*WARNING THIS IS A LITTLE BIT LONG BUT HAVE FAITH I WILL GUIDE YOU IF YOU LET ME*
Ladies and gentleman, baseball season is finally almost here and begun. With MLB The Show 19 out now (free ad) you know the real deal is almost here and it’s been a long off-season. With the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series last year, Jacob DeGrom and Blake Snell taking home the Cy Youngs, and Mookie Betts and Christian Yellich each earing themselves their first MVP’s it was a great year, just like every year is, for baseball. With the 2019 season almost here, I would like to, and I am, going to make some predictions on who is going to win each division and their strengths and weakness. Enjoy and let me know if you agree or disagree!
Winner: New York Yankees
It kills me to type that and even have that thought but the Yankees are stacked. With a potent lineup and an even stronger bullpen, the Yankees look poised to come out on top in their division this year. Since acquiring Giancarlo last off-season and the emergence of young studs Gleybar Torres and Miguel Andujar, the Yankees offense is as strong as it was in the early 2000 days. The scariest part is back in the early 2000’s, it was older guys in their primes, maybe a little juice included (cough Jason Giambi cough) but who knows. Now, its young guys just starting their primes and are STILL some of the best in the league (without the juice).
The biggest question mark for the Yankees is their starting pitching. With Severino having a shitty second half last year, and not looking good at all i might add, their next best option is James Paxton who is coming off a great year that saw him start more games and throw more innings than ever before. Not to mention the newer Yankee stadium is quite the opposite of what Paxton has been used to in his six-year career in the friendly confines of Safeco Field in Seattle. Paxton should still be fine as long as the injury bug doesn’t crawl on him or bite this year, something that he has been prone to in the past. The bullpen goes without saying. Don’t even wanna talk about it. After signing Adam Ottavino in the off-season it solidified itself as one or the best bullpens in a long time. If the Yanks stay healthy for the most part for most of the season, they should be just fine entrenched into the one spot and two spot at the least. That’s if the Tampa Bay Rays don’t rattle off a season with 110 wins and the Rays in the Rays tank start to walk on the field and scare opponents. That’ll be the day.
Winner: Cleveland Indians
A truly unfair division with two teams in rebuild mode, the Tigers and Royals, and where the Indians last year won it 13 games up on the Twins who finished 78-84. However, it that does not mean that the Indians are not a good team as they are only two years removed from a World Series appearance.
This is a team that has lost Edwin Encarnacion, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Lonnie Chisenhall, and let Josh Donaldson walk in free agency. Why are they still a better option than the rest of the division you ask? Let’s start with their starting rotation. The Cleveland Indians have two guys that can be considered aces with one that some may consider not, but is as close as it gets if he isn’t. The one who is as close as it gets is Trevor Bauer, who would have had a lot more Cy Young consideration if he could have had four more starts and if Blake Snell wasn’t a man amongst boys in the American League last year. Corey Kluber goes without saying as every year he is a Cy Young candidate and dominates everyone. The starters that follow those two as no slouch either as Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevenger are legit options and on other rotations would be considered 2-3 options. Number “5” starter Shane “Justin” Bieber is hardly a fifth starter. That guy probably gets so tired of hearing the Justin Bieber joke and I just did it kind of. Sorry.
Their offense is a bit a of a question mark, but weak is the wrong word to use. The presence of Josh Donaldson will be missed even though he didn’t do too much in an Indians uniform but the name says a lot as does the potential of a former MVP. A couple of off-season moves netted the Indians some solid options in Carlos Santana, who is making a return after one season being spent with the Phillies, and former Ray great Jake Bauers who will most likely fill in the void at first, one of the corner outfield positions, or DH. Of course we cannot forget about the mutants on the baseball field that are Francisco Lindor, who will miss some time to start the season due to a right calf strain, and Jose Ramirez. Ramirez did just get diagnosed with a knee contusion, but should be alright not being put on the new and improved “injured list” like his buddy Lindor. Bradley Zimmer will also be out until at least the middle of the season after having surgery on his right shoulder last July 21st. Luckily, the Indians have another very competent outfielder in Tyler Naquin the fill the void. Naquin should be able to stick after that if he wasn’t penciled in as a starter in one of the positions already. With Brad Hand handeling 9th inning duties, the bullpen could he worse off. It’ll be up to the rest of the bullpen to get goin and figure it out.
Winner: Houston Astros
It’s hard to be bold and try to claim someone else better than the Houston Astros in the Western Division. Yes, you have the A’s who every year figure it the fuck out better than almost any team other than the Rays in their weird tactics and shit but they still make it happen. The Mariners are in a bit of a rebuild and the Angels have Mike Trout. So yeah.
