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Predicting Final 2014 MLB Standings on New Year's Day

Ben BerkonContributor IJanuary 1, 2014

Predicting Final 2014 MLB Standings on New Year's Day

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    With 2014 finally upon us—and the new season just three months out—it’s only natural to start making predictions for the 2014 baseball season.

    In an attempt to improve on their 2013 win columns, some teams spent serious money in the offseason. For instance, perhaps the New York Yankees displayed the deepest overall wallet, dropping around $328 million on new contracts.

    With Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran now donning a Yankees jersey, the storied organization is hoping their playoff-less 2013 season will just be an anomaly—not a new trend. But with the 2013 World Series-winning Boston Red Sox still in the picture, it’s possible the Bombers will still have to play second fiddle to their Beantown rival.

    Read on to see all the final 2014 MLB standings predictions.

     

    All statistics sourced from Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com.

American League East

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    The New York Yankees have been the most active organization in the American League East this offseason. The Bombers shelled out around $328 million thus far, adding Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran while also re-inking Hiroki Kuroda.

    But even with the elite additions, the Yankees still face an uphill battle dethroning the Boston Red Sox for the division title.

    Despite losing Ellsbury to the Yankees, the Red Sox have most of their core intact and boast talented youngsters like Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr., too.

    With the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays yet to make notable improvements to their 2013 rosters, the Red Sox and Yankees are the favorites for the top two spots in the division.

     

    Projected 2014 Standings:

    Boston Red Sox

    New York Yankees

    Tampa Bay Rays

    Toronto Blue Jays

    Baltimore Orioles

American League Central

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    The Detroit Tigers took some major risks this offseason. In addition to swapping Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler, the Tigers also dealt underrated starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for a bench player, reliever and mid-level prospect. 

    But the Tigers roster is far from weakened. The team’s rotation still features aces Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander and an offensive core of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Austin Jackson. Joe Nathan will also be taking over the closing gig from Joaquin Benoit in 2014, which apparently was a priority for general manager Dave Dombrowski.

    Yet since the Cleveland Indians only fell a game short of the Tigers in 2013, the Tribe cannot be counted out in 2014. Especially if Michael Bourn can produce like his 2012 self, the Indians could again emerge as a dark-horse candidate for the division. 

    The Minnesota Twins, despite their flurry of free-agent signings, still do not hold a candle to neither the Tigers' nor the Indians' rosters. In fact, it’s quite possible the Kansas City Royals will once again best the Twins in the AL Central.

    Perhaps the only team capable of spoiling a fourth-place finish for the Twins are the Chicago White Sox, who made some impressive strides this offseason in their rebuilding efforts.

     

    Projected 2014 Standings:

    Detroit Tigers

    Cleveland Indians

    Kansas City Royals

    Minnesota Twins

    Chicago White Sox

American League West

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    Apparently the Texas Rangers are sick of the Oakland Athletics capturing the division despite a comparatively cheap payroll. The Rangers acquired Prince Fielder via trade and handed $130 million to Shin-Soo Choo thus far this offseason.

    But the Rangers weren’t alone in their pursuits for glory. The Athletics too were busy this offseason, adding the likes of Craig Gentry (from the Rangers), Scott Kazmir, Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson. Even though the A’s didn’t add anyone of Fielder or Choo’s caliber, the frugal organization is still a strong incumbent. 

    The Choo signing notwithstanding, the Rangers weren’t the biggest spenders in the AL West. Hoping to again become relevant in the playoff picture, the Seattle Mariners inked Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract.

    Cano will certainly help the Mariners eclipse 71 wins in 2014. But it’s unlikely the former Yankees star will produce enough to oust the Athletics, Rangers and possibly even the Los Angeles Angels too. 

    And needless to say, the Houston Astros will use 2014 as yet another rebuilding year. That said, the Astros hardly stood pat in the offseason, picking up Dexter Fowler, Scott Feldman and Jesse Crain.

     

    Projected 2014 Standings:

    Oakland Athletics

    Texas Rangers

    Los Angeles Angels

    Seattle Mariners

    Houston Astros

National League East

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    2014 might be the start of the Washington Nationals’ reign in the NL East. In addition to their already uber-talented, young roster, the Nats acquired starting pitcher Doug Fister in exchange for organizational depth.

    Fister’s presence gives the Nationals a rotation that could possibly emerge as the best in the sport.

