Wednesday, March 27, 2019

2019 MLB Season Predictions

I do apologize for those of you who remember when this blog had fleshed out ideas for columns beyond making jokes about Mike Milbury and prediction pieces to populate the blog with cheap content. Sometimes, the sports media world can chew up your will more than you expect. But for now, here comes another prediction piece, this one for the upcoming MLB season!

After an offseason of drama because of "collusion", big name free agents being frozen out from signing until the start of spring training and long features on how minor leagues can't make minimum wage because of somewhat shady lobbying, the baseball itself can finally begin. Even though baseball's system has created more parity in recent years, the sport has never felt more top heavy with just as many teams openly tanking and tearing down as there are trying to win at the highest level. Such intrigue leads more to talk about the next CBA rather than who wins the World Series, but with baseball to be played, there are predictions to come. And here they are:

NL East:
1. Philadelphia
2. Washington
3. Atlanta
4. New York Mets
5. Miami

The Phillies said openly that they were basically going to spend funny money, and they did. They added not just Bryce Harper, but J.T Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson. While their rotation and bullpen are not deep, and Gabe Kapler hasn't exactly endeared himself to Phillies fans yet, sometimes talent may just win out in the end. Washington has an even deeper rotation now that Patrick Corbin is added to the mix, and having super prospect Victor Robles take up some of the Bryce Harper airspace will only help the Nats transition away from him. Atlanta snuck up to win an open division last year, but it feels like the other two teams ahead of them took their shine a little bit, though they will be competitive. It seems as if the Mets picked the wrong time to contend as the rest of the NL East loaded up, but if they can stay healthy and get offense from some unlikely sources, they can be a playoff team. And the Marlins will be good one day, so let's celebrate how awesome their new look is so we can say something nice about them in the present.

AL East:
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston
3. Tampa Bay
4. Toronto
5. Baltimore

Everything last year seemed to go perfectly for the Red Sox, from Mookie Betts to J.D Martinez, Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel. Repeating all of those tricks again seems hard, especially if there are more questions at the back end of the rotation and bullpen that are still unanswered. For that, and since the Yankees made a deep bullpen even deeper, and they still have that lineup. It seems like it's their time. For how much everyone hates "the Opener", it certainly worked for the Rays, and for all of their limitations, they manage to find great talent and cultivate it well. It's certainly not enough in the AL East, but perhaps it's enough for a Wild Card. In Toronto, we're all waiting to see Vlad Guerrero Jr., and the sooner the better. And in Baltimore, what's the baseball equivalent of tanking for Tua?

NL Central:
1. St. Louis
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Milwaukee
4. Cincinnati
5. Pittsburgh

Adding Paul Goldschmidt is a big deal for the Cardinals, who needed that extra pop in the lineup last year and didn't get it. They have plenty of young pitching, and it's certainly provided more upside for the predictions machines than a certain rival, who those predictions weren't exactly bullish on. While St. Louis made some upgrades, the Cubs basically stood pat, and that was a team last year who seemed a bit long in the tooth, particularly on the mound. That difference is going to be enough to swing the division. Milwaukee took such a great step forward last year and it couldn't close the deal in Game 7 against LA, and it remains to be seen how long that window for them will stay open. It's good to see a team like the Reds spending and trying to compete even when the in-vogue logic would tell them not too, but losing Scooter Gennett for nearly three months hurts. And for the Pirates, balling on a budget is pretty dang hard to do.

AL Central:
1. Cleveland
2. Minnesota
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City
5. Detroit

Once again, the AL Central seems to be about the Indians and everyone else, and the Indians are starting to falter. They're not as deep as they've been, and Francisco Lindor is already fighting major injury problems. The only issue is that there's no one else in the AL Central that can really touch them, with Minnesota being the closest. Do they have enough with some of their additions to really push the Indians, or is it token competition? The White Sox went big game hunting this offseason, didn't get anyone, and are handing out mega-contracts to players who haven't played a major league game yet. At some point, all their talent has to come good, right? Kansas City is a long way away from the team that won the World Series, and the Tigers are trying to rebuild the old fashioned way, which maybe is the new market inefficiency if you squint hard enough.

NL West:
1. Los Angeles
2. Colorado
3. San Diego
4. Arizona
5. San Francisco

The Dodgers have been left at the altar the last two years in the World Series, and they still don't seem to be a team that got that final piece of the puzzle. Clayton Kershaw not being healthy to start the year doesn't help, but they were awful early in 2018 and that didn't seem to matter. Are the Dodgers going to be able to pitch well enough to win at the highest level? The Rockies were dispatched easily from the playoffs because their highly paid bullpen collapsed, but after re-upping MVP candidate Nolan Arenado, there's a good feeling in Denver. The NL Wild Card race is crowded, but that slight uptick in bullpen performance could get them there. San Diego signed Manny Machado, and brought up a top prospect for an opening day assignment. That will make them interesting, but not necessarily a contender. Arizona wanted to contend, saw how difficult it will be, and decided to tear it all down again. And the Giants would be a World Series contender if this was 2012.

AL West:
1. Houston
2. LA Angels
3. Oakland
4. Seattle 
5. Texas

It's all about the Astros here again, but now that some of their World Series building blocks are elsewhere, how high is the ceiling? They're certainly good enough to win the division, but the Red Sox handed it to them in the ALCS last year. Speaking of ceilings, will the Angels finally be good with Mike Trout in his prime putting up Mickey Mantle like numbers? They should be, but it's still an open question. After last year's impressive run to the Wild Card with seemingly so little, especially in the rotation, one wonders if the A's can hold it together for one more run. Seattle, like Arizona, saw that contending would be hard so they sold off just about everyone and are trying to rebuild from the ground up, though they have a little bit more in the stable than other rebuilding teams. The Rangers are going to open up a new ballpark with a roof in 2020, that's exciting. 

NL Playoff Teams: 1. LAD 2. PHI 3. STL 4. WSH 5. CHC
AL Playoff Teams: 1. NYY 2. HOU 3. CLE 4. BOS 5. LAA

NL Playoffs:

Wild Card: Cubs over Nationals
NLDS: Dodgers over Cubs in 4, Cardinals over Phillies in 5
NLCS: Dodgers over Cardinals in 7

AL Playoffs:

Wild Card: Red Sox over Angels
ALDS: Yankees over Red Sox in 5, Astros over Indians in 3
ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 6

2019 World Series: Yankees over Dodgers in 5

NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt
AL MVP: Aaron Judge
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
NL Rookie: Fernando Tatis Jr.
AL Rookie: Vlad Guerrero Jr.
NL Manager: Dave Martinez
AL Manager: Aaron Boone

These are sure to go wrong quick, so sorry to all who I picked to do well.