MLB Season Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Is Manny Machado the next Brooks Robinson?

 

The Baltimore Orioles started off 2013 in solid fashion, but a less than stellar second-half did not allow the club to return to the postseason for a second consecutive year. A shocking down year from Matt Wieters was balanced out by an amazing season from Chris Davis – who smacked 53 HRs and 138 RBI. The O’s went 20-31 in one-run games,  so they’ll need to figure out how to win the close ones in 2014 if they want a shot at toppling the defending champion Red Sox in the AL East.

Off-season transactions:

1/14 – Signed OF Delmon Young

1/15 – Signed RHP Alfredo Aceves

2/19 – Signed RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

2/24 – Signed OF Nelson Cruz

3/4 – Signed LHP Johan Santana

(The Orioles did not re-sign Scott Feldman, Brian Roberts and Nate McLouth)

Always hurts to see a guy like Brian Roberts leave the team after a successful 13-year career in Baltimore, but it looks like the decision was made from the Orioles side to move on. Nelson Cruz could be a big coup for the team, getting him at a discount after he had to serve a 50-game suspension for steroids last season. Cruz hit .266/.327/.503 for Texas in 2013, and you can expect something close to that this year. Ubaldo Jimenez figures to jump to the top of the rotation right away, while Johan Santana was a low risk-high reward gamble that could pay off big time for the O’s.

2014 Lineup:

  • Matt Wieters, C
  • Chris Davis, 1B
  • Ryan Flaherty, 2B
  • Manny Machado, 3B
  • J.J. Hardy, SS
  • Nick Markakis, RF
  • Adam Jones, CF
  • Nick Reimold, LF
  • Nelson Cruz, DH

Rotation:

  1. Ubaldo Jimenez
  2. Miguel Gonzalez
  3. Chris Tillman
  4. Bud Norris
  5. Wei-Yin Chen

Closer: Tommy Hunter (?)

This team in another division could be a frontrunner, but not in the AL East. I would guess a .500 season for Showalter’s crew, but it all depends on what we get out of the Yankees and Jays this season.  I’m going to guess the O’s win 80 games in 2014.

MLB Season Preview: Atlanta Braves

Will the Upton brothers lead this club to another division title?

 

The Atlanta Braves had a very successful 2013 season, breaking out with a 96-win season and a division title. The Braves owned the best pitching staff in baseball, allowing only 3.3 runs per game. Andrelton Simmons proved to be one of the best defensive players in the game from the shortstop position, and the youngster will look to have an even bigger impact in 2014.

The Braves also made a few moves in the off-season, highlighted by the following:

12/16 – Signed RHP Gavin Floyd
12/18 – Traded minor-leaguer Sean Gilmartin to Twins for C Ryan Doumit.

(The Braves also did not re-sign Brian McCann, Tim Hudson and Reed Johnson)

The loss of McCann to free agency (and eventually the Yankees) hurts, but a solid season from Evan Gattis can go a long way towards replacing McCann’s production behind the plate.  Ryan Doumit will be a serviceable backup catcher (along with Gerald Laird), as well as spot-start for the corner outfielders.

2014 Lineup:

  • Jason Heyward, RF
  • Justin Upton, LF
  • Freddie Freeman, 1B
  • Evan Gattis, C
  • Chris Johnson, 3B
  • Andrelton Simmons, SS
  • Dan Uggla, 2B
  • B.J. Upton, CF

Rotation:

Mike Minor
Kris Medlen
Julio Teheran
Brandon Beachy
Alex Wood

Closer: Craig Kimbrel

Anything less than a division crown for this team would be a disappointment, as the Mets, Marlins and Phillies still look to be off the pace of competing in the NL East. Gavin Floyd and Alex Wood could be two key pieces as the season goes along and injuries start popping up. The Braves should win 94-95 games this season.

MLB Season Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

Can Mark Trumbo bring another 30 HR, 100 RBI season to Phoenix?

