Part II of Michael Collazo’s Major League Baseball Preview. Today, Latino Sport Talk’s
Baseball Yoda dissects the American League and reveals his Playoff and World Series’ Predictions.
BAL-di-more: Cats should just trust in Buck Showalter. This team always has to prove detractors wrong. They say the O’s are not good enough on the mound. The advanced metrics don’t predict a top of the division finish. But in a weaker AL, the Orioles still have the best team. Offensively even without Nelson Cruz they will get back Manny Machado off injury and a potentially refreshed Chris Davis. Adam Jones is still excellent. Matt Wieters hopefully will be healthy enough to play much of the season. I like their starters. Chris Tillman is really solid. The rest of the starters keep this team in games. Buck has a great skill of maximizing his bullpen – like getting tons of saves out of a non-strikeout closer like Zach Britton last season – so expect his team once again to win lots of close games. This team wins 90-92 games and wins the East.
BAH-ston: Boston could win the division but I think it’s based on whatever potential trade they would make to upgrade this year’s rotation. I wonder if Ben Cherington has the patience to
potentially sacrifice this playoff season to avoid a quick fix and hold onto his core of young prospects and rookie players. The Red Sox can win the East with Cole Hamels at the top of the rotation but the Phillies would want a Blake Swihart and/or a Eduardo Rodriguez with a couple others. Boston’s offense is really good. They added Pablo Sandoval to a cast including David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez now in LF. I really like Rick Porcello, who could become the new ace of the pitching staff.But the rest of the rotation has questions. Can Clay Bucholtz stay healthy? Justin Masterson was so bad last year. Can he be decent? Wade Miley -is he going to be any good? Their bullpen is without Koji Uehara early on so we will see how that breaks out. Cherington’s next move – or lack of moves – could change things but I think they are a little short to win the division.
The Weeknds (The Raptors got the Drakes, so the Blues Jays got The Weeknds, namean?): Toronto flirts with the playoffs but never gets there. I think it’s more of the same. Offensively they will be exciting to watch. Joey Bats and Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion – who is maybe the most underrated big slugger in baseball – all hit bombs. Jose Reyes isn’t a superstar but he’s good at SS. C Russell Martin is the Canadian native who returns to North of the Border to help the national club. Dalton Pompey – another hoser! – is an interesting-looking young player. But their pitching lacks. I love Mark Buerhle. He is excellent for what he does. At this point, however, he would be a better fit being your third or even fourth best starter. RA Dickey has that knuckleball flopping in the wind so who knows how he does. Drew Hutchison walks too many people. Their bullpen might be the fourth of fifth best in the division. Toronto sadly will not be a “King of the Fall”…ok, I had to squeeze in The Weeknd reference
Ybor City: This franchise is rebuilding and is in a sort of financial flux. Owner Stuart Sternberg is seeking a new stadium in Tampa while they try to negotiate a break from its lease in St. Petersburg. Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon have exited while Matthew Silverman and Kevin Cash now take the reins on this re-building process. But Tampa didn’t draw great when they were threatening to win a World Series. How about this year? Tampa always has good younger pitching but this season much of the best guys are hurt. Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Matt Moore are all hurt. I do like David Archer and he feels ok. Their lineup could surprise, with established guys like Evan Longoria (who had an off year from him in 2014), James Loney and Astrubal Cabrera teamed up with guys like Steven Souza, Jr. and Kevin Kiermaier who could have break out years. I wouldn’t be surprise if Tampa’s leadership is once again smarter than all of us and finishes third but you have to wonder about the hurt pitching staff’s ability to get Tampa above .500.
Los Yanquis: They old, son! That’s really the root of the problem. CC Sabathia, Mark Teixiera, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, A-ROD,,,if this were 2007 this team would be awesome! Brett Gardner turned out to be a nice player and he’s more valuable in this era of less power. Jacob Ellsbury is a good player. But can you rely on the vets to hold up and all play 140-150 quality games? You can’t DH half the team to give them rest. I really like Masahiro Tanaka, but we will see how he maintains after injury. Sabathia may be in real life a fourth starter at this point. The keys are younger starters Miguel Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi. If both pitch like third starters the Bombers could end up playing meaningful games in September. Otherwise this team I think wins 75 or so games. I don’t expect all the pieces to hold up.
