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MLB Season Preview: Voice Staff Predictions

Baseball season is upon us and that means it is time for the annual Suffolk Voice sports staff picks. Sports editor Eric Russo teamed up with assistant sports editor Tyler Sullivan, managing editor Mike McMahon, and sports writer Maggie Masse to make their predictions. For a more in-depth look at each division, be sure to check out our American League and National League previews. Play ball!

AL East

Hanley Ramirez (left) and Pablo Sandoval could make the Red Sox' lineup one of the best in team history. (Getty Images)

Hanley Ramirez (left) and Pablo Sandoval could make the Red Sox’ lineup one of the best in team history. (Getty Images)

Eric Russo: Baltimore Orioles – I’m not confident in this pick. The AL East is up for grabs with the Red Sox and Yankees more than capable of taking back the division. But I’ll stick with the O’s, despite the loss of Nelson Cruz. Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Chris Davis returning should give them a decent boost.

Tyler Sullivan: Boston Red Sox – Like there was ever any doubt. Last to first to last, it’s just math. The Sox will not be as good as advertised, but with the seemingly inevitable acquisition of a front line starter, they will finish out the season strong.  The lineup one through nine will be the best in baseball.

Mike McMahon: Boston Red Sox – The offense will mash, probably historically, and I think they may have found a leadoff man in Mookie Betts. Biggest concern right now is not the fact they don’t have an ace, it is how the bullpen shapes out if Koji Uehara can’t perform. Edward Mujica as closer spells for disaster.

Maggie MasseBoston Red Sox – Go ahead, call me a homer. There’s been no true middle ground for the Red Sox in the past few seasons; terrible twice and really good once. With a weaker AL East the Sox should have no problem being really good again. Even without an ace in the starting rotation, their underrated pitching staff can get the job done if they stay healthy. And their offense, well it should be a destroyer of worlds. Enough said about that.

AL Central

Russo: Kansas City Royals – Something tells me they are bound to come down to earth. But the Tigers don’t impress me, especially with the loss of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander on the DL to start the year. The Royals should see the postseason for the second straight year.

Sullivan: Detroit Tigers – Losing guys like Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer should cripple a rotation, but with David Price and an eventually healthy Justin Verlander, the Tigers will be able to pitch through the regular season. The heart of their lineup with Miggy Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes is arguably the best three through five in the majors.

McMahon: Cleveland Indians – Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley don’t drop off like some are predicting. Pair that with a bounce back year for Jason Kipnis, good young pitching and the addition of Brandon Moss as a power bat, and hey, anything is possible.

Masse: Cleveland Indians—The AL Central has been the Detroit Tigers’ domain for the past four years, but their window is closing, and the Indians are the best team in the division to take advantage of it. When you take starting pitching like Corey Kluber, coming off a Cy Young season, former top prospect Trevor Bauer and T.J. House, and combine it with the offensive influx of power from Brandon Moss and (hopefully) bounce-back seasons from Jason Kipnis, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, you’ve got the makings of a first-place run.

AL West

Led by Robinson Cano, Seattle is the sexy pick in the AL West. (AP Photo)

Led by Robinson Cano, Seattle is the sexy pick in the AL West. (AP Photo)

Russo: Seattle Mariners – Nelson Cruz joins forces with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager to form quite a trio. And, of course, they have Felix Hernandez.

Sullivan: Seattle Mariners – They seem to be the sexy pick this spring, but for good reason. Solid rotation, good lineup and they are in an ever-overrated division. I like the signing of Nelson Cruz this offseason and King Felix will do his usual damage, but look for Seattle’s bullpen to be dominate this season with Fernando Rodney closing things out.

McMahon: Seattle Mariners – Sully is right, the Mariners are the sexy pick, which is almost concerning, but this is a good ball club. They add Nelson Cruz and they signed Kyle Seager long-term. The rotation is smooth with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma up top and youngsters James Paxton and Taijuan Walker continuing to improve.

Masse: Seattle Mariners – Here’s the most balanced team in the American League. The Mariners’ biggest strength will once again be pitching, with the elite duo of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in the starting rotation and a strong bullpen led by veteran closer Fernando Rodney. The addition of Nelson Cruz should boost Seattle’s offense, plus they’ve got Robinson Cano, who you know is great, and Kyle Seager, who is on the verge of being great.

