After a frigid winter, spring is finally here. And with it comes the 2015 Major League Baseball season.
This offseason was one of the most chaotic in recent memory. In terms of player movement, more than 80 players swapped uniforms. Free agents saw more than $1.6 BILLION this winter. That number doesn’t even include the record-setting contract for Miami powerhouse outfielder Giancarlo Stanton… A 13-year, $325 million contract extension.
If you had bet the Royals and Giants would face off in the World Series last year… You might have pocketed an even larger sum than Stanton himself. But if you think that’s where the madness ends, I’m happy to guide you into the murky waters of the 2015 season.
Here’s what you can expect (and what I think will happen) this season.
American League East:
1. Baltimore Orioles
2. Toronto Blue Jays
3. Boston Red Sox
4. New York Yankees
5. Tampa Bay Rays
I’ll admit… It’s still very strange to see the Orioles as a favorite in this division.
Sure, the Red Sox put quite a lot of money into their offense this offseason. Look at the signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. But it’s easy to forget that the Orioles won 96 games last year.
They had the second best record in the American League…only two games behind the Angels’ win total and 6 above the Tigers. If you’re keeping score, those are the only other two teams in the AL to have won 90 or more games.
They lost Nelson Cruz to free agency—a big bat in the lineup to lose. But this organization has made it very clear over the last three years that they value talent and fundamentals over flashy numbers and inflated contracts.
Similar to the mold of the Twins in the previous decade—and the Cardinals of the last decade plus—they’ve shifted the attitude of the organization from the ground up. Playing small ball, gathering young, inexpensive, hard-throwing pitchers (particularly in their bullpen), and being led by one of the most motivating managers in the game in Buck Showalter… This team may not look like a threat. But they can easily best anyone out there…and ultimately it’s the wins that will get them places. Not the flash.
The Blue Jays and Red Sox are two teams in baseball that truly break the mold of what the game today has become. Both teams have incredibly talented offenses. Having experienced such a drop in power production across all of baseball, these two teams have the long-ball potential from top to bottom in their lineups that you just don’t see anymore.
That being said, their pitching can lose a lot of games.
I give the edge here to Toronto. They have a better balance of effective veterans and young talent on their pitching staff. This allows them to trend in the right direction.
The Red Sox made modest moves with their rotation this offseason, acquiring Rick Porcello from the Tigers and Wade Miley from the Diamondbacks. But both pitchers tend to be the innings eaters and their skill sets will likely result in poor outings…especially having to pitch in the hitter-friendly Fenway Park for half the season.
At best, these teams will be contenders for the division. But they’re more likely to float around the .500 mark for most of the season. Neither is likely to make the playoffs this season.
The Yankees are a tough team to gauge. But the age and health issues around that team leave room for very little confidence. Simply put, many, many things would have to go right for this team to win this year, or even play well enough for a .500 record.
First baseman Mark Teixeira has battled multiple injuries over the last few seasons, with wrist problems and hamstring issues being the biggest problems.
Carlos Beltran has two bad knees, experienced pain in his elbow for most of last season, and is expected to play right field for a full year after spending most of 2014 as the team’s primary designated hitter.
Of course, this year’s designated hitter is supposed to be Alex Rodriguez, who is returning to the team after multiple hip surgeries and what amounts to nearly two seasons away from everyday baseball.
Former ace C.C. Sabathia is also returning from career-threatening knee surgery after missing a large portion of 2014. He is currently dealing with a significant dip in velocity and effectiveness.
The current ace of the staff, Masahiro Tanaka, was electric in the first half of last season. But a slight tear of his ulnar-collateral ligament made him miss most of the second half after opting to rehab the injury instead of having the usual surgical procedure done (which he may need anyway if a re-tear occurs).
Beyond that, this is a team that endured lackluster performances from catcher Brian McCann in his first season after signing as a free agent, third baseman Chase Headley, and shortstop-turned-second baseman Stephen Drew. Both players came to the Yankees in midseason deals, both played poorly at the plate, and both were re-signed this offseason.
This is a team with the talent, if everything breaks right, to win 90 games. But this is also a team with the potential for monumental failure given their payroll. Hope for the former if you’re a fan, but expect the latter…. Chances are this is the year they don’t finish with a winning record.
The Tampa Bay Rays are once again a mess in the AL East.
After trading away David Price mid-season last year…trading away former top prospect Wil Myers to the San Diego Padres…and losing manager Joe Maddon to the Cubs…this is a team with mediocre talent and no immediate playoff future.
They have no choice but to rebuild…with the hope that Evan Longoria can return to a higher level of play and put together a young team around him. Their pitching has promise. But the offense is nowhere to be found. Without the ability to score runs this year…this is a team that can lose 90 games.
We’re just getting started. We have the rest of the American League to profile—not to mention the National League.
Keep your eyes on Manliness! Over the next few days, we’ll give you insight from our resident baseball guru. It’ll be more than enough ammo for you to hold your own in any barstool debate.
Next up? The National League East.