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2015 Major League Baseball Predictions

With 40 days until Opening Day, take a look at our season predictions:

(*) = 1st Wild Card Team
(**) = 2nd Wild Card Team

American League East:

Place Brett Malamud’s Pick Alex Horowitz’s Pick
1 Boston Red Sox Boston Red Sox
2 Toronto Blue Jays Baltimore Orioles
3 New York Yankees Toronto Blue Jays
4 Tampa Bay Rays Tampa Bay Rays
5 Baltimore Orioles New York Yankees

 

American League Central:

Place Brett Malamud’s Pick Alex Horowitz’s Pick
1 Cleveland Indians Cleveland Indians
2 Detroit Tigers* Kansas City Royals**
3 Kansas City Royals Chicago White Sox
4 Chicago White Sox Detroit Tigers
5 Minnesota Twins Minnesota Twins

 

American League West:

Place Brett Malamud’s Pick Alex Horowitz’s Pick
1 Seattle Mariners Seattle Mariners
2 Oakland Athletics** Los Angeles Angels*
3 Los Angeles Angels Houston Astros
4 Houston Astros Oakland Athletics
5 Texas Rangers Texas Rangers

 

National League East:

Place Brett Malamud’s Pick Alex Horowitz’s Pick
1 Washington Nationals Washington Nationals
2 New York Mets New York Mets**
3 Miami Marlins Miami Marlins
4 Atlanta Braves Atlanta Braves
5 Philadelphia Phillies Philadelphia Phillies

 

National League Central:

Place Brett Malamud’s Pick Alex Horowitz’s Pick
1 St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals
2 Pittsburgh Pirates* Pittsburgh Pirates*
3 Chicago Cubs Chicago Cubs
4 Milwaukee Brewers Cincinnati Reds
5 Cincinnati Reds Milwaukee Brewers

 

National League West:

Place Brett Malamud’s Pick Alex Horowitz’s Pick
1 San Diego Padres San Francisco Giants
2 San Francisco Giants** San Diego Padres
3 Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers
4 Arizona Diamondbacks Arizona Diamondbacks
5 Colorado Rockies Colorado Rockies
With some added big bats, the Red Sox are ready to head back to October baseball (Via WBZ-TV

With some added big bats, the Red Sox are ready to head back to October baseball (Via WBZ-TV

Playoffs:

Game Brett Malamud’s Pick Alex Horowitz’s Pick
ALCS Red Sox defeat Mariners Red Sox defeat Indians
NLCS Nationals defeat Cardinals Cardinals defeat Nationals
World Series Nationals defeat Red Sox Cardinals defeat Red Sox

 

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Offseason Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

By Doug Tyburski

Coming off their first winning season in 20 years, the Pirates are finally in the position of not only trying to add players during the off season, but keeping their own.

One player who we already know may not return, is fan favorite and veteran leader, A.J. Burnett. The Pirates officially declined to make their former ace a qualifying offer on Friday. Pirates GM Neal Huntington went on 970 ESPN Radio in Pittsburgh, and stated they did not make a qualifying offer to Burnett because they simply, “could not afford the $14.1 million hit to their 2014 team budget”.

AJ Burnett remains to be a huge question mark entering this offseason (Via Rumbunter)

AJ Burnett remains to be a huge question mark entering this offseason (Via Rumbunter)

Huntington went a bit deeper when addressing the non qualifying offer, stating, “”It’s not where we value A.J. Burnett, it’s how do we build a championship team in the big picture. And as we look to fill some of the other gaps that we have, or we look to upgrade some of the other spots we feel we’d like to upgrade and should upgrade if possible, we felt that $14MM in one player was a bit steep for us.”

Does that mean Burnett will not be back in a Pirates uniform next year? The answer is no. Pittsburgh could be pinning their hopes that Burnett liked his success and surroundings in Pittsburgh so much, that he will sign a one year deal in the $10 million dollar range. The pitcher went on record this past season when he said he would either retire or return to Pittsburgh in 2014. If he holds to that train of thought, maybe the Pirates can sign him at a discounted rate. That may be a gamble on the Pirates part at best though. Burnett is sure to get larger offers from other teams during the upcoming free agency period.

While the Burnett situation will eventually play itself out as the off season goes on, the Pirates will add to payroll. Where they add that money is the question. Let’s take a look at the Pirates position by position and look at what needs they must address.

First Base: For much of the season, the Pirates platooned Garrett Jones and Tony Sanchez. While Jones was useful against right handed pitching, his power numbers and average against left handed pitching dropped dramatically. Sanchez was average at best. The acquisition of Justin Morneau in September was an upgrade, but Morneau did not perform up to the expectations of the Pirates during their playoff run. Morneau could not hit one ball out of the park during his short tenure and his average was nowhere near his career stats. If the price is right, Pittsburgh could take another flyer on Morneau, but only at the right price. Jones’ career in Pittsburgh may have come to a close, while Sanchez may be tendered and could be a useful bench player. An upgrade at first base is a must though. There are some Mark Trumbo trade rumors. He would be a perfect fit, but at this point it appears to be just that, rumors.

