For my 500th post, I decided I’d go away from the previews for a moment and look forward to the season in a different way, with my annual predictions and useless guesses. While there are other, more important analysts who gather data and use systems to generate these types of lists, I just use the ol’ noggin. You can find my 2012, 2013, and 2014 versions to see how I did in the past, but this is a new season and a new idea on how the league will look at the end of the 2015 season.
1. Boston Red Sox
2. Baltimore Orioles
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. New York Yankees
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Minnesota Twins
1. Oakland Athletics
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Texas Rangers
5. Houston Astros
AL Wild Cards
Los Angeles Angels
1. Washington Nationals
2. Miami Marlins
3. New York Mets
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Philadelphia Phillies
1. Pittsburgh Pirates
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Cincinnati Reds
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Diego Padres
3. San Francisco Giants
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies
NL Wild Cards
San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals
World Series Prediction
Washington Nationals over Boston Red Sox in six games
AL Manager of the Year
Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
The Detroit Tigers lost RHP Max Scherzer to free agency and RHP Rick Porcello in a trade. Sure, they still have LHP David Price and they added OF Yoenis Cespedes to their offense, but this will be a new AL Central, one that will be very competitive, and will have a division winner who isn’t Detroit for the first time since 2010. The Indians have a very intriguing team, full of youth and talent, with much of that talent still not totally tapped. The rotation has reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, with RHPs Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco behind him, while healthy seasons out of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher will add to the production of Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis (who should rebound from a lousy 2015), and Michael Brantley. All Francona needs to do is utilize the talent, which is something that he is an expert at doing. Cleveland will win more than 90 games and have their first division title since 2007.
NL Manager of the Year
Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins
The NL East is going to be down…way down. The Nationals will likely win the division by ten or more games, but the Marlins will be competitive, and Redmond will look very intelligent by being in the position as the field general. He has Giancarlo Stanton and his massive power to lead an offense that has quite a bit of talent. Christian Yelich will solidify himself as one of the top outfielders in the NL this season, and Marcell Ozuna will round out the outfield with his impressive power in center; however, it doesn’t stop there. With Mike Morse providing more power at first, Martin Prado being acquired to handle the hot corner, Adeiny Hechavarria‘s slick glove at short, and Dee Gordon‘s blazing speed at second, the Marlins will shock a lot of people. The possible mid-season addition of Jose Fernandez to the rotation could push them over the top, as Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Dan Haren, and Jarred Cosart hold down the fort until then. The Marlins are a solid team, and after the Mets lost Zack Wheeler, the Braves went into rebuild-mode, and the Phillies continue to be awful, they’ll be the only team capable of hanging around Washington in the NL East in 2015.
Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
This young man doesn’t turn 24 until August and he already has been an All-Star three times, been an All-Star MVP, and an AL MVP – he has 2.67 career MVP shares thanks to finishing 2nd in each of his first two full seasons. People may become nitpicking about things with Trout, such as his 184 strikeouts in 2014, just to try to disprove the fact that he is the best player in baseball. That won’t change in 2015. Even the computers think that Trout is going to continue his tear:
Depth Charts: .299/.396/.557, 103 R, 31 HR, 20 SB, 96 RBI
ZiPS: .301/.401/.577, 113 R, 35 HR, 23 SB, 114 RBI
Steamer: .297/.391/.537, 105 R, 30 HR, 21 SB, 90 RBI
If you had the No.1 overall pick in your fantasy draft, the only other acceptable player to take would have been…
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
McCutchen continues to be an incredible producer, hitting the elite .300/.400/.500 level the last three seasons, while having a unique blend of power and speed. He is the leader of the Pirates outfield, which could become one of the greatest outfields in the history of baseball with Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco reaching their peak years of production in coming seasons, but McCutchen will continue to be the anchor of that group, and of the Pittsburgh franchise. The 2015 season won’t be any different for this superstar, who will win his 2nd MVP award in his age-28 season, leading the Pirates to the top of the NL Central.
AL Cy Young
Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
“King Felix” had his best season to date in 2014, but it wasn’t enough to earn his second Cy Young award, as Corey Kluber’s majestic season was able to catch the eyes of the voters, and with good reason. Still, it’s unbelievable to see Hernandez reaching new levels of excellence considering he has been such a dominant starter for nine full seasons. Even in his age-29 season, it’s likely to see continued gains in the production, as Hernandez demonstrates a mastery on the mound that rivals that of…
NL Cy Young
Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
The last several seasons, I didn’t want to believe. I questioned Kershaw in the past due to his higher walk rates, so I kept thinking that the NL West would belong to Giants’ left-hander Madison Bumgarner. While Bumgarner had an incredible run last season, he can’t carry Kershaw’s jockstrap, and it’s likely that we’re watching the closest thing to Sandy Koufax that our generation will ever see. It is just coincidental that Kershaw has the Dodgers uniform and left-handed delivery in common, and, hopefully, those are the only similarities that we will see between the two. Kershaw is gifted, and he is a gift to baseball fans. He will continue his dominance in 2015, likely winning 20 games again due to his incredible individual talent, as well as the talent behind him on the field.
