A Brewers picture, because Dan posted this.
Milwaukee Brewers (Day 14- Matt)
2014 record & finish: 82-80, 3rd in NL Central
On 2014: The Brewers were 70-55 on August 17 after sweeping the Dodgers. They finished the year 12-25 and 9-17 in September before finishing 8 games behind the Cardinals. Choke job.
Key subtractions: LHP Zach Duke, RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Yovani Gallardo, 1B Lyle Overbay, 1B/3B Mark Reynolds
Key additions: 1B Adam Lind, SS Luis Sardinas
Dan’s take: I doubt they can match their 20-8 start this season after losing quite a few pieces. Lind will (hopefully) play every day at 1B, replacing the horrid offensive splits they got last season. Their pitching won’t be as good, but people didn’t expect them to start as well as they did last season either. Hopefully for my sake they can do the same things as early last season and avoid falling apart down the stretch.
Bretts Take: This team is basically the same team as they had last year. Last year they had a good team, but did not step up when it mattered most. They lost a couple of starters in Gallardo and Estrada, but Fiers and Nelson are capable replacements. What will be interesting to see is if Ryan Braun returns to form after a thumb injury sapped his power last year. This is a good team, and they are capable of winning a Wild Card. But then again so is most of the NL so it probably will be another season of 162 games for the Brewers.
Toronto Blue Jays (Day 17- Bryce)
2014 record & finish: 83-79, 3rd in AL East
Key subtractions: RF Melky Cabrera, 3B/1B Juan Francisco, LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Casey Janssen, 3B/2B Brett Lawrie, 1B/DH Adam Lind, RHP Brandon Morrow, CF Colby Rasmus
Key additions: 1B/OF Chris Colabello, 3B Josh Donaldson, RHP Marco Estrada, C Russell Martin, LF Michael Saunders, 1B Justin Smoak
Dan’s take: A busy off-season doesn’t usually mean in-season success, remember the last time the Blue Jays tried that? This time feels different because of all the trades, but the Orioles will be very tough to beat in the East. There’s no reason this team shouldn’t be the second best in the division and compete for a WC spot.
Brett’s Take: The Blue Jays were the second best team in the AL East despite finishing 3rd last year. This year a first place finish is possible in a division that is as wide open as it has ever been. The lineup once again is stacked, and probably is more so with Josh Donaldson coming over from Oakland. The middle of the lineup will be treacherous to navigate with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Donaldson. Don’t forget about incumbent SS Jose Reyes and another newcomer in Russell Martin. The lineup is stacked the only question is if they can get the pitching. Stroman going down is a killer. Before that injury I had them winning a Wild Card, which they still can, but only if Martin can guide an up and coming staff.
Baltimore Orioles (Day 21- Matt)
2014 record & finish: 96-66, 1st in AL East
Key subtractions: DH Nelson Cruz, RF Nick Markakis, C Nick Hundley, IF Kelly Johnson, LHP Andrew Miller, LHP Joe Saunders, LHP Johan Santana
Key additions: C J.P. Arencibia, C/1B Ryan Lavarnway, RF Travis Snider, LHP Wesley Wright
Dan’s take: Best team in the AL East, but not the best by as many games as they were last year. Injuries, injuries, and more injuries couldn’t even derail the O’s in 2014 and people should be scared of this team down the stretch in 2015 (my WS pick).
Brett’s Take: The O’s absolutely ran away with the AL East last season, winning by 12 games. They did so without an ace on the staff, and 2015 will have to be more of the same. Many people are saying the offseason was a huge failure. When looking at the team in a vacuum… maybe. You have to understand though that Manny Machado is coming back, Matter Wieters is coming back, and Chris Davis should have a bounce back year. Those three guys coming back will more than make up for Cruz and Markakis. This team is still the best in the AL East. The reports of their demise were greatly exaggerated.
St. Louis Cardinals (Day 22- Bryce)
2014 record & finish: 90-72, 1st in NL Central
Key subtractions: IF Daniel Descalso, IF Mark Ellis, RHP Justin Masterson, RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Jason Motte, RHP Pat Neshek, C A.J. Pierzynski, OF Shane Robinson, OF Oscar Tavares (RIP)
Key additions: RHP Matt Belisle, OF Jason Heyward, 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, RHP Carlos Villanueva, RHP Jordan Walden
Dan’s take: They did some un-Cardinal things this off-season and signed/traded for a couple pieces instead of working within the system. Either way, the Cardinal way will be strong with this group and they can be the best team in the Central. They came on strong at the end of last season, but it would be crazy for them to play like that for any kind of extended stretch. I sound like I’m contradicting myself, but this team wins the Central.
Brett’s Take: Last season the Cardinals won 90 games despite a run differential that should have probably ended their season with 83. They were able to hold off the rising Pirates for at least one more season, but it could be a different story in 2015. The terrible disaster of Oscar Tavares was quickly addressed with the acquisition of Jason Heyward, the perennial breakout candidate. It is hard to pick against the team that has been the class of the MLB, but a down year for Adam Wainwright (start of the decline) will coincide with missing the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Los Angeles Dodgers (Day 24- Matt)
2014 record & finish: 94-68, 1st in NL West
Key subtractions: RHP Josh Beckett, C Drew Butera, 2B Dee Gordon, RHP Dan Haren, RHP Roberto Hernandez/Fausto Carmona, RF Matt Kemp, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Chris Perez, SS Hanley Ramirez, SS Miguel Rojas
Key additions: LHP Brett Anderson, C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Chris Hatcher, OF Chris Heisey, UT Kike Hernandez, 2B Howie Kendrick, RHP Brandon McCarthy, SS Jimmy Rollins, RHP Joel Peralta
Dan’s take: I can’t see anyone making a run for these guys at the top of the division, not even the upstart Friars. This doesn’t mean that the Dodger will win as many games as they did in 2014 because they almost certainly will take a step back, but still hold the division crown.
