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2018: The Return of the Bronx Bombers… or is it? – MLB Season Preview

The Super Bowl was three weeks ago. The Olympics are almost over. March Madness is the sole sporting phenomena that stands between American sports fans and the greatest day of the year- Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. March 29th is the day circled on millions of Americans’ calendars as the next big day in sports. Let’s go over what will happen this summer, and who will emerge victorious this fall:

 

NL East

Atlanta Braves – The Braves have a solid, young lineup with some quality hitters and an All-Star quality player in Freddie Freeman back from a 2017 wrist injury. Highly touted prospect Ronald Acuna should arrive midseason and find himself a starter in the Braves at OF and give them a potential spark, but their lineup is not good enough to overshadow their gaps on the mound and they should be better than 2017, but not by much. 3rd – NL East

Miami Marlins – Where do I start? Derek Jeter comes in and sells, sells, sells. Jeter seems like Billy Beane, except instead of forcing Art Howe to start Scott Hatteberg he is forcing Don Mattingly to start him at, well, every position. The lineup is anchored (and I used that term loosely) by 34-year-old third baseman Martin Prado, catcher J.T. Realmuto, and newly added second baseman Starlin Castro (who went from the ALCS to the dumps of the NL in Miami’s Stanton salary dump). The Marlins will have little company in the basement. 5th – NL East

New York Mets – Firstly, I must disclose that I am indeed one of the blue and orange faithful who has taken the 7 line to Flushing many times to see the Amazins play ball. That said, I am incredibly wary of the Mets heading into the 2018 season. The Nationals are a formidable foe, and the slew of division games against a subpar NL East will help the cause, but the season is just a big question mark. The Mets are young, with big question marks at shortstop and catcher. The April return of Michael Conforto will be a defining moment of the season, as we will get to see if the Mets can win with their lineup intact. If the pitching staff does three-quarters of what each of them can do, the Mets are a playoff team, if not it will not be the year to be a Mets fan, yet either way they are better than most of the awful NL East. 2nd – NL East

Washington Nationals – Without major injuries or an unexpected surge from the young Braves or Mets teams, the Nationals have the NL East on lock, and will be a strong contender for the MLB’s best record. One through three in their rotation are all pitchers who are capable of a 15+ win season, while Roark in the four spot would be a two or three on many other teams. Seven out of eight of their hitters hit .271 or higher in their last full season. This team is scary. 1st NL East

Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies are simply a team that we could look back on in five years and collectively shake our heads, realizing that we doubted a team of future superstars, but they are not superstars yet. The team is composed of young players who are mostly not broken out yet and will have a rocky season in the win-loss column. Neshek should be a shining light for those Philly hopefuls, but for the most part stick to trusting the process and watching the Eagles fly in the city of brotherly love. 4th – NL East

 

NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers – Beefy. That is the one word I would use to describe what very well might be the best outfield in Major League Baseball. Braun (a former MVP), Cain (career .290 hitter with a  27.8 WaR), and the newly traded-for Yelich (.282 hitter last year) are a force to be reckoned with, and even the best of pitches won’t be excited to face this team. In a tough division, they aren’t able to edge out the baby bears, and will make a strong case to get a wild card. 2nd – NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals – Carlos Martinez has come into his own since being an unknown just a few years ago when my friend and college floormate told me to draft him in fantasy (I won my league that year, thanks Nick!). Wacha is solid, Wainwright is solid, but not anything great. Yadier is old, Carpenter isn’t far being him. Ozuna may be a shining light. Overall the fans in St. Louis will have to find another activity this summer if they want happiness. 3rd – NL Central

Chicago Cubs – Javvy and Addy and Kris and Kyle and Tony and Jason and Willy and Al, oh my! As a pitcher, I am hoping that my start of the week skips the series with the Cubs, as their lineup would have me shaking in my boots. They have speed, power, youth, and experience. I’m not sure what else to say about this team, whose one weakness lies in their bullpen, besides that we’ll see them in October. 1st – NL Central

Pittsburgh Pirates – A tough, scrappy group of solid, yet mostly starless, baseball players who should grind out a season only described as “okay.” The fans will be upset by the lack of McCutchen, and rightfully so as the team will sputter and have a tough year relative to what was expected of the Pirates a few years ago. They are officially in rebuild mode, and I would not be surprised to see them as sellers at the trade deadline. 5th – NL Central

