We’ve endured our second consecutive cold, gray winter here in the Mid-Atlantic area, but we are only five days away from the best day of the year: Opening Day! I’ll be giving my predictions for the 2015 baseball season on Gordy’s Sports World, ESPN1380, and has become my custom, I’m committing them to paper. Well, “to screen” as the case may be.
Washington—Best starting rotation in baseball and a solid offense. The big question for the Nats is can they stay healthy?
Miami—Up and coming team with an improved offense.
New York—Losing Zach Wheeler to elbow surgery hurts their playoff chances, but the Mets are trending upward as well.
Atlanta—Made some puzzling moves in the off-season. The Braves don’t have the young talent of the Marlins or Mets or the “old” talent of the Nationals. Still, they’ll be kept out of last place by . . .
Philadelphia—Whatever moves the Phillies make, such as trading Cole Hamels, will be too late for this year. Or next. Or 2017.
Pittsburgh—Most balanced team in the division with a very exciting offense.
St. Louis—This team is always more than the sum of its parts.
Chicago—Another up and coming team. I’ll take talent over experience, but 1) experience does count for something and 2) much of the Cubs’ talent is still unproven at the major league level
Cincinnati—Not enough pitching and too many holes in the lineup.
Milwaukee—Their 2014 collapse carries over and carries them all the way to the cellar. They may have enough to overtake the Reds.
Los Angeles—Howie Kendrick is a solid addition and will help fill the offensive hole left by Matt Kemp’s departure. As long as Kershaw and Greinke stay healthy, the Dodgers should have enough.
San Diego—Padres engaged in an exciting overhaul, at least in the outfield. Quick: Name their starting shortstop. I can’t either.
San Francisco—Somehow, they manage to win the World Series every other year. This is the other every other year, however, and with that offense, I still don’t know how they got as far as they did last year.
Colorado—They’ve got some talent, but pitching is always an issue for the Rockies.
Arizona—This team just doesn’t seem to fit together. As with Atlanta, the Diamondbacks are trying to stave off disaster by mixing in one great player with a few decent prospects and a lot of mediocrity. That’s almost always the formula for disaster.
Baltimore—Best defense in baseball, power bats, and vastly underrated starting pitching. The modern game is won with the entire 40-man roster and none is deeper, especially pitching-wise than the Orioles; and no one knows how to juggle a roster throughout the season like Buck Showalter.
Boston—Much improved over last year, which wouldn’t be hard. Pablo Sandoval is a bally-hooed move, but if Manny Machado returns to his 2013 form, Sandoval will only be the fourth best third baseman in the division. Not quite the pitching depth to overtake the Orioles. If the Red Sox get Cole Hamels before June, then look out.
Toronto—They could win the division, but the injury to Marcus Stroman hurts their chances and they don’t have the depth of Boston or Baltimore.
New York—Every game is old-timers day at Yankee Stadium! It wouldn’t surprise me if the Yanks were in or near first at the end of May and at or near last by the beginning of September.
Tampa Bay—Even without David Price, the Rays still have good pitching, but they just won’t hit enough to escape last place unless the Yankees’ summer collapse is complete.
Detroit—It is easy to think that the Tigers regressed, but they have the top three starters in the division. Martinez, Cabrera, Martinez, and Cespedes is not a Latin law firm, but may be the best middle of the order in baseball.
Cleveland—Corey Kluber and a much improved team led by Terry Francona takes the Tribe near the top.
Chicago—Another improved club. The Sox could give the Indians and even Detroit a run for its money.
Kansas City—Will the Royals young talent continue to improve or is regression in store? Their lineup isn’t as good as Detroit’s. Ned Yost will have no cure for the World Series hangover. Many other pundits seem to agree.
Minnesota—Unless new manager Paul Molitor can put himself in the lineup and hit the way he did 30 years ago and the Twins bring back Frank Viola and Mudcat Grant, they will remain in the cellar.
Seattle—Nelson Cruz will make a nice addition hitting behind Robbie Cano. The Mariners have the pitching and their young players are ready to step up.
Los Angeles—Solid team even without Josh Hamilton (who’s contributed very little anyway), but not enough to hold off the Mariners.
Oakland—Like St. Louis, the A’s always seem to amount to more than the sum of their parts. I just don’t like their parts this year.
Houston—On the way up. Finally. The Astros have assembled some good young talent.
Texas—How the mighty have fallen. Injuries killed them last year, but the Rangers haven’t done much to improve. Yu Darvish is out for the year with a bad elbow injury, so it will be awhile before Texas is back in the saddle.
National League Wild Card
The Cardinals for sure which will leave the Padres, Cubs, and Marlins slugging it out for the second spot. Gioncarlo Stanton hits a walk-off homer on the last day of the season to propel Miami into the Wild Card game. Here’s a good reason to take Miami: They play the Phillies and Braves 36 times.
American League Wild Card
The Red Sox and Indians both clinch their respective spots with one week to go and no one will care what happens on the last day of the American League season.
Check back at the end of September and we’ll see how I did!