2014 MLB Predictions: Under-the-Radar Teams Set to Surprise

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2014

Mar 25, 2014; Jupiter, FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez (16) warms up in the bullpen before a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As is the case every year, a few teams will shock the baseball world with rebound seasons that not many saw coming.

This happens for a few reasons. For one, it is easy to discredit some teams without a deeper dive into their future potential. Two, it can be difficult to accurately pick the surprise candidates out of the numerous teams that have seemingly had great offseasons and springs.

Want an example? Last year's Pittsburgh Pirates. Here's a look at a few teams that can sneak into relevancy based on various factors.


Toronto Blue Jays

Mar 20, 2014; Clearwater, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays infielder Jose Reyes (7) poses before the start of the spring training exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries and poor performances were the name of the game for Toronto last year en route to a last-place finish in the AL East thanks to a 74-88 record.

It's easy to forget the large quantity of talent that resides north of the border (which was why most picked them to win the division last year before the debacle).

There are lots of wild cards but plenty of reasons to believe in the Blue Jays. Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes have to stay healthy. Melky Cabrera has to return to form. Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus have to continue an upward trend. Dioner Navarro has to improve behind the plate at what was arguably the team's worst position outside of second base a year ago.

On the mound, R.A. Dickey and Brandon Morrow have what it takes to give the Blue Jays two aces.

What's not to like? For one, the injury bug may have already reared its ugly head, as EPSN's Jon Morosi points out:

Still, the talent is in place. As far as Cinderella candidates (hey, it's still March) go, the Blue Jays have the look of a team poised to bounce back if they can actually stay on the field.


Colorado Rockies

September 29, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer (3) at bat during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Like Toronto, Colorado came in at 74-88 a year ago. Fifth place in the NL West has the look of a difficult spot to avoid for any team in 2014, though.

But the Rockies have the bats to make a serious turnaround. Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Gonzalez and Justin Morneau are obvious forces at the plate, with a dash of upside from Nolan Arenado to boot.

Defensively, the Rockies have the game's best left infield thanks to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Arenado at third base.

The biggest question marks? Pitching and health. The addition of Brett Anderson helps. Anderson himself understands the hype of his arrival and is confident in his ability if he can stay healthy, as captured by Thomas Harding of MLB.com:

When I'm healthy, I think I'm one of the best pitchers in the game, and I want to go out there and prove that, not only to people, but myself. You can only hear so many publications say, 'His stuff is comparable to this,' or, 'He should be …' I want to throw all that out the window. Go out there and pitch, and the results will take care of themselves.

Colorado has the look of a complete team in most facets and can make a major run as long as the pitchers can keep hitters on the ground.


Miami Marlins

David Goldman

After an unimpressive 62-100 mark a year ago, there is great reason to be down on the Miami Marlins in a division owned by the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals.

But the Marlins have two sound, young building blocks in slugger Giancarlo Stanton and ace pitcher and National League Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez. In fact, Fernandez, in tandem with the rest of the lineup, is what makes the Marlins so scary this year.

A few key veteran additions such as Rafael Furcal and Garrett Jones also mean youngsters that will be asked to start routinely such as Marcell Ozuna will have an easier adjustment period at the plate.

Jones, in particular, knows a few things about turning a franchise around, which is why he joined the promising Marlins in the first place, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald:

Jones said he is looking forward to participating in a baseball franchise revival with the Marlins like he experienced with the Pirates, who reached the playoffs last season after a 20-year drought.

'I wanted the opportunity to get a chance to play every day and the potential to be part of another team that turns things around,' Jones said of his reasons for signing with the Marlins.

With a strong pitching rotation and young bats under the guidance of grizzled veterans, Miami may shock the globe next year with a strong record.


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