Spring training is finally here. Pitchers and catchers around the league have begun reporting, and full-squad workouts are set to begin next week.
Opening Day is still a month-and-a-half away, but just seeing guys playing catch and running around in sunny Arizona or Florida is enough to stir up some excitement in even the most casual of baseball fans, if for no other reason than the fact that it's a sure sign spring is right around the corner.
There is still a lot left to be decided this offseason, with position battles to be sorted out and a handful of key free agents still looking for new homes. But for the most part, we now have an idea of how teams will look heading into the 2014 season.
So with baseball finally getting underway in 2014, here is a look at where all 30 MLB teams rank at the start of spring training.
|CF Dexter Fowler||SP Scott Feldman|
|2B Jose Altuve||SP Jarred Cosart|
|C Jason Castro||SP Brett Oberholtzer|
|1B Chris Carter||SP Brad Peacock|
|3B Matt Dominguez||SP Jerome Williams|
DH Jesus Guzman
||SU Matt Albers|
|LF Robbie Grossman||SU Josh Fields|
|RF L.J. Hoes||CL Chad Qualls|
|SS Jonathan Villar|
The Houston Astros look to be an improved team thanks to a handful of offseason additions, highlighted by the signing of Scott Feldman and the acquisition of Dexter Fowler in a trade with the Colorado Rockies. The team also signed a trio of veteran relievers, and while Jesse Crain could miss the start of the season with an injury, the improved 'pen should help its young starters.
Jason Castro and Jose Altuve have been Houston's All-Stars the past two seasons, while Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez both have plus power potential. They'll soon be joined by top prospects George Springer and Jonathan Singleton, and if they can make an impact, the team could avoid another 100-loss season.
|SS Starlin Castro||SP Jeff Samardzija|
|LF Junior Lake||SP Travis Wood|
|1B Anthony Rizzo||SP Edwin Jackson|
|RF Nate Schierholtz||SP Jason Hammel|
|3B Mike Olt (R)||SP Jake Arrieta|
|CF Ryan Sweeney||SU James Russell|
|C Welington Castillo||SU Pedro Strop|
|2B Darwin Barney||CL Jose Veras|
It's been a quiet offseason for the Chicago Cubs, who continue to rebuild with an eye on making some noise in 2015. Spring training may well be the most exciting point of the season for the team's fanbase, as its four marquee prospects in Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler will all be in big league camp.
The final two spots in their rotation are up for grabs this spring, and there are intriguing options, led by potential breakout candidate Jake Arrieta. While the rotation should at least be average, and the bullpen has a chance to be better than last year, the Cubs will likely have a hard time scoring runs all year. Another last-place finish looks inevitable, but the future looks bright on the North Side.
|CF Aaron Hicks||SP Ricky Nolasco|
|2B Brian Dozier||SP Kevin Correia|
|1B Joe Mauer||SP Mike Pelfrey|
|LF Josh Willingham||SP Phil Hughes|
|RF Oswaldo Arcia||SP Vance Worley|
|3B Trevor Plouffe||SU Brian Duensing|
|DH Jason Kubel||SU Jared Burton|
|C Kurt Suzuki||CL Glen Perkins|
|SS Pedro Florimon|
The additions of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to the starting rotation may be enough to keep the Minnesota Twins from finishing dead last in starting pitcher ERA again, but a big step forward is not likely. At best, Nolasco is a No. 3 starter on a good team, and the rest of the staff are No. 5 starter types.
At this point, it's a matter of patience, as top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano lead arguably the best farm system in baseball, and the Twins look to have a big future ahead of them.
For now, the offense will look for improvement from guys like Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia while again leaning heavily on the star power of Joe Mauer.
|2B Rafael Furcal||SP Jose Fernandez|
|LF Christian Yelich||SP Jacob Turner|
|RF Giancarlo Stanton||SP Henderson Alvarez|
|1B Garrett Jones||SP Nathan Eovaldi|
|C Jarrod Saltalamacchia||SP Tom Koehler|
|CF Marcell Ozuna||SU A.J. Ramos|
|3B Casey McGehee||SU Mike Dunn|
|SS Adeiny Hechavarria||CL Steve Cishek|
The 2013 season was a rough one for the Miami Marlins, as an offseason firesale left their roster gutted, and they endured the second 100-loss season in franchise history. It wasn't all bad, though. Their young starting rotation, led by Jose Fernandez, was actually a strength, and it should only get better in the years to come.
