Monday, March 31, 2014

Cousin Jason's 2014 Predictions

Late to the game as always, but hey I still got these done on opening day this year!

AL East
1. Boston- I picked the Sox to finish 3rd last year, but said they had the most talented roster in the AL East, they still do and repeat as division champs
2. Tampa Bay*- Rays are solid but, their offensive short comings keep them from topping the Sox
3. Toronto- Blue Jays have the talent to finish higher and the combustibility to finish last
4. Baltimore- Orioles have the hitting and pitching but, lack the intangibles to put it all together
5. New York- Yankees lack of infield and bullpen depth=long season in the Bronx

AL Central
1. Detroit- Tigers ride Cabrera bat and starters to the divisional crown, maybe further
2. Kansas City**- Royals offense is one of baseball’s best as Royals return to the playoffs
3. Cleveland- Indians cannot duplicate Tito’s first season but hang tough for 3rd
4. Minnesota- Twins improved pitching is enough to keep them out of the cellar
5. Chicago- White Sox have too many holes and the South siders join the Cubbies in rebuild mode

AL West
1. Texas- Rangers hit everything in sight after trading for Giancarlo and ride Darvish’s 25 wins to the top
2. Oakland- A’s regress but not enough for the others to catch them
3. Seattle- Mariners play great after the break but, can’t make up for their slow start
4. Los Angeles of Anaheim- Angels lower expectations do not help as Hamilton and Pujols continue to regress, thanks for the memories Mike Scioscia
5. Houston- Astros still struggle to field a complete Major League roster and it shows

Wild Card
Tampa Bay over Kansas City

ALDS
Detroit over Tampa Bay
Boston over Texas

ALCS
Detroit over Boston

AL MVP- Miguel Cabrera
AL Cy Young- Yu Darvish
AL ROY- Nick Castellanos
AL Manager- Ron Washington

NL East
1. Washington- Nationals put together the season everyone expected in 2013
2. Atlanta- Braves have a furious finish after injuries put them behind the 8 ball
3. Philadelphia- Phillies are getting long in the tooth, but still have enough teeth to finish 3rd
4. New York- Mets benefit from having the Marlins to avoid the basement
5. Miami- Jose Fernandez becomes the face of the franchise as Stanton is moved mid-season

NL Central
1. St. Louis- Cardinals have too much for everyone in the NL, perhaps in baseball
2. Cincinnati**- Reds get a breath of fresh air without Dusty Baker
3. Milwaukee- Brewers are vastly improved but not enough to challenge the Cards and Reds
4. Pittsburgh- Pirates have a talented line-up but it is not enough to overcome their woeful pitching
5. Chicago- Cubs are the hottest team in September as they continue to build the foundation

NL West
1. Los Angeles- Dodgers out talent and out spend their NL West rivals
2. San Francisco*- Giants pitches their way into the post season
3. Colorado- Rockies fans experience a contact high by leading at the break, it wears off though
4. Arizona- Diamondbacks get rattled early and slither through a 4th place finish
5. San Diego- Padres lack the hitting to support their pitching

Wild Card
San Francisco over Cincinnati

NLDS
St. Louis over San Francisco
Washington over Los Angeles

NLCS
St. Louis over Washington

NL MVP- Paul Goldschmidt
NL Cy Young- Zack Greinke
NL ROY- Billy Hamilton
NL Manager- Bryan Price

World Series

St. Louis over Detroit

Brandon's 2014 MLB Predictions

Time to throw my hat into the ring with my 2014 MLB predictions. Let's play ball!

AL East

Baltimore - A big bounce-back year for the O’s who mash their way to an AL East crown to give us our fourth different AL East champion in five years
Boston* - The Beards shake up superstition by shaving their beards and heads (and everything else) in mid-July and the Sox nab the first wild card behind the best/deepest pitching staff in the bigs.
Tampa Bay - Some hitters get old (Zobrist) or crash back to earth (Loney), and the Rays decide to move David Price by the trade deadline.
NY Yankees - the Yanks start hot, but injuries and ineffectiveness pile up as the summer goes along. Tanaka starts hot, but is getting crushed by late July.  Jetes makes his farewell by missing the postseason two years in a row. Joe Girardi gets canned.
Toronto - I’ve picked the Jays to make the playoffs two years in a row and I’m tired of getting duped. This year I’m picking them to have the fourth-worst record in the AL and have a new manager by the end of August. Make your Vegas bets accordingly.

