Ranking The Teams 6-1: My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up

Welcome to the 5th and final part of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Although the season has started, I am still finishing this series.  I will also have my first Red Sox Report article of 2018 coming soon, as well as coverage on NFL free agency and the upcoming Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins games.

Last time, I covered the teams that are true contenders but are not quite on the level of the MLB’s best.  That consisted of 5 wild card competitors and the Indians, the lowest ranked of what is known as the MLB Super Seven.  They just missed the Top 6, at #7.  I looked at how they did this off-season, how they’ll do this season, and what’s holding them back.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements.  Today I will do the same for the for the Top 6 teams in the league.  What are their chances of winning it all, and what are their Achilles Heels?  Read below to find out how the best of the best line up.  Every team on this part of the list is part of the Super Seven I have been mentioning.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, April 2: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Thursday, April 5: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*My pre-season Baseball Bits are also up.

6. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Off-Season Review

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The Red Sox were pretty quiet for much of the off-season despite the rumors that they were the front-runners to sign OF J.D. Martinez, and that it was near inevitable that the Red Sox signed him.  They did bring back 1B Mitch Moreland and 2B Eduardo Nunez.  With that, they had a pretty good roster.  But they had no home run hitter, which was crucial after the Yankees added Giancarlo Stanton and formed what has the potential to be a historic HR duo between Stanton and Aaron Judge.  Eventually, they did sign Martinez despite a lack of a position for him to play.  If there was an open position called “designated home run hitter (DHH)”, it might be fitting, but now he has to split his time between left field and DH, with Moreland, Hanley Ramirez, and Jackie Bradley Jr. losing at-bats to him.

The Case for the Red Sox

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If the Red Sox are meeting their expectations, they will make the playoffs, and they will make it to at least the ALDS.  Red Sox reporter Tony Massarotti thinks we are a good team but can do a lot better, and I agree.  Sure, the Yankees had a great off-season and are now favorites to beat us out in the AL East.  But the Sox are capable of winning the division, and if they cannot win the division, they are definitely capable of making the playoffs.  Hopefully, Chris Sale and David Price will be able to lead the rotation together after Sale’s strong 2017 and Price’s strong Spring Training, and I’m hoping J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts can lead the lineup (with the help of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, who are off to a great start).

But if they cannot, we need someone else to step up their game.  In fact, no matter what, we need someone else to step it up.  Whether Bogey keeps going and breaks out, or Devers builds on his late 2017 success, or Andrew Benintendi has the season he was supposed to have one year ago, I will be satisfied.  They just need one more player to build on the consistency they have had and turn it into dominance.

The Achilles Heel

Like I said, the Red Sox have an ace, and they have a pretty strong lineup. But they just need some of their good players to achieve greatness. It would be nice if they could have the beastly rotation people were expecting of them, and so far, it’s looked pretty good. It would also be nice if the Red Sox had a couple more players who broke through and joined Betts and Martinez as the All-Stars of the lineup. World Series contenders aren’t led by a couple superstars and a bunch of other good, but not great players. They are led by a group of star players that work well and fit well together.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates, several players in the lineup breakout and the Red Sox go on to win the World Series, which you will notice is the Best Case Scenario for all 6 of the top teams.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation continues to be inconsistent, the lineup is no more than good, and the Red Sox lose out to other teams like the Twins and Angels in the Wild Card race.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 2nd in AL East

 

5. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

Off-Season Review

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The Cubs lost star pitcher Jake Arrieta, but they made up for it by signing SP Yu Darvish and SP Tyler Chatwood.  They also added Brandon Morrow to a strong bullpen.  The Cubs appear to be pretty confident in their lineup, but does their lineup need an upgrade if the Cubs want to win another World Series ring?

The Case for the Cubs

About a year ago, the Cubs were viewed as the best team in the MLB.  But the competition has caught up with them, and the Cubs experienced a World Series hangover early in 2017.  The Dodgers, Yankees, and Astros have all caught up, and the Indians, Nationals, and Red Sox are close.  They have a nice young roster with a dominant rotation, and their lineup is great but could use a bit of a boost in the power department.

The Achilles Heel

The Cubs have a lot of good, consistent, hitters.  But they were hoping that they could get some power out of guys like Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo that they have signed/kept around.  Bryant and Rizzo have done well at the plate, but are good hitters for average, not good hitters for power.  Heyward was signed to add some power to the lineup, and it would have been nice to see some power out of Ben Zobrist.  Who will emerge as a home run hitter for the Cubs?  If they cannot find one, then that means the league’s elite teams are one step ahead of them.

Best Case Scenario: The Cubs go on to win a World Series after Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward have dominant years at the plate and get help from Chicago’s younger players.  The rotation also continues to dominate.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation underperforms, the lineup cannot find their power hitter, and the Cubs just barely snag a Wild Card after losing their division to the Cardinals or Brewers.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in NL Central\

 

4. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

Off-Season Review

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The Dodgers kept their roster at World Series level.  They did lose some of their starting pitchers, but they had at least eight viable starters on their World Series roster.  They added Tom Koehler to the bullpen, and he could even start in the case of an injury to another starter.  They also brought back Chase Utley and acquired Matt Kemp from the Braves in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez and a couple extra starters they had.  Gonzalez was no longer needed with Cody Bellinger ready to start at first base full time.

The Case for the Dodgers

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The Dodgers could still be a World Series contender, but other teams may beat them out.  The Astros are looking even better this year, the Nats have extra motivation to do well with many star players in contract years, and the Yankees have more power in their lineup than any other team in the league.  Their lineup and rotation still look great.  Clayton Kershaw has continued to dominate the league, and the lineup has done well despite the lack of a true leader.

The Achilles Heel

The Dodgers do not have any major holes.  But they need two smaller things.  The first thing is some bullpen help.  They need to find a reliable set up man for Kenley Jansen, and even Jansen has struggled so far.  They also need a leader for the lineup.  They have a lot of great hitters, but who is their true star?  Kershaw is the rotation leader.  Who will be the Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers lineup?

Best Case Scenario: Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner will lead the Dodgers lineup to dominance, the rotation continues to thrive, and Kenley Jansen gets back on track as the Dodgers win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Kershaw, along with the rest of the rotation regresses, the lack of depth hurts them, and the lineup cannot quite dominate without a leader.  Jansen and the bullpen continue to struggle too, and the Dodgers are left to compete for a Wild Card.

Projected Finish: 95-67, 1st in NL West

 

3. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

Off-Season Review

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The Yankees already had a strong lineup, and they made a splash this off-season by adding to that.  They acquired Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, and with that, they had the top two home run hitters in the league in Stanton and Aaron Judge.  They also added 2B Neil Walker late in the off-season to help out while Gleyber Torres recovers from his injury and continues to develop.  They acquired Brandon Drury to help out Miguel Andujar at third too.

The Case for the Yankees

The Yanks have a lineup that is stacked with home run hitters, but they are lacking depth, especially in the infield.  Judge and Stanton will balance things out though, making the lineup look dominant.  The rotation also looks good but is the one portion of their roster that does not quite match up with the Red Sox, who can rely on the combo of Chris Sale and David Price.  The good thing is, the rotation will be backed up by a strong bullpen, much stronger than the Red Sox bullpen.

The Achilles Heel

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The Yankees do have a bit of an infield depth problem, but their real depth problem is in the rotation.  Jordan Montgomery has been forced into the #5 starter role, while the Sox will have E-Rod and Steven Wright once everyone is healthy.  The Yankees have a nice group of starters, but they lack depth, and they lack a true ace.  Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino are great but are not quite ace material.  The Red Sox have Chris Sale to lead their rotation, so they are ahead of the Yankees in that department.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates the league with multiple #1 level starters, the bullpen backs them up, and the lineup hits the most home runs in the MLB by a long shot as the Yanks win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems come back to bite the Yankees, the Yanks must depend on their bullpen after rotation struggles, and the lineup cannot find much talent around Gary Sanchez, Stanton and Judge.  The Yankees are left with a Wild Card spot and do not make the ALDS.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in AL East

 

2. houston-astros Houston Astros

Off-Season Review

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After winning the World Series (as I predicted) in 2017, the Astros only got better.  They acquired Gerrit Cole from the Pirates, and now they will have Justin Verlander for a full season.  They arguably have seven viable starters, and their first three starters were all #1 starters on different teams before this season.  They also added Joe Smith to a strong bullpen.

The Case for the Astros

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The Astros are coming off a World Series title, and I do not expect much of a hangover.  They have a dominant rotation, and a strong lineup led by Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and AL MVP Jose Altuve.  I don’t see much of a chance for them to regress.  But will they be beaten out by a motivated contender who was not won in recent years?

The Achilles Heel

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The Astros do not have any major weaknesses, but with DH Carlos Beltran gone, and 1B Yulieski Gurriel suspended, they will have some depth problems in the lineup.  They will have to rely on Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick, Derek Fisher, and J.D. Davis more this season.  Other than that, they do not have any other problems, at least major problems.  That will likely resolve itself as the season progresses.

Best Case Scenario: The stacked lineup dominates, the rotation is led by three aces, and the Astros dominate the league for the second consecutive year, winning the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation underperforms and struggles, depth and World Series hangover problems affect the lineup, and the Astros fail to make the ALCS after losing the division to the Angels surprisingly.

Projected Finish: 95-67, 1st in AL West

 

1. washington-nats Washington Nationals

Off-Season Review

The Nats did not make any big moves this off-season besides resigning Howie Kendrick, and I think their roster looks good as it is, although it could have used one more starting pitcher.  They should sign somebody who’s still available if A.J. Cole struggles in the rotation.  But the Nats have many star players, including Bryce Harper in contract years, so the Nationals are in win now mode, and for that reason, they are my favorite to win the World Series.

The Case for the Nationals

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Like I said, the Nats are in win-now mode.  The window is closing for this team to win a World Series with this era of players, but I think this could be the year.  With a great roster flooded with young talent and led by superstars in Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals are in good position to take advantage of the fact that they have one more year to win it all before they lose Bryce Harper and other strong players on the roster to free agency.  But will they be motivated enough to lead themselves past other dominant teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees?

The Achilles Heel

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The Nationals have a nice lineup that is still doing well early on, even with Daniel Murphy starting on the DL.  Later in the season, Murphy will help lead them.  But the rotation has a depth problem.  If A.J. Cole struggles, the Nationals have nobody to replace him with Joe Ross injured. There is no guarantee that any free agent pitcher will willingly sign here, but if Cole struggles, they will need to try, or it may hold them back from winning now like they are hoping to.

Best Case Scenario: Motivated to win it all before losing Harper, the Nats lineup dominates, carried by an MVP season by Bryce Harper where he nearly wins the Triple Crown.  The rotation also dominates as A.J. Cole does well and Strasburg and Scherzer dominate all year.  The Nationals win the World Series triumphantly.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems cause rotation struggles and injury problems add to it, Bryce Harper cannot carry the lineup alone in a contract year, and the Nats just edge out a division win and struggle in the NLDS.

