Previewing 2018 MLB Season

shohei-ohtani

Baseball is finally back as one team, the Houston Astros, will be looking to repeat as champions while 29 other clubs will be looking to dethrone them. It may be too early to make predictions as you can only assess teams by looking at them on paper, but it doesn’t hurt to do it. Last season was a very mediocre year, but this season looks to be a great one. With that being said, lets look at the teams

American League

East Division

Baltimore Orioles: After a strong start last season, the Birds suddenly fell flat and finished with a losing record. The starting pitching was their achilles heel, but over the offseason, the club added Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb to strengthen the rotation and with a bullpen that has been fantastic for the last several years, the pitching is suddenly strong. Offensively there is no question they crush the ball, but some players like Chris Davis will need to step up after a disappointing 2017. An interesting story line will be Manny Machado switching his position from third base to shortstop (which is what he was before playing at third base when reaching the majors). He’s a gifted fielder so it could be fun to see him play his natural position. I truly believe this was the most improved team in the league.

Boston Red Sox: After getting a new manager, Alex Cora, and picking up the best hitter on the free agent market, J.D. Martinez, the Red Sox may be even better than they were last year when they won their second consecutive. They finally might have the bonafide designated hitter in Martinez that they needed to replace the legendary David Ortiz who retired after 2016. With a great rotation led by Chris Sale and 2016 Cy Young Winner Rick Porcello, a dominant bullpen featuring the best closer in the game Craig Kimbrel, and an offense that is led by an MVP candidate, Mookie Betts, this club is a strong contender for World Series glory.

New York Yankees: A club that is technically rebuilding, they are a very talented team that came within one win of being in the World Series last season. However, they added more fire power to an already powerful lineup by acquiring outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, the 2017 NL MVP and most prolific power hitter in MLB. Team up him and his 59 home runs from last year with Aaron Judge, 2017 AL Rookie of the Year, and his 52 home runs, which was a MLB rookie record and home runs are going to be flying out of Yankee Stadium like crazy. They already have a pretty good rotation with youngster Luis Severino, a future star, and Sonny Gray, plus a dominant bullpen with probably the hardest throwing pitcher in the league, Aroldis Chapman, as their closer. They could very well beat out the Red Sox for the division. Plus with a rookie manager in Aaron Boone, this could be an interesting season for the Bronx Bombers.

Tampa Bay Rays: The team was trending up every season in their rebuild, but then they suddenly decided this past offseason to trade some key players in Evan Longoria, Steven Souza, and Corey Dickerson. However, the future is bright for the team as they arguably have a very talented farm system, but this year, they probably will struggle. They still boast a talented rotation with Chris Archer, a Cy Young candidate, Blake Snell, and Jacob Faria. The bullpen will feature Alex Colome, but he should get some help with the veteran Sergio Romo joining the team. The offense might struggle this year as they are young and unproven, so it looks there will be some growing pains.

Toronto Blue Jays: While they are not yet there yet, this club could soon be in a rebuild, however, they have lots of talent in the farm system with Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette who will be coming up soon. The rotation is the best part of this team as they are led by Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and Marco Estrada, plus the bullpen isn’t too shabby with the closer Roberto Osuna, but he will get even more help with the signings of Seung Hwan-Oh, John Axford, and Tyler Clippard. The offense, while not as powerful as it used to be, will still score a lot of runs as Josh Donaldson will lead the team in the lineup, but after seeing Justin Smoak have a breakout season in 2017, the team should still be somewhat competitive this year.

Division champion:

James Rowe: Red Sox. I think it will be a three way race for the division between them, Yankees, and Orioles, but I feel like Boston is the more experienced and more complete team here.

Boomer Dangel: New York Yankees

Central Division

Chicago White Sox: This team is in the midst of a rebuild, but after last year with how they played down the stretch, this team will play hard. With the motto of “Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit,” manager Rick Renteria and the Pale Hose will not be denied of a win as they will make any team work harder to get a victory. The young rotation is developing as they hope Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Carson Fulmer blossom this year, but with more help coming in the farm system and with the hope that team ace Carlos Rodon recovers from an injury, this rotation could be sneaky good. The offense is led by Jose Abreu, 2014 AL Rookie of the Year and a valuable slugger, but will have some help from Avisail Garcia and two youngsters in Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada. With Welington Castillo brought in to help with the pitchers and bring solid defense, the White Sox might compete despite what their record suggests.

Cleveland Indians: After coming off a 102 win season, including having a 22-game winning streak which was a record, the Indians should have no problem winning this division for a third straight season. The rotation will look to be dominant as ever with 2014 AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, this is a top five rotation in the league. The bullpen, which was very strong in 2016 and 2017, lost key pieces in Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith, but should still be dominant as they are led by Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. The offense lost a key player in Carlos Santana, but they still should be productive with Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis, and Edwin Encarnacion being the main source of productivity.