AL Central

Detroit - They still have the best hitter on the planet in Miggy and one of the best/most durable pitchers in the AL in Verlander (as long as Kate Upton doesn’t weaken his legs), plus a bunch of talent and winning experience. It’s close until the end, but the Tigers take the Central again.
Kansas City** - Two of the worst players in the entire AL were whoever the Royals started at 2B and RF last year. Upgrades at those two positions plus a deadline deal for one more pitcher leads KC into the playoffs for the first time since the Reagan administration.
Cleveland - the Indians stay in the wild card race until the very end but come up short. They need another hitter or two.
Minnesota - Nolasco and Hughes give them two pitchers who actually deserve to be in a big league rotation, their lineup is a little better than you think, and Buxton is on the way.  More fun in the twin cities this summer.
White Sox - Too many old, slow, white dudes (Konerko, Dunn) and not enough Chris Sale to save this dismal team. Abreu mashes, but can’t hit a curve ball. He gives Jobu cigar, rum. He doesn’t come.

AL West
LA Angels - I like this team heading into 2014 with lowered expectations, a healthy Jered Weaver, and a year in LA to settle in for Pujols/Hamilton. Having the best baseball player in the world doesn’t hurt, either.
Oakland - The A’s stay in a crowded wild card race until the very end, but come up a little short. They have been maximizing their talent for years now, one of these years they have to come up short, right?
Texas - The injuries are already piling up and they don’t have a ton of depth behind them. Behind Darvish nobody on their staff scares me. I see one of those seasons where everybody is hurt, everything goes wrong, and they finish well out of the playoff picture.
Seattle - I so badly want to pick them to make the playoffs, or at least finish in the top three in the AL West. Then I look at my 2013 Blue Jays pick, and look at their starting rotation and realize they’re not getting higher than fourth. Although getting rid of Eric Wedge was their best transaction of the winter.
Houston - this will be a good team.....for me to poop on (timely Conan O’Brien reference)

AL Playoffs
Wildcard - Boston over Kansas City
Divisional Series - Baltimore over LA Angels
Boston over Detroit
ALCS - Baltimore over Boston

AL MVP - Mike Trout
AL Rookie of the Year - Xander Bogaerts
AL Manager of the Year - Ned Yost


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Deacon Art's 2014 MLB Predictions

It is the eve of another baseball season ( not counting games played in Australia) and it is time for my annual predictions.  Right off the top I should mention that I am a long time superstitious Red Sox fan. Last year I did not pick the Red Sox to win the World Series, the AL East or to even make the playoffs. That worked out pretty damn well, so there is a very healthy dose of that superstition in these picks( but not the only factor).

American League

EAST

1. Tampa Bay-  Where There is a Wil There's a Way
2. Boston*- Red Sox Repeat Realistic? May Depend on X Factor
3. Baltimore- O's Contend 'Cause Duke Thinks Winter Meetings are in February
4. New York- Franchise Face's Farewell Foray Finishes Fourth
5. Toronto- '14 Jays Same as '13--Not Unlucky Just Overrated

CENTRAL

1. Kansas City- All-In Royals Overtake Tigers
2. Cleveland- Second in Central Again--But No Wild Card This Time
3. Detroit- Miggy and Three Great Pitchers and ??'s Everywhere Else
4. Chicago- Konerko's Farewell Finishes Fourth, as Well
5. Minnesota- But Byron Buxton is on Target for 2015

WEST

1. Texas- Gonna Party Like It's 1999
2. Los Angeles**- Magic Mike Carries So-so Pitching, Aging Teammates
3. Oakland- Moneyball Sequel Suffers Setback
4. Seattle- If Cano Hits .400 the M's Could Finish.......Third??
5. Houston- "With The First Pick in the 2015 Amateur Draft......."

*= Wild Card #1, **= Wild Card #2

Playoffs

Wild Card Game  Red Sox over Angels (as so many post seasons before)
ALDS Red Sox over Rays in 4 and Royals surprise Rangers in 5
ALCS Royals in 7 ( damned superstition)

AL MVP  Prince Fielder
AL Cy      Yu Darvish
AL ROY   Xander Bogaerts
AL Mgr.    Ned Yost


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014 MLB Predictions

I know it's tradition to let the Deacon post his predictions first and then the rest of us follow suit, but since the Deacon has been carrying all of us on his shoulders all offseason I thought I would jump back into the fray.  Here it goes. This year my picks are going to be 100% correct. Just call it a hunch.