No Mistake By The Lake: This will be my surprise pick. This team has upgraded their offense with Brandon Moss, who should pop homers in Progressive Field. Michael Brantley has become a five-tool threat. Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes give them patience and power at the plate. They have depth with guys like Mike Aviles, David Murphy and Ryan Raburn. At SS, you may see a young player named Francisco Lindor by the All Star Break. The key of course will be their starting pitching. Cory Kluber won the AL Cy Young but can he maintain that level of success? Carlos Carrasco – a player received in the 2009 Cliff Lee deal – finally showed he could be really good late last year. He needs to help again. I like T.J. House. Zach McAllister and Trevor Bauer had off years in 2014 so they could be due to make a step back up again. Cody Allen will close the door in the bullpen. I really like Terry Francona’s depth on the field and on the mound. I predict them to win 92-94 games and win the division.
The Tiggers: This team still can rake. Miggy looks good. VMart looks ready for Opening Day. JD Martinez had a great 2014 season. Detroit also has Ian Kinsler at the top of the order and Yeonis Cespedes helping hit diggers down the order. Scoring runs won’t be a problem. Their starters have questions though. David Price is excellent and Anibal Sanchez is a solid pitcher.
But Justin Verlander is hurt and you have to wonder if he is no longer an elite pitcher. He might be a fourth starter at this point. They acquired Alfredo Simon who pitched into good luck last year. I don’t expect him to have as good a season. So really Detroit’s staff is vulnerable. Indeed the teams is known to get what they need to help but they will have competition in that category during the trade deadline season. The bullpen is always the weakness so that doesn’t change. Can Joe Nathan be better this year? Can Yoakim Soria pitch like he did in Kansas City again? Can Job Chamberlain or Bruce Rondon help hold leads? This Tigers team is still very good but will have a fight to get into the playoffs.
The Royals: What a run they had. And you could say they under-achieved last year and still got into the playoffs. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas both did not hit last year as expected then got hot in time for the playoffs. The lineup does not draw a lot of walks, they are more a contact-and-speed offensive team. Despite this, they used defense and pitching – particularly historically great relief pitching – to come within an out of a World Series title. Now a combination of factors may keep the Royals marching in place while the division has gotten stronger. Gone is James Shields and Billy Butler. Yordano Ventura is their ace now. Guys like Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie are solid but none have overwhelming stuff. Instead of Butler, the DH with be Kendrys Morales, who could be a huge step down. I would even expect KC to DH signee Alex Rios then play Jarrod Dyson in CF and once again Lorenzo Cain in RF. Their bullpen is still their strength but you can go from all-time awesome to just really good and that ends up losing you a few more games a year. This team is still good – like 84-88 wins – but don’t think that will get them into the playoffs this year.
The South Siders: I really like the off-season The Pale Hose had. Jeff Samardzija is a starter with great stuff. Team him at the top of the rotation with Chris Sale and the under-rated Jose Quintana and that sends shivers down the spines of fellow AL Central teams. They got two really solid offensive players in Melky “Cereal” Cabrera and Adam LaRoche. Jose Abreu is a beast! Avisail Garcia may break out this year. But Chicago may have weak points that lead them to fall short of a playoff spot. They may not have a legit starting player at 2B and 3B. We will see what production they get out of their fourth and fifth starters and their bullpen behind David Robertson. If the White Sox get good play in those spots, they could be in wild card contention.
The Twinkies: This could be the worst team in the American League and will be in the “Race to the Bottom Standings” with the Phillies and Braves. They are waiting for their really good crop of prospects. Up now are players like Kennys Vargas – a Boricua slugger who could hit 25 HRs this year – Oswaldo Arcia and Danny Santana. Veteran guys include Brian Dozier – who has good pop at 2B – and Torii Hunter who is back in the uniform for possibly his last season. But as they wait for more younger reinforcements, this rotation is bad – Phil Hughes and a bunch of guys, now not including signee Ervin Santana who just got suspended 80 games for taking that stuff. The bullpen doesn’t have much of a track record. However, in the near future the Twins are greatly anticipating mega prospects Byron Buxton and dominicano Miguel Sano and pitchers like Jose Berrios to lead the big club in the future.