Projected Finish: 97-65, 1st in NL East

 

That’s all for my MLB pre-season power rankings.  My next power rankings update will come at the end of April as I begin my Monthly Power Ranking series.  I will also have Red Sox recaps, more Baseball Bits, and my first Red Sox Report of 2018 coming soon (The Red Sox Report article will be up tomorrow and I will try to post them every Friday from here on out.)

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Ranking The Teams 12-7: My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018

Welcome to Part 4 of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Although the season has started, I am still finishing this series.  I will also have my first Red Sox Report article of 2018 coming soon, as well as coverage on NFL free agency and the upcoming Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins games.

Last time, I covered the teams that are in the middle of the pack, and haven’t really decided what direction they want to head in.  I looked at how they did this off-season, how they’ll do this season, and where they are headed.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements. Today I will do the same for the contending teams, but rather than talking about where they are headed (which is somewhat obvious to me), today I will be discussing what is holding them back from dominance.  Read below to find out who these six teams are and what to expect for them this year.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, April 2: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Wednesday, April 4: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*My pre-season Baseball Bits are also up.

12. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

Off-Season Review

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The Twins quietly put together a strong off-season after acquiring Jake Odorizzi and signing Logan Morrison at the last minute.  They also signed Lance Lynn to add to a rotation that will be without Ervin Santana and new signing Michael Pineda to start the season.  With Odorizzi and Lynn on board, it will be a respectable rotation throughout the season and could take the League by storm when Pineda and Santana return.  Morrison is here to upgrade at the DH position over Kennys Vargas, who only got his job back because Byung-Ho Park was a bust in 2016. They also added Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed in the bullpen to replace Glen Perkins, who retired.

The Case for the Twins

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The Twins will be able to contend.  Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are primed for breakouts, Brian Dozier has emerged as a veteran leader, and Logan Morrison, Jake Odorizzi, and Lance Lynn are nice additions that put this roster in position to continue to contend after surprisingly cracking the playoff field in 2017.  But the competition for the AL Wild Card will be tougher this year after the moves that have been made by the Angels and Red Sox to make their own Wild Card cases.  The Red Sox could even challenge the Yankees in the AL East, but the Yankees are likely to make the playoffs either way.

What’s Holding Them Back

A month ago I would have said rotation depth problems, but now I think they have a bigger problem at shortstop.  With Jorge Polanco suspended for 80 games, they will have to start Eduardo Escobar, who has struggled in recent years and is not 100% proven as a starter.  I honestly don’t think they were ever doing great at shortstop.  I thought the combination of Polanco and Escobar was okay, but I’m not even so high on Polanco anyways.  They also have problems in the bullpen.  Signing Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed help, but they lack depth, and will Rodney and Reed succeed with their new team?
Best Case Scenario: Buxton and Sano breakthrough, Minnesota’s late off-season moves pay off, and the Twins quietly sneak to the top of the AL Central.
Worst Case Scenario: The injury-riddled rotation lacks depth and gets tired, the new bullpen additions do not help all that much, and the lineup fails to have much more than another decent year as the Twins finish in a distant second to the Indians, just above .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 2nd in AL Central

11. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers

Off-Season Review

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After coming inches away from a playoff berth in 2017, the Brewers made some upgrades in hopes of a playoff run.  They did not add the ace they desperately needed, but they did sign Yovani Gallardo, Wade Miley, and Jhoulys Chacin (Gallardo has since been released).  Chase Anderson and Zach Davies could also step it up in the rotation until the injured Jimmy Nelson returns.  They could re-assess at the trade deadline if needed.  They did add to the bullpen by signing Boone Logan and Matt Albers though.  They could still use a closer.  They also added to their outfield by signing Lorenzo Cain and trading for Christian Yelich.  As a result, Ryan Braun will be able to help out at first in addition to playing outfield.  Eric Thames is no longer an everyday starter, but Braun is, and he will see a lot of starts at first and in the outfield.  They could’ve also added Neil Walker back, but should be fine at second between Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard as Walker joins the Yankees.

The Case for the Brewers

Milwaukee could make a serious run in 2018, or they could bust.  It’s hard to predict, but I have them somewhere in the middle.  Cain and Yelich will prove to be nice additions among others.  But if the Brewers were really hoping to contend, they would’ve considered adding an ace, a closer, and a second baseman.  They have various holes in the roster that will hold them back.  This is a good team with a nice roster that includes a lot of great pieces.  But they could still use some fine-tuning before they make a run.

What’s Holding Them Back

Milwaukee has a nice rotation, but the rotation lacks a #1 starter.  Signing someone like Alex Cobb would have worked out, but instead, they stayed put.  The Brewers would be in a much better position right now if they were able to sign an ace.  The Cubs added Yu Darvish.  How did the Brewers respond?  By sitting tight and calling Chase Anderson their #1 starter.  Anderson may be a good #2, but that will not work out well.  Even Jimmy Nelson is not quite a viable #1 starter, and he’s out until at least May.
Best Case Scenario: The rotation is able to survive on its own, the lineup dominates, and the bullpen surprises the league after using their new additions to their advantage.  The Brewers make a nice playoff run after clinching a Wild Card spot.
Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is nothing more than mediocre without a known ace, the lineup thrives, but struggle to figure out what to do as Eric Thames struggles and Ryan Braun cannot adjust to the infield, and the Brewers disappoint, winning less than 85 games.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 3rd in NL Central

10. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies

Off-Season Review

The Rockies seemed pretty confident with what they have this off-season, as they did not add a first baseman or a starting pitcher.  They could have used a veteran mentor at either position.  They did bring back Carlos Gonzalez for depth though.  This off-season, CarGo’s market has been limited due to regressive struggles in 2017, but the Rockies brought him back anyway, hoping he would rebound.  In the meantime, Ian Desmond and prospect Ryan McMahon will both get time at first and the young rotation will have to survive without a veteran influence.

The Case for the Rockies

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The Rockies are coming off a strong 2017 season, where they finally cracked the playoff field.  But they haven’t secured themselves as regular contenders yet.  To contend again in 2018, the young rotation will have to at least have a decent year, and they need Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado to pick up from where they left off last season.  DJ LeMahieu, CarGo, and Trevor Story have also helped provide their lineup with the power they need to contend. Will the Rockies make the playoffs?  Tell me what you think in the comments.

What’s Holding Them Back

The Rockies play in a severely hitter-friendly ballpark, so it’s understandable if the Rockies lineup is significantly better than the rotation.  But the Rockies will have to perform well on the road to become a true playoff contender, and in most ballparks, that requires a better rotation than what Colorado has.  I think this team can make the playoffs, but they could be eliminated early once again if the pitching struggles, especially in the 1 game wild-card round.
Best Case Scenario: The young Rockies rotation exceeds their expectations, the powerful lineup dominates, and the Rockies win the NL West and get ready to make a run in the playoffs.
Worst Case Scenario: Charlie Blackmon cannot repeat his success, CarGo, and other hitters begin to decline, and the Rockies struggle, finishing 4th in the NL West just below .500.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in NL West

9. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

Off-Season Review

Image result for marcell ozuna cardinals

Much like the Blue Jays are doing now, the Cardinals have quietly rebuilt without regressing majorly.  They are already hoping to contend after beginning to rebuild in the 2015-16 off-season.  This off-season, they acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins, and were hoping to land Mike Moustakas, but lost out on him. Ozuna is an upgrade over Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, both of whom the Cardinals traded away this off-season.  However, they have been fine in their first few games as Jose Martinez continues to dominate.  Matt Carpenter can now help at third base with Martinez playing first on some days.  They also upgraded their pitching staff, signing Miles Mikolas in his return to the MLB.  They also added Luke Gregerson and Greg Holland in a remodeling of the bullpen.

The Case for the Cardinals

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The Cardinals are ready to work towards a return to the playoffs.  With a roster that is flooded with young talent as well as veterans, who they will need to win now.  They were lucky with how fast their rebuild went.  Tommy Pham, Jose Martinez, and other top prospects broke through quickly.  The Cardinals went into rebuild mode because they had such a strong farm system, and those players will help lead this team along with veterans like Dexter Fowler, Marcell Ozuna, Matt Carpenter, and Michael Wacha who St. Louis either held on to from 2015 or has acquired since then.

What’s Holding Them Back

I like the Cardinals young rotation, but I feel that Jack Flaherty and Luke Weaver could have used more time to develop, and Alex Reyes will need it after his elbow injury.  Reyes has even considered switching to become a late-inning reliever.  If they had signed a veteran mentor like John Lackey, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Scott Kazmir, who are all still available, to a 1-year deal, then they might be in better shape.  Signing Moose also would have helped.

Best Case Scenario: The young Cardinals leaders dominate, including the rotation, and help lead the Cardinals to an NL Central win and a playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario: The young rotation cannot handle the pressure, Tommy Pham cannot repeat his 2017 success as well as some of their other recent breakout players, and the Cardinals finish around .500, third or fourth in the division.

Projected Finish: 90-72, 2nd in NL Central

8. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels

Off-Season Review

Image result for shohei ohtani angels

The Angels were one of the most active teams in the league this off-season, especially early on, when very few moves were made across the league.  They brought back Justin Upton and acquired another player from the Tigers in 2B Ian Kinsler (Upton was acquired from Detroit in a trade last season).  They added Zack Cozart too.  The combination of those three will really boost their lineup.  They had enough depth and power in the lineup for 2018 that they were able to trade away mediocre 1B C.J. Cron.  Their biggest move came early on when they signed Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who has already done great at the big league level as a hitter and a pitcher.

The Case for the Angels

The Angels are ready to return to contention after struggling over the last two years.  Their struggles were caused by the injury-riddled rotation and the lack of a strong lineup.  But now, all has changed after the Halos added some rotation depth and boosted their lineup.  The Angels will fight for a Wild Card spot, but they may be a division contender if they did not play in the same division as the defending World Series champions, the Houston Astros.

What’s Holding Them Back

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The Angels do not have much on their own roster that can hold them back.  But there are two problems: a) they do not have the same kind of talent that the dominant teams of the league have and b) they compete in a tough division that is led by the defending World Series champion, who has only gotten better this off-season.  They have Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, but what other All Star players do they have?  They will face a tough schedule and that will hold them back as they struggle to compete with the best.

Best Case Scenario: Shohei Ohtani and the Angels rotation avoid injuries and dominate, the lineup returns to dominance after adding Upton, Kinsler, and Cozart, and the Angels compete for the AL West title and make a playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation’s injury problems continue, Ohtani cannot handle the pressure of MLB level pitching, and the lineup ends up underperforming, leading the Angels to another mediocre season.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in AL West

7. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians

Off-Season Review

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The Indians were able to replace 1B Carlos Santana (lost in free agency) by upgrading with a signing of Yonder Alonso, who had a very strong season with the A’s and Mariners in 2017.  They also brought back familiar faces in Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.  The Indians have been able to maintain a strong roster without spending too much money, as they did not lose too many people to free agency.  All they needed was one more outfielder, a little bullpen help, and a replacement for Santana.

The Case for the Indians

Cleveland is one of what is known as the MLB’s Super Seven, a group of teams that are bound for long term success after dominance in 2017.  However, I see Cleveland as the bottom team of these seven, as although they have maintained a strong roster, they have not made many upgrades after losing to the Yankees in the 2017 ALDS and losing to the Cubs in the 2016 World Series.  They will still be significant contenders and clear division favorites (despite a weak division), but do not expect a run beyond the ALDS this year.  I see an AL pennant as their ceiling.

