Kansas City Royals
Home Ballpark: Kauffman Stadium
2014 Finish: 89-72 · 2nd AL Central
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 83 · Push/Under
What We Love:
- Gold Glove Defense: With an above average defender manning every defensive position on the field, the Royals may very well have the best defense in MLB. The 2014 season saw the trio of Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon win back to back Gold Gloves at their respective positions; for Alex Gordon it was his 4th in a row. In fact, if it wasn’t for J.J Hardy’s glove in Baltimore, the Royals could very well have had a fourth Gold Glover in the fold, as SS Alcides Escobar has been an exceptional defender these past few seasons. The Royals also have the glove (and wheels) of OF Jarrod Dyson waiting on the bench. Dyson’s speed allows him to patrol the spacious outfield of Kauffman with relative ease. The Royals love being able to move Cain to RF to allow for Dyson’s glove and wheels to roam freely in CF.
- The K.C Bullpen: Not too sure if you were aware of this or not, but the Royals bullpen may have played a small role in their 2014 success. The power armed trio of closer, Greg Holland, and setup men, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera, combined for a 1.27 ERA over 204 innings pitched and helped the Royals to a MLB best 65-4 record when leading after six innings. Behind those three, the Royals have a duo of righties, Jason Frasor and Luke Hochevar, and a lefty, Brian Flynn, who was brought over from the Marlins and will replace the injured Tim Collins (Tommy John). Meanwhile, postseason revelation, Brandon Finnegan, is slated to open the season AAA Omaha, as he gets stretched out to start. The K.C bullpen is SO deep that there was talk in the offseason that the Royals were entertaining offers on Holland, who had just won the Mariano Rivera Award for being the best reliever in MLB.
- Thievery on the base paths: 153 stolen bases led the MLB
- The low risk/high reward signing of SP Kris Medlen (2 yrs/$8.5 mil) which, if healthy, could be an ABSOLUTE steal of a deal.
- Yordano Ventura’s Pedro-esque arsenal.
- Kauffman Stadium’s waterfalls.
- Kansas City BBQ over the other main types of BBQ (Texas, Memphis and North Carolina).
What We Hate:
- Odds of Replicating 2014 Success: Anyone who predicted the run the Royals had in 2014 is either a prophet, or a liar. The Royals came out of (seemingly) nowhere last season to make both the playoffs and the World Series; ending their 29 year old playoff drought in the process. Unfortunately for the Royals, while other teams in the AL Central went out and added depth to their roster, the Royals were more concerned in replacing the pieces they had lost. Gone from the 2014 AL Pennant winners are the likes of SP “Mediocre Game” James Shields, OF Nori Aoki and DH Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler. Replacing them will be a trio of free agent signed in the offseason: SP Edinson Volquez, DH Kendrys Morales and OF Alex Rios. Those additions, while decent replacements for the departed, are a slight downgrade and come with more question marks. Can Volquez make the transition from NL to AL? How many at bats will the oft-injured Morales get? And, which Alex Rios did the Royals get? The biggest issue for the Royals though this season will be just competing in, what could be, a very tough AL Central.
- Not a whole lot of power in the lineup. Additions of Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales won’t be huge difference makers in a lineup that hit an MLB low 95 HR in 2014.
- Lack of catching depth (Erik Kratz and Francisco Pena) could result in an eventual breakdown of Sal Perez.
- Ability to draw walks – lead the MLB in fewest walks (380) in 2014.
- Waiting for Mike Moustakas to (ever) have a breakout season.
Player to Watch: SP Danny Duffy. The Royals have been waiting for Duffy to enjoy a breakthrough season since he made 20 starts for them in 2011. Unfortunately for Duffy and the Royals, the left hander has been plagued with durability issues. He was sidetracked by Tommy John surgery in 2012 and struggled with oblique and shoulder injuries down the stretch last season. If he remains healthy though, you can expect Duffy to build on an impressive 2014 that saw him make 25 starts, post a 9-12 record with a 2.53 ERA and strikeout 113 batters over 149.1 innings. A double digit win total is definitely in the cards for 2015, especially with the Royals looking to increase his workload to the 180-200 inning mark.
Top Pitching Prospect: Sean Manaea · LHP · MLB ETA: 2016
Top Positional Prospect: Raul Adalberto Mondesi · SS · MLB ETA: 2017
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=kc
Final Prediction: 4th AL Central
Boston Red Sox
Home Ballpark: Fenway (Pahk) Park
2014 Finish: 5th AL East · (71 – 91)
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 86 · Over
What We Love:
- Moves, Moves and More Moves: The Red Sox were not shy in throwing the dollars around this offseason. The Sox landed two of the biggest free agents on the market (Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez) and picked up a nice, low risk/high upside, reclamation project (Justin Masterson). Not content with just inking players, the Sox flipped OF Yoenis Cespedes to the Tigers for SP Rick Porcello, then moved pitchers Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa to the Diamondbacks in exchange for SP Wade Miley. They even bolstered their (already) deep bench by trading 3B Will Middlebrooks to the Padres for C Ryan Hanigan. Now just because you go out and throw money around and bring players in doesn’t guarantee you a trip to the World Series, or even the playoffs for that matter. But what the Red Sox have done is gone out and strengthened a glaring area of weakness (starting rotation), as well as added a pair of potent bats to their already stacked lineup. Sure there are no guarantees, but it’s hard not to like the Red Sox chances of taking advantage of what looks like a WIDE OPEN AL East. Perhaps there are even more moves to come… paging Cole Hamels.
