Scott Miller's Starting 9 (+6): 2015 Predictions (Or, Why I Hate Your Team)

Scott Miller@@ScottMillerBblNational MLB ColumnistApril 7, 2015

Carlos Osorio/AP Images

LOS ANGELES — Sorry. These are probably a couple of days late.

Why? Because the Padres just made another trade! When will they stop? Finally, Monday morning at 11, in the Dodger Stadium visitors' dugout, I asked San Diego manager Bud Black about the Opening Day lineup he had just written, and whether he felt good that that would be the lineup that would actually take the field in just over two hours.

He laughed. Like it was a joke, the way general manager A.J. Preller has made trade after trade since the end of the 2014 season, including landing filthy closer Craig Kimbrel on Sunday. 

Also: Sorry.

Why? Because I know what you're thinking as you're reading these predictions. You're thinking that I absolutely despise your team, and how could I be such a clown as to not pick your team to A) Win it all; B) Win the division; C) Win several major individual awards?

Well, maybe part of that is true. But I do not hate your team, honestly, and apologies in advance for when you think I do. It's just that, see, I can't pick every team to win. It's against the rules. And, full disclosure, though my predictions always are 100 percent accurate at the time I make them, they often wind up being wrong by the time we get to October. How that happens, I have no earthly idea.

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So before the Padres make another deal, Happy Opening Day and let's get moving before we violate any of the new pace-of-play rules (promise, I'll keep at least one foot inside the batter's box):

1. AL East

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Red Sox: Though Boston missed over the winter on Jon Lester, manager John Farrell thinks his rotation of Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson and Joe Kelly is underrated. I think what puts Boston over the top this summer will be the acquisition of Cole Hamels.

Orioles: The prospect of a healthy, full season from Manny Machado is enough to keep the possibility open of another division title. But even with manager Buck Showalter, who's as good as there is, it's difficult to place too much faith in a team that lost the majors' leading home run hitter (Nelson Cruz).

Blue Jays: The temptation was to pick them first before right-hander Marcus Stroman was lost for the season with a knee injury. The concern is that with left-hander Daniel Norris, I'm picking the Jays too low. Josh Donaldson is a difference-maker.

Rays: The vibe is great under new manager Kevin Cash, for those thinking that Tampa Bay will shrivel up like dried fruit post-Joe Maddon. Problem is, when you open a season with starters Matt Moore, Drew Smyly and Alex Cobb and key reliever Jake McGee on the disabled list, reality will set in fast.

Yankees: I hope Masahiro Tanaka makes it through the entire season with his elbow intact. Realistically? I fear there's a better chance the Yankees will move back into old Yankee Stadium. And did you know Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Stephen Drew all qualify for AARP cards this year?

2. AL Central

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 6: Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the Detroit Tigers scores during the sixth inning on the Nick Castellanos (not in photo) sacrifice fly during the Opening Day game against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park on April 6, 2015 in Detroit, Mich
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Tigers: With Yoenis Cespedes joining Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler, baseball fans throughout Michigan will be saying, "What do you mean offense is down in baseball?" Last time they cranked out more hits in Michigan, Motown was at the top of its game.

White Sox: This team has better balance than the folks at your local yoga sessions (which is why I'd be doomed from the start in yoga!) after adding Adam LaRoche, Melky Cabrera, David Robertson and Jeff Samardzija. And the front three of the rotation, Samardzija, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, can pitch with anybody.

Royals: For my money, this is baseball's best division. Any of these first four teams can win (sorry, Twins). Love the Royals' bullpen, and we'll still be on a first-name basis with Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. It's just difficult to imagine overcoming the hit of losing a 200-innings guy from atop the rotation. Adios, James Shields.

Indians: In Corey Kluber they trust, and adding Brandon Moss is a big boost to a team that ranked seventh in the AL in runs scored. Now, can the Indians catch the ball this summer? They led the league in errors (118) and unearned runs allowed (72) last year (plus, Sports Illustrated jinxed them again this year, so there's that).

Twins: As if the Twins needed any more obstacles after the past couple of years, they lost starter Ervin Santana to an 80-game suspension hours before Opening Day when he failed a PED test. Where have you gone, Brad Radke?

3. AL West

Apr 6, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) throws against the Los Angeles Angels  during the seventh inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Mariners: The sweet science of lineup construction became sweeter than it's been in years when Seattle added slugger Nelson Cruz. With him and Robinson Cano together in the middle of the lineup, and Felix Hernandez surrounded by Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, the Mariners are on the move.

Angels: If they are as aggressive in the batter's box and on the mound as they were in attacking their own Josh Hamilton last week, the Angels can win it all. And how perfect is it that Mike Trout homered in his first at-bat of the season Monday in Seattle?

Athletics: Keys to the season: Keeping starter Sonny Gray and third baseman Brett Lawrie on the field. Personally, I hope they summon switch-pitcher Pat Venditte soon just to screw with rival hitters.

Rangers: Bad stat to lead the majors in: Disabled list days. But Texas had the most in 2014 with 2,281, and now it has lost Yu Darvish for the year. Good luck with that. At least Prince Fielder is back.

Astros: Jose Altuve is more fun than a freezer full of Ben & Jerry's. Astros are coming.

