2015 World Series Predictions
by Badger, Baseball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Following one of the most active winters in baseball history, the cusp of the 2015 Major League Baseball season is upon us and promises to be as exciting as ever!
Excitement is in the air this spring in even more major-league cities, places like San Diego, Miami, Seattle, Toronto and even (gasp) the Cubs all have a renewed hope of a pennant due to all of the big name players changing addresses this past offseason. Factor in that the small-market Kansas City Royals reached the World Series in 2014, and teams throughout MLB are cautiously excited that this season could be their year if the breaks go their way.
This all means it is once again time to take a look at all 30 teams and assess their chances against the odds for each individual division title, the American League and National League pennants, and offer up a fearless prediction on the 2015 World Series winner by taking a short, middle and longshot contender for baseballís ultimate prize.
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Last year the Royals played their way through the wildcard playoffs and all the way to the World Series, failing just short of cashing in a huge payday of 40-to-1 they would have earned had they finished the task.
As always, letís take a deeper look at the junior circuit and see where the value sits in regards to divisional and AL Pennant futures odds.
American League East
Boston Red Sox (odds to win AL East: +195)
After another down season and roster purge in 2014, true to form the Red Sox opened up their checkbook again this winter and brought in a whole host of new faces for the clubhouse. Boston remade the left side of the defense by signing Pablo Sandoval to play third and picking up Hanley Ramirez to play leftfield in front of the Green Monster. Offensively, Boston is only suspect at the bottom, where second-year SS Xander Bogaerts and the catcher platoon of Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hannigan with be asked to flip the batting order back to the top. The Red Sox rotation was completely remade by adding Joe Kelly (St.L), Wade Miley (Ariz.), Justin Masterson (Clev./St.L) and Rick Porcello (Det.) to holdover Clay Buchholz, so the potential is there for at least two of three of them to keep the Sox in the hunt for at least an AL East title deep into September.
Toronto Blue Jays (odds to win AL East: +215)
Itís not officially the offseason in the major leagues until the Blue Jays and GM Alex Anthopoulos make a trade or free agent signing in hopes to bring a title back North of the border. This year they picked up two key pieces in catcher Russell Martin and third baseman Josh Donaldson to bolster an already potent lineup with Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and Edward Encarnacion in the heart of it. Grey-beards R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle need to carry a suspect rotation thatís counting on youngster Marcus Stroman to pitch beyond his years.
Baltimore Orioles (odds to win AL East: +370)
The Orioles won 96 games and the AL East title last season to the surprise of many (except me, I took them at 5-to-1 in last yearís predictions), and thatís even despite missing two of their better players in Manny Machado and Matt Wieters for most of the season and big-bopping first baseman Chris Davis to a 25-game suspension at the end of the season. So despite a little bit of roster turnover, the Orioles are back intact for the most part and ready for another try. Once again, Iím not excited about a rotation that has Chris Tillman at the top, but Buck Showalter seems to pull the right strings and closer Zach Britton has emerged as one of the best in the American League.
New York Yankees (odds to win AL East: +450)
Unlike previous offseasons, the Yankees were awfully quiet. Thatís not to say they didnít try and pick up players, but resigning Chase Headley and trading for speedster Dee Dee Gregorius hardly qualifies as noise in the Bronx. Of course we have the return of Alex Rodriguez saga yet to play out, but the Yankees outfield (Carlos Beltran, Jacob Ellsbury and Brian Gardner) and right side of the infield (Stephen Drew and Mark Teixeira) will match anyone in the AL East. With Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia still working their way back from surgery, and considering the Yankees are totally relying on those two to carry an otherwise ďiffyĒ rotation (Michael Pineda, Nate Eovaldi, Chris Capuano), thereís a reason why New York is flying off the grid going into 2015 Ö if thatís possible.
