NY Sports Day

Baseball’s Fearless Forecast

Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire

It is the most wonderful time of the year as the 2018 baseball season is just around the corner. The smell of the fresh cut grass, the taste of those ballpark hot dogs and the cooling of a nice cold beer as you soak in the spring and summer sun to watch the greatest game on earth being played. I’m a little bit partial to baseball in case you haven’t noticed. With the season drawing closer, it’s time for my annual baseball predictions. Last year wasn’t the greatest prediction year for me, but hey, it happens. You can’t predict baseball but I enjoy doing it.

 

The 2017 baseball season was an exciting one. Attendance was up and more people were becoming more and more engaged with the sport. There were many ups and downs but overall it was the season of strength. The Houston Astros carried a city on it’s back after a devastating hurricane ripped through parts of Texas and brought home the World Series trophy. A team predicted to win that trophy in the year 2017 back in 2014 in a Sports Illustrated article. We saw baseballs crushed into another stratosphere with the sluggers of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge putting on shows throughout the season including the home run derby. We had Edinson Volquez of the Miami Marlins toss the only no-hitter of 2017.

 

As we embark on the 2018 season, we can possibly see a player successfully pitch and hit in the majors for the first time since Babe Ruth with Japanese star Shohei Otani. There will be six new managers that will debut this season (Aaron Boone – Yankees, Gabe Kapler – Phillies, Ron Gardenhire – Tigers, Dave Martinez – Nationals, Alex Cora – Red Sox and Mickey Callaway – Mets) all will look to lead their respective teams with new concepts and directions. We very well may see a potential repeat champion as the Astros have added a premier starter to their well staffed rotation in Gerrit Cole.

 

Predictions are always tough in baseball or in any sport for that matter. In writing these predictions, it will be with some key named free agents still out on the market. Some of those names include, Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Alex Cobb, Brandon Phillips just to name a few. These players can be impact players so whichever team they could end up with, can make them slightly better. As I usually do, I will make predictions based on knowledge and what teams have done over the course of the winter leading into spring training.

 

            The way my predictions have always gone is will give some background information on the teams and my overall thoughts followed by how many wins I believe the teams will get. Towards the end, I will have a playoff predictions section based off of my regular season predictions. Without further or do, let’s get rolling for the 2018 MLB predictions.

 

 

 

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

NL EAST

 

Let’s be honest, the NL east hasn’t been much of a race the past few years. In the last four years to be exact, the Nationals have won it three times with the exception of 2015 in which the New York Mets won it and made a World Series appearance in that year. This season could be very different for a few reasons. Full disclosure, I may have been the jinx for the Mets last season because I had picked them to finish first  in the division because I truly thought it was going to be a bounce back year for them in 2017. Injuries of course hampered that. This season, they have a new medical staff and I’m sure fans are thrilled with that. There have been some reported injuries through spring training but nothing of which is a cause for concern. What makes the Mets more of a force this season is the combination of Callaway and new pitching coach Dave Eiland. Eiland, a former Yankees pitching coach has worked with many talented pitchers and can be the key to the Mets rotation. Not too many times you look at a coaching staff that can be the key but it certainly can be for the Mets.

 

The Mets waited the market out. General manager Sandy Alderson said he would and sure enough the market came to him. At first, it didn’t seem the Mets were going to do very much but as the market played out, it worked in favor of the Mets. The Mets brought back Jay Bruce at a cheap price, the added a bullpen piece in Anthony Swarzak while also adding starter Jason Vargas. You can never have too many arms and this can certainly push certain players like Zach Wheeler and Steven Matz to earn a spot in the rotation. The Mets can set themselves up for a really good year, if of course, they STAY healthy. Las Vegas has the Mets at 81 wins for this season, up from 70 a year ago. I do believe the Mets get over 81 wins and can make a run for a wild card spot.

 

The Washington Nationals, in my mind, are the team with the most pressure on them. They have failed to get over the hump and have had some stellar players to try and get them over but it hasn’t happened. This season will be Bryce Harper’s final season under contract. Harper will not talk about his impending free agency but he is going to be a hot commodity. The question will be though, can the Nats afford him. Since 2011, the Nationals have changed managers five times. They have had good teams just not good enough to get them to the Fall Classic. They will have Adam Eaton back this season after a knee injury kept him out and will we finally see Victor Robles, one of baseball’s top prospects. Coming off a 97-win season, I just don’t think the Nats will get over the hump and we could see the downfall happen sooner rather than later.

