent to pull it off. Their pitching is good, having a good mix of both veterans — Adam Wainwright and John Lackey — as well as young stars — Marco Gonzalez and Michael Wacha. Their pitching alone will go a long way in winning them a lot of ballgames. To make those pitchers even better, the Cards have Yadier Molina behind the plate, who is an extremely valuable asset to their team, as he has been for years. Beyond that, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter are sure to have good years, as are Matt Holliday and newly acquired Jason Heyward, who came over from the Braves this offseason. No matter what, they will likely have a great season, with a long run into the playoffs looking like it could be a good possibility.
It is going to be an exciting season in Chicago, no doubt about it. The White Sox are looking like they’ll have a great year, and the Cubs certainly have the talent to do the same. The Cubs’ offense is loaded with a lot of young talent, given it is unproven for the most part on the big league level. Still, with names like Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, along with Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantra, and Miguel Montero, the Cubs have a strong player at every spot in the lineup. And that’s before Kris Bryant is even a part of the mix. Set to come up in mid April after hitting 43 homers in the minors last year, Bryant could be an All-Star for years to come. On the pitching side of things, the Cubs don’t have a rotation that will dominate every team in their way, but it is good enough to get the job done. After the pickup of Jon Lester this offseason, they should have a good enough team to make a push for a Wild Card.
The Pirates finally broke their long playoff drought in 2012, but although they’ll be good again this coming season, I don’t think they’ll make it to the postseason in 2015. Their pitching staff is merely okay, with guys like Gerritt Cole, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano, and their bullpen is a bit iffy. It comes down a lot of times to how well a team’s pitching performs from one night to the next, so that could turn out to be a big issue with the Pirates. As far as their lineup is concerned, it is actually a pretty good one. With an outfield of Gregory Polanco, Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, the have a great combination of hitters that also play great defense. That extends into the infield, where they have Neil Walker, Josh Harrison and Pedro Alvarez. So, will they go on a run and make it to the postseason? That remains to be seen. But as far as I can see, they’ll likely come up just short.
It is somewhat difficult to place the Reds in fourth place in the National League Central division with the great level of talent that they posses, but it’s simply where I find them falling when the season has concluded six months from now. Despite a rotation that is lead by Johnny Cueto, that’s basically where their dominant pitching ends. Sure, the Reds have Homer Bailey and Mike Leake, with Tony Cingrani looking to bounce back in 2015, but they don’t have the arms to compete with the three teams I have finishing ahead of them — even with the flame throwing Aroldis Chapman as their closer. But what they lack in pitching, they make up for in offense, which is what will keep them from falling into last place. From the speedy Billy Hamilton to Todd Frazier, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Devin Mesoraco, the Reds should have a decent lineup in 2015, but will have little to show for it in the end.
For the Brewers, it looks to be a rough season for them. In my opinion, the Reds are the only team they could potentially swap spots with, assuming something goes wrong with the Reds and things go really right with the Brewers. I’m not trying to knock the Brewers — they’re a good team. But they simply don’t have the talent in their lineup or pitching that can have me place them any higher. While their pitching staff isn’t horrible, it isn’t great either. With Mike Fiers, Kyle Lohse, and Matt Garza, and a bullpen that has Francisco Rodriguez as their closer, the Brewers are a true mystery for how they will perform this season. Their bright spot, however, is their lineup. Jonathan Lucroy, Scooter Gennett, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez will all combine to lead to a good amount of runs, but I don’t feel it will be on a consistent enough basis for the Brewers to do all that well this season.
I see the Dodgers easily repeating as division champions in 2015. Offensively, they got a little weaker, losing Matt Kemp to the Padres as well as Hanley Ramirez to the Red Sox, but it is still a very deep lineup regardless. Joc Pederson — Kemp’s replacement — is looking to have a good year in center field, as are his outfield partners, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. For the infield, the Dodgers picked up veteran Jimmy Rollins to replace Ramirez at short stop, as well as Howie Kendrick, who should make for a good double play partner for Rollins. Everything together leads to a solid offensive bunch. But the Dodgers also have a lot of pitching talent, beginning with Clayton Kershaw. Coined by the majority of people as the best pitcher in baseball, Kershaw mans a staff that includes Zack Grienke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and now Brandon McCarthy. It could be an exciting year in Los Angeles.
It may also be another fun season in San Francisco, but I don’t think it will all lead to another World Championship. Even so, the Giants should be a very good team — good enough to give the Dodgers a run for their money. A pitching staff lead by Madison Bumgarner, and containing Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Jake Peavy, not to mention a really good bullpen, the Giants should be able to prevent runs on a very consistent basis. And they should be able to score a lot of runs as well. With Buster Posey leading the charge, complimented by Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence (once he returns) and Brandon Crawford, the Giants should have a good offense capable of competing with any team in the league. But what really gives them a little added help is their manager, Bruce Bochy, who has become known as one of the best managers in the game in recent history. Bochy may be managing yet another postseason bound team.
If you had asked me on the final day of last season where I thought the Padres would place in 2015, there’s a good chance I would’ve placed them fourth, if not in dead last place. They simply weren’t a very good team last year. However, things should be much different than they were in 2014. The Padres’ general manager, A.J. Preller, did an unbelievable job this offseason of revamping their roster, snatching up numerous high level additions via free agent signings or trades. With a completely different outfield, now made up of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp, as well as an infield that now includes Will Middlebrooks to go along with Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alsono, and offseason pickup Derek Norris behind the plate, this Padres team looks to be on a whole other level offensively. Combine that with a pitching staff of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and James Shields, this Padres team will be interesting to watch.
I really believed in the Diamondbacks last season, but they really disappointed a lot of people, who had predicted them to do well. Now, with them losing a couple of players this offseason, and not doing much to get all that much better, I see the D-backs finishing next to last in the division. With the exception of Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo and newcomer Yasmany Tomas, Arizona doesn’t have too much power in their lineup. They have a few other good players — namely A.J. Pollock, Jake Lamb, Aaron Hill, etc. — who could help them win some games, but it’s going to come down to how their pitching performs. Patrick Corbin — a breakout pitcher from 2013 — is set to come back from Tommy John surgery, and he will help the D-backs immediately. But beyond him, their staff — Jeremy Hellickson, Daniel Hudson, etc. — is a bit of a mystery as to how they will pitch every fifth day. We’ll just have to wait and see.
In a few years from now, I could see the Rockies finally making a climb in the divisional standings with all of the prospects they have on the way, however, this year is not the year. I have them finishing dead last in the National League West division, as they simply can’t compete with the other teams in their division over the long 162-game season. They have a decent catcher in Wilin Rosario, as well as Nolan Arenado, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Morneau in the infield, and Carlos Gonzalez, Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon in the outfield. So the offensive side of the team is there. But what they have in lineup strength, they lack in pitching depth. The Rockies have no true ace of the staff, with all of their starters being major league average at best. And their bullpen isn’t all that spectacular either. Meaning, no matter how well their lineup produces, their pitching will likely be a big letdown.
Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.