BASEBALL IS BACK!
Forget Christmas, this is the most wonderful time of the year. We’ve got the Final Four kicking into high gear this weekend along with the building to the drama at Augusta next weekend for the Masters; but most importantly, Baseball begins. After an offseason featuring some power-swings in the majors, we begin tonight in Chicago with the start of the hopeful (depending on who you’re speaking to) resurgence of the Cubs taking on their arch-rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. Newly acquired Cub Jon Lester takes the bump against Cards’ vet and Cy Young hopeful Adam Wainwright to kick off 2015, and I could NOT be more excited. This year to keep pace with the season, we here at the Thunderblog will be putting out our own power rankings. Before we get to the Opening Day Rankings, here are my picks for the 2015 MLB Season.
1) Toronto Blue Jays (#3)
2) Boston Red Sox
3) Baltimore Orioles
4) New York Yankees
5) Tampa Bay Rays
1) Detroit Tigers (#2)
2) Cleveland Indians (WC)
3) Chicago White Sox
4) Kansas City Royals
5) Minnesota Twins
1) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (#1)
2) Seattle Mariners (WC)
3) Oakland Athletics
4) Houston Astros
5) Texas Rangers
MVP: Mike Trout
Cy Young: David Price
Wildcard: Mariners over Tigers
ALDS: Angels over Mariners and Blue Jays over Tigers
ALCS: Angles over Blue Jays
1) Washington Nationals (#1)
2) New York Mets
3) Miami Marlins
4) Atlanta Braves
5) Philadelphia Phillies
1) St. Louis Cardinals (#3)
2) Chicago Cubs (WC)
3) Pittsburgh Pirates
4) Cincinnati Reds
5) Milwaukee Brewers
1) Los Angeles Dodgers (#2)
2) San Diego Padres (WC)
3) San Francisco Giants
4) Arizona Diamondbacks
5) Colorado Rockies
MVP: Yasiel Puig
Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
Wildcard: Cubs over Padres
NLDS: Nats over Cubs and Cards over Dodgers
NLCS: Nationals over Cardinals
WORLD SERIES: Washington Nationals defeat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Six Games
And now without further ado, the Opening Day Power Rankings:
#30 Philadelphia Phillies – Good god that was painful to type. This year is going to be tough. Chase Utley and Cole Hamels each had strong campaigns in Florida but now the top storyline is when will Cole be dealt.
#29 Texas Rangers – Aside from Prince Fielder, the Rangers don’t have too much to drive them through a strong AL West. It’ll be interesting to see how Fielder returns from injury this year.
#28 Colorado Rockies – Pitching? Seriously, their rotation has Kyle Kendrick at the top of it. Tulo and CarGo will need to each hit 50 homers to support that staff.
#27 Arizona Diamondbacks – The right side of the field has some great potential but they’re pitching staff doesn’t have the chops to hang with the big dogs in the NL West.
#26 Minnesota Twins – If some of the guys in the Twins’ lineup can get it going (*cough* Joe Mauer *cough*), they can climb up out of this spot. But like the Rockies, their pitching is lacking a big name.
#25 Atlanta Braves – The Braves have too many missing pieces in their lineup to compete in the NL East, let alone in the National League as a whole. Julio Teheren and Freddy Freeman may have a strong season, but that’s about it.
#24 Tampa Bay Rays – I love some of the players in this lineup (Longoria, Carbrera, Jennings, and Archer) but there are serious holes around those guys. The loss of Joe Maddon will make a large effect on this team as well.
#23 Milwaukee Brewers – Scooter Genette is poised to have a great sophomore season and Carlos Gomez is poised to continue to rob anyone and everyone of home runs. Aside from those guys, the Brew Crew’s season will depend on their veteran pitching staff and if they can hang with the stronger lineups in the NL Central.
#22 Houston Astros – The ‘Stros are soooooo close, but not close enough. Picking up Evan Gattis was huge but they’re still lacking within their pitching staff. Just to give you an idea, their top reliever on ESPN.com is Chad Qualls.
#21 Oakland Athletics – Don’t worry A’s fans, we’re moving into the “Just Out of the Playoffs” section. The A’s are the opposite of the Astros. They still have a strong rotation but losing Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays hurts.
