Well, it’s that time of the year again.
Time again for the seemingly endless cycle of initial excitement, heartbreak, fleeting hope and bitterness that is yet another Major League Baseball season.
Since the season is starting in several hours (In the middle of March. In Australia.), I’ve decided to kick off my predictions for the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Since the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers are the first teams to play, I’ve decided to start with the West division of the National League, as they are the only teams who are going to play meaningful games. Have a problem with that? I don’t give a shit.
Teenage obnoxiousness aside, I’ll get to the other division later. Let’s get this party started, shall we?
(For anybody looking for movie reviews: Don’t worry. This isn’t becoming a baseball blog. I would sooner kill myself then write about the Jays every week. Stay tuned for more movie reviews.)
5. Colorado Rockies
2013 Record: 74-88 (5th in division)
Manager: Walt Weiss (2nd season as manager, 74-88 career record)
General manager: Dan O’Dowd
Home field: Coors Field
So, what’s good?: Well, the Rox might have some help on the way for their oft-battered rotation. Flame-throwing right-hander Jonathan Gray should come up sometime in 2015, while Eddie Butler should make his debut later this year. The Rockies also have a pretty decent looking middle of the order with Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael “Hopefully not a fluke at age 34” Cuddyer, newly-acquired Justin Morneau and Wilin Rosario, the best catcher you’ve barely heard of. And, while he’s not exactly Larry Walker, Nolan Arenado is the best Mexican-sounding defensive third baseman this side of Manny Machado.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: Well, while their top three starters (Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood) all had good years, who knows if you can ever bet on pitching consistency at Coors field, especially when the bottom two rotation spots are likely to go to some combination of Juan Nicasio (5.14 ERA in 2013), Franklin Morales (4.62 ERA in 2014) and Brett Anderson (6.04 ERA and a crap-load of injuries in 2013).
And it isn’t even a given that their superstars (Namely, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez) deliver either. Tulo hasn’t managed to play over 150 games since 2009 while Gonzalez hasn’t even really come close to equaling his career high of 145 games in 2010.
Team Grade: C-
4. San Diego Padres
2013 Record: 76-86 (3rd in division)
Manager: Bud Black (8th season as manager, 540-595 career record)
General manager: Josh Byrnes
Home field: PETCO Park
So, what’s good?: Well, like the Rockies, the Padres have some good young talent coming up through the pipeline. Unlike the Rockies, however, the Padres have much more, and they actually have enough in the majors now that you can see a core of people like Chase Headley, Jedd Gyorko, Everth Cabrera, Yonder Alonso and Andrew Cashner establishing themselves. When you consider this and the fact that players like Max Fried, Austin Hedges and Reymond Fuentes are knocking on the door, and you could see a pretty good team emerge in a couple years or so.
In addition, I think San Diego has one of the better bullpens on the game and, going solely by their team page on mlbdepthcharts.com, I fail to see someone who could be considered a weak link, with the exception of Patrick Schuster, who hasn’t pitched above Class A. Huston Street, Joaquin Benoit, Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer, Alex Torres and Tim Stauffer are all names that inspire confidence in me, though.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: There are way too much question marks surrounding this team, most of them injury-related. Headley is injury-prone, as are Carlos Quentin, Alonso, Cameron Maybin (Who is already on the DL), Yasmani Grandal (Ditto) and Josh Johnson. Also, my memory of Joaquin Benoit blowing leads in the 2013 ALCS is still pretty vivid, so maybe I spoke too soon about the bullpen.
Speaking of Josh Johnson, Lord knows I’m not his biggest fan after contributing a 6.20 ERA to my Toronto Blue Jays last year. However, let’s not forget that he has a very respectable 3.40 ERA for his career and had injury problems last year. This is pretty much the epitome of a low-risk, high reward signing. However, who knows if he’ll be enough to help a rotation that will already be missing Cory Luebke and Casey Kelly.
Team Grade: C+
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
2013 record: 81-81 (2nd in division)
Manager: Kirk Gibson (5th season as manager, 290-279 career record)
General manager: Kevin Towers
Home field: Chase Field
So what’s good?: Aside from their defense and their bullpen, the D’backs don’t have too much to feel bad about. They would have liked to have Patrick Corbin stay off the DL, but even with their best pitcher missing the entire season, they still have a solid, if not particularly special rotation of Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, Bronson Arroyo and Randall Delgado. This talented rotation should benefit from the eventual addition of Archie Bradley, the best pitching prospect in baseball, who is expected to debut some time this year.
I like their lineup too. Paul Goldschmidt is a wonderful young player, and as good a guy as any to build a team around. I’m a big Aaron Hill fan as long as he stays healthy, and Mark Trumbo, Martin Prado and Miguel Montero aren’t anything to sniff at either.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: I hate the D’backs management. I hate, hate, hate it.
I hate that they try to give off the image of false toughness, which always ends up looking like they’re trying too hard. I can’t believe those idiots haven’t figured out that hitting batters is not usually conducive to winning ball games.
Also, they can’t make a deal to save their lives. In recent years, they have given up Justin Upton, Adam Eaton, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Davidson and Trevor Bauer, and are apparently still pondering how in the world they’ve finished at .500 the last two years. Trading away your future tends to lead to mediocrity, guys.
Also, the bullpen does not impress me much. Oliver Perez, J.J. Putz and Brad Ziegler inspire some confidence, but beyond them, nut David Hernandez, Addison Reed and Joe Thatcher cancel that out.
Team Grade: B-
2. San Francisco Giants
2013 record: 76-86 (3rd in division)
Manager: Bruce Bochy (20th season managing (8th with Giants), 1530-1530 career record (579-555 with Giants))
General Manager: Brian Sabean
Home field: AT&T Park
So what’s good?: I don’t really buy the Giants’ demise last year. It was pretty much the same team that won the World Series, but I guess the good luck went the other team’s way more often this year.
I can easily see the Giants being a playoff team this year. This is a damn solid team. I still have faith in Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong turning it around, and Madison Bumgarner is looking like a bona-fide ace, though I’m still iffy on Tim Hudson dominating again. Other than them (And maybe Michael Morse) there isn’t that much holes in this team. I’m a big Brandon Belt fan…
… and he, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro are great table-setters for Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval. Even Morse and Brandon Crawford can do some pretty serious damage to any team caught unawares.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: Like San Diego, there are a bit too much question marks surrounding this team then I’d be comfortable with if I were Bruce Bochy (Whom I believe is a hall of fame manager, by the way). For example, there are four, count ’em, FOUR starters in the rotation (Everybody besides Bumgarner) who are coming off bad or injury-filled seasons, and their lineup, while good, won’t be setting the world on fire anytime soon.
Team Grade: B+
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 record: 92-70 (1st in division)
Manager: Don Mattingly (4th season as manager, 260-225 career record)
General manager: Ned Colletti
Home field: Dodger Stadium
So what’s good?: A better question might be “What isn’t good?”. With the exception of second base, every position is plugged up by an above -average to excellent player, and the rotation has , quite possibly the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball, with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu. Bringing in Paul Maholm and Dan Haren to round out the bottom of the rotation isn’t quite as big a splash as I thought they would make (I thought they were a shoo-in for Masahiro Tanaka, personally) but it could pay very big dividends.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: Nothing really. The only problems I foresee are at the second base position, where Cuban acquisition Alexander Guerrero (Who has previously only played shortstop) is struggling so badly defensively that he may be replaced in the early-going by a tandem of Dee Gordon and Justin Turner. Also, Josh Beckett may make the rotation and I think he’s washed up, but otherwise, I can’t really rag on the Dodgers.
Team grade: A
To be continued…