Around the Hill: Who will be the surprise team of the MLB this year?

David Minster, Maroon-News Staff

One team that will surprise people this season is the Los Angeles Dodgers. They’ve been to the playoffs each of the last three years, but haven’t made it to the World Series. A lot of critics think they’ll have a worse season after the departure of Zack Greinke, who is a former Cy Young winner ,and is coming off one of the best seasons in MLB history. After notching 19 wins and an ERA of 1.66, Greinke lost the Cy Young Award to Jake Arrieta, tested free agency and landed a 6-year, $206 million mega-contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers managed to sign Scott Kazmir this offseason, partially offsetting the loss of  Greinke. Luckily, the rotation is strong enough to make a deep playoff push. Clayton Kershaw is still in his prime, Kazmir has the potential for a great season and the signing of the Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda can really benefit their rotation. On the offensive side, the Dodgers have some big bats that can combat some of the league’s best pitchers. Obviously the young Cuban phenom Yasiel Puig hasn’t played to his potential, but he has the ability to put up 40 homers and 100+ RBIs. Corey Seager, the shortstop who is a prime NL Rookie of the Year candidate, can meet the expectations and deliver both at bat and in the field. Even Adrian Gonzalez has the potential for a bounce-back year after putting up his fewest RBIs (90) since 2006. The Dodgers can make a few moves before the deadline to bolster their rotation or add another bat, but regardless, the Dodgers are poised to shock the rest of the league.

Reed Schultz, Maroon-News Staff

My surprise pick to be a real contender for the upcoming MLB season is the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although they finished last year with a less than sterling record of 79-83, they have made key offseason acquisitions in order to make a real run during the playoffs. They signed right-hander Zack Greinke to a six year $205.6 million dollar contract away from the Dodgers and traded to obtain right-handed pitcher Shelby Miller. Greinke has been a perennial ace throughout his career, posting a solid 3.35 ERA throughout his 12 years in the league. Miller, at only 25-years-old, is also a very good pitcher, with a 3.02 ERA in 205 innings last year. Given what the Diamondbacks had to give up in order to acquire him, it seems as if they believe he is a budding ace. While both these acquisitions came at a substantial asking price, they were necessary for them to outcompete their rivals, the Dodgers and Giants, in the ever-competitive NL West.

Besides these additions, the Diamondbacks have three-time MLB All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and center fielder A.J Pollock, who are arguably two of the best players in the NL. Last year Goldschmidt posted astounding numbers with 33 HRs, 110 RBIs and a .321 BA. With numbers like these, he is unquestionably one of the best players in the league. Pollock’s numbers were nearly as impressive, batting .315 with 20 HRs and 76 RBIs. These two stars, along with a very solid pitching staff and bullpen, have convinced me that Diamondbacks will be the surprise team to compete with the Chicago Cubs for the NL pennant.

Jake Rosenstein, Maroon-News Staff

As the weather goes from a bleak frosty nightmare to a slightly warmer and brighter season, it can only mean one thing: baseball season is approaching. Before each season, analysts make predictions on who will be the surprise team to make a playoff push. Two seasons ago that surprise was the Kansas City Royals , and last year it was my New York Mets. Looking at the forthcoming season, it’s easy to say that the much-improved Diamondbacks will make a run after acquiring 2015 Cy Young award runner-up Zack Greinke and all-star Shelby Miller. I will make a bolder claim that this year’s dark horse candidate will be the Boston Red Sox. Boston is no stranger to winning, as the Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and Red Sox have accumulated many championships in the last 10 years. The Sox, who went 78-84, improved their pitching greatly with the acquisitions of former rival David Price and all-Star Craig Kimbrel. They already have a talented line up with Pablo Sandoval, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia and, of course, David Ortiz. The last time the Red Sox made the playoffs in 2013, they were riding on the unity and fraternity from the Boston Strong movement that resulted from the Boston Marathon bombings. Baseball is a sport in which heart can make up for talent. In David Ortiz’s final season, I expect the Red Sox to rally around their longtime face and reach the playoffs.