AL East
1. Tampa Bay- They’re gunning for the Red Sox this year and they have the ammo.
2. Baltimore*- Also gunning for the Red Sox, bounce back year for them.
3. Boston**- More of an uphill battle this year, but still a playoff team
4. New York- Their Bullpen is the biggest weakness, many to choose from though
5. Toronto- Gibbons gets fired…again

AL Central
1. Detroit- The pitching is still great and their infield defense is more balanced now
2. Kansas City- They may take the next step (or they may not)
3. Cleveland- The best of the rest in this division
4. Chicago (AL)- Good pieces for the future they may get good faster than expected
5. Minnesota- Won’t play a home game above 28 degrees until early June

AL West
1. Oakland- I still don’t know how they’re doing it…but I’m done doubting them
2. Texas- Injuries are taking their toll, but they have a strong farm system
3. Seattle- Cano will put up Beltre like numbers in Safeco…
4. Los Angeles (AL)- Hamilton and Pujols will be better than expected but the pitching will not be.
5. Houston- Still 1-2 years away from being competitive. Let the George Springer countdown begin

AL MVP- Mike Trout
AL CY Young- Yu Darvish
AL Manager of the Year-Bob Melvin
AL Rookie of the Year- Xander Bogaerts
AL Keeper League RSM Champion- XanderBradleyJr’s


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dozen Days Until Red Sox Opener

Twelve days from now the Red Sox open the 2014 defense of the World Series Trophy in Baltimore.  Here are a few random thoughts on a relatively tranquil ( thank goodness) camp.

* Grady vs. Jackie.  My original thoughts on this duel was it was not really a competition, just the allusion of one to keep the Sox from looking like they were handing the job to the guy they want in center, Jackie Bradley, Jr.  However, with the spring put up by  Grady Sizemore, he has apparently made it a real battle for the the job.  Two things come to mind about this tussle for the job.  First, and maybe most importantly, is it really the best management of Grady's possible return to MLB status to have him play nearly every day, especially so in the dicey weather of April an early May?  And is it in Sizemore's interest to have him covering all the ground required to cover centerfield.  From Bradley, Jr.'s point of view,  he was in a no win situation this spring.  If he tears up the Grapefruit League ( he has not), well he did that in 2013 without success in April in the bigs.  If he struggles this spring( and he has at least bordered on this....although I am not sure if line shot doubles in each of his last two games, one off David Price, is struggling) he stands to be deemed " not ready" or worse.

If Sizemore makes the team the Red Sox have a roster dilemma to solve.  from the 25 man roster point of view the easiest way to keep all your assets is to send Bradley, Jr. to AAA.  I see two problems with that.  First, is that really beneficial to Jackie's career? More importantly from the team's standpoint
 ( although screwing up Bradley Jr.'s career or not is also an important team consideration), do you really want to start the season with a center fielder who can only start maybe 5 games out of 7 and is backed up by your right fielder ( who by all accounts is much, much more valuable to the Sox in right), or by Daniel Nava?

The Sox could keep both Grady and JBJr, but this also causes issues.  First will JBJr get enough playing time as a part time/back up center fielder?  Plus if they both stay someone from last year's team has to go.  Barring an injury, this means one of Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, or Mike Carp likely.  The name heard most often is Carp.  He does not have a starting job with Boston, but in 2013 was a very valuable bench contributor.  The Pirates and perhaps the Astros need a first baseman and both have inquired about Carp, reportedly. But what happens if the Sox trade Carp and Sizemore does not make it through April before he is hurt?  This will be the most interesting storyline as camp finishes.

* The "young" left hander.  Nope, not Henry Owens, I mean Felix Doubront.  Felix is never mentioned when the lengthy roll call of  young Sox pitchers are listed.  But Doubront, despite the fact he has all ready started over 80 games for Boston is just 10 month older than " youngster" Brandon Workman, 1 1/2 years older than Rubby De La Rosa and 2 to 3 years older than all the other usual suspects, except Owens who will not be 22 until July. Despite getting cuffed around yesterday by the Yankees ( I hate losing to the Yanks, even in friggin' spring training), Felix has had a strong spring after arriving in camp in proper condition, as opposed to 2 of the last 3 years.  Doubront who is 26 is facing a pivotal year in his Red Sox career.  If he puts up the season he has the potential for, he could be at or near the front of this rotation for years to come.  If not, he could be passed by the other kid pitchers and be trade bait.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Red Sox Grapefruit League Season Begins

On the last two days of February ( for what it is worth the longest February here in Maine in a long, long time...about 48 days this year, I think) the Red Sox began the games in Florida.