 

The bottom three teams that have been there will be an interesting group to watch. We could have a team that breaks a record in losses (Miami Marlins) as they gutted out their prized possessions to begin their rebuild under Derek Jeter. With some veterans mixed in and some young talent still there believe it or not, they could surprise us but don’t bank on it. Vegas has them at 64 wins, they’ll be lucky if they actually get that many. The Phillies are on the rise and have the sixth best farm system in the league and will certainly need and hopefully see a big year in Aaron Nola. Let’s not forget the signing of Carlos Santana that sent some shock waves early in the winter. The Phillies are on the rise but aren’t there yet but are closer than most expect. Even with the surprising signing of Jake Arrieta, it gets them a little further ahead and can certainly up their win total.

 

Finally, we have the Atlanta Braves who have the number one farm system in the game according to many experts. Their prized possession is outfielder Ronald Acuna who has impressed in the spring with a chance to make this team come opening day. With some new leadership in the front office, the Braves are heading in the right direction and can certainly make a bigger push this year but doubtful as the rebuild continues. They had 72 wins last season, so we may see around the same, maybe a little bit more.

 

 

Washington Nationals 90 W
New York Mets 86 W
Philadelphia Phillies 83 W
Atlanta Braves 74 W
Miami Marlins 60 W

 

 

NL Central

 

            The Cubs looked exhausted and spent going into their NLCS matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. The excitement of going the distance against the Nationals in the division series and exhausting every option, the Cubs just couldn’t hold on for a repeat. They did however make one of their big splashes to solidify their starting rotation. They let Arrieta walk into free agency but landed Yu Darvish. The Cubs are still a dangerous team and I expect them to be at the top once again.

 

            This will be another interesting division to watch. We’ve seen this division have some close races and it could be a year we see the same with some dark horse teams. The Milwaukee Brewers made some splashes in the offseason that makes them one of those teams to watch. They had an impressive 86-win campaign last season but couldn’t make the final wild card spot. They added two big bats and outfielders as they signed Lorenzo Cain and traded for Christian Yelich. They certainly have a formidable outfield when you also add in Ryan Braun. The one thing I’m still not sold on will be their rotation but I do believe they will make things interesting.

 

            The St. Louis Cardinals had one of the more disappointing years. We’ve been accustomed to seeing them compete with the Cubs each year for the top spot in the division. They’ve added some pieces during the winter that could put them back in the hunt for sure. Right before the winter meetings they acquired Marcell Ozuna in the Marlins fire sale and added Luke Gregerson for their bullpen. I expect some more contention from the Cards this season.

 

            The Pittsburgh Pirates have been so close in recent years but playing in a tough division, they haven’t been able to get over the hump. When I think of the Pirates, I think of their 98-win season back in 2015 only to lose in the Wild Card game. That was the crushing blow. This winter, the Pirates began a sell-off and another team beginning a rebuild by trading away two of their premier stars. Andrew McCutchen, a fixture in the city was sent to the Giants, while Gerrit Cole was shipped to Houston. It looks like it could be back in the basement for the Buco’s.

 

            The Reds had some impressive production from a number of players but finished in last place in 2017. I really don’t expect much from them as they had a quiet winter. You wonder how a guy like Joey Votto who, finished second in the NL MVP voting in such a tight race, is still on this team. He’s a prime example of a star who wants to stay with the team he’s called home. Maybe another strong start to Votto’s season can enhance trade value and he can be talked into getting moved so the Reds can get some young prospects back.

 

 

Chicago Cubs 93 W
St. Louis Cardinals 89 W
Milwaukee Brewers 85 W
Pittsburgh Pirates 76 W
Cincinnati Reds 72 W

 

 

 

 

 

NL West

 

            What a season it was in this division last year. The Dodgers took the West, while the Diamondbacks and Rockies secured spots in the Wild Card game. It was great seasons for two teams that were able to reach the playoffs for the first time in a few years. The Dodgers looked as if they were going to be the team to beat and almost nothing was going to stop them. Of course, the Astros did in the World Series and you could say manager Dave Roberts with some blunders of his own fulfilled their demise.

 

The Dodgers have been the biggest spenders and have had the biggest payroll in recent years and it has gotten them nowhere. According to Spotrac, the Dodgers have a team payroll of $178M going into the 2018 season. Last season, they had a payroll of $265M and couldn’t win. They lose Yu Darvish but still have a solid lineup and a rotation that could be questionable but the overall question may be for them will they be able to get over the sting of the losing in the World Series and some possible regression from their younger players. Vegas is giving the Dodgers 96 wins for the upcoming season and it’s not a crazy number, I just don’t know if that is a correct number.

 

The two teams to watch here will be the Rockies and DBacks only because they got their taste but now can they keep up. It’s no question the Diamondbacks success, or at least part of it, came from the acquisition of J.D. Martinez who went on a tear (.302, 29 HR, 65 RBIs in 62 games) when he got there is now no longer with the team having signed with the Red Sox. They were however able to add Steven Souza Jr. from the Rays to fill that need. He is no Martinez but is a very productive outfielder and bat.