Tampa Bay Rays (odds to win AL East: +600)
The Rays were so competitive for so long that a roster-turning, manager-purging, rebuilding with youth was long overdue. So gone is Joe Maddon, bye bye David Price. For what itís worth, the Rays rotation is so young and stacked with talent like Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Drew Smyly Jake Ororizzi and Alex Colome, and thatís not even counting lefty Matt Moore who is expected back in July. Tampa Bayís left side of their infield with Evan Longoria and Asdrubal Cabrera are top-notch, but a lack of proven offense everywhere else in the lineup could cause a problem of scoring runs for the Rays this season.
American League East Prediction New York Yankees (+450)
Thereís an interesting crop of potential free agent pitchers that the Yankees could go out and bye if they find themselves close enough to a wildcard spot at the deadline. Pitchers like Cliff Lee, Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Jordan Zimmermann and Jeff Samadzija all could be available, so I donít believe for a second that GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees are going to sit on the hands Ö or their wallet.
American League Central
Detroit Tigers (odds to win AL Central: +205)
The Tigers may have lost pitcher Max Scherzer, but they have quietly made enough moves to keep them right at the top of the AL Central. While it may take until May or June for Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez to both get back to 100 percent health-wise, but when they do, those two combined with pick-up Yoenis Cespedes in the heart of the lineup is destined to drive in runs. David Price, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez are going to have to carry the Tigers rotation, because itís paper thin after those three. If Cabrera and Martinez bounce back quick, the Tigers should hang around in the divisional race, if they canít stay on the field then Detroit may be sellers at the deadline.
Cleveland Indians (odds to win AL Central: +210)
Cleveland and manager Terry Francona seem to have a knack for getting more from less, because when you look at the Indians from top to bottom theyíre not as talented as the top teams in the American League. They added outfielder Brandon Moss to add a little pop to the lineup, but with Jose Ramirez now the full-time shortstop the Tribe with need big improvements out of 3B Lonnie Chisenhall and a rebound season out of Jason Kipnis. The Indians lack of quality depth affects their rotation too, as after Cy Young Cory Kluber they drop off fast and quick with journeyman Gavin Floyd the expected to help lead a group of farm-raised youngsters.
Chicago White Sox (odds to win AL Central: +240)
The White Sox were arguably the most active team this winter, bringing in a whole host of new faces including Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, David Robertson and Jeff Samardzija. The moves were solid, and filled the White Sox needs so perfectly that many inside of baseball considered them the big winners of the winter transaction wire. The biggest question I have is will all the moves work Ö or blow up in their face? These teams that are built for a title run hardly ever make a title run, but if nothing else it should be fun to go to White Sox games again this summer because now they have someone other than Jose Abreu to watch.
Kansas City Royals (odds to win AL Central: +450)
The Royals finally broke free of their ďpotentialĒ label last season and made a late season run that not only got them into the wildcard playoffs, but all the way to the World Series. But as is always the case, this yearís team will be missing some very important pieces that helped them get there last year. The Royals are hoping Yordano Ventura is ready for the pressure of the No. 1 role in the rotation, because they let James Shields walk away this winter. They will also swap Alex Rios for Nori Aoki in right field, which will make the Royals better at driving in runs. If the Royals fail to get back into the AL playoffs, it will likely be because they donít have enough quality starting pitching to get them through the long grind of a 162-game season.
Minnesota Twins (odds to win AL Central: +2575)
For the first time in over a decade the Minnesota Twins go into a new season with new leaders in the clubhouse. Hoping to bring back the winning days of old, the Twins hired former star and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor to be the manager, and Molitorís first hire was to bring back former slugger Tom Brunansky as the hitting coach. The new staff will have to mentor a new wave of Twins youngsters like Aaron Hicks, Danny Santana and Oswaldo Arcia to veterans Joe Mauer. The Twins even brought Torii Hunter to try and sell tickets for their new stadium. The wild card in all of this is the Twins rotation is made up of veterans (Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco and Tom Milone) that could end up being a deep staff, or it could blow up and keep the Twins in the cellar for another season.
