American League Predictions for 2016

For the fifth 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 had the Red Sox placing first in 2015 and they finished last), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.

I’ll be posting my predictions for the National League in the next few days, but for now, I’m going to give my predictions for the American League (along with my reasoning), starting with the American League East:

EAST

1. Red Sox

2. Yankees

3. Blue Jays

4. Orioles

5. Rays

For a team that has finished dead last each of the past two seasons, it’s hard to wrap my head around placing the Red Sox to win the Americna League East division in 2016, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. Not everyone has them faring quite as well, but there are a number of factors that have me seeing great things from them this season. First of all, the addition of Craig Kimbrel to their bullpen — along with Carson Smith from the Mariners — to close out games for them will wind up being huge, in my mind. As far as their starters are concerned, placing David Price in the rotation automatically improves their chances of winning every fifth day, even though the rest of their rotation isn’t on Price’s level. The Red Sox don’t have an overly dominant pitching staff, but with Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez looking to have bounceback seasons offensively in this being David Ortiz’s last season, I feel big things are ahead for Boston.

What the Yankees lack in offensive thump (besides Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez) they make up for in pitching. Their rotation and bullpen aren’t overwhelming at first glance, but they are a group of solid pitching workhorses who will post a ton of innings of good baseball all season long. With that in mind, I have the Yankees finishing second to the Red Sox, as they will likely be very competitive, but I can’t see them winning the whole division. Even so, with Masahiro Tanaka looking to have a fully healthy season, along with Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda, combined with a bullpen of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and newly acquired Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees pitching will inevitably carry them when their offense isn’t clicking. They’re basically the opposite of the Red Sox. Bottom line: The Yankees are a team that shouldn’t be overlooked, as they look to make it back to the postseason this year.

The Blue Jays have a true dream-lineup, with Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista all providing major power threats at any point in the game. But they’re missing one thing that would lead me to placing them atop the division: a strong pitching staff. Yes, they have guys like Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez who look to have big futures ahead, along with veteran R.A. Dickey, but I’m not fully on board with them placing any better than third in the division. If they can find a way to pitch well day in and day out, then there is no stopping the Blue Jays from dominating the division, but there are a lot of “what ifs” with their team. After making it to the postseason for the first time in over twenty years last season, it wouldn’t shock me at all if they make it back again in 2016. But on the flip side, it wouldn’t fully shock me if they don’t make it either.

If history has taught us anything it’s that predicting how any given season will pan out is impossible. However, history has also shown that it takes a good pitching staff to make it much of anywhere in the divisional races, and I don’t see a very deep rotation or bullpen for the Orioles. They have several solid starters, from Chris Tillman to Brian Matusz, as well as newcomer Yovani Gallardo who will help them out tremendously, and their bullpen has a couple of the best relievers in baseball, with Darren O’Day and Zach Britton. But I simply don’t see them as having enough to outplay the Blue Jays, Yankees or Red Sox. Their pitchers would have to be atop their game all season long, and their lineup would also have to perform on an equally high level. But with all of that said, with guys like Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Adam Jones, it’s not entirely impossible for them to have special year, I just don’t predict it.

Someone unfortunately has to finish last in every division around baseball no matter how good their team is, and I’m placing the Rays in that slot for 2016. Putting them last was extremely hard. I could make a strong case for them outplaying the Orioles, with even somewhat long shot cases of them placing in the top three. They have a team that makes anything possible. Their rotation is better than that of the Orioles and Blue Jays, in my opinion, with guys like Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb (once he returns) and Matt Moore, but I’m not convinced that their offense, other than Evan Longoria and a few others, will be consistent enough to take on the top teams in the division. If they can score runs, they can compete with anyone. It all comes down to execution. That’s what makes them just like the other four teams in the division who I could see coming in first or dead last. It’s truly going to be that close of a race in the division.

