2018 MLB Preseason Predictions

Opening Day is tomorrow. It’s a relief to baseball fans that have been tortured through a long, arduous winter. This one was weird- marquee free agents held off to sign until March, an international free agent captivated us all, and we saw rebuilding like we haven’t seen it before in the MLB.

At the end of it all, sportswriters and baseball aficionados alike scrounge up their hottest takes and somehow try to make sense of it all in their preseason predictions. Almost always we’re all wrong. Nonetheless, here are mine, broken down by division with a little on each team in between.

Italicized- playoff team

*Win-Loss totals are arbitrary*

AL WEST

Standings

  1. Houston, 100-62
  2. LA Angels, 85-77
  3. Seattle, 81-81
  4. Texas, 72-90
  5. Oakland, 70-92

Houston returns just about everyone back from the 2017 World Championship Roster. With marginal improvements and another year together, there’s little reason to doubt an easy run to a division title. I’m predicting Jose Altuve to reclaim his AL MVP trophy, and I think that Justin Verlander will be the strongest arm on this staff.

Los Angeles is much improved offensively, but certainly has question marks about the pitching staff. If Garret Richards has a breakout season, I think it’s this one. I also think Shohei Ohtani will have a long adjustment period to the MLB and will get sent down to AAA at some point, but he’ll contribute towards the end of the season.

Seattle is still searching for the group to finally bring it to the playoffs. I don’t think it’s going to happen this year. Felix Hernandez leads an average pitching staff, and offensively, I think Dee Gordon will thrive playing center field and batting at the top of the order for the Mariners.

Texas‘ lineup is solid, but each player got a year older. That’s good for young bats like Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor, but will definitely hurt older ones like Adrian Beltré and Shin Soo-Choo. Even at its best, the offense can’t carry a subpar pitching staff (aside from only Cole Hamels, Matt Bush and Alex Claudio). I say that as a fan of the team- what a disappointing offseason.

I really like Oakland‘s lineup. In a few years, I think it’s core group of young guys could make things interesting in the West. Unfortunately, they just seem to be in a perpetual state of rebuilding, exhibited by the Sonny Gray move at the deadline last year. I think they’ll be battling with Texas for fourth place in the division all season long.

AL EAST

  1. NY Yankees, 95-67
  2. Boston, 93-69
  3. Baltimore, 82-80
  4. Toronto, 75-85
  5. Tampa Bay, 70-92

New York has all the pieces there. They might not win the World Series year one in the Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton era, but I think they will within three years. I’m curious to see if Judge is able to avoid the Sophomore slump, especially batting leadoff (at least, to start the year). This has to be one of the best teams ever assembled for a first-time manager like Aaron Boone is.

Boston is right behind them, and honestly, it’s kind of a coin-flip between those two. I love the Red Sox lineup, accentuated by the J.D. Martinez pickup. I think David Price will have a bounce-back year to steady the pitching staff.

I like Baltimore’s lineup when it’s at its best. Unfortunately, that thing is chalked full of streaky hitters. Not to mention, the rotation is five guys entering the year with a “prove-it” mindset. Andrew Cashner is a very underrated pickup, and I’ll be curious to see how Trey Mancini follows up a strong rookie season.

I think this will be a weird year for Toronto. The era of the Bautista, Donaldson, and Encarnacion reign of terror is over, and what’s left behind is an uneven group of guys filling out the lineup card. What was once an up-and-coming pitching staff now looks like a host of veterans running out of time and unproven young arms.

There’s not a lot going on in Tampa Bay, and I’m surprised Chris Archer made it through the offseason on this rebuilding roster. It’s going to be strange seeing this team in the post-Evan Longoria era, but not only did they lose him, they also lost legitimate All-Star caliber talent in Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison. Blake Snell could have a big year on the mound.

AL Central

  1. Cleveland, 95-67
  2. Minnesota, 87-75
  3. Chicago White Sox, 75-87
  4. Detroit, 67-95
  5. Kansas City, 65-97

This is Cleveland‘s division to lose. The Indians have established themselves as the best the AL Central has to offer since the Royals won the World Series out of the division in 2015. I look for a Cy Young-caliber season out of Corey Kluber after a strong Spring, and Francisco Lindor to emerge as an MVP candidate.

The rebuild in Minnesota is ahead of schedule. The Twins took a team that came within a win of appearing in the World Series (NY Yankees) down to the wire in the Wild Card game. Paul Molitor is a heck of a manager, and it looks like Minnesota’s young guys are already beginning to pan out.

Since they dedicated to a firm rebuild at the end of 2016, the Chicago White Sox have made strides towards improvement. Yoan Moncada is my pick for AL Rookie of the Year, and young arms Carson Fulmer or Lucas Giolito could certainly enter that mix, depending on how much MLB ball they play this summer.

Detroit‘s decline has been anything but gracious. The team finally decided to commit to a rebuild after a lackluster start to the season. I’ll be curious to see how veteran legends Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera mix with the team’s new wave of young talent, and if any contender is willing to take on their hefty contracts for experience at the deadline.

Kansas City has had a face plant from grace since the team’s 2015 World Series run. Judgement day came; it was finally time to pay its core- which the team couldn’t afford to do. All and all, bringing back Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas (who’s coming off a career year) isn’t bad by any means, but the pitching staff is paper thin, and I think the team will miss its heart and soul, Eric Hosmer, who signed with San Diego in free agency. Salvador Perez missing the first few weeks of the season won’t help anything, either.