American League Central Prediction Chicago White Sox +240
I usually balk at taking the team(s) that make the most free agent moves in order to make a playoff run. The moves rarely produce immediate results, but in this case I think the Sox could be the exception. Chicago picked up starting depth, a closer and a few extra bats for the lineup Ö a good balance of moves that will hopefully put them over the top in what could be the most competitive division in MLB.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels (odds to win AL West: +160)
The Angels are once again considered one of the favorites in the West, but their chances have already taken a hit with the uncertain status of outfielder Josh Hamilton. The lineup still has pop, with Mike Trout setting the table for Albert Pujols and David Freese, but if this team is going to reach the playoffs they will need huge seasonís out of youngster Kole Calhoun and new DH Matt Joyce. The Angels will also need C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver to get back to their previously dominating stuff on the mound, because the depth behind them is not as strong as in previous seasons.
Seattle Mariners (odds to win AL West: +160)
The Mariners were everyoneís favorite pick last year, and this year theyíve added a few more pieces to the puzzle and have suddenly become the team to beat in the AL West with some of the injuries in spring training at other teamís camps. The Mariners got some protection for Robinson Cano in the lineup by getting big bopper Nelson Cruz this winter, and they picked up a nice piece Seth Smith, but otherwise Seattle is going to go with what they have and take their chances offensively. With Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and the top of a young rotation, they should have as much pitching as everyone else in the AL West.
Oakland Athletics (odds to win AL West: +400)
After making the AL playoffs for three straight years, Aís GM Billy Beane decided close wasnít good enough and dismantled and traded away almost all of his players that still had trade value this winter. So the Aís will have a new third baseman (Brett Lawrie), second baseman (Ben Zobrist), DH (Billy Butler) and first baseman (Ike Davis) when the season starts in April. Oakland could also have pitching issues as it seems that just about everyone on staff (Sean Doolittle, A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker) are all shut down with arm problems this spring. If the Aís contend again in 2015, it will be some of Beaneís best work because I just donít see where they are going to get their performances from this season.
Texas Rangers (odds to win AL West: +555)
One year removed from being big spenders in free agency in 2014, the Rangers are hoping that year two of the experiment goes better than in year one. Last year Prince Fielder was hurt, and Shin-Soo Choo disappeared at the plate. Now we hear that Rangers ace Yu Darvish could be shut down for Tommy John surgery before we even get out of spring training. In fact, Darvish is just the latest Ranger on the injury list joining Derek Holland, Elvis Andrus, Martin Perez, Mike Moreland Ö in a division that is stacked at the top its going to be a huge climb for the Rangers to make it in 2015.
Houston Astros (odds to win AL West: +2600)
I may be in the minority on this, but I actually like the way the Astros are building their ballclub. Houston added Evan Gattis and Cody Rasmus to the outfield to team with young slugger George Springer, and picked up Luis Valbuena at third to go along with Jose Altuve and Jon Singleton on the infield. They decided to go with Luke Gregerson as the closer, and even though their pitching staff isnít made up of big names, youngsters like Collin McHugh and Brett Oberholtzer are good enough prospects that they will overtake Scott Feldman and Dallas Keuchel at the top of the rotation eventually. With a few more of their highly touted prospects coming up, the Astros may not be the team to beat in 2015 but they could be a team that is pesky and hangs around in the AL West race until September.
American League West Prediction Seattle Mariners (+160)
Iím taking the Mariners to win the AL West only because as we sit here today in March, they are perhaps the only team in the AL West that hasnít already hurt their chances with a big spring training injury. The only phase of the game I worry about is the Marinerís bullpen, but I think if they are close enough in July they can always go out and find some help at the trade deadline.
American League Pennant
Based on my divisional winners from above, in the American League Iím going to wager:
Short Ė Seattle Mariners +750 Ė I still think they need help in the bullpen, but they are my short favorite for 2015.