CENTRAL

1. Royals

2. Tigers

3. White Sox

4. Indians

5. Twins

This is another very difficult division to decide where to place each team, but I have the Royals winning the division once again. They aren’t a very flashy team, but they do a lot extremely well. In 2015, the Royals were the king of the comeback, constantly coming back from big deficits to win games that ultimately lead to them becoming World Series champions. I feel they will be able to do that again this season. One of the biggest stories of the offseason was Alex Gordon deciding to stay with the Royals, and I feel that him sticking around will help them exponentially. Combined with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, the Royals have a good enough lineup to post a nice amount of runs. What will help the Royals win their way to the division title, however, is their bullpen, with Wade Davis helping to lead the charge. If all goes right, winning the division should be fairly easy.

Not a lot of people believe in the Tigers for 2016, but upon looking at their roster, I don’t see a spot where they are weak. Over the past few seasons, their bullpen has been one of their worst spots, but they addressed that nicely with the pickup of Francisco Rodriguez who is a proven closer that can shut down games for them. Beyond that, their rotation got a bit better, as the pickup of under the radar starter Jordan Zimmermann, to go along with Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Daniel Norris, should help them win a lot of games. But while their pitching staff is strong, their roster is even stronger. Miguel Cabrera will put up Cabrera-like numbers, and if Victor Martinez can have a healthy year, along with J.D. Martinez and offseason pickup Justin Upton, Detroit appears to be in good shape. If absolutely everything goes right, the Tigers could win the division. But I’m leaving them finishing in a close second.

With Chris Sale leading the way as the Ace of the staff, along with Carlos Rodon and Jose Quintana likely to have solid seasons, the White Sox appear to have a decent enough pitching rotation to win ball games in 2016. However, I don’t see it as being strong enough to overtake either the Tigers or Royals. Furthermore, I’m not fully convinced that their lineup is going to be all that spectacular either. They had one of the worst lineups in baseball last season, and while they picked up Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie this offseason, they can only help so much. Guys such as Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton will do their parts throughout the season, but I simply don’t see a way for the White Sox to finish any better than third place in the division. That’s a sharp contrast from some people around the baseball world who actually have the Sox winning the division this coming season, but I can’t place them that high in my mind.

If the Indians can get the fullest potential out of Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar this coming season, the sky is truly the limit for them. However, with that said, I’m not sure what to expect out of the Indians’ starters as a whole. Over the past few seasons, each of the aforementioned names have been dominant, but they have failed to be dominant at the same time, with a lot of inconsistency coming from them all. Additionally, although their lineup contains some big names, I simply don’t think that it will be enough to stack up against the other three teams above them on my list. Yes, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley, among others, are capable of carrying the Indians far in the season, but their overall makeup isn’t going to be consistent enough, in my opinion, to make the coming season that special of a year for the Indians.

The Minnesota Twins shocked the baseball world last season when they finished in second place in the division. But I see a drastic fall back for them in the coming year. If their rotation was stronger, I could see another good year. However, with Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes being historically inconsistent over their careers, their pitching isn’t exactly their strong suit. Where the Twins thrive is their lineup, which contains a ton of power. Miguel Sano burst onto the scene last year and was absolutely tremendous right out of the gate, with fellow sluggers Kennys Vargas and Oswaldo Arcia likely to be the key power sources of their roster. If they can get those guys going, along with Byron Buxton, who was somewhat of a disappointment upon his debut last season, then the Twins very well may prove me wrong and climb their way up the rankings. I just have a hard time seeing a scenario where that happens.

WEST

1. Astros

2. Angels

3. Rangers

4. Mariners

5. Athletics

After several years in a row of finishing the season with greater than 100 losses on the year, the Astros have finally been heading in the right direction in recent history, with them actually making the playoffs in 2015. With a starting rotation that includes 2015 Cy Young award winner, Dallas Keuchel, along with youngster Lance McCullers and newcomer Doug Fister, I really like Houston’s starters heading into the year. And their bullpen is even better. Picking up Ken Giles from the Phillies in a trade to join Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson in the bullpen, the Astros look ready to mow down opposing teams all season long. On the flip side, they also appear loaded in their lineup. While they lost slugger Chris Carter, they still have reigning Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa who looks headed for superstardom, along with Jose Altuve, Carlos Gomez and George Springer. All things together, the division title is the Astros’ to lose.

