Bastian’s 2015 preseason predictions

unknownYou can’t blame me this year. If any of you actually believe in jinxes — and plenty of accused me of such nonsense on Twitter over the years — well, I’m off the hook this season.

The Indians are suddenly one of the sexy picks in the annual predictions from around the media-sphere. ESPN loves them. Fangraphs loves them. And (gasp!) Sports Illustrated put the Tribe on a regional cover and declared them the favorites to win the whole darned thing.

“I don’t know the SI jinx,” said Michael Brantley, who joined Cy Young winner Corey Kluber on the cover. “I’ve never heard about it. I dont want to hear about it.”

Here’s the deal. The jinx isn’t real.

What’s real is that the Indians have a Cy Young winner (Kluber), a top-three MVP finished (Brantley), one of the best young catchers in the game (Yan Gomes), the Major League leader in walks (Carlos Santana), a two-time World Series-winning manager (Terry Francona) and a lot more core talent in the fold, and coming soon.

So, guess what? I’m sippin’ the Kool-Aid this year. Here come my annual preseason predictions and, whether you like it or not, I’m picking the Indians to win the division. I won’t go as far as SI did, but hey, if Cleveland punches its ticket to October, you just never know. The Indians certainly would be set up nicely (in theory) for a short series with Kluber and Carlos Carrasco at the top of the rotation.

Cleveland has a ton of potential, but even Francona has been quick to say throughout the spring that potential is nothing more than exactly that. They have to go out there and prove that there is substance to all the talk and analytical projections.

The Indians have the makings of a dynamic rotation, but there are questions at each slot. Can Kluber repeat what he did in 2014? Can Carrasco be the kind of starter he was in August and September? Will Trevor Bauer take a leap forward? Can TJ House continue to shore up the back end, and will Zach McAllister finally be the innings-eater the Tribe envisioned him to be a few years ago?

Even beyond the Opening Day staff, there are questions about Cleveland’s depth. Danny Salazar looked lost on the mound this spring, Josh Tomlin is out three to four months with a shoulder issue, and no one really knows what Bruce Chen or Shaun Marcum might have left in their respective tanks.

Still, there was a plethora of problems that riddled the Indians last year, and the team still came within earshot of a playoff berth. Really, if Cleveland had played only slightly below-average defense, it would likely have been at least a Wild Card winner. Instead, injuries and a porous defense sent the Tribe to an early winter.

Before I get to this year’s predictions, let’s revisit how I did last year (see: not well).

In the American League, I went 6-for-15 on the standings, and only predicted two playoff teams (Tigers and Angels as division winners correctly). In the National League, I fared a bit better, hitting on 10-of-15 in the standings and 4-for-5 on playoff teams. Of course, I had the Dodgers beating the Tigers in the World Series. Man, what a series that was, huh. Whoops.

For the AL awards, I said Mike Trout would win the MVP (woot!), Felix Hernandez would win the Cy Young (thanks, Kluber), Jose Abreu would win the Rookie of the Year (nailed it!) and Brad Ausmus would be the Manager of the Year (he got zero votes). In the NL, I had Paul Goldschmidt as the MVP (again, no votes), Jose Fernandez as the Cy Young winner (thanks, Tommy John), Billy Hamilton as the top rookie (2nd place!) and Matt Williams as the top manager (score).

With the Fernandez prediction, I’m reminded of a spring a few years ago, when I walked in the clubhouse on the first day and then-Tribe closer Chris Perez said: “Don’t pick me for anything!”

In honor of Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel, whose predictions came with poems, slogans and Haiku:

After spring each year,
Bastian stares at crystal ball,
He sees nothing right.

With all of that said, here are all of my preseason picks for 2015…

AMERICAN LEAGUE

East
1. Red Sox
2. Blue Jays
3. Yankees
4. Orioles
5. Rays

Central
1. Indians
*2. Tigers
3. White Sox
4. Royals
5. Twins

West
1. Mariners
*2. Angels
3. A’s
4. Astros
5. Rangers

NATIONAL LEAGUE

East
1. Nationals
2. Marlins
3. Mets
4. Braves
5. Phillies

Central
1. Cardinals
*2. Pirates
*3. Cubs
4. Brewers
5. Reds

West
1. Dodgers
2. Padres
3. Giants
4. D-backs
5. Rockies

*indicates Wild Card pick

PLAYOFFS

NL Wild Card: Cubs over Pirates
NL Division Series: Nationals over Cubs
NL Division Series: Dodgers over Cardinals
NL Championship Series: Nationals over Dodgers

AL Wild Card: Angels over Tigers
AL Division Series: Angels over Red Sox
AL Division Series: Indians over Mariners
AL Championship Series: Angels over Indians

WORLD SERIES

Angels over Nationals

AWARD WINNERS

AL Most Valuable Player: Mike Trout, Angels
AL Cy Young Award: Chris Sale, White Sox
AL Rookie of the Year: Daniel Norris, Blue Jays
AL Manager of the Year: Lloyd McClendon, Mariners

NL Most Valuable Player: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
NL Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
NL Rookie of the Year: Joc Pederson, Dodgers
NL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Cubs

Debate away…

–JB

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