By Jeremy Aibel
With the MLB season right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to give fans of each team something to look forward to for this upcoming season.
Tampa Bay Rays- While the Rays have limited offensive weapons (as in no one outside Evan Longoria), their pitching staff is among the best in baseball. With young studs such as Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore (when he comes back in June), and Jake Odorizzi the Rays have a chance to be a great team this year if they add some offensive pieces before the trade deadline. If they don’t add pieces, their pitching should keep them in lots of 1-0, 2-1 games.
New York Yankees- The 1-2 punch of Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. When healthy last year these two were among the best in baseball. In his rookie year Tanaka went 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA. Pineda went 5-5 with a 1.89 ERA last year after being injured for the past two. If these two somehow stay healthy for the whole year the Yankees could ride them to the playoffs.
Toronto Blue Jays- As if the combo of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista was not scary enough for opposing pitchers, the Blue Jays went ahead and got Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin. Throw in a healthy Jose Reyes and you can expect some fireworks in Toronto.
Baltimore Orioles- A healthy Manny Machado. One of the best players in the league in 2013, it seemed Machado could do no wrong. He was a magician in the field and offensively was a stud. He hit .283 and led the league with 51 (!!!) doubles. Then he got hurt and 2014 was a down year. But he is back and better than ever.
Boston Red Sox- The Red Sox have the best offense in baseball. There, I said it. Their lineup will include David Ortiz, Allen Craig, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Napoli, and Dustin Pedroia to name a few. That’s scary, especially if Pedroia and Napoli bounce back after a rough season.
Detroit Tigers- The young infielders Nick Castellanos and Jose Iglesias (yes, really). Iglesias was at first known just for his defense but quickly proved he could hit, posting a .303 average in 2013. He missed all of last year with an injury but is ready to come back. Nick Castellanos has all the potential in the world. He has a silky smooth swing and is an above average fielder. He just needs to put it all together.
Kansas City Royals- The Royals finally made the playoffs last year (their first trip in 28 years) and lost to the Giants in the World Series. Their offense is essentially the same and their pitchers, other than James Shields, have also all stuck around. Fans should be excited for them to build on the success of last year.
Cleveland Indians- Prospect Francisco Lindor. This smooth shortstop is going to be an absolute stud. A likely early June call-up, Lindor might just be the guy that pushes the Indians over the hump and into the playoffs. While he is not the best hitter, he more than makes up for it with his defense. Besides, the Indians have enough bats in their lineup to make up for Lindor.
Chicago White Sox- New additions Melky Cabrera, David Robertson, and Jeff Samardzija. Add these three players to a team already with Chris Sale and Jose Abreu and you’ve got something.
Minnesota Twins- Bryon Buxton and Michael Sano. These two prospects are going to be tearing it up very soon. Buxton is the overall number one prospect and Sano is one of the top third basemen in the minors.
Los Angeles Angels- Mike Trout. This kid is the reigning AL MVP and is the new face of the MLB. Oh, and he is only 23. Not only that but he has steadily improved since reaching the big leagues. This offseason Trout made a pledge to strike out less and to put the ball in play more. Sounds good to me.
Oakland A’s- Whatever Billy Beane is doing. Look, I have no idea what his plan is or what he is doing in the slightest. That being said, I trust him because he might be the greatest baseball mind in the world.
Seattle Mariners- The best team they have ever had. End of discussion. This team has it all. Power bats, contact bats, speed, fielders, summer call-ups that could make a difference and, of course, pitching. Do not be surprised when they are still playing deep into October.
Houston Astros- Actually, a few things. The improvement they showed last year, Jose Altuve, George Springer, and the future. Jose Altuve is the little man that could. Last year he hit .341 with 56 stolen bases. That is insane. Before getting hurt George Springer was a man on a mission. As a rookie he hit 20 home runs and had an on base percentage of .336. Not too bad. Finally, the Astros have a lot of great prospects on the way. The future looks bright in Houston.
Texas Rangers- Look, last year was a wash. Seemingly everyone on the team got hurt for an extended period of time. But with all negatives comes a positive. In this case the Rangers learned just how good their farm system is. And guess what, it’s pretty darn good. A team consisting of guys that should have been in Double A won 67 games. That really is not too bad. Between the Astros and the Rangers the future looks good in Texas.