What’s Holding Them Back

Image result for michael brantley

Like I said, they could use a couple more upgrades over what they have.  Michael Brantley is getting older and is very injury prone, Jason Kipnis is declining, and the bullpen could use a little more depth to aid a strong rotation.  There are other teams that I see as much more likely World Series winners than them.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup keeps up the good work, the rotation looks dominant as it is led by two star pitchers in Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, and the Indians make a deep playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries and old age hold back the Indians as they lose the division to the Minnesota Twins and just barely snag a Wild Card.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL Central

That’s all for this article.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox and other baseball articles coming soon.

Ranking The Teams 18-13: My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Welcome to Part 3 of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Last time, I covered the teams that will struggle, but haven’t quite hit rock bottom.  I talked about what they did in the off-season, what the case for them this season is, and what their strong point is.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements. Today I will do the same for the mediocre teams, but rather than talking about their bright spots, today I will be discussing what direction these teams are headed in.  Some of these teams don’t know which way to go, rebuild mode or contention mode.  Read below to find out who these six teams are and where they’re headed.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Saturday, March 24: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Tuesday, March 27: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*I will also have my latest Baseball Bits coming sometime next week.

 

18. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

Off-Season Review

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After a rebuild, the Braves are getting ready for contention, but their off-season was relatively quiet.  They did just add OF Peter Bourjos to help fill in until Ronald Acuna is MLB ready.  Acuna looks like he is pretty darn close after a strong Spring Training.  They could’ve also added someone at third, but decided not to due to the lack of options.  They weren’t able to get their hands on Moose, so they were not in the market for a 3B after that.  They could be an interesting destination at the deadline for Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, or even Adrian Beltre.  They already have made one trade this off-season, acquiring Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, and Adrian Gonzalez from the Dodgers for Matt Kemp.  Only McCarthy is still in Atlanta, and he will help lead a young rotation alongside Julio Teheran.

The Case for the Braves

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The future is bright for Atlanta baseball.  But the Braves will take another year or two to become an elite playoff contender.  Ronald Acuna, Dansby Swanson, and Ozzie Albies will need more time to develop among others.  This young team is led by star 1B Freddie Freeman, who I am expecting another strong season out of.  They already do have some other veterans who will help make this team better, but younger players on the verge of a breakout make up most of their core.  That will help them in coming years, but they won’t be absolutely amazing in 2018.

Where They’re Headed

The Braves won’t be contending in 2018, but expect a playoff run in the next three years for Atlanta.  As soon as their young talent breaks through, they will add the finishing touches they need and run for the playoffs.  Personally, I see Ronald Acuna as a potential All-Star, so as soon as he comes up, you can expect big things from the Braves.

Best Case Scenario: Acuna, Swanson, and Albies all break out to help lead the team, the rotation filled with a mix of young talent and experience thrives, and the Braves contend for the playoffs right away.

Worst Case Scenario: Acuna turns out to be a bust, as well as some of their other young players.  McCarthy, Teheran, and Freeman also begin to decline, and the Braves finish with just over 70 wins.

Projected Finish: 78-84, 3rd in NL East

17. Image result for reds logo red Cincinnati Reds

Off-Season Review

The Reds stayed put for the most part this off-season, as they have a pretty good roster as is.  They have a strong lineup that is better than you might think, and their young rotation is bound to improve in coming years.  The Reds didn’t even need to resign SS Zack Cozart.  Jose Peraza, Eugenio Suarez, and top prospect Nick Senzel will keep the left side of the infield covered.  Scooter Gennett can be trusted as a full-time second baseman after his strong 2017 season, and Joey Votto should have another top-notch season.  The Reds are all set.  Sure, they could’ve added a veteran starter, but they don’t want to rush contention when their younger players aren’t at that level yet.

The Case for the Reds

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After a rough patch over the last few seasons, the Reds will begin heading uphill again.  After their rebuild, their future is bright, and they will begin to improve in 2018.  Their young rotation should begin to improve.  It will be led by Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan, and Anthony DeSclafani while Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, and Robert Stephenson will also contribute.  They can improve further when Hunter Greene is ready.  The lineup is all set, and if Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, and Jose Peraza live up to their expectations and Votto, Adam Duvall, and Billy Hamilton keep up the good work, the Reds could have one of the strongest lineups in the league soon enough.

Where They’re Headed

The Reds are going nowhere but up.  They hit rock bottom over the last couple years, and they are looking good post-rebuild, so now there’s no other direction they could go in.  Expect big things in the coming years, but in the meantime, they will be about as good as the Braves are right now.

Best Case Scenario: Votto dominates in 2018, leading a surprisingly strong lineup, the rotation improves fast (and Raisel Iglesias becomes an elite closer) as the Reds finish above .500 and get ready for contention.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is plagued by injuries and their young talent is rushed to the majors and struggles.  The lineup also cannot quite live up to its expectations as Cincinnati lingers just above 70 wins.

Projected Finish: 79-83, 4th in NL Central

 

16. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners

Off-Season Review

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As they have been since Jerry Dipoto took over as GM, the Mariners were very active again this off-season.  They acquired Marlins 2B Dee Gordon, who will move to center field so Robinson Cano and Gordon can both start.  The Mariners needed a veteran influence in the outfield, and brought back Ichiro to do the same.  They also signed SP Mike Leake to add to a strong rotation that includes Felix Hernandez and James Paxton.  They aren’t clear contenders yet though; they still need to give their younger outfielders more time to develop as well as their pitching staff and a couple other younger players on the team.

The Case for the Mariners

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The Mariners aren’t quite playoff material yet, but they have a shot.  In the meantime, they will have a decent season as their younger players develop.  They need the younger players to step up their game and help carry the load.  Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia, and Ryon Healy are good, but they haven’t reached their full potential.  The Mariners need to keep their team young if they want to avoid a full rebuild, but if they also want to contend in that process, they’ll need reliable young players.

Where They’re Headed

The hope is that the Mariners can contend, but it all depends on the performance of Seattle’s prospects and the general performance of the Mariners.  If Seattle struggles, or their younger players cannot emerge as stars, the Mariners may need to take the rebuild route.

Best Case Scenario: The Mariners’ younger players break out and help lead the team to the playoffs along with the veteran leaders.

Worst Case Scenario: The Mariners struggle, as their older players decline (including King Felix) and their younger players cannot emerge as leaders.  Seattle is forced to rebuild.

Projected Finish: 83-79, 3rd in AL West

 

15. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

Off-Season Review

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The Giants had a terrible season in 2017, but they made up for it with a strong off-season.  They acquired outfielder Andrew McCutchen and 3B Evan Longoria to boost the lineup.  They signed Austin Jackson to upgrade the outfield too.  However, they failed to add too many good starters, which will hold them back despite a great lineup.  They did add Derek Holland on a minor league deal though, so he could crack the rotation, especially with Madison Bumgarner injured again.

The Case for the Giants

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The Giants will improve in 2018, but in a difficult NL West, it will be tough to be much more than decent.  They are lacking rotation depth after the retirement of Matt Cain and the departure of Matt Moore so they will have to find younger pitching talent.  That means it will take time for contention.  Their lineup is looking better, but they do not have the same talent of some contenders.  They have a nice core four in Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Evan Longoria, and Andrew McCutchen, but beyond that, they are no more than decent.

Where They’re Headed

The Giants are headed in an upward direction.  Expect vast improvement from their 64-98 season in 2017, worst in the National League.  Then they can work towards contention once they find the young pitching talent they need behind their core three of their rotation.  They have a nice lineup now that they added Cutch and Longo, but their rotation still has holes, and the lineup could still use work.

Best Case Scenario: The young guns in the rotation are successful early, the lineup returns to dominance after their recent upgrades, and the Giants surprise many by making the playoffs in another successful even year.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation implodes after lacking depth, the lineup also struggles to perform any better than decent, and the Giants cannot get above .500.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 4th in NL West

 

14. new-york-mets New York Mets

Off-Season Review

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The Mets restored their strong, playoff level roster from a couple years back after a rough 2017.  They brought OF Jay Bruce back, signed 3B Todd Frazier to take over third in case David Wright cannot rebound from his injury.  1B Adrian Gonzalez was also added to improve the lineup.  Lastly, they boosted the rotation depth by adding Jason Vargas to aid an injury prone rotation.  Vargas was with the Mets for a year about 10 years ago.  The Mets are in much better shape after a strong off-season.

The Case for the Mets

The Mets face tough competition and may not be able to make the playoffs this year.  But they are back in contention with Bruce back and Frazier on board.  They have set themselves up for long-term success, as David Wright is unlikely to rebound, and it will be tough to depend on Michael Conforto with his health in question.  Maybe they can contend for the NL East if the Nationals fail to add back Bryce Harper for 2019.  But this year, they will have to compete for a wild-card spot.

Where They’re Headed

The Mets should be able to make the playoffs in the coming years if they cannot make the playoffs in 2018.  They have a nice roster full of young talent and veterans who are still elite and can lead this team down the stretch.  Will they be able to make the playoffs this year, or will the competition be too much for them?

Best Case Scenario: Frazier, Bruce, and Yoenis Cespedes help lead the Mets back to the playoffs along with a strong rotation that stays healthy.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is plagued by injuries, the lineup is no better than average, and the Mets fail to get above .500.

Projected Finish: 86-76, 2nd in NL East

 

13. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks

Off-Season Review

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The Diamondbacks needed a new closer with Fernando Rodney gone.  They did add Brad Boxberger, but is he capable of the closing job?  They also added Japanese reliever, Yoshihisa Hirano.  They also upgraded their outfield by acquiring Steven Souza Jr. in a 3-way trade and signing Jarrod Dyson.  Other than that, their roster is in good shape for contention in 2018.  But in a tough division, will they make it?

The Case for the Diamondbacks

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The Diamondbacks finally cracked the playoffs in 2017, but can they repeat in a very tough division?  They have a strong lineup led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta.  I also think Jake Lamb could break out.  They also have maintained a strong pitching staff, led by starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray.  With an underrated roster, they should at least be able to keep up with their division.

Where They’re Headed

The D-Backs are right on the verge of contention.  They have a good future full of playoff runs ahead of them.  However, I do not think they will make it this year.  The Brewers, Rockies, and Cardinals will beat them out in the wild-card race.

Best Case Scenario: Arizona’s young roster thrives, leading the Diamondbacks back to the playoffs with a 2nd place finish in the NL West.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup struggles to live up to its expectations after off-season upgrades, the rotation begins to decline due to lack of young talent, and the Diamondbacks end up finishing around .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 3rd in NL West

 

That’s all for this article.  Stay tuned for Part 4 along with my latest Baseball Bits coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Ranking The Teams 24-19: My Version: Teams That Will Struggles

Welcome to Part 2 of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Last time, I covered the bottom 6 teams.  I talked about what they did in the off-season, what the case for them this season is, and what their bright spot is.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements. Today I will do the same for the next 6.  Some of these teams at least have a chance to contend, but things do not look great for them.  Read below to find out who these six teams are and where they’re headed.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Saturday, March 24: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Tuesday, March 27: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*I will also have my latest Baseball Bits coming sometime next week.

