The clinking of cleats, the popping of leather and the crack of the bat can only mean one thing that: Major League Baseball is back.
With Manny Machado recently signing with the San Diego Padres, very few big free agents are left. So it’s time for some predictions for the divisions and how I believe the 2019 MLB season will shake out.
American League East
The Boston Red Sox will be looking to defend their World Series title. After afranchise-record 108 games won last year, they went 11 -3 in the postseason. But there are questions about their bullpen after star closer Craig Kimbrel recently signed with the Atlanta Braves. It leaves space for up-and-coming closers such as Matt Barnes. the addition of Nathan Eovaldi could give them a very dangerous starting rotation again.
The biggest challenge for the Red Sox to repeat will be the New York Yankees. The New York Yankees added James Paxton to their starting rotation, and having J.A. Happ for a full season elevates their rotation to be just as dangerous as the Red Sox. The new contract signed by Zack Britton, arguably the best closer in baseball a year ago, and the arm of Adam Ottavino will probably give the Yankees the best late-inning bullpen in baseball. Gary Sanchez will be healthy and have a bounce-back year. With Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, the Yankees will challenge the Red Sox for the division crown.
The Tampa Bay Rays are the long shot to win the division. With Blake Snell and the addition of Charlie Morton, the Rays look to have another strong rotation in the AL East.
The Toronto Blue Jays are rebuilding but still have a number of top prospects to keep their fans entertained. Their fans should be very excited about Vladimir Guerrero Jr and what he’ll bring to their franchise, much like his father did.
The Baltimore Orioles lost 115 games last season. but without much hope they are rebuilding. The only bright spot is the number of draft picks they have as compensation for Machado and much of what they traded away at the All-Star break.
My prediction is the Red Sox lose the division for the first time in three years to the New York Yankees, but the Red Sox claim the wildcard spots.
The Cleveland Indians have won three consecutive American League Central titles, and that doesn’t seem to be coming to an end anytime soon. Their starting rotation is very much still intact, with Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Carlos Carrasco. This will be the key to their success this season. The loss of Michael Brantley in the outfield hurts them, but between Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, their offense should be able to put up enough runs to support their stellar pitching staff.
The Minnesota twins took a step back after a wild card loss in 2017. With Joe Mauer retiring, they’ll be looking to replace veteran leadership. If Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano perform like they did in 2017,the Twins are likely in for another wildcard round.
The talent really drops off after the Twins in the Central. The Chicago White Sox didn’t end up signing Machado or Bryce Harper. But their top prospect, Eloy Jimenez, will be the key to their offense. The addition of Kelvin Herrera should help mold a young pitching staff.
The Kanas City Royals have a longer rebuild because of a poor farm system depleted by their World Series runs in 2014 and 2015. Kansas City is probably slightly better than the Detroit Tigers, but it would not surprise me if both teams lose more than 100 games.
My prediction is the Cleveland Indians will win their fourth division title. The Twins will hang around for a little but, will settle for a wild card.
The Houston Astros had back-to-back 100 win seasons and have won two consecutive division titles. The Astros lost Morton to free agency and are likely to lose Dallas Keuchel, who is still unsigned. Lance McCullers Jr. is out for the season, which leave lots of questions about the starting rotation that will still be anchored by veteran Justin Verlander and Cole Garrett. A high-powered offense got even stronger by adding Michael Brantley, and starting shortstop Carlos Correa should have a bounce-back year after being injured in the second half of last season.
The Oakland Athletics shocked the league baseball with their 97 wins and a wildcard spot last season. Matt Chapman ,Matt Olson, Chris Davis and Steven Piscotty lead the lineup that caught most teams by surprise. The big question for the Athletics will be Mike Fiers in the rotation.
The Los Angeles Angels seem hell-bent on wasting a generational talent in Mike Trout. They have done the bare minimum again in adding Matt Harvey to the rotation and signing catcher Jonathan Lucroy. However, it seems they will be around a 500-team again this season. With Mike Trout being a free agent in 2020, I would be looking for him to seek success with another franchise.
The Seattle Mariners have not made the post-season since 2001, and it seems that streak is likely to continue. They are mainly focused on rebuilding the farm system and cutting down the payroll, so it will be a long season for the Mariners as they start to rebuild.
The Adrian Beltre era has come to an end for the Texas Rangers, and that doesn’t seem like there’s much of a bright future in Arlington. Don’t be surprised about anyone on the trading block this season.