On the other hand, the offense was an absolute mess, as the team's 513 runs scored on the season was last in the MLB and a full 85 runs fewer than the next worst team. The Marlins added a handful of veterans, and while they are all essentially placeholders outside of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, they should bring some improvement nonetheless. A last-place finish still seems likely, but the team will be more competitive as its young core continues to develop.
|CF Adam Eaton||SP Chris Sale|
|SS Alexei Ramirez||SP Jose Quintana|
|RF Avisail Garcia||SP John Danks|
|1B Jose Abreu (R)||SP Erik Johnson (R)|
|DH Adam Dunn||SP Andre Rienzo|
|LF Dayan Viciedo||SU Scott Downs|
|3B Matt Davidson (R)||SU Matt Lindstrom|
|2B Gordon Beckham||CL Nathan Jones|
|C Tyler Flowers|
The Chicago White Sox began rebuilding last August with the trades of Jake Peavy and Alex Rios, and they have continued adding young pieces to the puzzle in what has been a very successful offseason. Cuban slugger Jose Abreu was signed to replace Paul Konerko, while a pair of solid young players in Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson were acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The success of the offense will be greatly influenced by those three players and August addition Avisail Garcia, and there is plenty of potential there to get excited about. The starting rotation is a question mark behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, but Erik Johnson has serious upside, and as a whole, this team looks like it is finally headed in the right direction.
|LF Corey Dickerson||SP Jhoulys Chacin|
|3B Nolan Arenado||SP Jorge De La Rosa|
|CF Carlos Gonzalez||SP Brett Anderson|
|SS Troy Tulowitzki||SP Tyler Chatwood|
|RF Michael Cuddyer||SP Jordan Lyles|
|1B Justin Morneau||SU Matt Belisle|
|C Wilin Rosario||SU Rex Brothers|
|2B DJ LeMahieu||CL LaTroy Hawkins|
Pitching continues to be the X-factor for the Colorado Rockies. While their starting rotation improved its ERA from a league-worst 5.81 in 2012 to 4.57 last year behind Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa, it wound up holding the team back nonetheless.
Talented but oft-injured left-hander Brett Anderson was acquired in a trade with the Oakland A's, while Jordan Lyles was picked up in the Dexter Fowler trade, and those two will need to hold down rotation spots. Offensively, the Rockies should once again have a solid attack, provided Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez can stay on the field.
Up-and-coming stars Nolan Arenado and Wilin Rosario could both take another step forward, and some added pop would certainly be welcome to back the staff.
|CF Ben Revere||SP Cliff Lee|
|SS Jimmy Rollins||SP Cole Hamels|
|2B Chase Utley||SP A.J. Burnett|
|1B Ryan Howard||SP Kyle Kendrick|
|RF Marlon Byrd||SP Miguel Gonzalez (R)|
|LF Domonic Brown||SU Brad Lincoln|
|3B Cody Asche||SU Antonio Bastardo|
|C Carlos Ruiz||CL Jonathan Papelbon|
The Philadelphia Phillies took a questionable approach to the offseason, re-signing Carlos Ruiz (35) and Chase Utley (35) before adding Marlon Byrd (36) and A.J. Burnett (37) in free agency. In the process, an overpriced and aging roster has gotten even older and more expensive, and a run at a .500 season seems like the best-case scenario.
Granted, the one-two punch of Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels is still among the best around, and the performance of Cuban defector Miguel Gonzalez will be interesting to watch. However, this team just doesn't look like it has enough to keep pace with the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals in its own division, let alone make a run at a playoff spot.
|SS Everth Cabrera||SP Andrew Cashner|
|CF Will Venable||SP Ian Kennedy|
|3B Chase Headley||SP Josh Johnson|
|LF Carlos Quentin||SP Tyson Ross|
|1B Yonder Alonso||SP Eric Stults|
|2B Jedd Gyorko||SU Alex Torres|
|RF Seth Smith||SU Joaquin Benoit|
|C Nick Hundley||CL Huston Street|
The San Diego Padres opened last season with a starting rotation anchored by Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard, so it's safe to say that their staff has a chance to be substantially improved over last season. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross impressed in the second half, while Ian Kennedy and newcomer Josh Johnson are better pitchers than their 2013 performances suggest.