The Mighty Mariners: I am biased for Seattle is my favorite American League team but this team is poised to win this division and contend for best team in baseball honors. They have had starting pitching for years led by Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Now Taijan Walker and James Paxton will help with depth in the rotation. Offense was their issue but now it’s another strength. Robinson Cano is an MVP-caliber player. Signee Nelson Cruz helps with power. Kyle Seager is really good at 3B. Mike Zunino is a young catcher who is poised to hit more this year. Austin Jackson and Seth Smith give the team good ABs at the top of the order. Their bullpen has a proven closer, Fernando “Rally Platano” Rodney, and tested set-up guys. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mariners win 95-98 games this year. And what team wants to deal with King Felix three times in a playoff series? Could be an exciting year in the Pacific Northwest.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and of the State of California which used to be a part of Mexico way back in the day: I still really like the Angels so this west I think will be a brawl for the division. The Angels I think will be playoff bound but have more questions in their
starting staff than Seattle. Garrett Richards is healthy again so he is key. Can he pitch like an ace as he did before his August injury? Matt Shoemaker could be huge to repeat his 2014 performance. Can Jered Weaver do what he does without regressing this year? Can CJ Wilson return to Rangers years form? Hector Santiago – shout out to North Ward Newark, NJ! – is what he is – a lefty fourth starter. Can this group compete with Seattle’s rotation? Mike Trout is the best player in the world and the former title holder, Albert Pujols, still is highly productive. Their offense may produce less than Seattle for they can’t bank on Josh Hamilton (get better, my brother), David Freese or Johnny Giovatella to be even average contributors at their positions. I like their bullpen with Huston Street and Joe Smith among others. So this is a playoff team but maybe not a division winning team. A trade to cure a problem could change things. Should be fun out west.
The Oaktown 357s: Billy Beane is smarter than all of us. But you trade or let go Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris, Lester, Samardjia, Brandon Moss and others and expect to contend? Yet, like always, they have balance and have flipped their offensive strength on its head this season. Coco Crisp is hurt now but should give you quality top-of-the-order at bats this season. He now will team up with Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld in an outfield that may not hit 40 HRs all together but may could steal 100 bases collectively. The team likes what they have seen from Bay area native Marcus Semien at SS. Ben Zobrist can play multiple positions well. But Ike Davis at 1B? Brett Lawrie at 3B? Billy Butler who struggled last year at DH? An outfield with little power? They need lots of things to come together but that has happened to its benefit before. Sonny Gray is really good and Scott Kazmir has been solid but the rest of the rotation would need to step up. I do like Oakland settling with Tyler Clippard at closer. He will do the job. I may look silly with this prediction for it’s hard to bet against Billy Beane’s genius but I don’t see more than a 77-82 win team in Oaktown this summer.
My Bros The ‘Stros: Houston is coming for this division, man. This will not be the year they contend but they should potentially be a spoiler in August and September. Who doesn’t love Jose Altuve? He was a hit-and-steal machine last year! George Springer is a great talent. I am excited to see both these guys play this summer. Springer, Chris Carter and Evan Gattis will hit bombs this summer. Jed Lawrie and Luis Valbuena are under-the-radar solid players at SS and 3B, respectively. Their pitching doesn’t breed tons of confidence, but a couple of guys – Colin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel – could prove their 2014 successes were not flukes. Scott Feldman is the type of guy they trade in June or July for a young piece. I like their idea of giving Luke Gregerson the closer role in a spring training competition. He should be fine. The pitching I think is too weak to dream of contention but prospects like Carlos Correa and pitchers Mark Appel and Vince Velasquez allow ‘Stros fans to dream a little dream for the near future.
Tejas: Sometimes a franchise has a run that just painfully comes up short of the mountaintop again and again. Then the GM tries desperately to stay ahead of the curve and reload but rebuild at the same time in hopes of getting back. But the baseball gods are unkind, man. Yu Darvish is down for the year. Tommy John. Now Yovani Gallardo has to be the ace- and he has looked bad in spring training. Can you really ask Derek Holland and Colby Lewis to fully rekindle their past successes? Ditto Neftali Feliz (don’t mention 2011 please!) at closer? The Rangers have Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus as your offensive core. Is that an elite crew at this point? Leonys Martin is what is he is – .270/.320/7/45 – right? How can they matchup a very tough AL West? With Darvish they had a chance but at this point, I see them in the 75-78 win range in a very tough division. It sucks but the run looks to be over.
NL East: The Nats NL Central: The Cardinals (gotta do it) NL West: LA Dodgers Wild Card I: Pittsburgh Pirates Wild Card II: Miami Marlins
AL East: Baltimore Orioles AL Central: Cleveland Indians (Go Tribe!) AL West: Seattle Mariners Wild Card I: LA Angels Wild Card II: Detroit Tigers