50 Predictions for the Second Half of the 2014 MLB Season
From where David Price will end up to what will become of Bud Selig, there are a lot of storylines to keep track of as the second half of the 2014 MLB season approaches.
What follows are 50 predictions for how the rest of the MLB campaign will shake out. We'll take a look into the future to see which dark horse will win an MVP award and which club will take home the 2014 World Series title. Now, it's time for the forecast.
Edwin Encarnacion Will Hit the Most Home Runs in 2014
Edwin Encarnacion has a ton of pop.
In May, the Toronto Blue Jays sluggers crushed 16 home runs, which tied Mickey Mantle for the most ever by an American League player in that month, per ESPN Stats & Info. On the season, the right-handed hitter has gone an MLB-best yard 24 times.
After tagging 36 home runs a season ago, look for Encarnacion to lead all of baseball with 42 home runs in 2014.
The Los Angeles Angels Will Make a Return to October
It's been a while since the Los Angeles Angels have made a trip to the postseason. The team last took part in the playoffs in 2009, when manager Mike Scioscia's squad advanced all the way to the ALCS.
With a high-powered offense and a surprisingly effective rotation in 2014, the Angels will claim the second wild-card spot and end that drought.
Gregory Polanco Will Win the National League Rookie of the Year Award
There's no doubt that it's ridiculously early to make this prediction.
After all, Gregory Polanco has played just 12 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, during his brief big league career, the right fielder has already produced an 11-game hitting streak.
There's also the consideration that he's up against a weak rookie class in the National League. The most noteworthy players that Polanco is competing against are shortstop Chris Owings of the Arizona Diamondbacks and center fielder Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds.
The Texas Rangers Will Deal Alex Rios
The 2014 season has not gone to plan for the Texas Rangers.
The club has been decimated by injuries to key contributors and currently has 14 players on the disabled list. As Texas tumbles out of the playoff race in the AL, the front office will have to seriously consider selling off some of its high-priced veterans.
Alex Rios looks like an ideal trade candidate. The right fielder is productive (.319 average) and playing in the final season of a seven-year contract. It also wouldn't be shocking if Adrian Beltre ends up on the trade block.
Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton Will Both Steal More Than 70 Bases
It's no surprise that Billy Hamilton has been racking up steals for the Cincinnati Reds.
What is somewhat unexpected is that the center fielder isn't leading baseball in that category. That honor belongs to Dee Gordon of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who has 39 steals compared to Hamilton's 31.
Both players have the speed to swipe more than 70 bases this season, but Gordon will maintain his early advantage and finish with 76, while Hamilton will end with 71.
Jose Abreu Will Hit 35 Home Runs
Jose Abreu has been historically good in his first few months in the big leagues.
The Cuban slugger is one of three first-year players ever to total at least 20 home runs and 50 RBI before the All-Star break, per MLB Public Relations. The first baseman for the Chicago White Sox looks to be on his way to a 35-home run season. Still, that remarkable output won't be enough to snag the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
The New York Yankees Will Acquire Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is in the market to upgrade his roster.
The executive plans "to make a trade (or trades) by the July 31 deadline," according to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. With CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda all on the shelf, Jason Hammel of the Chicago Cubs would be a perfect fit in the Bronx.
The right-hander owns a 2.99 ERA in 2014 and will cost a lower price in terms of prospects than some of the bigger-name pitchers on the trade block.
Kirk Gibson Will Be the First Manager to Get Fired
It's been a rough season for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are already buried in the NL West.
The central issue for the club is the terrible performance of the rotation, which has the third-worst ERA in baseball. Ultimately, though, the disappointing campaign can't end well for manager Kirk Gibson. It seems inevitable that Tony La Russa, the club's chief baseball officer, will want to clean house.
That makes Gibson the overwhelming favorite to become the first manager to lose his job in 2014. Bud Black of the San Diego Padres and Terry Collins of the New York Mets could be next in line after Gibson.
The San Diego Padres Will Score Fewer Than 500 Runs
The San Diego Padres offense has been unbelievable unproductive in the opening months of the season.
Through 76 games, the club has scored 225 runs, which is by far the lowest total in baseball. For some context, the Oakland Athletics, who lead MLB in that category, check in at 389 runs.
Last year, the Miami Marlins produced the fewest runs in MLB with 513. This season, the Padres won't even hit the 500-run mark.
Masahiro Tanaka Will Win the AL Rookie of the Year Award
Masahiro Tanaka has been piling up strikeouts for the New York Yankees.