Brett’s Take: This is a whole lot of roster turnover for a team that won 94 games. The moves coincide with executive Andrew Freidman coming over from Tampa Bay. The focus turned to improving the defense. The jury is still out on how much the losses of Kemp and Ramirez will hurt, but my concerns aren’t so much with the offense. The Dodgers have the best pitcher on the planet in The Left Arm of God 2.0 aka Clayton Kershaw. Along with him comes Zack Greinke making for one of the best one-two punches in the MLB. After that there are questions though. Hyun-Jin Ryu is a great third starter, but he is starting the year hurt. The rest of the depth is questionable in Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. The bullpen too will be in question with closer Kenley Jansen’s opening day status in question. The Dodgers will be fine for a Wild Card, but the Padres may make a run for the division.
New York Yankees (Day 25- Bryce)
The new Captain
2014 record & finish: 84-78, 2nd in AL East
Key subtractions: C Francisco Cervelli, RHP Preston Claiborne, RHP Shane Greene, LHP Rich Hill, LHP David Huff, SS Derek Jeter, RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP Hiroki Kuroda, RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP David Phelps, UT Martin Prado, RHP David Robertson, OF Ichiro Suzuki
Key additions: RHP David Carpenter, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, SS Didi Gregorius, 1B/OF Garrett Jones, RHP Chris Martin, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Chasen Shreve, LHP Justin Wilson
Dan’s take: I know Brett likes the change at SS. I don’t like the changes overall and this team won’t make 2015 look pretty. I do love the Justin Wilson signing though.
Brett’s Take: Derek Jeter isn’t playing anymore so I can only assume the New York Yankees won’t be playing baseball anymore… oh wait nevermind he was never bigger than baseball. Didi Gregorius will likely never amount to much more than being the answer to the trivia question “Who replaced Derek Jeter?” but will be a much better defensive option. The key to the season will be Masahiro Tanaka’s health. I am not in the group that anticipates a full season of health. If he goes down, the team just doesn’t have enough to compete in the East or for the AL wildcard. At least we get the entertainment of watching how they handle the A-Rod situation.
Washington Nationals (Day 26- Matt)
2014 record & finish: 86-76, 2nd in NL East
Key subtractions: LHP Fernando Abad, RHP Dan Haren, MGR Davey Johnson, LHP Ian Krol, IF Steve Lombardozzi, IF Chad Tracy
Key additions: LHP Jerry Blevins, IF Jamey Carroll, RHP Doug Fister, OF Nate McLouth, MGR Matt Williams
Dan’s take: The favorites to win it all this fall switched managers and feel like they are well on their way. Didn’t lose a whole lot, didn’t gain a whole lot but they are in a great position to compete here.
Brett’s Take: There isn’t a whole lot to dislike about the Nationals heading into this season and to no surprise they are very popular pick to win the World Series. The staff is so loaded that a sub 3.00 ERA starter from 2014 probably will be the odd man out this year. This rotation is absolutely loaded. They have a strong offensive and defensive team to go with it, although injuries are starting to pile up. This is the year Bryce Harper breaks out as well. First place finish in the NL East and they are my pick to win the World Series. Sorry for the boring (ahem… smart) pick.
Oakland Athletics (Day 27- Bryce)
2014 record & finish: 88-74, 2nd in AL West
Key subtractions: 1B Daric Barton, 1B/OF Kyle Blanks, IF Alberto Callaspo, 3B Josh Donaldson, DH Adam Dunn, OF Jonny Gomes, RHP Luke Gregerson, RHP Jason Hammel, C/DH John Jaso, LHP Jon Lester, SS Jed Lowrie, 1B/OF Brandon Moss, C Derek Norris, IF Nick Punto, RHP Jeff Samardzija, C Geovany Soto
Key additions: RHP R.J. Alvarez, DH Billy Butler, RHP Tyler Clippard, 1B Ike Davis, RHP Jesse Hahn, 3B Brett Lawrie, LHP Sean Nolin, C Josh Phegley, IF Marcus Semien, 2B/OF Ben Zobrist
Dan’s take: The A’s will be the third, yes third, playoff team from the AL West. I have no idea how that makes sense or if it’s even remotely possible, but it’s gonna happen. They’re blowing the whole thing up once again in the name of saving a couple bucks, and we’ll see how it all ends.
Brett’s Take: General Manager Billy Beane tore it down once again. People are definitely questioning whether that will lead to a drop in win totals or maybe he just proves once again how much smarter he is than all of us. You can definitely see the reason behind some of the moves this winter. A lot of guys he brought in fit the bill for what the Athletics like to do. Losing Josh Donaldson was certainly the biggest headscratcher, but Lawrie is still an intriguing project. Their division though has two stacked teams, so unless the AL West can land two wild card spots the A’s will be on the outside looking in.