Middle Ė Chicago White Sox +1225 Ė This is either going to be a championship season for the South siders Ö or its going to be crash and burn. Whatever happens Iíll enjoy watching this team in 2015.
Long Ė New York Yankees + 3000 Ė When was the last time the Yankees were considered 30-to-1 to win the American League? Not much is expected out of the team this year Ö which is just the way I like it.
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Once again the San Francisco Giants proved to the baseball world last year that itís still all about pitching. The Giants almost looked like a high school team riding one arm all the way through the playoffs, with the rubber-armed Madison Bumgarner throwing the team on his back and carrying them as far as his left arm could take them.
National League East
Washington Nationals (odds to win NL East: -475)
The Nationals finally cashed in on their ďpotentialĒ label last season, but an early and quick exit in the playoffs put them double-down mode in the offseason so they went out and signed the biggest free agent pitcher on the market by inking Max Scherzer to join an already filthy rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez. The Nats are also moving third baseman Ryan Zimmerman across the diamond to first, penciling in Anthony Rendon to fill his old role at the hot corner, along with adding Yunel Escobar to play second base in a new-look infield. The bullpen may not be as deep, but if their starting rotation carries them like everyone expects them too, the lack of set-up men for Drew Storen may not prove to be their downfall.
Miami Marlins (odds to win NL East: +600)
If it werenít for the Nationals loading up on their rotation the Marlins might have stole all of the thunder in the offseason as far as the NL East is concerned. Miami went out and got some speed at the top of the lineup adding Dee Gordon from the Dodgers to hit in front of Martin Prado and Giancarlo Stanton. They added Michael Morse to play first and try and protect Stanton in the lineup. Miami also added veterans Mat Latos and Dan Haren to try and buy some time until Jose Fernandez gets back to full strength following arm surgery. The Marlins finally have some pieces to surround Stanton with and they should be much better, but they still probably donít have enough to overtake the Nationals.
New York Mets (odds to win NL East: +700)
It has been many years since the team in Queens made more noise in New York than the team in the Bronx, but thatís exactly what some are predicting for 2015. The Mets play in a ballpark where pitching is important, and they have several young arms in Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler and a few savvy vets in Bartolo Colon and Jonathon Niese to try and mentor them. The Mets added Michael Cuddyer to offer that ďveteran presenceĒ in the dugout too. New York even has some depth in the bullpen with Bobby Parnell back to join Jenrry Mejia to nail games down in the final inning. This Mets team isnít flashy, but they could be pesky enough to stay in the NL East race and contend for a wild card spot late into September.
Atlanta Braves (odds to win NL East: +3000)
The Braves were another busy team this winter, making some moves that they hope might turn into addition by subtraction. Atlanta traded away an Upton brother, but most will argue it was the wrong Upton they traded sending Justin to San Diego and keeping B.J. even though heís changing his name to Melvin Upton to try and shake his three-year hitting slump. Julio Teheran leads a rotation that could be solid, but its also very injury prone with Eric Stults, Shelby Miller and Mike Minor and Alex Wood all having a history of spending as much time on the mound as they do on the DL. The Braves bullpen with Craig Kimbrel, Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson will certainly nail down any lead they get after the seventh inning.
Philadelphia Phillies (odds to win NL East: +9000)
Times are changing in Philly, but donít call it rebuilding. Whatever isnít bolted down in Philadelphia, chances are itís on the trading block this summer. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard may not get moved because of their huge contracts, but nobody really knows how long Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee will be wearing Phillies uniforms. Jonathan Papelbon could also be a deadline deal depending on whether or not the Phillies hang around the NL East race long enough. If the Phillies drop out before the All-Star break, all three of those arm could be trade into a pennant race if theyíre lucky.
National League East Prediction New York Mets +700
As much as I think the Nationals are going to be too tough to replace as the alpha dog of the NL East, Iím hoping the Mets will linger in the Nationals shadow long enough to stay within striking distance. Then, all I need is a late-season collapse by the Nats and the Mets will be sitting there to pick up the NL East crown quietly and unassuming.
