Real games are happening later today for all 30 teams, which means we’ve got some questions to answer. Without further ado, some rankings, thoughts and predictions for the 2019 season, all of which will certainly come to pass and which I will in no way regret in the future.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers may have passed on the tippy-top tier of free agents this offseason, and they might not have even really improved from last season. That said, they didn’t get significantly worse and we’re talking about a team that’s been to back-to-back World Series. During their playoff run last year, we were consistently harping about how they were a much better team than their 92-71 record indicated, and, lo and behold, they made it all the way to the Fall Classic. There are certainly some questions in the rotation, but there’s also a ton of depth. With a hopefully healthy Corey Seager back in the lineup this year, I still think they’re the best team in the division, if not the league, although their failure to improve is going to cost them a third straight shot at winning it all.
2. Colorado Rockies
Although… it wouldn’t really surprise me if Colorado screwed things up for the Dodgers. They just need a lot of things to go right. We have a couple of years of evidence that the Rockies finally have pitchers that can succeed at Coors and they, of course, still have Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. A (healthy) breakout season that outfielder David Dahl has previously hinted at would go along way towards helping them pull it off and I, for one, am extremely excited to see Daniel Murphy getting all those PAs at Coors Field. But they have some significant holes in their lineup (catcher, Ian Desmond) and I’m not even sure they’ll snag a Wild Card berth, given the improvements some other NL teams made this offseason.
3. San Diego Padres
I’m all in on the Padres. In 2020. The infield of Manny Machado, top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. (who isn’t being held in the minors for an extra year of service time and is probably my runner-up pick for NL Rookie of the Year), Ian Kinsler, and Eric Hosmer is a pretty good start. But they pretty clearly don’t have the pitching and will need a little bit more development on that front before they can nudge out the Rockies, much less the Dodgers. I think we’ll all be at least a little surprised by the standings throughout the year, though.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
Considering the mass exodus of talent this offseason, I originally thought I might be placing them in the last slot. But then when you actually look at the roster? They still have a heaping helping of players who are either quite good or at least not embarassing, and it’s quite possible that they’ll get decent contributions from the players they acquired in the Goldschmidt trade. While there’s no way they’re winning the division and we may see some of those good players on the move this year, this team isn’t going to be losing 100 games.
5. San Francisco Giants
It wouldn’t be absolutely crazy if the Giants finished a couple of spots up this list, given that the whole infield is manned by players that could absolutely have non-surprising excellent seasons. A third place finish wouldn’t be the craziest thing to happen, but I’d still be surprised, since this is basically the same team that lost 89 games last year, just a year older. The outfield situation is truly ugly and, the rotation is littered with question marks. I hope y’all are ready for so, so, so many Bumgarner trade rumors.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals haven’t missed the postseason for four straight years in over two decades. This offseason they added Paul Goldschmidt, who I’m going to go with for NL MVP this year, one last time (at least), even if it didn’t work out for me last year. Goldschmidt has consistently been so, so good throughout his career and I think he’s the missing piece in the heart of the order that’s going to get them the division back. Their rotation is sneaky-deep, too, and they were a far better team last year than their win-loss record indicated. Oh, and we can’t forget Devil Magic.
2. Milwaukee Brewers (1st Wild Card)
Of course, the team that went all the way to Game 7 in the NLCS is pretty good, too, and they’re returning most of the team that won 96 games last year. The Brewers’ addition of Grandal was an absolute steal and he gives them a lineup that’s even scarier than the Cardinals. But, while they have a lot of different pitchers to choose from, I just don’t trust the pitching enough in the Brewers’ case to award them the top spot, and the preseason injuries in the bullpen (Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress) are going to keep it from being as dominant as it was last year.