AL Wild Cards

Russo: Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees – Woah, boy. Think the ratings will be big for this Wild Card game? I like both teams to rebound from down seasons and push the Orioles for the AL East title. The Red Sox have the best lineup in baseball and the Yankees could have one of the better rotations if it stays healthy.

Sullivan: Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels – Baltimore will contend with the Red Sox for the AL East and I would not be shocked if these two teams flip flopped going down the stretch. The Angles will have a good regular season, but when push comes to shove, Baltimore just knows how to win when it counts.

McMahon: Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels – The Tigers are still about a year or two from imploding but for now, the names in the lineup and rotation are still too good to pass on. The evolution of the Angels rotation with Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, and Andrew Heaney gets the job done in L.A.

Masse: Los Angeles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays – The Angels just aren’t going to be as good as they have been. This doesn’t mean the Angels are going to fall to Earth, they do still have the all-powerful Mike Trout after all – and a front three of Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker and Jered Weaver – but they’re not winning 98 again. The Blue Jays are going to have to slug their way to the playoffs this year (see Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and newly acquired Josh Donaldson), especially since their rather thin, rather young pitching staff might not have enough gas to carry them there.

NL East

Jordan Zimmerman headlines a star-studded starting rotation in Washington. (Getty Images)

Jordan Zimmerman headlines a star-studded starting rotation in Washington. (Getty Images)

Russo: Washington Nationals – Strasburg. Zimmerman. Scherzer. Gonzalez. Fister. Harper. Desmond. Werth. Need I say more? If they don’t win this year, it would be a huge disappointment.

Sullivan: Washington Nationals – We were waiting for the Nationals to really burst onto the scene and last year with 96 regular season wins to the National League, it’s safe to say they are contenders. However, winning the division is not where this team should set their sights. That rotation with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman and Scherzer should be pitching deep into October.

McMahon: Washington Nationals – It is incredibly tough to pick against the Nats this season, not just in the division, but for the whole thing. Probably the best team in baseball on paper, Washington has put together one of the most daunting starting rotations in some time. They cruise to the postseason.

Masse: Washington Nationals—A team with hardly any flaws should have an easy path to its third division title in four years. It’s hard to argue against it; the Nationals look like a potential superteam. With one of the best rotations in history – Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer – and a deep and balanced lineup – Denard Span and Anthony Rendon leading the way, followed by Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond – the Nats’ only real weakness is the bullpen, but their starters will eat enough innings that they won’t have to worry about that.

NL Central

Russo: St. Louis Cardinals – With Adam Wainwright, John Lackey, and Lance Lynn headlining the rotation, and a strong bullpen, the Cardinals are still the team to beat in this division.

Sullivan: Pittsburgh Pirates – I see the Pirates getting over the 90-win total this season and the Cardinals taking a step back, clearing the way for the Cubs to make things interesting in the Central. Andrew McCutchen will have another dominating year from the plate and manning center field.

McMahon: St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals have taken a backseat to the Nationals, Dodgers, and Cubs in terms of offseason talk. Don’t be mistaken, the Cards are still the powerhouse in the Central. The addition of Jason Heyward could pay off big.

Masse: St. Louis Cardinals—The Cardinals will win. They always win. It’s what they do. Their rotation is dynamite: Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. Then they’ve got the late-inning relief duo of Trevor Rosenthal and Jordan Walden. The Cards’ lineup isn’t the greatest we’ve seen, but the addition of Jason Heyward will be a huge upgrade in right field.

NL West

Russo: Los Angeles Dodgers – No one in the West impresses me. The Giants will inevitably dip after winning the Series again last year. With plenty of star power remaining, the Dodgers are the easy pick.

Sullivan: Los Angeles Dodgers – I don’t love their lineup. Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez are always going to help, but outside of that, there are a lot of question marks. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are as good of a one-two punch as you are going to see in the National League.

McMahon: Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers roster is good enough that people forget that their division rival has won three out of the last five World Series. Matt Kemp out, Joc Pederson in. Should be fun to watch.

 Masse: Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers bear little resemblance to the team that won 94 games a year ago, but they’ve still got one of the most dominant rosters in the league. Bringing in Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, and trusting Joc Pederson with center field dramatically improves LA’s up-the-middle defense. Starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke form arguably the best one-two punch in the game, and are backed by a second one-two punch in Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy. Oh, and there’s Yasiel Puig who is always fun to watch.

