February 13, 2014
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and think of spring. If you’re thinking of freshly cut grass, roasted peanuts and grilled hot dogs then you’re ready for the 2014 MLB season.
Trust us, you’re not alone.
The majority of pitchers and catching on the verge of reporting to camp brings relief to a rough winter. Just the sight of players outside in the sun sporting t-shirts brings a smile to ones face. Finally, the end of the offseason is near.
It may have only been three months since the World Series ended but that is not kosher with baseball diehards. We were thirsting for more the day after the Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series.
With the new season taking flight let’s take some time and size up the competition by naming the top three surprise teams of the upcoming season.
No. 3: Minnesota Twins
So what if the Minnesota Twins finished last season with a 66-96 record, the fan base need not hang their collective head. This team is going to be exciting in the near future. The team still has franchise cornerstone Joe Mauer. They also beefed up their pitching staff by adding the likes of veterans Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes in the offseason.
But that’s not the complete reason why you should fall in love all over again with the Twins this season. The youth in Minnesota has baseball abuzz and for good reason. The season may start off a bit slow for the Twins but things will only go north from there.
Keep in mind that the Twin Cities host the 2014 MLB All-Star Game. By that time prized prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano could be in the dugout.
Who should we gush over first? Sano it is—the 20-year-old third baseman hit 35 home runs in 123 minor league games last season at multiple levels. Here’s the kicker—he thinks he can hit between 45 and 55 long balls at the major league level. At 6’4”, 235 lbs. he certainly has the size. It’s safe to say he has plenty of confidence too.
Buxton. Buxton. Buxton is his name, get familiar with it because soon enough you won’t be able to forget it. He’s the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball and is being compared to, gulp, Mike Trout. He’s coming, you’ve been warned.
No. 2: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Now that everybody has written them off after a miserable 2013 campaign the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are bound to surprise this time around. The AL West is the most loaded division in all of baseball with the Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners headlining this season.
Don’t be shocked when the Angels spoil the party. After all they have a star-studded lineup as well. The aforementioned Trout is the most dynamic player in the game. Fact—they also have Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton who are out to prove that they still have gas in the tank. Say what you want about these aging players but opposing pitchers still want nothing to do with them. For example, Hamilton batted .329 in his final 45 games in 2013. Watch out.
The team’s success will hinge on three young pitchers named Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs. Both Santiago and Skaggs joined the Halos via offseason trades and look to make a good first impression. All three of these young men have what it takes win games in The Show.
Quietly, the Angels are cooking up a recipe for success.
No. 1: Arizona Diamondbacks
Ask any member of the Arizona Diamondbacks what they thought about last season and they’ll consider it a failure. Technically, 81-81 is not a failure but by no means is it good enough.
The front office made key acquisitions in the offseason in order to contend for the NL West crown. Adding starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, proven closer Addison Reed and all-around thumper Mark Trumbo spoke volumes of their intentions.
They are meant to be taken seriously now and in the future.
The team will have to topple their bitter divisional Los Angeles Dodgers in order to achieve their goals but will be up to the task. They have an MVP-caliber first baseman in Paul Goldschmidt and mimic the intensity and grittiness of manager Kirk Gibson.
Thanks to the Dodgers the D’Backs may have been written-off as contenders by many in 2014. Don’t be mistaken—this team is for real.