The Angels’ lineup is certainly a great mix of both veterans and young, talented players, and I think they will all come together to truly shock some people in 2016. Despite that, I don’t see them taking out the Astros for top spot in the division. Albert Pujols had a solid year last season, and Mike Trout is seemingly getting better and better as each year passes. Look for both of them to power the team towards a lot of wins, along with some help from guys such as Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron and offseason pickup Andrelton Simmons. But while I feel their offense will be okay at best, I predict their pitching to be superb in 2016. Getting a healthy Garrett Richards for this season, with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Andrew Heaney all looking to have a bounce back or breakout season, I don’t feel that any of the other three teams below the Angels on my list will be able to challenge them for the full 162-game season.

Third in my divisional standings predictions for the American League West are the Rangers, however, they could easily overtake the Angels if they don’t perform the way I’m expecting them to. For that reason alone, the Rangers are a team to watch very carefully in 2016. Although their lineup is going to be fairly good, with Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder all ready to mash in the coming year, there are too many questions with the remainder of their roster for me to extremely believe in them. Furthermore, the question marks extend beyond their lineup. They lost Yovani Gallardo to the Orioles this offseason, and although they have proven themselves in the past, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish performing at the top of their game after injuries is yet to be seen. Even so, the Rangers should be a very good ball club that may wind up just short when all is said and done.

When I look at the Mariners’ rotation heading into this season, I see a ton of talent but also a ton of question marks, much as I did with the Rangers’ lineup. Beyond Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, who will both be great all year long, Seattle’s rotation isn’t really proven enough for me to think without a doubt that they are headed for big things this year. James Paxton and Taijuan Walker have a ton of potential, and have shown flashes of greatness before, but they have been too inconsistent to have an idea of what to expect from them in 2016. Beyond their pitching, the Mariners also leave a lot to be desired in their overall lineup, as other than players such as Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, I don’t see a lot of pop in their everyday 1-9. For all of those reasons, I feel that it is going to turn out to be another disappointing season in Seattle.

Finally on my list of picks in the American League divisional races in 2016, I have the Athletics finishing at a dismal last place in the west. While the pickup of Fernando Rodney will go a long way in further improving their already decent bullpen, their starting rotation begins and ends with Sonny Gray, who I see as having another Cy Young conversation season. With the unfortunate loss of Jarrod Parker due to another arm injury, I don’t see a lot of options for their rotation that will be overpowering. More of the same holds true for the offensive side of their roster. To me, although they have a few impact bats such as Billy Butler and Josh Reddick, along with 2015 breakouts Stephen Vogt and Billy Burns, they simply don’t have good enough pitching or hitting for them to perform at a competitive level in the division they are in. Ever since losing Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson, the A’s just haven’t been the same.

What Can We Expect from the Red Sox In 2016?

When the Red Sox finished in last place in 2012, not many people predicted too much from them the next year, but they went on to win the 2013 World Series. Following their championship, there were a lot of expectations out of the Sox in 2014, but they once again finished dead last in their division. With Boston not faring any better this David Pricepast season, there is little guarantee as to where they will wind up when the 2016 season comes to a close.

But the Red Sox made a big splash in the free agent market on Tuesday evening, acquiring David Price for a record breaking contract. Price was signed to a seven year, 217 million dollar contract, locking him up in Boston through the 2022 season, and possibly for the rest of his career, with him being 30 years old.

The mega deal makes Price the highest paid pitcher in Major League Baseball history, beating out Clayton Kershaw’s 215 million dollar deal. His annual value of 31 million a season is over four times what Price earned in 2015, so it is undoubtedly a happy day for David Price.

