The 2015 Major League Baseball season kicked off on the 5th April, and this year promises to be one of the most competitive in recent memory. A memorable Opening Day saw Ben Zobrist, Hanley Ramirez (x2), Alex Rios and Jimmy Rollins all treat their new clubs to debut homeruns, Sonny Gray come within 6 outs of a no-hitter, and the Atlanta Braves actually win a game. One of the great things about American sports is that due to the worst teams getting the best draft picks, teams are rarely successful or terrible for long periods of time and that makes predicting what’s going to happen all the more difficult. Let’s take a stab anyway, beginning with the AL East.
Famously one of baseball’s most competitive divisions in the last few years, the AL East will be just as competitive this year, but possibly for all the wrong reasons. Rather than being unable to call a winner between two or three powerhouses, in 2015 the division winner will be the best of a strong but not great pack. Any of the five could feasibly win it, and any of the five could finish last, but the Red Sox seem the best placed to make a playoff run.
Boston Red Sox +190
Toronto Blue Jays +250
Baltimore Orioles +350
New York Yankees +450
Tampa Bay Rays +650
(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Last season: 96-66, 1st, eliminated in ALCS
Notable additions: Travis Snider
Notable departures: Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Kelly Johnson, Joe Saunders
The Orioles will struggle to replicate an outstanding 2014 campaign that saw them fall two games short of their first World Series since 1983. The tough job of replacing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis will fall to Travis Snider, David Lough, Delmon Young and the excellent Steve Pearce, with Nolan Reimold also signing a minor league deal. Manny Machado’s return from injury will be a huge boost along with the expected return of Matt Wieters in late April, but hampered by news of an injury to J.J. Hardy. A deep rotation will mean that this Baltimore team is still one capable of challenging in 2015.
Boston Red Sox
Last season: 71-91, 5th
Notable additions: Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Rick Porcello, Ryan Hanigan, Wade Miley, Alexi Ogando
Notable departures: Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Dempster, David Ross, Yoenis Cespedes, Burke Badenhop
Awful in 2012, world champs in 2013, awful in 2014, 7th favourite to win the 2015 World Series at time of writing. The Sox have revamped their lineup in some style, adding elite 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval, and big bat Hanley Ramirez, with the intention of playing him in left field. They can boast great strength in depth, with Brock Holt, Daniel Nava and Allen Craig their bench options, as well as Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the minors. There are question marks over the strength of a rotation no longer led by Jon Lester, but if new additions play to expectations this is a Boston team that should be playing October baseball.
New York Yankees
Last season: 84-78, 2nd
Notable additions: Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Jones, Andrew Miller, Didi Gregorious
Notable departures: Derek Jeter, Hiroki Kuroda, Martin Prado, David Phelps
Somewhat lost in the commotion of Derek Jeter’s retirement was the finish of a disappointing 2014 season for the Yankees. Even with the expensive additions of Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann the Yankees won one game fewer than in 2013. Despite losing evergreen starter Hiroki Kuroda the Bronx Bombers have a deep rotation, but a lineup with some holes. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are shells of their former selves, and options at middle infield are among the worst in the American League. It’ll take strong seasons from the Yankees’ better players to push the Red Sox for the division title.
Tampa Bay Rays
Last season: 77-85, 4th
Notable additions: Asdrubal Cabrera, Rene Rivera, John Jaso, Steven Souza Jr, Kevin Jepsen, Ernesto Frieri, Erasmo Ramirez
Notable departures: Ben Zobrist, Wil Myers, Yunel Escobar, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, Ryan Hanigan, Jose Molina
2014 was Tampa Bay’s first losing season since rebranding as the Rays and reaching the World Series in 2008 – an incredible streak for one of baseball’s poorest teams. Here begins a period of rebuilding for the Rays, who have acquired a series of prospects over the offseason, as well as in the David Price trade last year. The $7.5m spent on free agent Asdrubal Cabrera, however, signals a certain level of intent that the Rays still believe they can compete in one of baseball’s most competitive divisions. Certainly, were it not for two reasons, I might be tipping Tampa Bay as an outsider for this division. The first is the trade of baseball’s most underrated player Ben Zobrist, and the second is injuries to six starting pitchers (Cobb, Moore, Smyly, Colome, Romero and Burch Smith), which will mean serious contention is beyond them.
Toronto Blue Jays
Last year: 83-79, 3rd
Notable additions: Josh Donaldson, Michael Saunders, Russell Martin, Johan Santana, Andy Dirks
Notable departures: Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie, Brandon Morrow, Adam Lind, Anthony Gose
In Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and newly acquired Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays have the best outfielder, the best first baseman and the best third baseman in the American League East. In Russell Martin they have an elite catcher who gives them the option to have Navarro at DH and play Encarnacion at first, although he’ll see plenty of time at DH as well. Reyes is pretty good and Michael Saunders has some upside. Their rotation, though, is one of the weaker in the division and the bullpen leaves plenty to be desired. A lot of baseballs will clear the left field wall of Rogers Center, and I think the Blue Jays have enough talent to make a push for the postseason.