Surprise MLB Teams – Predictions for 2014

March 14 9:39am
Nick Sharp

No matter how many numbers, stats, infographics, polls, predictions, or figures we look at, something always happens in Major League Baseball that defies conventional logic. Every year, we see surprise MLB teams that take the league by storm and make the playoffs.  For Part 5 of our MLB 2014 Preview (check out Parts 1-4 at the bottom of the article!), we take a look at which team’s are most likely to make that run in 2014:

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Breakdown

Toronto Blue Jays

If we had run this survey last year, there’s no doubt the Toronto Blue Jays would’ve won this category. They made big free-agent splashes during the 2012-13 offseason by adding 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey and consistent All-Star Jose Reyes. They also added 2012 All-Star Melky Cabrera, and hoped that Jose Bautista would return healthier and stronger and put up those big-time fantasy baseball numbers again. The Yankees and Red Sox were expected to have down years. The stars were aligning perfectly for the Toronto Blue Jays…and then they fell flat on their face.

Toronto was never really a factor in the playoff race and limped to the finish with a 74-88 record. As we’ve seen across all teams and sports, sometimes simply throwing talent together doesn’t work as expected. But, as the Miami Heat have proven, maybe it can work after the team is given time to gel. Our voters think that’ll be the case this year with the Blue Jays. Making the playoffs won’t be easy, as Toronto’s stuck playing in treacherous AL East. But, if Reyes and Bautista can stay healthy, if Dickey can get the knuckler to knuckle, if Brandon Morrow can pitch a full season, and if the rest of the squad can provide steady numbers, the formula is there for Toronto to be one of the surprise MLB teams and make the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

 

Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals last made the playoffs in 1985, but hope is on the horizon. The 2013 Royals won 86 games (their most since 1989) and finished with a winning record for the first time since 2003. All this came with only one player hitting over .300 (Eric Hosmer at .302), zero players with over 85 RBIs, and one player hitting 20 Home Runs (Alex Gordon finished with exactly 20). If KC can get a bit more production at the plate from their top-end guys, they may finally get over the hump in 2014.

The addition of Omar Infante should add a reliable bat to the starting lineup. Danny Duffy is another year removed from Tommy John Surgery, and we’ve seen plenty of players make huge jumps during their second full season after the injury. The Royals won’t overwhelm anyone with big-time talent or unhittable pitching, but the unquantifiable chemistry factor under 5th year Manager Ned Yost may just land Kansas City in contention in the competitive AL Central.

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New York Mets

Before you start laughing, hear us out for a minute.  A lot of people are saying that the Mets are still a year away from true contention, and the Matt Harvey injury only solidifies that stance. Yet, to be a surprise MLB Team, you actually have to surprise people! And the Mets making the playoffs would be a surprise.

Besides Harvey, the Mets have plenty of young talent on their pitching staff. While Zack Wheeler will begin the year in the starting rotation, Noah Syndergaard will likely be a late-season call-up as he continues to work on his command. David Wright is the only true star on the team, and he’s surrounded by a bunch of streaky players like Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, and new addition Curtis Granderson. If they can reverse their histories as streaky players and bring in a new era of consistency at Citi Field, the Mets have a fighter’s chance in the tough-but-not-impossible NL East.

 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

For the 2013 Angels, everything that could go wrong did. Albert Pujols never recovered from a Spring Training injury. Josh Hamilton never emerged from his late 2012 slump. Mike Trout never quite figured out how to clone himself 9 times. They were stuck with a massive payroll and few wins, finishing a terrible 78-84 on the season. In 2014, the Law of Averages states that the Angels should return to at least a competitive form in 2014.

When taking a look at the Angels, it’s pretty clear how they can win ball games. A healthy Albert Pujols is still one of the best hitters in the league. We’ve also seen what Josh Hamilton can do with his head on straight. Oh, and that Mike Trout guy. He’s pretty good regardless of his inability to clone himself- it’s no wonder he’s far and away the most expensive position player for Opening Day contests on FanDuel. Perhaps flying under the radar will help Los Angeles’ other team become the main attraction in the AL West.

 

Everyone Else

10 other teams received votes as surprise MLB teams for the 2014 season. The Houston Astros would surprise everyone if they even approach a .500 record this season. They’ve had three straight 100 loss seasons, but they’ve got to turn it around sometime….right? The Chicago White Sox made headlines by signing coveted Cuban prospect Jose Abreu, but will he be enough to propel a team lacking a true star? Milwaukee enters the season with a lineup full of talent and solid hitters. Big questions remain in regards to the pitching staff which lacks top-end arms.

Paul Goldschmidt is a great building block in Arizona, but the team has question marks all around him. If Archie Bradley can continue his rapid ascension up the ranks, maybe he can provide enough stability for Arizona to make a run at taking back the divisional crown. Cleveland surprised everyone with a playoff appearance last season, but it may be even more surprising if they can repeat that run in 2014. Losing Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir makes that job even tougher. Both the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals received a vote, but each team has different goals. Miami would be happy to be in contention at the end of the season while Washington is hoping to be in contention come the end of October. Both teams will have to get the most out of their young talent for either scenario to come true.

Baltimore came back to Earth in 2013 after a magical 2012 that ended with a playoff appearance. The O’s will need Chris Davis to continue smashing baseballs over fences to keep pace in the AL East. Billy Hamilton is the hottest thing to hit Cincinnati since Nick Lachey, but great speed is only useful if he can get on base. If that happens, Joey Votto may have an outside chance at leading the bigs in RBIs. Finally, Minnesota is likely a year away from challenging in the AL Central. But, if prospects like Byron Buxton make the Major League jump in 2014, they have the chance to surprise everyone.

Survey Results

Website Surprise MLB Team Website Surprise MLB Team
i70 Baseball Indians SF Giants Baseball Astros
Draft America Royals Through the Fence Baseball Astros
BrokeMets Nationals The Best Sports Blog White Sox
NY Mets Life Mets Sox Addict Royals
Advanced Fantasy Baseball White Sox Fenway Nation Marlins
Seattle Mariners Musings Blue Jays Tenth Inning Stretch Twins
Around Citi Blue Jays More Hard Ball Blue Jays
Cheap Seats Please Diamondbacks Fantasy Six Pack Brewers
Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks Blue Jays Diamond Hoggers Angels
Red Sox Nation Alberta Royals Call to the Pen Reds
SeamHeads Orioles Philip Oliveri (FanDuel Insider) Royals
Mets Chronicle Mets Blood Sox Royals
Owen O’Brien (FanDuel Insider) Blue Jays Detroit Tiger Tales Royals
Reading Between the Seams Angels Matthew Musico Mets
500 Level Fan Blue Jays Off the Bench Baseball Blue Jays
Buzz on Broad Royals Red Legs Review Blue Jays

 

FanDuel’s MLB 2014 Preview Series

Part 1- Fantasy Baseball Player Rankings

Part 2- Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy

Part 3- Fantasy Baseball Busts

Part 4- Fantasy Baseball Sleepers
 
Part 5- Surprise MLB Teams
 
Part 6- Fantasy Baseball Bounce Back Players
 
Part 7- Fantasy Baseball Breakout Players
 
Part 8- World Series Predictions

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