The Japanese right-hander's 10.04 K/9 ratio is the sixth-best mark in all of baseball. The 25-year-old faces plenty of competition from the Chicago White Sox's Jose Abreu, but with a 11-2 record and a 2.11 ERA Tanaka is on his way to landing the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
However, the way he's been pitching, that won't be the only award that Tanaka ends up with in his first big league season.
The San Francisco Giants Will Trade for Ben Zobrist
The San Francisco Giants need help at second base.
Marco Scutaro has missed the entire season with a chronic back injury, and his replacement, Brandon Hicks, is hitting .172. That led the team to call up top prospect Joe Panik on Saturday, as Alex Pavlovic of the Bay Area News Group reports.
Panik could be the answer. Then again, for a team with playoff aspirations, an established veteran is a far superior option.
That's where Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays enters the equation. The 33-year-old is playing on the final season of his contract, and would provide the NL West leaders with the versatility to fill in around the infield and outfield.
Chase Utley Will Stay Put
Of all the position players to hit the trade rumor mill, few have been more productive in 2014 than Chase Utley.
However, that's not to say that the Philadelphia Phillies second baseman is on his way out of town. Having 10-and-5 rights, the left-handed hitter has the right to veto any proposed trade.
On the likelihood of Utley accepting a deal to a new team, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote: "Don't count on it."
Chris Sale Will Throw the Third No-Hitter of 2014
There's already been two no-hitters in 2014. Considering that there's been at least three such performances in each of the past four seasons, history suggests that yet another no-hitter is on tap.
So, just who will be the next pitcher to accomplish the feat? The unheralded Chris Sale looks like a top candidate. Back on June 1, the Chicago White Sox ace turned in a two-hitter while pitching against the San Diego Padres.
Bob Melvin Will Win the AL Manager of the Year Award
Bob Melvin presses all the right buttons.
The manager of the Oakland Athletics makes better use of his entire 25-man roster than any other skipper in baseball. That knack for utilizing every single member of the squad has helped Melvin guide the club to the top record in MLB.
In 2014, Melvin will win his league's Manager of the Year Award, which will mark the third time in his career that he will receive that honor.
Bud Selig Won't Retire After All
After 23 seasons as the MLB commissioner, Bud Selig is set to retire in January.
However, as the season rolls on, there's been a noticeable lack of news regarding who will replace Selig. At the end of May, Jayson Stark of ESPN asked the commissioner if there is a time line for naming a successor. Selig explained that he still has "a lot of time" to make that choice, which is a rather vague response.
The complication is that the decision isn't just Selig's to make. The next commissioner must be approved by 23 of 30 owners, as Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times points out. That won't be any easy task to accomplish, and for that reason Selig could end up sticking around for another season after all.
The Kansas City Royals Will Overtake the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central
The Detroit Tigers have won the AL Central in each of the past three seasons. In 2014, though, the Kansas City Royals will put an end to that impressive streak.
The key factor that gives the Royals the edge over the Tigers is that Kansas City actually has a superior rotation. While Justin Verlander has been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball, the Royals have received unexpectedly strong contributions from the likes of Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura.
The Detroit Tigers Will Have to Settle for a Wild-Card Spot
There are myriad teams in the AL wild-card hunt.
For now, the Detroit Tigers are not one of those clubs because they lead the way in the AL Central. However, in the previous prediction the Tigers got edged out for the AL Central title by the Kansas City Royals. That means that for the purpose of these predictions, they join the conversation for one of the wild-card spots.
While the pitching has performed much worse than expected, Detroit's lineup is still strong enough to allow them to lock down the first wild-card spot.
The Los Angeles Dodgers Will Acquire David Price
The Los Angeles Dodgers clearly don't need another starting pitcher.
Then again, the addition of David Price would be a game-changing move for the club. A top three of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and David Price would provide a playoff rotation that would shred the opposition in October.
Derek Jeter Will Finish Sixth All Time on the MLB Hit List
The clock is ticking on Derek Jeter's career.
However, the New York Yankees captain still has plenty of time to move up the all-time MLB hit list. With 50 more hits, Jeter will surpass Carl Yastrzemski, Honus Wagner and Cap Anson to finish sixth in the history of the game.
Robinson Cano Will Win the Batting Title but Hit Less Than 10 Home Runs
Robinson Cano has collected plenty of hits in his first season with the Seattle Mariners. The second baseman checks in with a .329 average, which is the second-highest mark in the AL. However, the five-time All-Star has provided extremely limited power production for the Mariners. On the season, Cano has totaled just four home runs.
