Finally, regular-season baseball begins on Sunday night. Here in Boston, the Red Sox’ season doesn’t officially start until Monday in Philadelphia.
So it’ll be the Chicago Cubs hosting the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday Night Baseball to kick things off. Former Red Sox ace Jon Lester takes on Adam Wainwright. First pitch scheduled for 8:05 p.m.
And every year, I make my season predictions in the days leading up to the league’s first pitch. This year is no different.
As far as I’m concerned, those who don’t like to make predictions are those who don’t ever get them right. Looking back at my 2014 MLB preview, I correctly picked seven of the league’s 10 playoff teams, including four of the league’s six division winners. That also included picking every National League playoff team correctly.
I had the St. Louis Cardinals winning the World Series in 2014. As we know, it was the San Francisco Giants who eliminated the Cardinals in five games in the NLCS and went on to win the World Series in seven games over the Kansas City Royals.
In fairness, I also predicted Madison Bumgarner to win the NL Cy Young last season. And even though it was Clayton Kershaw who ran away with that award, at least I was on the right track with Bumgarner’s success, as he put together one of the most dominant postseason performances we’ve ever seen, and as a result, was named World Series MVP.
As for 2015, I don’t have San Francisco repeating as champions. But I do have a National League team taking the crown.
That team would be the St. Louis Cardinals, the same Cardinals I picked to win last year. Losing starter Michael Wacha last season to a shoulder injury was a major blow. His return to the rotation in 2015 is just one of the reasons I’m picking St. Louis to not just win their third straight NL Central title, but to also win the World Series.
The other reasons? Contract years. John Lackey is actually playing for the league minimum $500,000 because of a clause that kicked into his original Red Sox contract after Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the entire 2012 season. For the 36-year-old Lackey who is still performing at a very high level, being extra-motivated in a contract year that will only earn him $500K can’t be a bad thing.
Also, the Cardinals acquired 25-year-old outfielder Jason Heyward in November. And while his power numbers have been in decline the last two years, it’s an exciting gamble for St. Louis, considering Heyward is set to be a free agent in his prime after the season.
The Cardinals should have the best rotation in baseball, in my opinion. And they also have one of the best young closers in the game, in 24-year-old Trevor Rosenthal, who finished last season with 45 saves.
On Sunday night, you’ll see Wainwright begin the season in the national spotlight. He’ll end it leading his Cardinals' staff to a World Series championship.
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