***All projected rosters according to Baseball Prospectus***

 

1 - Los Angeles Dodgers (101-61)

Projected Starting Lineup:

RF - Yasiel Puig

LF - Carl Crawford

SS - Hanley Ramirez

1B - Adrian Gonzalez

CF - Andre Ethier

3B - Juan Uribe

C - A.J. Ellis

2B - Dee Gordon

Projected Bench:

C - Drew Butera

IF - Scott Van Slyke

IF - Justin Turner

IF/OF - Chone Figgins

OF - Mike Baxter

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Clayton Kershaw

2 - Hyun-Jin Ryu

3 - Dan Haren

4 - Zack Greinke

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Kenley Jansen

SU - Brian Wilson

SU - Chris Perez

MID - Paco Rodriguez

MID - Jamey Wright

MID - J.P. Howell

MID - Brandon League

LR - Paul Maholm

Say hello to the team you will get most sick of hearing about on ESPN. Everyone rolls their eyes at the constant coverage the New York Yankees get, but with a payroll higher than the Bronx Bombers, the Dodgers have become the new talk of the baseball world.

Last year, Los Angeles began the season deplorably and the panic button wasn't just pressed, fans were practically sitting on it. To the credit of the organization, they acted and called up their prized Cuban prospect, Yasiel Puig. Puig dominated the summer with his amazing skill set and captivating personality. Even after missing the first quarter of the season, Puig was deep in the All-Star debate and a runner-up to the Rookie of the Year in the National League. Now in his second year, Puig's attitude and antics are still worrisome, but his raw talent is undeniable. Should he mature both his attitude and game, he could be a perennial MVP candidate.

Seven years and $215 million. That is the monstrous contract Clayton Kershaw signed over the offseason that had the baseball world talking. Throw me in the camp of people who like it -- Clayton Kershaw is by far and away the best pitcher in baseball and Los Angeles ponied up to keep him. He leads a solid rotation consisting of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke -- a trio who can win any playoff series they are presented with.

The playoffs are all that matters to the Dodgers now. A Division title might as well be a foregone conclusion and after a disappointing run in October a season ago, Los Angeles will have to step up and prove they can take on the mighty St. Louis Cardinals. Staying healthy will be vital, but it remains to be seen if the Dodgers are capable of such. Puig is already dealing with back issues, Matt Kemp is once again on the disabled list while Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley have careers on life support. The rotation is very thin.

With Kemp's injury, the crowded outfield continues to be a necessary luxury. Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford will be relied upon heavily to carry the load while Hanley Ramirez needs to avoid his inconsistencies that have plagued him the past several seasons. He too needs to fight the constant injury bug.

The regular season may be the time for the Dodgers to feast upon the league, but they will be the hunter once the playoffs begin. The St. Louis Cardinals are the team to beat in the National League.

 

2 - San Francisco Giants (88-74)

Projected Starting Lineup:

CF - Angel Pagan

SS - Brandon Crawford

1B - Brandon Belt

C - Buster Posey

RF - Hunter Pence

3B - Pablo Sandoval

LF - Michael Morse

2B - Joaquin Arias

Projected Bench:

C - Hector Sanchez

IF - Ehire Adrianza

IF - Brandon Hicks

OF - Gregor Blanco

OF/IF - Juan Perez

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Madison Bumgarner

2 - Matt Cain

3 - Tim Lincecum

4 - Tim Hudson

5 - Ryan Vogelsong

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Sergio Romo

SU - Santiago Casilla

SU - Jeremy Affeldt

MID - Javier Lopez

MID - Jean Machi

MID - David Huff

LR - Yusmeiro Petit

After a very down year in 2013 where San Francisco was the defending World Series champions and finished well out of the playoff race, many people have written off the Giants as contenders. Well, I am here to announce my support of a giant resurgence for San Francisco.

The poster boys for the Giants' disappointing season a year ago were Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Cain struggled throughout the season with an ERA of more than six in April and ballooning up to 8.40 in July. He ended the season strong in August and September, which should be encouraging for the Giants. Lincecum, on the other hand, was consistently mediocre-to-bad all season long. If the Giants want to become World Series contenders again, they need these two to pitch like the former aces they are.

