Predicting If All 30 MLB Teams Will Overachieve or Underachieve in 2014
Heading into the 2014 MLB season, every team has its own set of expectations for how the year should play out. For some teams, just managing to avoid another 100-loss campaign qualifies as overachieving. Of course, for other clubs, anything short of reaching the playoffs will be considered underachieving.
With those considerations in mind, here are the predictions for which MLB teams will overachieve in 2014 and which squads will underachieve.
Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
2013 Record: 81-81
The Arizona Diamondbacks should have no trouble improving from the club's 81-81 finish a season ago. The big question is whether they will win enough games to compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the National League West title.
The team is clearly in win-now mode, as the Diamondbacks jettisoned prospect Matt Davidson for Addison Reed and parted with Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs to land Mark Trumbo.
Still, Arizona's roster is not in the same class as the Dodgers in terms of talent. The best-case scenario for the Diamondbacks is to try and snag one of the NL wild-card spots.
2013 Record: 96-66
The outlook for the Atlanta Braves' 2014 campaign has changed substantially in recent days.
Kris Medlen's upcoming season has been wiped out, as he will need to undergo Tommy John surgery, and Brandon Beachy is also in danger of requiring the dreaded elbow procedure, as reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. The club immediately moved to offset the losses by inking Ervin Santana to a one-year deal.
It will be incredibly difficult for the Braves to match the club's 96 wins from a season ago with a suddenly depleted rotation. However, with an impressive young core headlined by Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons, the defending NL East champions are still the team to beat in the division.
2013 Record: 85-77
There's no doubt that the Baltimore Orioles have one of the most powerful lineups in all of baseball. The major concern is whether they have a rotation that can stack up in a fiercely competitive American League East.
Baltimore brought in Ubaldo Jimenez to bolster the top of the club's rotation, but the problem with the veteran right-hander is that he has been ridiculously inconsistent. In 2013, Jimenez posted a 114 ERA+, but back in 2012 he posted just a 72 ERA+, meaning he wasn't even close to being a league-average starter.
With the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox also jockeying for playoff spots in the division, the Orioles could easily finish above .500 and still land in fourth place.
Boston Red Sox
2013 Record: 97-65
Much of the Boston Red Sox's success in 2014 will hinge on whether Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts will be able to step in for Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew, respectively.
Of course, Grady Sizemore will also factor prominently into the center field equation. Manager John Farrell described the 31-year-old's strong showing to this point as the "storyline of our camp," per Hal Bodley of MLB.com.
The Red Sox also boast one of the most talented rotations in the league, so there's no question that the team will be in the midst of the race for the AL East crown. Still, I'm picking the team to underachieve simply because the expectations are so high after claiming the World Series title last fall.
2013 Record: 66-96
With seven players on Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list, the future is bright for the Chicago Cubs.
Unfortunately for the club and the fanbase, that future will not be arriving in 2014. With an underwhelming lineup and all sorts of question marks in the rotation, manager Rick Renteria's team is destined for a last-place finish in the NL Central in the upcoming season.
Chicago White Sox
2013 Record: 63-99
With the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals ahead of the club in the AL Central hierarchy, the Chicago White Sox appear to be on the way to a fourth-place finish in 2014.
The White Sox should improve from the 99 loses that the club piled up a season ago, especially with the infusion of young talent like Jose Abreu, Matt Davidson and Adam Eaton. Still, Chicago appears likely to win around 70-75 games, which isn't exactly overachieving.
2013 Record: 90-72
While it doesn't get much of the attention, the NL Central should once again be one of the strongest divisions in all of baseball in 2014.
That could be a serious problem for the Cincinnati Reds since both of the teams that finished ahead of them a season ago, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates, will be just as competitive in the upcoming season.
Meanwhile, the Reds has a couple of questions to answer. First, can the team account for the loss of veteran innings-eater Bronson Arroyo, who pitched at least 199 innings in each of his seven seasons in Cincinnati? Second, and more pressing, is Billy Hamilton ready to take over for on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo as the Reds' new table-setter?
2013 Record: 92-70
The Cleveland Indians definitely overachieved a season ago, as manager Terry Francona's club finished just one game behind the AL Central champion Detroit Tigers.
The task of doing so again is complicated by the departures of starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, but neither of those veterans is irreplaceable, especially with the benefit of a full season of Danny Salazar.