National League Central
St. Louis Cardinals (odds to win NL Central: +120)
You can set your watch to the fact the Cardinals will be in the thick of the NL Central title race every year, and despite an unusual amount of player turnover in St. Louis this season, you can see the Cards are the short favorite again in 2015. St. Louis added Jason Heyward to blend into the middle of a lineup that already has Matt Holliday, Matt Adams and Yadier Molina. The rotation anchored by Adam Wainwright is thinner than in past years, so young arms Michael Wacha and Marco Gonzales are going to have to pitch above their years for the Cards to continue to own the competitive NL Central.
Pittsburgh Pirates (odds to win NL Central: +245)
The Pirates were one of the least active teams in MLB this offseason, so there really isnít all that much to consider in this space. The most discussed topic at Pirates camp this spring will be who replaces Russell Martin at catcher, and it looks like it could be two journeyman ex-Yankees in Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart. They did pick up a nice versatile utility piece in Corey Hart, just in case Gregory Polanco needs a little more time in the minors or if Pedro Alvarez wants a day off at first. Theyíll need more out of the bottom of their rotation too, where guys like Charlie Morton and A.J. Burnett need to simply pitch better than they have been recently in order to put away the Cardinals.
Chicago Cubs (odds to win NL Central: +320)
After years of putting a mediocre product on the field and telling loyal fans to be patient, it looks like GM Theo Epstein is ready to cash in on all of the talent heís drafted and stockpiled in the minor leagues. The Cubs inked one of the biggest free agents on the market in Jon Lester, added Miguel Montero to play catcher and Dexter Fowler to roam centerfield and now Cubs fans think theyíre ready to break the jinx. Highly touted prospect Jorge Soler should break camp in right, and top-ranked prospect Kris Bryant will be the everyday third baseman before the All-Star break for sure, but the big question is will all of this talent be enough to win when someone not named Lester is on the bump. Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel are nice, but is Arrieta really a No. 2 starter? Time will tell.
Milwaukee Brewers (odds to win NL Central: +875)
Milwaukee also had a quiet offseason, but could easily be an honest contender if they catch enough good breaks and stay healthy. Milwaukee has probably the deepest outfield in MLB with Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun, Khris Davis and Gerardo Parra with all of them bringing a different skill set to the lineup. If they can get one more quality year out of Aramis Ramirez, and another All-Star performance out of C Jonathan Lucroy they could find enough offense to make a thin rotation (Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson) good enough to not fade away in the title race in late August.
Cincinnati Reds (odds to win NL Central: +1150)
Not much is expected out of the Reds in 2015, but that might be just where they want to be going into the season Ö of the radar. The Reds are sort of like the Phillies, stacked with high-price veterans that could still be relevant (Iím looking at you Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce) but seem to be on the downward slide of their careers. Cincinnatiís rotation is more of the same, an aging but solid Johnny Cueto, an injury-prone Homer Bailey and then a bunch of youngsters with questions. The Reds will score runs with their offense, Iím just not so sure whoís going to be on the mound stopping the other team from scoring more runs.
National League Central Prediction Pittsburgh Pirates +245
I picked the Pirates last year, and I think I may have jinxed them with my pick. But I still feel they have the best balance of pitching, hitting and defense in the division. It will likely come down to them having to beat the Cards head-to-head, but Iím willing to revisit the pick for a second chance at the NL Central title in 2015.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers (odds to win NL West: -225)
Another season and the Dodgers are still considered the team to beat in the NL West, but the makeup of the team changed drastically this winter. They will have one of the oldest left-sideís in baseball with Juan Uribe and Jimmy Rollins in Dodger blue, but they also traded away Matt Kemp and demoted Andre Ethier to clear the way for Joc Pederson to team him up with Yasiel Puig to form a young and exciting outfield in LA too. The Dodgers also got better at second (Howie Kendrick) and catcher (Yasmani Grandal) too. The rotation led by perennial Cy Young Clayton Kershaw is still intact Ö thereís a lot to like in L.A. this season.
