Who is the early season favorite to win the Fall Classic?

BY DI STAFF | APRIL 01, 2014 5:00 AM

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Los Angeles Dodgers

As much as I want to channel my optimistic fandom of the Chicago Cubs and pick them to win the World Series, I realize that my dreams will likely — check that, definitely — be crushed within the opening month. Therefore, I’ll take the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The main reason driving this is talent. Also, it should be noted that mentioning the Cubs and the World Series in the same sentence on April Fools’ Day makes way too much sense.

When you push aside all the prototypical spring-training narratives of a player being in the best shape of his life or one taking a new approach to the game, your best bet on a prediction is talent.
And the Dodgers have plenty of it.

The Dodgers have so much talent, particularly in the outfield, that on a daily basis they will bench a player who would start on any other club.

Los Angeles will have to choose between benching a two-time All-Star, a four-time All-Star, the rightful 2011 National League MVP — courtesy of Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun — or Yasiel Puig, a player who, when he’s not gunning down runners or swiping an extra base on an unexpected outfielder, can likely be found filling his time giving 50-something-year-old baseball fans hissy fits in their attempts to “preserve the sanctity of the game.”

The Dodgers also field Clayton Kershaw, who recently signed a seven-year, $215 million contract after winning his second Cy Young Award in 2013, a season in which opposing hitters hit .195 against him. In case you forgot, he just turned 26.

All this, and I haven’t even mentioned Zack Greinke, Hyun Jin Ryu, Adrian Gonzalez, or Hanley Ramirez — who hit a quiet .335 with 20 home runs in just 86 games last season.

The only thing that could hold the Dodgers back this season is injuries, that and if the baseball world decides to riot in Los Angeles the next time Puig misses a cutoff.

But if there’s one thing the Dodgers need not fear about, it’s talent. Something they’ll ride all the way into November.

— by Jacob Sheyko

Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers were the runner-up of the American League in 2013. 

Not only will they avenge their loss nd claim the title as American League champions, they will also take it one step further and claim the title as World Series champions.

Let’s get this out of the way early: Any team with the best hitter in baseball is going to get a lot of love in World Series predictions, even if it is early in the season.

And Miguel Cabrera is just that.

The 30-year old is coming off his second AL MVP in as many years.  He has led the league in batting average in each of the last three seasons, and he has hit at least 30 home runs every season for the last seven years, including back-to-back 44-homer years in 2012 and 2013.

Oh, yeah, in 2012, he was also the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

But the Tigers aren’t simply a one-trick pony relying on a single player to carry them.

They boast arguably the two best pitchers in baseball, in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, who have won back-to-back AL Cy Young awards. Scherzer led the entire Major Leagues with 21 wins last season, and Verlander has been an All-Star for five-straight seasons, including a 2012 campaign that saw him win both the Cy Young and AL MVP.

Plus, he’s dating Kate Upton.  That’s got to count for something, right?

The front office in Big D went about re-tooling its roster in the off-season, but you could argue that this year’s Tigers look even better than last year’s, at least on paper.

From top to bottom, the Tigers have arguably the most talented roster in baseball.  They lost the powerful but underachieving Prince Fielder in the off-season but gained an elite defensive second baseman in Ian Kinsler in the process.

— by Ryan Rodriguez

Boston Red Sox

Of course it’s way too early to say the Red Sox will repeat as World Series champions, but I’m going to say it anyway.

I can’t deny that the odds are stacked against Boston. No team has repeated as champs of the Fall Classic since the Yankees won three straight from 1998 to 2000. And, as many will likely argue, there’s going to be an insane amount of parity in the majors this season — especially in the American League, where upwards of 11 teams have legitimate shots at making the postseason.

So, yeah, I’ll gladly accept that the odds aren’t in Boston’s favor. But hear me out for a moment, because there are a few reasons the Red Sox have a really, really, really good shot at repeating when the 2014 baseball season is done.

First off, there’s the pitching. Boston has assembled perhaps the most balanced and veteran starting rotation in all of baseball. There’s the ace, Jon Lester, followed by four more legitimate starters in John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, and Felix Doubront. Boston also has a stout bullpen — which includes Koji Uehara, who was practically unhittable at times during last season’s World Series run.

Second, there’s the offensive firepower. The Red Sox paced the league in runs scored last season, racking up more than 800 — Boston was the only team in the majors to reach that plateau. It’s hard to imagine a team struggling at the plate when the ninth hitter in the lineup will likely contribute 25 to 30 home runs and just north of 60 RBIs this season. (Looking at you, Will Middlebrooks.)

Will there be injuries? Absolutely. Hiccups will happen. This season won’t be perfect. Boston might very likely win another 97 games and flop in the Division Series. The possibility exists.

But I wouldn’t bank on it. Manager John Farrell spent last season taking the team from the basement of the AL East to World Series champs. And to think the Sox won’t contend again this year is simply foolhardy.

As a former editor of mine frequently tweets (and texts me from time to time), I love that dirty waah-tahh.

— by Cody Goodwin

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