1045 The Team’s 2019 MLB Season Predictions
AL East Winner: Boston Red Sox
Yankees fans aren’t going to like it. But, it’s the truth. Coming off a franchise record 108 wins and a World Series title, the Boston Red Sox still remain the team to beat in the East. The back end of the bullpen is in rough shape after the departure of Craig Kimbrel. The team’s weakness last year remains the weakness this year. The rotation of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodriguez remains the deepest in the division and one of the best in the AL. Top that off with a lineup loaded with power including Mookie Betts and JD Martinez, it’s hard to take anyone else right now. The Yankees will be there, but will it be enough? More on that later.
AL Central Winner: Cleveland Indians
This one is a no-brainer. Cleveland has won three-straight division titles with relative ease and are poised to do it once again in 2019. They have arguably the best rotation in the AL. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Carlos Carrasco lead the way. Look for Shane Bieber to be a popular breakout candidate this year. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez steer the way offensively while the outfield figures to be a platoon to start the season. Because of the two young stars in Lindor and Ramirez, the rotation, and little push back from the rest of the division, I think the Indians cruise to their fourth straight Central crown.
AL West Winner: Houston Astros
The past two seasons for the Astros have seen a World Series title, 2 ALCS appearances, and back-to-back 100-win seasons. The rotation will look a bit different after the likely departure of Dallas Keuchel, who remains a free agent, and Charlie Morton who is off to Tampa Bay. Led by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, the supporting cast will do just fine. There’s also anticipation that Houston’s top prospect Forrest Whitley will join the rotation at some point as well. The lineup could be one of the deepest in baseball. George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa provide a top 4 no opposition wants to face. The addition of Michael Brantley isn’t being talked about enough. I love this lineup from 1-9. They’ll be a problem.
AL Wild Card 1: New York Yankees
The Yankees will certainly have something to say about the Red Sox repeating as East champions. This winter I was convinced this would be the year they take back the division. However, this spring has not been kind to the Bronx Bombers. Luis Severino, Aaron Hicks, Dellin Betances, and Didi Gregorius all will be starting the season on the Injured List for various reasons. We don’t know how ready CC Sabathia is, Spring problems leak into the regular season one way or the other and it will be interesting to see how this team responds. The addition of James Paxton and the retention of JA Happ will help the rotation in Sevy and (possibly) Sabathia’s absence. What kind of impact will Gio Gonzalez truly have? Masahiro Tanaka will be the opening day starter and needs to have a big year. Is a Trade Deadline move for Madison Bumgarner in play? The bullpen, once again, is the deepest in baseball and will certainly be asked to bail out the starters more often than not. The lineup all of a sudden has questions in its own right, too. With so many moving parts within the infield, it will be interesting to see how Aaron Boone manages all of the pieces at his disposal. Newly acquired DJ LeMahieu is seen as an everyday player. At first Luke Voit and Greg Bird will see most of the time. Gleyber Torres needs to show improvement in the field at second. Is Miguel Andujar the future at third without Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado? Can Gary Sanchez improve behind the plate? What version of Troy Tulowitzki do we get? What happens when Didi returns? A lot of questions. Regardless, offensively this team will have no problems lighting up the scoreboard once again this season led by Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees are comfortably the top wild card team.
AL Wild Card 2: Tampa Bay Rays
ESPN’s own Buster Olney told us on ‘Levack and Goz’ every week during the dog days of summer that if the season would last one more week the Rays would have been a wild card team last year. This is best team nobody is talking about. They had the most innovative 90-win season in MLB history. Now, they’re back in a big way. Blake Snell leads the rotation coming off a CY Young season. Charlie Morton is a great second man. They expect big things put of Tyler Glasnow, too. The “opener” method will be used once again by Kevin Cash, which was extremely successful last season. The lineup is still going to struggle to put runs up consistently, but will be led by slugging catcher Mike Zunino. The AL is wide open for the second WC and ripe for the Rays to take.