San Diego Padres (odds to win NL West: +375)
San Diego is known for being a laid-back city, but there was nothing laid-back about the Padres offseason. Proving they are all in for the 2015 season, the Padres changed out all three of their outfield positions (bye Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable Ö welcome Justin Upton, Matt Kemo and Wil Myers) then added a proven ace in James Shields to try and mentor the rotation like he did last season in Kansas City. These types of ďall-inĒ seasons never really seem to produce, and considering the Dodgers are still arguably at every position including the rotation, I just donít think this is going to turn out how most Padres fans are hoping it does.
San Francisco Giants (odds to win NL West: +450)
It seems like it was only a short year ago that I was looking at the Giants roster and trying to assess their chances in 2014, only to pass on them because I wasnít sold on the age of their pitching staff. Then Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy and Tim Lincecum pitched like they used to pitch, the Giants somehow scored enough runs and Madison Bumgarner threw 200 innings in the post-season and they won a second title. An injury to Hunter Pence is going to thin an already paper-thin outfield, but Iím not sure Iím ready to count the Giants out just yet.
Arizona Diamondbacks (odds to win NL West: +4250)
If youíre not familiar with the Diamondbacks farm system, you may need a roster come opening day to follow the new-look D-Backs in 2015, because the new team in charge out in the desert (Tony La Russa and GM Dave Stewart) is going with youth this season. Aaron Hill, Mark Trumbo and Paul Goldschmidt might be the only names people outside of Arizona might recognize. Theyíre going to try Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas at third for now, but he could find his way into the outfield if he canít adjust to the hot corner. I like Josh Collmenter, but thereís no way anybody can call him a legit No. 1 starter, and thatís what he is on the D-Backs weak rotation.
Colorado Rockies (odds to win NL West: +4250)
I donít think thereís a team in the league that hasnít had more injury problems with their most important players more than the Rockies have, specifically SS Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. The good news is that the Rockies have found serviceable outfielders in Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon while Car-Go was hurt. But what always ends up being the Rockies downfall is their pitching, and 2015 is much of the same. Jorge De La Rosa continues to be Coloradoís top-line pitcher, and while good heís just not a No. 1 starter on any other team in the league. If they Rockies start out hot and Tulo and Car-Go are healthy they could make some early noise, but I donít see them lasting into August or September.
National League West Prediction Los Angeles Dodgers -225
Iím not a fan of taking chalk, but other than the Padres, I donít see a team even close to as good as the Dodgers in the West. And the Dodgers pitching is way deeper and stronger.
National League Pennant
Based on my divisional winners from above, Iím going to put a unit wager on:
Short Ė Los Angeles Dodgers +380 Ė Their pitching isnít as deep as Washington, but the Dodgers lineup is better than the Nationals.
Middle Ė Pittsburgh Pirates +1600 Ė Iíd sure like to see the Pirates make a trade deadline deal to get them another top-notch starter, but their small-market restrictions may hurt that cause.
Long Ė New York Mets +1725 Ė Again, the stars and planets will all have be in perfect synchronization, but itís baseball and stranger things have happened.
2015 World Series Predictions
Short Favorite Ė Los Angeles Dodgers +700 Ė Not a lot of holes anywhere on this team, and if there are holes come the All-Star break the Dodgers have deep pockets to fix those holes quickly.
Middle Ė Seattle Mariners +1600 Ė They Mariners are still probably another year away, but if they can find a third starter to go along with King Felix and Iwakuma, they could be tough to beat in a series.
Longshot Ė Pittsburgh Pirates +2700 Ė Its always a balancing act to find a long shot with value that honestly is still a legit threat and not just a ridiculous prayer. The Pirates fit the bill in my eyes.
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