Ranking the Teams #18-13, My Version: Who Else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Welcome to Article #3 of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  In this article, I will be covering teams in the middle of the pack, and determine whether or not they will contend.  Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):

 

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2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

18. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds

The Case for the Reds

The Reds began to gear up for contention this off-season by acquiring OF Yasiel Puig and multiple starting pitchers including Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Sonny Gray. This team is still headlined by 1B star Joey Votto as well. The NL Central is a really tough division, so that may hold the Reds back this year unless one of last year’s top three in Milwaukee, Chicago, and St. Louis takes a step back.  When Cincy last made the playoffs in 2013, there were two other teams ahead of them in the NL Central standings, so they may just need a few more pieces and one team to crack in order to contend. However, I can’t see that happening this year.  Expect a sub-.500 season in the meantime.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Reds are definitely closer to contention after making some big moves this off-season.  But I wasn’t so crazy about some of the moves they made.  The Puig trade was a steal, but they could have done a better job fine-tuning the rotation.  Getting rid of Homer Bailey was not smart, as he is a consistent mid-tier starter when healthy.  Sonny Gray, one of the pitchers who replaced Bailey, is far less consistent.  They made some good moves, but it’s not enough for a playoff run.

Projected Finish: 80-82, 4th in NL Central

 

17. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

The Case for the Twins

The Twins didn’t quite live up to expectations in 2018. They were expected to chase the Indians for the AL Central for the 2nd straight year. But they ended up a few games below .500, dragged down by the struggles of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.  Those two were expected to lead this team when they first made the majors. This off-season, the Twins did add Nelson Cruz, but at his age, I don’t know how much longer he can produce at an elite level. Michael Pineda’s return will also boost them, but I don’t know how much they can improve with Sano and Buxton both remaining question marks. A Jose Berrios breakout could help, but I still can’t see them being a legitimate 2019 playoff contender.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Twins made some nice moves to add to a roster that was already intriguing.  They added Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, and others.  But the lingering questions surrounding Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano remain, and the bullpen is also a question mark.

Projected Finish: 80-82, 3rd in AL Central

 

16. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

The Case for the White Sox

The White Sox may have lost out in the Manny Machado sweepstakes despite adding Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay to intrigue Machado. But their off-season is not a full failure. They added some nice pieces in Jay, Alonso, and SP Ervin Santana while still allowing their young core to receive playing time. Yoan Moncada (once he breaks out), Adam Engel, and Eloy Jimenez give me optimism about the future in Chicago. As they start to develop, Chicago will jump into the mix in a weak AL Central. But they may have to add a few more pieces and wait till 2020, or maybe even 2021 for legitimate playoff contention. They could have won the division and done it in 2019 with Machado.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Contenders: I don’t expect the White Sox to win the AL Central this year, but this next wave of talent may begin to make the White Sox appear capable of contending.  Moncada, Engel, Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, and others should significantly boost the roster and allow this team to show flashes of greatness in a weak division.

Projected Finish: 81-81, 2nd in AL Central

 

15. new-york-mets New York Mets

The Case for the Mets

Brodie Van Wagenen made things very interesting in his first off-season with the Mets. After refusing to trade Jacob deGrom and/or Noah Syndergaard and instead acquiring Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from Seattle, he made it clear that the Mets were hoping to contend for one more season. He proceeded by continuing to beef up the roster, adding Jed Lowrie, Wilson Ramos, Carlos Gomez, and others. The Mets will at least be competitive this season, but I can’t see them standing out in the league’s best division, the NL East. They will not be able to keep up with the Braves, Phillies, and Nationals. Maybe it’s time to rebuild if this season is indeed another failure.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Mets added some nice pieces, such as Cano, Diaz, Ramos, and Lowrie.  But they did not address their direct positional needs.  Sure, they added a catcher, and an outfielder.  But until they get the infield situation figured out, this team will have trouble finding an identity and jump-starting back into contention.  Lowrie and Cano are nice pieces, but where do they fit, and will 1B Peter Alonso be on the roster come Opening Day?

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

 

14. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

The Case for the Giants

In Bruce Bochy’s last season, I expect the Giants to exceed expectations. Though injuries have held them back the last couple of years, they still have a very strong roster on paper. Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija lead a rotation that now contains more depth. So long as Buster Posey can bounce back at the plate in 2019, the lineup should be set as well. Who knows, maybe Evan Longoria could be a bounce back candidate as well. Behind Posey and Longoria, they have new additions Yangervis Solarte and Gerardo Parra, SS Brandon Crawford, 1B Brandon Belt, and others. The Giants have not done very well in these last two seasons. But assuming they are healthy, 2019 contention isn’t too farfetched.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Contenders: The Giants will at least be closer to the playoffs this season than most people expect.  It’s injuries that has held them back over the last couple of years.  Neither MadBum nor Posey had been healthy in 2017 and 2018.  With those two feeling alright, the rotation beginning to come together after Dereck Rodriguez’s emergence, and the lineup looking okay despite outfield depth issues, the Giants could come close to the playoffs if they don’t make it.

