MLB 2018 Preview

Baseball

ByTheMinMLB

The Major League Baseball season kicks off Thursday in spectacular style with all 30 teams getting to show their stuff. The exciting question is what does 2018 hold in store for the 30 MLB teams; can the Astros repeat? Will the Dodgers go one step further? Are the Yankees superstars again? Who will be the worst team in the majors? As with all sports there are sure to many twists and turns between now and October and hopefully there will be some nice stories to follow as the season progresses and maybe an upset or two along the way! The season opens with the Chicago Cubs travelling to the Miami Marlins (5:40pm BST) which you can follow right here on ByTheMin and if that is not enough baseball action we will also have coverage of the Philadelphia Phillies opening their season against the Atlanta Braves from 9:10pm BST. As with all things predictions plenty of people have different ideas and you can hear the thoughts and predictions of Jody Jamieson, Thomas Frost and Paul Chapman on the ByTheMin Baseball podcast which can be found here: https://www.bytheminute.co/podcasts/bytheminmlb/786

AL East Fangraphs projected standings: Yankees 95-67 Red Sox 93-69 Blue Jays 86-76 Orioles 78-84 Rays 78-84 So let’s kick off with a division that is seemingly always exciting and not least because it is the home of both the Yankees and Red Sox who are always making headlines. This offseason both teams have done it again with the Yankees adding Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins and the Red Sox picking up JD Martinez in free agency. The methods from these two powerhouses will likely differ in 2018 with the Yankees building a seemingly all or nothing line-up that will look to dominate through power. In contrast, the Red Sox have less power but will rely on their contact hitters to get on base and make things happen that way. These two teams will have some fascinating match-ups in 2018 and any time we get Chris Sale lining up against the Yankees will be must watch TV. The rest of the division has not had quite such a splashy offseason with the Blue Jays seeming to stick with what they have, the Orioles adding Alex Cobb to bolster their pitching and the Rays seemingly jettisoning players and looking to focus on the future. One of these may spring a surprise in 2018 but they are going to need both the Red Sox and Yankees to stumble for them to have any realistic shot of winning this division. It will be interesting to see whether either the Orioles or Blue Jays can make a push for the playoffs in the form of a wildcard at which point literally anything can happen. In terms of how I see this ending up; the Yankees not only have front line talent but they have a ton of depth in their minor league system from a hitting point of view so for them to lose this division they will need their starting pitching to completely crumble. However, they also have probably the best bullpen in the entire MLB so I think stopping them is going to be an extremely tough ask. My projected final standings: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Orioles

Paul Chapman

Baltimore Orioles, so good we named them twice. Rays last?

Thomas Frost

Fangraphs always a curious read. Reckon both the Yankees and Sox will win a few more than that. Blue Jays 86 wins seems about 4 or 5 wins too high for me.

AL Central Team Projected record Indians 94-68 Twins 81-81 Royals 71-91 Tigers 70-92 White Sox 66-96 This division feels rather boring because it has one stand out team heading into 2018 in the Cleveland Indians, a second team who could be a contender in the Minnesota Twins and then three teams truly in a rebuilding phase in the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers. The Indians have a complete roster but their strength is depth could be an issue and if so the Twins, who have strengthened their rotation and line-up, could push them to the wire and maybe steal the pennant. Of the other three teams the White Sox are the most interesting to watch as they have a young group full of high upside prospects, such as Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, etc. The Tigers and Royals are most likely to impact this season as trade deadline sellers with names such as Miguel Cabrera, Jordan Zimmerman and Mike Moustakas the most likely guys to move if they are having good season. My projected final standings: Indians, Twins, White Sox, Royals, Tigers

Thomas Frost

I quite like the look of the Twins this year. I'll be surprised if they don't make a serious push for a wildcard spot.

AL West Team Projected record Astros 100-62 Angels 84-78 Mariners 80-82 Athletics 80-82 Rangers 79-83 Even with the improvements the Los Angeles Angels have made over the last 12 or so months and the addition of Shohei Ohtani I can only see this division going to the Houston Astros. The Astros have become the tanking blueprint for all sports teams having sacrificed many years to build up a group of young players with a ton of talent who when combined with some veteran players can be challengers for multiple seasons. It would not surprise me if we saw the Astros going deep into the post-season and outside of the Angels I don’t think their division will be causing them too many issues. For the Angels to be serious challengers they really needed to add more depth to their rotation as even if Ohtani is good they will struggle at the back end of the rotation and Garrett Richards is an extremely unreliable option with his injury history. If they are within touching distance come the all-star break and the trade deadline then they could move some pieces and make a run but their prospect group is not the strongest if you take away Ohtani so another good free agency will make 2019 a more realistic target for this team. As for the rest of the division the the Seattle Mariners will have their moments but despite having a nice group of players the Mariners just do not seem to be able to put it all together and in a division with two good teams I cannot see that changing this year. The Athletics will likely take their role as deadline sellers once again and the Texas Rangers will be a ton of fun to watch because with their rotation they are likely going to have to score five plus runs a game most days if they are going to get close to breaking even with their record come September. My projected final standings: Astros, Angels, Mariners, Rangers, A’s

Thomas Frost

I'll agree with your prediction their Ben. Won't be much between the final 3.

