By Rob Santander
It brings me great pleasure to tell our readers that the 2019 Major League Baseball season is underway! Below, I sort through the league division by division, projecting a general outcome for each ball club.
Braves: The defending division chaps from a year ago are still a young team. They’ll be in the middle of the race for the division title, but the failure to veteran add depth [outside of the injury prone Luke Donaldson]. in the offseason results in a third-place finish behind Washington and Philadelphia.
Marlins: The weakest team in the division will lose about 100 games, but could absolutely play spoiler for the teams above them in the division standings.
Mets: The offseason additions of Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and All-Star Edwin Diaz will pay off and the Mets will manage to hang around, but ultimately they’re the second or third best team in the division.
Phillies: Adding Bryce Harper to any lineup makes it playoff caliber. I believe the Phillies will be battling the Mets and Nats down the stretch in what may be a coin-flip in a 3 team race. This would be Philly’s first division crown and postseason trip since 2011.
Nationals: People will be surprised at the success the Nationals experience given the departure of superstar Bryce Harper. Filling the void won’t be easy but will be aided with the help of young studs Juan Soto and Trea Turner. They will fare better than their disappointing finish last season, battling with the Phillies and Mets for a division crown.
AL East –
Orioles: Baltimore will be in a full blown tanking race for the number one draft pick against the likes of the Royals and Miami Marlins. Their major league roster is so bereft of even average major league talent, I’d be surprised if they won 60 games. Unfortunately for Baltimore fans, there is no optimistic, rosy red picture to paint here. With a roster full of mostly triple- AAA players, the Orioles will be looking to play spoiler to their opponents all year long – because they are going nowhere this season.
Red Sox: Defending champs get back to the postseason, but will not match their impressive 108 win campaign like in 2018. A 3-9 west coast road trip to start to the season has not done them any favors either.
Yankees: Boasting the deepest bullpen in baseball, the Yankees have everything to lose this year and are going full World Series or bust. The playoff series loss to Boston surely still stings in the minds of Yankees players. I believe this will motivate them further and get them over the proverbial ‘hump’ to capture their first division crown since 2012.
Rays: Seemingly always playing baseball on a tight budget, the most under-appreciated [nice way of saying the worst fan base] team in baseball will hang around the big boys in the division and fight their way to a wild-card spot with a group of pitchers as “bullpenning” continues to become a trend in the league.
Blue Jays: The worst place to be for a pro sports team is hovering around that “mediocre” label. The Blue Jays have Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who is as good as advertised. The Blue Jays finish around .500, but that’s only good for fourth place in the deep division.
AL Central –
White Sox: The young core of Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada and stud pitching prospects Mike Kopech and Lucas Giolito will have some flashes of greatness and provide some excitement and visions of the future of the ChiSox. However the South Siders must overachieve if they want to have their first winning season in seven years.
Indians: The Indians enter the season as the favorites to win the division that is largely regarded as the weakest division in Baseball. The pitching staff will serve as the strength of the team, as it has for the past 4 seasons, but the race will be closer than people will expect.
Tigers: The most recognizable name on this roster is Miguel Cabrera, and his contract is looking more and more like an albatross in the payroll department, being owed $30 million every season for the next five seasons. In a best case scenario for tiger fans, Cabrera stays healthy unlike in years past and reaches the 500-home run and 3,000-hit plateaus come 2020.
Royals: Alex Gordon and Sal Perez are the last links to the repeat AL- Pennant teams of 2014 – 2015. Ned Yost’s teams always compete but will ultimately lose 100 games for the second year in a row.
Twins: The offseason acquisitions pay off as Minnesota hangs with Cleveland in the division and competes for a wild-card spot. Their postseason fortunes may fare similarly to 2018 as they lost the wild-card game to the Yankees.
NL Central –
Cubs: Early season bullpen woes, a slow start from stud Kris Bryant and underachieving performances from pitchers and other position players are starting to wither away at the core of the 2016 World Series Winners.
Reds: An off-season of veteran acquisitions (Matt Kemp, Sonny Gray, Yasiel Puig) gives Cincinnati hope for the future, but a strong offensive division will prove too much for the Reds to overcome with a weak pitching staff in a hitter friendly ballpark.
Brewers: The Brew Crew’s high powered offense flourished in 2018 thanks to the likes of Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar and Lorenzo Cain. I say that is more likely to happen again in 2019, but the lack of elite starting pitching may deliver the team a second straight division title, but will ultimately hold the team back from getting to the World Series.
Pirates: Jameson Taillon further develops into the team’s ace but the unimpressive lineup struggles as they finish fourth or fifth in the division.
Cardinals: The trade for Paul Goldschmidt proves to be the biggest move of the winter as the Cardinals fight for their first division title since 2015.
AL West –
Astros: Justin Verlander has managed to turn back the clock and Gerrit Cole has incentive to pick up where he left off, entering a contract year. MVP Jose Altuve and studs Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman will put up gaudy numbers as Houston will eclipse 100 wins for the third consecutive year.
Angels: Mike Trout has another Mike Trout season as the best player in Baseball and sophomore sensation Shohei Ohtani hits some home runs but the club wilts in the summer months, finishing with another disappointing below .500 record.
Athletics: Following up on a successful year in which the Athletics made the post season; they stay competitive and ultimately will be in good shape for another wild-card berth, but the pitching staff just isn’t deep enough to see the season into October.
Mariners: The longest postseason drought in professional sports will extend for another year as Seattle’s rebuild flops in its first year as the team’s record dips below .500 in a weaker division.
Rangers: Pitching and washed up veterans (see Hunter Pence, Shin- Soo Choo) continue to be a problem for the Franchise that made back to back world series appearances in 2010 & 2011 and they finish in the AL West basement for the second year in a row.
NL West –
Diamondbacks: They hang around for the first few months as most teams do, but the departure of Paul Goldschmidt proves too big a void to fill for the D-backs as they fight to finish with a .500 record.
Rockies: They hang with the Dodgers in the division as Daniel Murphy reaps the benefits of a hitter friendly Coors Field. Franchise cornerstone Nolan Arenado has a new contract, so Rockies fans won’t be worrying about his potential departure. Late in the season they will be in a fight for a third consecutive postseason berth.
Dodgers: I consider this division likely a two team race this year, similar to last year. The defending national league champs will be given a run for their money from the improved Rockies, but win the NL West for the seventh year in a row.
Padres: Notable signs of progress are blossoming in San Diego in their first year with Manny Machado. Machado, second year Padre Eric Hosmer paired with one of the hottest prospects in the game in Fernando Tatis Jr. will set up a solid core in San Diego for years to come.
Giants: Future Hall-of-Fame manager Bruce Bochy’s last year will end in forgettable fashion, as the pressure mounts to begin a rebuild, it will start with the jettisoning of stud pitcher Madison Bumgarner.