Fantasy Football 2014:

Predicting the MLB season to come

Yahoo Sports

Sometimes baseball throws you a bone. It is fairly easy to predict that Craig Biggio, health willing, is going to eclipse 3,000 hits this season, and that unless he gets hauled into court first, Barry Bonds will hit his 756th home run.

Milestones tend to set themselves up that way. Trying to prognosticate an entire season for 750 players, however, starts to get sticky.

No one knows whether voters are going to start considering the designated hitter for MVP – and if the best candidate might not be David Ortiz. Who can say how many wins Daisuke Matsuzaka will have, how many home runs Ryan Howard will slug, how many times Adam Dunn will swing and miss through a third strike? How can you possibly choose an American League Rookie of the Year from a crop that includes Matsuzaka, Alex Gordon and Delmon Young? Or a National League batting champion among Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Todd Helton?

Perhaps Helton is a better choice as Comeback Player of the Year, though Derrek Lee fits there, too. Maybe he'll win a home run title. At least a dozen AL players could supplant Ortiz.

And that's the beauty of all these names and the forecasts that follow. They spur discussion. They excite us. They personify fun.

Simply, they're baseball.

Category
Jeff Passan
Tim Brown
Mark Pesavento
AL MVP Travis Hafner, Cleveland Paul Konerko, Chicago Joe Mauer, Minnesota
Darkhorse Hideki Matsui, New York Michael Young, Texas Jermaine Dye, Chicago
NL MVP Albert Pujols, St. Louis Albert Pujols, St. Louis Lance Berkman, Houston
Darkhorse Barry Bonds, San Francisco Andruw Jones, Atlanta Derrek Lee, Chicago
AL Cy Young Johan Santana, Minnesota Johan Santana, Minnesota Johan Santana, Minnesota
Darkhorse Erik Bedard, Baltimore C.C. Sabathia, Cleveland John Lackey, Los Angeles
NL Cy Young Jake Peavy, San Diego Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Chris Young, San Diego
Darkhorse Chris Young, San Diego Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Matt Cain, San Francisco
AL Rookie of the Year Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Delmon Young, Tampa Bay Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston
Darkhorse Adam Miller, Cleveland Akinori Iwamura, Tampa Bay Brandon Wood, Los Angeles
NL Rookie of the Year Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Kevin Kouzmanoff, San Diego Homer Bailey, Cincinnati
Darkhorse Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Hunter Pence, Houston Hunter Pence, Houston
AL home run leader Alex Rodriguez, New York David Ortiz, Boston David Ortiz, Boston
Darkhorse Nick Swisher, Oakland Troy Glaus, Toronto Mark Teixeira, Texas
NL home run leader Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Albert Pujols, St. Louis Albert Pujols, St. Louis
Darkhorse Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Adam LaRoche, Pittsburgh Matt Holliday, Colorado
AL batting champion Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Miguel Tejada, Baltimore Justin Morneau, Minnesota
Darkhorse Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Bobby Abreu, New York Carlos Guillen, Detroit
NL batting champion Albert Pujols, St. Louis Miguel Cabrera, Florida Miguel Cabrera, Florida
Darkhorse Brian McCann, Atlanta Derrek Lee, Chicago Garrett Atkins, Colorado
AL MVP-in-waiting Alex Gordon, Kansas City Joe Mauer, Minnesota Delmon Young, Tampa Bay
NL MVP-in-waiting Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Chase Utley, Philadelphia Jose Reyes, New York
AL Cy Young-in-waiting Dan Haren, Oakland John Lackey, Los Angeles Jered Weaver, Los Angeles
NL Cy Young-in-waiting Matt Cain, San Francisco Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Homer Bailey, Cincinnati
AL comeback player Jhonny Peralta, Cleveland Darin Erstad, Chicago Rich Harden, Oakland
NL comeback player Todd Helton, Colorado Derrek Lee, Chicago Josh Hamilton, Cincinnati
AL breakout hitter Nick Markakis, Baltimore Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Mark Teahen, Kansas City
NL breakout hitter Stephen Drew, Arizona Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
AL breakout pitcher Felix Hernandez, Seattle Felix Hernandez, Seattle Erik Bedard, Baltimore
NL breakout pitcher Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Matt Capps, Pittsburgh Chris Young, San Diego
First manager fired Mike Hargrove, Seattle Clint Hurdle, Colorado Jim Tracy, Pittsburgh
First GM fired Bill Bavasi, Seattle Jim Bowden, Washington Bill Bavasi, Seattle
Clemens-O-Meter 99.9% returns 99.44% returns 100% returns
Matsuzaka wins 17 13 18
Howard home runs 56 50 47
Adam Dunn strikeouts 165 196 180
Lou Piniella ejections 4 6 6
Date Bonds hits 756 Aug. 19, 2007 Sept. 28, 2007 – at Los Angeles April 8, 2008
Biggest free-agent contract Andruw Jones – seven years, $140 million Alex Rodriguez – seven years, $145 Carlos Zambrano – six years, $126 million

JEFF PASSAN'S PREDICTED STANDINGS

AL East

As much as the Braves like to make of their 14 consecutive division championships, the Yankees are at nine and counting in a far tougher AL East. Making it to double digits won't be easy, not with a Boston rotation that features the dynamic Daisuke Matsuzaka as their No. 3 starter. The Red Sox go equally deep in their lineup, and if their bullpen shores up, they're the best team in baseball. Toronto hasn't done much to improve, and Baltimore and Tampa Bay both rely on young pitching staffs that don't throw enough strikes to succeed in the East. It's a two-team race again – the best kind.

1. Boston Red Sox 98-64
2. New York Yankees 92-70
3. Toronto Blue Jays 83-79
4. Baltimore Orioles 71-91
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays 70-92

AL Central

Baseball's best division could go any of four ways, though with Chicago's core aging, Minnesota's rotation in flux and Detroit due for an inevitable post-World Series letdown, the talented young Cleveland team – unsure bullpen and all – is ready to grab the crown. Detroit has gotten better with Gary Sheffield, but remember that the Tigers went 40-41 over the second half last season. In Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer, the Twins have the best 3M the state has seen since Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing opened in 1902. As for the Royals … well, at least they won't lose 100.

1. Cleveland Indians 94-68
2. Detroit Tigers 91-71
3. Minnesota Twins 84-78
4. Chicago White Sox 78-84
5. Kansas City Royals 64-98

AL West

If Jered Weaver's arm is OK and Bartolo Colon returns from rotator-cuff surgery, Los Angeles has five starters with No. 1 stuff. If Rich Harden and Bobby Crosby stay healthy, Oakland contends. If Sammy Sosa hits and Texas' pitching staff can limit home runs, the Rangers are a threat. If Seattle gets performance commensurate to payment from Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson, a Cy Young year from Felix Hernandez, steady starts from free-agent signings Jeff Weaver and Miguel Batista – actually, that's probably a little too much to ask for. Point is, the West is full of ifs, and the division will break on them.

1. Los Angeles Angels 90-72
2. Oakland Athletics 85-77
3. Texas Rangers 82-80
4. Seattle Mariners 69-93

NL East

Jimmy Rollins got it right. Philadelphia is the team to beat in the East – and maybe in the entire NL. The only worry is the bullpen, though the Mets, with Duaner Sanchez out until August, all of a sudden have concerns there, too. And that's small beans compared to the Mets' patchwork rotation, which need only keep them in games, because the offense remains prolific. Atlanta will be ready to contend again in 2008, Florida will dearly miss Joe Girardi and if Washington manages to avoid 100 losses, we officially nominate Manny Acta as manager of the year.

1. Philadelphia Phillies 94-68
2. New York Mets 87-75
3. Atlanta Braves 85-77
4. Florida Marlins 68-94
5. Washington Nationals 57-105

NL Central

Last year, this division was an embarrassment down the stretch, with St. Louis nearly gagging a double-digit lead. Of course, the Cardinals redeemed themselves plenty with a World Series win, and it's that experience that makes them the favorite this year. Though not by much. Milwaukee brings a healthy Ben Sheets to top the division's best rotation and Chicago brings $300 million in new contracts to the party. Houston, with a second-division rotation for the first time in years, should finish down there, and Cincinnati has neither the pitching nor the bullpen to match its surprising run last year. Pittsburgh is an interesting case – improved lineup, young starters and decent bullpen. It just seems like something is missing. Sounds a lot, in fact, like the whole division.

1. St. Louis Cardinals 85-77
2. Milwaukee Brewers 84-78
3. Chicago Cubs 81-81
4. Houston Astros 74-88
5. Cincinnati Reds 72-90
6. Pittsburgh Pirates 70-92

NL West

A lot like the AL Central in its depth and only a notch below in talent, the NL West throws the greatest array of starting pitching in the game. The lineups will do the wheat-and-chaff work, and the Dodgers', though lacking a true power bat, is deep enough if Rafael Furcal can get healthy and Nomar Garciaparra can stay that way.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers 92-70
2. Arizona Diamondbacks 87-75
3. San Diego Padres 85-77
4. San Francisco Giants 81-81
5. Colorado Rockies 77-85

Playoffs

First round: Red Sox over Angels; Indians over Yankees; Phillies over Cardinals; Dodgers over Mets

ALCS: Red Sox over Indians

NLCS: Dodgers over Phillies

World Series: Red Sox over Dodgers

TIM BROWN'S PREDICTED STANDINGS

AL East

The last time Alex Rodriguez played in a contract year (2000), he hit 41 home runs, drove in 132 runs, batted .316 and finished third in the AL MVP voting. By chance, future teammate Jason Giambi was the AL MVP that season and future former best friend Derek Jeter finished 10th. I'm just saying. It took most of spring training, but the Red Sox made the sensible decision and allowed Jonathan Papelbon back into the ninth inning, meaning it'll be possible to breathe again at Fenway Park after "Sweet Caroline".

1. New York Yankees 98-64
2. Boston Red Sox 96-66
3. Toronto Blue Jays 85-77
4. Baltimore Orioles 73-89
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays 70-92

AL Central

Not only did the Tigers put Gary Sheffield in the middle of their order, but they still have the best pitching staff in baseball, meaning they should survive the Central gauntlet. Slight one-season declines in Chicago and Minnesota based on starting pitching help bring back the Indians, assuming their starters recover from their various abdominal issues (Cliff Lee, strain; C.C. Sabathia, excessive) and everybody else catches the ball.

1. Detroit Tigers 92-70
2. Cleveland Indians 87-75
3. Chicago White Sox 85-77
4. Minnesota Twins 85-77
5. Kansas City Royals 65-97

AL West

"Stuff" guys John Lackey and Ervin Santana, general starting depth and back-end bullpen will get the Angels through the early weeks without Jered Weaver and the possible extended absence of Bartolo Colon. They'll also benefit from a rejuvenated Garret Anderson behind Vladimir Guerrero. The rest of the division – even the Mariners – should hang close before falling away in September, unable to match the Angels' pitching.

1. Los Angeles Angels 89-73
2. Oakland Athletics 85-77
3. Texas Rangers 81-81
4. Seattle Mariners 78-84

NL East

I'm betting here on Mets GM Omar Minaya recognizing the need for at least another starter, and that's assuming a passable rookie year from Mike Pelfrey, and maybe a reliever, given the Duaner Sanchez injury. Minaya has the stomach and the parts – Lastings Milledge and Phil Humber, to name two – to add a pitcher at the trading deadline, which is about the time Pedro Martinez is expected back. Granted, it's dicey, and Phillies GM Pat Gillick is perhaps as likely to make a move for a reliever, if that still looks like a trouble spot come July. They could just slug it out for six months and then see who is left standing.

1. New York Mets 91-71
2. Philadelphia Phillies 88-74
3. Atlanta Braves 83-79
4. Florida Marlins 75-87
5. Washington Nationals 52-110

NL Central

The Astros get the call based on their acquisition of Carlos Lee, their rotation being the most likely landing place for Roger Clemens, and the back-of-the-bullpen potential. The Brewers could have the best rotation in the division, but had trouble scoring runs with Lee in the lineup, which makes it a two-Lee swing for the Astros. The usual MVP-type season from Albert Pujols gives the Cardinals hope, as does a nice spring by Adam Wainwright, and the Cubs will come a long way back from 96 losses, but not all the way. Cool stat: The Pirates won 37 of their final 72 games last season despite scoring the fewest runs in the league during that period. Their pitching is coming.

1. Houston Astros 84-78
2. St. Louis Cardinals 81-81
3. Milwaukee Brewers 81-81
4. Chicago Cubs 79-83
5. Cincinnati Reds 75-87
6. Pittsburgh Pirates 71-91

NL West

Brad Penny had a disastrous second half, was cast into the bullpen in the playoffs and then had the pitching-poor franchises calling about him most of the winter. And, yet, he still won 16 games, then lost weight in the offseason and returned to Vero Beach with an improved attitude. He is the pivotal guy in the division, because he would give the Dodgers a third 200-inning-type starter with potentially dominant stuff. The Padres could challenge them with Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Clay Hensley, Greg Maddux and David Wells, but the Giants fall off after Barry Zito and Matt Cain, and neither scored with the Dodgers in 2007. The Diamondbacks have too many youngsters in critical positions to be anything but a year away.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers 89-73
2. San Diego Padres 81-81
3. Arizona Diamondbacks 80-82
4. San Francisco Giants 76-86
5. Colorado Rockies 75-87

Playoffs

First round: Tigers over Red Sox; Angels over Yankees; Dodgers over Phillies; Mets over Astros.

ALCS: Tigers over Angels

NLCS: Dodgers over Mets

World Series: Tigers over Dodgers

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