 

24. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays

Off-Season Review

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The Rays are headed in a rebuilding direction.  I would be shocked to see them contend anytime in the next three years.  This off-season, they began their rebuild, trading away SP Jake Odorizzi, star 3B Evan Longoria, DH Corey Dickerson, and OF Steven Souza Jr.  They did acquire Denard Span in the Longoria trade to add outfield depth, which will be needed without Dickerson and Souza.  They also added veteran slugger and RF Carlos Gomez.  They brought in C.J. Cron to replace Corey Dickerson, the one dumb move they made during the off-season.

They could’ve just kept Dickerson or let a prospect take over at DH, but they had to bring in a new DH who was worse than Dickerson.  It shouldn’t even be considered rebuilding; Cron is practically the same age as Dickerson.  These moves will give key roles to younger players though.  3B Matt Duffy, SS Christian Arroyo, SS Willy Adames, OF Mallex Smith, and SP Jacob Faria are all in line to have a significant role this season.

The Case for the Rays

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The Rays have some nice pieces that could’ve led them to contend if they had held on to Odorizzi, Dickerson, and Longoria, but now they’ve made it clear that they’re ready to rebuild.  This year, the Rays will need to find younger guys to lead the rotation with Odorizzi gone.  They will start with a 4 man rotation but should hope to add a prospect in the #5 slot eventually.  Brent Honeywell is out of the picture; he is now recovering from Tommy John Surgery.  They will also need to find new leaders in the lineup with Evan Longoria gone.

The Strong Point

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Tampa Bay made some interesting moves last season that we now know were preparing them for a rebuild, and some of the guys they acquired have major league experience but are still young, and they could serve as mentors for even younger players this season.  SS Adeiny Hechavarria, OF Mallex Smith, and 3B Matt Duffy are among these guys.  They will help lead a relatively strong Rays lineup.  OF Carlos Gomez will also be a leader in this lineup.  The rotation still needs plenty of work during this rebuild, but the lineup is in a pretty good position, despite a need for a first baseman/DH alongside C.J. Cron that they failed to fulfill.

Best Case Scenario: The Rays find a pitcher to round out the rotation, and he helps another young Rays rotation dominate the league.  The Rays also do well at the plate, leading them just above .500.

Worst Case Scenario: The Rays cannot find a fifth man for their rotation, Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Faria struggle from the start, and a Rays 4 man rotation lacking depth falls apart by July.  Meanwhile, they cannot get anything better than decent out of the lineup, as guys like Hechavarria, Smith, and Duffy do not break out, and the Rays finish last in the American League.

Projected Finish: 70-92, 5th in AL East

 

23. Baltimore-Orioles-Logo Baltimore Orioles

Off-Season Review

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I was not so high on Baltimore in the making of my MLB predictions.  But they have since finished off their rotation by signing Alex Cobb, who could serve as their ace.  Cobb was the last big name starter left on the market.  They also resigned Chris Tillman and signed Andrew Cashner in order to at least pursue a respectable rotation after losing many starters to free agency.  They were also in talks with teams about Manny Machado, who’s in a contract year, but decided to hold onto him for now.  Their roster is looking better than it did before the late off-season moves they are known for.  But it’s still nothing more than mediocre.

The Case for the Orioles

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The Orioles have to decide what direction they are going in.  They have a nice roster but need a little more to contend.  That will be decided this season.  They will either sell at the deadline after early season disappointment, or they will add a couple key pieces after a decent start and head in an upward direction.  The O’s have a good lineup, and their new look rotation could surprise us, but it’s nothing extra special, and the team is getting old.  Adam Jones and Chris Davis are past their prime, Manny Machado is in a contract year, and the Orioles lack the young talent to take over.  Could it be time to rebuild?

The Strong Point

The Orioles have relied on their lineup over the years, but this year, I think their pitching is their strong point.  Their bullpen could still be great if they can get healthy, and the rotation looks much better with Cobb, Cashner, and Tillman on board.  Dylan Bundy will also be a factor.  Their lineup is getting older and declining, but despite questioning what direction they should be going in, the Orioles have really made some nice upgrades to their pitching staff.  But will they pay off?

Best Case Scenario: The O’s new look rotation takes the league by storm, Chris Davis bounces back to lead Baltimore’s lineup, and the Orioles head in an upward direction and contend for a wild-card slot.

Worst Case Scenario: The bullpen is plagued by injuries, the rotation and lineup are no better than average, and the Orioles are forced to enter rebuild mode.

My Prediction: 73-89, 4th in AL East

 

22. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies

Off-Season Review

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The Phillies are another team that has improved since my early March MLB predictions.  They signed Jake Arrieta to serve as the ace to a young, but improving rotation.  They could have added a veteran outfielder to fill in if their younger guys struggle, but the Phillies need to establish their new core post-rebuild.  Relying on veterans is not what they want to be doing too much unless they’re 100% ready to contend and want to add a star player, which is not quite the case yet.  They did sign 1B Carlos Santana though, moving Rhys Hoskins to the outfield and trading Tommy Joseph.

The Case for the Phillies

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The Phillies are getting ready to contend in coming years after a rebuild.  Now that they have filled the roster with young talent, it’s time to find out who will lead them.  That all depends on who breaks out this year.  Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, and Aaron Nola are potential candidates.  I do think it is good that they have started to add veterans though because they will need to surround their young talent with elite, experienced players in order to reach the playoffs in coming years.

The Strong Point

The Phillies have a pretty consistent lineup that does not have any major holes, and that really helps in an MLB that can be very streaky.  They have a lot of strong players that full out their lineup, but no breakout stars yet, which is what they need.  I personally think that by the end of this season, Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, or someone else in the Phillies lineup will emerge as a breakout star and carry the team in coming years.

Best Case Scenario: Many of Philly’s young stars breakout, their rotation improves as Jake Arrieta, Jerad Eickhoff, and Aaron Nola make a great trio while Vince Velasquez also makes major contributions, and the Phillies finish 2nd or 3rd in a relatively weak NL East.

Worst Case Scenario: Arrieta and the Phillies rotation bust, the lineup is nothing more than mediocre, and the Phillies don’t get any better, finishing with just below 70 wins.

Projected Finish: 71-91, 4th in NL East

 

21. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals

Off-Season Review

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The Royals were planning to rebuild after losing much of their core to free agency.  But they brought back both 3B Mike Moustakas and SS Alcides Escobar in the end.  They also signed CF Jon Jay and 1B Lucas Duda to replace Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain.  They still aren’t the same team they were a couple years back though.  If they were still attempting to contend, they would’ve added another starting pitcher and they would have held on to DH Brandon Moss.

The Case for the Royals

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The Royals were planning to rebuild, but I think their decision to keep their lineup pretty much the same implies that guys like Hunter Dozier and Cheslor Cuthbert might not be MLB ready yet.  The Royals need a couple years before they’ll be able to successfully rebuild. But in the meantime, they’re not making any long-term investments, so you shouldn’t expect more than mediocracy from them.

The Strong Point

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The Royals have no plans to be legitimate contenders, but their lineup is underrated.  I don’t know why people think their lineup is old and washed up.  I could see Alcides Escobar bouncing back for a half decent season.  Mike Moustakas is still elite.  He may be frustrated back in KC, but if he’s not elite, why were other contending teams making such a big push for him?  There were other options.  Yunel Escobar and J.J. Hardy are still free agents.  At this point, they are unlikely to be signed.  Moose was picked over those two, who are decent players.  Lucas Duda and Jon Jay can hit too, although it’s been a while since they were in their prime.

Best Case Scenario: Escobar and Alex Gordon bounce back for strong seasons, Moose, Duda and Jay do well in the lineup as well as young 2B Whit Merrifield, and the Royals finish just above .500 after strong hitting and decent pitching.

Worst Case Scenario: The Royals lineup collapses, Moose, Gordon, and Escobar want out, and the Royals are forced to rush prospects to the majors in order to prevent the Royals from falling due to a bad decision/unwillingness for change.  The prospects then struggle due to needing more time to develop, and the Royals collapse, finishing last in the division, with below 70 wins.

Note: The Royals are one of those teams that will be very hard to predict this season.

Projected Finish: 73-89, 3rd in AL Central

 

20. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays

Off-Season Review

Image result for randal grichuk blue jays

The Blue Jays had a very interesting off-season.  It’s almost like the Jays are rebuilding without overhauling, which is a unique way to do things.  Rather than trading Josh Donaldson or even Troy Tulowitzki, and completely emptying out all the vets on their roster, they just made a few good decisions that will help them get younger.  They let OF Jose Bautista walk, which was good after his 2017 decline, but they brought in OF Randal Grichuk in a trade.  Grichuk is a younger option for them who is also a viable starter, so it works out.

They also brought in Curtis Granderson to platoon with younger outfielders like Dalton Pompey.  But they’re still holding on to Tulo and Donaldson for another year to give prospects Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. more time.  They also acquired young infielder Yangervis Solarte from San Diego to assist in that job.  They signed a couple good relievers as well, just so they could have a full bullpen.

The Case for the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have managed to hold on to a decent MLB ready roster while still rebuilding, and I think it’s a very good idea that will keep them close to contention throughout their rebuild.  But it’s nearly impossible to rebuild and contend at the same time, so the Blue Jays won’t be anything more than decent until they are fully rebuilt.  This approach will get them there quickly though.  It will be like nobody even noticed their rebuild due to their fast execution.  The future is bright.

The Strong Point

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The lineup in Toronto is nothing more than decent right now, although they have a nice core between Josh Donaldson, Kendrys Morales, and Justin Smoak.  But the rotation is their real strength.  They don’t really have an ace, but many of their pitchers could emerge as an ace and are pretty good despite inconsistency.  Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ have all had good stretches.  They just need to remain healthy and consistent, which is the difficult part.

Best Case Scenario: The mix of youth and experience in the Jays lineup thrives, the rotation takes the league by storm, and the Blue Jays finish as a close third to the Red Sox and Yankees despite missing the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is plagued by inconsistency and injuries and the lineup’s older players struggle, forcing prospects up early.  The Blue Jays find themselves in a pickle with both veterans and prospects struggling and finish right around 70 wins.

Projected Finish: 76-86, 3rd in AL East

 

19. texas-rangers Texas Rangers

Off-Season Review

The Rangers need to make up their mind.  Are they rebuilding, or are they contending?  They went out and signed Doug Fister, Bartolo Colon, Matt Moore, Mike Minor, Jon Niese, and Tim Lincecum to compete for rotation slots but ended up releasing Colon and Niese after they only made the roster older.  The rotation will now look something like this, and I still can’t tell you if this will be accurate:

  1. Cole Hamels LHP
  2. Doug Fister LHP
  3. Martin Perez LHP
  4. Matt Moore LHP
  5. Tim Lincecum RHP

I put Lincecum in there over Minor so they could at least have one RHP in the rotation.  Jesse Chavez could also occupy that role.  But they also declined to sign an outfielder or a 1B/DH, implying that they might consider a rebuild.  They did add 3B Trevor Plouffe and 1B Tommy Joseph though.  This is a very confusing team.  They don’t even know for sure where guys are starting for them.  Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo, and Adrian Beltre could all play third, first or DH.  The Rangers have gotten younger, but if they want to rebuild, why did they sign five veteran starters, and why did they hold on to their veterans like Adrian Beltre?

