Home Field: Wrigley Field
2014: 73 – 89 · 5th NL Central
O/U in 2015: 81.5 Wins · Under
What We Love:
- Youth Movement. Years of poor finishes and savvy trades have left the Cubs with the best farm system in MLB. Cubs’ fans have already been introduced to the likes of Javier Baez, Arismandy Alcantara and Jorge Soler. Amazingly, the best is still to come. We’ll have to wait a few weeks, due to controllability reasons, but it will definitely be worth it, when one of the most highly touted prospects in all of baseball, Kris Bryant, makes their highly anticipated debut. Following him will be the likes of SS Addison Russell, RHP C.J Edwards and C/OF Kyle Schwarber.
- Jon Lester. Not only does the signing of the left handed Lester give the Cubs a legit workhorse and ace in their rotation, but it also signifies that the Cubs are willing to be buyers opposed to sellers. Next step: contention.
- Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon. The former Rays manager signed a 5 year deal to become the Cubs new bench boss in the offseason. Maddon is considered one of the best baseball minds in the game and it should be very interesting to see what happens when he teams up with another great baseball mind in Epstein. What Maddon and former Rays GM Andrew Friedman did in Tampa Bay was absolutely remarkable. It should be very fun to see what Maddon and Epstein are able to do with this roster and (deep) farm system.
- Anthony Rizzo. After a breakout year in 2014, the Cubs first baseman could be showing the first signs of potential super stardom.
What We Hate:
- Kris Bryant toiling in the minors. I understand that it’s more about the business end of the game (service time, controllability, etc…) than of a question of whether he has the talent to belong; he answered that during Spring Training. Either way, it sucks.
- Renovations at Wrigley. It just isn’t the same without the fans in the outfield bleachers. It also seems really odd to see a Jumbotron sitting above the ivy covered outfield. I’m sure this is what it must have felt like when they (finally) installed lights back in 1988.
- That ridiculous attempt at a mascot.
- Knowing that Mark Prior is only 34 and hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since 2006.
- Chet Steadman’s pitching face and corresponding grunt.
Impact Player: 1B Anthony Rizzo
Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Jorge Soler
Potential Bust Candidate: SS Starlin Castro
Top Prospect: Kris Bryant · 3B · MLB ETA: 2015
MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=chc
Irrelevant Throwback Player: RHP Sergio Mitre (2003-05)
Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Newly acquired CF Dexter Fowler was teammates with the reliever back in 2010, while they were both in Colorado. The Rockies were one of three teams that Dotel played for in 2010.
Final Prediction: 4th NL Central
Home Field: Great American Ballpark
2014: 76 – 86 · 4th NL Central
O/U in 2015: 79.5 · Under
What We Love:
- Johnny Cueto. The Reds right hander made 34 starts a year ago went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA, struck out 242 hitters over 243.2 innings and finished 2nd in NL Cy Young voting. It was his best season since he went 19-9 back in 2012. Cueto is signed through 2015 and becomes a free agent at season’s end, if the Reds are far enough out of it in this season, don’t be surprised to see Cueto become available.
- The new Todd-Father. After posting back to back above average seasons in 2012 and 2013, Frazier enjoyed a big breakout year in 2014. Last season, Frazier played in 157 games, hit for a .273 average and added 29 HR and 80 RBI; he also made his first career All Star appearance.
- The Cuban Missile. What’s not to like about watching Aroldis Chapman sling 100mph+ fastballs, with a wipeout slider, from the left-hand side?
- Billy Hamilton’s wheels. Hamilton would have fit right in during the stolen base heyday of the 1980’s. The Reds CF has elite speed and stole 56 bases in his rookie season a year ago. Hamilton’s speed gives him the ability to change the outcome of each and every game on the bases alone.
- The 2015 Mid-Summer Classic. The Queen City will be the host of this year’s All Star game and festivities. It should also make for an interesting Home Run Derby, given Great American Ballpark’s home run friendly reputation.
- Mr. Red, the Red’s mustachioed mascot.