- The farm system that just won’t quit: It really isn’t fair just how LOADED the Red Sox farm system is, especially given the fact that they are (usually) considered a perennial contender. Where most top teams in the MLB have stripped their farm systems bare via the trade market, the Red Sox have stockpiled a considerable number of high ceiling prospects whom can be used as on the field assets or as potential trade bait. Not only do the Sox have “homegrown” players on the cusp of contributing to their everyday lineup in Blake Swihart, Mookie Betts, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley Jr, but they also have managed to lock up two highly touted Cuban players in Rusney Castillo and the 19 year old uber prospect, Yoan Moncada. Remarkably, the Sox system will only continue to get deeper as they are slated to pick 7th overall in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft.
- Don’t call it a comeback: Three seasons featuring a variety of hand and wrist surgeries. Two straight seasons of dropping power numbers. So why do we love Dustin Pedroia in 2015? Because he is determined to be back at 100% and if that happens, then you just know that a vintage Dustin Pedroia season is in play for 2015. Even with nagging injuries sapping him off his power, Pedroia still managed to appear in 135 games in 2014, where he contributed .278/7/53 and won a Gold Glove. Big Papi may be the soul of the Red Sox, but Pedroia is the heart of that team. A big year by the 2B could be the difference between a playoff berth and (another) Championship. Remember that whole curse deal??
- Watching the twilight years of one of the games premiere power hitters – Big Papi.
- The rifle attached to C Christian Vazquez’s right arm.
- The return of the Knuckleball to Fenway Park in the form of SP Steven Wright.
- Boston Fans being forced to cheer for a player named Mookie.
- Jerry Remy’s attempts at pronouncing Cuban imports Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada.
What We Hate:
- Trick or Treat Starting Rotation: Sure the Red Sox brought in a trio of starting pitchers in the offseason, but what version of those starters will show up? Rick Porcello enjoyed his best season last year (15-13 · 3.43 ERA · 204.2 IP) but his low velocity and lack of a “put away” pitch leaves him susceptible to getting hit (career ERA/WHIP: 4.30/1.36). Wade Miley is basically the same pitcher as Porcello but from the left side, and with a few more strikeouts. Of the three new hurlers, the one with the biggest question marks surrounding them will be Justin Masterson. An All Star in 2013, Masterson infamously turned down a contract extension from the Indians at the end of the 2013 campaign in the hopes of cashing in during free agency after the 2014 season. Wrong. Wrong. Masterson had an absolutely atrocious 2014, which not only saw him demoted from the rotation to the bullpen, but also saw him dealt from Cleveland to St. Louis. Shockingly, there weren’t a whole lot of big dollar, multiyear contracts awaiting him at season’s end, so he signed a 1 year/$9.5 million dollar deal in the hopes of rebuilding his value; a far cry from the supposed $17.5 mil a year he was seeking before 2014. The biggest trick or treat pitcher in the rotation however is, Mr. Clay Buchholz. Talk about flashes of brilliance, here is a look at Clay’s last 5 seasons:
2010: 17-7 · 2.33 ERA · 173.2 IP · 1.20 WHIP · AS
2011: 6-3 · 3.48 ERA · 82.2 IP · 1.29 WHIP
2012: 11-8 · 4.56 ERA · 189.1 IP · 1.33 WHIP
2013: 12-1 · 1.74 ERA · 108.1 IP · 1.03 WHIP · AS
2014: 8-11 · 5.34 ERA · 170.1 IP · 1.39 WHIP
The two biggest obstacles preventing Buchholz from maintaining a successful career have been injuries and himself (control/confidence). When healthy and on top of his game, Buchholz has the makings of an elite pitcher. However, last year it looked like Buchholz could barely find himself, let alone the strike zone. A healthy and dominant Buchholz could give the Red Sox the ace this rotation sorely needs. If not, I am sure they’ll be in the market for a legit #1; see Hamels, Cole.
- Barren bullpen and an aging, soft tossing closer.
- The Panda’s attempts at becoming bigger than the Green Monster.
- Mike Napoli’s days as an everyday 1B.
- The thought of giving starting RF job to 34yr old, Shane Victorino, over Mookie Betts.
Player to Watch: SP Joe Kelly. A lot of people will probably have one of either Rusney Castillo or Mookie Betts down in this spot and for good reason. I too am a big fan of both players, especially Betts, and believe that they deserve to be on everyone’s “Watch List.” Instead of going with the sexy or obvious pick, I decided to take a look at Joe Kelly. Kelly was a guy who went 10-5 for a Cardinals team that went to the World Series against these very Red Sox back in 2013. Kelly pitched 124 innings for the Cards in 2013, mainly out of the ‘pen, but he did make 15 starts too. The Red Sox acquired Kelly, along with Allen Craig, from the Cardinals in exchange for “Kentucky Fried” John Lackey. Kelly should slot in as the Sox 4th or 5th starter, but he has the stuff that translates more towards a mid rotation arm, opposed to a back of the rotation one.
Top Pitching Prospect: Henry Owens · LHP · MLB ETA: 2015
Top Positional Prospect: Yoan Moncada · 2B · MLB ETA: 2017
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=bos
Final Prediction: 1st AL East