The Case for the Rangers

The Rangers are one of the hardest MLB teams to predict this year.  They could dominate or be terrible.  They have the tools to contend but also face the risk of holding on to the wrong veterans and collapsing.  This season is all about choosing a direction.  If they do well early, they’ll get what they need at the deadline and make a run.  If not, they’ll likely sell Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, and other veterans in a rebuilding effort.  They did not make it easy for themselves to choose a direction.  They could very well end up stuck in the middle if they decline to choose.

The Strong Point

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The Rangers still have a lot of power hitters.  Big hitters Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus will lead this lineup alongside younger sluggers like Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo.  If Beltre and Andrus stay elite, you can still expect a lot of dingers and big hits in Texas.  Rougned Odor and Shin-Soo Choo are also strong hitters who are very familiar in Texas.

Best Case Scenario: The new look rotation actually does surprisingly well, the lineup continues to thrive as usual, and the Rangers finish above .500, placing 2nd or 3rd in the AL West.

Worst Case Scenario: The Rangers decline, as the older players on the team struggle, and the Rangers are forced to rebuild.

Projected Finish: 74-88, 4th in AL West

 

That’s all for Part 2.  Stay tuned for Part 3 coming soon.  On a side note, I am proud to announce that we have reached the 4 year anniversary of this blog.  I have come a long way, writing 534 posts in 4 years.  In that time, I have received almost 20000 views and almost 300 followers.  I will be posting more about that later today.

 

 

Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Each year since 2014, David Schoenfield has ranked all 30 teams in tiers during the preseason.  For the fourth year straight, I am creating my own version.  Throughout the week, I will be posting my rankings.  However, I started a little late this year due to the MLB’s slow off-season.  Today they start with the bottom 6.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Saturday, March 24: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Saturday, March 24: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*I will also have my latest Baseball Bits coming this Sunday or sometime next week.

 

 

30. miami-marlins Miami Marlins

Off-Season Review

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The Marlins underwent a complete overhaul this off-season.  They traded four key pieces from their lineup last year: Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon.  Those guys were leaders for the Marlins.  They could have gone on to contend with that group, but after no success making the playoffs in recent years, they decided to fully rebuild.  Rather than signing a couple pitchers and going for an NL East title, they decided not to sign too many pitchers and to make the series of trades they made.  In these trades, they added members of their future core, such as Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, and Magneuris Sierra.  They also acquired Starlin Castro to play second and signed a veteran or two including Cameron Maybin to be placeholders in the new look outfield.  These trades further advanced teams like the Yankees, Cardinals, and Brewers as well.

The Case for the Marlins

The Marlins have no intention of contending in 2018.  This year, expect to see veteran placeholders make up the lineup alongside their more seasoned prospects like J.T. Riddle and Lewis Brinson.  In the meantime, the Marlins will be getting their next generation of players ready to play at a big league level.  Starlin Castro was only acquired as a veteran mentor, don’t think he’s a sign that the Marlins aren’t ready to rebuild yet.  They are in full rebuild mode.  But did they rebuild too early?  Could they be contending down the stretch rather than sitting in the basement of the NL East, waiting for their prospects to further develop, and carrying around a bunch of older veterans who are past their prime?

The Bright Spot

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The Marlins may have overhauled most of their lineup, but they still have a couple strong pieces in catcher J.T. Realmuto and first baseman Justin Bour.  Their lineup will remain their strong point in 2018, especially the very core of it.  Their rotation needs work.  They may have a couple good pitchers, but they need to find guys within their system who can lead the next generation of pitching in Miami.  They have plenty of hitting/fielding prospects already making their way towards the majors.

Best Case Scenario: The veterans Miami has signed are consistent and show signs that they still have what it takes to be as successful as they were earlier in their career, and Miami’s prospects get called up quickly and thrive in the majors, leading the Marlins just over 70 wins in Year 1 of a rebuild.

Worst Case Scenario: Miami’s top prospects struggle at the major league level, and their veteran leaders fail to find momentum, as the Marlins lose 100+ games.

Projected Finish: 64-98, 5th in NL East

 

29. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

Off-Season Review

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As they plan to let a strong group of prospects lead the team in 2018, the White Sox were relatively quiet this off-season.  They added Wellington Castillo after several young catchers failed them, and they added a few guys to their bullpen.  They also signed Hector Santiago to top off the rotation.  But for the most part, they are happy with their young roster.  Sure, they could’ve added a veteran leader in the outfield or at third, or even added a new ace, but they can manage with the roster they have, especially if their younger players begin to break out.

The Case for the White Sox

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After a rebuild, the White Sox are ready to take steps back towards contention.  They will start off slow, but they will improve over the next few years, slowly but surely.  Guys like 2B Yoan Moncada, SS Tim Anderson, and CF Adam Engel are hoping to have strong seasons and help lead the team.  Meanwhile, guys like Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, and Lucas Giolito are looking to make an impact at the big league level.  This year will be about finding young leaders to help lead the team in the future alongside veteran 1B Jose Abreu.  I could see Giolito and Engel having strong seasons.

The Bright Spot

It’s younger players who are looking to become the new faces of the team.  But in the meantime, the White Sox have some strong veteran leaders.  Expect Jose Abreu to build upon a strong season.  I could also see James Shields bouncing back to lead the pitching staff and become a mentor for young pitchers like Kopech and Giolito.  Also, keep an eye out for younger breakout players.  Who do you think will emerge as a star on the White Sox in 2018?

Best Case Scenario: Chicago’s strong group of prospects are successful in the majors very quickly and lead the White Sox to a decent year in the AL Central alongside their veteran influences, who have very strong seasons.  In this scenario, they would come in 3rd over Kansas City and Detroit.

Worst Case Scenario: Jimenez, Kopech, and others fail to succeed at the major league level, and Abreu and Shields begin to decline quickly as the White Sox crumble.

Projected Finish: 66-96, 5th in AL Central

 

28. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers

Off-Season Review

Image result for jeimer candelario victor martinez miguel cabrera

The Tigers started off 2017 expecting to contend.  But injuries and old age caught up with them, and they ended up trading away their older players and heading into rebuild mode.  They still held onto Miguel Cabrera, Nick Castellanos, Jose Iglesias, and Victor Martinez though.  Those four will mentor the younger players taking over, like Jeimer Candelario and Dixon Machado.  They could’ve used another veteran infielder, but instead, Candelario and Machado will start full time, and the only major free agent signings by Detroit were signing OF Leonys Martin and SP Mike Fiers, both of which they got done much earlier in the off-season than most of the free agent signings occurred.  Meanwhile, veterans Jordan Zimmermann, Francisco Liriano, and Mike Fiers, as well as younger starters Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris, will headline the new look rotation.

The Case for the Tigers

Image result for jeimer candelario victor martinez miguel cabrera

The Tigers don’t have any blatant holes on their roster, but their roster lacks upside.  They have a lot of average players, but no clear superstar.  Even Miguel Cabrera’s numbers have taken a dip from dominant to average.  The question is, can Miggy rebound and lead this young team in 2018?  The Tigers will need someone to step it up and emerge as a true leader.  They have a good amount of veteran mentors, but nobody who can carry the team.  Who will break out and emerge as a star for them?

The Bright Spot

Like I said, it’s hard to name one leader or bright spot on this mediocre team, and mediocre teams with a lack of a leader and few experienced players are known to struggle.  I see Miggy and Victor Martinez rebounding for strong seasons and emerging as leaders.  Once the Tigers can find themselves a leader, they could be going places, as the younger players follow in their footsteps and help bring the Tigers back to the playoffs a couple years down the road.

Best Case Scenario: Detroit’s young roster gets off to a hot start, the well-balanced rotation thrives and Miguel Cabrera bounces back to lead the team as the Tigers jump right back into third place in Year 2 of a rebuild.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation cannot find an identity, Detroit’s younger players struggle and disappoint, Miggy continues to struggle, and nobody else steps up to lead as they end up in the American League basement.

Projected Finish: 69-93, 4th in AL Central

 

27. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates

Off-Season Review

In 2016 and 2017, the Pirates found themselves stuck in the middle.  They had a strong, but declining lineup and a rotation that was beginning to collapse.  This off-season, they made a definitive choice to begin a rebuild, and they started by trading Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, their best hitter and their best pitcher.  After that, their off-season was very quiet, and Spring Training will be focused on getting their young prospects ready to play every day in the MLB.  They got some of those prospects as a return from the Astros (who acquired Cole) and the Giants (who acquired Cutch).  That group includes RHP Kyle Crick, RHP Joe Musgrove, and 3B Colin Moran.

The Case for the Pirates

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The Pirates have made it clear what direction they’re headed in, and they will not contend in 2018.  They have some nice pieces that will help them alongside their top prospects in the coming years, but right now, the veterans are just there to keep the Pirates playing at a major league level (at the very least).  In the meantime, the Pirates will focus on getting their prospects ready.  Expect to see a lot of Austin Meadows, Colin Moran, Jordan Luplow, Josh Bell, Bryce Brentz and Max Moroff in the Pirates lineup.  All those guys are potential leaders for the next generation in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, their biggest need is a successful young pitcher.  They have yet to find one, but as soon as they do, expect to see him up in the majors getting a chance to prove himself.  The Pirates still have a decent lineup, so if they can get a few young hitters ready and fix up their rotation, expect to see them back in the playoffs in a few years.

The Bright Spot

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The Pirates still have a great group of guys in the outfield.  Not only do the Pirates have some good defense out there, but these guys will continue to lead the Pirates lineup.  Despite trading away Cutch, they have brought in Corey Dickerson, another power hitting outfielder to replace him.  They also have plenty of prospects who will see time back there including top prospect Austin Meadows.  Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco will also continue to serve as leaders on this team.  Their rotation may need work, and the infield has yet to find their starting mix, but this Pirates outfield is all set.

Best Case Scenario: Pittsburgh’s prospects crack the majors and make an impact quickly, Polanco and Marte continue to serve as leaders and mentors, and the young rotation looks a little better as the Pirates get right above the 70-win line.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries and struggles plague the Pirates rotation, Pittsburgh’s veterans decline, and the prospects are forced to lead the team and fail to handle the pressure as Pittsburgh collapses in Year 1 of their rebuild.

Projected Finish: 67-95, 5th in NL Central

 

26. san diego-padres San Diego Padres

Off-Season Review

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Last season I said the Padres were in a horrific rebuild after making a mistake in signing a bunch of veterans past their prime to lead the 2016 team and some of you disagreed, saying that the Padres have talent that will anchor their next generation.  Whoever said that is correct because now that the Padres have gotten their top prospects MLB ready, they are ready to take steps back toward contention mode.  Manuel Margot and Fernando Tatis Jr. are some of the young guns who can help lead this team, and the Padres have added a couple veterans to further boost the roster.