NL Wild Cards

Will Joe Maddon be the savior in Chicago? (EPA photo)

Will Joe Maddon be the savior in Chicago? (EPA photo)

Russo: Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates – There is a palpable buzz emanating from Chicago. The long, suffering Cubs fans have hope. With Joe Maddon and Jon Lester coming to town, the Cubs should take the next step and get back to the postseason. The Pirates are the best of a rather mediocre bunch of possibilities for the second wild card.

Sullivan: Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants – Yeah, you read that right. The Cubs will make the playoffs and they will beat the defending World Series champion Giants in the NL Wild Card game. Jon Lester topping off that rotation and Joe Maddon leading the Cubs will do wonders for Chicago. Now all they need to do is get Kris Bryant out of the minors.

McMahon: Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres – Jon Lester comes in as the ace of a staff that also has Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel, not too shabby for an NL team. Offensively, the rooftops won’t be safe in Chicago come July. The Padres picked James Shields to be the veteran workhouse on the mound but the pitching staff was good before Shields arrived. Keep Andrew Cashner healthy and he will earn Cy Young votes. Tyson Ross is no joke either. Here come the Padres.

Masse: Chicago Cubs and Pittsburg Pirates – The Cubs aren’t winning the World Series in 2015, so everyone can just stop with that nonsense now; they are still the Cubs after all. But they are a legit playoff contender. Throw Kris Bryant into the lineup next to Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler and Starlin Castro, and mix that with the fire pitching duo of Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, and you’ve got an October club. The second Wild Card in the NL could go to literally any team, but the Pirates have the upper hand. Andrew McCutchen is always awesome, and if Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco step up this season they could be a real triple threat. It’s not a super impressive roster, but it should be enough to get the job done.

AL MVP

Russo: Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners – He will be the heart and soul of the Mariners lineup. Nelson Cruz will make him that much better.

Sullivan: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels – Trout will continue being the face of the MLB with flashes of brilliance in the outfield and at the plate. No one can match this kid.

McMahon: Mike Trout, Los Angeles – He’s a machine, seriously, it is not fair. He chooses how he wants to play and does it. If he felt like hitting 50 home runs and only batting .280, he could do it. Bat .350 and steal 80 bases instead? Sure, why not?

Masse: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels – I smell a repeat. With Miggy out of the picture, Mike Trout has established himself as the guy to beat in the AL. Trout’s consistent production in every area of the game has been the foundation for the Angels, and he doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.

AL Cy Young

Russo: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners – There always seems to be a surprising Cy Young candidate. But Hernandez is due to win another.

Sullivan: Felix Hernandez , Seattle Mariners– A big reason why Seattle will win its division this season will be the play from King Felix.  He’ll have some competition from Detroit’s David Price, but in the end Hernandez will win his second Cy Young and first since 2010.

McMahon: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox – I’ll keep picking him until he wins the thing. He will miss his Opening Day start but it is of no concern long term.

Masse: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners—Max Scherzer is out of the AL, Yu Darvish is hurt. Looks like it’s time for the King to step into the void and collect some more hardware.

AL Rookie of the Year

Russo: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox – I don’t put a lot of stock into spring training performance, but Betts has been off the charts. Couple that with his play in the majors last season, and he is a virtual lock to start his career off with a bang.

Sullivan:  Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox – I really want to give this award to the other Red Sox outfielder, Rusney Castillo, but with Shane Victorino stunting his growth in right, Mookie should run away with the award. He won’t be as dominate as he was this spring, but he won’t be Jackie Bradley Jr. either.

McMahon: Daniel Norris, Toronto Blue Jays – Just an interesting character with really good left-handed stuff in a rotation that needs someone to step up.

Masse: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians – The AL isn’t nearly as stacked with big-name prospects that seem primed to have break out seasons, but that doesn’t mean we won’t learn a few of their names. Francisco Lindor does it all – he hits for average, draws walks, has some pop, plays tremendous defense at shortstop and has the personality. He’s getting the same treatment that Kris Bryant (see NL Rookie of the Year pick) is getting to begin the year, and will hopefully be up in the majors long enough to shine this season.

