Every MLB Team’s X-Factor Heading into the 2014 Season
Every MLB Team's X-Factor Heading into the 2014 Season
In the wonderful sport of Major League Baseball, there are many unwritten rules and widely accepted principles. One very widely agreed upon principle is the fact that baseball is a team sport. No one player can win by themselves or lose by themselves. I whole-heartedly agree with that but there is a slight exception. In addition to it being a team game, each team needs at least one key figure, one X-Factor on their team that keeps the winning dream alive.
Whatever your favorite team is you probably can think of their X-Factor within moments of considering it. Every team has one whether successful or not. Usually it will not be a pitcher, that’s one that is a bit of a gray area. Because a pitcher can at best only win 25 to 30 games each season, there is little reason to assume they could be the main player for the entire 162 game season. Alex Rodriguez, on other words would have a better chance of being the New York Yankees’ X-Factor if he were playing, than Masahiro Tanaka.
Even the amazingly successful Clayton Kershaw is not a name you’ll find on this list because he can only affect a few games at his complete best. Obviously a bench player wouldn’t be someone that could be the it-guy for each team and they probably have as much impact if not more than a starting pitcher. I will say that a closer has a better chance of being on here than a starter. Still, a team who has zero X-Factor to rely on in the everyday offensive line-up is pretty well sunk. So we will be searching for that player for each team. And away we go.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Paul Goldschmidt
Mark Trumbo is a huge addition to this team but he is not the main factor in their success. If he comes in and blows the doors off the N.L. it still wouldn’t matter if Goldschmidt didn’t repeat his MVP-type season. Trumbo might be the piece that puts them over the top but only if Goldy repeats his success.
Atlanta Braves – Jason Heyward
This could be a tossup between Heyward and Justin Upton until you look at them last season. Upton was a team-carrying figure when he was hot but he got the hottest later in the season when Heyward was at the top of the batting order keeping everyone going and the team winning. His broken jaw could have nearly killed this team. If he stays healthy in 2014, they will be difficult for anyone’s pitching staff to beat.
Baltimore Orioles – Chris Davis
This should be about as much of a no-brainer as any other one. Manny Machado is probably the heart of this team but Davis is the main offensive engine that can help them get to where they want to be.
Boston Red Sox – Mike Napoli
Come the postseason it could be argued that David Ortiz is the main figure here but I really think even then that the re-signing of Napoli is going to be the biggest deal that keeps this team’s momentum flowing from last season into 2014.
Chicago Cubs – Justin Ruggiano
The Cubs have a lot of young and unproven players with a few great prospects on the way. Of the guaranteed players, one new one is Ruggiano. He came over from the Marlins and could really be a big figure in the batting order if he hits his stride early and leads the team offensively to score more runs.
Chicago White Sox – Jose Abreu
There is a lot of hope and dollars tied up in this young man who is coming to man first base for the White Sox. Abreu is supposed to be to the White Sox what Puig was for the Dodgers last year and maybe more. He is going to need to be something special to lead this young team towards their goal.
Cincinnati Reds – Joey Votto
There are a few important pieces to the puzzle in Cincinnati but Votto is the key figure. Opposing pitchers find him in the batting order and walk him with the game on the line when the situation presents itself correctly. He is the key and the main factor for success here.
Cleveland Indians – Yan Gomes
The end of the season was magical for the Indians and look not far past Gomes for one of the main reasons. When he climbed to the position of starting catcher and provided a ton of run support is when this team really started to look like a contender. He should be a difference maker again, the difference maker assuming he can repeat his success.
Colorado Rockies – Carlos Gonzalez
CarGo is going to produce this season like he does every season when he is in the line-up. Health is the key here and when he is healthy, he is the main driving force just a tad above Troy Tulowitzki. The Rockies will only go as far as he will take them.
Detroit Tigers – Miguel Cabrera
I seriously hope there is no debate about this. Cabrera is the most consistent great player in the game other than possibly Mike Trout. That’s why they both keep fighting it out for MVP honors but Miggy has won two years in a row and earned it both times. Obviously he is the X-factor for the Tigers.
Houston Astros – Dexter Fowler
Jose Altuve and Jason Castro are likely to continue to build on their successful young careers but that is to be expected. The addition of Fowler is what could push this team to overachieving in 2014. Though he is streaky at times, Fowler has game-changing ability when he is playing well. If he does that for a great deal of the season, the Astros will be better than they probably should be.
Kansas City Royals – Omar Infante
Just the way Infante was signed by the Royals was awesome. You can bet the most sought after, normally priced, free agent second baseman will bring an impact all over the team for the entire season. Many things have to fall into place for the Royals but they will be able to count on Infante to be a consistent producer everywhere.
