Who could be MLB‘s 2015 version of this year’s Kansas City Royals?
The 2014 Kansas City Royals are an unbelievable story.
Years prior, they were in the basement of the AL Central. While they had a handful of good prospects, many were skeptical if they would be able to turn the franchise around. After all, they hadn’t made the postseason since 1985.
After signing key free agents mixed with their young stars, the Royals were able to sweep one of the best teams in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels, and move on to face the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS. Whether or not they advance to the World Series, this team has been a feel-good story of the year.
But looking ahead to 2015 brings on one question: which team will be next year’s Kansas City Royals?
There are a handful of teams that could make a postseason run with one or two key additions to their club. They each have either sat in first-place during the 2014 season or were on the verge of a wildcard berth late in the season.
Here are five teams to watch out for in 2015:
1. Cleveland Indians
After starting the season 11-18, the 2014 Cleveland Indians were 15 games over .500 from that point on. They also traded away their ace and starting shortstop during the season.
Despite missing the postseason, it was a successful campaign for the Tribe.
The Indians made the postseason in 2013 and there is no reason not to believe they can make a return trip next season. The main reason is Corey Kluber.
Kluber had Cy Young-caliber stuff all season, finishing 18-9 with an 2.44 ERA and striking out 269 batters. Carlos Carrasco ended the season one of the hottest starters in baseball. And the bullpen ranked seventh in ERA to finish the season.
Don’t look for the Indians to sign any major free agents to bolster their lineup though. The Indians will rely on a healthy Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to round out their production, along with Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley.
The Indians have the pitching to make a postseason run. If they can improve the lineup and add a legit, power-hitting bat, they can not only make the postseason, but go in as AL Central champs.
2. Seattle Mariners
One of the bigger storylines in MLB was Robinson Cano heading to Seattle to play for the Mariners and if he would make them into a playoff contender. The answer is yes.
The Mariners ended the season 12 games over .500 and looking forward to next year. The rotation features one of the best one-two-punches in baseball with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Kyle Seager drove in more runs and hit for power.
Seattle doesn’t need another power hitter. They need someone to get on-base for Cano and Seager. More runs for their pitching staff and the Mariners will be a team to watch in 2015.
But the main reason why that will happen will be because of Cano. He has done everything a star free agent acquisition needs to do: score runs and drive runners in.
3. Milwaukee Brewers
The season started so well for the Milwaukee Brewers. They sat in first-place for 150 days and were looking to be a lock for the postseason.
They not only fell from leading the division, they fell out of playoff contention quickly. It’s now how you start in MLB, it’s how you finish.
Do you blame it manager Ron Roenicke? Or the players? Either way, there’s no reason to believe that the Brewers won’t be back in the hunt for a playoff spot next season.
They have a solid foundation in place with Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy and Scooter Gennett. The rotation and bullpen have bright spots and with a few minor adjustments, this team could make a run for the postseason in 2015.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
Another team that held first-place in their respective division only to fall out of the playoff picture were the Toronto Blue Jays.
They held a six-game lead in the AL East, sitting 14 games over .500 before injuries took a toll and could not recover. They finished four games over .500 and 13 games back of the Baltimore Orioles, who won the AL East.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos made it clear that he will be active in the offseason. He will have to be when you are competing with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Orioles. Don’t forget the Tampa Bay Rays. The division is loaded and is a race for who has the biggest checkbook.
Bringing in a reliever and a second baseman would help the Blue Jays compete. But one disadvantage is that they will have to overpay to get help. If it works out, the Blue Jays could be a wildcard contender next season.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
After years of bad baseball, fans in Pittsburgh have enjoyed postseason baseball the last two years. The Pittsburgh Pirates have turned the franchise around and are no longer the laughing stock of the league.
The only thing going against the Pirates as that they play in one of baseball’s toughest division. Along with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Brewers, the Pirates have some tough competition each year when it comes to making the postseason.
They do have some tough decisions to make in the offseason, which could be the most important winter since 1992, when a three-time division winner was dismantled.
Edinson Volquez is a free agent. What will the Pirates do with Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano?
The Pirates had a $78 million payroll this season. It will almost certainly go over $80 million next season. Will that translate into a deep postseason run?
There could be more surprise teams in the coming spring, but these teams are in the best position to make a run for the postseason.
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