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

 

13. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

The Case for the Dodgers

The Dodgers have now lost two World Series’ in a row. Expect a hangover this time around. The loss of Brian Dozier to free agency hurts their infield depth significantly, and it was a rough off-season. They traded Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Matt Kemp to the Reds for Homer Bailey, who they ended up releasing. It did clear up crowding in the outfield, and they signed A.J. Pollock to maintain depth out there, but it’s still a waste of a trade. The rotation has plenty of depth, but Clayton Kershaw’s health and Walker Buehler’s ability to replace him remain question marks. Bullpen depth could also be problematic. Expect the Dodgers to try to contend, but fail to make the playoffs in a weak NL West.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Dodgers should finish with a fairly strong win-loss record as usual.  But I think the team will take a step back after a rough off-season, and despite their strong record, they may have a hard time getting into the mix for the Wild Card.  Even in a weak division, the Dodgers will have trouble relying on repeat performances from two older 2018 breakouts, Max Muncy and Chris Taylor.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 2nd in NL West

 

That’s all for this portion of my MLB preseason power rankings.  Stay tuned for my next set later today.

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MLB 2019 Predictions: Who will Follow in Houston and Chicago’s Footsteps Post-Rebuild?

The time has finally come.  If you are reading this, the NFL season is over, both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have signed, and Spring Training has begun.  After a long off-season, baseball is finally back, and it is time for my MLB 2019 Predictions.  I will be predicting each team’s win-loss record, sharing my projected playoff bracket, and sharing some award predictions.  My projected World Series winner is a team that began rebuilding a couple years after the Astros and Cubs rebuilds and has now followed in their footsteps to contention.  Keep reading to find out who that team is and how they will achieve a World Series victory.

Part I: Projected Records

American League

AL East

  1. new-york-yankees New York Yankees (94-68) (2nd Seed in AL Playoffs)
  2. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox (93-69) (4th Seed in AL Playoffs)
  3. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays (80-82)
  4. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays (75-87)
  5. Baltimore-Orioles-Logo Baltimore Orioles (67-95)

2018 was Boston’s year.  They built up the roster preparing for a World Series, and now the damage is done.  Expect a mild World Series hangover due to the departure of closer Craig Kimbrel and the loss of momentum.  If Kimbrel returns, they may be more equipped to repeat.  But right now, as much as I hate to admit it, the Yankees have the most talent in the division.  Their rotation depth issues are finally fixed, the bullpen could go down in record books, and the lineup is still flooded with big hitters, including the superstar duo of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.  Expect New York to win the division this time around, but the Red Sox should still easily score a Wild Card spot.

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Toronto should be moving quickly in their rebuild thanks to a talented group of prospects including the leagues #1 prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.  Now, they are an extra starting pitcher away from becoming a sub .500 team close to contention.  Remember, they are just a couple years removed from the start of a rebuild.  But this group of prospects will give them a respectable major league roster by the end of the season.  With Toronto on the rise, the Rays will take a step back.  The Rays never really replaced 1B C.J. Cron, OF Carlos Gomez, or reliever Sergio Romo.  If they want to keep using an opener, they’ll need to beef up the bullpen.  Otherwise, expect significant regression in 2019.  They were right on the verge of contention in 2018.  Had they beefed up the roster a little more, they might have had playoff chances this year.  But instead, they’ll sit towards the bottom of the AL East.  However, the Orioles will remain in the AL East basement after a 47 win season.  The Orioles finally began a full rebuild in 2018, but this may be a long, painful rebuild considering their 2018 final record.

AL Central

  1. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians (89-73) (3rd Seed in AL Playoffs)
  2. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox (82-80)
  3. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins (80-82)
  4. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals (68-94)
  5. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers (66-96)

Despite an underwhelming off-season, the Indians should be able to stay atop the AL Central.  In most other divisions, the Indians would have to fight for a Wild Card spot, but in the AL Central, they should have an easier route to the playoffs, as none of the other teams in their division are ready for contention.  Despite coming up short in the Manny Machado sweepstakes, the White Sox made several improvements this off-season that can assist their young core in the next step towards contention.  If they add a starter or two and another infielder, they could be chasing the Indians for the division by 2020.  The Twins won’t see a significant improvement this year, but hopefully the return of SP Michael Pineda and better years from Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton will help them move up the standings slightly.

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That leaves the Royals and Tigers, two rebuilding teams, in the basement of the AL Central.  With Billy Hamilton on board and some of their younger players ready to start, the Royals may see slight improvement.  But it will take a couple years for the Tigers to do the same.

AL West

  1. houston-astros Houston Astros (96-66) (1st Seed in AL Playoffs)
  2. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels (86-76) (5th Seed in AL Playoffs)
  3. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics (80-82)
  4. texas-rangers Texas Rangers (73-89)
  5. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners (70-92)

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Though the lineup will be better with the addition of LF Michael Brantley, the Astros’ rotation took a significant hit thanks to the free agent departures of Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton and an injury to Lance McCullers Jr.  If the rotation does well without Morton and Keuchel, the Astros could win another World Series.  No matter what, I think they’ll win the division, but if the rotation struggles I wouldn’t expect a deep playoff run.