But it’s also a happy day for Boston and their fans. While there are plenty of people who would say the Red Sox vastly overpaid for Price (I could easily see anyone making that case), there is no doubt that Price, who holds a 1.95 career ERA at Fenway Park, will ultimately help the Sox push towards the playoffs after another disappointing season in 2015.

One of the things that held the Red Sox back last season was their lack of good starting pitching. Their collective team ERA of 4.31 was 25th in all of baseball in 2015, with none of their starters having good, consistent years. Price, who spent the first six seasons of his career with Tampa before heading to Detroit in 2014 and the Blue Jays for the second half of 2015, holds a 3.09 ERA and went 18-5 with a 2.45 ERA last season alone. He will definitely prove to be a bettsbogaertsvaluable addition.

On the flip side of things, the Sox offense was somewhat under the radar decent. They were able to post a .265 team average on the year, which tied them for fifth best in all of baseball. If their additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval from last offseason can have bounce back seasons, combined with further contributions from their young stars Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., as well as veterans Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, they could have a special season.

With David Ortiz already announcing that he will be retiring after the 2016 season, it should be interesting to see how the Red Sox perform next year. They have a few more things that need to be addressed to help their club overall for next season, but I like the signing of Price, as well as the pickup of Craig Kimbrel earlier this offseason, and the general direction that those moves take them.

No matter what happens, acquiring David Price for the next seven years is sure to make for some exciting seasons to come up in Boston.

David Ortiz Launches Home Run Number 500

With one swing of the bat on Saturday night against the Rays, David Ortiz became the 27th player in Major League Baseball history to hit 500 career home runs.Ortiz

The historic homer was his second of the night and came off of Rays’ lefty Matt Moore. In a season that’s destined to wind up with another last place finish for the Red Sox, Ortiz achieving the impressive milestone is one of the few bright spots from the year.

But it didn’t seem as if Ortiz would get there this season with the slow start he began the year with. Through the All-Star break, Ortiz was hitting just .231 with 15 home runs and 43 RBI’s. However, since the Midsummer Classic, Ortiz has been on a tear, blasting 19 home runs while hitting around .340.

Ortiz leads the Red Sox in home runs (his next closest rival is 15 home runs back) as well as RBI’s in 2015, and is just five RBI’s from another 30+ homer, 100+ RBI season — his third straight and ninth overall. Ortiz’s 442 homers with the Red Sox is good enough for third in franchise history, behind just Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.

However, despite tremendous career stats, there still remains the question of whether or not David Ortiz is worthy of the Hall of Fame. In my mind, he absolutely is. Not only is he one of the best Red Sox players in history, he is simply one of the best baseball players in history.

Mookie Betts Does it All Against the Nationals

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.

But on Monday afternoon in Boston against the Washington Nationals, Betts showed off all of his skills over the course of just two innings.Betts

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.

American League Predictions for 2015

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 had the Angels finishing fourth in their division last year and they made it to the postseason), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.

I’ll be posting my predictions for the National League in the next few days, but for now, I’m going to give my predictions for the American League (along with my reasoning), starting with the American League East:

EAST

1. Red Sox

2. Orioles

3. Yankees

4. Blue Jays

5. Rays

It was somewhat difficult to pick the Red Sox to win the division. For a team that went from last to first to last again, it would only make sense that they would once again be a first place team. But that isn’t why I designated them at the top. Although their pitching staff is somewhat of a question mark, their lineup is really good. With veterans David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli, combined with newcomers Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, the Red Sox are stacked top to bottom with talent; and there’s plenty more on the way in the minors that could make impacts at any moment during the season. Their pitching isn’t the best, but it isn’t the worst either. They still have recently dominant closer, Koji Uehara, and despite losing John Lackey and Jon Lester in 2014, they picked up Joe Kelly, Justin Masterson, Wade Miley and Rick Porcello. Everything combined together, it should lead to a lot of wins.