Second Base: Neil Walker is currently under contract and rumors continue that the organization and Walker are working on an extension. While the Pittsburgh native is inconsistent at times, when healthy he puts up solid numbers and should give you 15-20 home runs a year and hit for .270 average. No need to upgrade at that position.

Shortstop: This is a spot that has plagued this franchise for years. It seems the Pirates have had no luck upgrading this position. Clint Barmes was signed two years ago, most likely due to his affiliation with Clint Hurdle in Colorado. Barmes is one of the best defensive players at his position, but his offensive numbers, are just that…offensive. Towards the end of the 2013 campaign, Jordy Mercer took over the bulk of the playing time at the position. While Mercer’s offensive numbers are an upgrade, he is a defensive liability and those liabilities showed, contributing to a number of key errors, costing his team important games down the stretch that could have also ended the hopes of a central division title. This is a major position where the organization MUST upgrade during the off season.

Third Base: Pedro Alvarez is set here. While he may eventually move to first base a few years down the road, there is no need to change things up now. He led the NL in home runs, and while the Pirates would like him to bring up his average and cut down his strikeouts, he is young enough and will have a number of seasons to improve on those stats.

Catcher: Russell Martin was everything the Pirates thought he’d be. Outstanding defensively. Valuable veteran to work with some of the young pitchers on the staff. Gave them a few walk off hits and had some clutch home runs as well. Look for fan favorite and decent back up Michael McKendry to return as the backup.

Pitching: Look for the Pirates to upgrade their starting rotation with or without Burnett. Wandy Rodriguez will be returning as the Pirates plan to pick up his option. His only question is his health. If he can remain healthy, that is a big plus for the rotation. Charlie Morton had a very good bounce back season after Tommy John surgery. He will be penciled in the starting rotation potential future all star Gerrit Cole. This could also be the season that another highly touted prospect cracks the Pirates rotation. Former first round pick, Jamison Taillon appears ready to take the next step in his career. If not in the rotation opening day, a June call up is likely. The need for another veteran starter is necessary though, and look for Pittsburgh to address that.
The bullpen should be set. As long as Jason Grilli can remain healthy, he will be the team’s closer and Mark Melancon return to set things up for Grilli in the 8th inning. Adding Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, and Vin Mazzaro, to that list, the bullpen should be one of the best in baseball again in 2014.

Left Field: Starling Marte will be the starting left fielder and should be for a long time. While he does tend to strikeout more than the team would like, he is still learning and his talent out weighs any negatives. Marte has great defensive skills, and a very strong arm. One of the fastest players in the game and has some power and will eventually be a 15-20 home run type player. Marte is still a raw talent, but has the potential to be one of the best left fielders in the National League.

Centerfield: Not much to say here. Potential MVP Andrew McCutchen is one of the best players in the game. Obviously no need for any upgrade here.

Right Field: This is the position that must be addressed as well. The Pirates tried many platoons at this position, and until Marlon Byrd was acquired late this past season, it was one of the Pirates weaknesses if not their biggest. Jose Tabata, Garrett Jones, Tony Sanchez, Andrew Lambo, Travis Snider, and possible a few lucky fans tried to take over that position, but no such luck. Right field is where you can expect a major upgrade. Marlon Byrd may be the answer, but he comes with a few questions. With his surprise season, does he price himself out of the range the Pirates are willing to commit to? Was Byrd’s season a fluke? Will his age (36 years old) catch up to him? If the contact demands based on years and amount are acceptable, look for the Pirates to possibly try and re-sign Byrd. They should and will do their due diligence and look elsewhere first, just in case they can find a younger bat with a more consistent history.

It will be an interesting off season for the Pirates. It will be an important one too. The team is coming off a major season and they won the fans back in a football & hockey town. It’s now up to Neal Huntington to make sure he keeps the momentum going in 2014.

______________________________________________________________

Doug Tyburski is a graduate of Nassau Community College & Suny Stony Brook. He has always been a huge sports fan and his favorite team’s include the NY Islanders, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, and Brooklyn Nets. You can follow him on twitter at @dtybur

Top Five MLB Teams That Need To Take Out Their Checkbook For 2014

By: Sam Breiter

Baseball in 2013 was a season to remember to say the least. Whether you are talking about the unbelievable breakout season from Chris Davis, who led major league baseball with 53 homeruns, or if you are discussing the legacy of a man named Mariano, you can clearly see how extraordinary this year in baseball was. Just three days ago, the Boston Red Sox organization gained the title of World Series Champions. For now, they will be noted as the best team in baseball, but April is just around the corner and now every team will have fair game to work on improving their team to become potential champions for 2014. Some teams may look at their 40-man roster today and feel a sense of comfort and confidence for next year, knowing that they may be one small signing or trade away from being contenders. Other teams may look and find that there are many holes that need to be covered, and they have a lot of work cut out for them this winter. Noting, there are some organizations that have more available money for the elite free agents than others. For example, the Houston Astros may need an outfielder, but do not expect them to spend $20 million on a five tool superstar, but rather a player with mediocre talent since they are many years away from being competitive.  What I am about to review is the top five teams who need to make moves this offseason in order to have a fighting chance in 2014. I took into consideration the available funds the team has, what they need, and their desire to improve to stand a chance next year.