What We Hate:
- The rotation behind Cueto. Homer Bailey will open the season on the DL and Mike Leake has been a pretty reliable starter since he came in to the majors back in 2010, but after those two, things get a little questionable. The Reds traded RHP Mat Latos to the Marlins in the offseason and one of the players they got back, RHP Anthony DeScalafani, will open the season in the Reds rotation. DeScalafani has 6 career starts to his professional resume. Veteran right-hander and 2015 “I can’t believe he is still eating in MLB” candidate, Jason Marquis, and Cuban rookie, Raisel Iglesias, will round out the rotation. LHP Tony Cingrani is also available to start, but he will open the season in the bullpen.
- Durability concerns. The Reds ability to contend in the Central could come down to how many man games they lose to the Disabled List. Players like Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Devin Mesoraco and Aroldis Chapman have all spent time on the DL at one point or another. SP Homer Bailey will open the season on the DL but should come off of it within the first couple weeks.
- 27 and counting. With Marlon Byrd slated to open the season as the starting LF, he will become the 27th different player to patrol LF for the Reds since the Big Donkey (Adam Dunn) left in August 2008.
Impact Player: SP Johnny Cueto
Potential Breakout Candidate: CF Billy Hamilton
Potential Bust Candidate: 1B Joey Votto
Top Prospect: Robert Stephenson · RHP · MLB ETA: 2016
MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=cin
Irrelevant Throwback Player: SS D’Angelo Jiminez (2003-05)
Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Dotel was teammates with OF Skip Schumaker back in St. Louis in 2011.
Final Prediction: 5th NL Central
Home Field: Miller Park
2014: 82 – 80 · 3rd NL Central
O/U in 2015: 80.5 Wins · Over
What We Love:
- Brewers batting order. Even with Ryan Braun sitting out the first couple games of the season because of a strained side, this is a batting order that could be among the most potent in the National League. Until Braun returns, the Brewers batting order should look something like this: CF Carlos Gomez, C Jonathan Lucroy, 1B Adam Lind, 3B Aramis Ramirez, LF Khris Davis, RF Gerardo Parra, SS Jean Segura and 2B Scooter Gennett.
- Jonathan Lucroy. Took a big next step in becoming an elite catcher with his 2014 season. Lucroy hit .301/13/69 in 153 games; his 53 doubles also paced MLB.
- Aramis Ramirez’s career. Seems like an eternity since he made his MLB debut as a 20yr old in Pittsburgh back in 1998. Now in the twilight of his career, Ramirez will most likely not end up in Cooperstown, but he had one hell of a career nonetheless: 18 seasons · 2060 G · 2189 H · .285 AVG · .840 OPS · 369 HR · 1342 RBI · 3x All Star · 1x Silver Slugger.
- The Robin Yount era throwbacks. Nothing more 80’s than that blue and yellow colour scheme. The MB Glove logo is also pound for pound tops in MLB.
- Any ballplayer named Scooter.
What We Hate:
- Starting rotation. The Brewers moved RHP Yovanni Gallardo to the Rangers in the offseason and in doing so; they have depleted a rotation that was already pretty thin to begin. Right-handers, Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse, will anchor the rotation but both have been susceptible to injury in their career. RHP Wily Peralta enjoyed a big 17 win breakout season in 2014 but it was only his second full season in the majors so who knows what happens this season. After those three, the rotation should be rounded out by Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson. Former 1st rounders, Johnny Hellweg, Taylor Jungman and Jed Bradley are all in the minors but have not shown much promise, if any, at the ML level.
- Poor farm system. Years of poor scouting and player development has left the Brewers with one of the thinner farm systems in MLB. The Brewers farm system lacks both impact pitching prospects, as well as impact positional prospects. Not only does this lack of depth hamper the Brewers if injuries occur, but it also leaves the cupboards bare if Brewers management looks to add via the trade market.
Impact Player: CF Carlos Gomez
Potential Breakout Candidate: SP Wily Peralta
Potential Bust Candidate: 1B Adam Lind
Top Prospect: Orlando Arcia · SS · MLB: 2016
MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=mil
Irrelevant Throwback Player: SP Doug Davis (2003-2006, 2010)
Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Recently acquired, Adam Lind, and Dotel were members of the Blue Jays back in 2011.