As hard as it was for me to put the Red Sox at number one, it was equally as difficult for me to place the Orioles in second. I was one of the people ranting when they lost Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller that the Orioles would do badly in 2015. But with careful consideration to their roster, and looking at the ball clubs of the other teams in the division, I placed them near the top. With Kevin Gausman, Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris, among others, the Orioles rotation is fairly decent. And despite the loss of Miller, their bullpen is pretty good as well, so the run prevention should be there. The question mark is what kind of impact will losing Cruz have on their offense. The subtraction of 40 home runs is sure to have an impact, but they still have Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado to put together runs. While it won’t lead to a division title, a second place finish isn’t impossible.

The Yankees could wind up being really good or really bad, all depending on the production and health of each player on their team. So I feel confident with placing them in the third place slot. They have the ability to finish higher, with several above average players on their squad, but I’m not confident that it will happen. Still, with a rotation that consists of players such as CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, and a bullpen that ends with Dellin Betances slamming the door in the ninth, their pitchers alone could win them a good amount of games. But pitching isn’t any good if your offense can’t score runs. Brian McCann needs to step things up after a below average season, as do Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Beyond that, the return of Alex Rodriguez should be . . . well . . . interesting. With so much uncertainty, the Yankees’ season will be one of the most intriguing to watch.

I might could see the Blue Jays edging out the Yankees, but I’m placing them at four in the division anyway. With the pickups of Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson to help strengthen their overall lineup — a lineup that already had star hitters Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion — the Jays will be good enough to score a lot of runs. But the question is whether or not their pitching staff will be able to prevent them on a consistent basis. Mark Buehrle will likely have another great year, with R.A. Dickey having a mix of good and bad starts throughout the season. What it comes down to for me is Daniel Norris. With Marcus Stroman now out for the season, it’ll take a great year from Norris to overcome Stroman’s loss. He has the potential to do so, but it will take him living up to expectations. That is going to be the difference maker in a fourth place team and a team that makes a few good runs at the second wild card spot.

The Rays won the American League East division as recently as 2009, however, I don’t think they’ll be able to pull out anything over a last place finish in 2015. Like the Blue Jays, the Rays could easily make a jump in the division rankings, but a lot of things can go wrong to keep them from getting there. First off, while their pitching staff still consists of Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, the loss of David Price last season and having Matt Moore out until midseason while rehabbing his Tommy John surgery will have an impact on their ability to shutout opposing teams. On the flip side, their lineup is merely decent, as with the exception of Evan Longoria, they have no proven big time bats at all. The Rays have James Loney, Asdrubal Cabrera and Kevin Kiermaier, among others, who can help the club out significantly, but no one on the team can carry it by themselves. It will take a team effort for the Rays to have any big success in 2015.

CENTRAL

1. Royals

2. Tigers

3. White Sox

4. Indians

5. Twins

The Royals may or may not actually outplay the Tigers in the upcoming season, but it sure will be fun to watch them go back and forth in the division rankings. The Royals proved to everyone in 2014 that they weren’t messing around anymore, making it to the World Series and putting up a good fight against the Giants. In 2015, expect them to perform close to the same. While I’m not guaranteeing a World Series appearance, they still have a rotation that consists of Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas, among others. And if their rotation can get to the sixth inning, it’s basically a lock for a win, as their bullpen, with Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and dominant closer, Greg Holland. Their lineup is still strong, despite the loss of All-Star designated hitter, Billy Butler, with Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain to lead the way. They should be a great team this season.

As far as the Tigers are concerned, they could turn out to be the winners of the division when all is said and done, but I’m placing them in second, nonetheless. For me, their pitching will be the key in where they place in the division. Their downfall in the 2014 postseason, their bullpen, isn’t any better than it was back then. In addition, their starting rotation is somewhat of a question mark now with Doug Fister and Max Scherzer both in Washington. But what they lack in pitching they more than make up for in offense. That’s why they’re as high as they are. Consisting of J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Yoenis Cespedes, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez (once he returns from injury), the Tigers are loaded from top to bottom in their lineup. But if their pitching doesn’t come through, offense can only go so far. Even so, I believe the Tigers will win far more than their far share of games in 2015, making yet another return to the playoffs.