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The Angels will also sneak into the playoffs in an extremely top-heavy American League. In my eyes, the American League will have three 90+ win teams: the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox.  That leaves the door open for slightly above average teams like the Angels to make the playoffs.  Led by Mike Trout and the rest of the big-hitting lineup, they’ll snag a Wild Card spot.

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The Athletics will take a step back this year after a playoff appearance in 2018.  The rotation will be without Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton for a good portion of the season.  Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada cannot lead this rotation alone.  Plus, the only Jed Lowrie replacement the A’s were able to find was former Rangers utility man Jurickson Profar.  The losses of Jonathan Lucroy and Matt Joyce will also make an impact on the team.

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That leaves the Rangers and Mariners.  The Rangers won’t improve much quite yet despite an experienced rotation and a core led by outfielders Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara.  They’ll need to undergo a full rebuild before significant improvement can occur.  The Mariners are starting that process, though they still boast a respectable MLB roster.  They could’ve probably contended this year if it weren’t for the start of a rebuild.  But instead, they gave up some of their most talented players in exchange for minimal top prospects.  The less talented roster will put the team into a situation similar to that of their division rivals, the Rangers.  Despite a respectable roster with experience, the team won’t be talented enough to produce above average seasons.

National League

NL East

  1. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves (93-69) (2nd Seed in NL Playoffs)
  2. philadelphia.phillies  Philadelphia Phillies (92-70) (5th Seed in NL Playoffs)
  3. washington-nats Washington Nationals (84-78)
  4. new-york-mets New York Mets (83-79)
  5. Related image Miami Marlins (61-101)

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This will undoubtedly be the most competitive division in baseball.  I see a young, but emerging Braves team repeating as the division winner, led by a big year from Freddie Freeman, significant contribution from new 3B Josh Donaldson, and a bounce back for SP Julio Teheran.  In 2018, the Phillies were a star or two away from greatness.  This off-season, they added C J.T. Realmuto, OF Andrew McCutchen, SS Jean Segura, and most of all, OF Bryce Harper.  Led by Harper, the lineup will be loaded with talent, leading to a big year.

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The Nats and Mets will also contend.  The Nats made up for Harper’s departure by boosting the rotation with SPs Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez.  To add to it, they signed 2B Brian Dozier.  Even without Harper, they should still be in good hands with Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, and others.  After adding 2B Robinson Cano among other stars, the Mets should also stay in contention, at least for this year.

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The only team that’ll be out of this hectic NL East race is the Miami Marlins.  The Marlins sold their entire outfield plus Dee Gordon and J.T. Realmuto in trades within the last two off-seasons.  Without Realmuto, they will remain one of the worst teams in the league.

NL Central

  1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs (94-68) (1st Seed in NL Playoffs)
  2. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals (93-69) (4th Seed in NL Playoffs)
  3. Related image Milwaukee Brewers (86-76)
  4. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds (80-82)
  5. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates (69-93)

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I know people are concerned about the Cubs due to uncertainty about Yu Darvish’s health.  But regardless of Darvish’s health, I think the Cubs have one of the best rotations in the league.  Add in an underappreciated bullpen and a respectable lineup, and the roster begins to look underrated.  I do have confidence that Darvish will be alright though.

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The Cardinals should be Chicago’s biggest concern, as I expect the Cards to be knocking on Chicago’s door in the NL Central.  With Paul Goldschmidt on board, they will combine their young, exciting pitching staff with a star-studded lineup and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.  Meanwhile, despite adding C Yasmani Grandal, I expect the Brewers to take a step back.  I don’t trust 1B Jesus Aguilar or Jhoulys Chacin to repeat their strong 2018 seasons.  With the rotation depleted and the lineup looking a little less overpowered, Milwaukee will fall behind as the NL Central competition gets more intense.

Image result for joey votto yasiel puig reds

Meanwhile, the Reds will begin to take steps toward contention, led by new OF star Yasiel Puig and long time Reds 1B Joey Votto.  They added a lot of experience to the rotation as well, so that should help.  That leaves the Pirates in the division’s basement as they begin a rebuild.  Their rotation should look pretty good this year, and when Gregory Polanco gets healthy, the outfield will thrive as well.  However, I don’t fully trust Trevor Williams yet, and in such a tough division, I can’t see this rebuilding team finish very well.

NL West

  1. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies (89-73) (3rd Seed in NL Playoffs)
  2. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers (85-77)
  3. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants (84-78)
  4. san diego-padres San Diego Padres (71-91)
  5. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks (68-94)

Image result for kershaw and buehler

I think this might be the year when the Dodgers are finally dethroned.  Despite a strong rotation led by Clayton Kershaw and the young Walker Buehler, the bullpen lacks depth beyond Kenley Jansen.  In addition, they traded Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp for next to nothing.  It does open up space in the outfield but the team will take a step back as a result.   The infield already lacked depth with Brian Dozier leaving.  Failing to sign Bryce Harper after the Puig/Kemp trade just made the depth problems worse.