#20 Cincinnati Reds – A lot of people are knocking the Reds and I can see why, their bullpen is weak outside of Aroldis Chapman, but their batting order gives them a strong potential to contend.
#19 New York Yankees – Losing Jeter and gaining back A-Rod, ok. The middle of the Yankee’s infield is not what it used to be. It’s going to be exciting to see a full season of Masahiro Tanaka though.
#18 Miami Marlins – Giancarlo got a big payday over the offseason and he’ll need to show he’s worth it. Injuries to some key pieces (Jose Fernandez) are why I have them below fellow NL East team…
#17 New York Mets – Yup, the Mets are looking stronger than the Yankees. Their lineup is more complete but with the loss of Zach Wheeler, they’ve dropped out of a serious playoff contender. However, they’ll still finish second in a weak NL East this seaosn, that batting order can tear up the weaker teams in the division (like the Phillies, sadly).
#16 Baltimore Orioles – Chris Davis can certainly improve on his down 2014 during this year’s campaign but with their rotation, it’ll be tough to see them stay strong through the season.
#15 San Francisco Giants – The defending champs have not looked very strong throughout Spring Training. They should be able to compete throughout this season and can definitely make the playoffs, but they may start 2015 slow.
#14 San Diego Padres – The Padres are one of the teams in the aforementioned “power swing” throughout baseball. Nabbing Will Middlebrooks, Justin Upton, Wil Meyers, Matt Kemp, and James Shields puts the Padres in a strong spot in 2015. They may need a little time, but I have them as a Wild Card team in the National League.
#13 Kansas City Royals – Man this was a tough call, separating the men from the men here. The 2015 Royals may not make the run the 2014 Royals did, but they will be good don’t you worry. They will certainly miss James Shields, that will be apparent quick.
#12 Boston Red Sox – The edition of the Kung Fu Panda will certainly add some bang to the Sox lineup but the lack of a veteran-catcher for this rotation, which lacks a big arm on the back-end, I believe will have the Sox coming up juuuuust short for the playoffs.
#11 Chicago White Sox – The White Sox made a big bang in the offseason signing Jeff Samardzija adding a big arm to a great rotation. The biggest excitement for this season will be what Jose Abreu does.
#10 Pittsburgh Pirates – It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch the Pirates 2015 campaign. Their batting order is as electrifying as ever. What concerns me is their rotation. While I have them ahead of the Padres to start the season, the Pirates’ rotation against the best division in baseball may be what edges them out and the Padres into October.
#9 Cleveland Indians – Corey Kluber just cashed in a big extension and we’re going to see the Windians investment pay off immediately. Cleveland’s offense should play that quick, small-ball style we’ve seen pay off for them in the past, including their 85-win season last year. Watch out for Brandon Moss.
#8 Chicago Cubs – People may think the Cubs aren’t ready. Remember the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays? You know who wasn’t on their Opening Day roster and still won ROTY? Evan Longoria. Sound familiar? Kris Bryant may not be at Wrigley tonight but he’ll be there. He, Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and crew will pull it together this season for the Northside.
#7 Toronto Blue Jays – Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin were big additions to only team north of the boarder. In a weaker AL East, the Blue Jays will prevail.
#6 Detroit Tigers – Let’s look at the heart of the Tigers’ order: Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and YOENIS CESPESDES. Verlander could have a big bounce back after he returns from the DL.
#5 Seattle Mariners – The Mariners are ready to make a run. Last year’s mid-game addition of Austin Jackson is going to pay off big time this season.
#4 St. Louis Cardinals – Jayson Heyward has made some serious improvements during the offseason. He will be completing an already great lineup and let’s not forget that rotation. Holy crap that rotation is unreal.
#3 Los Angeles Dodgers – JRoll and Howie Kendrick may both be vets, but they are necessary veterans for this lineup. My boy Clayton Kershaw is going to be a man on a mission this season. Like the 2014 San Antonio Spurs-type of mission, he wants October, he needs to improve on October. 2015 Cy Young.
#2 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – The Angels are going to be fun, Josh Hamilton’s issues aside. Mike Trout is poised to blow up this season. Opening up the season against the Mariners is going to be fun to watch this week.
#1 Washington Nationals – How could it not be? That lineup, that rotation, they’re going to be ridiculous. Just don’t beat up on my Phillies too much.
Disagree? Let me know in the comments below.