The White Sox did more than their share to get better throughout this offseason. Picking up Jeff Samardzija to go along with an already decent rotation that includes Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, among others, and adding David Robertson to their bullpen, the Sox pitching staff is good enough to compete in 2015. What things will come down to is if their offense can perform. Jose Abreu will likely have another year close to that of his impressive rookie debut in 2015, and that alone will go a long way in making the Whit Sox competitive. But in addition, the White Sox picked up Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera to go along with Alexei Ramirez, Emilio Bonifacio and Adam Eaton. If everything goes as planned, it could turn out to be an exciting season in Chicago. But even so, I don’t think they are a good enough team to win the division. They’ll have to battle it out for a Wild Card spot at best.

Playing in such a strong division, I don’t feel the Indians can finish any better than fourth, despite being a good team. Their lineup is strong, with Yan Gomes set to have a breakout year, along with Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley as well as established veterans Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. With players like that set to take the field each and every day, the Indians should be able to score their fair share of runs. However, while they can score runs, they may not be able to consistently prevent the opposition from scoring them. Beyond Corey Kluber, who is undeniably their ace after he won the Cy Young award in 2014, the Indians have Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and Gavin Floyd, but none of them have been able to prove they can be good in the majority of their outings. Whether or not their pitching can come through will tell the tale for how their season turns out.

Unfortunately, the Twins are likely facing a last place finish, yet again. Minnesota has tons of pitchers who have shown flashes of greatness at times over the course of their career, but they currently rest as a huge question mark. Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes, Tommy Milone and Ricky Nolasco all have great potential to have a good 2015, but none are a slam dunk by any means. On the flip side of the coin, their lineup could be either good or bad this season, all depending on numerous factors. With guys like Joe Mauer to lead the way, along with Torii Hunter, Brian Dozier and Aaron Hicks, there is always the chance that the Twins make some sort of run during the season and wind up doing better than I am expecting. However, it would take nearly everything going right for them, and with so much unpredictability, I just don’t see that happening for them — at least in 2015.

WEST

1. Mariners

2. Angels

3. Athletics

4. Rangers

5. Astros

When all is said and done, the Mariners could turn out to be the best team in all of the American League. From top to bottom, they are an extremely solid team, and will win a ton of games in 2015. For starters, their rotation is terrific. With Felix Hernandez leading the pack, and Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton also in the mix from one night to the next, any team facing the Mariners will inevitably have a battle on their hands to score runs each and every night. But Seattle should have no problem with that. Just missing the playoffs last season, the Mariners proceeded to get better in the offseason, picking up Nelson Cruz to go along with fellow slugger, Robinson Cano. Also possessing Mike Zunino, Brad Miller, Kyle Seager, etc., the Mariners have very few holes in their entire roster. For me, if they fail to win the division in 2015 they didn’t live up to their full potential.

But with all of that said for the Mariners, the Angels will certainly do their part in giving them a run for their money in the American League West. After posting a near 100 win season in 2014, the Angels are looking to have another postseason push this time around. I think C.J. Cron is going to have a breakout season, with David Freese having a bounce back year. In addition, the Angels got a bit stronger by adding long time Ray, Matt Joyce, to go along with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, both of which will have another star year. It’s their pitching, though, that controls how they do in 2015. Last season, Garrett Richards truly made a name for himself, and he should have another good season this year. But after that, things are truly unpredictable. C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Jered Weaver all have a lot of potential to be good, but whether or not they actually do will determine how the Angels finish 2015.