This will allow the Rockies to win the division.  Their rotation isn’t amazing, but they’ll be able to manage thanks to hitter friendly Coors Field and a strong bullpen to back the rotation up.  It’s the star-studded lineup that will lead them to a division victory.  The Giants are also closer to contention than you might think.  They quietly boosted the rotation this off-season.  This will add to their strong bullpen and allow them to achieve a winning record despite a subpar lineup and questionable outfield situation.

Image result for manny machado

Even though they signed Manny Machado, the Padres won’t contend unless they significantly upgrade the rotation.  Plus, they should have better luck contending once Fernando Tatis Jr. is in San Diego for a full season.  They will finish ahead of the D-Backs, who will take a significant step back without Goldschmidt.  That leaves SP Zack Greinke as the best player left, and there were trade rumors surrounding Greinke as well.

Part II: Playoff Bracket

Screenshot 2019-03-02 at 10.14.45 PM

When the Cubs won the World Series back in 2016, they set a precedent in the MLB.  Their 5-year rebuild led to a World Series victory, and this has become a formula for World Series titles.  The Astros, who were already following this formula, won the next year in 2017.  Now, I think the Braves will be the next to do this.  Their rebuild didn’t feel as long, because prospects like Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. developed quickly.  But there are still more top prospects on the way, and thanks to this first wave of young talent, the Braves will be able to contend before their rebuild is finished.  I think they may even be World Series ready.

The Bryce Harper-led Phillies, Atlanta’s division rival, will challenge them for the National League.  Led by their HR-hitting duo of Stanton and Judge and upgraded rotation, the Yankees will come close as well.  But I think the Braves are capable of outperforming these teams.

The Cubs and Astros should still be competitive in these playoffs and stay competitive down the stretch.  But I think they will have their playoff runs cut short by a Red Sox team looking to repeat and a Phillies team looking for validation that Bryce Harper was worth the money.

Part III: Awards

Below are my projected finalists for the AL and NL MVPs, Cy Youngs, and Rookies of the Year.

AL MVP

1. Jose Ramirez CLE – Ramirez has emerged as one of the league’s premier power hitters. Expect him to come through at the plate on a more consistent basis and contend for the AL MVP award.

2. J.D. Martinez BOS – At the age of 31, I cannot see Martinez quite repeating what he did in 2018. But he will put up another consistent, 40-homer year despite just falling short of the MVP after playing over half of his games at DH.

3. Jose Altuve HOU – Altuve will return to MVP form after a 2018 that was subpar for his standards. His season will be highlighted by a hint of power mixed in with his speed and ability to get on base frequently.

HM: Giancarlo Stanton NYY

NL MVP

1. Nolan Arenado COL – His 8-year extension will be motivation to live up to expectations in Colorado. Expect an dominant offensive year to go along with his elite defensive skills.

2. Freddie Freeman ATL – Freeman will help lead a young Braves team to the first World Series of what could make for the MLB’s next dynasty. After emerging as the top first baseman in the league last year, he will contend for the MVP as his offensive stats continue to increase.

3. Christian Yelich MIL – After winning NL MVP in 2018, Yelich will run with the momentum and top off the prime of his career with another dominant season.

HM: Starling Marte PIT

AL ROTY

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR – This top prospect has the genetics and he’s been all out dominant in the minors. Expect him to make it up to Toronto early, earn the starting job at third and do the same in the majors, contending for Rookie of the Year.

2. Kyle Tucker HOU – Tucker may not have a starting job – yet. But he showed flashes of potential in 2018 and could get some time in the outfield or at DH in 2019.

3. Eloy Jiménez CWS – Another top prospect who needs just a few weeks in AAA before a major league call up. After that, expect him to earn a time share in the outfield and eventually (after a strong start) a starting job.

HM: Forrest Whitley HOU

NL ROTY

1. Peter Alonso NYM – If Alonso has a strong Spring Training, look for him to compete for the first base job as Todd Frazier, Jed Lowrie, Amed Rosario, and Robinson Cano split time between second, shortstop, and third. Cano could try playing first, but having Alonso there from Opening Day could be beneficial. I see him breaking out in his rookie year and winning NL Rookie of the Year.

2. Fernando Tatis Jr. SD – Tatis Jr. isn’t MLB ready yet, but I think he’ll make an immediate impact if they bring him up when the time is right. I could see a Hosmer-Kinsler-Tatis-Machado infield working out well. Luis Urias will have to wait until 2020 for another starting job.

3. Mitch Keller PIT – The Pirates’ first four starters have their jobs locked down. But if Keller gets off to a strong start in the minors, look for him to challenge Jordan Lyles for the #5 slot in the rotation and contend for NL Rookie of the Year.

HM: Victor Robles WSH

AL Cy Young

1. Corey Kluber CLE – Kluber heads into 2019 with something to prove. He needs to convince the Indians that he’s worth the money to keep around. The Indians don’t have much money to spend, so Kluber will need to put up a Cy Young-caliber year in order to do this.

