We are now at the point where the 2015 Spring Training is underway. I love this time of year, the majority of the off-season moves have been made, the endless speculation is about to be met by actual performance, and we fans get to see how well our respective team’s General Managers did in putting together the 2015 version of their rosters. Accordingly, I feel the need to offer my rankings for the ten best teams as everyone prepares for the season. Some of my favorite teams remain on the list, including the Washington Nationals and my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. I have included the Kansas City Royals largely on the strength of their showing last fall, but I’m not confident that they will be able to come anywhere close to performing as well as they did last year in 2015. I also have the Oakland Athletics on this list because of both sentimentality and my belief that Billy Beane will be able to pull rabbits out of his hat once again. I also added the Seattle Mariners because they are definitely a team of the future and a window of success may be opening for them. Finally, the Baltimore Orioles look to remain in contention in the AL East and if that is the case I can still wish for a Baltimore/Washington World Series. Wouldn’t that be fun!
I have also left off a lot of teams with promise. The Cleveland Indians are strong and will challenge in the AL Central, I am sure; that division seems to be one of the strongest in Major League Baseball. I am also not giving the Miami Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays the love that many others are. They will both be respectable throughout the season, but I doubt they are playoff bound. Finally, while there is a lot of activity in Chicago and both the Cubs and the White Sox appear to be building toward major relevance, I think this is still a couple of years away, at best. Regardless of whether I am right or wrong, just for fun here are my top ten teams in Major League Baseball for the beginning of spring training.
|RANK||TEAM / 2014 RECORD||2014 RUN DIFFERENTIAL||COMMENTS|
|1||Nationals / 96-66||+131||The Nationals look like they are poised for a repeat in the NL East in 2015. With a starting five that includes Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister they look unstoppable. Moving Ryan Zimmerman to 1st base solves several problems in the infield, and the acquisition of Yunel Escobar should help at 2nd base. I would like to see them in the World Series, and I might well get my wish.|
|2||Angels / 98-64||+143||Could this be the year that the Angels take another World Series? I loved the team that won it all in 2002. I think they have a shot again. With the return of Garrett Richards the Halos have a solid starting pitching staff and a good everyday lineup. If the defense holds and the boppers—especially Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, and Albert Pujols—return to form they will be formidable in the AL West.|
|3||Cardinals / 90-72||+16||The Cardinals are the classiest franchise in the National League; perhaps in all of MLB. They have played in four World Series since 2004, and won two of them, and they have made the playoffs 11 times since 2000. They have also shored up several weaknesses exhibited by the team in 2014, even though they went deep into the playoffs, by acquiring Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, Matt Belisle, and Mark Reynolds. Adam Wainwright remains their ace, but Michael Wacha, John Lackey, and Lance Lynn offer excellence across the board. I expect them to win the NL Central again in 2015.|
|4||Dodgers / 90-72||+101||The free-spending Dodgers have stacked their team with great talent for the last two years but have yet to play far into the postseason. Perhaps 2015 will be their year. They have a one/two punch of starters is Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke that is as good any in baseball. The major question is will the rest of the rotation hold up; I’m thinking probably not. Getting rid of Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez was addition by subtraction, and acquiring Jimmy Rollins will help middle infield defense as well as enhance the offense. Don’t measure fingers for World Series rings yet, but the Dodgers should once again be a force in the NL West.|
|5||Pirates / 88-74||+51||As I said concerning the Angels, could this be the year that the Pirates return to the World Series? I loved the team that won it all in 1979. I regretted the losses of those great teams in the latter 1980s-early 1990s. I think the Pirates have a shot although I doubt they will take the Division championship. The Bucs have a solid starting pitching staff and a good everyday lineup. It will be anchored once again by Andrew McCutcheon, and he will be ably assisted.|
|6||Orioles / 96-66||+112||This is another sentimental favorite for me. I would really like to recover the excitement in Camden Yards during the latter 1990s when the O’s repeatedly made the playoffs. They are not probably going to win the division, but I sure hope they take a wild card slot. But then, I would root for anyone in the AL East other than the Yankees and the Red Sox.|
|7||Royals / 89-73||+27||The Royals took us on quite a ride in last season’s playoffs. I was really rooting for them in the World Series, and they came so close! Although they lost James Shields, the Royals starters still look pretty good. The question is whether or not Yordano Ventura will become the true ace that he showed in flashes in the World Series. I would like to think so. The addition of Edinson Volquez will also help the rotation, but he is not James Shields and cannot be relied upon in quite the same way. The everyday line-up seems intact; it has a year more of experience and perhaps the players ready to enhance their postseason excellence. Let’s hope so. I’d like to see another Royals championship; just watching George Brett cheer the team’s success will be a true joy, as it was last year in the World Series.|
|8||Mariners / 87-75||+80||I’m delighted to see the Mariners back in the hunt for a playoff berth in 2015. I would like to think they could make it. With the addition of Nelson Cruz and J.A. Happ they look to be capable of wins in the upper 80s. But, the AL West is pretty well stacked with other excellent teams and this might mean the Mariners will not make the postseason.|
|9||Athletics / 88-74||+157||Regardless of whether or not he has stars on his team and lots of money to pay them, Billy Beane seems to find a way to put a competitive team on the field every year, and usually to make the playoffs. Go figure. How come the A’s do this most years and other teams, also claiming small market status, have no success whatsoever? Over the winter Beane has remade the A’s, once again. He obtained Billy Butler, Ike Davis, and Ben Zobrist. Those guys should help, but with the departures of some others this team will be problematic in terms of making the postseason this year. I still like them, and live by the motto, “never underestimate Beane’s machinations.”|
|10||Tigers / 90-72||+52||I know the Tigers are all-in for the championship this year. They allowed Max Sherzer to walk, probably a mistake, but still have a rotation consisting of David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, Alfredo Simon, and Shane Greene. The everyday line-up will be as ever, still productive but getting older. The window for a championship in Detroit may be closing. We’ll see what happens in 2015.|