Neither guy will be relied on to lead the rotation as Madison Bumgarner has emerged as the Giants' best pitcher. The young lefty is well on his way to stardom and 2014 could be his coming out party.

The lineup is as underrated as they come. Buster Posey is one of the better catchers in baseball while Hunter Pence was one of the few bright spots for San Francisco last year. Brandon Belt seems to be finally getting a legitimate shot to play full time and Pablo Sandoval is playing in a contract year. Remember Adrian Beltre in 2010?

It would be a pretty substantial leap for the Giants to go from fourth place to a playoff team in a year, but they have all the talent to do it. It just means the roster has to play up to its lofty capabilities.

 

3 - Arizona Diamondbacks (84-78)

Projected Starting Lineup:

CF - A.J. Pollock

2B - Aaron Hill

1B - Paul Goldschmidt

3B - Martin Prado

LF - Mark Trumbo

C - Miguel Montero

SS - Chris Owings

RF - Gerardo Parra

Projected Bench:

C - Tuffy Gosewisch

3B/1B - Eric Chavez

SS - Didi Gregorius

IF - Cliff Pennington

OF - Tony Campana

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Wade Miley

2 - Trevor Cahill

3 - Brandon McCarthy

4 - Bronson Arroyo

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Addison Reed

SU - J.J. Putz

SU - David Hernandez

MID - Brad Ziegler

MID - Oliver Perez

MID - Joe Thatcher

MID - Randall Delgado

LR - Josh Collmenter

The Diamondbacks are stuck in that limbo where they are not good enough to compete, but still not bad enough to get high draft picks. Their minor league system has one notable name in Archie Bradley, but the future seems to have a lot of question marks.

It should not be long until Bradley is up in Arizona with the horrendous state the rotation is currently in. Patrick Corbin, who was slated to be the Opening Day starter, will miss the season due to Tommy John surgery and Bronson Arroyo is already dealing with some injury issues. Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill have had durability issues in their careers and Wade Miley is certainly not a number-one starter.

The bullpen will attempt to shorten games for the fragile rotation and has the tools to do so. Addison Reed has had 69 saves in two seasons as the White Sox closer and will bolster the bullpen that has moved J.J. Putz to a set-up role.

Paul Goldschmidt has become the epitome of a lineup anchor and should be right in the middle of MVP discussions again this year. He could become the National League's Miguel Cabrera within a season or two. The addition of Mark Trumbo will make the lineup a lot more intimidating with him and Goldschmidt in the middle of the lineup along with on-base man Martin Prado and Aaron Hill at the top of the order.

Goldschmidt alone will help this team climb over .500 again and flirt with the idea of a Wild Card spot, but the pitching is not formidable enough to carry a team over a 162-game stretch.

 

4 - Colorado Rockies (74-88)

Projected Starting Lineup:

CF - Corey Dickerson

RF - Michael Cuddyer

LF - Carlos Gonzalez

SS - Troy Tulowitzki

1B - Justin Morneau

C - Wilin Rosario

3B - Nolan Arenado

2B - DJ LeMahieu

Projected Bench:

C/1B - Jordan Pacheco

3B/1B - Ryan Wheeler

IF - Josh Rutledge

OF - Brandon Barnes

OF - Drew Stubbs

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Jorge De La Rosa

2 - Brett Anderson

3 - Tyler Chatwood

4 - Juan Nicasio

5 - Franklin Morales

Projected Bullpen:

CL - LaTroy Hawkins

SU - Rex Brothers

SU - Matt Belisle

MID - Adam Ottavino

MID - Chad Betts

MID - Wilton Lopez

LR - Tommy Kahnle

Remember when the Colorado Rockies were in the World Series that one year? Neither do I. Last June they had the number-three pick in the draft and selected Jon Gray who could make his MLB debut eventually late in the summer.

