Major League Baseball season preview


A.J. Hairston

Senior Cameron Hines and junior Adam Kovel examine the upcoming MLB season.

Cameron Hines and Adam Kovel

After many off-season acquisitions, trades, and surprising signings, players find themselves ready and eager to kick-off the MLB season.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: After an impressive 96-win season, the Orioles will be hard-pressed to repeat that type of success. Lineup cornerstones Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis departed via free agency, leaving the offense spread thin. Feared left-hander Andrew Miller also left for greener pastures. The forecast predicts to not be completely gloomy, however: Baltimore could return to the playoffs with healthy seasons from Manny Machado and Matt Wieters, an MVP-type season stud outfielder Adam Jones, and continued success in the rotation.

New York Yankees: The spotlight remains on A-Rod, but it should be on the aging roster. The rotation appears fragile and the offense consists of many regulars on the disabled list. New York could find success if they stay healthy; there remains plenty of talent and experience on the team. But staying healthy may be a stretch for the Bronx Bombers.

Toronto Blue Jays: A trendy pick to win the AL East, Toronto possesses no shortage of right-handed boppers; the trio of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and newly-acquired Josh Donaldson will surely strike fear into opposing pitchers’ hearts. The key to the Blue Jays’ success rests in its starting pitching. Should young Marcus Stroman become an ace this season, watch out.

Tampa Bay Rays: A massive overhaul resulted in a new manager, GM, and roster. The starting five, as usual with the Rays, appears stout, led by the underrated Alex Cobb. However, the already punchless offense lost Ben Zobrist and Wil Myers this offseason, which will prove the downfall of Tampa Bay.

Boston Red Sox: The Sox splurged this winter, signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to bolster the offense, in addition to 19 year-old Cuban sensation Yoan Moncada. If everything goes according to plan, the offense will prove championship-caliber. What the Red Sox lack is a true ace. Do not be surprised if they pull off a blockbuster trade to acquire someone like Cole Hamels, as it appears Boston is all in.


AL Central

Detroit Tigers: The Tigers’ run of division titles may come to an end this season. The AL Central has strengthened considerably, while Detroit has lost ace Max Scherzer, with no true replacement. Star power still exists, with notable names like Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, David Price, and Yoenis Cespedes. But the lack of depth and the shoddy bullpen may cause this team to come unraveled.

Kansas City Royals: Last October’s team of destiny desperately wants to return to the postseason after coming so close to winning it all, but ultimately leaving with a bitter taste in their mouth. James Shields’ departure hurts the rotation and the clubhouse, but most of the core from last year’s squad remains. With increased confidence and a real sense that they can win it all, the Royals could easily make the playoffs and earn a chance at redemption.

Cleveland Indians: My personal World Series pick, the Indians, do not seem to command the respect they deserve heading into 2015. Corey Kluber, last year’s Cy Young winner, headlines a talented pitching staff including young guns Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer, among others. From position to position, the Indians’ offense possesses no glaring weaknesses and proves solid, if not spectacular: MVP vote-getter Michael Brantley, dual-threat Jason Kipnis, and on-base machine Carlos Santana form an above average offensive core. The bullpen remains formidable behind lockdown closer Cody Allen. You heard it here first: Cleveland will win it all!

Chicago White Sox: Like their crosstown rivals, the Cubs, the White Sox made several notable improvements to their team, including trading for Jeff Samardzija and signing David Robertson and Melky Cabrera. Chicago could reasonably compete for the AL Central crown this season.

Minnesota Twins: Like previous seasons, the Twins figure to be bottom-dwellers this season. Twins fans can take solace in the fact that mega-prospect Byron Buxton is close to reaching the bigs.


AL West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Behind Mike Trout, the Angels will remain contenders regardless. But the return of ace Garrett Richards makes Los Angeles a true threat for the World Series.

Oakland Athletics: In a classic Billy Beane offseason, the A’s dumped most of their roster and filled in with relative no-names. This bold strategy has paid dividends for Oakland before, and it remains difficult to doubt Beane’s genius. A playoff run is within reach.

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners look to build off of a successful season and finally break into the postseason. A sneakily potent offense, led by Robinson Cano and newly acquired Nelson Cruz, paired with a potentially lethal rotation could make this happen.

Houston Astros: Houston’s days of 100-loss seasons may be over. But this inexperienced young squad will not be able to keep up with the big boys of the West, at least not this season. George Springer should be a fun a player to monitor, however, as he could rise to superstar status.

Texas Rangers: After years of contention, everything fell apart last year for poor Texas. Assuming healthy seasons from Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo,and Yu Darvish, the Rangers are a prime candidate for a bounceback season.


