Want to give the author direct feedback? Follow @NewArticleSZN on Twitter for more insight.
The 2019 MLB Season will commence today for every team not named the Seattle Mariners or Oakland Athletics. Those two began their seasons in Japan on March 20th, and it was a bittersweet affair. The Mariners took those two games, but we saw the end of one of the greatest careers in not only MLB history, but sports history. Ichiro Suzuki retired in his native Japan after a career that saw him spend time with the Mariners, New York Yankees, and Miami Marlins. He recorded 3,089 hits in the Majors, 10 All-Star appearances, and an American League MVP in 2001. Ichiro holds 4,367 career hits at the highest level of baseball in Japan and the United States, but his claim to the baseball hit crown is often disputed.
For the rest of the field, the season begins anew. Teams will be jockeying for position, whether postseason position or draft position. Although we endured another quiet winter, big changes still occurred. The San Diego Padres brought in Manny Machado to go along with touted prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. on the left side of the infield. The Philadelphia Phillies acquired infielder Jean Segura and catcher JT Realmuto, as well as signing star outfielder Bryce Harper to a 13-year mega contract. Teams got better, teams fortified their future, and other teams did nothing. How will all of this change translate into the season? Here are my predictions:
American League Central: Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians have the benefit of being one of the only teams trying to compete in their division, let alone the American League. The Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, and Kansas City Royals are currently in their own stages of a rebuild. The Minnesota Twins seem to be a bit of a bubble team. They underachieved last year after making it to the American League Wild Card Game in 2017. The Twins made some low risk moves in the offseason, bringing in designated hitter Nelson Cruz and infielders Ronald Torreyes and Jonathan Schoop. However, that is not nearly enough to dethrone the Tribe in the Central.
American League East: Boston Red Sox
This division could be the most entertaining in the American League. The Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Tampa Bay Rays were all 90+ win teams last season. Those three teams figure to battle it out for the AL East once again. The Red Sox did not suffer much of a set back, and I do not believe the Yankees or Rays did enough to over throw the Sox for the division crown. New York and Tampa Bay have a few question marks. How will guys like James Paxton and Adam Ottavino transition to New York? Will Charlie Morton maintain the success he found in Houston with Tampa? The Red Sox do have questions of their own, as every team does, but they are the team to beat.
American League West: Houston Astros
The AL West will fall to the Houston Astros once again in 2019. They didn’t go out and make a major splash like they have in years past with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, but they didn’t need to. I’d say their biggest move was taking a two-year flier on Micheal Brantley, formerly of the Cleveland Indians. However, with a core consisting of Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and Jose Altuve, they have the luxury of allowing their current crop of guys grow. The biggest threat to their claim to the division lies in the Oakland Athletics, who surprised many and grabbed a Wild Card spot last year.
American League Wild Cards: New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays
Like I will do with the National League, I am lumping the two Wild Card teams together. I believe the two Wild Card teams in the American League will come out of the AL East. The Yankees and Rays, while not able to take over the Red Sox, will perform well enough to make the Wild Card game. I see the A’s falling off a bit, and I don’t see the Minnesota Twins making a major run at either of these two spots.
National League West: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers may have competition in the NL West in the future with the San Diego Padres, but they will retain the crown this year. The Dodgers made some interesting moves in the winter, as they traded away Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, and Yasiel Puig. They signed outfielder AJ Pollock to fortify their outfield, and acquired catcher Russell Martin from the Toronto Blue Jays.
National League East: Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies loaded up this offseason, and have made the NL East one of, if not the most exciting division in all of baseball. The Atlanta Braves are the defending division champions, the New York Mets and the Washington Nationals could be dark horses, and of course, there is Philadelphia. A potential four-team race should make for a lot of must-win games. It is dangerous to hop on the bandwagon, but I do believe the Phillies moves of Harper, Realmuto, Segura, and others will pay off.
National League Central: Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee will have a bit of a tougher road in defending their division crown, but I believe they have the tools to do it. They upgraded behind the plate with the signing of Yasmani Grandal and retained a lot of their core. Christian Yelich, the reigning NL MVP, looks to be in that picture once again this year. The Chicago Cubs will be a tough team to play, and the St. Louis Cardinals put themselves in a nice position with their moves. However, it’s the Brewers division to lose, and I don’t see it happening.
National League Wild Cards: St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves
Speaking of St. Louis, they made one of the best moves in the offseason when they acquired first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Goldschmidt, who recently extended his deal with St. Louis, kills Chicago Cubs pitching. In fact, he has hit .353 with 14 HR and 39 RBI in 43 games against the Cubs. If he can keep that pace up, the Cardinals should grab one of these Wild Card spots.
The Atlanta Braves have one of the best young cores in the league, and it should only get better. The Braves added a high risk, high reward bat in Josh Donaldson, and brought back one of their former catchers in Brian McCann. Barring an unforeseen decline, the Braves should find themselves back in the postseason.
Featured Image: John Tlumacki/Boston Globe Staff