Offensively, the team lacks a star, but it has some nice young pieces in Yonder Alonso and Jedd Gyorko and a potential bounce-back candidate in Chase Headley. The Padres may not be able to catch the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, but this is a team that has an outside shot at contending for a wild-card spot if a few things break its way.
|RF Chris Young||SP Bartolo Colon|
|2B Daniel Murphy||SP Jon Niese|
|3B David Wright||SP Zack Wheeler|
|LF Curtis Granderson||SP Dillon Gee|
|1B Ike Davis||SP Jenrry Mejia|
|C Travis d'Arnaud (R)||SU Scott Rice|
|CF Juan Lagares||SU Kyle Farnsworth|
|SS Ruben Tejada||CL Bobby Parnell|
It looks like the New York Mets are still a year way at this point, but they are a significantly improved team in many areas nonetheless. The most notable improvement has to be in the outfield, where the team struggled to find production across the board last season. Chris Young was signed to a one-year deal as a bounce-back candidate, and the team landed Curtis Granderson prior to the winter meetings.
Even without Matt Harvey, the rotation has a chance to be a strength. Bartolo Colon was signed to help ease the loss of the Mets' ace, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee have established themselves as solid middle-of-the-rotation arms, and Zack Wheeler could be in for a big second season.
The offense is still below average, and the bullpen looks far from dominant, but a third-place finish with an eye on making some noise in 2015 seems like a good possibility.
|CF Dustin Ackley||SP Felix Hernandez|
|3B Kyle Seager||SP Hisashi Iwakuma|
|2B Robinson Cano||SP Taijuan Walker (R)|
|DH Corey Hart||SP James Paxton (R)|
|1B Justin Smoak||SP Erasmo Ramirez|
|LF Logan Morrison||SU Tom Wilhelmsen|
|RF Michael Saunders||SU Danny Farquhar|
|C Mike Zunino||CL Fernando Rodney|
|SS Brad Miller|
The Seattle Mariners have gone all-in with an offseason spending spree, and they may yet add someone like Nelson Cruz to the mix as well. The big addition is obviously superstar second baseman Robinson Cano; he's a safe bet to produce regardless of his surrounding after putting up terrific numbers with virtually no protection last season.
The health of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, as well as the performance of incumbents like Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders, will go a long way in determining what type of team the Mariners are in 2014. Their two rookie starters will also be counted on heavily, but if they can play better in one-run games (19-29) and extra innings (6-15), they should be able to make a run at a winning season, with potential for more.
|RF Nick Markakis||SP Chris Tillman|
|3B Manny Machado||SP Wei-Yin Chen|
|1B Chris Davis||SP Bud Norris|
|CF Adam Jones||SP Miguel Gonzalez|
|C Matt Wieters||SP Kevin Gausman (R)|
|SS J.J. Hardy||SU Ryan Webb|
|DH Henry Urrutia||SU Darren O'Day|
|LF David Lough||CL Tommy Hunter|
|2B Jemile Weeks|
The Baltimore Orioles have some impressive talent on their roster, and they were right in the thick of things for much of last season after a surprise run to the playoffs in 2012. However, they have done nothing to improve this offseason. If anything, they've fallen behind the rest of the pack in the always-competitive AL East.
The starting rotation was their biggest issue last season, and they've failed to make any additions there, instead relying on the development of Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. Even if one of those two proves capable of holding down a spot, they still lack a legitimate staff ace and could struggle again.
Question marks also remain at second base, left field and designated hitter. It's hard to see the Orioles finishing better than fourth in the division.
|SS Jean Segura||SP Yovani Gallardo|
|CF Carlos Gomez||SP Matt Garza|
|RF Ryan Braun||SP Kyle Lohse|
|3B Aramis Ramirez||SP Marco Estrada|
|C Jonathan Lucroy||SP Wily Peralta|
|LF Khris Davis||SU Brandon Kintzler|
|1B Mark Reynolds||SU Francisco Rodriguez|
|2B Scooter Gennett||CL Jim Henderson|
After laying low for most of the offseason, the Milwaukee Brewers surprised many by signing Matt Garza to a four-year, $50 million deal. He gives the team a third proven veteran atop its rotation, and if everyone can stay healthy and pitch to his potential, the staff has a chance to be a strength.