Los Angeles Angels – Mike Trout
Do me a favor and go ahead and pencil in Trout’s name here as the Angels’ X-Factor for the next twenty years or so. He is going to be one of the most decorated stars the sport has ever seen as long as he stays healthy. He certainly is their main player that must succeed.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Hanley Ramirez
The Dodgers wouldn’t have been where they were without Hanley and the same will be true in 2014 more than likely. He is critical to this team and should probably get paid as such before the end of the season.
Miami Marlins – Giancarlo Stanton
This season can be a big step forward for the Marlins but they need the big man in right field to come out swinging. Stanton needs an MVP-caliber season to push this team to the next level along with the other additions they have made.
Milwaukee Brewers – Ryan Braun
Like it or not, additions and subtractions being what they are, Braun is still the X-Factor for the Brewers. He having another great offensive season would not mean an investigation was needed; it would mean that the Brewers had a chance to overachieve in 2014.
Minnesota Twins – Joe Mauer
Until the top prospects in baseball arrive in town, and possibly even afterwards, Mauer is the man for the Twins. He puts up numbers that back it up every single season and will likely do so again. If the Twins make any noise this season at all you can bet the new everyday first baseman will be behind it.
New York Mets – David Wright
Wight spent much of the 2013 season with one ailment or another keeping him limited or on the disabled list. He still had very respectable numbers in spite of that fact however. He is an MVP candidate every season if he is healthy all season long and the upcoming season will be no different. He has needed help for years but he is still the key.
New York Yankees – Derek Jeter
All of the additions the Yankees have made are great for winning and they will likely all play a bit part if the Yanks do win it all. More than anything else however they need the Captain to take the field and just be himself. I don’t know what it is. He doesn’t have to lead the league in anything but just his being there helps the Yankees succeed.
Oakland Athletics – Yoenis Cespedes
Every team has that guy that knows can put them in the lead no matter if Cy-Young himself is on the mound. For the A’s Cespedes is that guy and proved it once again against the Tigers in the ALDS last season. He still has contract time left and will be a force this season too.
Philadelphia Phillies – Marlon Byrd
I’m not really all that sold on any of the Phillies moves but for sure they did add some potential, if well over 30 potential in Byrd. I don’t know that it is probable but if the Phillies are going to have a player that shoves them past a big hump in the road; it would have to be Byrd.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Andrew McCutchen
The X-Factor of each team usually has a chance to be the most valuable player on that team. Do I need to say more? Cutch was the MVP of the NL for a reason and he is the MVP of this team. He’ll be that once again in 2014 and will likely lead the Pirates to another postseason appearance in the process.
San Diego Padres – Chase Headley
This might seem like old news but unless the Padres have someone else step up greatly or make an unexpected move, Headley is the big deal here. If he has a 2012 type season they can contend with the big boys for sure. He is the key however.
San Francisco Giants – Buster Posey
Posey had an off year kind of like the rest of the Giants in 2013. If they are going to achieve the 2012 levels of success then they will need MVP numbers and output by Posey again. He was a huge part of the success of that team because he is the key and has to be such again in 2014.
Seattle Mariners – Robinson Cano
With the money he is going to be making for the next decade, Cano had better show up leading this team to somewhere bigger and better. Sure he has to have help but signing that deal makes him more than just one of the best second baseman in the league. He has to lead this team and be their go-to guy all the time. Let us see what happens.
St. Louis Cardinals – Yadier Molina
Sometimes it is easy to spot a future Hall of Famer when they are playing and Molina is that kind of player. It really isn’t difficult to imagine him being the x-factor for the Cardinals once again. No matter what pieces change around the diamond, as long as Molina is leading the team on the field, they will contend for the World Series title.
Tampa Bay Rays – Evan Longoria
We talked about go-to players who fans and players alike know can take anyone out of the yard in a critical moment. For the Rays, that guy is Longoria. He gets paid like it and he most definitely earns it.
Texas Rangers – Prince Fielder
Not that Fielder had a whole lot of say in the matter, but when the Rangers took him on and waved bye to Ian Kinsler, he become someone of need for this team. Fielder has to produce and has to produce well in order for these fans to accept that this was a decent trade for their team. That means he must be the X-Factor and I think during the regular season he will be.
Toronto Blue Jays – Edwin Encarnacion
The Jays don’t get much press sometimes for the good things they do but Encarnacion is a respectable MVP-level player if things go right for him all season long. Whether or not he reaches that level, he is still the offensive big guy for this team and they need his leadership to go anywhere.
Washington Nationals – Bryce Harper
Harper is quite young to have such a burden on his shoulders but he is the leader of this team. Last season a lot of things went wrong all over for the Nats but you can bet it’s no coincidence that they faltered during a season when Harper spent the vast majority of the time hurt. He is more vital than anyone knew and if they are going to have an offense to back up their pitching staff, it has to start with him.