There's also reason to believe that Cleveland's lineup could be more dynamic in 2014. Leadoff man Michael Bourn should improve on the 23 steals he totaled in an injury-riddled first season in Cleveland. Plus, David Murphy, who owns a career .778 OPS, is a strong candidate to bounce back after a disastrous final season with the Texas Rangers in 2013.
2013 Record: 74-88
Headlined by Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, the Colorado Rockies have one of the more high-powered offenses in the NL. With the additions of Rex Brothers and LaTroy Hawkins, the club has also assembled a talented bullpen.
The rotation, however, appears to be incredibly suspect. In particular, there is substantial concern as to when Jhoulys Chacin will be ready to take the mound.
The right-hander, who compiled a 14-10 record with a 3.47 ERA and 127 ERA+ a season ago, has dealt with a shoulder injury this spring. That prompted the club to tab Jorge De La Rosa as the Opening Day starter, per Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. Losing Chacin for an extended period of time would create a serious issue for an already understrength rotation.
As Mike Axisa of CBS Sports puts it, "A third straight last place finish certainly isn't a crazy projected outcome."
2013 Record: 93-69
After winning three straight AL Central titles, the expectations are extremely high for the Detroit Tigers in the upcoming season.
With Prince Fielder and Doug Fister having departed in the offseason, the club is arguably worse than it was a season ago when the Tigers advanced to the ALCS. However, top prospect and new third baseman Nick Castellanos looks to be the real deal, as the 22-year-old is batting .415 (17-for-41) with two home runs and six doubles so far in spring training.
Plus, with a top of the rotation consisting of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, the Tigers remain the heavy favorites to once again lock down the division.
2013 Record: 51-111
Last year, the Houston Astros were absolutely brutal, as the team racked up a MLB-worst 111 losses. This year, the addition of Dexter Fowler will strengthen the top of the team's lineup, while the signing of Scott Feldman will bolster the top of the rotation.
Still, even if the Astros manage a 10-game improvement, the team will be starring a fourth straight 100-loss season.
If that's not underachieving, I'm not sure what is.
Kansas City Royals
2013 Record: 86-76
While it will be a stretch for the Kansas City Royals to take down the Detroit Tigers as the top team in the AL Central, the club is definitely capable of beating out the Cleveland Indians for second place and a potential wild-card berth.
The addition of Norichika Aoki should be a major upgrade for the Royals lineup, as the left-handed hitter provides the club with a legitimate leadoff man to get on base ahead of big hitters like Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez.
As far as pitching is concerned, Yordano Ventura is definitely a player to look out for. The hard-throwing right-hander has been turning heads this spring, as Peter Gammons tweets:
A's saw KC's Yordano Ventura. "Best I've seen," said one A's official. "100. Change unbelievable. Two breaking balls. Chance for greatness"— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) March 13, 2014
The Royals will definitely face plenty of competition in the AL Central, but a trip to the postseason for the first time since 1985 appears to be a very real possibility.
Los Angeles Angels
2013 Record: 78-84
In 2014, the Los Angeles Angels should definitely be better than they were a season ago, when the team won just 78 games. However, it remains to be seen if the Angels will improve enough to vault back into playoff contention after finishing 18 games out of first place in the AL West in 2013.
Part of the answer will be determined by whether Albert Pujols can remain healthy throughout the upcoming season. For now, the slugger is at full health, according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. Of course, with so many other power bats in the lineup, the Angels arguably could still survive even if Pujols doesn't return to his old form.
However, the biggest weakness could prove to be the club's starting rotation. The Angels will need young left-handers Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago to step up, and if either of those starters falter, the team could once again be headed to a disappointing season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 Record: 92-70
It certainly won't be easy for the Los Angeles Dodgers to overachieve in 2014 considering how remarkably high the expectations are for the team.
However, a look at the roster suggests that the Dodgers have the assortment of talent to be even better in 2014 than the club was a season ago. In particular, the Dodgers' rotation appears to be better equipped to handle potential injuries, with Seth Rosin, Josh Beckett, Paul Maholm and Chad Billingsly (once healthy) all in the fold.
Meanwhile, the bullpen is absolutely loaded. Plus, if Hanley Ramirez is able to stay on the field for more than the 86 games he played in 2013, the lineup should be downright scary.
2013 Record: 62-100
I'm picking the Miami Marlins to overachieve if only because the bar has been set so incredibly low for the franchise.