On Thursday the 27th, they played the annual doubleheader of seven inning games with the college boys, Northeastern and Boston College.  The Sox played no favorites by beating each school by a 5-2 score.  Among the highlights of the day were two strong innings in the start versus the Huskies by Brandon Workman. The offensive stars were catcher Christian Vazquez with a long home run over the monster in left and a bases clearing double by first baseman Travis Shaw against BC.

All three of these youngsters have interesting 2014's ahead.  Workman, who based on his 2013 outings with Boston as starter and in the bullpen deserves to be on this team.  But with five veteran starters in the rotation and a deep bullpen, if the Red Sox want Workman to be a starter (and at this point I think they do) it is looking like Brandon begins the year at AAA so he can start every fifth day, and be ready to be called up in case of injury or some other need.  Vazquez is slated to be the full time catcher at Pawtucket.  He, of course, is all ready known for his outstanding arm and in 2013 took a big step forward at the plate.  If Vazquez can continue to hit at AAA as he did at Portland, I strongly suspect with two 37 year old receivers slated to play in Boston ( AJ Pierzynski and David Ross), that Christian makes his MLB debut in 2014 and may even be the starting catcher before the year is out in Boston. For Travis Shaw 2014 needs to be a year of redemption after a poor 2013 at Hadlock Field. Shaw did however have an outstanding Arizona Fall League season.  He has spent nearly 1 1/2 years at AA, and with a strong spring could make the Opening Day Pawsox lineup and put himself back into real prospect consideration.


On the 28th the Red Sox opened the official Grapefruit League schedule by hosting the Twins, in the opening Mayor's Cup game as well.  The Sox immediately fell behind 1-0 in the Cup Series with a 8-2 loss to the Twins.  The two noteworthy performances again came by two of the kids.  Bryce Brentz put one of the Bosox runs on the board with a long home run to center and the starting pitcher was 6'7" Anthony Ranaudo who pitched to six batters in his two inning stint, getting four swinging strikeouts and two tappers back to the mound.  Ranaudo threw 24 pitches and 19 were for strikes.

Ranaudo erased an injury plagued 2012 by dominated the Eastern League last year in the first half and continuing his strong showing at AAA after his recall.  Ranaudo is now on the 40 man roster and with a strong Pawtucket start to his year could move up there with Workman and Allen Webster to be first in line to help the big league rotation.  Brentz, who is also on the 40 man now, has prodigious power and with the outfield not the strongest suit, potentially, for the Sox, Brentz could force his way in by mid season or be ready in case of injury ( Mr. Victorino, we are looking a you).

As a matter of fact while I feel that Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks will all play large roles in Boston in 2014, I predict ( and more on this later this month when the RSM crew makes their official 2014 picks) that at least one other rookie has a big impact.  And coincidentally  the candidates I have considered likely to help in 2014 are the guys who have shone all ready: Vazquez, Workman ( technically not a rookie anymore), Ranaudo, and Bryce Brentz.

And now a few random thoughts on the happenings in Red Sox camp in the weeks before the games started:

* Ryan Dempster and Chris Capuano.  Dempster of course shocked Sox Nation right out of the chute, as he reported to Fort Myers just long enough to announce due to neck injury issues and family matters he would not play in 2014 and forfeit his $13.25 million dollar contract.  He refused to say he was retiring, but at age 37, it sure seems like it.  If it is the end his last pitch was the final out of a Game One WS victory last fall.  Not a bad way to go out (not to mention as a World Champ).  Two things jumped to mind, first what a classy stand up thing to do by Dempster.  It would have been incredibly easy to say his neck hurts, go on the disabled list for the whole year and collect his 13 mil.  Secondly from the team's point of view they were nearly at the luxury tax cap limit, and now there is much more flexibility for any future move.  My guess would be the Sox pocket the most of the money until nearer the July 31 trade deadline  and be able to spend then on a pressing need.  The Red Sox did go out and spend 2.25M of the cash on lefty Chris Capuano.  A National League starting pitcher his whole career, last year, Capuano pitched out of the Dodgers bullpen on occasion and this is what caught the Red Sox eye.  They plan to use Capuano as a long man in the pen and the sixth starter if a spot start comes along.  But if an injury occurs to a starter, do not be surprised if Capuano stays in the pen and whoever the hottest starter is in the prospect laden Pawtucket rotation is recalled.  The best description I have heard about Capuano's role is he is more of a replacement of Franklin Morales than Ryan Dempster.

