It’s finally upon us!
In just mere hours, MLB’s Opening Day will commence with the first pitch between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles along with the Washington Nationals and New York Mets.
That will begin the 162 game marathon known as baseball’s regular season.
Here is how I think the whole thing will play out:
- Boston Red Sox (102-60)
I expect the reigning World Series Champion to head to the postseason as the American League East champs again.
Overall, the team is too deep in both its lineup and rotation. If the Red Sox do have one weakness, it is the team’s bullpen, as they have chosen to go with some inexperience at the back end, with P Matt Barnes expected to get the most save opportunities early. If he were to falter early, the team could re-route and bring back free agent closer Craig Kimbrel at a more discounted rate than he has demanded all offseason.
I expect OF Andrew Beinintendi and 3B Rafael Devers to take the next step in their development, while reigning MVP OF Mookie Betts should be in for another big year. Of course, behind all those guys in the order will be OF/DH J.D. Martinez, who mashed 43 HR’s last season. In the rotation, the team is led by SPs Chris Sale and David Price. No wonder they appear to be the team to beat.
2. New York Yankees (99-63)
Right on the heels of the Red Sox should be the New York Yankees, who appear to be locked and loaded for the postseason.
Led by the mashing trio of OFs Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, along with C Gary Sanchez, the Yankees should expect to lead the league in HR’s again. In the offseason, the team made a few big moves, bringing in ace lefty James Paxton from the Mariners, and signing set up man P Adam Ottavino to add to the bullpen. The team also brought back former closer P Zach Britton, and now has a fearsome foursome at the back end of its bullpen, which should make it the best in baseball.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, ace P Luis Severino is dealing with shoulder issues that will keep him out until at least May. If he is unable to return and be a factor for the Yankees, that will be a big blow to the team’s playoff chances.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (95-67)
The Rays always manage to be competitive, but will it be enough to make the postseason? I think they sneak in as the second Wild Card.
Last year, the Rays were depleted by injuries to its pitching staff early, and was forced to go the route of using “openers” to begin games.
Of course, that method often taxes a team’s bullpen.
This year, the Rays are a bit more healthy, and ready to let a few top prospect arms get their chance at the big league level along AL Cy Young Award winner P Blake Snell.
On the offensive side, the team will now receive full years from OFs Austin Meadows and Tommy Pham, each of whom was acquired at the MLB Trade Deadline last season.
The health of OF Kevin Kiermaier will do a lot to determine how the Rays’ season plays out, but I’m expecting another good season in Tampa.
4. Toronto Blue Jays (69-94)
While most of the AL East may have improved, the Toronto Blue Jays certainly have not.
The team lost a few veteran contributors from last year’s club, while making mediocre additions as stop-gaps for other players.
While the team has the star studded prospect trio of 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 2B Cavan Biggio, and SS Bo Bichette on the horizon, I don’t believe that trio will be able to turn the team’s tides this season.
The team’s top pitchers, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, are both looking to rebound after down 2018 seasons.
With all these factors going against the Jays and considering the division they play in, I don’t think this club will hit the 70 win mark this season.
5. Baltimore Orioles (50-112)
It’s going to be more of the same in Baltimore.
A year removed from being the worst team in baseball, I expect more of the same for the Orioles.
After firing the team’s longtime general manager and manager last season, Baltimore went into full rebuild mode, and barely dabbled in the MLB Free Agent market.
Instead, its young players will get a shot at the big league level, while most likely struggling through growing pains.
If I’m an Orioles’ fan, I’m already looking forward to this year’s Trade Deadline to see what prospects the team can aquire.
1. Cleveland Indians (90-72)
It’s still the Indians’ division to win.
Even after an offseason devoid of major additions, the rest of the American League Central is so putrid that the Indians should be able to walk blindfolded to the AL Central Crown.
Led by MVP-candidates 3B Jose Ramirez and SS Francisco Lindor, the Indians feature a prime infield duo in the middle of the team’s lineup.
In the rotation, annual AL Cy Young Candidate P Corey Kluber leads the pack, with fellow top arms P Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer following him. That easily makes the Indians the best team in this division.
