This division should be an average one, with all five teams competing closely for the top spot. The Orioles won the division last year, but should expect a drop off after losing Nelson Cruz from the middle of the lineup, and not upgrading their average-at-best starting rotation. The Red Sox retooled and might score the most runs in baseball this season, but if their pitching continues to struggle horrendously, they won’t be going anywhere. The Rays always seem to find young pitchers who perform, and despite losing Matt Moore to Tommy John surgery, they still have Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi. Runs will be hard to come by for the Rays, but they should finish above .500 and fighting for a wild card spot. The Blue Jays and their stacked lineup are always tough to beat, but luckily for opponents their pitching might be worse than that of the Red Sox. The Yankees could surprise if Masahiro Tanaka pitches like an ace and their lineup full of 30+ veterans overachieve, and should be in the hunt into September.
Predicted Division Winner: Boston Red Sox
This one should be a two team race. The Tigers and Royals are the jewels of this division, as the Tigers have a very good rotation led by David Price and an unbelievable lineup (see Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Yoenis Cespedes, etc.), and the Royals are coming off a World Series berth with an experienced lineup, an above-average pitching staff, and a lights-out bullpen led by Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Although the White Sox added a stud pitcher in Jeff Samardzija, and a solid bat in Adam Laroche to a core of Jose Abreu and Chris Sale, the rest of their team is below average. The Indians just don’t have anyone to carry them, and with a team of platoon players and below-average pitchers, they should finish near the bottom of the league in winning percentage. The same goes for the Twins, although they have a bright future with a plethora of highly-rated prospects in line for promotions at the end of this year and into the next few.
Predicted Division Winner: Kansas City Royals
This division was expected to be a close race throughout the year, but none of the teams are off to such great starts. The Angels should perform well again, as they have an above-average lineup led by Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, but their pitching staff is not great, and come the end of the year might have trouble putting them in position to win enough games to take the division. The Athletics are always in the hunt despite a lack of superstars, and they should be again, as Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir are very good players who will take them to a lot of regular-season wins. The Astros are off to a hot start (thanks to Dallas Keuchel, Colin McHugh, and Jose Altuve), but their lack of proven talent and strikeout-prone lineup should not hold up throughout the whole season. The Mariners added Nelson Cruz to the middle of a lineup featuring Robinson Cano, but they always seem to go only as far as Felix Hernandez can take them, which, this year, could end up awarding them a wild card spot. The Rangers have no pitching. Their lineup is solid, but again, the Rangers have absolutely no pitching, and should finish last in the division.
Predicted Division Winner: Oakland Athletics
The Washington Nationals were favored by many to win the World Series as they have a stacked rotation one-to-five (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and Gio Gonzalez), but thus far their lineup and fielding has failed them. They certainly have the potential to go on a long winning streak and go far in the playoffs, but it takes more than just a list of five names to win baseball games. The Braves are always solid, but should finish at about .500 and seem OK with that thought after trading Craig Kimbrel. The Marlins have lots of young talent, and they might surprise with their lineup, but it does seem like one year too early for this team since All-Star Jose Fernandez will be out until mid-June recovering from Tommy John. The Mets have an old lineup, but have lots of great young pitching (plus 42-year-old Bartolo Colon) led by Matt Harvey and Jacob DeGrom and could fight for the division if Washington continues to underperform. The Phillies are the only team in this division without a real bright side, as they have old pitching, old hitting, and no prospects. They will need to trade Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Chase Utley in order to acquire pieces for the future, because they are sure to finish last in the division either way.
Predicted Division Winner: Washington Nationals
The Cardinals have been to the NLCS in three straight years, and should have the chance to get back there if they accomplish their expected goal of winning the division. They have a proven and balanced lineup and a good rotation, although with the news of Adam Wainwright’s season-ending injury, they might fall short of their goal this year. The Cubs could be a beneficiary of the Wainwright injury, as they have a solid rotation led by John Lester and a lineup of incredible prospects, most notably Kris Bryant, who could lead their charge for a division title. The Pirates are always in the hunt, but Andrew McCutchen will have to return to form if they hope to have a shot at a Wild Card spot or even the division. The Reds have solid pitching and a solid lineup, and might end up trading stud Johnny Cueto if they aren’t in the hunt by the trade deadline, as this looks to be an average year for them. The Brewers have the talent, but have underperformed thus far and injuries have hurt them, but even at full-strength, they lack elite pitching which is needed in the National League, possibly leaving them with a sub .500 season.
Predicted Division Winner: Chicago Cubs
The Dodgers have some competition this year, but boast a lineup with big names and a rotation led by Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke that lend themselves to a run at the division title. The Padres re-loaded and now offer a high-powered lineup led by Matt Kemp and James Shields as the ace of their very good staff. They have played well against the Dodgers this year, and seem to have the best chance to unseat them as division champs. The Rockies always seem to have a good, young lineup, and this year is no different. Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and Corey Dickerson could carry this team to a strong year, and a push for a Wild Card spot, but their below-average pitching will need to hold up in order to do so. The Diamondbacks are in a sort of purgatory, as they have a superstar in Paul Goldschmidt, but everyone is young or average and just good enough to keep them around .500. They should not expect more from this season as they wait for their prospects to develop for future years. The Giants are defending World Series Champions, but they never seem to play well a year after a championship, and seem to be headed down a similar path this year. They will be solid, but should not make the playoffs, as they have lost too many players and the rest will underperform throughout the year.
Predicted Division Winner: San Diego Padres