LOS ANGELES, March 21, 2014 — Major League Baseball’s 2014 season officially starts tomorrow morning at 1 a.m. PDT when the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia. The teams will play a two-game series before traveling back to Arizona to resume their Spring Training regimens for another week.
With the season upon us, here are the Wells On Baseball end of the year divisional predictions.
National League West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers: If they can stay healthy, which is no easy task for the Dodgers, Los Angeles should face little competition from the rest of the NL West.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks: If L.A. stumbles or is riddled with injury, look for Arizona to step in and take the NL West.
3. San Francisco Giants: It would take two teams imploding for San Francisco to win the NL West.
4. San Diego Padres: San Diego is very young, but could make a move up to third if S.F. faulters.
5. Colorado Rockies: Not much in play here for Rockies fans, perhaps legalized marijuana will help with the sting of another bad season.
National League Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals: After losing to the Red Sox in the World Series in 2013, the Cardinals are again poised to make a return to the Fall Classic in 2014.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates: If St. Louis sputters, the Pirates will jump right in with a team loaded with young talent. The major question will be if prospect Jameson Taillon can replace the production of A.J. Burnett in the starting rotation.
3. Cincinnati Reds: Strong pitching and a strong offense will keep the Reds nipping at both the Cards and Bucks. If nothing else, Billy Hamilton should be fun to watch. If he can get on base, he can and will steal as many bases as he wants.
4. Milwaukee Brewers: If Ryan Braun can put up clean numbers similar to his numbers before being caught for PEDs, the Brewers should finish fourth. If not, the Brewers could easily land at the bottom of this division.
5. Chicago Cubs: While their future does look bright, the Cubs are still in rebuilding mode and are a few years away from actually competing with St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
National League East
1. Washington Nationals: The Nats disappointed many in 2013. This year, Doug Fister was added to an already good rotation. The injuries plaguing the Atlanta rotation should be enough to keep the Braves out of first.
2. Atlanta Braves: The injury monster is wreaking havoc on the starting rotation. If the Braves’ young prospects can fill in respectably, the Braves could challenge Washington, but that is a big if.
3. Miami Marlins: The real race in the NL East is the race for last place and there is plenty of competition. The Marlins, led by Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, could very well end up at the top of the scrap heap.
4. New York Mets: The addition of Curtis Granderson should help the Mets offense, but the loss of Matt Harvey to TJ surgery is devastating.
5. Philadelphia Phillies: They are too old and paid way too much for the Phillies to be able to do anything in 2014. They need Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels to be themselves and for Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins to be other people who can stay healthy, which is a tall order.
American League West
1. Oakland Athletics: Billy Beane puts winning teams on the field, that’s just what he does. Their rotation, led by Sonny Gray, could be one of the best in baseball.
2. Texas Rangers: The additions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo will boost this offense, but a fragile starting rotation should have Texas fans concerned.
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Mike Trout is baseball’s version of Superman, but even Superman couldn’t help this team get further than third place in the division. The Angels need Albert Pujols to play more like the old Pujols and less like an old Pujols.
4. Seattle Mariners: If Pujols and Josh Hamilton have similar seasons to last year, Robinson Cano and the Mariners will gladly jump into the third spot. Look for a solid year from the Seattle starting rotation with Felix Hernandez at the top and Taijuan Walker looking to make a name for himself.
5. Houston Astros: Houston, we have a problem, again. Ho hum, 2014 will bring much of the same for Astros fans. The kids in Houston are alright, but they need to be better than alright if they hope to reach fourth place one day.
American League Central
1. Detroit Tigers: The loss of Fielder and Fister are not enough to knock this team from the top spot in the division. Drew Smyly and Nick Castellanos will soften the blow of those losses, as will the addition of Ian Kinsler at the top of the order.
2. Kansas City Royals: This is the year the Royals make their move. Unfortunately, the highest they get in 2014 is second and a possible Wild Card.
3. Cleveland Indians: Losing Ubaldo Jimenez will be a good thing for Cleveland, but the Royals and Tigers are just better.
4. Chicago White Sox: The White Sox are young and rebuilding, but Jose Abreu should be exciting to watch on a daily basis.
5. Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer moves to first base. Top prospect Miguel Sano needs TJ surgery and will miss the season, Twins fans will too.
American League East
1. Tampa Bay Rays: David Price is still a Ray and the Rays still have an outstanding rotation. If Wil Meyers can build on his first season in the Majors, the Rays are serious World Series contenders.
2. New York Yankees: The Yankees lost Robinson Cano in a bidding war with Seattle. They spent that money on a bunch of other players, including Masahiro Tanaka from Japan.
3. Boston Red Sox: The defending World Series champions will have their work cut out for them if they want to defend. The Sox should be just as good as last year, but the Yankees and Rays will be better.
4. Toronto Blue Jays: Baseball fans in Canada will again be looking forward to hockey season. If this team realizes its potential, they can make some waves in the AL East. The flipside of that coin, however, will look similar to 2013.
5. Baltimore Orioles: A shaky rotation combined with a shaky bullpen could spell disaster for Baltimore. A lot would have to go wrong with the other four teams in this division for the Orioles to have any sort of relevance in 2014.