Cincinnati Reds – The Reds are always the same, with low expectations and low performance, but with the Bengals awful year, the city has nothing left to fall back on. Look for this team, with veteran all-star Joey Votto, and still young and somewhat questioned Billy Hamilton and Eugenio Suarez, to play about par for the course, leading a team with below average pitching to a low finish in the division. 4th – NL Central

 

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks – There is some things to love, yet not much to hate on this Diamondbacks team that can only be known as “solid.” With top players in centerfield, at first base, and on the mound, these desert snakes should be in the hunt. They were a playoff team last season, and with their only real loss of Martinez, a member of the team for around 60 games, (although offset by no major gains) should show strong throughout the season and put them close to or in the second Wild Card spot. 4th – NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers – Kershaw is Kershaw. Hill, Wood, Maeda, and Ryu are all third in the rotation type guys. Jansen will close the game. If the young Dodgers can hit, then the pitching will do more than its part and this team should have quite a year. Obviously they are not the same team as last year, especially with the loss of Darvish, and they are definitely not a hundred win team, but they should have enough to fend off a tough division, especially with the fight that the Rockies are sure to put up. 2nd – NL West

San Francisco Giants – Veteran leadership is something that can’t be quantified, WaR on the other hand is something that can be, and Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, the Giants new additions, bring over five more wins above replacement and an unquantifiable amount of leadership to this locker room, which already contains MadBum, Cueto, and Pence. The Giants excite me this year, possibly more than any other team. Bumgarner pitched in only 17 games, and had only four wins, but his ERA was a 3.32, his WHIP was 1.090, and he averaged just over .9 Ks/Inning (~8.1 K/9) with a 3.4 WaR. Samardzija’s WHIP was 1.136 and his K/9 was slightly higher, with a 2.2 WaR over 32 games. If Cueto can find his 2016 self and if Stratton, their fourth starter as of now, can continue his strong few games (only 13 games, only 10 starts, and still a 1.2 WaR) into a strong season, we will be watching the Giants as the leaves fall off of the trees. (P. S. The Giants have not missed an even year playoff since 2008, and have not made an odd year one since 1997.) 1st NL – West

San Diego Padres – The city of San Diego is a great place to be, but not a great place to be a sports fan. The Chargers left for the allure of Hollywood like a freshly eighteen-year-old midwestern girl who is hoping to be the next Jennifer Lawrence, and the Padres are a bad baseball team in one of the best divisions in baseball. The addition of Hosmer is not going to fix the team, Manuel Margot might be good, but is not the savior. This team could get Jake Peavy in 2007 Cy Young Award form and still not make any noise in the wild card race. They need a serious rebuild. Someone call Billy Beane or Bill James. 5th – NL West

Colorado Rockies – If it was possible, the NL West would probably have four playoff teams, and the Rockies would be without a doubt one of them. They have a stacked lineup, projected by MLB.com as: 1- Charlie Blackmon, 2- DJ LeMahieu, 3- Ian Desmond, 4- Nolan Arenado, 5- Gerardo Parra, 6- Trevor Story, 7- Ryan McMahon, 8- Chris Iannetta. “WOW” is the only expression for that. In the thin Coors Field air, they will send the ball for a ride, with perennial MVP candidate and seemingly permanent Gold Glove winner and RBI leader Nolan Arenado as the anchor. Their season comes down to the pitching, and with Wade Davis the end of the game is safe, but the starters are the question mark. They will get the job done, but not in an unexpectedly special way. 3rd – NL West

 

Before we venture into the land of the Designated Hitter, let’s recap my divisional predictions, as well as what I think w ill happen in the playoffs in the National League


NL East | NL Central | NL West

Nationals^ | Cubs^ | Giants^

Mets | Brewers | Dodgers*

Braves | Cardinals | Rockies*

Phillies | Reds | Diamondbacks

Marlins | Pirates | Padres

^ = Divisional Winner * = Wild Card

 

NL Playoffs

Wild Card Game – Dodgers over Rockies

NLDS – Cubs over Dodgers | Giants over Nationals

NLCS – Cubs over Giants

National League Champion – Chicago Cubs

I really want to pick the Giants, but I believe that the Cubs young, yet experienced lineup will get the job done while their pitching staff, with the addition of Yu Darvish to their already solid rotation (even with the loss of Arrieta) helping to carry them to National League glory.

