by Nicholas Cicale (@)
They’re finally here, my preseason power rankings for the 2014 baseball season! I know last year these kind of got out of hand, so I’m trying my best to keep them brief this year (just a paragraph) with a few exceptions. As of now, I’m expecting this to be about six entries long, so be on the lookout for my new posts over the next two week as we count from #30 all the way to the top.
Also, a new addition this year is my predicted records for each team, located next teach team’s name.
30. Philadelphia Phillies (61-101)
Team Ace: Cliff Lee
Breakout Player: Ben Revere
Injuries and old age. They’ll most likely be without Cole Hamels for a month or two, A.J. Burnett is nearing the end of his career, and word in spring is that Jimmy Rollins doesn’t get along with new manager Ryan Sandberg. There isn’t much upside here, and a lot of things that can go wrong.
29. Chicago Cubs (64-98)
Team Ace: Jeff Samardzija
Breakout Player: Junior Lake
Jeff Samardzija really slowed down the growth of this pitching staff last year and needs to bounce back for the Cubs to even have a chance. The Cubs have some nice prospects and I trust that whatever Theo Epstein is doing with the roster will work out eventually, but until I see an actual improvement I can’t move them up.
28. Houston Astros (66-96)
Team Ace: Scott Feldman
Breakout Player: Jason Castro
The Astros can’t possibly be as bad as last year, and a handful of their offensive prospects should come up at some point and make an impact. The problem is still pitching, and the Astros’ rotation should be the worst in the league.
27. Miami Marlins (69-93)
Team Ace: Jose Fernandez
Breakout Player: Christian Yelich
As we saw with sensational pitcher Jose Fernandez, and countless others last season, the Marlins have a unique approach with their prospects, getting them acclimated in the majors early instead of letting them develop in the minors like most teams would. If it works you could see a huge leap with this team as a whole sooner rather than later, but if not they’ll be plastered to the bottom half of the league for a long time.
26. Chicago White Sox (69-93)
Team Ace: Chris Sale
Breakout Player: Jose Abreu
It was hard coming up with just one breakout player for the White Sox. I went with Abreu because I think he’ll have the better overall season, but he’s already a big name. My more under the radar guy is Adam Eaton, who they acquired in an offseason trade. I think both will have productive years and will be a sneak peak at the future of a team that currently has too much money wrapped up in players past their primes.
25. New York Mets (71-91)
Team Ace: Bartolo Colon
Breakout Player: Travis d’Arnaud
Playoffs? Highly doubtful for the team that expects to win 90 games and lost young ace Matt Harvey for the season. But like last year, I like how this team looks for the future. David Wright is as good as they come when healthy, Daniel Murphy has consistently been productive on offense, Curtis Granderson adds legitimate power to the lineup, and prospect catcher Travis d’Arnaud will finally make his MLB debut. For now, Bartolo Colon will start the season at the top of the rotation, but they Mets’ young guns will take over eventually. In 2015, the tandem of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and prospect Noah Syndergaard could be one of the best in baseball, and this year will be crucial for their growth.
24. Seattle Mariners (71-91)
Team Ace: Felix Hernandez
Breakout Player: Brad Miller
I feel that I could be a better GM for the Mariners than whoever they have right now. In the field they need guys that hit for average, not power and combine speed with good defense. On the mound, fly ball pitchers who could take advantage of Safeco Field’s dimensions. Instead, they went out and signed power in the offseason, adding Corey Hart and Robinson Cano. Obviously, a player like Cano will make a team better, but going from Yankee Stadium to Safeco will diminish his home run numbers from in the 30s to the low 20s or even the teens. . They do still have King Felix at the top of a starting rotation with a ton of upside, and that could carry them further than I’ve ranked them, but they need a lot to work out in order to be competitive in a top heavy division.
23. San Diego Padres (72-91)
Team Ace: Andrew Cashner
Breakout Player: Andrew Cashner
How can Andrew Cashner be both a breakout candidate and the team’s ace on opening day? For one, outside of Josh Johnson and Ian Kennedy, whom were brutal the last few seasons, the rotation has absolutely nobody to throw out there right now, and I do think Cashner has the raw skills to be a top 15 pitcher in the league at some point. They have some nice young pieces on offense but don’t yet have a guy they can count on consistently.