Alex Rodriguez return to the Yankees after a season-long suspension. (AP photo)

Alex Rodriguez return to the Yankees after a season-long suspension. (AP photo)

AL Comeback Player of the Year 

ER: Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles – He was one of the best catchers in the game before he got hurt last season. While he may not be fully ready to start the year, I think he’ll be a force when he returns.

TS: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees – The MLB will never give A-Rod this award, but they should. After missing all of last season due to a PED suspension, Rodriguez has had a really good spring and, if given the opportunity to play, should return to form. Chris Davis is probably a safer pick however.

MM: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians – Kipnis is one of the best second basemen in baseball and is coming off an abysmal 2014. Expect a nice bounce back and to see him contribute to the Indians success.

AL Manager of the Year

Russo: Lloyd McClendon, Seattle Mariners – I like Seattle to make a big run this year. McClendon is a no-brainer if it happens.

Sullivan: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox – Easy choice considering Boston should have a bounce back season, lead the league in run scored and make the playoffs.

McMahon: Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians – If the Indians pull through like some people think is very possible of them, I don’t see how Francona wouldn’t win MOY.

Masse: Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians – Tito still has a special place in my heart. Francona won two World Series with the Sox, took the Tribe to the Wild Card in his first year in Cleveland and fell just short of the playoffs last year. He’s got the record, methods and track record for getting the best out of his players.

NL MVP

Russo: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals – He hasn’t quite made that massive splash. This is the year he takes over.

Sullivan: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates – I just think he will have one of those seasons you can’t ignore. From his splits, to SportsCenter Top 10’s, he will be an easy choice in the National League.

McMahon: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins – Stanton was on his way there last season before he was clocked in the face by a 90 mph fastball. This year, make no mistake, Stanton will finish the job.

Masse: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins – The NL MVP race will probably include the usual suspects (Kershaw, McCutchen), but don’t rule out Giancarlo Stanton. Becoming so much more than just a power hitter, Stanton has the goods to repeat his 2014 season, and literally carry the Marlins on his back on the way there, true MVP style.

NL Cy Young

Russo: Jordan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals – Strasburg and Scherzer get all of the headlines. But Zimmerman is legit. He’ll emerge from the shadows this year.

Sullivan: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers – Similar to Trout, there is just no one better on the planet right now. Guys might have similar number, but there is no question who is more dominate.

McMahon: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals – Coming off of a 20-win season, Wainwright is still the guy in St. Louis and he can still bring it. It will be tough to beat out the likes of Kershaw and Scherzer, but he will have the greatest impact on his team.

Masse: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers – Lather, rinse, repeat – preferably without a detour to the disabled list this time around. Picking Kershaw to win his third in a row seems too easy, but why not?

Kris Bryant could be the next big thing – if he gets called up. (SI photo)

Kris Bryant could be the next big thing – if he gets called up. (SI photo)

NL Rookie of the Year

Russo: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs – He’ll be in the majors sooner rather than later. And when he gets there, watch out.

Sullivan: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs – Despite sending him to the minors to start the year, Bryant is poised to have a great year once he comes up to the bigs.

McMahon: Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks – Taking a sleeper here just to be different. Kris Bryant will probably hit 30 homers and Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson are also great picks. But Lamb is flying under the radar. He beat out Yosmany Tomas for third base and he could easily push the Cuban prospect into an outfield position if he performs. Lamb won’t hit 30 homers like Bryant could, but I could see him being much more consistent.

Masse: Kris Bryant,  Chicago Cubs—The NL’s ROY race is going to be one of the most crowded in recent memory (Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson are just two of the names), but Kris Bryant is the rookie everyone wants to watch, and rightfully so. He more or less won all the awards in the minors last year and was debatably the most dominate hitter of spring training. Bryant is starting the 2015 season in the minors but should be up by mid-April, where a breakout will make him a no brainer for ROY.

NL Comeback Player of the Year

ER: Matt Harvey, New York Mets – Harvey took the league by storm in 2013, but missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. For the Mets’ sake, let’s hope he returns to form quickly.

TS: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins – Stanton’s injury last season was a gruesome as you are going to get. He seems to be 100% physically coming into 2015; the question now is how he will deal with going into the batters box mentally. If that checks out, he’ll be the national leagues comeback player of the year along with the home run leader.

MM: Matt Harvey, New York Mets – Hopefully the Mets let loose of the reigns a little bit on Harvey because if they have any shot, they are going to need him.