They may have made the biggest signing of the off-season when they added 1B Eric Hosmer.  They also acquired SS Freddy Galvis and 3B Chase Headley (who was here to start his MLB career) after giving up infielder Yangervis Solarte.  Wil Myers will also continue to be a veteran mentor as he returns to the outfield.  He will allow San Diego’s younger outfielders to platoon, and they will not be pressured to perform like everyday starters.

The Case for the Padres

After a brief rebuild, the Padres are headed back in an upward direction.  But legitimate playoff contention will take a year or two.  This year, their young roster will continue to develop as their veterans lead the team in an upward direction.  Once guys like Carlos Asuaje and 19-year old prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. are ready to contend alongside Hosmer, Myers, and co., the Padres will be going places.

The Bright Spot

In my opinion, Hosmer will emerge as a leader, star, and mentor on his new team.  With the Royals, Hosmer was never a sole leader or the face of the team, but he was on the brink of stardom as he continued to thrive in Kansas City.  In San Diego, he will emerge as one of the league’s premium position players as he leads the team and emerges as a superstar.  He is already an All-Star Game regular, but he hasn’t received the love and respect he deserves.  Now that he’s arguably the best player on his new team, he will completely breakout, and the league will recognize that.

Best Case Scenario: With an upgraded, well-balanced roster, the Padres will get off to a fast start and compete in the NL West.  However, in what’s arguably the toughest division in the league, they will not see the playoffs quite yet.

Worst Case Scenario: San Diego’s prospects disappoint in their first years, and the Padres fail to find leaders and mentors in their veterans, which will further affect the young guns as the Padres end up in dead last after they cannot handle the pressure of their division.

Projected Finish: 69-93, 5th in NL West

 

25. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics

Off-Season Review

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Oakland did not do much this off-season, as many of their younger players are finally ready to become everyday players.  But they did make a few moves to enhance the roster.  They added young OF Stephen Piscotty to take some pressure off rookie CF Dustin Fowler.  Now Boog Powell and Jake Smolinski will be able to back Fowler up.  They also signed SP Trevor Cahill when Jharel Cotton lost his 2018 season to Tommy John Surgery.  Now the rotation will look something like this:

  1. Kendall Graveman RHP
  2. Sean Manaea LHP
  3. Andrew Triggs RHP
  4. Trevor Cahill RHP
  5. Paul Blackburn/Daniel Mendgen*

* A.J. Puk could eventually snag this rotation slot

Other than that, Oakland was pretty quiet this off-season, and it will not hurt them.  They didn’t need to do much to keep the roster in good shape.  But they will not contend yet.  That all depends on when guys like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and A.J. Puk breakout.

The Case for the Athletics

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Like I said, the A’s are on the brink of contention, but they need a breakout star or two first.  They have a lot of great young pieces, and they are headed in an upward direction now.  They have a home run hitter too.  But they need a couple younger players to lead the A’s if they want to get back to the playoffs.  I don’t care who.  It could be Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, Matt Chapman, Andrew Triggs, anyone.  I could personally see Manaea or Triggs breaking through, and I also like Olson and Chapman.  A.J. Puk is also a breakout candidate.  Although I do not have the Athletics contending this year, they could be in a great position by Opening Day 2019.

The Bright Spot

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The A’s may not be contending yet, but if they can combine rotation and lineup consistency with the power hitting core they already have, they can make a run at the playoffs.  Khris Davis was one of the Top 5 HR hitters of 2017 (the top three are now all part of the AL East).  Yes, only Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and J.D. Martinez hit more.  I see Davis repeating this over the next couple years, and combining that with Oakland’s flurry of young talent on the brink of a breakout could make for great things.  The future is very bright in Oakland.

Best Case Scenario: Davis continues to keep up with the best in the power-hitting department, many of Oakland’s younger players break through, and the A’s jump right back into contention with a record around .500, putting them in great shape for 2019.

Worst Case Scenario: Davis drops off, the rotation is plagued by injuries, and nobody emerges as a leader/star as the A’s disappoint and bore many in 2018.

Projected Finish: 68-94, 5th in AL West*

Note: Although I see a lot of potential here, they need to prove themselves before I can rank them too much higher.

 

That’s all for this article.  Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon.  I will also have my preseason Baseball Bits up before the regular season begins next week.  On a side note, I was unable to finish my March Madness previews, but my bracket is busted anyway, and you can click here for my second chance picks.  Also, stay tuned for my update on NFL free agency.

MLB 2018 Predictions: Exciting Season In The Making Despite Slow Off-Season

It is that time of year again.  Although I had to delay this article due to the excruciatingly quiet start to the off-season, my MLB Predictions are here.  Read below to find out my thoughts on who will win the World Series and how they’ll get there.  I will also be predicting who wins the major MLB awards.  Let’s get started with my projected regular season standings.  

Note: These Predictions are based on potential, but do account for the lack of real FA signings

Record Projections

AL East

  1. new-york-yankees New York Yankees 96-66 (#1 seed AL)
  2. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox 92-70 (#4 seed AL)
  3. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays 76-86
  4. Baltimore-Orioles-Logo Baltimore Orioles 73-89
  5. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays 70-92

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The Bronx Bombers are back.  With Giancarlo Stanton on board, the Yankees have last year’s top two home run hitters in their lineup.  They could have a historic home run duo going.  Stanton and Judge will be surrounded by other big hitters, young players full of potential, and a respectable rotation.  

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But the Red Sox will challenge them after signing the #3 HR hitter of 2017 in J.D. Martinez.  After a long game of chicken, they finally agreed to terms on a deal on February 19th.  The Sox also brought back super utility Eduardo Nunez, who will start at second until Dustin Pedroia returns in mid-April.  Martinez, Nunez and the Killer B’s will lead the Sox to be elite contenders and compete with the Yankees.  In addition, ace Chris Sale leads a strong Red Sox rotation, one thing Boston has on the Yankees.  Sale, Pomeranz, and Porcello have led Boston’s rotation to outpitch the Yanks.    I will have an extended spring preview for the Sox coming soon, where I will try and answer some of the team’s biggest questions headed into 2018.

The rest of the division is in rebuild mode, and the Red Sox and Yankees will feed on them, while the two of them compete against each other.  The Blue Jays have revamped their roster with lower tier free agents and younger players who will lead the new era of the team.  Meanwhile, the Orioles have rotation turnover issues after they lost multiple starters to free agency.  They signed two starters, but they still have rotation problems, and their lineup is still good, but it’s no longer All-Star material.  Meanwhile, the Rays have completely remodeled their roster after trading away Evan Longoria, Jake Odorizzi, and Corey Dickerson.  They will be led by young talent on their new look roster. Although the other teams in this division look intriguing, Red Sox and Yankees are the only teams that I would consider playoff contenders in the AL East.

AL Central

  1. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians 92-70 (#3 seed AL)
  2. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins 87-75
  3. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals 73-89
  4. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers 69-93
  5. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox 66-96

The Indians are still the clear favorite.  They may have lost key pieces in Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce, but they made up for it by signing 1B Yonder Alonso, 1B/DH Mike Napoli, OF Melvin Upton Jr. and OF Rajai Davis.  Young outfielder Bradley Zimmer is also in the running for a starting outfield job.

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That doesn’t mean the Twins won’t contend though.  They upgraded a roster that was already strong this off-season, by signing Logan Morrison and relievers Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed as well as acquiring Jake Odorizzi from Tampa Bay.  They also signed Michael Pineda, who may return from Tommy John surgery later this year.  The Twins are setting themselves up to return to the playoffs, but they’ll have competition in the wild card race, with the Red Sox and Angels also contending.

The rest of this division will fail to contend.  The Royals lost their core players in Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Lorenzo Cain and that has led them to rebuild.  The Tigers are heading into a rebuild of their own after their older team struggled in early 2017.  However, their roster appears to be falling into place, for the most part.  They could use another infielder in the mix.  After trading away J.D. Martinez last year and trading Ian Kinsler in the off-season, the Tigers are headed in the right direction, focusing on their future.  The White Sox will rely on their young talent after rebuilding in 2017.  They are hoping that their top prospects, Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez, can make an impact at the major league level as well as prospects that cracked the majors last year.  The Indians are the clear favorites here, but the Twins could also contend, and do not be surprised if one of the three rebuilding squads in the division begins contending quicker than expected.

AL West

  1. houston-astros Houston Astros 95-67 (#2 seed AL)
  2. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels 88-74 (#5 seed AL)
  3. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners 83-79
  4. texas-rangers Texas Rangers 74-88
  5. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics 68-94

The Astros are still the clear favorites here.  They’ve only gotten better since last year’s World Series win, so if they have any hangover, it will only affect them early on, and won’t hit them that hard, similar to what happened to the Cubs last season.  A full season of Justin Verlander and the acquisition of Gerrit Cole will make their rotation unstoppable, and their lineup is still just as good, as prospects will fill in for what they lost in Carlos Beltran, who retired.

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The Angels will also compete though.  They arguably have one of the best lineups in the league after adding Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart as well as resigning Justin Upton.  Although the rotation is not dominant, the new two-way Japanese star in Shohei Ohtani will help them improve, and hopefully, the injury bug will not hit them as hard this year.  The Mariners will also have a decent year, but they are relying on Dee Gordon to make a smooth transition to the outfield, and the rest of their outfield doesn’t look great.

In addition, it will be hard to contend with inexperienced players occupying several starting jobs.  The Rangers aren’t going to be terrible either, but some of their best players like Adrian Beltre are getting old, and not all of their younger players will be able to succeed at the major league level this year.  I like their intriguing off-season, but unless they break out with what they have, it might be time for the Rangers to consider a rebuild.  The Athletics are hoping that they can start moving in an upward direction after their own rebuild, but I think their young players need another season or two to develop before the A’s get ready for contention again.  This year will focus on the development of their young guns like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, and Andrew Triggs among others.  In the end, look for the Astros to repeat here and the Angels to make a run at a wild-card spot.

NL East

  1. washington-nats Washington Nationals 97-65 (#1 seed NL)
  2. new-york-mets New York Mets 86-76
  3. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves 78-84
  4. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies 71-91
  5. miami-marlins Miami Marlins 64-98

After the Nationals cruised into the NLDS in a weak NL East in 2017, I do expect Washington to repeat.  But other teams in the division will start to make strides toward contention.  At one point, I thought this might be the year that the Marlins pounce to the top of the division, but instead, they decided to rebuild early, dealing away all three of their starting outfielders (Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna) plus 2B Dee Gordon.  Now they might very well be the MLB’s worst team on paper.

But the Mets, Braves, and Phillies are moving in an upward direction.  If they can stay healthy, the Mets added several key pieces that could lead them back to contention.  I think they are close to playoff material, but not quite there yet.  The Braves look ready to break out at any moment, but I don’t know if their breakthrough will come in 2018.  But I definitely think they will improve this season.  The Phillies may not be ready for contention yet, but this young team is setting themselves up for success.  If they continue to boost their young roster with veterans over the next couple years, we may see them return to the playoffs.