    But critics still can't write off the Atlanta Braves. Despite losing homegrown star Brian McCann and veteran rotation anchor Tim Hudson to free agency while only adding Ryan Doumit and Gavin Floyd in the process, the Braves could still find a way to rack up another division title. 

    By comparison, even the New York Mets had a more productive offseason, acquiring Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young. The haul hardly guarantees the Mets of success beyond third place, however, as both the Nationals and Braves are far too strong. 

    The Mets might still experience difficultly holding off the Philadelphia Phillies, whose elderly roster is hardly aging like a fine wine. In fact, the Phillies’ best offensive addition was Marlon Byrd, a 36-year-old outfielder.

    On the other end of the age spectrum, the Miami Marlins are mostly destined for the cellar with their talented but extremely young roster. Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Jose Fernandez are certainly a solid core for the future, but it would be shocking to see the team win more than 62 games in 2014.

     

    Projected 2014 Standings:

    Washington Nationals

    Atlanta Braves

    New York Mets

    Philadelphia Phillies

    Miami Marlins

National League Central

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    The St. Louis Cardinals continue to be one of the best run organizations in baseball. The Cards aptly addressed two of their biggest holes by acquiring center fielder Peter Bourjos and shortstop Jhonny Peralta. And with constant waves of productive and homegrown call-ups, there’s little reason to doubt the Cardinals will once again capture the division.

    But if the Cards do experience an off year, the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates will be there to reap the benefits. 

    With a rotation featuring Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani, the Reds’ dynamic offense should provide plenty of game-winning run support. And the Reds might not miss departed free agent Shin-Soo Choo, as the homegrown Billy Hamilton will finally be able to show off his folk hero-esque speed. 

    The Pirates could too make a push in 2014 after enjoying their first playoff berth in 2013 since 1992. Unlike the Reds, however, a lot of the Pirates’ success last season was due to particularly outstanding performances by veterans Francisco Liriano, Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and A.J. Burnett. 

    Skeptics aside, the Pirates do boast two of the more exciting outfielders in the game in Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte—and will soon add a third with Gregory Polanco on the way.

    The two teams that have little chance of competing in 2014 are the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers have plenty of talent like Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, but as 2013 illustrated, paper hardly translates to reality.

    The Cubs’ lacking win column has a better excuse, as the Theo Epstein-navigated franchise is in a much-needed rebuilding phase. A strong season from Starlin Castro could propel the Cubs out of last place, but Epstein is likely eager to net another protected first-round pick.

     

    Projected 2014 Standings:

    St. Louis Cardinals

    Cincinnati Reds

    Pittsburgh Pirates

    Milwaukee Brewers

    Chicago Cubs

National League West

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    With the sheer ability to outbid any team on any player, the Los Angeles Dodgers seemingly have a permanent spot atop the weak NL West. 

    But that is not to say that the Dodgers aren’t a talented team. With players like Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke—just to name a few—the Dodgers could very well become the National League version of the late New York Yankees dynasty. 

    Beyond the Dodgers, the rest of the NL West is a bit of a free-for-all.

    After finishing fourth in 2013, the San Francisco Giants could potentially shoot up a few spots with good seasons from Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, who posted a 4.00 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 83 ERA+) and 4.37 ERA (versus a 76 ERA+), respectively, last season.

    The Giants will have to fend off the Arizona Diamondbacks for second place, however, as the D’backs could viably contend if their motley crew of starting pitchers rise to the occasion. And with a lineup featuring Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero, run production should be the least of the team’s problems.

    The San Diego Padres made a few under-the-radar moves this offseason, acquiring Seth Smith from the Oakland Athletics for Luke Gregerson and signing Joaquin Benoit and Josh Johnson via free agency. While the moves certainly strengthen the Padres’ depth, the additions still don’t put the team in a position to contend.

    The same goes for the lowly Colorado Rockies, whose biggest offseason transaction was selling low on center fielder Dexter Fowler. The Rockies dealt Fowler to the Houston Astros for back-end pitcher Jordan Lyles and fourth outfielder Brandon Barnes. At very best, if the Rockies as is click in 2014, they could bump the Padres for fourth.

     

    Projected 2014 Standings:

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    San Francisco Giants

    Arizona Diamondbacks

    San Diego Padres

    Colorado Rockies

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