by MATT GORDON Editor-in-chief
The MLB season is finally upon us and there are more contenders for the World Series crown than ever before. New additions to hopeful teams and the rising potential of younger ball clubs are the themes for this season, and expect for the first couple of months to prove these themes. Older teams that have been consistently good for a while are now on the decline, as the new stars start to emerge on their youthful and exciting teams. Here are my predictions for the division winners and wild card teams in each league:
East- This was the hardest division to pick a winner from, but I believe the Toronto Blue Jays will pull it out in the end and win their first division title since 1993, when they won the World Series. With a loaded pitching staff consisting of multiple Cy Young winners, including last year’s winner R.A. Dickey, the Blue Jays staff will be able to handle the generally weaker hitters of the East Division. Scoring runs in a division full of spectacular pitchers will be tough, but this team has a power spark in Jose Reyes and a long ball hitter in Jose Bautista, a duo that will take care of business down the stretch.
Central- The reigning American League champion Detroit Tigers are expected to win this division, and I believe they will follow everyone’s expectations. This team is built to hit the ball, with Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera doing it all for this team and power hitter Prince Fielder showing why he is the favorite to win the Home Run Contest every year. Not only can they hit the ball, they also have arguably the best starting pitcher in the game in Justin Verlander. I expect this team to go extremely far into the playoffs and are my favorite to win the World Series.
West- Sadly, the move for the Houston Astros into the American League will not mean instant success. I believe the winner of this division will be the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim, a team that added a star in Josh Hamilton, and is also brining back sophomore phenom Mike Trout. I expect Trout to have an MVP season, as well as lead his team to the playoffs in a relatively tough division, featuring two playoff teams from last year, the Oakland Athletics and the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are on the downfall as they lost Hamilton to the Angels, and the Athletics are inexperienced and are unlikely to bring back the spark of last year’s run. Expect the Angels to fight it out with these two teams and come out on top of the division.
Wild Card Teams- The two Wild Card teams I have chosen from the American League are the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox. The Orioles are the other top contender from the East Division and could possibly make a run at the division crown. At the very least, I believe this team will earn a playoff spot and could make a deep run off the bats of Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. Pitching may be an issue for this ball club; however, it will not be an issue for the White Sox. Chris Sale is coming off a great season and the central division team brings back power hitter Adam Dunn, who will hopefully bring this club to the playoffs.
East- The stage is set for the Washington Nationals to finally make a run at the World Series. I believe they will easily win this division and ride into the playoffs as the league’s top team. Veteran hitter Ryan Zimmerman has waited patiently for the Nationals to come out on top, and he will be helped by another sophomore phenom in Bryce Harper. Pitching is equally as good on this ball club as the team brings back all stars Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg will hopefully play the whole season for this team, as elbow issues held him back from the playoffs last season. This team is my favorite to make it to the World Series for the National League.
Central- This division is hard to pick as always, but I believe the Cincinnati Reds will come out on top. This team is stacked with big hitters like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. The team also adds little-known star Shin-Soo Choo, who flew under the radar with the Cleveland Indians. Pitching is also a strength on this team as fiery relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman tries to break out of the bullpen and into the starting staff. I believe this team is the biggest threat to the Nationals in the National League.
West- The West is always a tough division to pick, but I believe the Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorite to win the division. Solid hitting from Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez should provide enough runs for the pitching staff. Pitcher Clayton Kershaw is going to have a Cy Young-caliber season as he was just signed to a huge contract and is expected to perform at an elite level for this ball club. Do not expect him to let them down.
Wild Card Teams- Wild Card teams are tough to pick, but I will have to choose the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves to be the last two teams in this year’s playoffs. The Giants are the reigning World Series champs and are loaded at the plate and on the mound with catcher Buster Posey hitting for average and star Matt Cain hoping to avenge his loss in the Cy Young voting last year. The Braves are also a well-rounded team, as they add both B.J. and Justin Upton to an already stacked ball club. Relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel is one of the best in the game and he looks to lead one of the league’s best bullpens. Watch out for both of these clubs in the playoffs.
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