Last year, the Marlins dropped 100 games, and this year, the club is widely expected to once again finish in the NL East cellar. However, with Jose Fernandez anchoring a talented young rotation that offers plenty of upside, there's definitely a chance that the Marlins could sneak past either the Philadelphia Phillies or New York Mets and end up in fourth place.
2013 Record: 74-88
The Milwaukee Brewers certainly have the potential to be better in 2014 than the club was a season ago. For that happen, though, the Brewers will need to catch a number of breaks.
First, Milwaukee will need Matt Garza to remain healthy, which could prove to be a challenge, as the right-hander has only made 36 starts over the past two seasons. The Brewers will also be counting on Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Braun to bounce back from injury and suspension, respectively.
However, considering the fact that three teams from the NL Central reached the postseason in 2013, even a third place finish will be a stretch for the club.
2013 Record: 66-96
With Byron Buxton leading a stockpiled farm system, the future looks promising for the Minnesota Twins.
However, the big league picture in 2014 is far from encouraging. The club definitely upgraded its underwhelming rotation by signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, but both starters are much closer to mid-rotation innings-eaters than staff-leading aces.
Meanwhile, on the offensive side, the most notable addition for a club that posted a .692 OPS a season ago has been defensive specialist Kurt Suzuki. Yet another disappointing season is clearly on the horizon for the Twins.
New York Mets
2013 Record: 74-88
Back at the end of February, general manager Sandy Alderson proclaimed that he thought the New York Mets could win 90 games in 2014, according to a report from John Harper of the New York Daily News.
There's nothing wrong with being ambitious, but that's a remarkable figure for a team that won just 74 games a season ago.
With Zach Wheeler anchoring the rotation and top prospect Noah Syndergaard almost ready to make his big league debut, there's plenty of reasons to be optimistic for 2015 and beyond. However, as currently constructed, the Mets will struggle to eclipse 80 wins in the upcoming season.
New York Yankees
2013 Record: 85-77
It's not possible for the New York Yankees to overachieve considering that the club spent nearly half a billion dollars this offseason upgrading its roster.
That's not to say that the Yankees are doomed to miss the playoffs for a second season in a row. Then again, such an outcome is certainly a possibility. Whether the Yankees make a return to October baseball will come down to how CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Masahiro Tanaka perform.
More specifically, the questions are as follows: Can Sabathia bounce back? Will Nova continue his upward trend? And most crucially, can Tanaka live up to his $155 million price tag?
2013 Record: 96-66
Just like the Tampa Bay Rays, the Oakland Athletics are renowned around baseball for the ability to consistently outperform the club's modest payroll.
That won't be an easy task to accomplish in 2014, as the Los Angeles Angels should be better than a season ago, and the Texas Rangers have one of the most explosive lineups in the game.
So just why, exactly, will the Athletics overachieve in 2014? Look no further than Sonny Gray, the club's new de facto ace. According to ESPN's Buster Olney (subscription required), the the 24-year-old right-hander will be Oakland's "linchpin."
2013 Record: 73-89
It's difficult to know just what kind of expectations GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has for his club in 2014.
While most around the game seem to think that the Philadelphia Phillies are in desperate need of a drastic rebuild, Amaro spent the offseason signing high-priced veterans as though he expects the club to contend in the upcoming season.
Perhaps Amaro is right. With Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett and Cole Hamels (once healthy), the club does have a formidable trio of starters. Of course, Hamels isn't healthy and likely won't return until around May 1, according to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly.
Outside of those three starters, there isn't much reason for optimism. For now, the Phillies appear destined to land somewhere between third and fifth place in the NL East.
2013 Record: 94-68
Admittedly, the Pittsburgh Pirates didn't do much to strengthen the club's roster this offseason. However, after locking down 94 wins a season ago, the team didn't exactly have a lot of weaknesses to address.
One player who should be even better in 2014 than he was a season ago is Gerrit Cole. The former No. 1 overall pick posted a 10-7 record with a 3.22 ERA in an impressive rookie campaign. The right-hander actually got even better as the year wore on, putting up a 1.69 ERA with a 11.0 K/9 ratio in his final five starts of the season.
It will be incredibly difficult for the Pirates to track down the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, but yet another wild-card berth is a highly likely outcome for the Pirates.