The Astros are where it’s at whether you like it or not. They can hit. George Springer, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Josh Reddick and newly acquired Michael Brantley all seem like they aren’t too worried about the offensive side of the game. For the first time in a long time, they are without a solid 5 starting rotation. Besides with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole it will be a little bit different this season. The Astros lost Lance McCullers to Tommy John surgery, Dallas Keuchal to free agency (has yet to sign with anyone) and doesn’t look poised to sign with the Astros and Charlie Morton to the great Tampa Bay Rays. Brad Peacock and Colton McHugh seem poised to hold it down until Josh James is ready to throw darts for the big league club again. Things could be worse over in Houston speaking of their rotation, it just looks different from years past as they have always had a solid 5 rotation to start the year.
The one thing has been strong and consistent, besides their offense, in Houston had been their bullpen. With the dominant Ryan Pressly emerging last season and the other parts of the well oiled machine that is the Astros bullpen, that includes, Wil Harris, Chris Devenski, Hector Rondon and closer Roberto Osuna, the pieces are in place for domination. Last year the pitching staff finished first in ERA, quality starts, earned runs, strike outs, and batting average against. Look for alot of the same in 2019.
Winner: Atlanta Braves
Arguably the best division in the National League, when you ask me, this year is going to be a toss-up. My gut feeling tells me pick the Philadelphia Phillies, but my heart and intuition tell me the best team in the National League, the Atlanta Braves. Yes, I understand the Phillies made significant improvements this off-season, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura blah blah blah. The Braves are coming off a season that they peaked a season or two early. What does that mean about this season?! it’s the year!
The Braves coming into the season were a huge question mark. Starting Ryan Flaherty, Charlie Culberson, and Preston Tucker. Ozzie Albies was going to start his first full season, Ronald Acuna was starting his season in the minors, young pitching and not a solid bullpen. Well, the Braves put it all together in a BIG way. Acuna showed up, Fredwardo Freeman did his thing, Nick Markakis had his best season of his career while earning himself his first all-star appearance, and Ozzie Albies showed why the hype train was full.
Fast forward to 2019 and the Braves have almost virtually the same team minus Kurt Suzuki at catcher, and Johan Camargo in the starting lineup. The Braves still have the same outfield with Acuna in left, three-time gold glove award winner Ender Inciarte in center, and Nick Markakis, who I would expect a little drop off in production this season, in right field. Instead of Camargo in the starting lineup, the Braves now have former MVP and (hopefully) healthy Josh Donaldson patrolling third with Camargo anointed a super utility role. Freddie Freeman most likely projects to do his normal shit by balling and dropping bombs when needed and the Braves now have former Braves great Brian McCann back handling the pitchers again. Times have been worse. The biggest question mark is former number one overall pick Dansby Swanson. After a great first cup of beer with the Braves after he was traded over from the Diamonbacks, Swanson has had two back to back sub par seasons. The man has yet to slug over .400 and has not gotten on base at a decent clip to consider himself productive in the lineup. He produced a WAR of 2.3 last year due to a pretty solid year in the field at shortstop producing a fielding percentage of .981. This is a big year for Dansby and if he needs any hyping up and positive vibes and energy, if you know him, send him my way.
The pitching staff for the Braves is filled with great, young talent with a mix of some veteran presence. Kevin Gausman, formerly of the Orioles, will start the year on the injured list, as will stud Mike Foltynewicz, but luckily the Braves have a nice crop of young talent to hold themselves over until then. With those guys starting on the IL, the Braves will ride the backs of young stallions (good one) of Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, Kyle Wright and Max Fried. Julio Teheran will also still be in the rotation but he seems to be a lesser version of himself these days unless he pitches against the Mets. Who he dominates every time. The potential is there for the younger starters, but sometimes it takes a little to get your feet wet. So we will see.
The bullpen is always a little sketch, especially with Darren O’Day and A.J Minter starting the year on the IL, but the Braves do still have a health(ier) Arodys Vizcaino holding down the late innings in the game until Minter will be back. Jesse Biddle has always been considered a solid lefty reliever and had a great season last year. Luke Jackson and Chad Sobotka will have to step it up in the beginning of the season and hold the fort down as both O’Day and Minter make it back from injury.