Offensively, a healthy season from Aramis Ramirez and the return of Ryan Braun should go a long way in improving the team's run-scoring abilities. Both Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett look poised for breakout seasons, while Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez will look to build off of last season.
The Brewers are my dark-horse pick to contend in the NL this season as they look to put a disappointing 2013 behind them.
|SS Jose Reyes||SP R.A. Dickey|
|RF Jose Bautista||SP Mark Buehrle|
|1B Edwin Encarnacion||SP Brandon Morrow|
|DH Adam Lind||SP J.A. Happ|
|CF Colby Rasmus||SP Kyle Drabek|
|3B Brett Lawrie||SU Steve Delabar|
|LF Melky Cabrera||SU Sergio Santos|
|C Dioner Navarro||CL Casey Janssen|
|2B Ryan Goins (R)|
There remains a very strong possibility that the Toronto Blue Jays sign either Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana before the offseason comes to an end, but as things stand today, it has been a very quiet offseason for a team that was as busy as anyone last winter.
If guys like Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ can hold their own as they return from injury and the lineup can hit like it's capable of, there's no reason this team can't make some noise post-hype.
Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion remain two of the game's most dangerous hitters, Jose Reyes is still a dynamic table-setter, and the one-two punch of R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle atop the rotation was solid even in a rough all-around 2013 season.
|CF Michael Bourn||SP Justin Masterson|
|1B Nick Swisher||SP Corey Kluber|
|2B Jason Kipnis||SP Danny Salazar|
|DH Carlos Santana||SP Zach McAllister|
|LF Michael Brantley||SP Shaun Marcum|
|SS Asdrubal Cabrera||SU Vinnie Pestano|
|RF David Murphy||SU Cody Allen|
|C Yan Gomes||CL John Axford|
|3B Lonnie Chisenhall|
Losing Scott Kazmir and presumably Ubaldo Jimenez as well is a major blow to the Cleveland Indians, but big seasons from Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar could help offset those losses. The No. 5 starter job is still wide open, with non-roster invitee Shaun Marcum and prospect Trevor Bauer looking like the front-runners. But either way, the rotation looks like it will be the key to the Indians' chances in 2014.
The bullpen is still average at best, as it swapped out Matt Albers, Rich Hill, Joe Smith and Chris Perez for Josh Outman and John Axford. The offense added David Murphy in right field; he should prove to be an upgrade over Drew Stubbs, even if he's just used as a platoon bat with Ryan Raburn.
All in all, the Indians should be a competitive team once again this season, but it'll be an uphill battle to return to the postseason.
|SS Erick Aybar||SP Jered Weaver|
|CF Mike Trout||SP C.J. Wilson|
|1B Albert Pujols||SP Garrett Richards|
|LF Josh Hamilton||SP Hector Santiago|
|3B David Freese||SP Tyler Skaggs|
|DH Raul Ibanez||SU Sean Burnett|
|2B Howie Kendrick||SU Joe Smith|
|RF Kole Calhoun||CL Ernesto Frieri|
|C Chris Iannetta|
The Los Angeles Angels followed up a disappointing 2012 season in which they finished 89-73 with a substantially worse showing last year that saw them go just 78-84. With all the money they have spent in the past two offseasons, the expectation was perennial contention. However, underperforming stars and a shaky back end of the rotation have held them back.
The big move this offseason was dealing Mark Trumbo for left-handers Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs. Those two will be counted on to shore up the rotation. David Freese and Raul Ibanez will look to help offset the loss of Trumbo's bat, but bounce-back seasons from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are really what the team is looking for.
