2014 MLB season preview including division winners, awards, and World Series picks—The Monday Morning Realist


Every Monday morning, Section 215’s Akiem Bailum gives an in-depth and unfiltered look at all of the latest sports news in The Monday Morning Realist. You can follow Akiem on Twitter @AkiemBailum.

Mar 30, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; General view of a base prior to the opening day baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The last time we saw competitive baseball played (unless you want to count Spring Training, Realists), was last year when the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series for the first time in 95 years at Fenway Park.

That was last year, though of course. This one is a new year. And with new years come new players on new teams, new team outlooks, new expectations—and in the case of the Chicago Cubs, a new mascot.

And in the Cubbies’ case, the same tradition of being sellers at the Trade Deadline by mid-June.

Outside of the Cubs—who are once again projected to finish last in the NL Central, here are this Realist’s predictions for the 2014 MLB season.

Mar 5, 2014; Melbourne, FL, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the New York Mets in spring training action at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

NL East—Washington Nationals. This is a team that struggled in 2013, but is now being projected to return to their earlier dominant form over the NL East. This team still has Stephen Strasburg (who sooner or later has to start taking the mound as if he’s a full-time ace, given how ballyhooed he was when he first debuted) and Bryce Harper (who is now being projected by some to be an MVP candidate. Also, there’s Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez as well. The biggest threat they had in that division was the Atlanta Braves, but considering Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are gone for the season (Tommy John Surgery) and they lost Brian McCann to the Yankees, the NL East’s Division crown ought to have a seal of approval for the Nats in 2014.

Oct 30, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) throws against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of game six of the MLB baseball World Series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

NL Central—St. Louis Cardinals. It sometimes is astonishing how the Cardinals can continue to remain a model of consistency, but they have even through player turnover and managerial changes. Adam Wainwright is back for the Redbirds and Michael Wacha is expected to continue his stellar work from last year’s postseason as a 1-2 punch at the top of the Cardinals’ rotation. The guy to watch of course, even with David Freese going to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is Yadier Molina. He is arguably the best hitting catcher in the National League (if not all of MLB) and has knocked at the door of winning his first ever MVP. The Cardinals will once again get it done in the NL Central this year and it could be the year where Molina wins NL MVP. The Cardinals are also helped by Aroldis Chapman’s injury that he sustained for the Cincinnati Reds.

Mar 7, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez (13) hits against the Texas Rangers in the fifth inning at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

NL West—Los Angeles Dodgers. Yes, Clayton Kershaw will be starting the year on the disabled list, but it’s not as if he’ll be gone for the entire year. He’ll be back and likely will not lose a step. Hanley Ramirez, another potential NL MVP candidate is back from last year’s team along with Yasiel Puig. This team made it to the NLCS last year—just imagine how scary they would look if they had Matt Kemp healthy. Also, if it is one thing this team does better than anyone else in baseball, seemingly these days, it is to throw money around as if they are drunken sailors. The Dodgers were able to spend a lot of money thanks to their new television network. Their biggest problem is making sure that channel can be seen by everyone in Southern California. Wins should not be hard to come across in Chavez Ravine this year for LA’s Boys in Blue.

Mar 3, 2014; Bradenton, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara (19) throws a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

AL East—Boston Red Sox. What the Red Sox did in 2013 was astonishing. The year before, they were the worst team in baseball and had locker room issues that ran so deep that David Ortiz questioned if he still wanted to play for Boston anymore. That was with Bobby Valentine as manager. Hire John Farrell as skipper from the Toronto Blue Jays, add in Koji Uehara as closer, and you have a team that can and did win another World Series.

Mar 26, 2014; Clearwater, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) hits a triple in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in a spring training exhibition game at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

AL Central—Detroit Tigers. For some reason or another, it appears as if the Tigers are always that team that people expect to be surpassed one of the years, whether it is by the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, or whomever. Do not expect this to be that kind of year in Detroit. Even though this team lost Doug Fister and Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera is still with this team. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez are with this team as well. Also, Ian Kinsler has also been added via a trade between the Tigers and Texas Rangers. That was a trade that Kinsler was not too happy with, as evidenced by his 0-162 comments. Kinsler probably won’t have to worry about Texas as the Tigers will likely win the AL Central again.

Mar 6, 2014; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics DH Yoenis Cespedes (52) greets first baseman Brandon Moss (37) after his two run home run in the third inning of their spring training baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

AL West—Oakland Athletics. Say what you want about the O.co Coliseum, but the Oakland Athletics as a baseball team do not have backup issues. Yes, they lost Jarrod Parker to Tommy John Surgery, but the A’s are still one of the best teams in the American League. They just don’t get a great deal of attention partly because they are overshadowed by the San Francisco Giants in the Bay Area. This team surprised everyone in 2012 when they won the American League West in dramatic fashion over the Texas Rangers, then continued by winning the division again the following season. Even with injuries and tougher competition from the Rangers and Angels, the A’s will once again win the AL West.

Wild Cards:

National League:

Giants and Pirates

American League:

Rangers and Yankees

Individual awards:

National League Cy Young Award Winner—Clayton Kershaw

National League Rookie of the Year Award Winner—Archie Bradley

National League Manager of the Year—Matt Williams

National League MVP—Yadier Molina

American League Cy Young Award Winner—Felix Hernandez

American League Rookie of the Year Award Winner—George Springer

American League Manager of the Year—Ned Yost

American League MVP—Miguel Cabrera

World Series Prediction:

Dodgers over Tigers in six games—Hanley Ramirez wins World Series MVP.

Mar 17, 2014; Kissimmee, FL, USA; The umpires gather at home plate before the game between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Play Ball!