AL Rookie of the Year
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
Getting Andrew Heaney for Howie Kendrick may go down as a coup for the Angels. Not only did they free the payroll of $9.5 million, they got a major league ready arm with a half-a-dozen years of team-control to put into their rotation. While Heaney doesn’t have No.1 starter stuff, he is quite capable of having a long, successful career. He’ll begin that run of success in 2015 on Day One, and while Josh Rutledge and Johnny Giovatella aren’t as good at baseball as Kendrick, it was a deal that the Angels had to make, as they don’t have the talent in the minor league system to improve their rotation, and they needed that youth with C.J.Wilson aging quickly and Jered Weaver not getting any younger.
NL Rookie of the Year
Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
Many will be swinging on the coattails of Kris Bryant, I’m all aboard the Soler bandwagon in 2015. He has incredible power and he managed to bulk up his already impressive physique over the winter. In his age-22 season, he reached the majors and combined to hit 20 home runs and drive in 77 runs in 86 games and 333 plate appearances over four levels. If Soler stays healthy, he will have better numbers than Bryant, and he won’t be spending the first month in the minors. The end results will be impressive, even for a 23-year-old who will need to adjust to the league having tape on him.
10 BOLD Predictions
Johnny Cueto will be on the Boston Red Sox by the trade deadline, as the prospects would be more valuable to the Reds than a draft pick.
- Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar will combine for over 340 strikeouts, 27 wins, and 59 starts covering 390 innings for the Cleveland Indians, but Corey Kluber is still their best pitcher.
- Masahiro Tanaka will not make 15 starts before he finishes the tear of his UCL and has Tommy John surgery.
- Gerrit Cole will finish in the top three in the NL Cy Young – behind Kershaw and Bumgarner.
- Xander Bogaerts will hit 20 home runs and drive in at least 75 runs at the bottom of the Red Sox order.
- Drew Hutchison is the top pitcher on the Blue Jays, and a top 30 starting pitcher, while Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez flop in their roles at the back of the rotation.
- Addison Russell finishes the season as the Chicago Cubs starting shortstop when Starlin Castro is traded for young pitching at the trade deadline.
- Jose Ramirez is so valuable to the Cleveland Indians that they don’t call-up Francisco Lindor until September.
- Joc Pederson hits 25 home runs and steals 30 bases while striking out over 160 times and posting a batting average under .250 – George Springer-lite.
- Justin Verlander rebounds and posts an ERA under 3.85, a WHIP under 1.30, and more than 190 strikeouts in 215 or more innings.
10 BOLD SLEEPERS
- Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox: crazy speed and he looks like he’s the Opening Day starter
Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: the chains should be off and he is on his way to stardom
- Jake Lamb, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks: if Yasmany Tomas has hands of stone and can’t handle third, Lamb will, and he has managed to hit .321/.406/.553 in 1,079 minor league at-bats.
- Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies: Arenado makes contact, plays in a hitter’s paradise, and will see many of his doubles turn into home runs as he matures. He’s well on his way to becoming elite.
- Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz is bound to be hurt, Joe Kelly is questionable (at best), and Justin Masterson may never rebound to his 2013 form – enter this guy.
- Nathan Eovaldi, RHP, New York Yankees: Huge fastball, tremendous gains in his walk-rate, and he will begin to miss more bats. He’ll end up being the Yankees’ top starter due to Tanaka’s injury.
- Collin McHugh, RHP, Houston Astros: Even after finishing 4th in voting for the AL Rookie of the Year in 2014, McHugh may sneak under the radar. His 9.1 K:9 and 6.8 H:9 are for real. He could, sneakily, become the next Corey Kluber.
- Raisel Iglesias, RHP, Cincinnati Reds: He struggled with command in Cuba, but he has electric stuff, a strong repertoire, and a spot in the Cincinnati rotation. As bad as they look on paper, he has plenty of opportunities for run support with a healthy Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier.
Jesse Hahn, RHP, Oakland Athletics: Hahn posted solid numbers in 12 starts for the Padres in his age-24, rookie season in 2014, but he’s going to a similar offensive-drowning park in Oakland, with a very talented roster behind him. He could be a top 30 starting pitcher by the end of the season with his strikeout potential.
- Alex Gonzalez, RHP, Texas Rangers: Better known as “Chi Chi”, Gonzalez, a former 1st round pick out of Oral Roberts in 2013, has been a quick-moving prospect for the Rangers, reaching Double-A Frisco last season, with good reason. He has a mid-rotation ceiling, but with the Rangers desperate for healthy pitching with their sudden curse on their roster and talent, Gonzalez could get a long look, showing enough talent to be roster-worthy in fantasy leagues.