 

AL East

Toronto Blue Jays – Baseball’s only team from the Great White North is not gearing up to make the land of hockey and maple syrup proud. They lost Jose Bautista, their pitching staff is less than exciting, and their lineup is filled with has-beens, like Tulo, Granderson, Martin, and Morales. This, coupled with playing around 35 games against the Red Sox and Yankees during the season is sure to make this one to forget in Toronto. 4th – AL East

Baltimore Orioles – At least the city of Toronto will have a friend in the division to sulk with. The team’s roster, to the average baseball fan, consists of Kevin Gausman, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Zach Britton (who is starting the year on the 60-day DL). Some other slightly more than casual fans may have heard of their power hitting Designated Hitter, who peaked in 2016. Besides that the team is basically one big “who is that?”, filled with young players and question marks. They have some upside, and potential for the future, but 2018 is not their season either. 5th – AL East

Tampa Bay Rays – Good news for readers who want to read about winning teams, the next two teams are most likely going to make the playoffs! The bad news, however, is that the Rays are not. This team is similar to the last two, unexciting and filled with question marks. Look for the teams young-ish players to play solid, but not exceptional baseball. The team will find itself winning the games that Chris Archer pitches, but fighting to win the rest. They’ll end up somewhere in the .500 range, bringing no glory home to the bay. 3rd – AL East

Boston Red Sox – Solid. That is the main word I would use to describe the Red Sox lineup, bullpen, and rotation. This is a team that will coast to second in the division, and will put up a fight with the Yankees for the AL East title. Nunez is a .313 hitter over nearly 500 at bats last season, which puts him as a frontrunner for best backup second baseman in the league, but he will be starting the season manning the right side of the infield with Pedroia out. Mooreland, Betts, Bogaerts, and Benintendi may not be as purely powerful as the Yankees big three, but will without a doubt strike fear in the hearts of any pitcher who has to ship up to Boston to face the Fenway crowd and this batting order. 2nd – AL East

New York Yankees – If playing the newly refurbished Bronx Bombers doesn’t strike fear in your heart as a baseball fan, then I’m not sure you are human. This team is good and their lineup is scary. With only two potential holes in their order such as Bird (who is young, but hit under the Mendoza line in around 150 ABs last year) and Andujar (he has seven total ABs in the MLB), the Yankees will have the best lineup in the American League, and will be ready to win over a hundred games, all depending on if Severino, Tanaka, Gray, and C.C. pitch like the world knows they can. 1st – AL East

 

AL Central

Cleveland Indians – The Indians are a strong team, but that is about it. They’re good, not great. Lindor and Kipnis are a great duo up the middle, Alonso is a solid option at first base, and when Brantley is healthy he’ll add some much needed extra pop to the lineup. Kluber and Carrasco are a steady one-two punch, but the ability for a deep run rests with Bauer, Tomlin, and Salazar. If the three of them can find a way to get their ERAs down to four or below the Indians definitely have a chance to make some noise in October, and even if they can’t quite do that they are backed up by one of the best bullpens in baseball. 1st – AL Central

Kansas City Royals – Hosmer? A Padre. Moustakas? Unemployed. Gordon? Old. The Royals of 2015 are dead and gone, the 2018 Royals a mere shell of their former World Series champion selves. Soler is young, but underwhelming and unproven. As a matter of fact, only three of the nine members of the Royals starting lineup are over the age of 30, while four of the nine are under 26, which makes the future of the Royals look bright, but this season look like a very big question mark. The team does have some solid veteran leadership to complement the youth, but its pitching staff is not quite up to what it needs to be for the Royals to make a 2015 type run. 3rd – AL Central

Detroit Tigers – An aging Miguel Cabrera is still the cornerstone of this Tigers team, one that boats promising youngsters like Candelario, who hit .330 in 94 ABs last year for the Tigers, and Mathook who hit .276 in just over 100 games. The ageless wonder of Victor Martinez looks to be a factor for the team’s success at DH, but their deep black hole exists in center, where Martin just can’t figure out how to get on base. The rotation past Zimmerman is worrisome, and this is just not a team that is going to put something real together for this season. 4th AL – Central

Minnesota Twins – “Contender” is the word I would use to describe this Twins team in 2018. They have youth and age, speed and pop, pitching and hitting. Santana’s finger injury is going to be a hit to them early in the year, but it will give some of the young pitching staff, namely Jose Berrios, an opportunity to step up and become who he was expected to be when he was called up in 2016. Buxton and Polanco are solid fantasy sleeper picks, who will fall late in your draft because they don’t have the name that everyone knows, yet. They are good baseball players who are young and ready to have big seasons along with veteran studs like Brian Dozier, and Joe Mauer. Look for them to be in or near the Wild Card game. 2nd – AL Central

