Our baseball writers offer their picks for how the 2014 MLB season will play out:
AL EAST: Rays — Winning arms race in baseball’s best division.
AL CENTRAL: Tigers — Built to win it all in 2014.
AL WEST: Angels — Finally get some return on Pujols investment.
AL WILD CARD: Red Sox, Royals: A lot like 2005 and 2008 for the Sox; Kansas City a lot like the Indians of 2013.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox — All the scouts can’t be wrong.
NL EAST: Nationals — Back from injuries and the heartbreak of 2012.
NL CENTRAL: Cardinals — Best team in baseball for 162.
NL WEST: Dodgers — Not even the Cooler can stop LA.
NL WILD CARD: Pirates, Giants — Bring back the 1979 Pirates uniforms; Giants obviously inspired by spring hitting coach Barry Bonds.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Billy Hamilton, Reds — Faster than Cool Papa Bell.
WORLD SERIES: Tigers over Cardinals in seven — Miguel Cabrera says, “We’d have won last year if Papi didn’t hit that grand slam.’’
AL EAST: Rays — In a tough division of five good teams, the Rays appear to be as balanced as Boston.
AL CENTRAL: Royals — It’s got be Kansas City’s year finally, doesn’t it?
AL WEST: Los Angeles — The Angels will play with a chip on their shoulders.
AL WILD-CARD: Red Sox, Orioles — Could easily see both wild cards coming from the East. Baltimore has firepower and Boston has balance.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox. There is not one baseball official who doesn’t think he will be an offensive force.
NL EAST: Nationals — Last year was an aberration; Nats get back to business.
NL CENTRAL: Cardinals — Superb homegrown team, hungry after World Series loss to Red Sox.
NL WEST: Giants — Every so often they reinvent themselves as champions.
NL WILD-CARD: Dodgers, Braves — The talented Dodgers must hope they don’t implode from bad chemistry; Braves must overcome pitching injuries.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Noah Syndergaard, Mets. Should be Mets’ top starter by mid May. Explosive stuff.
WORLD SERIES: Cardinals over Rays in six — Cardinals finally put it all together on the biggest stage.
AL EAST: Rays — Tampa Bay held on to David Price because it believes it can make a run.
AL CENTRAL: Indians — Indians were ahead of schedule last season when they earned a wild card.
AL WEST: Rangers — Would like them more with a better manager, but still a lot of talent.
AL WILD CARD: Red Sox and Athletics. Sox and Rays will do battle; Athletics have early injuries to overcome.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox — The shortstop will be in the spotlight and showed in the World Series he can handle it.
NL EAST: Nationals — Solid lineup, deep pitching, and Bryce Harper is ready for an MVP season.
NL CENTRAL: Cardinals — Young pitching (and Yadier Molina catching them) gives St. Louis the edge.
NL WEST: Dodgers — There are so many good players on the roster, Clayton Kershaw being the best of them.
NL WILD CARD: Reds and Brewers — It’s tough coming up with one wild-card team in the National League, never mind two.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Billy Hamilton, Reds — He stole 13 bases in 13 games last year. What will he do for a full season?
WORLD SERIES: Nationals over Rays in six games — For a change, something goes right in Washington.
Christopher L. Gasper
AL EAST: Rays — The best bang-for-the-buck organization in baseball does it again.
AL CENTRAL: Tigers — Tigers might need Alan Trammell to come out of retirement and play shortstop.
AL WEST: Angels — If this pick is good enough for Baseball Prospectus’s season simulation, it’s good enough for me.
AL WILD CARD: Red Sox, Royals — Last year wasn’t a Fenway Fluke; Break out the pine tar, the Royals make the playoffs for the first time since 1985.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox — The uncanny X-Man lives up to the hype.
NL EAST: Nationals — This time we get to see Stephen Strasburg pitch in the playoffs.
NL CENTRAL: Cardinals — They are the San Antonio Spurs of major league baseball.
NL WEST: Dodgers — I still think the Sox should have traded for Matt Kemp.
NL WILD CARD: Braves, Brewers — I’m assuming Atlanta will have some starters who don’t need Tommy John surgery; only Mike Trout had a higher WAR last year than Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR — Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks — At least one Bradley has a shot at ROY honors; sorry, Jackie.
WORLD SERIES: Nationals over Tigers in six — Erstwhile Expos provide the nation’s capital with its first World Series champion since 1924.
AL EAST: Rays: A joke of a ballpark but a roster to envy, especially with continued ascent of Chris Archer and Wil Myers.
AL CENTRAL: Tigers: Tempting to go with upstart Royals, but Detroit’s superstars will cover for a flawed roster.
AL WEST: A’s: Brandon Moss (51 homers over the past two years) embodies Billy Beane’s unheralded but productive ball club.
AL WILD CARDS: Red Sox: Arguably baseball’s deepest roster, but everything can’t break right again . . . can it? And Royals: Went from 72 wins in ’12 to 86 in ’13. Next step: first playoff berth since ’85 World Series win.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox: His encore to thriving under October’s bright lights? An All-Star appearance in his first full season.
NL EAST: Nationals: Bryce Harper has 42 career homers. He’ll surpass that number this season alone.
NL CENTRAL: Cardinals: The Red Sox of the National League, a model franchise with oodles of talent in the pipeline.
NL WEST: Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw wins his third Cy Young; free-agent-to-be Hanley Ramirez wins his first MVP.
NL WILD CARDS: Cincinnati: Joey Votto leads the NL in on-base percentage for the fifth straight season. And San Francisco: Matt Cain’s bounce-back season offsets Tim Lincecum’s continued decline.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Billy Hamilton, Reds: If bat is adequate, speedster could post first 100-steal season since Vince Coleman in ’87.
WORLD SERIES: Cardinals over Rays in 6: This time, Mike Matheny remembers he’s allowed to use budding ace Shelby Miller.