2. Minnesota Twins (77-85)
I’m expecting another tough year in Minnesota.
The team will feature rookie manager Rocco Baldelli, and doesn’t have much on its pitching staff outside of ace P Jose Berrios. The team is depending on oft-injured P Michael Pineda to rebound after missing all of last season, and hoping that P Kyle Gibson finally puts it all together. The Twins’ bullpen is largely unheralded.
On offense, the team did well in its additions of DH Nelson Cruz, 2B Johnathan Schoop and IF/OF Marwin Gonzalez.
However, Cruz will be 39-years-old in July, Schoop is coming off his career-worst season, and Gonzalez has served as a super-utility guy for the last few seasons but not been depended on as a starter.
Add these questions on top of the unknown production the team will receive from 1B/3B Miguel Sano and OF Byron Buxton, and you get a mixed bag of results for the Twins this year.
3. Chicago White Sox (76-86)
Despite picking them to finish third in the AL Central, the White Sox are one of my surprised teams this year.
After finishing 2018 with a lowly 62 wins, I expect the team to make a big improvement with the additions it made this offseason, and the debut of some of its top prospects.
For example, stud OF Eloy Jiminez is fresh off signing the largest extension ever for a player who has yet to play at the MLB level. Known for his ability to hit for average and power, Jiminez should make his debut in 2019 in the middle of the White Sox order.
On the pitching side, top prospect Dylan Cease is expected to make his debut around midseason.
Of course, the team also added 1B Yonder Alonso, P Ivan Nova and OF Jon Jay to a mix of young players who will look to take a step forward at the Major League level.
And that’s what I think this team will do: take a huge step forward in 2019.
4. Detroit Tigers (58-104)
It’s another rebuilding year for the Tigers, who will continue to be dreadful for the foreseeable future.
The team was dealt a huge blow early, when P Michael Fulmer went down with Tommy John Surgery. Fulmer was expected to be one of the Tigers’ top trade pieces come the Trade Deadline, but he will now be out until early 2020.
The team will return 1B/DH Miguel Cabrera to its order, but outside of 3B Jeimer Candelerio, there is not much to be worried about in this team’s lineup or rotation.
5. Kansas City Royals (55-107)
The Royals are also in a full fledged rebuild.
The team only has P Danny Duffy in the rotation, with all other options bringing inexperience or unknown production to the table.
On offense, the team features IF/OF Whit Merrifield, OF Jorge Soler, and SS Aldaberto Mondesi, but that trio is far from providing a huge impact. I’d expect this team to be stuck at the bottom of the standings while struggling through the 2019 season.
1. Houston Astros (102-60)
The Astros are poised for another postseason run.
This team may actually have gotten better than last year, with the addition of OF Michael Brantley in free agency.
Adding Brantley to a mix including stars 2B Jose Altuve, SS Carlos Correa, OF George Springer and 3B Alex Bregman bodes well for the Astros’ chances this season.
Not to mention Ps Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole headline Houston’s rotation, making them a formidable team all around.
2. Oakland Athletics (93-69)
I expect the Athletics to take a slight step back this season, but still being one of the better teams in baseball. Will it be enough to reach the postseason? I don’t think so.
Last year, the Athletics were decimated by injuries to the team’s pitching staff, which made it even more amazing that they were able to patch together a run to the Wild Card Game.
This year, the injuries are on the offensive side, with 1B Matt Olson set to miss at least the first month of the season with a hand injury.
Olson combined with 3B Matt Chapman to create a dynamic duo in the middle of the Athletics’ order, and his loss will surely hurt an offense that was dependent on his production. Even with the acquisition of DH/1B Kendrys Morales, the team’s offense will be lacking.
On the pitching side of things, the A’s feature a similar stable of arms as last season, but will hope for better health and results. With top prospects P Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk recovering from injuries, I don’t think the Athletics will have enough to make it out of the AL West in 2019.
3. Los Angeles Angels (83-79)
Handing out the biggest contract in sports history doesn’t mean you’re going to make the playoffs.
I expect that to be a reality for the Angels and OF Mike Trout in 2019.