San Diego Padres
2013 Record: 76-86
In 2014, the San Diego Padres definitely have the potential to win more than the 76 games that the team totaled a season ago.
The club's one-year, $8 million deal with Josh Johnson could prove to be one of the better low-risk, high-reward moves of the offseason. Sure, the right-hander struggled with elbow injuries during a forgettable 2013 season with the Toronto Blue Jays. However, a return to the NL could be just what's needed for the right-hander. In eight season in the NL, Johnson has posted a 3.15 ERA and 133 ERA+.
The Padres also have one of the strongest infields in the game in Chase Headley, Everth Cabrera, Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alonso. Headley in particular, who is set to become a free agent at the end of th 2014 season, could be in line for a monster contract year.
Pushing for a wild-card spot will be a challenge, but finishing above .500 is certainly within the realm of possibility for the Padres.
San Francisco Giants
2013 Record: 76-86
The San Francisco Giants definitely have the talent to compete for a wild-card spot, if not the NL West crown, in 2014. To do so, however, the team will need to stay healthy.
So far, the Giants aren't doing too well in that department. Marco Scutaro has yet to appear in a game this spring as he continues to struggle with back issues, and his availability for Opening Day is very much up in the air, as John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The club could likely survive the loss of the veteran second baseman, but if the injuries begin to pile up, as they did in 2013, the Giants could once again be in for a disappointing season.
2013 Record: 71-91
The Seattle Mariners will be better in 2014 than the club was a season ago, if only because the Mariners added a legitimate superstar in Robinson Cano.
However, that doesn't mean that the team is ready to contend in the AL West. That task has become even more complicated due to the injuries sustained to key rotation members like Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker.
With the Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels all a part of the mix in the division race, finishing above fourth place would qualify as overachieving for the Mariners.
St. Louis Cardinals
2013 Record: 97-65
After losing out to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series last fall, it won't be easy for the St. Louis Cardinals to overachieve in 2014. Arguably, the only way that the Cardinals can do so would be to return to the Fall Classic and claim the title.
Then again, there's no reason why that couldn't happen. The club has one of the most talented rotations in all of baseball, and the addition of Jhonny Peralta corrected its most glaring weakness from a season ago. The Cardinals should once again be the top team not just in the NL Central, but in the entire NL.
Tampa Bay Rays
2013 Record: 92-71
The Tampa Bay Rays are perennial overachievers in what is consistently one of the most competitive divisions in all of baseball. There's no reason for the trend to change in 2014.
With David Price still a member of the squad, the Rays have one of the strongest rotations in the AL, and within the division, only the Boston Red Sox can match Tampa Bay's staff. That strong point alone should be enough to keep the Rays in the hunt for the AL East title and for the team to once again grab a postseason spot.
2013 Record: 91-72
After bringing in Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo in the offseason, there was plenty of buzz about how the Texas Rangers could just have the best lineup in baseball.
That could just prove to be true. The problem, though, is that the club's rotation is looking incredibly light. After the trio of Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando, the Rangers have a quite a bit of uncertainty as to who will fill out the final spots of the rotation.
If the team can't find the answers for the bottom of the rotation, the Rangers could be in danger of missing out on the postseason for the second season in a row. And that would definitely qualify as underachieving.
Toronto Blue Jays
2013 Record: 74-88
The biggest problem facing the Toronto Blue Jays is that the club plays in the loaded AL East.
With sluggers like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Jays boast a powerful lineup. However, the team's rotation is a major weakness. Last season, Toronto's starting staff posted a 4.81 ERA, which was the second-worst in all of baseball, per ESPN.com.
Considering that the club has failed to bring in any starters to bolster the underperforming group of starters, there's simply no way for the Blue Jays to compete in the AL East.
2013 Record: 86-76
The Washington Nationals were the biggest underachievers in all of baseball last season, as the team widely tabbed to win the World Series instead missed out on the postseason altogether.
This year, however, promises to be different.
The club took what was already a loaded rotation and made it even better by adding right-hander Doug Fister in a trade with the Detroit Tigers. Fister joins a staff led by Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez.
Meanwhile, on the offensive side, Jayson Werth was quietly one of the most productive hitters in all of MLB, as he posted a .931 OPS and 154 OPS+.
The real key for the Nationals, though, will be to avoid the slow start that the club got off to in 2013. Last year at the All-Star Break, the Nationals sat just one game over .500.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.