 

The Rockies had an interesting offseason as they loaded up their bullpen in efforts to shorten the game. We’ve seen this more commonly around the league and so they decided to do the same. They added Bryan Shaw and Wade Davis to solidify that eighth and ninth inning spot. They still have one of the underrated and powerful bats in the game in Nolan Arenado but arbitration is looming for 2019 and a pending free agent for 2020.

 

Both the Giants and Padres improved this winter and should make this division another close one to watch. The Padres made their splash signing Eric Hosmer to a ridiculous deal and they brought back Chase Headley. They currently own the fourth best farm system and are on the rise but I don’t think they are there yet. As for the Giants, they added some pop and some defense with the acquisitions of both Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. It was bad year for them in 2017 and I’ll admit again, I thought they were going to be near the top. They have some power in this lineup and if a healthy Bumgarner and Cueto are on, this team will be a threat once again. (Even year)

 

 

Los Angeles Dodgers 92 W
San Francisco Giants 88 W
Colorado Rockies 86 W
Arizona Diamondbacks 85 W
San Diego Padres 78 W

 

 

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AL East

 

            Back into the two team race division, well that’s what it seems it maybe. It hasn’t been like that in some time but it seems the Yankees and the Red Sox are ready to heat up the rivalry all over again. The Yankees were the surprise team last season and they were the team people didn’t hate for once because they exceeded expectations and the young guns picked up the grunt work. Going into this season, they are back to being the Evil Empire. In one of the more stunning moves of the offseason, the Yankees acquired NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins. Immediately, Yankee bashers felt it was Derek Jeter helping his old team but that wasn’t the case. The Marlins had deals in place with two teams however, Stanton vetoed it which he had the power to do so. He fell into the Yankees lap and if you don’t do that deal you should be fired.

 

With a healthy Greg Bird, and Gary Sanchez that won’t have much of the spotlight on him, the Yankees are a major power threat. Their lineup will be a force to be reckoned with as they have added Brandon Drury and Neil Walker. Their rotation can be a real good one, but the questions there will be, can Tanaka’s arm hold up yet another season and can CC Sabathia carry over the wonderful season he had last year. Their bullpen is intact and a new manager is in the clubhouse to take the Yankees to the next step even with the third best farm system.

 

            Many folks felt the Red Sox needed to make a desperation move after the Yankees made theirs. No they didn’t. They took a wait and see approach and it paid off. They signed J.D. Martinez for $100 million less than what he originally wanted. Did they have to somehow counter the Yankees? Yes in a way, but that has been their only major move other than bringing back utility infielder Eduardo Nunez. The questions that are here is the starting rotation that features more lefties than most teams have on their rosters. Pitching to the powerful Yankees could be an interesting one. The Red Sox will enter the 2018 season with the highest payroll of $229M according to Spotrac and all they did was bring in Martinez. They need to bank on a healthy David Price and hope Chris Sale wasn’t shaken by his playoff performances. Nonetheless, here come the Yankees and Red Sox race again.

 

            With the power shift happening, we saw at least one team throw in the towel before the season started and that was the Tampa Bay Rays. They have gotten a lot of backlash from their sell off but they feel it is time to rebuild. A name to watch will be Chris Archer as he maybe a name moved as they continue their rebuild towards the deadline.

 

The Orioles may have screwed the pooch with not dealing Manny Machado as he will be a free agent at the end of the season. By not getting the value you could have for Manny in the offseason, it puts them in a tight spot come the deadline when they won’t have much leverage for an impending free agent who will test the marker. Of course, there is much speculation he wants to be a Yankee but the Orioles ownership does not want to trade him there, although it may just happen via free agency. The Orioles have not improved and it will be a tough year for them.

 

            The Toronto Blue Jays are not throwing in the towel and feel they can compete with both the Yankees and the Red Sox. They picked up a few bats in Curtis Granderson and Yangervis Solarte in hopes to replace the bat of Jose Bautista who is still a free agent. They added Jaime Garcia to their rotation and will hope Troy Tulowitzki can stay healthy enough to help. There is nothing that scares me about this team and it could be a matter of time before trade talks involving big bat Josh Donaldson pick up as he walks into the final year of his contract.

 

 

New York Yankees 95 W
Boston Red Sox 92 W
Toronto Blue Jays 80 W
Tampa Bay Rays 73 W
Baltimore Orioles 71 W

 

 

AL Central

 

            The heavily favored Cleveland Indians were stunned by the Yankees in the ALDS and have lost some pieces going into the season. They lost Carlos Santana to Philadelphia, Bryan Shaw to the Rockies but still have much of the team intact. We saw some breakdowns for some players which makes them a team to watch as far as maybe falling off a bit. Don’t get me wrong they have a strong team with one of the games best managers in Terry Francona but they will have some more competition this year. You would like to see another solid year from Corey Kluber and more of a step forward for a guy like Trevor Bauer. They did add a bat that can provide some pop in Yonder Alonso but I have a feeling this will be a very weird year for the Indians.

