MLB: New Year, Old Faces in playoffs

Zach Hannigan, Staff Writer

While the temperature starts to rise and the smell of fresh cut grass begins to fill the air, it can only mean one thing: baseball season.

This year’s Major League Baseball season is starting like every other, with hopes of big league grandeur, but of course only one team gets to hoist the Commissioner’s trophy at the end of the season.

Here are my predictions for the teams that will enter the tournament at the end of the season and who will win it all:

AL East Winner: Boston Red Sox While it is always hard for a

World Series winner to come back strong the next season, the Red Sox have the players to do it. With Mike Napoli and Jon Lester providing a veteran presence, the team should keep its blue collar attitude. It also doesn’t hurt to have a proven hitter in your lineup like David Ortiz and two solid hurlers like Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz in the middle of your rotation.

AL Central: Detroit Tigers

This one is a little more easy to call. The Tigers are clearly the cream of the crop in this division. They have the best hitter in baseball in their lineup with Miguel Cabrera and the resigning of Max Scherzer and a new year for Justin Verlander should allow the Tigers to win this division. The team also solidified their bullpen with the acquisitions of Joba Cham- berlain and Joe Nathan, However, the Kansas City Royals , Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox will make some noise and may not make it as easy as we think for the Tigers. Hey, maybe this one wasn’t that easy to call.

AL West: Oakland Athletics

You just can’t get rid of these guys. Every year, the A’s are written off for some reason, but every year they are right there in the playoff hunt. I won’t make that mistake this year. The A’s will sneak past the Texas Rangers and win this division. With Brandon Moss, who went deep 30 times last season, and near-MVP Josh Donaldson in the middle of the lineup, the A’s have the firepower to compete. But the team’s real strength lies in their pitching with Sonny Gray and Dan Straily anchoring a rotation who will be complemented by one of the best bullpens in baseball.

Wild Cards: Yankees, White Sox

NL East: Atlanta Braves

While everything in me wants to pick Bryce Harper and the Wash- ington Nationals, I simply can’t. The Braves won 96 games last year and over the past four years have aver- aged 92.5 wins. For Atlanta, produc- tion and wins supercede everything. The team has the best closer in baseball in Craig Kimbrel and their young power hitters Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman are only getting better.This division will be a tight one, but the Braves squeak by the Nats for the division.

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals

This team is nothing if not balanced. They have solid players at every position and their trade of David Freese brought in Peter Bourjos to fill center field and put some speed in that lineup. Allen Craig and Yadier Molina should continue to drive in runs, while that pitching rotation led by Adam Wainwright will once again be consistently solid. The Cardinals win this division in a tight race with Pittsburgh Pirates.

NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers

As much as it hurts for this Giants fan to say it, the Dodgers are too talented not to win this division. They have the best pitcher in baseball with Clayton Kershaw and perhaps the deepest lineup led by Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonza- lez. It also is incredible to think about the fact that Andre Ethier, a career .288 hitter, is on your bench. A great lineup complemented by a great pitching rotation and a flame-throw- ing bullpen only means success for Los Angeles.

Wild Cards: San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals

World Series: Nationals vs. Tigers

This is finally the year the Tigers put it all together and win the Series in seven games.