NL East Team Projected record Nationals 89-73 Mets 82-80 Phillies 76-86 Braves 72-90 Marlins 64-98 This division is the Washington Nationals to lose and based on their history you may not put it past them to manage it. However, this may be the Nationals last big opportunity to go for glory before there team has to start changing; Bryce Harper is a free agent this coming offseason and their rotation is not getting any younger. They need to try and keep key pieces both on offence and in their rotation healthy if they are to make a push for the World Series but they undoubtedly have the talent to get there. Of the remaining four teams it is likely that the Miami Marlins will finish bottom given that they are in year one of their cost cutting/rebuild plan and have an extremely young and inexperienced roster that will need time to gel. The other three teams are all in very interesting positions with the New York Mets seemingly stuck perennially in a refusal to commit to a rebuild but equally not willing to just throw a ton of cash at the team and really go for it. The health of Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto along with the performance of their free agent signings, Adrian Gonzalez and Todd Frazier, will go a long way to deciding if they can challenge for a wildcard spot. The one thing they have going for them is a deep rotation and so they will always have a shot to win games but the offence will need to click. The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are both now reaping the rewards of committing to rebuilding in the past few years as both teams have good young players emerging who can contribute. The Phillies are probably a year or two ahead of the Braves and signalled their intention to try and push for the playoffs by signing Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta in the offseason. If the Nationals do stumble it could be the Phillies who are best positioned to pounce in 2018. My projected final standings: Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Braves, Marlins

Thomas Frost

Reckon fangraphs has got that right apart from the Marlins. If they lose less than 100 games then Mattingly deserves manager of the year!

NL Central Team Projected record Cubs 94-68 Cardinals 85-77 Brewers 78-84 Pirates 76-86 Reds 71-91 This has the makings of a really interesting division with two, possibly three contenders all with a shot of going to the playoffs. The Chicago Cubs start the season deservedly as favourites given the quality of their roster and what they have achieved the last two years. The additions of Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood will bolster that rotation and their offence has seemingly got even younger with the emergence of Ian Happ as an everyday infield/outfield utility player to replace Ben Zobrist. Their biggest challenge will probably come in the form of the Milwaukee Brewers who have shot themselves from virtual laughing stock to contenders in the space of just over a season. Their additions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich have given them a truly fearsome line-up. Chase Anderson is the new anchor to their rotation and Brent Suter is a high upside pitcher but if they are to make a run at this division they will either need Jimmy Nelson to return from injury firing on all cylinders or they will need to make some deadline day additions to the roster. The other maybe contender is the St. Louis Cardinals but you feel they need a perfect storm to push for even a wildcard spot in this division. However, despite a roster that doesn’t stand out compared to their division foes they are a savvy organisation who know how to win and if they smell blood in the water they will use their farm system to add players and the deadline and make a run if they think they have a shot. The Cincinnati Red and Pittsburgh Pirates are likely going to be making up the numbers this season but both have young players worth watching and should provide some intriguing tests for the other three teams in this division. My projected final standings: Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Pirates

Thomas Frost

Agree about the Cards. Don't feel there's enough of an improvement. Bold prediction saying Brew Crew will pip the Cubbies!

NL West Team Projected record Dodgers 93-69 Diamondbacks 81-81 Giants 81-81 Rockies 80-82 Padres 73-89 This is another exciting division and features last year’s World Series runners up in the Los Angeles Dodgers who start this year as favourites in their division. Their roster last year was incredibly strong and so they have made no major additions. Their strength in depth has allowed them to absorb the blow of losing Justin Turner to a broken wrist in spring training and they can regularly “rest” members of their rotation and call up a prospect to make a few starts without really missing a beat. Knocking them off top spot and to prevent them returning to the World Series is going to be a tough job. My pick to finish second was going to be the San Francisco Giants who went out and added some veteran players to their line-up, Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. However, in the last week they have lost Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija to start the season turning a good 1-2-3 punch with Johnny Cueto into one of the weakest rotations on opening day. If they can somehow stay competitive through April and May then they may be able to push for the post-season once they get their pitchers back. The Giants misfortune has left the chance to challenge the Dodgers wide open and it is conceivable that both the Rockies and Diamondbacks could be ready to step into the breach. Each of their strengths is the other weakness with the Rockies having a very strong line-up, which is boosted by their home park, but a so-so rotation and the Diamondbacks having an extremely strong rotation and a questionable line-up. If the addition of a humidor to Arizona’s home field has the effect that has been rumoured then we could see the Diamondbacks return the best figures across a whole rotation in the minor leagues. However, their gains could be cancelled out by question marks around their talent at middle infield and the injury concerns in their line-up; Steven Souza will start on the DL, David Peralta is day to day to start the year and AJ Pollock is a walking injury waiting to happen. The final team in this division is the San Diego Padres who are probably a year or two and an entire rotation away from being challengers. A success for them will be breaking even with their record come the end of the season. My projected final standings: Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies, Padres

The only thing left to project is who I see wining the big prizes. I have the Astros and Nationals going to the World Series and as much as I would love to see the Nationals finally win it all I think the Astros will just have just have too much and will win back to back World Series. My Cy-Young picks are Zack Greinke in the NL and Corey Kluber in the AL. My MVP picks are Bryce Harper for the NL and Mike Trout for the AL