The team should hit, with Trout, OF Justin Upton, 1B/DH Albert Pujols, 1B Justin Bour, and DH Shohei Otani in the fold. However, its starting rotation looks particularly weak, as it is set to be led by Ps Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs.
Both lefties have struggled wit injuries throughout their careers, and there isn’t much depth behind them. With no pitching in sight, I don’t see a way the Angels will keep up in a competitive AL West.
4. Seattle Mariners (74-88)
The Mariners should take a huge step back this season.
The team is now embarking on a rebuild after attempting to go for it in the last few seasons. However, this off season saw the team move on from DH Nelson Cruz, 2B Robinson Cano, SP James Paxton and SS Jean Segura, among others.
In a highly competitive AL West, the Mariners will nary have a shot of sniffing a .500 record this season.
5. Texas Rangers (70-92)
The only team worse off than the Mariners in the AL West is the Rangers.
The team’s offense is a mixed bag, as the team is depending on a bounce back year from OF Nomar Mazara and further development from IF/OF Joey Gallo.
The Texas pitching staff is even more of an unknown, with Ps Edinson Volquez, Shelby Miller and Drew Smyly all looking to rebound after missing 2018 with injuries.
That trio will join Ps Lance Lynn and Mike Minor in the rotation, forming one of the biggest boom-or-bust rotations in the league. The bet here is that the rotation crashes and burns, hard.
- Philadelphia Phillies (90-72)
Full disclosure: I am a Phillies’ Phan.
And today, I am not totally confident in the team’s ability to win the division, but I have faith that it will work out.
After a legendary off season that saw the team add four All-Star hitters, including OFs Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen, SS Jean Segura, and C J.T. Realmuto, the team found a way to bring in reliever David Robertson to pad the back end of the bullpen.
While the starting pitching hasn’t changed, and the team is hoping for a repeat season from Aaron Nola and a bounce back year from Jake Arrieta, the surrounding upgrades should create a bigger margin for error for the team’s lesser arms.
Overall, if the rotation is showing chinks in its armor come July, I expect GM Matt Klentak to go out and make a move (maybe for Madison Bumgarner?)
2. Atlanta Braves (88-74)
The NL East should be the best division in baseball this season, and that’s why I believe the top four teams will be fairly tightly bunched in the standings.
While the Braves were the best team in the division last year, I think its starting pitching will help knock the team down to second place this season.
Last year, the Braves got a surprise and standout performance from P Mike Foltynewicz that helped lead and right the rotation. However, he’s dealing with an elbow injury early, forcing the team to lean on its other young starters, which have also dealt with injuries.
The team will receive a boost to its offense from 3B Josh Donaldson and a full season of OF Ronald Acuna, Jr., but I don’t think it will cover the team’s pitching staff enough to help lead the Braves to the division.
3. Washington Nationals (85-77)
If there was an opposite to the Braves’ offseason improvements, it would be the Nationals.
The team lost OF Bryce Harper, who created a hole in the Nationals’ lineup that no one will be able to fill.
While the team didn’t make any big off season additions to improve its offense, Washington did sign SP Patrick Corbin, giving the Nationals one of the best rotations in baseball.
While Corbin may prove to be a wise addition, I don’t think the team’s offense will score enough runs to provide a wide enough margin for error for the team’s pitchers. At least every day that P Max Scherzer doesn’t pitch.
4. New York Mets (82-80)
While I liked the Mets’ off season additions of 2B Robinson Cano, IF Jed Lowrie, and closer Edwin Diaz, I don’t think the team is better than the Nationals, Braves or Phillies.
The pitching staff is led by NL Cy Young Award Winner Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, but the final three spots in the rotation are big question marks.
The bullpen should be better with Diaz at the end, but it is unknown what the team will receive from its lineup.
OF Yoenis Cespedes isn’t expected to be available until midseason following surgery on both heels, OF Michael Conforto has dealt with shoulder injuries in the past.
Therefore, the Mets will be relying on veterans like Cano and Lowrie early for offensive fire power, and I think that will keep the team from making the postseason.