2. Chris Sale BOS – If Sale can get healthy and stay healthy, he’ll be the best pitcher in this league. But he always ends up collapsing at the end of the year, so I have slightly more confidence in Kluber. However, maybe Alex Cora can figure out a way to allow him to stay healthy all year. If Cora can figure this out, Sale’s definitely worth re-signing.

3. Tyler Skaggs LAA – A healthy Skaggs showed potential last season, especially early on. With no clear ace atop the Angels rotation for 2019 and Shohei Ohtani restricted to just hitting, expect Skaggs to step it up and emerge as LA’s new ace, something they have longed for since Garrett Richards began to decline after LA’s 2014 playoff appearance.

HM: Justin Verlander HOU

NL Cy Young

1. Max Scherzer WSH – Expect Scherzer to emerge as the top pitcher in the league this year when Jacob deGrom takes a slight step back in his age 30 season. Scherzer has not let his age define him, and if anything, he has only gotten better with age. I don’t see a decline happening anytime soon for Mad Max, and he has another Cy Young year or two still ahead of him.

2. Clayton Kershaw LAD – Kershaw has dealt with lingering injuries, but when he’s on the mound and healthy, he has looked like the same Kershaw we’re used to seeing. Despite injuries, he has posted an ERA under 3.00 in each of the last 10 seasons. As usual, I expect Kershaw to contend for the Cy Young, especially if he remains healthy.

3. Julio Teheran ATL – Teheran hasn’t looked like the ace we thought he would be since 2014. But he is still just 28, and as long as it happens in the next year or two, I could definitely see him return to ace form and lead a young Braves rotation.

HM: Stephen Strasburg WSH

That’s all for this year’s MLB predictions.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox and baseball coverage soon.

MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders and Trade Ideas

Welcome to Part 3 of my 2nd annual MLB free agency predictions.  Last off-season, things took a long time to get going due to a relatively dull free agent market.  This year, that is not the case.  We might have the best MLB free agent class in the history of my blog, and it’s bound to get going any minute now.  That’s why I’m releasing my predictions in November and December this year rather than January.  I wanted to get these out before the Winter Meetings, where a lot of big moves could occur.

Today, I will be sharing my predictions for free agent outfielders, including Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley, and A.J. Pollock, as well as some trade ideas.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Below is my tentative schedule for my 2018-19 MLB free agency coverage.

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

Week of November 19: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Week of November 26: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers & Infielders

Week of November 26 or December 3: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders & Trade Ideas

Week of December 3 or 10: Baseball Bits #11: Big Free Agent Contracts

Note: These predictions were made before Seattle’s trades on December 3 and Pedro Alvarez’s deal on December 5.

OF

Top Tier

The Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers and Nationals have been as Harper’s top suitors.  But if you saw MLB.com’s free agent matrix for Harper, you’d see that the Indians have money to spend and desperately need an outfielder.  Harper would be a good investment for them.  Brantley, the former Cleveland Indian, will head to Houston to provide an upgrade over the combo of Derek Fisher, Tony Kemp, Marwin Gonzalez, and co.

Jerry Dipoto is not rebuilding in the same way Miami did.  They will still sign cheaper free agents, and outfield is a major need.  Look for them to add one or two.  Adam Jones is a good fit, and Hunter Pence will also give Seattle a boost, as he has not fully declined yet in his upper 30’s.  The A’s don’t have much money to spend, but if they’re looking to contend, Andrew McCutchen would be a worthwhile investment who fits well in Oakland.  If the Cubs miss out on Harper, A.J. Pollock could be a good fit.  Albert Almora Jr. is not a viable CF option in my book, and they could use some outfield insurance even with Ben Zobrist helping out there.  Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward have not met expectations either.

Secondary Options

If the Rays want to make a playoff push, they have to be aggressive this off-season.  Markakis is an affordable, but elite outfield upgrade option for the Rays.  After getting rid of C.J. Cron, they will need to add another bat to the lineup.  Meanwhile, Jon Jay could be a good fit in St. Louis.  He can share time with the young Harrison Bader in center.

The Rockies are unlikely to bring back both Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez.  The rise of Ryan McMahon may push Ian Desmond into the Rockies outfield.  They will re-sign Parra for OF insurance though.  CarGo could fit as a platoon outfielder in Atlanta.  I could see a pretty even time share in the Braves outfield if they add CarGo.  If the Phillies miss out on Harper, they will also still need an outfielder.  Carlos Gomez would be a good fit.  If Rhys Hoskins still gets time in the outfield, they will not want to commit to a top line outfielder like Harper.

Granderson could be afforded by a smaller market team with a need for an outfielder.  Look for the O’s to add him on a one-year deal while Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins develop.

DH

Cruz will return to Seattle, who could still use 1B/DH help.  The Tigers could use another bat to replace Victor Martinez, and preferably another veteran to anchor the rebuild.  Gattis is a perfect fit.  The Royals are also in the market for another bat, and Matt Joyce is an affordable option.  I have Holliday returning to the Yankees on a 1-year deal to provide insurance for the outfield.  Alvarez will head to Minnesota to help out Tyler Austin at first base/DH.