The pieces are all there. The team just needs to perform to its potential.
|CF Angel Pagan||SP Matt Cain|
|2B Marco Scutaro||SP Madison Bumgarner|
|1B Brandon Belt||SP Tim Lincecum|
|C Buster Posey||SP Tim Hudson|
|RF Hunter Pence||SP Ryan Vogelsong|
|3B Pablo Sandoval||SU Jeremy Affeldt|
|LF Michael Morse||SU Santiago Casilla|
|SS Brandon Crawford||CL Sergio Romo|
Let down by their starting rotation and without an above-average offense to fall back on, the San Francisco Giants fell well short of defending their title last season. Now, they will look to pick up the pieces and make another run at contention, and they'll do it with essentially the same core roster of guys.
Tim Hudson was added to replace Barry Zito in the rotation, but the team will need a rebound season from Matt Cain and for something to click with Tim Lincecum. Slugger Michael Morse was added to be the everyday left fielder, and Pablo Sandoval could be in for a big season in a contract year, but the offense as a whole is still just average.
The Giants have found a way to win it all with similar rosters in recent years, and at the very least, they should be able to improve on last year.
|CF Gerardo Parra||SP Patrick Corbin|
|2B Aaron Hill||SP Bronson Arroyo|
|1B Paul Goldschmidt||SP Wade Miley|
|C Miguel Montero||SP Trevor Cahill|
|LF Mark Trumbo||SP Brandon McCarthy|
|3B Martin Prado||SU David Hernandez|
|RF Cody Ross||SU Brad Ziegler|
|SS Didi Gregorius||
CL Addison Reed
Looking for a power bat to protect Paul Goldschmidt, a proven closer and a front-line starter, the Arizona Diamondbacks traded for Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed before signing Bronson Arroyo as a free agent. This is a team that looked like the favorites in the NL West before the Los Angeles Dodgers caught fire last year, and it has the talent to make a playoff push in 2014.
Paul Goldschmidt should be a perennial MVP candidate, and a return to form from guys like Miguel Montero and Cody Ross could make the Diamondbacks offense a strength. The starting rotation is essentially a collection of No. 3 starter types, but the team could get a big boost from top prospect Archie Bradley if he pushes his way into the picture.
If any team is going to make a run at the Dodgers, it looks like it will be the Diamondbacks, though a wild-card push seems more likely.
|RF Norichika Aoki||SP James Shields|
|2B Omar Infante||SP Jeremy Guthrie|
|1B Eric Hosmer||SP Jason Vargas|
|DH Billy Butler||SP Bruce Chen|
|LF Alex Gordon||SP Danny Duffy|
|C Salvador Perez||SU Kelvin Herrera|
|3B Mike Moustakas||SU Luke Hochevar|
|CF Lorenzo Cain||CL Greg Holland|
|SS Alcides Escobar|
The Kansas City Royals entered the offseason looking for a replacement for Ervin Santana in the rotation and for upgrades at second base and in right field. The additions of Jason Vargas, Omar Infante and Norichika Aoki have addressed those issues, and the team looks ready to make a serious run at its first postseason trip since 1985.
If the offense can avoid the ice-cold start that plagued it last season, and someone can step forward to fill the No. 5 spot in the rotation, the Royals should be able to hang around in the AL Central race. Top prospects Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura are the X-factor in the rotation, as both are knocking on the door of the big leagues and have the potential to be impact arms.
|LF David DeJesus||SP David Price|
|2B Ben Zobrist||SP Alex Cobb|
|3B Evan Longoria||SP Matt Moore|
|RF Wil Myers||SP Chris Archer|
|1B James Loney||SP Jake Odorizzi (R)|
|DH Matt Joyce||SU Jake McGee|
|CF Desmond Jennings||SU Joel Peralta|
|SS Yunel Escobar||CL Grant Balfour|
|C Ryan Hanigan|
Amid an offseason of trade rumors, the Tampa Bay Rays have opted to hold onto staff ace David Price, and they look poised to make a run at their fifth playoff trip in the past seven seasons. It's been the standard quiet offseason for the Rays, with a handful of under-the-radar moves that could wind up being bargains.
Ryan Hanigan doesn't bring much more to the table offensively than incumbent Jose Molina, but few guys handle a staff better than he does. Veteran relievers Heath Bell and Grant Balfour will look to replace Fernando Rodney, and no team is better at piecing together a bullpen.