3. Chicago Cubs
Don’t @ me, Cubs fans, the NL Central is going to be an absolute meat grinder this year. There’s so much potential for bounceback among Cubs players they have after disappointing seasons in 2018, and they still won 95 games last year. Yeah, I think Kris Bryant is going to have a better season, but I also think Javier Baez due for some regression. The lineup has the potential to be amazing, but their rotation hasn’t gotten any younger. They could easily run away with the division if things go right, but sometimes you just have to trust your gut.
4. Cincinnati Reds
Having Yasiel Puig playing half his games in the Great American Ball Park is going to be absolutely amazing. I expect we’re going to get to see 30 Puig bat flips this year, which is something we should all drink up like the delicious fine wine that it is. While the pitching situation is still pretty sketchy, it’s going to be better than last year and they managed to put together a team that could potentially surprise everyone with the appropriate breaks (but, man, there are a lot of breaks required). Whether they were smart to do so in the environment of the NL Central (and the NL in general) in 2019 is another question, but the Reds will certainly be a lot more fun to watch this year and it’s just nice to see teams try.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if the Pirates played in the AL Central, I’d probably slot them in for a postseason spot. They still have some good to great pitchers and an intriguing collection of upside in their offense. But you have to spend at least a little money if you want to contend in the NL Central these days.
1. Washington Nationals
Despite losing Bryce Harper to a division rival, the Nats are still the best team in their division, at least for now. Any question that they wouldn’t win the division is settled by the fact that I’m predicting a one-two punch of Max Scherzer taking home his fourth Cy Young, and Victor Robles winning NL Rookie of the Year. Since I’m doing that, you best believe I’m (perhaps foolishly) continuing to beat the drum for them before the season starts. And, of course, they will go all the way to the World Series since they lost Harper...
2. Philadelphia Phillies (2nd Wild Card)
Aaron Nola could win the Cy Young. Bryce Harper could (as always) win the MVP. JT Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball right now. The Phillies improved more than any other team in the National League this year, but, after Nola, I still think they fall short of the Nationals in the pitching department and that’s going to cost them the division this year.
3. New York Mets
I really, really like the aggressive moves the Mets made this season, and they are a much improved team offensively, something I genuinely rejoice in saying. With their home grown starters and a truly excellent closer in Edwin Diaz, they have the pitching to go all the way back to the World Series, if I’m being honest. But, well, the NL East is the most interesting division in all of baseball and somebody is going to have to suffer because of that. Sorry, Mets fans.
4. Atlanta Braves
The Braves held onto their prospects and avoid making any long-term salary commitments this offseason, which might very well have been the right move until they see how things shake up with the other teams. But I think the moves the other teams made in their division are going to bump them down a few notches and they’re going to have to spend some money next year (assuming that every single free agent in baseball hasn’t signed an extension) if they want to challenge the teams above them.
5. Miami Marlins
The Marlins are not going to be good next year. But we already knew that. The real travesty is that we will not even have the beautiful monstrosity that was the dinger sculpture to keep us company any more. Screw you, Jeter.
1. Houston Astros
The Astros won 103 games last year on the strength of their pitching and 101 games the year before on the strength of their lineup. While they lost some talent in the rotation this offseason, they still have the best one-two punch in baseball and a surprising amount of depth behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. They patched up some weaknesses over offseason, and with a little better health in the lineup, there’s every reason to believe that this team could win 100 games again, as they’re unquestionably one of the best and deepest teams in baseball.
2. Los Angeles Angels
None of the moves that the Halos made this offseason were particularly inspiring, but when you have Mike Trout, that’s a pretty good place to start. While Shohei Ohtani won’t be pitching this year, he’ll be back to DH at some point. The starting pitching could absolutely be absolute mess, but I think that they’ll get more out of it than we might expect and give the second Wild Card spot a run for its money.
3. Oakland Athletics
The A’s came out of nowhere to win 97 games last year. But with Sean Manaea out for the year, I just don’t think they have the pitching to pull it off for a second year in a row. But I dunno, feel free to swap them with the Angels and give either of these teams the second Wild Card spot at your pleasure. The AL is a much easier place to play these days.