Trade Ideas

Cleveland Indians trade SP Trevor Bauer to the Houston Astros in exchange for RP Brad Peacock, OF Kyle Tucker, C prospect Garrett Stubbs

Everyone says that Corey Kluber is going to be traded.  But I think trading SP Trevor Bauer is a safer option.  In return, they get Brad Peacock, who could be utilized as a starter or a reliever as well as some outfield insurance in Kyle Tucker.  C prospect Garrett Stubbs will provide depth at catcher after the Yan Gomes trade.

Los Angeles Dodgers trade SP Rich Hill to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for RP Corey Knebel

The Dodgers have been in the market for top-line starters including Kluber, but I find this fact ridiculous.  They have an abundance of starters!  Clayton Kershaw is still here, Walker Buehler is a star on the rise, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill are solid mid-tier starters who are returning, and that leaves Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling competing for the #5 spot.  After bringing Ryu back, they have the flexibility to trade one of their starters, as I see Wood as a completely capable starter, and Stripling and Maeda should get the chance for a rotation spot.

Hill is a good trade nugget, and the Brewers could use some better pitching, so they’d be willing to give up one of their many late-inning relievers for Hill.  Knebel will help set up for Kenley Jansen alongside Tony Cingrani and provide depth in a weaker bullpen.

Toronto Blue Jays trade C Luke Maile to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for LHP prospect Lewis Thorpe, RHP prospect Jhoan Duran

This is a smaller trade, but worth it for both sides.  Jays C Danny Jansen is MLB ready and can split time with C Russell Martin.  That puts C Luke Maile in an awkward position.  If they trade him to Minnesota, who needs a backup catcher, they could get some valuable pitching prospects to boost a weak rotation down the road.

That’s all for my MLB free agency predictions.  But my Baseball Bits on overly expensive free agents is up next.  Stay tuned.

Price, Dingers, Lead Red Sox To 4th World Series of Century

Image result for david price vs dodgers

At the start of 2017, when the Red Sox signed Chris Sale, Red Sox reporter Tony Massarotti had said that the Red Sox had a three-year window to win the World Series.  If they didn’t win it in three years, it was a disappointment.  The Red Sox choked in the playoffs in 2017, similar to 2016.  Their choke was followed by a long expected firing of World Series-winning manager John Farrell.

The Red Sox hired Alex Cora, a former Red Sox player as their new manager and signed OF J.D. Martinez that off-season.  Cora and Martinez were two of our biggest factors this year.  Fast forward 8 months, and Cora, Martinez, and the rest of the team is celebrating a 4th World Series victory of the century thanks to Cora’s smart, proactive managing, the dominance of a streaky, explosive lineup, and David Price’s long-awaited playoff successes.

This season is one to remember.  The Sox finished with their best record in the 162-game era, dominated the playoffs and won the World Series.  Game 5 was extra special, as  Price performed better on the mound than he ever had in a playoff start.  Meanwhile, the Red Sox lineup backed him up with an explosive 4 homer day.  The Sox hit some of these home runs against Clayton Kershaw, who is regarded by many as the best active pitcher in the MLB.

To start the game, Andrew Benintendi, who has dominated against Kershaw, singled in his first at bat.  Steve Pearce, Boston’s unlikely hero this year, followed up with a 2-run homer.  This wouldn’t be the last the Dodgers see of Pearce, who was brought on board after the release of Hanley Ramirez.  Pearce outperformed Ramirez by far.

Dodgers infielder David Freese struck back with a leadoff solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 1st, making it 2-1 Red Sox.   Freese went on to have a 2-hit day and was the biggest threat to Boston’s victory.  But after giving up the homer, Price settled down, throwing just 89 pitches in a total of 7.0+ IP.  That’s the best we’ve seen his pitch count at in any start this season, regular season or playoffs.  Believe it or not, Price was out-pitching Kershaw.  That was a somewhat normal occurrence before 2016, but was a complete shocker to Dodger fans in this game.  Not only was Price out-pitching Kershaw, but he actually looked like a $31 million/year pitcher.

Image result for jd martinez and mookie betts

Kershaw also settled down, but his pitch count was not as solid.  The Red Sox lineup quieted down until about the 6th inning.  To this point, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez had been in World Series slumps.  But both hit a solo home run in Game 5, Betts in the 6th, and Martinez in the 7th.  Just like that, the lineup had awoken, and it was 4-1 Red Sox.  Pearce added to it with an 8th inning solo shot making it 5-1.  Now it was up to the Sox bullpen to secure the victory after 7 strong innings by Price.

Joe Kelly dominated in the 8th inning as he had been throughout the playoffs, striking out three consecutive batters after David Price walked Chris Taylor and left the game.

In the 9th, the Red Sox opted to bring in their ace, Chris Sale, in hopes he would finish the game off strong.  Sale proved himself, striking out the side and winning Boston the World Series.

The Red Sox paraded through the city on duck boats this past Wednesday and will look to defend their title in 2019.