Cano's average is definitely trending upward. In May he hit .355 and in June his average is .333. That suggests that the 31-year-old has the ability to win his first batting title in 2014. Still, he'll also finish the season with fewer than 10 home runs.
Johnny Cueto Will Win the NL Cy Young Award
There are quite a few contenders for the NL Cy Young Award.
Adam Wainwright, Julio Teheran, Tim Hudson, Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett are all in the conversation. However, none of those pitchers can match the season that Johnny Cueto has produced in 2014.
The right-hander owns a 1.86 ERA, which is the lowest mark in all of baseball. Cueto has also been remarkably consistent for the Cincinnati Reds in the opening months of the season. In all but two of his outings, the 28-year-old has allowed two earned runs or less. So far, opposing batter are hitting .173 against him.
The Washington Nationals Will Win the NL East
Now playing in their 10th season in the capital, the Washington Nationals have won the NL East just once.
In 2014, though, the Nationals will claim another division title. The division is extremely congested right now, but Washington has the starting rotation to put it over the top. There's an outside chance that Jordan Zimmermann, Tanner Roark, Doug Fister and Stephen Strasburg could all finish the season with sub-3.00 ERAs.
The Miami Marlins Will Win a Wild-Card Spot
It wasn't looking good for the Miami Marlins when Jose Fernandez was ruled out for the season after requiring Tommy John surgery.
Despite that loss, the Marlins are hanging around in the NL East division race and are right in the middle of the hunt for a wild-card spot. Even with Fernandez out, the club still has some highly talented young pitchers who can help them earn a postseason trip.
Henderson Alvarez owns a 2.39 ERA and the recently promoted Andrew Heaney looks like a future ace.
The New York Yankees Will Claim the Top Spot in the AL East
The New York Yankees have some work to do for this prediction to ring true.
New York currently trails the Toronto Blue Jays by 1.5 games in the AL East race. However, aside from May, when the Blue Jays went 21-9, the club is actually a sub-.500 team. Meanwhile, as was explained during the Jason Hammel prediction, the Yankees plan to aggressively upgrade their roster before the July 31 deadline.
The Minnesota Twins Will Sell High on Kurt Suzuki
The Minnesota Twins have received a remarkable return from their $2.75 million investment in Kurt Suzuki. The catcher is hitting .321 with 15 doubles in 2014.
For now, the Twins are still in the playoff picture. However, it's inevitable that Minnesota will tumble out of the race considering that the team's starting staff is one of the worst in baseball. In that scenario, Suzuki will become a perfect trade chip.
Todd Frazier Will Hit 30 Home Runs but Miss out on the All-Star Game
Todd Frazier has posted some impressive power numbers for the Cincinnati Reds in 2014. The third baseman has already gone yard 17 times and is on his way to a 30-home run campaign.
However, that power output is no guarantee of a spot on the NL All-Star team. David Wright of the New York Mets leads the fan vote. Plus, there's an excellent chance that NL manager Mike Matheny will bring along his own third baseman, Matt Carpenter. That means that Frazier could be on the outside looking in.
Carlos Santana Will Have a Monster Second Half
Carlos Santana endured an ice-cold start to the 2014 season.
The switch-hitter was batting well under .200 through the first two months of the season. However, since June began, Santana has turned his campaign around. In 16 games, the 28-year-old is hitting .333. That streak coincides with manager Terry Francona's decision to play Santana full time at first base.
Now that Santana won't bounce around the diamond, the slugger is set to have a big second half for Cleveland.
Nelson Cruz Will Finish in the Top 5 of the AL MVP Award Voting
Nelson Cruz had a rough offseason.
The designated hitter/outfielder received extremely limited interest on the free-agent market, leading him to settle for a one-year, $8 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles. It looks like 29 other teams made a big mistake.
Since landing in Baltimore, Cruz has done nothing but deliver extra-base hits. The 33-year-old has totaled 14 doubles and 23 home runs while posting a .594 slugging percentage. Cruz is on his way to a 40-home run campaign and a top-five finish in the AL MVP Award voting.
Brian Dozier Will Post a 30-30 Season
Brian Dozier is quietly having an excellent season for the Minnesota Twins.
With 15 home runs and 15 steals, the second baseman is already halfway to a 30-30 campaign. Considering the Twins have played just 74 games, Dozier is the top candidate to join the elusive club in 2014.
Bartolo Colon Will Win 15 Games for the New York Mets
After a shaky start to the season, Bartolo Colon has been in top form for the New York Mets.