Chicago White Sox – Yoan Moncada is a potential star of the future. Jose Abreu is a stud. James Shields is a name we all know, but one that is usually followed with the sentence “He’s still playing?” Besides that, the rest of the team is essentially no name players, some young that you have never heard of, with a year or two in the majors, and some older, like Welington Castillo, who just are average in a good season. One player to look out for is Avisail García, the starting right fielder who had a WaR of 4.5 last season while hitting .330. This season may be great for Chicago, but not for Comiskey’s boys in black and white. 5th – AL Central

 

AL West

Los Angeles Angels – Falling first alphabetically in the wild AL West is the most interesting of all teams, the Angeles. With perineal MVP candidate (and easily the best player in baseball) Mike Trout leading the team at a ripe 26 years old and averaging a WaR of slightly over nine per season, he makes the 23 teams that passed over him in the draft (he was picked 25th, but the Angels also had the 24th pick) look even stupider every single year. The addition of Ohanti brings a new element to the game, as a possible DH and the third starter in their rotation. Pujols continues to deliver with a 23 HR, 101 RBI season last year, and the additions of Kinsler and Cozart should add even more pop to a lineup already containing Trout, Pujols, Simmons, and Justin Upton. The question mark, as with many teams in the league, is their pitching. Garrett Richards hasn’t played a full season since 3 years ago, but when he did he posted a 3.65 ERA. Hearney has never pitched a full season. Neither has Skiggs, and Shoemaker has just not been very successful. Ohanti is obviously an unknown. He could be a Darvish, a Tanaka, or a Matsuzaka, we have to wait and see. As for the team, it seems to be a bright season, a pleasant turn around, and some wild card contention.  2nd – AL West

Houston Astros – Springer, Bregman, Altuve, Correa, Gurriel, Reddick, Gattis. Those are the first seven batters a pitcher facing the Astros will have to face, then they get a “break” as Marwin Gonzalez (hit over .300 in 2017) and Brian McCann (who may be replaced with J.T. Realmuto before the season starts) come to the plate, and after those two the order starts all over again. The Yankees are tough to face, the Cubs are tough to face, the Astros are seemingly impossible to beat. Verlander, Keuchel, Cole, McCullers Jr., Morton. You can’t beat them by preying on the weak pitching, because there is none. This is the best team in baseball, the team to beat, we will see them in October. 1st – AL West

Oakland Athletics – The A’s have a team, consisting of the same amount of players as the others. They have a team consisting of Jed Lowrie, Khris Davis, and about 20 other guys you have never heard of. I do advise you to pay attention to the team, especially Dustin Fowler, a true rookie, in center. They won’t be good until the next decade, but the pieces are starting to come together. 5th – AL West

Seattle Mariners – Cano and Segura and Seager and Gordon and Cruz are enough to carry the order. Now deposed King Felix coupled with a pitcher on my Cy Young watch, James Paxton, and a solid Mike Leake are enough to carry the rotation. This is definitely a .500 team that with a streak of luck and a healthy season can do a little bit of damage, and possibly even wake up in the middle of August thinking “Hey we can actually make the playoffs!” and then possibly even following through on that thought. 3rd – AL Central

Texas Rangers – Last, but not least, the Texas Rangers. Longtime home of a declining Elvis Andrus, an aging Adrian Beltre, and a slightly-younger-than-Beltre-but-still-old Shin-Soo Choo. This team is not built for October, nor late September. It is built for a complacent .500 finish, with no fireworks from its lineup or pitching staff, but a hopefully stare at the first base position, as management and ownership hope that Joey Gallo turns out to be someone who can be the face of the franchise for many years to come. 4th – AL Central

 

A recap of the AL predictions, and how the playoffs will shake out.

 

AL East | AL Central | AL West

Yankees^ | Indians^ | Astros^

Red Sox* | Twins | Angels*

Rays | Royals Mariners

Blue Jays | Tigers | Rangers

Orioles | White Sox | Athletics

 

^ = Divisional Winner * = Wild Card

 

Wild Card Game – Angels over Red Sox

ALDS – Astros over Angels | Yankees over Indians

ALCS – Astros over Yankees

American League Champion – Houston Astros

 

World Series Prediction:

Chicago Cubs over Houston Astros, 4-2

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