BY JOE BARTEL, ERIC SCHROEDER, PETER DAHL, REED SHALLUE & NATASHA GEIGER
Since the start of the baseball season is just days away, the St. Norbert sports staff came together to discuss some of their MVP candidates, World Series matchups and teams that might surprise you. It is never too early for predictions!
AL MVP: Mike Trout
Quite simply, I think Mike Trout will be playing for his next big contract. He is a five-tool player, with all the intangibles that a club could ask for, so it is obvious that Trout will get paid. It is just about how MUCH he will receive. If the Angels rebound from their disastrous 2013 season, Trout will be in prime position for some shiny new hardware and a fat new contract.
NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen, like Trout, is another five-tool player with enormous amounts of media attention, but a new contract is not on his agenda. Rather, McCutchen is attempting to lead the Pirates to back-to-back playoff appearances, which hasn’t happened since Barry Bonds was 120 pounds and stealing 150 bases a year. I think McCutchen will get sympathy votes for playing in the NL Central, which is far and away the best division in baseball after pushing the lowly Houston Astros out the door. Oh, he is pretty good too, always a plus when considering an MVP candidate.
World Series Matchup: Yankees vs Dodgers
I do not want to see it either, but it could very well happen. The two highest payrolls. The two biggest storylines (A-Rod and Puig). The two largest markets. What more could the MLB want in a World Series matchup? Seriously though, both teams are desperate for a World Series ring and will be willing to make whatever deal is necessary to position themselves for the jewelry.
Surprise Team: Detroit Tigers
The surprise is that Detroit will not make it past the first round of the playoffs this year. I do not believe that Ian Kinsler, the prized acquisition of the Tigers offseason, will be able to offset the loss of Prince Fielder. No amount of Justin Verlander”s perfect games will be able to save this offense. I see them bowing out early once more.
Baseball season is set to get under way, and there are a number of things to watch out for this season. The Boston Red Sox are the defending champions, Derek Jeter is in his last season and Ryan Braun will be back for his first full season since serving his suspension. One thing that should not surprise anyone is the continued dominance of Detroit in the American League Central and the Dodgers out west. With as long as the baseball season is, almost anything could happen. We have about six months until playoffs begin, so get set for a roller coaster season of 162 games.
In the American League look for fourth year player Mike Trout of the other LA team, the Angels, to have a breakout season that sets him above and beyond all others, solidifying his title as one of the best young talents in the game right now.
Look for Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw to dominate and take the award in the National League. He posted a 16-9 record last season with a 1.83 ERA and should be set for another career year.
World Series Matchup:
Come October don’t be surprised to see the Red Sox out of the American League to be back in the World Series, defending their title as they square off against an upstart Pittsburgh Pirates team out of the National League. Pittsburgh shocked a lot of people last year, and I think that they have the possibility of taking things to the next level this season as they are lead by 2013 MVP Andrew McCutchen.
The Chicago White Sox are poised to threaten Detroit’s recent dominance in the American League Central. With veteran leadership in Adam Dunn, Alexi Rameriz and Paul Konerko paired with the young pitching staff of Chris Sale, John Danks and Jose Quintana, this team is dangerous. If they can keep the bats hot, don’t be surprised by a playoff run by these Sox.
Someone from the Los Angeles Angels. Lame, I know, but I think this award could be won, and will be won, by Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton or Albert Pujols. If the disappointing Angels are going to compete with the Athletics and Rangers in the West, these three players will have to play their best baseball. If I have to pick one, I will go with the safe answer of Trout.
Bryce Harper. I think this could be the year we see the young outfielder take a major step forward. The Nationals ended up disappointing last season, and Harper has been majorly overshadowed by baseball’s other young talent, Mike Trout. His fiery demeanor and outstanding play will inspire his teammates all season long as they attempt to prove doubters wrong.
World Series Matchup:
Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Oakland Athletics. The Dodgers surpassed the Yankees as owners of MLB’s highest payroll,and I think it all comes together this year for LA. This team is beyond loaded, and as long as they keep team chemistry and stay healthy there is no reason they should miss the World Series. I am predicting that they will face a team that operates on a fraction of the Dodgers salary, the Oakland Athletics. Although Oakland has already suffered some major injuries, I think they could be that team that peaks at the right time and goes on a run through the playoffs. Teams with that approach to the game have been known to do that (see 2003 Marlins). They also have an outstanding bullpen, something that some other AL powerhouses do not have.
Philadelphia Phillies. They overpay a lot of underachieving players, but those paychecks are evidence of what was once a great team full of superstars. I will not be surprised at all if they make the playoffs.
As the baseball season gets under way, there were no surprising changes that occurred during the offseason to drastically change anything around the league. Powerhouse teams from last season will still end up near the top, while the normal bottom feeders, like the Houston Astros, will stay put. Here are a few of my predictions for the 2014 Major League Baseball season.
It is finally Prince Fielder’s time to win the AL MVP award. After hitting behind Ryan Braun in Milwaukee and in front of Miguel Cabrera in Detroit, Fielder helped his teammates win three MVP awards combined, one for Braun and two for Cabrera. Now as a member of the Texas Rangers, Fielder has another fantastic opportunity to win the 2014 MVP title and will be challenging to beat in the American League this year.
So far in his major league career, Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals hasn’t made a huge splash like everyone was predicting he would. This year will be his time to shine. With a stronger team around him, and with his lightening quick speed, Harper will easily snag the 2014 NL MVP award and shock the baseball world with his amazing, young talent.
World Series Matchup:
My 2014 World Series prediction will be a pitching duel between the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although the Rangers have had four consecutive 90 win seasons, they will be demolished once more by the dominant duo, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
This seasons surprising team will be the Kansas City Royals. Even though there are some fresh, new faces in the lineup and rotation, such as right handed pitcher Yordano Ventura and second baseman Omar Infante, veteran Billy Butler will hold a steady presence in the club house and keep the Royals on their toes as they challenge Detroit for the AL Central Crown.
Ask me about baseball and I will probably give you a blank look; I am one of those sports fans that watch the playoffs but could really care less about the regular season. It is always exciting to see the end of the year results when the MVP’s are picked and the World Series is played. While every player in the league plays their hearts out each and every game, not everyone can be MVP.
AL MVP: Xander Bogaerts
From the American League East, the Boston Red Sox Xander Bogaerts a young man who has shown his true talent in the 2013 season and continues to excel in spring training.
NL MVP: Matt Holliday
From the National League Central, St. Louis Cardinals Matt Holiday who a very impressive 2013, (22 home runs and 94 RBI’s) he is on pace to exceeding expectations in the 2014 season.
World Series Matchup: Boston Red Sox vs. LA Dodgers
My picks for the championship game are the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Red Sox are going to be a solid team for another season and ready will be ready for the playoffs right away. But it certainly will not be easy matching up with a good Dodgers team with a new outfielder and good depth in the infield; we cannot push the Dodgers out of our minds as we approach the start of the baseball season. Could the Boston Red Sox repeat or could there be a big upset on their end?
Surprise team: LA Angels
As always there will be a surprise team the 2014 MLB season, and I believe that the Los Angeles Angels have a good chance of surprising people this season. They added some good talent in the roster including David Freese while the depth may not be what fans want to see, they will still have a loyal fan base that will be ready for a solid season. All I have to say is: PLAY BALL!