The 41-year-old right-hander has allowed two runs or less in five of his last six outings. On the year, Colon owns a 7-5 record and a 3.88 ERA. The veteran is now on track to win at least 15 games for a second consecutive season.
The way he's been pitching, Colon could even be a viable trade option for contending clubs looking to strengthen their rotations before the July 31 deadline.
Bruce Bochy Will Win the NL Manager of the Year Award
Bruce Bochy is widely regarded as one of the best managers in baseball.
The skipper has led the San Francisco Giants to two World Series titles in the past five seasons. However, surprisingly, Bochy hasn't earned a Manager of the Year Award since 1996, when he was with the San Diego Padres. That should end in 2014 once Bochy gets his division-leading club back into postseason play.
Adam Wainwright Will Be the Only Pitcher to Win at Least 20 Games
In 2014, Adam Wainwright has been one of the most effective starters in baseball. The right-hander for the St. Louis Cardinals has a 2.08 ERA and has already collected 10 wins.
The key to winning so many games is Wainwright's ability to consistently pitch into the seventh inning or later in his starts. With his knack for working into the late innings, he has plenty of time to rack up wins. This season, the Cardinals ace will win 21 games, marking the second time in his career that he will have surpassed the 20-win plateau.
Starlin Castro Will Win the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award
Starlin Castro had a disastrous season in 2013, as he posted career lows in nearly every statistical category.
This year, though, the shortstop has been proving that his underwhelming performance a season ago was a fluke. With an .811 OPS, Castro is a favorite to land a spot at the All-Star Game. Plus, with 11 home runs already, the 24-year-old will easily top his career high of 14 in 2012.
Victor Martinez Will End the Season with More Home Runs Than Strikeouts
Victor Martinez is one of the most challenging players to strike out in MLB.
This season, the Detroit Tigers DH has punched out just 22 times in 273 at-bats. Meanwhile, the switch-hitter has collected 19 home runs. It will be extremely difficult to accomplish, but Martinez has the ability to finish the season with more home runs than strikeouts.
Yasiel Puig Will Finish in the Top 3 in NL MVP Award Voting
There's been no sophomore slump for Yasiel Puig.
The right-fielder is hitting .317 with 18 doubles and 11 home runs in his second season for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 23-year-old has also posted a .941 OPS, which ranks as the fourth-best mark in the NL. After finishing 15th in NL MVP voting a season ago, Puig should land in the top three on the ballot in 2014.
Tim Lincecum Will End the 2014 Regular Season in the Bullpen
Tim Lincecum has not been sharp in 2014.
That's been especially true in June, as he has posted a 6.85 ERA in four starts this month. Along with second base, the rotation is a prime spot for the San Francisco Giants to upgrade. When that happens, Lincecum, who signed a two-year, $35 million deal in the offseason, will be the starter banished to the bullpen.
Chris Young Will Win the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award
Chris Young didn't make a single appearance in the big leagues in 2013.
This year, the right-hander has been a crucial member of the rotation for the surprisingly competitive Seattle Mariners. The 35-year-old, who is pitching on a one-year, $1.25 million deal, has a 6-4 record and a 3.23 ERA in 15 games, including 14 starts.
Troy Tulowitzki Will Win the NL Batting Title Thanks to Home-Field Advantage
With a .360 average, Troy Tulowitzki is well on his way to winning the NL batting title.
The Colorado Rockies shortstop has one major advantage over the rest of his competitors in the NL: Coors Field. While playing at the Rockies' home stadium, the 29-year-old is hitting .475 (57-for-120). Meanwhile, on the road he's batting at a pedestrian clip of .252 (32-for-127).
Justin Verlander Will Finish the Season with an ERA over 5.00
Suffice it to say that Justin Verlander has been struggling in recent months.
In May, the six-time All-Star turned in a 5.54 ERA in six outings for the Detroit Tigers. In June, he's been even worse. In four starts this month, the 31-year-old has posted a 7.36 ERA and has a 0-3 record. Admittedly, in his most recent appearance on June 21 he allowed just one run.
Still, it seems as though seven consecutive seasons of throwing more than 200 innings is finally starting to catch up with the right-hander.
Jose Abreu Will Win the Home Run Derby
Jose Abreu isn't listed on the Home Run Derby 2014 Poll.
But it would be a crime if the powerful Cuban didn't take part in the exhibition. Abreu, who has 21 home runs so far in his rookie season, simply has easy power, which allows him to hit any pitch out of any ballpark. Assuming he finds his way to the derby at Target Field, the 27-year-old is a lock to win it.