October Sports Mania: A Busy Month in Boston Sports

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If you’re a Boston sports fan, you may have noticed an unusual amount of Boston teams playing lately.  Right now, Boston is the only city with an MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL team that are all in season.  From October 16 to October 31, there could be 16 consecutive days of Boston sports (depending on how the Red Sox do in the World Series).  From October 3 to October 31, there could be as many as 39 Boston sports events.  If the Red Sox hadn’t defeated the Astros in 5, all four teams would have played in one weekend.  So far, it’s gone very well, as Boston sports teams have a 16-6-2 win-loss record this October.  I’m calling it October Sports Mania, and today, I will give an update on all 4 teams with my thoughts during this time of madness.

MLB: boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Regular Season Record: 108-54

Record in October: 7-2

Current Status: Won American League, Made World Series

Image result for red sox-dodgers

Context: For the first time in 5 years, the Red Sox have made the World Series!  They have made it three other times in the 21st century, and they haven’t lost in a 21st century World Series appearance.  This time, they take on the Dodgers in what could be one of the best World Series’ of the 21st century.  Game 1 went down October 23, as Chris Sale faced Clayton Kershaw and the Red Sox won in a surprising slugfest.  Who will win this exciting series?  I’m calling Red Sox in 6 or 7 games.  But considering that I have to get to school at 7:20 AM every day and the games start at 8:00 or 8:15 PM (some on school nights), I may not see every minute live like I would want to.

Note to commissioner: Please make World Series games start earlier.  A 6PM start, like the Super Bowl, would be nice.

October Schedule

Past Games

  • 10/5/2018 vs. new-york-yankees NYY: W, 5-4 (ALDS Game 1, BOS leads 1-0)
  • 10/6/2018 vs. new-york-yankees NYY: L, 6-2 (ALDS Game 2, series tied 1-1)
  • 10/8/2018 @ new-york-yankees NYY: W, 16-1 (ALDS Game 3, BOS leads 2-1)
  • 10/9/2018 @ new-york-yankees NYY: W, 4-3 (ALDS Game 4, BOS wins 3-1)
  • 10/13/2018 vs. houston-astros HOU, L, 7-2 (ALCS Game 1, HOU leads 1-0)
  • 10/14/2018 vs. houston-astros HOU, W, 7-5 (ALCS Game 2, series tied 1-1)
  • 10/16/2018 @ houston-astros HOU, W, 8-2 (ALCS Game 3, BOS leads 2-1)
  • 10/17/2018 @ houston-astros HOU, W, 8-6 (ALCS Game 4, BOS leads 3-1)
  • 10/18/2018 @ houston-astros HOU, W, 4-1 (ALCS Game 5, BOS wins 4-1)
  • 10/23/2018 vs. los-angeles-dodgers LAD, W, 8-4 (World Series Game 1, BOS leads 1-0)

Upcoming Games

  • 10/24/2018 vs. los-angeles-dodgers LAD (World Series Game 2)
  • 10/26/2018 @ los-angeles-dodgers LAD (World Series Game 3)
  • 10/30/2018 vs. los-angeles-dodgers LAD (World Series Game 6, if necessary)
  • 10/31/2018 vs. los-angeles-dodgers LAD (World Series Game 7, if necessary)

My Thoughts on Them So Far This Month

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The Red Sox dominated all season after the addition of star hitter J.D. Martinez and manager Alex Cora.  But in both 2016 and 2017, they choked in the playoffs.  I had confidence in them against the Yankees in the ALDS, but that confidence was weaker due to these chokes and the fact that the Yankees were also a Top 3 MLB team this year.  The Sox also had regressed throughout the month of September.  But when they faced the Yankees in the ALDS, they returned to form.  The bullpen was clutch and the lineup had awoken.  They rode the momentum into the ALCS.  It wasn’t looking good after Game 1, but they easily defeated the stacked, defending champion Houston Astros in the final four games.  They have now advanced into an exciting World Series against the Dodgers.  This series could go either way.  Do you think the Sox take it all?

Predictions for the Rest of the Month

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This World Series will not be smooth sailing.  I didn’t even expect the ALCS to end in 5 games.  But I have confidence that the Red Sox will win.  As long as Chris Sale is good to go and the lineup keeps making fireworks, we should take this series in 6 or 7 games.

NFL: new_england_patriots New England Patriots

Regular Season Record: 5-2

Record in October: 3-0

Current Status: Riding Four Game Win Streak into MNF Division Duel

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Context: The Pats are riding a 4 game win streak, and they’ve scored at least 30 points in every game since WR Josh Gordon was activated.  They beat the Kansas City Chiefs, who arguably have the best offense in the league, 43-40.  Will they ride the momentum to a Super Bowl victory?  This dominant offensive performance will serve them well, but they nearly lost to the Chicago Bears because of bad defense.  Their defense is going to need to step up their game for a win on the big stage.

October Schedule

Past Games

  • 10/4/2018 vs. indianapolis-colts IND: W, 38-24
  • 10/14/2018 vs. kansas-city-chiefs-logo KC: W, 43-40
  • 10/21/2018 @ chicago-bears-logo CHI: W, 38-31

Upcoming Games

  • 10/29/2018 @ Buffalo_Bills BUF

My Thoughts on Them so far This Month

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I was very impressed by the win against Kansas City.  The Chiefs may have one of the worst defenses in the league.  But the fact that the Pats also scored 30+ against the Chicago Bears and the Miami Dolphins shows that this offense is here to play.  They took down the 5-0 Chiefs, who had averaged 35 points per game and were riding the momentum to dominance.