NL East Winner: Philadelphia Phillies
You can’t find a team that had a better offseason than the one Philadelphia had. The Phillies and GM Matt Klentak became the first team to bring in 3 All-Stars from the prior season. They acquired SS Jean Segura from Seattle, C JT Realmuto from Miami, and signed OF Bryce Harper to a 13 year, $330M deal. On top of that, the Phillies bolstered the bullpen by signing All-Star reliever David Robertson and signed former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen to play LF. This was added to the already promising core Gabe Kapler and company already had after a surprising push for a division title last season that fell short. There’s not many duos better than Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta on top of the rotation followed by young guns Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez. This lineup is easily one of the deepest in the NL and arguably top 5 in baseball. Rhys Hoskins takes over at first after a year in the OF. A lineup top 5 of McCutchen, Segura, Harper, Hoskins, and Realmuto will be lethal. Sprinkle in the likes of Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, and Cesar Hernandez you have a 1-8 lineup that can compete with anyone. The Phillies are back with a vengeance.
NL Central Winner: Chicago Cubs
This is one of the toughest divisions to figure out. It could be a 3-team sprint to the finish come September between Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee. When push comes to shove, the most talented team is Chicago. The Cubs should win it. If they don’t, Joe Maddon is probably axed. A healthy Yu Darvish and a full season of Cole Hamels should provide the Cubs with one of the deeper rotations in the NL alongside Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Jose Quintana. This team should continue to rake offensively led by 2018 NL MVP runner-up Javier Baez and superstar Kris Bryant. The Cubs are still waiting for Kyle Schwarber to take that next step to becoming a premiere slugger. Can Jason Heyward provide just enough production at the plate to compliment his stellar defense and clubhouse leadership? With revenge on their mind from a Wild Card collapse and based on talent alone, the Cubs should win the Central.
NL West Winner: Colorado Rockies
For the first time in six years, we have a new champion in the West. The Rockies took the Dodgers down to the wire last year and are poised to take over this season for a Dodgers team in limbo. Newly extended Nolan Arenado anchors the lineup loaded with power. Alongside Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story provide plenty of firepower in Mile High. It’s fair to question the starting rotation, but Kyle Freeland and German Marquez is a solid duo to lead the way. If the Rockies win the division, the rotation will have held its own throughout the season. Outside of the newly-tinkered-with Dodgers roster, there isn’t much competition in the West. The Diamondbacks will hover around .500 while the Giants and Padres will fight for the cellar. Sorry Manny.
NL Wild Card 1: Atlanta Braves
The defending NL East champions are not going to go quietly in what is the deepest division in all of baseball. The Braves have a serious NL MVP candidate in Ronald Acuna Jr. Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson, and Nick Markakis will provide plenty of pop for Atlanta. Nobody will ever doubt the productivity of this lineup. The big question is how the rotation will hold up for the Braves. Behind Julio Teheran is a whole lot of question marks. Mike Foltynewicz will start the season on the IL with right elbow soreness. Kevin Gausman’s status is up in the air with right elbow soreness of his own. So that leaves Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, Bryse Wilson, and Kyle Wright to pick up the pieces. How far can the offense take them?
NL Wild Card 2: Los Angeles Dodgers
There are several teams you can put in the second wild card spot and I wouldn’t have a problem with it (STL, MIL, WAS), but I have to go with the defending NL champions. The Dodgers have a lot of uncertainty and question around them, but I still believe in the overall talent on this roster enough to at least get them to this point. Of course we don’t know how much time Clayton Kershaw will miss. But, this starting rotation is still good with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler at the top of it. The lineup is still loaded with talent. Corey Seager’s return from Tommy John surgery will be a huge boost. Newly acquired AJ Pollock will head the re-made OF alongside Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor. The infield remains one of the most offensively potent in the NL with Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Seager, and Justin Turner. That will be enough to get them into a play-in game with Atlanta. Once they get there, they could have a big run.
ALCS: Astros defeat Red Sox (4-3)
NLCS: Phillies defeat Dodgers (4-2)
World Series: Astros defeat Phillies (4-3)