MLB 

Season Preview

The start of the regular season is right around the corner, let’s take a look at what’s to come. This preview features the biggest story lines, players to watch, and even predictions on division winners.

 American League East

How will Masahiro Tanaka do in his first year as a Yankee?

This offseason saw a lot of big deals happen, one of the biggest being the signing of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. The Yanks forked over $155 million dollars over seven years for the 25 year old who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 27 starts. While Tanaka is clearly talented enough to pitch in the big leagues, it will be interesting to see how much early success he will have especially considering the Yankees were in dire need of pitching help for this season.

Player to watch

Chris Davis, Baltimore 1B

Last year, Davis led the MLB in homeruns with 53. It was a breakout year for the 28 year old, who had only had 77 homeruns in the previous 5 years. Davis will have to prove this year that he is not a one year wonder and that these type of numbers will be there every year.

Predicted Division winner

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox went 97-65 last year and are expected to produce similar numbers this season as well. Even though this was one of the most talented divisions last year, the Red Sox proved that they were ahead of the rest after winning the World Series. With leader David Ortiz resigned and a well-balanced starting lineup, the Red Sox should be expected to win the East.

American League Central

Can the Tigers find a replacement for Jose Iglesias?

Detroit will be without starting shortstop Jose Iglesias for 4-6 months, he suffered a stress fracture in both legs. Iglesias hit .303 last season with Tigers and Red Sox.  The Tigers have already acquired two shortstops to replace the stout defender for the upcoming season.  They have made separate trades with the Orioles for Alex Gonzalez and the Angels for Andrew Romine. Losing Iglesias is a huge blow for the defending AL central champs, so if they want to win it this year they will need a replacement that can contribute all season.

Player to watch

Justin Masterson, Cleveland SP

Masterson was recently named the opening day starter for the Indians. After a shaky 2012, he delivered last year with a 14-10 record and a 3.45 ERA with 195 strikeouts.  The Indians finished as runner ups last year and one of their big problems was pitching. They only got 73 quality starts (27th in the MLB). Masterson will need to come up with a big year for the Indians to have a chance at claiming the pennant.

Predicted Division winner

Detroit Tigers

Even without Iglesias, the Tigers are the favorite to win the central once again. With one of the best pitchers in the game in Max Sherzer, and an overwhelming lineup the Tigers will be hard to beat. Sherzer is coming off a 21-3 year with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts, resulting in his first Cy Young award. Miguel Cabrera is one of the games most feared hitters, giving the Tigers a good shot at a trip to the World Series.

 American League West

Can the talent in Los Angeles produce wins this year?

The Angles are easily one of the most talented teams in the MLB, but they fell below the .500 mark last year (78-84). Their hitting was above par, considering they finished in the top 10 in most of the hitting categories even without 1B Albert Pujols who only played in 99 games last year because of injury. The pitching will have to take an enormous step up this year if they want to contend in their division.

Player to watch

Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland LF

The A’s won their division last year and Cespedes was a big factor.  Hitting will once again be the biggest thing for the A’s, especially now that they will not have Bartolo Colon on the mound this year. If Cespedes can once again be a threat, then the A’s will have another shot at winning the West.

Predicted Division Winner

Texas Rangers

Last year’s runner-up will be a big threat this year. While they did lose OF Nelson Cruz, the Rangers were able to acquire OF Shin-Soo-Choo in free agency. They also made headlines with a deal that sent Ian Kinsler to the Tigers and brought in slugger Prince Fielder(1B). With Kinsler gone, second base was open for 21-year-old Jurickson Profar. Profar has been considered a future all-star by many and will now assume an everyday role. The pitching for the Rangers is the only shaky part. Yu Darvish will lead the rotation due to the loss of Matt Garza to free agency. If the bullpen can hold up this year, the Rangers should claim the West.

National League East

Will the bats in Washington be effective this season?

Last year, the Nationals pitching was one of the most well rounded staffs in the league, but they failed to make the playoffs. Largely in part of their struggles at the plate. They were just 17th in all of baseball with a team batting average of .251, including just one player batting over .280. If the Nationals can get some pop in their bats, they could become a contender this season.

Player to watch

Jose Fernandez, Miami SP

Fernandez is coming off a Rookie of the Year performance in which the 21-year-old went 12-6 with an impressive 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts. The Marlins do not have the best chance at making a run at the post-season, but Fernandez is developing into an outstanding pitcher and should have another good year.

Predicted Division Winner

Atlanta Braves

The Braves won the West last year and should be expected to repeat as champs once again this season. Their rotation is solid all around and their bullpen is one of the best in the game due to closer Craig Kimbrel, 50 saves last year. The lineup also has some bright spots. Justin and B. J. Upton will once again lead the Braves outfield and 3B Chris Johnson is a consistent hitter, along with 2nd Baseman Freddie Freeman

 National League Central

Can the Cubs youth provide wins this year?

It’s been a while since the Cubs have had anything to celebrate, but is that time coming to an end? Theo Epstein is now in his third year as the President of the Cubs and has promised change will be coming soon. It sure seems like it is. The Chicago farm system is filled with talent, like 2nd overall pick Kris Bryant and young slugger Javier Baez. Time will tell if these youngsters can produce wins this season.

Player to watch

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee RF

Bruan will be interesting to watch because he is fresh off a suspension that ended last season prematurely. Braun, a career .312 hitter, will have a lot to prove because of his PED scandal. Can Braun return to MVP form like he was in 2011 or will the rest of his career be shadowed due to his cheating scandal?

Predicted Division Winner

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Despite the loss of AJ Burnett to free agency, the Pirates are still a threat in the division. CF Andrew McCutchen is one of the game’s best all-around hitters and will continue that into this season. The acquisition of Russell Martin will help fill a void in the lineup and Jordy Mercer will be another reliable bat. Francisco Liriano will lead a rotation that was third best in ERA last season (3.26).

 

National League West

Can Colorado’s pitching match its offensive production?

The Rockies rotation was one of the worst in the league last year and finished in the bottom five of all major pitching categories. On the other side, the bats were solid as they  finished in the top half of every batting category. The one exception in the rotation was Jorge De La Rosa, who went 16-6 with a 3.47 ERA. If others can step up and provide quality starts, the Rockies could surprise some people.

Player to watch

Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles RF

While Puig made headlines all season for his incredible plays, this offseason he was in headlines for all of the wrong reasons. Puig was arrested for reckless driving in December. He was very effective on the field, but could his off the field antics hurt his performance on the field? With reports surfacing that manager Don Mattingly is becoming increasingly impatient with Puig, this could be a long year for both the Dodgers and their star outfielder.

Predicted Division Winner

San Francisco Giants

Despite a third place finish last year in the division, the Giants should be real contenders this season. There will be a lot of solid hitters in their lineup. Right fielder Hunter Pence returns after hitting 27 homeruns last year and driving in 99 runs. Despite playing in just 127 games, second baseman Marco Scutaro proved to be a solid hitter and should improve this year. As for pitching, it struggled much of last year. Madison Bumgarner will look to continue his success this year after going 13-9  last season. If the injury bug can avoid the Giants, they have a great chance at winning the division this year.

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