NL WEST

  1. LA Dodgers, 100-62
  2. Arizona, 90-72
  3. Colorado, 82-80
  4. San Francisco, 75-87
  5. San Diego, 70-92

I think the National League pennant is Los Angeles‘ to lose. The Dodgers finally exorcised 21st-century playoff demons with a run to the Fall Classic in 2017. The team didn’t lose significant talent from last season, and I think that Matt Kemp’s return is one of the most interesting storylines heading into the season.

Suddenly, Arizona has established one of the strongest starting rotations in the National League. If Robbie Ray can maintain his All-Star form, when paired with a healthy Patrick Corbin and bona fide star Zack Greinke, that’s a scary trio to face in the National League West. I’m excited to see what a healthy AJ Pollock can do, and please, let’s appreciate the greatness of Paul Goldschmidt this season.

I want to predict more wins for Colorado. I really do. It was a great story to see the Rockies break the playoff threshold last season. But, with San Francisco and San Diego both improving,  the losses in the NL West have to come from somewhere. I think they’ll come from here at certain points in the season- the pitching staff just isn’t deep enough.

I really like what San Francisco did to improve its lineup this offseason. Adding Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria will go a long way to helping an offense that looked dazed and confused last season improve drastically. That being said, I think the lack of depth in the starting rotation could be a major issue. Ty Blach has shown promise, but Johnny Cueto is the only reliable starter. In this tough division, I think it’s too much to overcome.

San Diego has finally taken legitimate strides to competing after years of perplexing moves and seemingly no direction from the front office. I also think it’s great that former All-Stars with the team Chase Headley and Tyson Ross return. Even in a pitcher-friendly park, I think the team’s newest signee Eric Hosmer could have a big year. However, I don’t think they’re ready to compete yet, and like Colorado and San Francisco, the losses have to come from somewhere.

NL EAST

  1. Washington, 95-67
  2. New York, 81-81
  3. Atlanta, 77-85
  4. Philadelphia, 75-87
  5. Miami, 60-102

Washington is the clear frontrunner in the least competitive division in baseball. No one questions the potency of that lineup, especially with Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton returning from injury-plagued campaigns, and we already know that the rotation is one of the deepest in the NL. The question lays in the bullpen: did the team improve its most outstanding flaw?

New York had a very strange, injury plagued season in 2017. I like the re-acquisition of Jay Bruce. The team has a clear direction, and could compete with its host of veteran talent paired with young stars Brandon Nimmo, and Ahmed Roasario. Matt Harvey’s performance is one of the biggest storylines in this division.

Atlanta’s young core is starting to gain its footing at the Major League level. I predict that Ender Inciarte will be an All-Star, Dansby Swanson will have a breakout year, and Julio Teheran will significantly improve. It’ll be great to see Freddie Freeman back and healthy to start the season.

Philadelphia is my sleeper team in the NL East. Jake Arrieta is an outstanding acquisition, but the pickup of Carlos Santana- a veteran bat gets on base at the top of the lineup- was something that this team needed to buoy its young talent. Trust the process- even on the baseball diamond.

After a full-fledged fire sale, Miami will essentially be fielding a AAA team. There’s almost nothing there in the lineup. Starlin Castro and Justin Bour are solid pieces, but anything this team had going for it was traded away in the offseason. The Marlins are the team furthest away from contention, not just in the NL East or NL, but the MLB.

NL CENTRAL

  1. Chicago Cubs, 95-67
  2. Milwaukee, 90-72
  3. Louis, 87-75
  4. Cincinnati, 75-87
  5. Pittsburgh, 70-92

Chicago improved over the offseason after regressing last year. Another year of inexperience will bode well for team’s young core. Yu Darvish’s performance is another huge wild card in the NL- he faded down the stretch, but had flashes of brilliance last season. I think the team’s depth will be enough to win a tight division race.

That was a quick rebuild for Milwaukee. After acquiring outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich over the offseason, the team looks primed to contend. Funny how the face of the franchise for the past decade- Ryan Braun- is the odd man out as a result. I wouldn’t be surprised if an American League pursues trading for him as a DH. The starting rotation is very young, which is concerning, but young guns Chase Anderson and Zach Davies are poised for big years.

I had a hard time picking between the Brewers and St. Louis for second place. Part of me really likes the Cardinals’ lineup, especially with power bat Marcell Ozuna, but the starting rotation could prove to be an issue- especially if Adam Wainwright isn’t healthy. A weaker bullpen is what really sets the Birds back- which was the main struggle for the team in 2017.

Cincinnati is amid a very confusing rebuild. I feel like they’ve fielded the same team for three years now, without any signs of improvement or development of top prospects. Joey Votto is an ageless wonder, and I’m excited to see how young bats Eugenio Suarez, fresh off a big contract extension, and Scooter Gennett, fresh off a career year, perform. The pitching is going to be a significant issue for the team, however.

The rebuild, officially speaking, begins for Pittsburgh. Some could argue it started in 2016. The pirates will be in search of an identity after trading away franchise figurehead Andrew McCutchen and ace Gerrit Cole. I’ll be excited to see how Josh Bell follows up a strong sophomore season, and if Jameson Taillon emerges as the face of the pitching staff.

Brad Pitt/Billy Beane said it best in Moneyball: “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball.”

It’s good to have it back. Take everything I said with a grain of salt; at the end of the day, nobody can predict any of this.

I looking forward to seeing how wrong these predictions are come October.

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