My prediction is that the Astros will win their third consecutive title, but the Athletics have the best chance to dethrone the them.
The AL championship game will be a repeat of the 2017 season, with the Yankees and Astros meeting up and the Yankees winning in six games.
National League East
The National League East could be the most competitive division in baseball with the Atlanta Braves and their roster of young talent who seem to be the front runners of this brutal division. Ronald Acuna Jr, and Ozzie Albies will lead the offense, along with rising superstar Freddie Freeman. The young pitching rotation will be the key to Atlanta’s success. The question is, can they hold everyone else in place in this brutal division?
The Washington Nationals lost Bryce Harper to free agency, but not everything looks so dim. Patrick Corbin, Geo Gonzalez, and Tanner Rogue will be the keys to the team. Brian Dozier playing second base will add to the offensive production and a more balanced lineup.
The New York Mets did the most in the off-season, signing Robinson Canó from the Mariners and adding Wilson Ramos and Jed Lowery. The question is, can the Mets stay healthy? It all comes down to the health of their starting rotation. For the past few seasons, it seems that they have been cursed.
The Philadelphia Phillies won the off-season with sign of Harper. But that’s not the only big-name they are after, as they are also after Dallas Keuchel. The team spent a lot of money on Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, and David Robinson. These guys will anchor the Phillies this season and put together a really good team.
The chaos of the Miami Marlins continues in 2019, with their biggest contribution to the MLB season being the trading of All-Star catcher JT Realmuto. With new owners in place for only the second season, it will take quite some time for the Marlins to turn the corner.
My prediction is with the Phillies signing Harper, they will be the team to beat, with Atlanta finishing second and taken a wild card spot.
The NL Central was a three-way race last year between the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers, and it looks like much of the same this season.
The Cubs still have the most talented roster in the division with a full season from Cole Hamels and a healthy Yu Darvish, look for the Cubs to have the strongest rotation in the Central. Chris Bryant and Wilson Contreras should have bounce-back seasons, making them the most dangerous lineup in the National League.
The St. Louis Cardinals madethe biggest move in the division, this year by adding All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. He’s expected to have very similar numbers to former first baseman Albert Pujols. The addition of Andrew Miller should strength on the bullpen as well.
The biggest turn around for baseball last year was the Milwaukee Brewers. The only big move they made was adding Yasmany Grandal, a switch-hitting catcher from the Dodgers.
The Cincinnati Reds added Alex Wood and Sonny Gray to the starting rotation. The speedy Billy Hamilton could be fun to watch, along with top prospect Nick Senzel . The Reds lost 95 games last year, but they were a feisty team that didn’t catch the breaks. Look for them to have a breakout season and make a lot of noise in the Central.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are picked last, with their lack of offense still being an issue. It will be hard for them to compete in this heavy offense division.
My prediction is the Brewers win the division again, but will be challenged by the Reds .
The Los Angeles Dodgers have won the NL West six consecutive times and even made back to back World Series. With a healthy Justin Turner and Corey Seager, you can expect them to remain there. Clayton Kershaw has been the anchor of the Dodgers pitching rotation for the past 10 years. This may be one of the last times you get a Cy Young performance from him.
The Colorado Rockies took the Dodgers down to the wire last season. The Rockies offensive explosion with Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and David Dell should be boosted by the addition of Daniel Murphy, making them one of the best lineups, top to bottom, in the National League. If they can get consistent pitching, look for the Rockies to throne the Dodgers.
The Arizona Diamondbacks started the off-season by trading arguably the best hitter away. Zack Grinke and Robbie Ray are top pitchers. But without much bullpen hope, it looks like they may struggle if they don’t get max innings out of these two guys . Ketel Marte looks to follow his breakout season with another one.
The Padres signed Machado for $300 million for 10 years. That will be the highlight of this team for the next 10 years. This deal is very similar to the Alex Rodriguez deal the Rangers made back in the early 2000‘s when he left the Seattle Mariners. It does not leave much chance for the Padres to improve.
The San Francisco Giants have sometough decisions to make with all-star Madison Bumgarner coming up on free agency. It’s time to make some choices about the stud pitcher who has helped lead them to several World Series titles.
My prediction is that the Rockies do over throw the Dodgers but the, Dodgers win the wild card.
The Dodgers make their third consecutive World Series, but lose in six games to the Yankees.