The Rays will once again be backed by one of the best rotations in baseball, and their offense could be dangerous if Wil Myers takes a step forward. Expect them to be right in the middle of the AL East race.
|CF Billy Hamilton (R)||SP Johnny Cueto|
|2B Brandon Phillips||SP Mat Latos|
|1B Joey Votto||SP Homer Bailey|
|RF Jay Bruce||SP Mike Leake|
|LF Ryan Ludwick||SP Tony Cingrani|
|3B Todd Frazier||SU J.J. Hoover|
|SS Zack Cozart||SU Sean Marshall|
|C Devin Mesoraco||CL Aroldis Chapman|
Losing Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo would be a dagger for most teams, but the Cincinnati Reds have in-house options to fill those holes in speedster Billy Hamilton and left-hander Tony Cingrani. They battled the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central all year last year, and the division is shaping up to be a great race once again.
How well Hamilton performs after a suspect .308 OBP at the Triple-A level last year looks like the big question surrounding a good offense, but he could steal 75-plus bases if he hits enough. The rotation is as good as any in baseball top to bottom, and a full season from Johnny Cueto should make it even better than last year. Meanwhile, the bullpen looks to once again be a strength as well.
New manager Bryan Price could be the X-factor here, as a change from Dusty Baker was clearly needed.
|LF Starling Marte||SP Francisco Liriano|
|2B Neil Walker||SP Gerrit Cole|
|CF Andrew McCutchen||SP Wandy Rodriguez|
|3B Pedro Alvarez||SP Charlie Morton|
|C Russell Martin||SP Edinson Volquez|
|1B Gaby Sanchez||SU Tony Watson|
|SS Jordy Mercer||SU Mark Melancon|
|RF Jose Tabata||CL Jason Grilli|
The Pittsburgh Pirates finally broke through last season with their first winning season since 1992, and their breakout was no fluke. This is a team that should only get better in the year to come, and it figures to be a perennial contender alongside the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.
Losing A.J. Burnett to the Phillies, as reported by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, hurts. But considering Gerrit Cole, Wandy Rodriguez and Charlie Morton combined to make just 51 starts last year, full seasons from those three should be able to offset the loss. Edinson Volquez was signed to fill the No. 5 starter spot, though he could get a run from top prospect Jameson Taillon before too long.
The lineup still needs a platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez at first base and will be waiting on the arrival of prospect Gregory Polanco in right field. With reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen and a handful of other plus offensive pieces, though, the Pirates should once again score enough to back their terrific pitching.
|CF Coco Crisp||SP Jarrod Parker|
|3B Josh Donaldson||SP Scott Kazmir|
|SS Jed Lowrie||SP Sonny Gray|
|LF Yoenis Cespedes||SP A.J. Griffin|
|1B Brandon Moss||SP Dan Straily|
|RF Josh Reddick||SU Luke Gregerson|
|DH John Jaso||SU Ryan Cook|
|2B Alberto Callaspo||CL Jim Johnson|
|C Derek Norris|
The Oakland A's have now won back-to-back AL West titles, and they won't take anyone by surprise in 2014 as they look to make it three in a row. Losing Bartolo Colon hurts, but Scott Kazmir was signed to replace him, and a potential breakout season from Sonny Gray could make the rotation a strength once again.
The offense doesn't look great on paper, but manager Bob Melvin gets the most out of everyone at his disposal, and it's easy to forget that this team ranked fourth in the MLB in runs scored last season. Key hitters Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss will need to avoid regressing, but there's no reason to think they can't pile up the runs once again with essentially the same lineup.
Add in a dominant bullpen that added Luke Gregerson and Jim Johnson to the mix, and the A's look like a playoff team once again in 2014.
|LF Shin-Soo Choo||SP Yu Darvish|
|SS Elvis Andrus||SP Matt Harrison|
|1B Prince Fielder||SP Alexi Ogando|
|3B Adrian Beltre||SP Martin Perez|
|RF Alex Rios||SP Tommy Hanson|
|DH Mitch Moreland||SU Tanner Scheppers|
|C Geovany Soto||SU Joakim Soria|
|2B Jurickson Profar||CL Neftali Feliz|
|CF Leonys Martin|
The loss of Derek Holland for the first half of the season knocks the Texas Rangers down the rankings a few spots, and someone will need to step up from a group headed by Colby Lewis and Tommy Hanson this spring to round out the rotation. Beyond that issue, though, this looks like one of the top teams in the American League.