Washington Nationals- That utterly unfair pitching rotation. When you have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Tanner Roark (who had a 2.85 ERA in 198.2 innings last year), and Gio Gonzalez you are doing something right. The Nationals have six starters who could be aces for a lot of teams.
Atlanta Braves- Atlanta decided to blow up their team this offseason so we are looking at one of the weaker Braves teams we have seen in a while. That being said, Andrelton Simmons is no longer injured, which means more ridiculous defensive plays from him this year.
New York Mets- The return of Matt Harvey. Before requiring Tommy John surgery during the 2013 season he looked like a Cy Young winner and the guy who could carry the Mets to the playoffs. He took some extra time off to make sure his elbow was good to go, and now that it is we can return to watching Harvey dominate batters once again.
Miami Marlins- The Marlins might just have the best outfield in baseball. Throw in the fact that the oldest member is 25 and now it is definitely the best outfield in the league. Everyone knows about Giancarlo Stanton, but not everyone knows Christian Yelich (.284 with 21 stolen bases last year) and Marcell Ozuna (23 home runs). Not too bad if you ask me.
Philadelphia Phillies- Whatever they get in return for Cole Hamels. The Phillies are in rebuild mode right now and they need to trade Hamels. He is one of the best in the game, reliable, and on a team-friendly contract. Whatever they get in return, it’s going to be huge.
St. Louis Cardinals- The rise of Carlos Martinez. Every year the Cardinals are a solid team with very few holes. This year is no different. With that in mind, the one guy I think could make them a World Series contender is Carlos Martinez. This dude can light up the radar gun and his offspeed is untouchable. He just needs to put it all together.
Pittsburgh Pirates- We know what Andrew McCutchen is going to do so I won’t write about him. Instead I will discuss Gregory Polanco. This guy was supposed to be a stud but really did not perform all that well in his rookie season. I expect he will turn it around this year and be the gold glove winning, .300 hitter that he can be.
Milwaukee Brewers- Whether you love him or you hate him, you can’t deny the fact that Ryan Braun is talented. The 2011 NL MVP has really trailed off the last two years though. That being said, he has looked great this spring and I expect big things out of him this year.
Cincinnati Reds- The game changing speed of Billy Hamilton. Once this guy gets on first you might as well put him on second because he’ll steal it anyway. It does not matter what you do, he is going to be safe. What I’m saying is that once Hamilton gets on base the Reds will almost definitely score. The pitcher won’t be fully concentrated on the hitter, Joey Votto will be up, and a single anywhere will score Hamilton.
Chicago Cubs- Kris Bryant. Move over Jon Lester and Joe Maddon, Kris Bryant is the real story in Chi-town. Bryant is on a whole different level than everyone else. He already has eight homers this spring and hit 43 homers in 138 games while hitting .325 last year. Wow.
Los Angeles Dodgers- Clayton Kershaw. This dude gets better every year. And now he is entering his prime. With a 1.77 ERA last year Kershaw walked away with the Cy Young. Now he is back and ready for some playoff wins in 2015. Expect him to have a Madison Bumgarner type playoff run.
San Francisco Giants- I decided I wanted to be different from everyone else and not pick Bumgarner. Instead I am going to say Joe Panik. This guy was money last year down the stretch and into the playoffs. He hit .305 and played stellar defense over 73 games. This year I expect more of the same, only over a whole season.
San Diego Padres- Not only did they have their best season in quite some time last year, not only did their young pitchers show a ton of promise, but the Padres went out and signed James Shields, Will Myers, Matt Kemp, and Justin Upton. I do not know what to expect from this team but I do know Padres fans have a lot to be excited about.
Colorado Rockies- Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Look, I know they are always injured and always crushing the dreams of Rockies fans but the fact remains that these are two of the most talented players in the MLB. If they can stay healthy, watch out.
Arizona Diamondbacks- The meat of the lineup. Paul Goldschmidt is a stud. Mark Trumbo can be really good and can hit the ball a mile. Add Cuban signee Yasmany Tomas to the mix and you’ve got a scary 3,4,5 in your lineup. I highly suggest you look at YouTube videos of him if you never have because it is awesome.
All in all every MLB fan has something to be excited about this year and I look forward to another fantastic year of baseball.