FOUR MORE DAYS UNTIL BASEBALL IS BACK – THIS IS NOT A DRILL!
Here is how I see the 2019 MLB season playing out…
The Yankees made significant improvements over the off-season to shore up weaknesses and replenish strengths while the Red Sox stood pat to their own detriment. The Sox bullpen will cost them in a big throughout the season but not enough to keep them out of the postseason. The Rays improved have a legitimate one-two punch with Blake Snell and Charlie Morton that should anchor them. Also, Tyler Glasnow could be a real difference maker should he harness his stuff. Plus, the Rays always have young talent coming up and this year is no different.
The AL Central is weak enough that the Indians are still the clear favorites despite injuries to their two catalysts on offense in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. They have arguably the best pitching staff in baseball with Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber.
Until further notice, the Astros will remain the cream of the crop in the AL West. The A’s were considered for a playoff spot but losing Matt Olson and Jesus Luzardo for extended periods of time are massive blows. Them, the Rays and Twins I expect to battle for the final wild card but feel the Rays are the most complete team of the bunch.
While the American League, as a whole, is easier to dissect, a number of compelling arguments can be made for about 9 – 12 teams in the National League.
The NL East is going to be a dog fight from start to finish. The Nationals, Phillies, Mets and Braves all expect to be contenders and have had off-seasons to back it up. Of the group, I think the Nationals are the best top to bottom. Yes, losing Bryce Harper is a massive loss but it actually shifted their team dynamic for the better. To me, pitching wins out and the Nationals and Mets have that in spades while the rest of the division is pretty far behind. The Phillies, arguably the most improved, still don’t have many convincing options behind ace Aaron Nola. The Braves were a year ahead of schedule last season but their rotation is already being devastated by injuries. A Dallas Keuchel signing could really swing the balance of this division – looking at you, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
The Cubs had a TON go wrong last season and I don’t expect that to last. Kris Bryant and Yu Darvish need to return to form or else the “North Siders” are in big, big trouble. The Brewers, fresh off a stunning division title in 2018, have reloaded on offense but still have serious pitching woes. The Cardinals made perhaps the biggest off-season move in baseball by acquiring Paul Goldschmidt and enhancing the bullpen with Andrew Miller. It wouldn’t surprise me if any of these finished in first, I just see the Cubs righting the ship and getting big seasons from key players. A Craig Kimbrel signing could significantly alter the division – both the Cubs and Brewers have a major need at closer and he makes a ton of sense for either club.
I feel like the karma around the Rockies is ascending. Re-signing Nolan Arenado and last year extending Charlie Blackmon are huge developments that won’t wind up distracting the team. Combine that with intriguing players like Daniel Murphy, Trevor Story and Garrett Hampson, and the best starting rotation they’ve had in a while, simply put, the Rockies are legit. I truly don’t know how to peg the Dodgers, either, Walker Buehler needs to be the truth and take some pressure off of Kershaw, otherwise, they’re in trouble. They have enough to play meaningful baseball until late September and battle with the Rockies but ultimately think they have too many miles on them from the past two World Series runs.
AL – I debated real hard between Judge and Alex Bregman but feel the New York factor / bias might come into play on this. Both are absolute studs, on loaded teams and it wouldn’t surprise me if 2019 is similar to 2017 where it was Yanks/’Stros in the AL title and for the MVP with Altuve/Judge. (Bregman and Trout were other considerations)
NL – Bottom line is Arenado needs to get an MVP award at some point, right? I think wrestling the division away from the Dodgers and pushing the Nationals for the best record in the NL might be enough, in addition to Arenado’s ridiculous numbers and platinum level defense. The time is now for this silent superstar to get his moment. (Anthony Rendon and Freddie Freeman were other considerations)
AL – I was between Cole and Trevor Bauer on this award but felt Cole’s contract year situation and better team overall give him the slightest of edges. Plus, the Astros pitchers are just a different breed and continue to improve and churn out top flight starters. It wouldn’t be surprising if they turned Wade freaking Miley into a legit option this year… (Bauer and Jose Berrios were other considerations)
NL – Another difficult pool to sift from but deGrom’s easy style of pitching screams a repeat for me. deGrom should be staring 20 wins in the face with a much improved team and bullpen supporting him this year. Of course, Scherzer will be part of this equation and being able to snag another Cy Young during the Scherzer/Kershaw era would be an unreal development for deGrom. (Scherzer and Jameson Taillon were other considerations)
Rookie of the Year
AL – With Vlad Jr. suffering an oblique injury and missing a chunk of the season due to service time nonsense, that opens the door for Jimenez. He has a clear advantage playing from day one over Vlad, plain and simple. Also, the thought exists that Vlad could be up as late as June – which would suck! The prized prospect from the Jose Quintana trade is poised to pull of a mini upset for the White Sox as they continue with their rebuild. (Vlad and Forrest Whitley were other considerations)
NL – Like Vlad & Eloy, Victor Robles has a clear advantage over Nick Senzel because of service time factors. Robles, playing on a high profile team, will be boosted by the Nationals lineup and could potentially work his way to the top of the lineup. Senzel is like a carbon copy version of Bregman and many, many people want to see him up with the big club. (Senzel, Chris Paddack, and Pete Alonso were other considerations)
- Madison Bumgarner gets traded to either the Braves or Brewers
- Jose Abreu gets traded to the Rockies
- Nicholas Castellanos gets traded to Rays