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Despite the rest of the division’s effort to contend, the Nats are still the #1 team here, and they are a World Series contender.  In his contract year, Bryce Harper will lead a powerful Nationals lineup, and their rotation might just need one more strong starter such as Jake Arrieta to lead the Nats deeper into the playoffs.  With many of their stars hitting the open market soon, it will be World Series or bust in 2018 for Washington.

NL Central

  1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs 92-70 (#3 seed NL)
  2. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals 90-72 (#4 seed NL)
  3. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers 87-75
  4. Image result for cincinnati reds Cincinnati Reds 79-83
  5. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates 67-95

If I had to name one division that improved the most this off-season, I would say the NL Central without hesitation.  Despite losing SP John Lackey to free agency, the Cubs continued to improve this off-season with the signing of pitchers Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, and Drew Smyly (may return late in 2018).  They are a significant World Series contender.  But the division will not be easy to win as the Cardinals and Brewers have also improved.

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St. Louis signed Miles Mikolas in his return to the MLB but may need to add another starter for rotational depth.  They may even try and snag closer Greg Holland or 3B Mike Moustakas before Opening Day.  They also acquired OF Marcell Ozuna from Miami.  They will contend this year, and so will the Brewers, who despite the desperate need for a #1 starter, will be significantly better in 2018 after signing Lorenzo Cain and acquiring Christian Yelich to improve their outfield and make it dominant.  They may want to resign Neil Walker before Opening Day if they really care about winning now.  Unless they sign a pitcher or a middle infielder, I don’t see them as a lock for the playoffs, but they will contend.

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The Reds could also contend soon, but it will take another year or so for the lineup to become playoff material and the young rotation to improve.  Meanwhile, the Pirates have begun rebuilding after trading away OF Andrew McCutchen and SP Gerrit Cole.  They will not contend this year due to their rebuilding intentions as well as a serious depth problem and lack of a leader in their starting rotation.  Although Cincy and Pittsburgh won’t be in the playoff race, this strong division will be competitive as its top three teams battle for playoff berths.

NL West

  1. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers 95-67 (#2 seed NL)
  2. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies 88-74 (#5 seed NL)
  3. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks 87-75
  4. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants 85-77
  5. san diego-padres San Diego Padres 69-93

Although the NL Central improved the most this off-season, the NL West is still the MLB’s strongest division.  This year, I think that four teams in this division will finish with a winning record, and two will make the playoffs.  The Dodgers will stay on top here.  They have managed to keep most of the players that helped them succeed in 2017, although their rotation doesn’t have the same kind of depth that it used to.  They didn’t need 7-8 viable starters on the roster though.  No team in this division has gained significantly on the Dodgers, but other teams in the division have improved.

This could be the year for the Rockies.  Their lineup will dominate, and their young rotation should continue to improve.  The rotation is also aided by a strong bullpen that will be led by new closer Wade Davis.  The D-Backs have added outfield depth after J.D. Martinez’s departure for Boston, and they will continue to contend in 2018, although I don’t think they will quite make it this time around, as the Cardinals and Brewers have gotten better and could grab a wild card.

Image result for andrew mccutchen evan longoria giants

The Giants have also improved after acquiring Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, but after a 64-98 season, I find it hard to believe that even year luck alone will lead them back to the playoffs.  They still have rotation depth problems behind their top three starters and aside from Cutch, Longo, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence, this lineup isn’t overly intriguing.  Even the Padres will improve.  Some of their top prospects have cracked the majors, and they have brought back Chase Headley and Tyson Ross in addition to acquiring Freddy Galvis.  Their biggest move of the off-season was signing 1B Eric Hosmer.  He will be a veteran mentor for this young team and allows Wil Myers to assist the young outfield.  The Dodgers are the clear favorites here, but this division is hard to predict beyond that.

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Now for my playoff predictions.

Playoff Predictions

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As you all know, I am an avid Boston sports fan.  But as an unbiased reporter, I don’t think the Red Sox have the edge on the Yankees this year.  The Bronx Bombers just have too powerful of a lineup, and despite the fact that Boston has one of the best rotations in the MLB and signed a home run hitter of their own in J.D. Martinez, it’s just not enough to compete with the “Evil Empire” in New York.  The Sox will win over the Angels in the Wild Card round though.  The Angels may have a powerful lineup, but they are nothing like the Yankees, and rotation problems will hold them back.  I have the Yankees advancing to the World Series, but only to be defeated by the motivated Washington Nationals.  Like I said, it’s World Series or bust in Washington, and I think this year’s Nats are legitimate contenders.

In the AL, the Astros will come close to a World Series return, but even their dominant rotation will struggle against the Yankees lineup.  The Astros will top a well rounded Indians team.  The Indians look good this year but will have a hard time competing with this strong Astros team.  Jose Altuve (who I could see having another MVP caliber year), George Springer, and Justin Verlander among others will lead Houston to the ALCS.

In the NL, the Dodgers will also come close to a World Series return after beating the Cubs somewhat easily in the NLDS.  But they will struggle against a strong Nats rotation, and even Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw could have a hard time against Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and the improved Nats lineup.  The Cardinals will also fall to the Nats.  Their younger rotation will struggle on the big stage, and their lineup isn’t fierce enough this year to stop the strong Nats rotation, despite the powerful pieces they have in Dexter Fowler, Marcell Ozuna, and Matt Carpenter among others.

The Cards do have the edge in the Wild Card round though, as their lineup will overwhelm young Rockies ace Jon Gray.  In the end, the Nats will dominate this side of the bracket and go on to win the World Series.  The window is closing for the Nats to win a title with Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and company.  But 2018 is their final shot at a World Series win in this era, and they will be driven by this fact.

To much to take in?  My video summary of this post will be on YouTube soon.  I will post the link on my blog when it is up.

Award Predictions

Below I have listed my Top 3 picks for each major MLB award.  

AL MVP

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU – After winning this award last year, I could see Altuve repeating his 2017 dominance.  He is one of my favorite non-Red Sox players and he has emerged as a star and leader on the Astros.
  2. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, NYY – On his new team, not only will Stanton pair up with Aaron Judge to create one of the best HR duos of all time, but also put up a strong average and hit not only for power but also for consistency
  3. Mike Trout, OF, LAA – Trout is always a candidate for this award, and although injuries held him back a bit in 2017, he will remain an elite contender for this award in 2018

Honorable Mention: Justin Upton, OF, LAA

NL MVP

  1. Bryce Harper, OF, WSH – Another one of my non-Red Sox favorites.  In a contract year, Harper will go from elite player to future Hall Of Famer in an all-around dominant season
  2. Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL – With the Rockies back in playoff contention, Arenado will play at MVP level in 2018, leading the strong Rockies lineup to continued success
  3. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN – I think Votto will also emerge as an MVP caliber player this year as he continues to put up great numbers despite the fact that he is older than many other all-star level players.

Honorable Mention: Eric Hosmer, 1B, SD

AL Cy Young

  1. Chris Sale, BOS – I think Sale will repeat the success he had early in 2017 with the Red Sox, and he is my pick to win the Cy Young.
  2. Justin Verlander, HOU – Verlander will emerge as a leader in the strong Astros rotation in another deep playoff run for the Astros.  He will be Sale’s #1 competitor for the Cy Young in 2018.
  3. Carlos Carrasco, CLE – I could see Carrasco returning to his dominant 2015 form this year and creating a dynamic duo in the rotation alongside Corey Kluber.

Honorable Mention: Corey Kluber, CLE

NL Cy Young

  1. Stephen Strasburg, WSH – Strasburg already returned to the ace level last year with an ERA around 2.50, and I think he could keep it up in 2018 and make a significant run at a Cy Young award.
  2. Yu Darvish, CHC – Chicago is a great fit for Darvish, and I could see him thriving in Chicago and running at a Cy Young.
  3. Clayton Kershaw, LAD – Kershaw is always a candidate for this award much like Trout is for the MVP.  He will continue to succeed in 2018.

Honorable Mention: Max Scherzer, WSH*

* For those of you who read my latest free agency article, you would know I think Alex Cobb is going to the Brewers.  If he signs in Milwaukee, he could be a significant candidate to battle for a Cy Young award.

AL Rookie of the Year

  1. Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, LAA – Who else would I put at the top of this list?  This two-way phenom is practically a lock to make the Angels roster despite the fact that he is a rookie non-roster invitee.
  2. Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU – I think Tucker could have a significant role at the major league level in 2018. He will compete for a starting outfield job when he comes up.  He is the brother of former Astros outfielder Preston Tucker.
  3. Hunter Dozier, 3B, KC – I think Dozier can make an impact at the major league level, even with Lucas Duda in line to start at first.  I see Dozier as Kansas City’s starting third baseman as long as he is successful early in the season, and I see potential in him.

Honorable Mention: Christian Arroyo, 3B, TB

NL Rookie of the Year

  1. Jesse Winker, OF, CIN – I think Winker will breakout this year as he establishes himself as a starter at the major league level.  He will compete for the Rookie of the Year award.
  2. Ronald Acuna, OF, ATL – Once Acuna cracks the majors, he has the chance to become a starter in left field, and once that happens, I see the potential for him to be great.
  3. Ryan McMahon, 1B, COL – With Ian Desmond headed back to the outfield and Mark Reynolds in the open market, there’s an open spot for McMahon at first base.  If they resign Reynolds, they could work out some sort of platoon, but either way, I think McMahon has the potential for success in the majors this year.

Honorable Mentions: Alex Reyes, SP, STL and Victor Robles, OF, WSH

 

That’s all for my MLB 2018 Predictions.  Stay tuned for more baseball articles including my spring power rankings, my Red Sox 2018 season preview, and my 2nd annual preseason Baseball Bits article.

 

 

NFL 2017 Predictions: Pats Are Only Getting Better

It’s that time of year.  Training camp is approaching.  Soon enough the NFL season will be getting started.  This year, football will return with a boom.  After a somewhat disappointing 2016 NFL season, I expect this league to bounce back and have an exciting year.  Divisions will come down to the wire.  Many teams will compete in a tight wild card race.  Then, the playoffs will give us thrills, comebacks, and strong victories.  Who will win it all?  Keep reading to hear my thoughts.

AFC East

  1. new_england_patriots New England Patriots 13-3
  2. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins 10-6
  3. Buffalo_Bills Buffalo Bills 5-11
  4. Jets-Logo New York Jets 2-14

The Pats won the Super Bowl, and now they’ve gotten better.  There’s no way they’ll lose the AFC East.  Tom Brady has so many good receivers to throw to.  This team even added Brandin Cooks and Dwayne Allen.  They will be unstoppable.  The Dolphins still have a strong offense, and finally revamped their TE depth chart.  The defense will also be tough to play against.  They could make the playoffs again.  The Bills just don’t have the depth offensively or defensively to be good.  They have so few quality receivers for Tyrod Taylor to throw to.  Taylor has good potential, but please Buffalo, don’t leave him with this slim an offense again.  But if you think the Bills are bad, wait till you see the Jets.  They have no quality receivers at all, and no strong QB.  The defense isn’t as good either.  They have earned the title of worst team in the NFL.