Detroit Tigers: The Tigers are now in rebuild mode after what feels like an era of contending every year, which is now over. Miguel Cabrera, arguably one of the best right handed hitters in the last decade, will lead this young team, but he doesn’t have much help on offense. There is some talent like Jeimer Candelario and Mikie Mathtook, but they are all unproven. The rotation should be good with Jordan Zimmermann and Michael Fulmer anchoring it, but there are lots of question marks with most of the pitching staff. This will be a long season in Motown.

Kansas City Royals: How that 2014-15 run seems so long ago, the Royals will have to go young again and seemingly restart all over again. They are not quite a rebuilding team, but they will be soon. However, with some assets, they could get a nice package back in prospects. Their best hitter, Salvador Perez, will start the season on the disabled list, so their offense will struggle this year. The pitching is not quite as good as it was before, but they still have Danny Duffy, who had a breakout year in 2017, anchoring their rotation and Kelvin Herrera as their closer.

Minnesota Twins: Surprising every one last year, the Twins made the playoffs nabbing a Wild Card. The club has a young, but powerful lineup with Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, and Miguel Sano being the main source of productivity. The lineup should score lots of runs. Pitching was a problem last year, but over the offseason they acquired Jake Odorizzi, Lance Lynn, and Michael Pineda to strengthen their rotation and Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, and Zach Duke to make their bullpen even better. They had a great offseason and I fully expect them to have a good year.

Division champion:

James: Cleveland Indians. This year will be more competitive for the Tribe, but they still are the class of division.

Boomer: Cleveland Indians

West Division

Houston Astros: They are the defending champions, so there is going to be a lot of pressure on them, but believe it or not, the team they assembled in the offseason might be even better than last year. The rotation is arguably the best in all of baseball led by Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, but they also added Gerrit Cole in a trade with Pittsburgh. Plus they acquired bullpen depth in Joe Smith and Hector Rondon to compliment closer Ken Giles and Will Harris. The offense is unbelievably good as they hit for average, power, and are speedy as I feel like this is the most complete lineup I’ve ever seen as they are led by AL MVP Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and World Series MVP George Springer. They are the favorite to even win the World Series again as this squad is really special to watch.

Los Angeles Angels: This team might have won the offseason as they acquired numerous amount of talented players by getting Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Zack Cozart, and the Japanese two-way player phenom Shohei Ohtani (two-way meaning he can hit and pitch). The rotation could be sneaky good as they have Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, and Garrett Richards while the bullpen is strong with pitchers like Cam Bedrosian and Jim Johnson. In terms of offense, they are going to slug with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout leading the lineup. They could contend for a Wild Card this year.

Oakland Athletics: This team is young, but they also could surprise every one as they are very talented. The rotation, like the White Sox, could be really good as they are anchored by Kendall Graveman. The bullpen will be good this year as they have the underrated Blake Treinen as their closer. While the offense will undoubtedly go through some growing pains, they could be really good as the season goes on as they are led by slugger Khris Davis and have a future gold glover in Matt Chapman. Don’t be shocked if they make a run at a Wild Card.

Seattle Mariners: It seems like every year this club has high hopes, but can’t seem to put it together. They are very talented and if they could finally click, this club could be very dangerous. The rotation has staff ace Felix Hernandez anchoring it, but after adding Mike Leake and Marco Gonzales, it’s significantly stronger. The bullpen is very good as Edwin Diaz is a talent everyone should watch for. The offense will be really good as they are led by Nelson Cruz, but will be complimented with Ryon Healy, Dee Gordon, Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, Jean Segura, and yes, even the legend himself Ichiro Suzuki at the ripe ole’ age of 44 (you read that right). Keep an eye on them

Texas Rangers: A talented club that disappointed last season, they might make some noise this year as they helpled bolster their roster. They picked up pitcher Matt Moore to improve their rotation that is anchored by their ace Cole Hamels, so that will help them significantly. The bullpen is a question mark, but they have lots of guys who can throw very hard. Offensively, expect them to hit lots of home runs as Joey Gallo can slug somewhere between 40-50 home runs, but they also have future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Nomar Mazara, and Rougned Odor in the lineup.

Division champion:

James: Houston Astros. The West won’t quite be as uncompetitive as last year, but the Astros are really freaking good and are one of my favorites to win the title.