NL Manager of the Year

Russo: Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs – Like McClendon, if the Cubs make the strides I think they will make, Maddon is a lock for the award.

Sullivan: Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs – I think he changes the culture in Chicago and makes them a great story in 2015. He along with Jon Lester will put the Cubs in playoff contention and make him a viable candidate for skipper of the year.

McMahon: Bud Black, San Diego Padres – Black will mold his rotation into one of the best in the National League that will help get the Padres back into the postseason.

Masse: Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs – Gotta go with Maddon here. He took the Rays to the playoffs four times in nine seasons, pretty unthinkable before he took the reins there. A strategist and a player favorite, this year will be no different with a talented Cubs roster behind him.

American League Championship Series

Russo: Seattle Mariners over New York Yankees – This is a weird pick, I know. But Seattle has the horses offensively and on the mound. And I have a feeling, the Yankees are going to make one last run with guys like C.C. Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Texiera. If they stay healthy.

Sullivan: Boston Red Sox over Baltimore Orioles – I don’t know if this will actually happen, but I want it to. These two teams will go at it all year for the division and will presumably form some bad blood along the way. Baltimore has all the grit you want from a team while Boston has all the talent. In the end, talent wins out in six games.

McMahon: Cleveland Indians over Seattle Mariners – The Indians are a bit of a Cinderella and quite frankly it would be a miracle if they get to this point, but I like miracles. Both these teams have quite a bit to prove. But the Indians will be gritty and they have Terry Francona at the helm. That gets past a Mariners team that has a lot of talent, but no true leader.

Masse: Seattle Mariners over Boston Red Sox – The Mariners’ pitching will overwhelm Boston’s enviable collection of bats in this matchup. Boston has proven before that elite offense is indeed capable of beating elite pitching (2013 ALCS), but the 2015 Sox won’t have the pitching staff to balance them out this time.

National League Championship Series

Russo: Washington Nationals over Los Angeles Dodgers – There really is no one in the National League that is better than the Nationals.

Sullivan: Washington Nationals over Pittsburgh Pirates – I really like Pittsburgh, but Washington’s rotation in a seven game series is just too much for anyone this postseason. Not to mention I see a coming out party for Bryce Harper in October.

McMahon: St. Louis Cardinals over Los Angeles Dodgers – It is hard to cruise through the regular season then flip the switch in the postseason. That is why the Nationals don’t make it here. The Cardinals will have heat on them all year from stiff division competition all year and led by Wainwright, John Lackey, Carlos Martinez, and hopefully, a healthy Yadier Molina, the Cardinals get past a Dodgers team with no heart.

Bryce Harper (left) and Stephen Strasburg could finally be ready to carry Washington to the promised land. (AP photo)

Bryce Harper (left) and Stephen Strasburg could finally be ready to carry Washington to the promised land. (AP photo)

Masse: Washington Nationals over St. Louis Cardinals—This will probably be one of the lowest-scoring series, due to both clubs’ dominant pitching. The fate of the series will rest in the hands of defense, relief pitching and depth. And even with a shaky Nats bullpen, down go the Cards.

World Series

Russo: Washington Nationals over Seattle Mariners – This matchup won’t be good for ratings. But I’ve been on the Nationals’ bandwagon for a few years now. This is the year that they finally finish the job.

Sullivan: Washington Nationals over Boston Red Sox – Boston can ride the roller coaster from worst to first all day long, but it doesn’t mean they’ll make it all the way through. They will make it to the fall classic, but if you are forcing me to choose between a dominant offense versus a dominant rotation, I will pick the later all October long.

McMahon: St. Louis Cardinals over Cleveland Indians – In the lowest rated World Series ever, the Cardinals win one for the OT they will on their sleeve all year to honor the late prospect Oscar Taveras who was killed in a car accident in October. The Cardinals have been on the cusp of getting another World Series and I think Jason Heyward is the kind of five-tool player they needed to take them over the hump.

Masse: Washington Nationals over Seattle Mariners – The most complete team in the AL against the most complete team in the NL. It just has to be this way. The matchup of starting pitching will once again be a common theme in the series. But ultimately Hernandez and Iwakuma won’t be a big enough one-two punch to knock out a deep Nats lineup. Seattle will just have to wait on their first World Series ring.

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