AFC North

  1. pittsburgh-steelers Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
  2. cincinnati-bengals Cincinnati Bengals 7-9
  3. Baltimore_Ravens_Logo Baltimore Ravens 6-10
  4. cleveland-browns-brown Cleveland Browns 4-12

The only strong team in this division is the Steelers.  They have one of the best offenses in the NFL, so they should win a good amount of games.  They may be one of the biggest threats to the Patriots this year.  Not the biggest, but one of the biggest.  They don’t have the best defense, that is their downfall.  The defense is good enough, but not great.  The Bengals and Ravens are starting to fall out of contention.  Both of these teams had something last year that they don’t have now.  The Ravens had a much better front seven last year, and the Bengals had a more productive offense.  The Bengals are depending on a couple rookies to lead their offense now.  A.J. Green is the only player locked in for a strong year.  The Browns are slowly starting to improve, but they’re not even close.  They aren’t at the bottom of the NFL, but they really don’t have a good offense, defense or special teams.  The offense has improved slightly though.

AFC South

  1. tennessee-titans. Tennessee Titans 10-6
  2. indianapolis-colts Indianapolis Colts 9-7
  3. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars 8-8
  4. hou-texans Houston Texans 7-9

The Titans have got this.  Corey Davis was a really nice draft selection, and Eric Decker will help out offensively.  Mariota finally has the tools to succeed.  A good o-line, two strong receivers, a good running back, and a dominant tight end.  The Colts are also looking better.  The defense finally has the tools to succeed.  That will make it easier for Andrew Luck to win games for the Colts.  Good defense leads to good offense.  I don’t know if I should give in to the Jags’ intriguing off-season again.  I’d say they’re a .500 team, a decent offense, and an improving defense.  They just don’t match up to playoff contenders yet.  The Texans are also in a bad position.  Without a good QB, this offense will not succeed, and without a decent offense, this defense can’t win games alone.

AFC West

  1. oakland-raiders  Oakland Raiders 11-5
  2. kansas-city-chiefs-logo Kansas City Chiefs 10-6
  3. San_Diego_Chargers Los Angeles Chargers 8-8
  4. denver-broncos-logo Denver Broncos 7-9

The Raiders are the most intriguing team in this division.  They signed Marshawn Lynch, they have a powerful young QB with many receiving weapons, and the defense has gotten better.  Even though the Chiefs defense is better, the Kansas City offense isn’t great.  Sure, Spencer Ware is a strong running back and Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are tough to guard, but the Raiders are a better all-around team.  On the other hand, the Chargers have a strong young offense, but their defense will hold them back.  With the kind of defense they have, they are a .500 team at most.  The Broncos have a strong defense as well, but without Manning and Osweiler, this offense just isn’t doing it.  The running game needs a boost.  They need a better QB and tight end despite a strong receiving game, and they won’t contend until those things happened.

NFC East

  1. new-york-giants-logo New York Giants 11-5
  2. dalcowboyslogonew Dallas Cowboys 9-7
  3. philadelphia-eagles-logo Philadelphia Eagles 9-7
  4. washingtonredskins2 Washington Redskins 6-10

The Giants should win this tight division.  They’ve had a strong offense for several years, and now their defense is just as good.  I don’t think the Cowboys can top last year, and the defense is lacking depth, so I don’t see them making the playoffs.  The Eagles have an intriguing roster, and Alshon Jeffery and LeGarrette Blount will boost this team, but the defense is still only mediocre, and it’ll be a couple years before the Eagles return to the playoffs.  They will do much better this year though.  With the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys on top of the division though, the Redskins will not succeed.  They’ve lost the great receiving game they had last year and the defense is still not great.

NFC North

  1. gbpackers2 Green Bay Packers 12-4
  2. Image result for lions logo Detroit Lions 8-8
  3. min-vikings-logo2 Minnesota Vikings 7-9
  4. chicago-bears-logo Chicago Bears 3-13

The Packers are in line for another strong season.  They signed tight end Martellus Bennett to improve their receiving game.  They could use another running back but I believe in Jamaal Williams.  Although the defense has some bad times, I think the Packers will be led by an overall all-around team.  The Lions also have a good offensive core, but the defense is holding this team back.  They need to improve defensively if they want any chance at a playoff berth.  The Vikings tried to improve their offense this off-season, but I just don’t see them contending with the receiving game they have.  The defense is good, but the offense is a problem.  Don’t even get me started with the Bears.  They have no defense, and barely any offense.  They will be one of the worst this year.

NFC South

  1. IMG_0445 Carolina Panthers 11-5
  2. IMG_0448 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6
  3. atlfalcons Atlanta Falcons 10-6
  4. nosaints New Orleans Saints 6-10

The Panthers may have had defensive problems last year, but they improved their defense, and their running and receiving game.  I’m expecting them to bounce back.  The Bucs also improved this off-season.  DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans will be a dynamic receiver duo, and the defense has the power to improve this year.  The Falcons will also be a contender in this strong division.  Their defense isn’t as good and has some fatal flaws, but the offense is strong as ever.  The Saints also have a good offense, but their defense needs help.  A lot of help.

NFC West

  1. seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks 10-6
  2. az-cards Arizona Cardinals 8-8
  3. Image result for rams logo Los Angeles Rams 4-12
  4. IMG_0457 San Francisco 49ers 3-13

This division isn’t what it used to be.  The Seahawks still have a strong defense and a good offense, but they’re the best of the worst.  They get an easy division win.  The Cardinals are almost as good, but they don’t have the best offense anymore, and the defense is subpar, nothing compared to Seattle’s.  The Rams have no offense, despite a decent defense, they can’t put up a good amount of points.  The Niners just need to rebuild.  They need receiving help, QB help, and defensive help, despite some strong pieces of their team.

 NFL Playoffs
AFC

  1. New England Patriots 13-3
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
  3. Oakland Raiders 11-5
  4. Tennessee Titans 10-6
  5. Kansas City Chiefs 10-6
  6. Miami Dolphins 10-6

NFC

  1. Green Bay Packers 12-4
  2. New York Giants 11-5
  3. Carolina Panthers 11-5
  4. Seattle Seahawks 10-6
  5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6
  6. Atlanta Falcons 10-6

Wild Card Round
Dolphins @ Raiders
The Dolphins have a strong all-around team. They have a good running game and receiving game, and pretty good defense. But the Raiders will be hard to beat. Derek Carr is really blossoming into a strong QB, and he has multiple good receiving targets. If Marshawn Lynch is still Marshawn Lynch this year, the Raiders will have a great running game that is difficult to cover. Their defense is no more than mediocre, but this offense will be overwhelming for even some of the best defenses. I don’t think the Dolphins will be able to handle this Raiders offense.  
Dolphins: 20

Raiders: 27

Chiefs @ Titans
The Chiefs have one of the best defenses in the league. But the Titans really improved their offense this off-season. Marcus Mariota will have a huge game, he has plenty of people to throw to and good protection. The Chiefs offense just doesn’t match-up. They don’t have enough receiving options or a good enough QB. The run game is okay but might be stopped by an improved Titans defense. I’ve got the Titans winning this one.  
Chiefs: 23

Titans: 26
Falcons @ Panthers 
The Falcons almost won the Super Bowl last year. They have a dominant offense, and a defense good enough for a playoff team. The defense has declined from last year though, and the Panthers are in line for a bounce back year. Their defense is headed in the opposite direction and I like the changes they made to their offense. Carolina is honestly the better team at this point. In a high scoring game, I have the Panthers winning.  

Falcons: 30

Panthers: 31
Buccaneers @ Seahawks
The Bucs are getting better. With an improved defense and a strong offensive core, they should be going places. Winston will be boosted by his new dynamic receiving duo to throw to. The Seahawks still have one of the best defenses in football, but their offense hasn’t been taking them far lately. Eddie Lacy is a nice addition, but they still haven’t filled Lynch’s hole. They could also use another receiver, but Jimmy Graham has been a strong receiving tight end for them. Honestly, although the Seahawks have a nice offense and powerful defense, the Bucs have made some nice moves, and have built a better team this year, one that can top the Seahawks.  
Buccaneers: 23

Seahawks: 16
Divisional Round
Titans @ Patriots
The Titans are building a nice offense, but I don’t know if Mariota’s bunch can top the offense of Tom Brady’s Pats. The Titans have a better running game, but the Pats have two Top 20 receivers and a Top 5 tight end. The Patriots offense will kick butt, starting with the Titans. The Titans defense just isn’t built enough to stop Brady and crew. The Patriots should easily win this game, no matter how much Decker and Corey Davis are in red zone situations.  
Titans: 26

Patriots: 28
Raiders @ Steelers 
This is going to be a close game. The Steelers have the best offense in the NFL. But the Raiders have an elite young offense that will compete with the Steelers. This will be an offensive shootout with two of the best offenses but just mediocre defense. This is about which team will outscore the other. Carr has Marshawn Lynch, Michael Crabtree, Jared Cook and Amari Cooper, while Big Ben has Bell, Brown and Bryant. Who will win this tight game? It will be close, but I’m going to say the young Raiders pull away.  
Raiders: 28

Steelers: 20

Buccaneers @ Packers
The Buccaneers will compete in this game. They have the strong offense to. They have the rebuilt defense to. But the Packers are just too good for them. I know they have a serious problem at running back, but they at least have Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams at the position. They also have a lot of receiver depth. Jordy Nelson, Martellus Bennett and others will make a big impact in this game. The Packers have another weakness, defense, but their defense is decent enough for them to win this game. The Packers should control this game.  
Buccaneers: 27

Packers: 30
Panthers @ Giants
The Panthers may have improved from last season, but look what they did last year. They can’t be that much better. They have some nice offensive pieces, but the Giants’ team is just more solid. Strong defense, solid offense, and not many weak spots. The Giants are going far this year. I think they can beat a Carolina team that’s still working on improving their entire team.  
Panthers: 23

Giants: 24

AFC Championship
Raiders @ Patriots
The Raiders have some great young offense, but the Pats have a very powerful all around team. This defense may be strong enough to slow down the Raiders, and the Patriots offense should definitely outscore them. The difference in this game may be because the Pats have added Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and other receiving targets this offseason. The Pats just have so much depth at the position, and Gronk should be healthy too. When he’s healthy, he’s a beast at this time of year.  
Raiders: 19

Patriots: 27
NFC Championship
Giants @ Packers
The Giants may have this nice all around team, but the Packers are dominant in the receiving game. They will put up a lot of points although the Giants defense will be able to slow them down. The Giants have a strong offense as well, but their passing game is not nearly as good as Green Bay’s. The Packers should dominate this game as well, and this is where the Giants will go down for good.  
Giants: 21

Packers: 24

Super Bowl LII
Patriots vs. Packers
This could very well top Super Bowl LI as the best Super Bowl ever. Brady vs. Rodgers. The battle of two league leading, future hall of fame QBs. Although Aaron Rodgers may have as good of a receiving game than the Pats, if not better, neither team, especially the Packers can effectively run the ball. The Patriots have so much depth though, at running back and receiver. That’s what Green Bay is missing. Offensive depth. Offensive depth is the reason that Brady will win the Pats their 2nd straight Super Bowl.  
Patriots: 31

Packers: 27

Well, the Pats have only gotten better, so why wouldn’t I predict them as Super Bowl LII Champions after last year’s win?