Predictions for the Rest of the Month

The Patriots should be able to take down the 1-6 Bills easily with QB Josh Allen and RB LeSean McCoy banged-up.  But their next major test will come in Week 9 when they host QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.  They will need their best defense in that game.

NBA: Related image Boston Celtics

Regular Season Record: 2-2

October Record: 2-2

Current Status: Off to Slow Start, Hoping to Rebound for Big Year

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Context: The Celtics are off to a slow start.  They did take down the 76ers and Knicks, but they fell to the Kawhi Leonard-led Raptors in Toronto and suffered an embarrassing loss when hosting the Orlando Magic on Monday.  Will they pick up the pace and contend for a championship?

October Schedule

Past Games

  • 10/16/2018 vs. Image result for 76ers logo PHI, W, 105-87
  • 10/19/2018 @ Image result for raptors logo TOR, L, 113-101
  • 10/20/2018 @ Image result for knicks logo NYK, W, 103-101
  • 10/22/2018 vs. Image result for orlando magic logo blue ORL, L, 93-90

Upcoming Games

  • 10/25/2018 @ Image result for thunder logo OKC
  • 10/27/2018 @ Related image DET
  • 10/30/2018 vs. Related image DET

My Thoughts on Them so far This Month

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I’m not so worried about the Celtics despite a rough start.  They topped the 76ers (told you they would regress) by almost 20 and got past the Knicks in New York.  Their loss to Toronto is understandable.  The Raptors have only improved after the Kawhi Leonard trade and I did not expect the Celts to come to Toronto and win easily.  As for the loss to Orlando, it was a little disappointing.  But the Magic have a strong young core that could surprise a lot of people this year.  I would not be concerned if they struggle in Oklahoma City and Detroit, both of whom I see contending.  (Note: I’m pretty sure I was right about the Pistons in my NBA Predictions, Blake Griffin put up 50 against the Sixers).

Predictions for the Rest of the Month

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Expect them to split in two games against an improved Detroit Pistons squad.  I think their next game against Oklahoma City could go either way.  But even if they start 3-4, I think they’ll pull it together and contend for a title in the long run.

NHL: Image result for boston bruins logo yellow background Boston Bruins

Regular Season Record: 5-2-2 (12 PTS)

October Record: 5-2-2 (12 PTS)

Current Status: So-So in Canada, Come Home Thursday

Context: After a shaky four game road trip across Canada, the Bruins come home to face the Flyers and Canadiens.  Montreal has been off to a strong start, and Philly has been alright as well, so wins won’t come easy over these next couple games either.

October Schedule

Past Games

  • 10/3/2018 @ Image result for capitals logo WSH, L, 7-0
  • 10/4/2018 @ Related image BUF, W, 4-0
  • 10/8/2018 vs. Related image OTT, W, 6-3
  • 10/11/2018 vs. Related image EDM, W, 4-1
  • 10/13/2018 vs. Image result for red wings logo DET, W, 8-2
  • 10/17/2018 @ Related image CGY, L, 5-2
  • 10/18/2018 @ Related image EDM, OTL, 3-2
  • 10/20/2018 @ Image result for canucks logo VAN, OTL, 2-1
  • 10/23/2018 @ Related image OTT, W, 4-1

Upcoming Games

  • 10/25/2018 vs. Image result for flyers logo PHI
  • 10/27/2018 vs. Image result for canadiens logo MTL
  • 10/30/2018 @ Related image CAR

My Thoughts on them so far This Month

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The Bruins might not be top Stanley Cup contenders, but it seems that this young, talented team has picked up where they left off last year.  They are still a playoff team for sure and have appeared to be one of the better teams in the league.  I’m a little concerned about their losses to the Oilers and Canucks, but it’s early in the season, and they’ve been doing fine otherwise.

Predictions for the Rest of the Month

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Look for more of the same heading into the end of the month.  I could see them taking down Philly and Montreal in close home games, and I would expect them to give the Hurricanes a wake-up call after their surprisingly strong start.  I had anticipated that the Hurricanes would start like this given their schedule, but trust me, it will not last that much longer.

That’s all for today.  I hope you enjoy the rest of this crazy month in sports, and stay tuned for more articles on all four teams soon.

 

 

 

 

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.

Image result for lorenzo cain brewers

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.

Image result for eric hosmer padres

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.

 

 

In Detail:Los Angeles Dodgers

This is my 28th post in my MLB in detail daily post series this April.The Dodgers will have a good 2014 with a strong outfield and mound.They have Greinke,Kershaw and Beckett for pitchers and have Gonzalez,Crawford,Puig and Kemp left as the big hitters.Yasiel Puig came from Cuba on a long journey to round up on the Dodgers in June of 2013.How well well the Dodgers do? My picks are 1st place,97-65,3rd overall.The Dodgers are very powerful as the 2014 season begins for the MLB.