4. Seattle Mariners
Yusei Kikuchi is a potential Rookie of the Year candidate, and I don’t think this team is going to approach 100 losses or anything, but they’re clearly not even trying to be competitive this season and it shows. Trader Jerry is going to be busy as usual come the trade deadline.
5. Texas Rangers
While they’re the best of the best when it comes to 5th place teams in the AL, I’m still predicting them to finish last again this season. Their rotation is question mark after question mark. Old question marks, mostly. While at least one of those question marks will probably deliver a great season, expect him (or them) to be on the move come July.
1. Cleveland Indians
The Indians knew they were going to coast to a postseason appearance in 2018, so they coasted through the prior offseason. This offseason, though, they might have actively gotten worse in an attempt to save money. But they still have some amazing pitchers and position players and are clearly the favorites to win the division, although that won’t get them back to the World Series.
2. Minnesota Twins (2nd Wild Card)
Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, Marwin González and C.J. Cron were all savvy signings for a small market team looking to add some wins (and dingers, lots of dingers) on the cheap. I think the rotation will be strong enough, and the non-Indians teams in their division weak enough, that they’ll be able to back into another Wild Card appearance.
3. Chicago White Sox
Eloy Jimenez is a serious candidate for Rookie of the Year (especially since he’ll be starting the season in the big leagues, unlike my actual pick) and all, but the 2019 White Sox are all about hope. The White Sox are hoping that their young players like Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito finally live up to their promise. They’re hoping that the next wave of prospects arrives and does as well. That’s a lot to ask to happen in a single year.
4. Kansas City Royals
The Royals are going to be a lot of fun to watch, this year, even as they’re racking up the losses. If I’m going to watch a team lose, I want them to do it with style, and Kansas City is going to have no shortage of that since the theme of their offseason was “acquire players who steal bases.”
5. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are not going to be a lot of fun to watch this year. But at least we can all enjoy some Nick Castellanos trade rumors.
1. Boston Red Sox
I’m not convinced that the Red Sox bullpen isn’t going to be very, very iffy until they make some moves to shore it up. They might have done the smart thing by spending their money to retain talent elsewhere, and I think they’re still going to win the division, but I think it’s going to cost them in the postseason, because by that time the next team should be operating at full strength, Also, Chris Sale is finally going to win a Cy Young.
2. New York Yankees (1st Wild Card)
Aaron Judge is going to stay healthy and win the MVP. The Bronx Bombers are going to break the single-season home run record they set last year. They upgraded their rotation this offseason and their bullpen should be the best in baseball yet again. They may have passed on Harper and Machado this offseason, but, make no mistake, the Yankees are still the Yankees and they are coming for us all, even if they’re going to fail to win the division because of all the injuries they’ve got to face to start the season.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
As always, the Rays made some interesting and affordable moves this offseason, coming off a 90-win season. This set of players has a high floor, but also a fairly low ceiling, and that has to do with their payroll. Could the Rays snag a Wild Card spot this year? Absolutely. Am I going to bet the house on it? Nope.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
We can’t wait for the Blue Jays to call up Rookie of the Year recipient Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to.
5. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles are going to lead the league in losses again, but that means another first-overall draft pick. So, good, I guess?
If you shake it all out, here’s what we got:
NL East: Washington Nationals
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
NL WC1: Milwaukee Brewers
NL WC2: Philadelphia Phillies
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt
NL Rookie of the Year: Victor Robles
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
AL West: Houston Astros
AL WC1: New York Yankees
AL WC2: Minnesota Twins
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
AL MVP: Aaron Judge
AL Rookie of the Year: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
ALWC: Yankees over Twins
ALDS: Yankees over Red Sox, Astros over Indians
ALCS: Yankees over Astros
NLWC: Phillies over Brewers
NLDS: Nationals over Cardinals, Dodgers over Phillies
NLCS: Nationals over Dodgers
World Series: Yankees over Nationals
Happy baseballing, y'all.