A lot of people — myself included — gave the Athletics a hard time this offseason when they made several moves that seemed to weaken their team. However, now that the dust has settled, and people have been given the chance to look at those moves, they truly didn’t hurt them that bad. Even so, a finish any better than third in 2015 would truly stun me. The Angels and Mariners are simply too good. Nonetheless, with Sonny Gray, Jesse Chavez and Jarrod Parker leading the pitching staff, the A’s will still be able to find a way to hang in the mix. I liked the offseason pick up of Josh Phegley to go behind the plate, as well as the acquisitions of Brett Lawrie, Billy Butler, and Marcus Semien. All are good players, and each will give a little something to the club. But despite the amazing ability of the A’s in recent years to have an average team on paper that blew away the competition, I don’t think that will happen this season.

The Rangers are somewhat of a disappointing team. A recent powerhouse team in the division, the Rangers aren’t likely to do much better this season than they did in 2014. But they could end up surprising a lot of people if everything happens just right. After all, they have several players looking to redeem themselves from a down 2014 season. Prince Fielder being the biggest example of that, as he came over from the Tigers to the Rangers only to play in 42 games all year. I look for him to have a much needed bounce back season, however. But while Fielder may have another star caliber year, the Rangers took a true hit this past week, with Yu Darvish undergoing Tommy John surgery, meaning he will miss the entire 2015 season. That is a true blow to the Rangers, even with Derek Holland and Yovani Gallardo to fall back on. I don’t think things will turn out well enough for them to finish very high in the standings.

Year after year, the Astros have been promising to have a great team that can compete with all of the other teams in the division. But despite visible improvement in 2014, I don’t feel that they stand a chance at taking on the Mariners, Angels or Athletics. If anything, they may compete for fourth place with the Rangers, but that’s as good as I could possibly see them doing. But it’s not for a lack of talent. The Astros have a good lineup, with sluggers Chris Carter and George Springer, along with Jon Singleton, Jose Altuve and pickup Evan Gattis, but their pitching will likely be too below average for them to post any big win numbers. Beyond Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh, the Astros truly don’t have much pitching to speak of. The Astros as a whole will likely have their moments, with some great games coming here and there, but the Astros postseason bound season will have to wait at least one more year.

Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.

Sandoval, Ramirez Agree to Multiyear Deals With Sox

26 days after winning it all with the Giants, Pablo Sandoval is heading to Boston.

Receiving a five-year deal from the Red Sox, reportedly worth around 100 million dollars, Sandoval is set to don a uniform other than that of San Francisco for the first time in his career, going to the Red Sox after three World Championships won with the Giants.

Reportedly offered around the same deal, both in years and dollar amount, by the Giants as was given to Sandoval by the Red Sox, a lot of people question why Sandoval, coming off a World Series title, would leave and join a team thatMLB: World Series-San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals was one of the worst in baseball in 2014. But despite the Sox’ down 2014 season, there are many predicting a bounce back year for them in 2015.

A two-time All-Star, Sandoval will certainly help the Red Sox moving forward. Though Sandoval hasn’t hit 20 or more home runs since 2011 — his best all around year came back in 2009, when he blasted 25 homers (career high) and recorded 95 RBI’s (career high) to go along with a .330 average (career high) — that’s not to be expected from Sandoval each and every year. He’s still a respectable .294 career hitter, and a great defender at third base.

Staying healthy this past season, playing in a career best 157 games, Sandoval was able to record 16 home runs and drive in 73 runs, all while batting .279. While that’s certainly solid numbers for a third baseman, and around what you should expect Sandoval to produce from season to season, his most value comes in the postseason, where Sandoval has proven to be one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history.

If the Red Sox can find a way back to the playoffs in 2015, they should see a level of Pablo Sandoval that far exceeds his regular season statistics.

But Sandoval isn’t the only player that could help the Red Sox return to the postseason. Another player who should help the Red Sox’ playoff hopes is Hanley Ramirez, who the Sox also picked up on Monday.