4. AL Wild Cards

Angels: The key is whether Jered Weaver can keep fooling 'em at 32. The feeling here is yes, he can.

White Sox: Why not? Jose Abreu is just getting started…

5. NL East

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 06: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals celebrates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run against the New York Mets in the fourth inning during Opening Day at Nationals Park on April 6, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Nationals: Of the six divisions, this is the only one where there is a clear, prohibitive favorite. You don't come in as the defending division champ with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez and spend $215 million for Max Scherzer for anything short of a World Series appearance.

Marlins: Explosive outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna (again) will be something to see. Look out when Jose Fernandez comes back from Tommy John surgery midseason.

Mets: Dear Mets, would you please, please, PLEASE just trade for Troy Tulowitzki already? Love, Everyone who appreciates good shortstops and actual impact players in New York.

Braves: Jace Peterson collected Atlanta's first hit of the season, and Braves fans already have nodded off.

Phillies: "Hey, how about this strategy: We just keep our guys until they atrophy." That work?

6. NL Central

Mar 9, 2015; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) swings at a pitch during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Minnesota Twins at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODA
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Pirates: Maybe it's crazy to pick against the Cardinals, but the Pirates are very good and eventually things have to change in the division, right? Josh Harrison has emerged at third base and the outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco is going to be the best in the majors. Biggest question: Will they pitch enough?

Cardinals: Somehow, some way, they always find a route to October. And this year should be no different, especially if Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha stay healthy.

Cubs: When Kris Bryant and Addison Russell arrive, things will get really interesting.

Brewers: No matter where Jonathan Lucroy ranks when it comes to pitch framing, Milwaukee is lacking on the mound unless Wily Peralta (17-11, 3.53 ERA in 2014) can do it again and Jimmy Nelson and Mike Fiers improve. Also, Ryan Braun's OPS has nosedived three consecutive years, from .994 in 2011 to .777 last year.

Reds: Window. Closed.

7. NL West

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 06:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches to the San Diego Padres in the first inning during opening day at Dodger Stadium on April 6, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Dodgers: Completely rebuilt up the middle with catcher Yasmani Grandal, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second baseman Howie Kendrick and rookie center fielder Joc Pederson. Path to winning third consecutive NL West title: Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy step up behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and Yasiel Puig becomes an MVP candidate.

Padres: In hot pursuit of the Dodgers, look out if Matt Kemp continues where he left off last season, Justin Upton produces a big contract year and the pitching stays intact. These guys could be scary good.

Giants: Forget the even-odd-year voodoo. Hunter Pence missed spring training with a broken arm, Angel Pagan took a couple of back injections after undergoing back surgery last year, and the team looked like it was missing several beats this spring.

Rockies: Repeat after me: If Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez stay healthy, they have a chance. If Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez…

Diamondbacks: Yes, the thought that they might win as many as 70 games is a desert mirage. Ugh.

8. NL Wild Cards

Cardinals: They've played in each of the past four National League Championship Series, and in seven of the past 11. Don't be surprised if they figure out another path to it this October.

Padres: James Shields, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy and Brandon Morrow are five good reasons why the pitching is as deep as anyone's in the game. The possible returns of Josh Johnson and Cory Luebke later this season could be a huge boost. And the bullpen is loaded, too.

9. World Series

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Mariners over Nationals: Yes, Washington has the best rotation in the game. But Felix Hernandez is ready for prime time, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz in the middle of the lineup are solid, and young talent like Kyle Seager, Michael Zunino and Dustin Ackley are about to play into their primes.

10. MVPs

Mike Trout, Angels: Hey, everybody said he'll win multiple MVP awards before he's finished, right? Here comes No. 2.

Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: He nearly won it last year if not for Clayton Kershaw's out-of-this-world season. It's Stanton's time now.

11. Cy Youngs

David Price, Tigers: He led the majors with 248.1 innings pitched last year, but was only 4-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 11 starts for Detroit. He never did quite adjust to the midseason trade, which isn't surprising for a guy dealing with the first move of his career. Look out in 2015: Price knows his surroundings and starts fresh. Plus, he's pitching for a contract.

Madison Bumgarner, Giants: Yeah, Clayton Kershaw easily could win this again. But I'm calling overrated all this talk of Bumgarner's 270 innings pitched last year. He's big, strong and can handle it. And he's moving into the sweet spot of his career.

12. Rookies of the Year

Rusney Castillo, Red Sox: Yes, he's starting in the minors. He won't be there for long.

Sep 27, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Rusney Castillo (38) hits an RBI single during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Jorge Soler, Cubs: Yes, everyone's talking Kris Bryant. Don't sleep on Soler, who reminds manager Joe Maddon of Vladimir Guerrero.

13. Managers of the Year

Lloyd McClendon, Mariners: Things look a little different for him in Seattle than they did in Pittsburgh all those years ago, don't they? Amazing what a guy can do with talent.

Bud Black, Padres: He won the award in 2010 when he had Adrian Gonzalez and the Seven Dwarfs. He hasn't had talent since…until now.

14. First Manager Fired

Ryne Sandberg, Phillies: Unless it's Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves. Could be a tough year in the NL East.

15. First Name Player Traded

Cole Hamels, Phillies: Duh.

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. 

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