It seems that every year in baseball there are always a few teams who could potentially surprise some people. That is what is so great about baseball. Everyone goes into Opening Day believing they have a shot to be something special.
Here are a few teams that I think have that breakout potential in 2015.
This may not come as a surprise to most because of the moves they made that almost make them automatic contenders. New GM AJ Preller has been a mad man this offseason and has made this San Diego team light-years better than it was a season ago. After having the worst offense in baseball last year, the only way they can go is up. With Justin Upton, Wil Meyers, and Matt Kemp solidifying the outfield, they have 3 bats that are proven at the MLB level and can do some damage. Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks were additions that will also help this team very much.
Along with their new additions, they have some pitching that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy head up a rotation that has a lot of potential. The bullpen also has some good pieces with Joaquin Benoit and newly acquired Shawn Kelley and Brandon Maurer. Their bullpen still isn’t their strong suit, but they should be better.
The Padres now have the pieces to compete in the NL West. It might be hard to top the Giants and/or the Dodgers, but they have a very good shot at capturing the Wild Card and maybe making some noise in the playoffs. The only thing that may hold them back is their pitching but they will be competitive this season.
After a better season than most expected in 2014, the Marlins seem like a team that is waiting to break out. With the star of the team, Giancarlo Stanton, now paid like a star, they are locked and loaded for 2015. With the additions of Mike Morse, Martin Prado, and Dee Gordon, the offense should a much needed boost to follow up Stanton in the order. This team is young and keeps getting better each and every year. Manager Mike Redmond should have this team ready to go when Opening Day comes around.
By also adding Mat Latos and maybe Dan Haren (depending on his status), to their pitching rotation, it could be one of the best in the league once Jose Fernandez returns from Tommy John surgery. To back that rotation up with a fairly decent bullpen headed by closer Steve Cishek, the Marlins pitching could be a bright spot on a team now filled with star power.
Because Miami plays in such a pitchers park, the pitching is going to have to step up. They will definitely get some pop with Mike Morse and Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup who are two of the better home run hitters baseball has to offer. This team stayed in the Wild Card hunt for a good portion of last season and I expect them to be there again this year. They could be a dark horse for the division, as well, with the Phillies, Mets, and Braves all in rebuilding stages. Look for the Marlins to surprise some people with their young talent.
Last season, under first year manager Lloyd McClendon, the Mariners enjoyed their best season in quite some time finishing one game short of the Wild Card in the AL. This season, they spent a bit more money and improved their offense, which was much needed. By bringing in Nelson Cruz, it immediately solidifies the middle of the order after he was the AL home run leader in 2014. With Robinson Cano back for year two and Kyle Seager coming off of his best year, they are poised to make a run at the AL West.
Pitching has been this team’s go-to for quite some time. They have one of the best rotations in baseball headed up by the should-be CY Young award winner in Felix Hernandez. Following him are Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, and Taijuan Walker. That is some real fire power setting it up for a bullpen that was up there as the best in baseball a season ago.
The Mariners seemed like they were good enough to get in last season, but a bad road stretch to end the season stymied their chances. This upcoming season seems like the year for this team because they really haven’t lost anyone from last year and have only added players like JA Happ, Nelson Cruz, and Seth Smith. To go on top of that, the AL West might be taking a down year with the Angels as the only team that will give them some trouble. Look for this team to be up there in the top of the AL.
It has been too long since the South-siders have really been able to compete. Coming into this season, they really think they can make something happen. With the additions of Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera, these are players that will make a difference for this team. They already have some high level players with Chris Sale, Jose Abreu and Alexei Ramirez that will greatly benefit from these additions.
The team still has some issues with their pitching rotation, as there is a pretty steep drop off after Sale and Samardzija. The bullpen should be much improved after last year with some of the young relievers being moved out of the closers role and into a more comfortable role with the addition of Robertson.
This team is going to have an uphill battle to get into the playoffs because of their division. They might be able to jump the Royals, but the Tigers seem to be the class of this division. The White Sox should not be taken lightly however because of the top two in their rotation, Sale and Samardzija, and the power of Abreu and Cabrera. I could see this team battling for a Wild Card spot in what could be very crowded. Look for this team to give some teams some fits and increase their win total by a good number this season.
With Opening Day just a few months away now, the anticipation is building even though there are still some big names out there on the market. We will see how the pieces fall into place and maybe there are some of these teams that have yet to make a big move that could potentially boost their stock going into the season.
This is why we love baseball. It’s why they play the game!
Seattle sports fan and MLB writer for International Sports Hub