Coming over from the Dodgers, where he hit .283 with 13 homers and 71 RBI’s while manning the shortstop position this past season, Ramirez is receiving a four-year deal from the Red Sox, coming out to 88 million dollars. However, for Ramirez, who has played the infield for all of his career, there’s a slight catch in the contract.

RamirezDue to an already set infield, with newly signed Pablo Sandoval at third and Xander Bogaerts holding at shortstop, the Red Sox’ current plan involves moving Ramirez to left field — a postion he’s never played before. Getting placed in front of the Green Monster at Fenway Park, it will surely be interesting to see how Ramirez fares in the outfield, especially with the 37-foot wall looming behind him.

More importantly, however, sending the three-time All-Star, Ramirez, out to left field takes away the spot of Yoenis Cespedes, who the Sox acquired via trade for Jon Lester in the second half of the 2014 season.

With Cespedes an odd man out, and numerous other outfield options, including Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, etc., Boston will definitely have to move at least a couple of their players. Desperately in need of pitching, many feel it would best serve the Sox to trade away a non crucial outfielder (possibly Cespedes?) in return for some good pitching. And they’re rumored to be looking into doing just that.

But although Boston still needs to do some more work on their pitching situation, the signing of Ramirez would appear to be a good deal. The 2006 Rookie of the Year with the Marlins and Most Valuable Player runner up in 2009, when he hit a staggering .342 with 24 home runs and 106 RBI’s, Ramirez will likely be a nice fit for the Red Sox, regardless of the fact that he won’t be playing his favored position.

A .300 career hitter, Ramirez hasn’t been a superstar level player in a few years, but the potential to be one still remains. Ramirez in set to be 31 years old when the 2015 season begins, but he still can be a big impact on any team he’s on, and that’s more than you can say about a lot of players in baseball.

A Red Sox team that finished last in 2012, only to come back and win the World Series in 2013, and then wind up near the bottom of the pack in 2014, it will be intriguing to see what happens with them in 2015. Signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez will definitely go a long way in improving their record, but it will take a few more changes to get the Red Sox where they want to be.

However, if the signings of Sandoval and Ramirez are any sign of things to come this offseason, the Red Sox could be setting themselves up to make another playoff push in 2015 and beyond.

Several Teams On the Outside Looking In

Inevitably each and every Major League Baseball season a handful of teams fail to live up to expectations placed on them at the start of the year. Whether a team simply doesn’t play to the best of their ability, or if it’s injuries that keeps them from performing well, a few teams always end up short of where they were projected to finish the year.

The Diamondback’s, Rangers, Red Sox and Rays are all examples of that from the 2014 season. People from all over the baseball world selected theRangers majority of those teams to make solid pushes at the postseason, but all of them but the Rays are going to finish dead last in their division (the Rays will finish fourth in the American League east). Truly disappointing endings for what were supposed to be promising teams.

On the flip side, a few teams that no one saw coming always go on a major run in any given year, passing big time teams, and leaving many people scratching their heads as to how they’re doing it.

But while the winning streaks of underdog teams are always exciting, a lot of those type of teams can’t keep up their torrid runs for an extended period of time, subsequently falling back down to their normal levels, and missing the playoffs.

For the Marlins, Brewers and Yankees, they were those type of teams this season. No one saw them doing much of anything with the rosters they had going into the season, but they each went on runs at one point or another this season, proving a bunch of people wrong. None more so than the Brewers, who ended up being one of the biggest rise and fall team in years.

After leading the National League central division for 150 days of the season, the Brewers went into a major, major slump. A slump that caused them to plummet through the standings, currently sitting five games back of the second Wild Card spot. With under a one percent chance of making the postseason according to MLB.com, the Brewers’ year is all but over, despite their great efforts.

The Indians and Mariners are a couple of teams that are still in the race for the second Wild Card but are likely going to miss out, even after great runs this year gave their fans something to get excited about. Given under an eight percent chance of the postseason, it’s going to take an unprecedented string of events for either of them to make it in. But as has been proven time and time again with baseball, anything can happen.