The additions of Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder give the Rangers one of the most feared lineups in baseball once again, while a healthy Matt Harrison will be a welcome addition to the rotation behind ace Yu Darvish. An everyday job for Jurickson Profar could put him in position for a breakout season, while the bullpen has the pieces to offset the loss of Joe Nathan.
The health of the starting rotation looks like the biggest possible issue, but things are shaping up for a great AL West battle between the Rangers and A's.
|CF Jacoby Ellsbury||SP CC Sabathia|
|SS Derek Jeter||SP Hiroki Kuroda|
|RF Carlos Beltran||SP Masahiro Tanaka (R)|
|1B Mark Teixeira||SP Ivan Nova|
|C Brian McCann||SP Michael Pineda|
|DH Alfonso Soriano||SU Matt Thornton|
|3B Kelly Johnson||SU Shawn Kelley|
|2B Brian Roberts||CL David Robertson|
|LF Brett Gardner|
Sure, there are question marks at second and third base, No. 5 starter and at the back end of the bullpen, but it's hard not to be optimistic about the New York Yankees' chances entering the 2014 season. After all, this is a team that went 85-77 and contended into September with an injury-riddled roster last season.
The additions of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann to a lineup that also figures to welcome back a healthy Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter should make the Yankees' offensive attack a dangerous one. The team needs CC Sabathia to bounce back, Hiroki Kuroda to hold off Father Time for another year and Masahiro Tanaka to live up to the hype, but the potential is there for it to be great.
Granted, the Yankees could also be a mess if the starting rotation crumbles, but we'll take the optimistic side of things here entering spring training.
|RF Jason Heyward||SP Kris Medlen|
|LF Justin Upton||SP Mike Minor|
|1B Freddie Freeman||SP Julio Teheran|
|C Evan Gattis||SP Brandon Beachy|
|3B Chris Johnson||SP Alex Wood|
|SS Andrelton Simmons||SU Luis Avilan|
|2B Dan Uggla||SU David Carpenter|
|CF B.J. Upton||CL Craig Kimbrel|
The Atlanta Braves' biggest addition this offseason has been trading for Ryan Doumit. But when you have a homegrown core like they do, not much is needed outside of continued development and good health. They ran away with the NL East title last season, but things likely won't be as easy this year, with the Washington Nationals poised to make a run of their own.
If the offense can get a full season from Jason Heyward and anything in the way of production from Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, the Braves could lead the NL in runs scored, but they will likely strike out a ton once again and go through their highs and lows. The rotation is relatively young, but it could be great if Brandon Beachy is back to his pre-injury form, and the bullpen is once again anchored by the best closer in the game in Craig Kimbrel.
|RF Shane Victorino||SP Jon Lester|
|LF Daniel Nava||SP John Lackey|
|2B Dustin Pedroia||SP Clay Buchholz|
|DH David Ortiz||SP Jake Peavy|
|1B Mike Napoli||SP Ryan Dempster|
|SS Xander Bogaerts (R)||SU Junichi Tazawa|
|C A.J. Pierzynski||SU Edward Mujica|
|3B Will Middlebrooks||CL Koji Uehara|
|CF Jackie Bradley (R)|
The Boston Red Sox will have a different look after losing Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and perhaps Stephen Drew this offseason, but they have the horses to make a run at defending their title nonetheless. A.J. Pierzynski was signed to replace Salty behind the plate, while rookies Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley will be counted on to step into the other two spots.
Considering they led all of baseball in runs scored last year, the Red Sox won't need the rookies to be heroes. They'll just need them to hold their own as everyday players. The starting rotation is a relatively old group with some injury history, but the team has plenty of depth at the minor league level should injury strike.
It's hard to imagine Koji Uehara being as dominant as he was last year, but the additions of Edward Mujica and Burke Badenhop should make the bullpen as a whole better.
|CF Denard Span||SP Stephen Strasburg|
|RF Jayson Werth||SP Gio Gonzalez|
|LF Bryce Harper||SP Jordan Zimmermann|
|3B Ryan Zimmerman||SP Doug Fister|
|1B Adam LaRoche||SP Ross Detwiler|
|SS Ian Desmond||SU Drew Storen|
|C Wilson Ramos||SU Tyler Clippard|
|2B Anthony Rendon||CL Rafael Soriano|
A number of people, especially those residing in Atlanta, expect the Braves to run away with the NL East title once again. It was just two years ago, though, that the Washington Nationals posted the best record in all of baseball, and they look like a better team now than they were back then—at least on paper.