The Milwaukee Brewers Will Hold on to Win the NL Central
Entering the season, the Milwaukee Brewers were an afterthought in a loaded division that supplied three playoff teams a season ago.
This year, however, Milwaukee sits atop the standings in the NL Central. As the second half of the season approaches, the Brewers own the best record in the NL and the second-best mark in baseball. While they are on their way to October, the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates will all be left on the outside looking in.
The Houston Astros Will Win More Games Than the Boston Red Sox
Last year, the Boston Red Sox were the World Series champions. However, this year, the club has been spending its time near the cellar along with the Tampa Bay Rays.
While the Red Sox are trending downward, the Houston Astros are on the rise. The AL West club has received an infusion of young talent in 2014 and is clearly on the upswing. Right now, the Red Sox have two more wins than the Astros. However, by the time Game 162 is complete, Houston will be higher in the standings than Boston.
Billy Beane Will Acquire a Starting Pitcher Via a Trade
If Billy Beane calls you between now and July 31, just don't pick up the phone.
The general manager for the Oakland Athletics has an extensive track record of winning deadline deals. Beane isn't likely to buy the biggest name, but there's no question that whoever he finds will end up becoming a key contributor for his starting staff.
Matt Kemp Will Boost His Trade Value with a Big Second Half
Matt Kemp is starting to turn his season around and raising his trade value in the process.
In his past 10 games, the outfielder is batting .410 with two home runs and 10 RBI. During the month of June, the 29-year-old has hit at a clip of .333 while posting a .951 OPS and collecting 10 extra-base hits. While there's been plenty of talk about the Dodgers shipping him out, he will stick around for the rest of the season before getting traded in the offseason.
Masahiro Tanaka Will Win the AL Cy Young Award
There are an array of contenders for the AL Cy Young Award.
There are the usual suspects like Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish. Plus, there are some surprise candidates such as Scott Kazmir and Mark Buehrle. Ultimately, though, this is Masahiro Tanaka's award to win.
The Japanese right-hander checks in with a 2.11 ERA, which is the second-lowest mark in the AL. There's also the consideration that he's been striking out opposing batters at an absurd rate. Tanaka has punched out 29.1 percent of the hitters that he's faced in 2014, per FanGraphs. That strikeout percentage is second only to Darvish.
The Los Angeles Dodgers Will Catch the San Francisco Giants in the NL West
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been steadily gaining on the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
The Dodgers have cut a lead that at one point was as big as 9.5 games to just a four-game edge. Both squads will end up making trips to the postseason. However, the Dodgers, who have won seven of 10, will be the division winners. Meanwhile, the Giants will have to settle for the top wild-card spot.
The Toronto Blue Jays Will Acquire Jeff Samardzija
The Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation could use some help.
Jeff Samardzija would be the ideal fit. The right-hander is just 2-6 for the Chicago Cubs, but owns a 2.60 ERA in 15 starts. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Blue Jays are definitely one of the teams in the picture for the starter. As Rosenthal tweets, the Blue Jays had two scouts at each of Samardzija's last two outings.
Miguel Cabrera Will Win His Third MVP Award in a Row
By his own ridiculously high standards, Miguel Cabrera has had an average start to the 2014 season.
Still, the eight-time All-Star has totaled 26 doubles and 13 home runs while posting a .322 average and a .934 OPS. For Cabrera to land his third AL MVP Award in a row, the the 31-year-old will need to produce a big second half. Fortunately for him, there's no player on the planet who's better prepared to do just that.
Giancarlo Stanton Will Win the NL MVP Award
Giancarlo Stanton is the most underappreciated superstar in baseball.
That will change by the end of the season. As was predicted earlier, the Miami Marlins will make a run out of left field to snag the second wild-card spot with Stanton playing a central role. The 24-year-old has already gone yard 20 times in 2014.
Here's the prediction for his MVP stat line: .298 average, 40 2B, 42 HR, 112 RBI, .973 OPS.
The Los Angeles Dodgers Will Win the World Series
Almost without fail, the club that wins the World Series is not the best team in baseball, but rather, the team that just so happens to be playing the best baseball when October rolls around.
With that qualification in mind, here's the prediction for who will win the Fall Classic in 2014: the Los Angeles Dodgers.
To dominate in the postseason, a team needs to have aces—preferably as many as possible. The Dodgers definitely fulfill that requirement. Earlier, it was predicted that David Price would be traded to Los Angeles. So, let's put him on the mound for the decisive Game 7 as the Dodgers take the series over the Oakland Athletics.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.