* Stephen Drew seems to be fading from view for the Red Sox.  Now the games beginning could change things, but Boston sure looks committed to Bogaerts at SS and Middlebrooks at third.  The Mets seem to be the most interested ( if only lukewarm) in Drew.  My guess would be the first team to suffer a shortstop injury( or a complete implosion of performance) will coming knocking on Stephen's door.  I still think Pittsburgh could be the place (watch Oakland or Toronto, as well).

*The Jackie Bradley, Jr./Grady Sizemore "competition" is underway. Sizemore took a step forward just by being the leadoff hitter in the opening day lineup versus Northeastern.  Grady went 0-2 but hit the ball hard twice.  He had Friday off but is expected to play today. In Jackie's opening game he batted twice with a single and a walk.  I used the quotation marks around competition because I do not really believe it is a true open job.  I feel it is Bradley, Jr's to lose, and the Sox want the appearance of a competition so not to look as if they are handing the job to JBJr.  Plus, if Sizemore is recovered enough to play after missing two full seasons, playing every day in the wide expanse of center field does not seem an appropriate way to manage Sizemore's health.  In a perfect scenario I envision Bradley, Jr. continuing to build on his strong 2013 ( yes, I said strong, do not look just at April in Boston, look at his AAA numbers and September in Boston) and take the centerfield job and if Sizemore comes all the way back ( or damned near it), he becomes the left fielder over the Gomes/Nava platoon.  Of course, if Sizemore makes the team someone will not: likely Mike Carp or maybe Daniel Nava.  Unless of course an injury changes the 25 man roster complexion.

* David Ortiz' desire for an one year extension to his deal is looking more and more likely to happen this spring, as he and his agent have all ready met with ownership in Fort Myers. Look, Papi is the face of this franchise, the leader in the clubhouse ( witness the dugout team meeting in the World Series). More importantly unless Xander Bogaerts skyrockets to immediate power hitting stardom ( and what the hell, he may) Ortiz is the only consistent power/production bat in the middle of the lineup.  And Ortiz continues to match his career numbers last season going 30/103/.309 versus his average for his 14 full MLB seasons of 3/99/.287. And the man hit over .660 to lead the Sox to the third WS title in Papi's tenure.  Give the man another a year at $20 million and let's move on.

* Speaking of Xander Bogaerts skyrocketing to prominence in the Sox lineup, the X Factor has so much talent and charisma the Aruban even won the freakin' Jordans Slapshot Shootout during NESN shows during the opening weeks of Florida.  Had he even seen a hockey stick before??  God knows what puck means in one of the four languages he is fluent in.  Is there anything Xander cannot do          ( superpowers....x-ray vision, flying, etc.  excluded)?

* And while on the subject of NESN, a few notes on that front as well.  Jerry Remy is in the Fort as of a day or so ago, and the first NESN game telecast in Sunday March 2 ( tomorrow!). Still no announcement on Jenny Dell's replacement as sideline reporter.  It would seem like with the first of 12 Florida games beginning tomorrow the assignment needs to come real soon to give that person some games under their belt.  One speculation out there is NESN is considering a male reporter, and one name mentioned is Lou Merloni.  I find it hard to believe NESN could pry him away from the ever growing Comcast empire, and equally hard to believe Merloni would be interested, unless the assignment included a number of games per season to fill in for Remy.  Chad Finn of the Globe has reported that NESN has made another subtraction from their Red Sox coverage: Peter Gammons will no longer be on the NESN crew.  According to Finn, Gammons has all ready began to increase his gigs on the MLB Network.  And for those of you who like to read Gammons, he has started a new website GammonsDaily.com.  They have columns by Peter and other writers and links to articles around the baseball world.  Could one possible studio addition for NESN be Derek Lowe?  Lowe filled in a few games late last year for Remy, and showed up on one of the NESN shows from Florida last week as a guest.  I think Lowe has definite potential as a commentator.

I am so glad the Florida games are here, after waiting all winter for pitchers and catchers reporting day, those two weeks or so of pictures and reports from the Fort but no actual games get old pretty quickly.