A rough first half derailed them in 2013, but the Nats turned things around in the second half and showed the kind of team they are capable of being. The addition of Doug Fister gives the team arguably the best starting rotation in all of baseball, while the offense remains solid top to bottom.
If Bryce Harper can stay healthy and guys like Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos can build off of last year, this team will be a legitimate contender in 2014.
|2B Ian Kinsler||SP Justin Verlander|
|RF Torii Hunter||SP Max Scherzer|
|1B Miguel Cabrera||SP Anibal Sanchez|
|DH Victor Martinez||SP Rick Porcello|
|CF Austin Jackson||SP Drew Smyly|
|3B Nick Castellanos (R)||SU Joba Chamberlain|
|LF Andy Dirks||SU Bruce Rondon|
|C Alex Avila||CL Joe Nathan|
|SS Jose Iglesias|
The Detroit Tigers dealt Prince Fielder and Doug Fister this offseason, but the additions of Ian Kinsler, Joe Nathan and top prospect Nick Castellanos should be enough to make those moves a wash as far as 2014 is concerned. Protecting Miguel Cabrera looks like the biggest issue, but with the pitching staff that the Tigers have, their opponent will have a hard time scoring runs regardless.
Drew Smyly should be more than capable of replacing Fister in the rotation, and if guys like Austin Jackson and Alex Avila can rebound from rough seasons, the offense should be just fine. The Tigers have been unable to run away with the AL Central each of the past two seasons, and the Royals could give them problems this year. But as long as Detroit reaches the playoffs, it should fare well with its dominant pitching staff in October.
|RF Yasiel Puig||SP Clayton Kershaw|
|LF Carl Crawford||SP Zack Greinke|
|SS Hanley Ramirez||SP Hyun-Jin Ryu|
|1B Adrian Gonzalez||SP Dan Haren|
|CF Matt Kemp||SP Paul Maholm|
|3B Juan Uribe||SU Brian Wilson|
|C A.J. Ellis||SU Chris Perez|
|2B Alex Guerrero||CL Kenley Jansen|
Despite a disastrous start to the 2013 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers still managed to win the NL West title by 11 games. If they can get things going right out of the gates in 2014, it's hard to imagine anyone being able to keep up with them in the division.
The offense is essentially the same, but healthy seasons from Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp, as well as a full season of Yasiel Puig, should mean better numbers overall. Infield depth is a serious concern with an unproven rookie in Alex Guerrero at second and an inconsistent veteran in Juan Uribe at third, but there is still time to address that. The pitching staff will once again have a dynamic No. 1-No. 3, led by the best pitcher in the game in Clayton Kershaw, while the bullpen looks to be significantly improved as well.
The only question now is, can the Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals in a seven-game series?
|3B Matt Carpenter||SP Adam Wainwright|
|CF Peter Bourjos||SP Michael Wacha|
|LF Matt Holliday||SP Shelby Miller|
|RF Allen Craig||SP Jaime Garcia|
|1B Matt Adams||SP Joe Kelly|
|C Yadier Molina||SU Kevin Siegrist|
|SS Jhonny Peralta||SU Carlos Martinez (R)|
|2B Kolten Wong (R)||CL Trevor Rosenthal|
A recent article on homegrown talent I put together revealed that 19 of the 25 players projected to make the St. Louis Cardinals' Opening Day roster were drafted and developed by the team. That speaks volumes as to why they have been perennial contenders, and they look like the team to beat entering 2014.
A full season from Michael Wacha and a healthy Jaime Garcia give the team an abundance of starting pitching, while the offense should be improved thanks to the addition of Jhonny Peralta at shortstop and the impending arrival of top prospect Oscar Taveras.
The team's biggest strength is its depth, as it has overcome key injuries time and again without missing a beat. Anything short of another NL pennant would be a disappointment for the Cardinals as they look to make their way back to the World Series.