Boomer: Houston Astros

National League

East Division

Atlanta Braves: This team is still rebuilding, but they could take a lot of step forwards this season. And soon they will be very good, but for now, it’s all about progress. The rotation is very young as they are anchored by Julio Teheran, but with a plethora of prospects coming up, the rotation could be very good soon. The bullpen is also young so there is some uncertainty. The offense is led by Freddie Freeman, but the rest of team is very young and are talented which could become a good lineup very soon.

Miami Marlins: Story of this franchise: another fire sale. Trying to rebuild, once again, new ownership that includes the legendary Derek Jeter are going to basically start from scratch. The rotation will be led by José Ureña and Dan Straily, but outside of that, it will be a project and the same goes for the bullpen. The offense still has a few pieces in J.T. Realmuto, Justin Bour, Starlin Castro, and Martin Prado, but expect them to be traded. This will be a long year in Miami.

New York Mets: After a disappointing 2017, the team looked on improving the team and got some nice pieces, but there are still some question marks. The rotation would be the strength of the club with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steve Matz, but the question is whether those guys can stay healthy. The bullpen will be really good with closer Jeurys Familia who will have help in Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, and Jerry Blevins. The offense will have some question marks, but if every one lives up to their potential, they will produce as they took a chance on a declining Adrian Gonzalez, but also have Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes, and Michael Conforto helping out. Plus they will be counting on youngster Ahmed Rosario to live up to the hype.

Philadelphia Phillies: In what has seemed like an eternity after deciding to rebuild, the Phillies might actually make some noise this year after they acquired Jake Arrieta, Carlos Santana, Tommy Hunter, and Pat Neshek to boost their rotation, lineup, and bullpen. The team also has a lot of youngsters on the team that have a ton of potential like starter Aaron Nola, catcher Jorge Alfaro, infielders Maikel Franco, Scott Kingery, and J.P. Crawford and outfielders Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera. These guys could be good really soon.

Washington Nationals: No question is the class of the division, but there is still some question marks as it’s more just uncertainty than anything else. New manager Dave Martinez, who is a first time manager, will be tasked with a talented club that seemingly can’t get over the postseason hump. The rotation might be the best in baseball as they have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez leading the way. The bullpen is incredibly good as they have Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Brandon Kintzler. The offense is stacked as Bryce Harper is the main guy, but has help from Daniel Murphy, Adam Eaton, and Anthony Rendon. Oh yeah and a bench consisting of Matt Adams, Howie Kendrick, and Wilmer Difo is just incredible. This has to be the year, especially with it being Harper’s last year of his contract, to finally win the World Series.

Division champion:

James: Washington Nationals. This is a very weak division so the Nationals should have no problem. My intrigue will be how they fare against teams that are not in their division.

Boomer: Washington Nationals

Central Division

Chicago Cubs: Still the best team in the division, but whats scary is that they may now be even better than the team that won the World Series in 2016. The rotation will be led by Jose Quintana and Jon Lester, but they also added Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood, plus they already have quietly great pitcher in Kyle Hendricks. The bullpen is awesome as Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop, Justin Wilson, Brandon Morrow, and Steve Cishek will be more than likely just very dominant even without a distinguished closer. The offense might be the best in baseball as they have Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, and Ben Zobrist who can absolutely slug the ball.

Cincinnati Reds: This team does not get quite enough respect as they deserve, but they are a rebuilding team with a lot of uncertainty. Young, but very talented, this club could surprise this year if every thing goes right for them. The rotation will likely feature some young arms in Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle who lots of people in the organization have high hopes for. The bullpen will be really solid with Raisel Iglesias as the closer, but also some veteran arms in Michael Lorenzen, David Hernandez, and Jared Hughes. There is no question that their offense will produce with the “should-have-been” 2017 MVP of the NL Joey Votto, but he should get some help from the underrated Eugenio Suarez, Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, and Tucker Barnhart. The question mark will be whether Scooter Gennett is the real deal after having a break out season in 2017. And another question mark will be when will top hitting prospect Nick Senzel make his debut. If every thing clicks, watch them be a surprise team this year.

Milwaukee Brewers: While technically in a rebuild after contending a year ahead of schedule, these guys will surely make some noise this year as they could be a top-ten club this year. After grabbing a lot of great players like Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, and Jhoulys Chacin over the offseason, this franchise feels like they can compete in 2018. The rotation is sneaky good with their ace Jimmy Nelson getting some help from Chacin. The bullpen is great as they have Jeremy Jeffress, Jacob Barnes, and Josh Hader setting up for closer Corey Knebel. The offense will be awesome with Cain and Yelich joining Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw, and Domingo Santana plus they have Eric Thames. Watch out for them this year.