The Yankees hope that bringing in the top free agents will lead them back to the promised land and their 28th World Series Championship (Via New York Times)

The Yankees hope that bringing in the top free agents will lead them back to the promised land and their 28th World Series Championship (Via New York Times)

#5 Kansas City Royals- After being regarded as one of the worst teams in baseball after their great run in the 70’s and 80’s, the Kansas City Royals in 2013 really found themselves as a team. Prior to the 2013 season, the Royals had not been over .500 since 2003, and before that 1993. After spending the last couple of years trading away talent to improve their farm system, the Royals have reached that essential milestone where they have developed a group of young prospects into MLB superstars. Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Eric Hosmer, to name off a few, had a key role in allowing the Royals to win their 86 games this year. The Royals were just seven games back of the division-winning Tigers, and missed a wild card spot by five and a half games. So what’s it going to take to get over that hump? What do the Royals need to do to go back to the glory days of when they were one of the most feared teams in baseball? I have one answer to that question and that is pitching. If we look at the pitching rotation for 2014, for the team right now you see the names James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen, and two question marks. Ervin Santana, who had an above average year, is now a free agent, and the Royals never really had a true number five guy. Shields and Guthrie provide a great one two punch, yet it is fair to note that Chen has always time after time proven himself to be unreliable with injuries and inconsistent success. With this said, the Royals, in order to get over that hump, need to sign two starting pitchers that will work long innings and keep the rotation intact. The best fit for the Royals would include pitchers who have shown their talent such as Ubaldo Jimenez, Dan Haren, A.J Burnett, Matt Garza, or Hiroki Kuroda. Additionally, they might want to try to get back Santana, and maybe go for some of the lower demand pitchers including Scott Baker, Mike Pelfrey, Ricky Nolasco, or even Jason Vargas.  With this added pitching help, the Royals can easily run away with a wild card spot, or perhaps even be the American League Central Division champs.

#4 Texas Rangers- Ever since 2010, the Texas Rangers have always been looked upon as, if not the best, one of the best teams in all of Major League Baseball. Their dominance in hitting the long ball, getting on base, and sustaining an above average pitching rotation and bullpen has allowed their success to last. In 2010, the Rangers made the World Series and fell flat on their face against the San Francisco Giants. The following year, after one of the most dramatic World Series ever, the Rangers fell just short losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in a seven game series. The following year, they won the wild card and missed their shot of going anywhere in the playoffs, and this year they did not even get a wild card spot. Clearly it may look as if this team is declining, but do you really expect the Oakland Athletics to come up with another 96 win season considering their best player is not even considered a superstar. If the Rangers brought back the same team they had this year, next year it looks pretty likely they would be the favorite to win the division, but down in Texas these fans expect more than a division title. Matt Garza, Nelson Cruz, A.J Pierzynski, and David Murphy, to name a few, are players who will be free agents this year and may just not be a part of the team next year. With this said, pitching (both starting and relief), a left fielder, and a catcher need to be acquired if the Rangers do not want to fall short yet again. In terms of pitching, look for the Rangers to attempt to sign one big name pitcher. I believe Garza will return and they will look to bring Alexi Ogando into their rotation and maybe even sign Roy Holladay if the Phillies part ways with the old ace. In terms of the bullpen, whatever happened to Neftali Feliz? From 2010-2011 Feliz combined for 72 saves, but from injuries the past few years people tend to forget about him. Expect Feliz to be their number one closer in 2014, but do not be surprised if Chris Perez comes in to become either the setup man or closer assuming Feliz does not work to his expectations. Behind the plate, the Rangers have always had power, if we go back a few years to Mike Napoli, or the more current days of Pierzynski. Do not be surprised if either of these players are brought back to the organization, yet I predict Brian McCann will be wearing a Texas Rangers uniform in 2014 because he will get paid the money he deserves, and the Rangers have a better resume of getting deep in the playoffs compared to the Braves. The Rangers have always had big time sluggers in the outfield. The Josh Hamilton/Nelson Cruz combo was one of the best power hitting outfields ever seen on one team. With Hamilton enjoying his money in L.A, and Cruz doubtful to return, do not be surprised to see the Rangers spending huge on a new outfielder. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, and Mike Morse are the best fits for the Rangers if they are willing to spend big on a new outfielder.

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