5. Miami Marlins (56-106)
In a positive turn of events for the Marlins, I don’t think they will be the worst team in Major League Baseball this season. Just the worst in the NL East.
The Marlins are knee deep in the team’s rebuild, and did nothing but stay on course this off season. The team traded its best player, C J.T. Realmuto, to the division rival Phillies for a package of young players.
The 2019 season will be spent giving young players a chance at the Major League level, with the Marlins hoping some players look like they could be apart of the team’s future. Expect them to get beat up on in a strong N.L. East.
1. Chicago Cubs (90-72)
This is the year I expect the Cubs to make another big run with the team’s core.
After dealing with injuries to 3B Kris Bryant and P Yu Darvish last season, I think the Cubs will fare much better with these two players in tow.
The Cubs still have one of the Major League’s best offenses, and the team’s rotation of Ps Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Cole Hamels and Darvish is underrated across the league.
I expect the Cubs to rise to the top of a deep NL Central.
2. Milwaukee Brewers (86-76)
A year after the Brewers were a surprise squad that rose to the top of the team’s division, I believe they will fall off slightly in 2019.
Last year, the Brewers success came off the team’s ability to patch together a pitching staff and bullpen to secure wins. Of course, the team’s strong offense increased the margin for error for the team’s lesser staff, but that formula only works for so long.
The Brewers didn’t do much to improve the team’s starting pitching this off season, and they are already dealing with injuries to relievers Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress.
I expect them to finish second in the division, and just barely make the playoffs.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (83-79)
The Cardinals are better than an 83-win team, but based off the division they play in, this is where I think they will finish.
The team made a huge acquisition when it brought in 1B Paul Goldschmidt via trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. While that will help improve the Cardinals’ lineup tremendously, the team’s hopes will ride on the health of its pitching staff.
P Adam Wainwright is entering his final year, and has been injured and largely ineffective the past few years. P Carlos Martinez has dealt with a myriad of shoulder issues over the past year, and it appears he will be on the shelf to start the season. P Alex Reyes will be in the team’s bullpen to start the year, after recovering from Tommy John Surgery.
Simply put, I think the Cardinals pitching will fail them and be the team’s downfall in 2019.
4. Cincinnati Reds (78-84)
The Reds are another one of my surprise teams this year, but I don’t think it will be enough for the team to break .500.
However, after being in the cellar for several years, I think the team would take any improvement.
The Reds went out and addressed the team’s pitching staff this off season, bringing in veteran starters Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Sonny Gray.
The team also added OFs Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to a lineup that already features former MVP 1B Joey Votto and mashing 3B Eugenio Suarez.
The team should definitely be improved this season, but in a deep division like the NL Central, I don’t see the Reds being more than a fourth place squad in 2019.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (60-102)
If a team is going to finish last in the division, it will surely be the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It’s simple enough: the team didn’t do anything to improve its team from last year.
Outside of Ps Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer, the rotation is average to below-average, and the bullpen isn’t any sort of awe-inspiring.
The team’s lineup is worse, as they are really depending on OF Gregory Polanco recovering from shoulder surgery to pack any punch. I’d fully expect them to be one of the worst offensive team’s in the league, and to finish at the bottom of the division.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (92-72)
The Dodgers may not be the best team in the National League, but I think they will find a way to finish with the most wins.
Los Angeles has one of the deepest rosters in MLB, and will benefit from the return of SS Corey Seager. Add him to 1B/OF Cody Bellinger and 3B Justin Turner, and you have the makings of a potent middle-of-the-order.
The pitching staff still features P Clayton Kershaw, who will look to overcome health issues, and P Walker Buehler will be entering his first full season in the bigs.
The Dodgers are the best team out west, and I think it will stay that way in 2019.
2. Colorado Rockies (83-79)
The Rockies may be an offensive powerhouse, but the team’s pitching is severely lacking.
While the team is depending on repeat performances from Ps Kyle Freeland and German Marquez, it will be hoping for a bounce back from P Jon Gray to solidify its rotation. So far, Gray hasn’t shown any positive signs this spring, which could spell bad news for Colorado.