 

The Arizona Diamondbacks are coming of their second consecutive .500 season, and they’ve made some moves in the offseason to make sure it’s not lucky number three in 2014. Manager Kirk Gibson got an extension, as did GM Kevin Towers, so this team has invested in the future and think this group could be good enough to give the Dodgers are run this fall. First, the major transactions:

  • 12/3 – Traded RHP Heath Bell to Tampa Bay Ray as part of 3-team trade. Received minor leaguer Justin Choate.
  • 12/10 – Traded Adam Eaton and Taylor Scaggs as part of 3-team trade, receiving Mark Trumbo from the Angels.
  • 12/20 – Re-signed Eric Chavez
  • 2/12 – Signed free agent RHP Bronson Arroyo

The big pieces there are Trumbo and Arroyo, who will both bring stability to a lineup that sorely needs it. Arroyo had a typical year for him in 2013, throwing 202 innings at a 3.79 ERA. The righty gives up the long ball often, but had the best year of his career in limiting walks. Trumbo is a big power-low on base guy, and the Angels could definitely use 34 HRs in the middle of their lineup.

Here’s the current depth chart:

C: Miguel Montero
1B: Paul Goldschmidt
2B: Aaron Hill
3B: Martin Prado
SS: Chris Owings
LF: Mark Trumbo
CF: A.J. Pollock
RF: Gerardo Parra

SP: Patrick Corbin
SP: Bronson Arroyo
SP: Trevor Cahill
SP: Wade Miley
SP: Brandon McCarthy

CL: Addison Reed

Currently, I believe Brandon McCarthy could be the the missing piece in the puzzle. He can’t seem to stay healthy (line drive to the dome aside), but as we saw in his last two years with the A’s, he’s a solid pitcher when he’s on the mound. If McCarthy can throw 170+ innings, this could shape up to be one of the more reliable rotations in major league baseball.

Floyd Mayweather will fight Marcos Maidana on May 3

He’s been untouchable in the ring for years. Will that change on May 3rd?

 

The undisputed pound-for-pound champion of boxing has another fight to look forward to: a May 3rd bout with Marcos Maidana. The 12-round welterweight unification fights will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, promoted by Golden Boy Productions and Mayweather Promotions. Mayweather is still undefeated, sporting a 45-0 record with 26 knockouts, while Maidana is 35-3 with 31 knockouts. Mayweather convincingly beat Robert Guerrero and Canelo Alvarez in 2013, with the Alvarez fight becoming the highest-grossing boxing match of all-time at $150 million. Floyd is also known for making very large sports bets… can you imagine the amount of cash he’d throw on himself if it weren’t against every rule in the book?

Maidana is Argentinian, and was thrust into the limelight after handing Andrien Broner the first defeat in his career in December. Maidana also has a win over Erik Morales under his belt, but Mayweather is the biggest game in town, and a win over the brash 37-year old champion would make him a part of boxing folklore. It’s always a spectacle anytime Money Mayweather is involved, and you can be sure the eyes of the world will be on that ring.

NBA Playoff Predictor: Charlotte Bobcats

Al Jefferson is one of the best players that you’ve never heard of

The Charlotte Bobcats have been down in the dumps for a while, and some poor draft choices may be to blame. A flub on #3 overall pick Adam Morrison is the most glaring one, but the franchise as a whole has been mismanaged for many years. Michael Jordan took the reigns in 2010, and this season is the first time that the Bobcats have a legitimate shot at the postseason. With a core of Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, Josh McRoberts and Bismark Biyombo, they look like a team that could be one of the East’s top 8 — whatever that may mean to you. Let’s look a little closer at the numbers:

  • Jefferson leads the team in points per game (20.1), rebounds per game (10.5) and blocks per game (1.2).
  • 26th in points per game
  • 5th in points allowed per game
  • Hollinger Playoff Odds: 68.5%
  • Allowed under 90 points 16 times so far this season

Charlotte has all the makings of a fringe playoff team, but the Eastern Conference is so bad, they almost have to make it in. Even at 23-30, they’re currently in the 8th spot — as well as only three games behind #5 Atlanta and 1.5 games above Detroit in 9th. I’ll give this young team a 55% chance of making the postseason. I think that’s fair, especially since it would be 0% if they were in the West.