 

            The team who had a heck of a year in 2017 was the Minnesota Twins. They were ousted in the wild card game thanks to the Yankees, but talk about a turn around. The team lost 103 games in 2016 and came back to win 85 in 2017. Rightfully so, manager Paul Molitor won manager of the year. Let’s talk about the additions for the upcoming season that makes them a team to watch for sure. They added Jake Odorizzi from Tampa and Lance Lynn for their rotation, Addison Reed for the bullpen as well as Fernando Rodney and power bat Logan Morrison. A major improvement for the Twinkies who can certainly dethrone the Indians.

 

            The Royals and Tigers have been in the same boat as they both have begun some rebuilds. The Royals let a few players walk in free agency but luckily for them were able to get one back due to a weird free agency. Mike Moustakas is back with the Royals on a one year deal but other than that, it’s been quiet on their front. A team that won the World Series in 2015, is now looking up at the teams ahead.

 

The Tigers lost 98 games last season and it prompted a managerial change. They have brought in Ron Gardenhire and well known manager who brings some old school mentality into an analytic world. They are in the middle of a rebuild with some veterans still sprinkled in so don’t expect much. The White Sox currently have the second best farm system in the league and will continue to progress forward but that won’t mean it will happen this season.

 

 

Cleveland Indians 93 W
Minnesota Twins 88 W
Kansas City Royals 72 W
Detroit Tigers 70 W
Chicago White Sox 68 W

 

 

AL West

 

            The Houston Astros are the defending champions and they got better. It’s very hard to bet against them this season. They added another solid starter into their rotation by acquiring Gerrit Cole from the Pirates as they bolster their staff. There really wasn’t many subtractions outside of Gregerson so this team has the best chance to repeat as champs. Vegas has given them 96 wins and it certainly can go above that. The only thing you worry about and we saw it with the Cubs last year is that World Series hangover.

            The Angels will have a unique spotlight on them as they were able to land Japanese star Shohei Otani as he looks to become the first player since Babe Ruth to successfully pitch and hit in this league. His spring has not been going so well so it will be something to watch to see if the approach changes with the Angels. They should be able to get over the .500 mark this season as they couldn’t last season with a healthy Trout. They added Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler so their lineup and defense will see improvement. They too could make a run for the wild card.

            The puzzling team to me has been the Seattle Mariners for a few years now. When they landed Robinson Cano a few years back and added a bit on top of him, they were looked at as a team to watch but they have disappointed. They have come close with some second place finishes but haven’t done much. They added some speed to their lineup in Dee Gordon and they brought back Ichiro, although there won’t be much production with him. The Mariners again, unless they have a hot start it could be much of the same mediocre team.

            The Texas Rangers were another team to fall from grace after some successful runs. They continue their rebuild with not much to show as of right now. The Athletics are the same old Athletics where they produce some young talent but it doesn’t materialize. You have to figure these two teams will be at the bottom, even with the Athletics signing Jonathan Lucroy.

 

Houston Astros 99 W
Los Angeles Angels 84 W
Seattle Mariners 81 W
Texas Rangers 77 W
Oakland Athletics 73 W

 

 

PLAYOFFS

 

AL WC Game – Red Sox vs. Twins (Twins win)

NL WC Game – Cardinals vs. Giants (Giants win)

 

ALDS – Yankees vs. Indians (Yanks in 7)

ALDS – Astros vs. Twins (Astros in 4)

 

NLDS – Nationals vs. Dodgers (Dodgers in 6)

NLDS – Cubs vs. Giants (Cubs in 6)

 

ALCS – Yankees vs. Astros (Yanks in 7)

NLCS – Dodgers vs. Cubs (Dodgers in 7)

 

WORLD SERIES  – Yankees vs. Dodgers (Yanks in 6)

The playoff choices are always a tricky one. I’m sure I will get the backlash for picking the Yankees to win but I could see some rematches mixed in with some teams we didn’t see last season. I do believe it’s going to closer than most may expect and some of these honorable mentions for the wild card would be the Mets but again it’s a question of health. The Angels another team to watch as it will depend on their rotation and if Otani is the real deal. I believe the Giants make the playoffs with some new tools. I would be lying if I wasn’t rooting for an old school Yankees/Dodgers World Series, so it’s very possible it could happen.

So there you have it, the 2018 MLB predictions. I’m sure some will call me out for being bias to the Yankees but these are just predictions so relax. It will be a fun season to watch and hopefully I’ll get somewhat close to hitting on these predictions. Enjoy and Happy Baseball season!


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