Pittsburgh Pirates: What a fall from grace for this team as they have declined significantly after that 98-win season in 2015 and are now in rebuild mode. They traded their best player in Andrew McCutchen over the offseason so this team will struggle a lot this year. The rotation will be interesting as there is talent behind the now ace of Ivan Nova as he will get some help from promising Jameson Taillon, but the hope is that prospects Mitch Keller, Joe Musgrove, and Tyler Glasnow develop into a great five man tandem. The bullpen will have some questions, but overall they have assets in it that could help them nab more prospects like closer Felipe Rivero and George Kontos. The hope is that Kyle Crick and Michael Feliz, who they both picked up in the offseason, will help the bullpen. The offense still has some talent with Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Corey Dickerson, Jordy Mercer, Francisco Cervelli, and Josh Bell leading the way and the hope that prospects Austin Meadows and Bryan Reynolds can help make the team better soon.

St. Louis Cardinals: Believe it or not, this club improved a lot during the offseason with the acquisitions of outfielder Marcell Ozuna and reliever Luke Gregerson as they could make a run at the Wild Card. The rotation is really good with Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and youngster Luke Weaver, but they also have options in Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes who are youngsters like Weaver with tremendous amounts of talent. The bullpen is also great with Gregerson, Bud Norris, Tyler Lyons, Greg Holland, and Brett Cecil. The offense will be solid with Ozuna, Tommy Pham (a potential MVP), Paul DeJong, Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, and Dexter Fowler.

Division champion:

James: Chicago Cubs. They are even better than the 2016 club. I like their chances.

Boomer: Chicago Cubs

West Division

Arizona Diamondbacks: Coming out of nowhere last year, the Diamondbacks had a very strong club that might have been the best team in the National League after the Los Angeles Dodgers, but unfortunately got stuck with playing the Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs. The rotation is fantastic as it’s led by Zack Greinke and Robby Ray, but the other three starters are fantastic. However, they are backed up by a great bullpen that features Archie Bradley and Brad Boxberger. The lineup will be thumping a lot of pitching staffs this year even without J.D. Martinez as they do have Paul Goldschmidt who is a perennial MVP and they also have A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Ketel Marte, Jake Lamb, and Steven Souza. Expect them to compete this year.

Colorado Rockies: What’s crazy about this team this year is that they are even better than last year’s club which was really good. The rotation is young, but super talented as they are led by Jon Gray. The bullpen should be great with pitchers like Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee and Mike Dunn as this could be the best bullpen in baseball, even pitching in a ballpark where lots of runs are scored. The offense will be expected to slug with players like Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, D.J. LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez leading the way.

Los Angeles Dodgers: This team was expected to win more games in the history of the game when they seemingly could not lose before a mid-season swoon. However, this team is still the club to beat in the National League as they are super talented. The rotation boasts the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, but behind him he has some great comrades with Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood, however there are questions about whether Hyun-Jin Ryu or Julio Urias can stay healthy. The bullpen features the best closer in Kenley Jansen, but who will set him up will be a question. The offense is expected to produce again as they are led by Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner (who will start the season on the disabled list), Corey Seager, Yasiel Puig, and Joc Pederson. The road to win a pennant will go through Los Angeles if any other teams want to go to the World Series.

San Diego Padres: This team is in rebuild mode, but it’s still a long process for them as the prospects for this team are still developing. The ace of the rotation is Clayton Richard, who is at best the fifth guy in any other rotation. But if some pitchers like Anderson Espinoza and Cal Quantrill develop, the rotation in the near future could be really good. The bullpen is surprisingly strong with pitchers like Brad Hand and Craig Stammen in it. The offense is a question mark, but adding Eric Hosmer should help as it takes a load off the shoulders of Wil Myers.

San Francisco Giants: The most improved team in the National League, these guys are hoping to compete for a playoff spot this year after making a slew of moves. The rotation of Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, and Johnny Cueto is great, however, Bumgarner and Samardzija will begin the season on the disabled list so that could hurt their chances. The bullpen should be good with closer Mark Melancon and help from Tony Watson, Hunter Strickland, Sam Dyson, Cody Gearrin, and Josh Osich. The offense should be great with the best catcher in the game in Buster Posey getting help from Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Joe Panik alongside newly acquired Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria.

Division champion:

James: Los Angeles Dodgers. Until someone else proves otherwise, this is still the best team in the division. But also, I see them going back to the World Series again.

Boomer: Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Wild Cards:

American League

James: New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. Yankees are really freaking good so I find it hard to not see them in the playoffs, but the Orioles I think are sneaky good.

Boomer: Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels

National League

James: Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants. Arizona should continue to be really good as I love their roster. I just think the Giants are going to be good despite all the question marks. The West is just going to be filthy sick to watch.

Boomer: Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves.

 

 

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