It is that time of year again where the dirt is fresh, leather is snapping and outs of significance are recorded.
That’s right, it’s time for the start of a new Major League Baseball season, where anything can happen.
Every single season, there are a plethora of storylines to delve into. Can the Houston Astros repeat as World Series champions? Can the highly powered offense of the New York Yankees live up to the hype? Can the Chicago Cubs make it back to the Fall Classic?
The answer to these questions, among others, will be answered over the course of the next six months.
AL East: Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees
This will be a two-team, heavyweight fight until the end. These two teams will yet again sit atop the American League East, battling it out for top supremacy. New York added the reigning National League MVP, Giancarlo Stanton to an already stout lineup. Last season, the Yankees led the MLB in home runs, and with Stanton, that should likely be the case again. He hit 59 last season.
Boston’s offense is nothing to slouch at. Led by Mookie Betts, Xander Bogarts, Andrew Benintendi and newly acquired J.D. Martinez, this offense should constantly get on base and drive runners home. Chris Sale will be in the Cy Young running, a place he is accustomed to, and could be, if healthy, joined by David Price. The Red Sox gave Price a boatload of money a couple years ago, and now it’s time for Price to be healthy and deliver.
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
This will not be an easily won division for Cleveland. The Minnesota Twins, who improved by 20-plus games last season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2010, are not going anywhere. Last year was not a blip on the radar. They went out and bolstered their starting rotation and added a bat to the middle of their lineup.
Cleveland still has the slight edge in terms of talent, but as mentioned before, it won’t be easy capturing the division crown. The strength of this team is it’s starting rotation. Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco are two Cy Young-caliber pitchers that don’t look to slow down. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez hold down the offense and are both MVP-caliber players.
AL West: Houston Astros
This is going to be a run away, yet again. The reigning, defending World Series champion Astros will be back in full force this year and will not suffer from the World Series hangover. This team won 101-games last season en route to being the last team standing. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer are the highlights of a potent offense, and they are all young. Dallas Keuchel will be joined in the starting rotation by Justin Verlander (for a full season) and Gerrit Cole who was acquired in the winter from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This team is loaded from top to bottom and only injuries will slow them down. This will be another 100-plus win season for Houston, who will be in the mix for years to come.
AL Wild Card Teams: Boston or New York, Minnesota Twins
Whichever AL East power house does not walk away with the division crown will surely be one of the Wild Card teams. One of these two teams will be one-game away from elimination in the Wild Card Game, while the other will be assured at least a series.
The Twins made it abundantly clear that they have on intentions of regressing and instead, will continue to rise. They will come close to winning the Central, but will ultimately fall short, but still make the playoffs.
Team(s) to Watch: Toronto Blue Jays
NL East: Washington Nationals
For the fifth time in seven seasons, the NL East will go through Washington D.C. The Nats are one of the deepest teams in all of baseball and that will need to be on full display in the early goings of the season as Daniel Murphy and Adam Eaton are both recovering from offseason knee surgeries. Bryce Harper and company won’t let the offense falter, especially being one of the best in baseball, despite not having two key offensive players. Speaking of Harper, this will be a big year for the Nationals to make a major splash and get over the proverbial hump and finally win the World Series. If they were to fall apart in the postseason, as is usually the case, Harper’s days in the Nation’s Capital could be done for. Harper is set to hit the free agency market, where numerous teams will throw a bunch of money to him. The Nats are hoping to show Harper they can win and ultimately keep him.
Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are both Cy Young pitchers and barring injuries, these two will lead the rotation. You can also add in Gio Gonzalez t that mix as he is poised to have a big season. The Nationals bullpen was disastrous in 2017, but in the offseason, the Washington front office changed that and made some acquisitions.
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs started off last season rather slowly, coming off winning the World Series in 2016. Don’t expect that to happen again. The offense is still stacked, led by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. The starting rotation got better with the addition of Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood, despite losing Jake Arietta to free agency. This team is built for the long haul and will be vying for the opportunity to hoist the World Series trophy. This division should be easily won, but as history has shown, you can’t ever count out the St. Louis Cardinals, who seemingly always find themselves in the thick of things.
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
This is an extremely tough division to predict this season, but in the end, the Los Angeles Dodgers will reign supreme in the NL West for a sixth-straight season. This will be no easy task, as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies are gunning for the Dodgers. On top of that, the San Francisco Giants went out and acquired Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays and Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates. The Giants suffered some potentially season-altering news in ace pitcher Madison Bumgarner took a liner off his pitching hand,
Despite losing third baseman Justin Turner for 6-8 weeks due to a broken wrist, the Dodgers offense won’t miss a beat. The Dodgers have depth and some young guys who can come in and make a name for themselves. Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager will lead the way offensively. On the mound, Clayton Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball and will continue to show his dominance.
This will be a WWE-style battle royal between the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies. This should be the best division in baseball.
NL Wild Card Teams: Diamondbacks, Rockies
The two teams that will fall to the Dodges for the division crown will play one another in a one-game, Wild Card Game to try an inch further towards a World Series title.
Team(s) to Watch: Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets
Red Sox over Yankees in seven games
This historic rivalry, the best in all of sports, will add yet another postseason chapter with the chance at a World Series birth at stake. These two teams have offenses that can topple any pitching rotations. This prediction could very easily be reversed. Get your peanuts and crackerjacks ready.
Cubs over Dodgers in seven games
These are the two best teams in the National League and will duke it out for a chance to add another World Series title to the trophy case. The only thing that would stop this potential matchup is injuries. Both teams have stacked offenses and great pitching. This could be a series for the ages.
Cubs over Red Sox in six games
This is another prediction that could be flip-flopped, but the Cubs will be the last team standing in 2018. Again, this is a matchup of potent offenses and good pitching. In the end, the Cubs offense will prove to be just too much.