NL East

Atlanta Braves: The Braves seem to challenge the Phillies for the worst record in the conference this year. After trading away fan favorite Jason Heyward and star Justin Upton, along with another key hitter Evan Gattis, they seem destined to put up the least runs scored. While they depleted their bats, they remain a strong pitching core with adding Shelby Miller, which will most likely to cause them to lose every game 1-0.

Philadelphia Phillies: Think about this: For what presumes to be the worst team in baseball, they signed only one player in free agency. Aaron Harang will join the squad to help them win some games in what would have been a decent signing five years ago. They still have to pay Ryan Howard and expect him to start, and they refuse to trade Cole Hamels for some mind-boggling reason. But hey, at least Philly has the Eagles to be somewhat competitive.

Miami Marlins: The fish rocked the offseason by locking up Giancarlo Stanton to a monstrous $325 million contract over 13 years, the largest in MLB history. They also look forward to phenom Jose Fernandez coming off Tommy John surgery and signed Ichiro and Michael Morse to add some depth. Expect them to compete for a wild card.

New York Mets: The Mets signed Michael Cuddyer in hopes that he still has enough juice left in the tank, but the big talk of the town is that of Matt Harvey. The former All Star pitcher comes back this year with something to prove, and to go with former Rookie of the Year Jacob DeGrom and local success Zack Wheeler, they have the potential for a feared rotation.

Washington Nationals: What do you do when you have an entire starting five rotation above average in the league? Naturally, go out and sign a perennial Cy Young candidate in Max Scherzer. They also signed a solid reliever in Casey Janssen. With an odd man out, they will look to deal a pitcher (probably Jordan Zimmerman or Tanner Roark) for some extra bats, balancing their squad in attempt to finally go over the hump to be World Series champions.


NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers keep a solid core with Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, and Ryan Braun but trade Yovanni Gallardo, depleting their staff. In this newly-competitive division, they likely challenge the Reds for fourth place.

St. Louis Cardinals: The potential World Series contenders added another gem in Jason Heyward, but it cost them Shelby Miller. While the tragic death of prospect Oscar Taveras may prove inspiration for another run, they simply did not improve the roster enough to run away with the division, and will have to compete against tough up-and-coming teams for the NL Central crown.

Chicago Cubs: Sign arguably the best manager in the game: check. Sign an ace of the rotation pitcher: check. Have the best farm system finally start churning out big-league ready prospects: check. Get a leadoff hitter to reach base consistently: check. The Cubs finally look to be competitive with Joe Maddon’s hire, Jon Lester’s signing, and Dexter Fowler’s trade along with mega-prospect Kris Bryant awaiting his call up in mid-April. Anthony Rizzo promised to win the division, but they should realistically hope for a wild card this year and higher aspirations in the future.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Their future is bright with Gerrit Cole on the mound and perennial MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen roaming the outfield. Add up-and-coming star Josh Harrison and Starling Marte, and they have a legitimate shot to unseat the Cardinals for first place. However, losing Russell Martin may prove detrimental as he was the leader of their team.

Cincinnati Reds: The Reds are kind of floating around the division. On the verge of Yankees-old, they are in the decline. Joey Votto cannot stay healthy and Billy Hamilton needs to find a way to get on base before he can steal. On the bright side, they signed Paul Maholm, I guess.


NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks signed Cuban defector Yosmany Tomas, a great player to begin the rebuilding process with. However, they traded a leader in Miguel Montero, which will also hurt their pitching without his elite framing tools. They still look to finish in the bottom of this stacked division.

Los Angeles Dodgers: As far as free agency went, their biggest splash Brandon McCarthy’s signing. But the main move went to their trade with San Diego in which they sent Matt Kemp, Tim Federowicz, and $32 million for Yasmani Grandal and two others. This greatly improved their catcher needs and will prove little harm for their crowded outfield. They also received veterans Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins. With these additions to emerging star Yasiel Puig and arguably the best pitcher of all time, Clayton Kershaw, the

Dodgers should compete for a World Series title.

San Diego Padres: Where do we start? An offseason to remember immediately put the usually weak Padres into a contender. They bolstered their outfield and arguably possess the best one in the league now, with Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, and Wil Myers leading the way. They also signed “Big Game” James Shields and Derek Norris, and took a chance on Will Middlebrooks. Padres fans have never been more excited about their team, and with good reason. They will compete for the playoffs and be a force in the future.

Colorado Rockies: With some unexciting signings this free agency, the Rockies’ focus remains whether or not Troy Tulowitzki and/or Carlos Gonzalez get traded. They continue to rebuild, and that will translate to a lack of success this season.