Who’s Playoff Bound … In 2014?
By Mike Jokinen 10/2/13
(Boston dominated this year … will 2014 be more of the same?)
Every year brings postseason surprises. Even if there aren’t “worst-to-first” Cinderella stories on a regular basis, you can always count on a couple teams coming out of nowhere. Despite these annual revelations, baseball is not ruled by parody compared to other sports. The baseball season is a grueling marathon where talent usually wins out in the long run. The lack of a salary cap allows big-market teams to flex their financial muscles and gain a major competitive edge. Because of this relative year-to-year stability, it makes predictive exercises not completely futile – we can actually make educated guesses as to who might get a playoff berth next year. Here’s who I think will definitely be punching a playoff ticket next year …
St. Louis Cardinals – Just a model franchise. They have no major holes. Really, they don’t. Have a look across the diamond … tell me their glaring weakness? In my estimation, they don’t have one. And they’ll have yet another influx of young talent, namely Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong, to supplement their offense next year. The Cardinals have been remarkably good at filling in the mid-to-back end of their rotation, and next year should be no exception; I’d bank on the Cardinals finding serviceable starters after Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller.
Cincinnati Reds – Two shoe-ins from the N.L. Central? You bettcha. I expect the Pirates to really fall back to Earth next year, and I don’t anticipate the Cubs or Brewers being ready to seriously contend just yet. I’d be shocked if at least one wild card didn’t come out of the N.L. Central next year, and I’m not betting against the Reds. Their rotation depth is an embarrassment of riches. Johnny Cueto (3.23 xFIP), Mat Latos (3.56), Homer Bailey (3.34), Bronson Arroyo (3.97), Mike Leake (3.91), and Tony Cingrani (3.49) is about as good a stable of pitchers as any franchise could ask for. With the exception of Arroyo (who’s somewhat expendable anyways), an impending free agent, their rotation should remain intact and potent next year. And of course, their offense will generate runs as it always does. Their bullpen is stout. Shin-Shoo Choo’s absence won’t be a major loss, as Billy Hamilton is ready to seamlessly take the centerfield reins.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Just too much firepower, plain and simple. And they’re in a mediocre division. If I had to hang my hat on any one team winning their division next year, I’d take the Dodgers. Seriously, who’ll challenge them for the western division crown? Nobody, that’s who. All their big guns will still be around, and they won’t be sabotaged by having Brandon League closing games for almost half a season. And hell, they might even land Robinson Cano in the off-season.
Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles
… Yep, I don’t think any of these teams will make the postseason in 2014. The Red Sox might be the favorite to win the pennant this year, and I’m a diehard Sox fan, but I don’t see them making a deep run again next year. Too many things went right for them this year. Two virtually injury-free seasons from David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury. That won’t happen again. I doubt their rotation will be as good next year. And they might lose any or all of Ellsbury, Napoli, Saltalamacchia, and Drew. Not to mention that the A.L. East is perennially one of the toughest divisions in baseball.