Final Prediction: 3rd NL Central
Home Field: PNC Park
2014: 88 – 74 · 2nd NL Central
O/U in 2015: 85.5 Wins · Over
What We Love:
- Andrew McCutchen’s everything. The 2013 NL MVP winner actually had a statistically better season in 2014 than in his MVP year the season before. Cutch hit .314/25/83 in 146 games last season and led MLB with a .410 OBP. In seven seasons in the bigs, Cutch is a 4x All Star and has finished in the top three in MVP voting in the last three straight seasons.
- Josh Harrison’s versatility. Due to injuries and lack of production, The Jay Hey Kid saw time at 2B, 3B, SS, LF and RF in 2014. But it wasn’t just in the field where Harrison had an impact on the Pirates. Harrison’s .315/13/52 in 143 games were all new career highs and helped propel the Pirates back into the postseason. The Pirates rewarded Harrison by signing him to a 4yr/$27.3mil contract before the start of the season.
- Gerrit Cole’s fastball.
- Pedro Alvarez’s power and move across the diamond to 1B
- Any throwback jersey from the 1970’s.
What We Hate:
- Loss of Russell Martin. In Martin, the Pirates lost a leader both on the field and in the clubhouse, an elite defender and receiver and some valuable run production in the lineup. The loss of Martin could have been softened by going out and acquiring another legitimate starting catcher, but instead opted to sign former Yankees backup, Francisco Cervelli. That of course leads me to the next point…
- Attempting to replace Russell Martin with Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli, who has spent his career as a backup in New York, has never played in more than 93 games in a season and is now poised to become a starting catcher for the first time in his career. Cervelli, who has spent considerable time on the DL, will also need to prove that he has the durability to catch upwards of 130 games.
- Back of rotation. The duo of LHP Jeff Locke and RHP Vance Worley are nothing special but will need to keep the seats warm until top pitching prospects, Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon, are ready for the show.
Impact Player: CF Andrew McCutcheon
Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Gregory Polanco
Potential Bust Candidate: 3B Josh Harrison
Top Prospect: Tyler Glasnow · RHP · MLB: 2016
MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=pit
Irrelevant Throwback Player: RP Damaso Marte (2001, 2006-08)
Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: The Pirates are one of the thirteen franchises that Dotel has suited up for. Dotel pitched in 41 games back in 2010.
Final Prediction: 2nd Central
St. Louis Cardinals
Home Field: Busch Stadium
2014: 90 – 72 · 1st NL Central
O/U in 2015: 87.5 Wins · Over
What We Love:
- The acquisition of Jason Heyward. Faced with suddenly having to replace Oscar Taveras, the Cards sent former 1st rounder, Shelby Milller, to the Braves for the talented Heyward. Heyward’s blend of speed, power and defense, should play well in this Cardinals lineup. What is also worth noting is the fact that the Cardinals should hardly miss having Miller in their rotation, as highly touted, former prospect, Carlos Martinez, is poised to fill that void.
- Yadier Molina. Still among the games top catchers and an elite defender at the position.
- Kolten Wong’s combo of power and speed.
- The management team of Mike Matheny and GM John Mozeliak.
- Carlos Martinez wearing #18 in honour of Oscar Taveras.
What We Hate:
- Durability of starting rotation. Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez are the only members of the Cardinals rotation who haven’t spent time on the Disabled List during their career. The others, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, John Lackey and Jaime Garcia, have all spent considerable amounts of time on the DL during their career.
- The tragic death of Oscar Taveras. Just an unbelievable loss of talent and life. RIP.
- Lack of power in the lineup. Outside of 1B Matt Adams, this is a team that is void of a true HR threat.
- Giving the Cardinals free 1st round picks as a “competitive balance.” Small market or not, how does a team that has won World Series titles in 2006 and 2011, as well as losing titles in 2004 and 2013, get given free first round draft selections?
Impact Player: RF Jason Heyward
Potential Breakout Candidate: SP Carlos Martinez
Potential Bust Candidate: C Yadier Molina
Top Prospect: Stephen Piscotty · OF · MLB ETA: 2015
MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=stl
Irrelevant Throwback Player: 1B/OF Eli Marrero (1997-2003)
Six Degrees of Octavio Dotel: Dotel was part of the Cardinals World Series championship team back in 2011. Dotel was acquired by the Cardinals, as part of the package received from the Blue Jays, in exchange for CF Colby Rasmus.
Final Prediction: 1st NL Central