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Out Of Bounds: 2014 MLB Preview - Part II

Out Of Bounds: 2014 MLB Preview - Part II

—by , March 12, 2014

For the second of our annual three-part Major League Baseball preview, we head to the Midwest to explore the American and National League Central. Popular sportsbook once again provides their estimated win totals for each ballclub, and I've included my projected wins as well.


Detroit Tigers: Detroit fell just short of the World Series last year, as they lost to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. They traded away 1B Prince Fielder—a career .194 postseason hitter—in the offseason for 2B Ian Kinsler, who's hitting .311 in the playoffs. The Tigers flaunt the best one-two pitching combination in the league with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, back-to-back MVP Miguel Cabrera, and a solid bullpen anchored by new closer Joe Nathan. Their lineup is striking, but it's their rotation that's superb, as they led the majors with 108 quality starts last season (no other AL team had more than 95). (Bovada: 89.5; GM: 94)


Kansas City Royals: I know I say this every year, but this is going to be Kansas City's coming-out party. While I'm still on the fence about their rotation—soon-to-be 35-year-old righty Jeremy Guthrie isn't exactly a number two starter—they have enough firepower on offense to make a splash. The future is bright for hard-hitters Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez, and with plenty of speed on the basepaths with Norichika Aoki, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, I'm expecting this young, potent lineup to bring KC its first 90-win season since 1989. (Bovada: 81.5; GM: 90)


Cleveland Indians: There's nothing too intimidating about the Cleveland Indians, as they possess just a decent mix of power and speed along with a shaky pitching staff and revamped 'pen. However, they play well as a unit and their team chemistry is off the charts. The Indians went toe-to-toe with the Tigers in the AL Central last year, finishing only one game behind the division winners. They'll need some young arms like Danny Salazar and Corey Kluber to really dazzle in order to contend again. (Bovada: 80.5; GM: 79)


Minnesota Twins: Since compiling a 94-68 record in their first season at Target Field, it's been all downhill from there for the Minnesota Twins, as they've gone 195-291 since 2011. Last season, the Twins ranked last in batting average against, strikeouts and quality starts, and second to last in runs allowed and WHIP. Former MVP catcher Joe Mauer, who's making the transition to first base this year, can't carry this team single-handedly. (Bovada: 70.5; GM: 67)


Chicago White Sox: The White Sox signed Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million deal in the offseason, and even if he explodes on the scene à la Yasiel Puig, he'd be their only respectable hitter. (Bovada: 75.5; GM: 69)


St. Louis Cardinals: Having advanced to the World Series in four of the last 10 years (winning two championships), the St. Louis Cardinals are one of baseball's finest organizations. Despite losing Hall Of Fame manager Tony La Russa, three-time MVP Albert Pujols and Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter over the last few years, the Cardinals have gone about their business the right way, chugging along as if nothing ever happened. After losing the Fall Classic to the Boston Red Sox in six games last season, they'll be seeking blood this year. They may not have many household names on their 25-man roster, but a return to the postseason seems inevitable with their strong rotation and efficient offense. (Bovada: 90.5; GM: 93)


Cincinnati Reds: The right pieces are in place for the Cincinnati Reds, who feature some solid arms, a shutdown closer in "The Cuban Missile" Aroldis Chapman, and 2010 MVP Joey Votto. A September call-up last year, outfielder Billy Hamilton—who stole an earth-shattering 395 bases in the minors—is set to run wild in his first full season, and will provide an instant jolt in this veteran lineup. (Bovada: 84.5; GM: 85)


Pittsburgh Pirates: 2013 was a memorable year for the Pirates, as they posted their first winning season since 1992. They won 94 games behind MVP Andrew McCutchen, Manager Of The Year Clint Hurdle, and Comeback Player Of The Year Francisco Liriano, and while it's not likely they'll get 94 wins again, they can certainly make things interesting in the NL Central. The loss of pitcher A.J. Burnett may hurt them, but the sky's the limit for his replacement, 23-year-old righty Gerrit Cole. (Bovada: 83.5; GM: 85)


Milwaukee Brewers: Former Rookie Of The Year, Most Valuable Player and five-time All-Star outfielder Ryan Braun is back from his very lenient PED-related suspension, and will look to get back on track after missing most of 2013. Even with Braun, however, the Brewers have quite a few holes, though they can certainly hit the .500 mark. (Bovada: 79.5; GM: 77)


Chicago Cubs: The Cubs are certainly moving in the right direction under president Theo Epstein. In addition to a jacked farm system, Chicago's major league roster consists of future studs Starlin Castro, Junior Lake and Anthony Rizzo. They haven't won the World Series since 1908, but the Cubbies are just a few years away from being serious contenders. (Bovada: 69.5; GM: 75)

(Photo by AP/Jeff Chiu)

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