By: Blake Tarrants, KCOU Sports
So, the dust has settled from the opening series, teams are getting set for their first weekend series, and early jitters are fading. Of course, it is foolish to predict anything significant about an individual’s or a team’s future for 2015 as a whole after three or four games, but what stands out right away, and what can we, more or less, safely say at this point?
The NL West looks to be the most competitive division in baseball. There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Padres and whether they put together a fantasy team full of big names and inflated salaries, or if their unique collection of power, right-handed bats, and high-profile righty pitchers just might combine to form a team that could turn from being the joke of California to a legitimate contender. Through their first series against their NL West rivals Dodgers and Giants, although they are only 1-3, their new faces have already begun to make their presence known. With Justin Upton and Will Middlebrooks already going deep, Wil Myers putting together quality at-bats, and James Shields dueling pitch-for-pitch with Clayton Kershaw, and Craig Kimbrel throwing his usual gas, they look to be a team that will not go away quietly. Factor in the Dodgers, their revamped roster, with its outrageous $270 million payroll, and the ever-present Giants, and we could be looking at an exciting three-team race throughout 2015.
The AL Central might be shaping up in the exact same way. Although the Tigers are the only team anywhere close to the rich dynasties of the NL West in terms of player salaries, with a payroll just over $170 million, the Central is shaping up to be a complete logjam. The Royals, at $110 million, and the Indians at $87 million, are nowhere near these teams in terms of a dynasty, but they have both been putting on clinics in recent weeks about how to keep your homegrown talent with you for as long and as little money as possible. The reigning AL champions looked about as hot as anyone coming out of the gates, sweeping the revamped, but still flawed White Sox. The Indians got solid efforts from long-term extendees Carlos Carrasco, and last year’s Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber to get their season off to a fast start. Factor the four-time reigning Central champs sweeping the hapless Twins out of Detroit as handily as the Royals did the White Sox, and the AL Central looks to be another three-team neck-and-neck race to the finish line.
The rest of baseball still looks as undecided as it ever does this early in a season. Players like Adrian Gonzalez having five homers in three games, and the Royals hot offensive start, are getting national notice. But these people will eventually cool down, and new faces will emerge on to the forefront of the baseball world. It is impossible to say anything concrete at this point, except that we are in for in for many more series of hot streaks, division races, and big names making big news.