Winner: Milwaukee Brewers
This division is a tough one. One of the more underrated divisions in baseball now that the Brewers are a power house and the Cubs are still the Cubs, AKA good. The Cardinals are in it just about every year and with some improvements in the off-season, Paul Goldschmidt, they could be a team to watch. The Reds also made a shit ton of improvements, mostly getting rid of Homer Bailey, but also adding Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and prospect Nick Senzel should help the squad as well. BUT, the team with the most potential and should be able to repeat and take home the crown is the Milwaukee Brewers.
It was no secret when the Brewers last year made huge improvements and immediately declared themselves contenders, and that’s exactly what they did. Of course, a lot of credit needs to be dealt to the reigning MVP award winner Christian Yellich who took a HUGE step forward in his game last year. A true five tool player. What did the Brewers do to improve this off-season? Just adding one of the best catchers in the game in Yasmani after the world got scared of him due to his inability to receive a ball and block a ball at one of the most important times of the year. Just kidding, but still, the Brewers adding Yasmani to a lineup that is already stacked shouldn’t do anything except help. Lorenzo Cain, Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw and an older Ryan Braun seem to be just okay holding it down. Eric Thames on the bench ready to drop bombs as well as Ben Gamel acting as a reserve outfielder, the Brewers hitting is the least of their problems.
Their problem is their rotation. With Jhoulys Chacin being their ace, not taking anything away from the man because he is good, but that is not your prototypical ace. Jimmy Nelson, who sat out all of last year due shoulder surgery, is feeling discomfort in his elbow now and is not sure when he will make his return. Brandon Woodruff has potential and if he could put it together he could be a nice 2-3 starter by the end of the year. The bullpen though, that is a luxury the Brewers have that a lot of other do not. With the best reliever in baseball in Josh Hader, it is tough to say anything negative. Hader can literally do it all. He’s too good and valuable to close games, as in it’s almost a waste to have him only throw one inning, so look for the Brewers to utilize him once again in almost every role except starting games. Jeremy Jeffress finally had his stuff all click last year and had a career year and was one of the best relievers in baseball. When you have two guys like that, it’s tough to beat. The rest of the bullpen is solid and should be well enough off playing a second fiddle to Jeffress and Hader. The Brewers are just as solid as last year.
Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
I don’t want them to win. I want the Colorado Rockies to finally put together a team to beat the Dodgers, and they have the hitting to do it, but the Dodgers just seem to do it every year.
It’s not that the Rockies are bad, it’s just that the Dodgers are THAT good. Let’s start with their lineup. After not having Corey Seager all of last year, the Dodgers still managed well without him. Now we add him to an already potent lineup that is without Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp and it seems like they haven’t missed a beat. Joc Pederson seems to be getting the majority of at bats in place of Puig and or Kemp and are not going to lose too much. The other replacement? Just some dude named A.J. Pollock who was well on his way to a 30/30 campaign last year before he got hurt and missed a couple of months. Max Muncy proves he is not bullshit last year after showing the world he can drop bombs when given the chance. Cody Bellinger will be holding down first base again after patrolling center field last year. Austin Barnes seems to be the new catcher in town and will look to get more at bats than every before with Yasmani out of the picture. Don’t forget about Justin Turner either. The man can rake at all times as long as he is healthy.
With Clayton Kershaw always leading the rotation, although he is opening the year on the IL, rookie sensation Walker Buehler will gladly fill the those. Although those shoes might be only a size too big for him, he can almost fit. After two missed seasons for former super prospect Julio Urias, it seems this is the year he will be let loose, other than a tiny little innings limit, Urias seems ready to show the world what he can do when he isn’t hurt. Rich Hill is always good for about 20 starts a year when he stops whacking off and getting himself blisters every other start. In other words, the Dodgers rotation could be a lot worse. The bullpen is not to be slept on either. With Kenley Jansen dealing with heart issues, always wishing him well, he will once again be the closer if health permits him. Joe Kelly also joins a solid bullpen that also includes Scott Alexander, Pedro Baez, Tony Cingrani and Yimi Garcia. Things are looking sunny once again in Los Angeles as they once again play to lose to the Braves in the playoffs.
Jesus, that was long. If you made it this far, you are my friend. If you skipped a lot of it to read the end, well, you’re still my friend just bottom of the barrel. This baseball season is shaping up to be fucking awesome as they always are and I cannot wait for tomorrow. The official opening of baseball season!!! Let’s fucking go and look out for the Rays and Braves! Thank you for reading!
P.S- Eric Hanhold and Joey Krehbiel are starting off the year in Triple-A, keep an eye out for both to become factors for their respected teams mid-season. The Mets for Eric and the Diamondbacks for Joey. Thanks again!