I just don’t think the team’s offense will be able to support its pitching, and in the National League this year, that just won’t get it done.
3. San Diego Padres (77-85)
For San Diego, a jump to third place and over 70 wins will be welcome after years of rebuilding.
While the team is far from complete, the addition of 3B Manny Machado and debut of rookie SS Fernando Tatis Jr. will help greatly improve an offense that has struggled for years.
Similar debuts of young pitchers, like rookie P Chris Paddack, will help the Padres’ pitching staff improve.
Despite these positive steps forward, I still believe the Padres will finish under .500 in 2019.
4. San Francisco Giants (62-100)
The dynasty is over for the Giants.
The team is now older and on the brink of a rebuild, but has chosen to hold on for one last year with its veteran players.
There isn’t much going on with the pitching staff after pending free agent P Madison Bumgarner.
On offense, C Buster Posey is still the Giants’ best player, but he is coming off hip surgery and a year that saw him zapped of all of his power.
With little in the way of top prospects in its farm system, there isn’t much hope for San Francisco. In a deep National League, I think the Giants hit bottom, and hit it hard with 100 losses.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks (58-104)
At least the Giants can be comforted that they aren’t the worst team in the division.
After trading superstar 1B Paul Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks are now in rebuild mode. The team’s lineup is scarce of any offensive threat, and the team’s pitching staff isn’t much better.
While P Zack Greinke is still leading the bunch, the Diamondbacks will likely look to move his enormous contract the first chance they get.
AL Wild Card Game – Rays at Yankees
I think the AL Wild Card game will feature two division foes facing off in the Bronx. Due to home field advantage and experience, I’ll take the Yankees winning the Wild Card game.
NL Wild Card Game – Brewers at Braves
I believe the NL Wild Card Game will feature two playoff teams from 2018. In a one game playoff, I will take the Braves at home.
AL Divisional Playoffs
Boston Red Sox v Cleveland Indians
These two teams are familiar with facing off in the playoffs. While both squads are some of the best the American League has to offer, I’ll take the Red Sox in five games here. It’s hard to beat P Chris Sale, and the Red Sox lineup is just so deep.
New York Yankees v Houston Astros
The Yankees and Astros are also quite familiar with each other from last year’s playoffs. With the Yankees pitching a question mark at the beginning of the season, I’m betting that it hurts them in the end, and allows the Astros to move on to the ALCS.
NL Divisional Playoffs
Philadelphia Phillies v Chicago Cubs
In this scenario, the Phillies will be getting their first taste of postseason action since 2012, and will match up against the Cubs, who have been a perennial playoff contender for the past few seasons. I believe that the Cubs’ lineup and postseason experience will ultimately prove to be beneficial here, and help lead the Cubs to the NLCS.
Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves
In other National League match up, I have a repeat of 2018, with the Los Angeles Dodgers facing off against the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately for Atlanta, I think the Dodgers will be able to best the young squad in the playoffs again, and move on to the next round of the playoffs.
American League Championship Series
Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros
Boston and Houston are quite familiar with each other as well, as both teams faced off in the ALCS last season. This year, I think the Astros take the edge back, and on the backs of Ps Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, I believe the team makes another trip to the World Series. After winning the World Series in 2018, I’m going to say that Boston will run out of gas and postseason magic.
National League Championship Series
The Cubs and Dodgers will prove to be a classic NLCS, featuring two of the N.L.’s powerhouses. Despite going to the World Series in each of the past two seasons, I think the Dodgers will finally fail to make a return trip. In this series, I believe the Cubs’ pitching will prove too much for the Dodgers, who are facing some pitching problems early in this season.
In what I believe will be a classic seven game series, I think the Astros will take home the World Series Crown. The team is complete from its lineup, starting rotation, and to its bullpen. The Cubs match up well with the Astros, but ultimately, I believe Houston will take home their second title in two seasons.
MLB Award Picks
NL MVP: Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
AL MVP: Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros
NL Cy Young: Mac Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole, SP, Houston Astros
NL Rookie of the Year: Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets
AL Rookie of the Year: Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox