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Major League Baseball Preview 2015
Will Small Market dominance be a theme this season?
Several small market teams are currently favored to win their divisions in baseball this season. This is the result of a renewed focus on player development in small markets, along with plenty of small market teams coming to agreements on contract extensions with their young stars. Baseball is now relevant in more of America than it has been for quite some time, but some of the teams in large coastal cities are in the middle of significant rebuilding periods. This makes for a shift in the potential audience that Major League Baseball is drawing from in the coming season, as teams in different cities are relevant from what has become typical in past years. With a new group of contenders emerging in Major League Baseball, fans around the country have something to pay attention to as the storylines unfold. A further look at each division in baseball will help to determine how all of this will play out in the 2015 MLB season.
National League East
Washington Nationals - Their elite starting pitching staff is the story here, but there are some questions about how well their bullpen will protect the lead this season. Offensively and defensively the Nationals rank above average, and this should lead them to the top of the division again in 2015.
New York Mets - The Mets strong finish to 2015 was the result of their strong rotation, which should allow them to compete for a playoff spot this season. Young relief pitchers helped the Mets bullpen to find their way, as they closed out plenty of leads in the second half of the season. This coming season, the Mets will look for David Wright, Lucas Duda, Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson to drive in the runs necessary to help their offense move above the league average.
Miami Marlins - An above average rotation for the Marlins will only get better when Jose Fernandez returns. The bullpen could be an issue for Miami, but as of right now it appears to be an area of strength. The continued emergence of Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, will help Giancarlo Stanton to produce an above average offense this season.
Atlanta Braves - The Braves young pitching staff appears to be a group that a contending team can lean on. Without Kimbrel their bullpen could be below average this season, along with the offense for the coming season that is also likely to be below league average from start to finish.
Philadelphia Phillies - Cole Hamels is with the team still, but the only other starter that gives the fans a reason to watch, is David Buchanan. The Phillies bullpen has plenty of power arms that could emerge among the league's best relief pitchers this season, but on the offensive side of things, Odubel Herrera is really the only interesting player to keep an eye on.
Division Winner Prediction: Washington Nationals
American League East
Baltimore Orioles - Even though the Orioles do not have a pitcher who is a threat to go the distance every time out, their starting pitching may be the best in the division. Another year and likely another strong bullpen for Baltimore, with left handed closer Zach Britton emerging among the league's best relief pitchers. Even though Baltimore lost Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, they still have enough power to produce an above average offense in 2015.
New York Yankees - Questions surround the status of Masahiro Tanaka with lost velocity, but Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi appear primed to have dominant seasons. The Yankees will have one of the best bullpens in baseball, but their offense may be below average once again if their best power hitters are not able to stay healthy.
Toronto Blue Jays - The Blue Jays could field a strong rotation in 2015 even after losing Marcus Stroman to injury. Contributions from Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris will be the key. Relief pitching questions still surround the Blue Jays bullpen, but they hope some new additions can help in that area. Possibly the top offense in all of baseball, will be leaned on for most of the Blue Jays' victories in 2015.
Tampa Bay Rays - A strong young starting rotation intact could be leaned on for victories this season. Backed up by a fantastic bullpen, the Rays' pitching staff is quite strong from top to bottom. Offensively is where the Rays will face the most struggles in the coming season.
Boston Red Sox - Without an ace, the Red Sox still have a strong starting rotation for the upcoming season. It is backed by a strong bullpen that they added to over the offseason. One of the best offenses in baseball will be taking the field behind their pitching staff, with the opportunity to show their dynamic defensive ability as well.
Predicted Division Winner: Boston Red Sox
National League Central
St. Louis Cardinals - The Cardinals once again should have one of the top starting rotations in the game. Their bullpen has some question marks, but they have the power arms to protect late inning leads. Their offense should have more power than they displayed last season, but overall their production could end up being right near the league average in 2015.
Pittsburgh Pirates - The Pirates have an above average starting rotation, but it will only remain that way if young phenom Gerrit Cole continues to emerge. Their bullpen includes some of the most consistent back end relief pitchers in baseball the past two years, and they have added power arms to their group of middle relievers. With one of the best offenses in baseball, the Pirates could win a significant number of games this season.
Milwaukee Brewers - With only two proven veterans in their starting rotation, the Brewers could be below average in this area for 2015. With Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Broxton in their bullpen, they could have an above average group of relief pitchers. Good power and veteran hitting ability should allow the Brewers to once again produce an above average offense.
Cincinnati Reds - Lack of rotation depth behind the Reds' fantastic ace Johnny Cueto, could cause the Reds to have a below average rotation in 2015. With a bullpen anchored by closer Aroldis Chapman, the Reds bullpen should be above average once again in 2015. Potential bounce back seasons from key players could allow the Reds to field an above average offense in 2015.
Chicago Cubs - With John Lester joining Jake Arrieta at the top of the Cubs' rotation, this unit should be above average in 2015. The Cubs have some young potential impact arms in their bullpen, but it would take a step forward from each of them for this unit to be above average. The arrival of Kris Bryant could help the Cubs to have an above average offensive team in 2015 as well.
Predicted Division Winner: Pittsburgh Pirates
American League Central
Detroit Tigers - The Tigers should have an above average rotation this year with David Price as their ace and Justin Verlander looking to bounce back. Their bullpen could be below average as they have struggled to answer the needs that have arisen in this area of the team. The offense will once again be above average with plenty of power in the middle of the order provided by Cabrera, Martinez and Cespedes.
Kansas City Royals - The Royals rotation grades out as average after losing James Shields in the offseason. They could get reinforcements midseason with the health of Kris Medlen and by calling up Brandon Finnegan. Their bullpen remains among the best in baseball, and they should have plenty of leads to close out provided by their above average offense that features some more power this season with Alex Rios in right field.
Cleveland Indians - With American League Cy Young Award winner leading the way, the Tribe have one of the best young rotations in baseball. Cody Allen anchors what should be an above average bullpen this season, and the addition of Brandon Moss should give them the run producers necessary to produce at an above average rate offensively.
Chicago White Sox - Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija lead a strong rotation for the White Sox this season. The bullpen could be above average if they are able to overcome some of the struggles they experienced last season. Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu hope to lead an average to above average offensive unit in 2015.
Minnesota Twins - The Twins will probably have a below average rotation once again with Ervin Santana suspended for 80 games, but they have made progress in this area. An average bullpen could help the team to add to their win total this season, because their offense could be above average with Sano and Buxton possibly making their debuts this season.
Predicted Division Winner: Cleveland Indians
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers - The Dodgers have one of the best rotations in baseball, led by baseball's best pitcher in Clayton Kershaw. Their bullpen was below average last year, and with the early injury to Kenley Jansen, they could be headed toward another year of below average relief pitching. Their offense should be above average, but without Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp, there is a limit to the ceiling of their offense in 2015.
San Francisco Giants - The Giants' starting rotation has the potential to be above average when healthy, but that is a big if. Their bullpen is excellent and should continue to be above average this season. Their offense is likely to be well below average after losing two power hitters over the offseason.
San Diego Padres - The Padres now have a well above average pitching rotation after adding James Shields this offseason. Their bullpen should be among the best in the game after adding Craig Kimbrel to the mix. A strong offense for the first time in a while, will allow the Padres to make a run at a division title.
Arizona Diamondbacks - The Diamondbacks rotation has a ceiling of being average this season without enough impact talent there to start the season. Their bullpen will also likely be below average this season, but the offense could be the bright spot on this team with plenty of power in the middle of the order for what could be an above average offense.
Colorado Rockies - With Kyle Kendrick as their opening day starter, the Rockies rotation is without a doubt below average. Their bullpen is also likely to be below average again. At home their offense should perform at an above average rate as they still have the impact bats of Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzales to complement the young core of offensive talent they are putting together.
Division Winner Prediction: San Diego Padres
American League West
Los Angeles Angels - The Angels rotation should be above average this season, and their bullpen should be as well, with Huston Street still in the closer's role. Their offense should be at least average, even though David Freese has not been very productive and the team lost second basemen Howie Kendrick.
Oakland Athletics - The Athletics will likely have an average pitching rotation in 2015 after losing a couple key pitchers from last year's rotation. Their bullpen should be above average this season with plenty of power arms ready to lock down late inning leads. Their offense is likely only to be average after losing three of their most productive middle of the order hitters in the past few months.
Seattle Mariners - The Seattle Mariners have one of the best pitching rotations in baseball with the best starting pitcher in the American League leading the way. The Mariners should also have one of the best bullpens in baseball, as their group of relievers is filled with power arms with strong command. Their offense should be above average in 2015, after adding impact middle of the order hitters the past two offseasons.
Houston Astros - The Astros are likely to have an average starting pitching rotation in 2015, while their bullpen may be below average unless their relief pitchers in key roles have breakout seasons. Their offense should be above average in 2015, if they can cut down on their strikeout totals. All of this makes them a dark horse to contend for a playoff berth in the American League this season.
Texas Rangers - The Rangers rotation is likely to be below average this season without Yu Darvish. Their bullpen is likely to be only average this season, with Neftali Feliz elevating them to that level. Their offense is likely to only be average this season, unless both Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre can have big seasons for a team that is not very strong in the outfield.
Division Winner Prediction: Seattle Mariners
Who will win it all?
World Series Prediction: Miami Marlins over Seattle Mariners
The Miami Marlins are likely to earn a National League wildcard berth this season with a very complete roster for the first time in a while. They have a tendency to make the most of their postseason appearances, based on the precedent they have set in their history as a young MLB franchise. This trend is likely to continue as the Miami Marlins led by Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez will have the opportunity to win another title, with a significant postseason run to meet up with an upstart American League contender in the Seattle Mariners. If this is the final result of the 2015 MLB season, the theme of small market dominance will have held true.