Meanwhile the pitching staff will try to get by with Jorge De La Rosa leading the way and eventually Jhoulys Chacin (currently dealing with shoulder issues and will be on the disabled list). Brett Anderson signed with the Rockies over the offseason while Tyler Chatwood enjoyed a surprisingly decent year on a terrible team last year. The bullpen has LaTroy Hawkins closing, which historically means bad things for a baseball team, so expect Rex Brothers to man the duties fairly quickly.

Everyone knows hitting in Colorado is conducive for position players looking to bolster their stats, so that is always a factor. Michael Cuddyer won the batting title last year, but after a statistically lucky year, he should dramatically come back down to earth. However, if Colorado's superstar duo of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez can just stay healthy, they have a chance to climb out of the cellar of the National League. Toss in maturing Nolan Arenado and Wilin Rosario and you have a formidable lineup of youngsters.

Colorado certainly will not even toy with the idea of competing, but they should improve from being second to worst in the National League.

 

5 - San Diego Padres (73-89)

Projected Starting Lineup:

SS - Everth Cabrera

CF - Will Venable

3B - Chase Headley

LF - Carlos Quentin

1B - Yonder Alonso

2B - Jedd Gyorko

RF - Seth Smith

C - Nick Hundley

Projected Bench:

C - Rene Rivera

1B - Tommy Medica

1B/OF - Kyle Blanks

IF/OF - Alexi Amarista

OF - Chris Denorfia

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Andrew Cashner

2 - Ian Kennedy

3 - Tyson Ross

4 - Eric Stults

5 - Robbie Erlin

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Huston Street

SU - Joaquin Benoit

SU - Dale Thayer

MID - Alex Torres

MID - Nick Vincent

MID - Donn Roach

LR - Tim Stauffer

San Diego keeps flirting with the idea of being a .500 team, but instead of making the next step, I suspect they will take several steps backwards. Injury woes for a mediocre team are never good, and San Diego already has Yasmani Grandal and Josh Johnson along with Cameron Maybin joining Casey Kelly and Cory Luebke on the disabled list.

The guys who are playing are not the most prolific of players either. Huston Street is hardly a shutdown closer and could be a trade piece come mid-season, along with newly acquired Joaquin Benoit. Andrew Cashner has the chance to notch an All-Star nod this season as the Padres' top pitcher, but the rest of the rotation is suspect. Tyson Ross enjoyed a decent season last year, but he alone does not add much depth to a mediocre rotation.

Everth Cabrera is a very underrated speedster but will have to prove himself once again after coming off his PED suspension. He and Jedd Gyorko combine to make a solid middle infield. Those two plus Will Venable are essentially the only bright spots in the lineup with oft-injured Carlos Quentin and underachieving Chase Headley and Yonder Alonso.

There are a few decent prospects who could make impacts for the Padres this year, but no real difference makers who can save the Padres from falling into the bottom of the West.

 

Awards/Playoffs:

American League Playoff Teams:

New York Yankees

Detroit Tigers

Texas Rangers

Boston Red Sox

Oakland Athletics

National League Playoff Teams:

Los Angeles Dodgers

St. Louis Cardinals

Atlanta Braves

San Francisco Giants

Washington Nationals

 

World Series:

Detroit Tigers defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

 

MVP

American League:

1 - Mike Trout

2 - Miguel Cabrera

3 - Adrian Beltre

National League:

1 - Paul Goldschmidt

2 - Freddie Freeman

3 - Bryce Harper

 

Cy Young

American League:

1 - Yu Darvish

2 - Chris Sale

3 - Felix Hernandez

National League:

1 - Clayton Kershaw

2 - Madison Bumgarner

3 - Jose Fernandez

 

Rookie of the Year

American League:

1 - Masahiro Tanaka

2 - Xander Bogaerts

3 - Jose Abreu

National League:

1 - Billy Hamilton

2 - Archie Bradley

3 - Oscar Taveras

 

Manager of the Year

American League:

1 - Ron Washington

2 - Joe Girardi

3 - Bob Melvin

National League:

1 - Matt Williams

2 - Bruce Bochy

3 - Mike Matheny

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