Thursday, March 29, 2018

Ticket King's 2018 MLB Preview

MLB Preview 2018
The 2018 MLB regular season is almost upon us. Opening Day is March 29, a week early than normal. The idea is to try to not have the postseason go into November with starting so early, and also to give the players a couple of extra days off during the season. Let’s dive right in, starting with the National League.

National League

NL East
1. Washington Nationals(98-64): This current version of the Nationals has been very good for a long time. But, they have yet to get the job done in October. Will that change in 2018?

2. New York Mets(90-72): A year ago, I predicted these Mets to win the World Series. Injuries an internal arguing changed all of that. The team now has a new general manager and manager, and their first order of business is to get Matt Harvey sorted. If they do that, they could make some serious noise.

3. Philadelphia Phillies(80-82): Woah, let’s back off that Phillies train a little bit here. I know they have a lot of talented young players, and the signing of Jake Arrieta to boost that rotation, but let’s finish somewhere other than last place before we go any further, okay?

4. Atlanta Braves(74-88): A year ago the Braves looked like baseball’s next hot young team. Then the big scandal broke this offseason about manipulating their international free agent signings, and now former GM John Coppolella has now been banned for life as a result plus the team has been stripped of 13 international prospects. Team President John Hart resigned, and former first overall pick shortstop Dansby Swanson looks like a bust to this point.

5. Miami Marlins(50-112): This is the worst team in the league, and the worst team we have seen in years. They will set the record for most losses in a season.

NL Central
1. Chicago Cubs(97-65): Theo Epstein has built the Cubs up into one of the biggest baddest teams on the block. Expect another strong season on the north side. But will it translate into another World Series title?

2. St. Louis Cardinals(88-74): The Cardinals, eternal contenders, are fielding another solid team this year. 2018 will be very simple for this ballclub- how much of an impact can they make and how far can all of that young talent, led by those two pitchers, Alex Reyes and Jack Flaherty take them?

3. Milwaukee Brewers(80-82): Yeah the Brewers made two splashy moves this offseason, signing Lorenzo Cain and trading for Christian Yelich, to improve their outfield. In the process though, they created an outfield logjam that hasn’t been settled yet, even with Ryan Braun going to first base, and they did nothing to improve a below-average pitching staff. I fear they are about to settle back into that cycle of mediocrity again.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates(73-89): The Pittsburgh Pirates return to prominence ends with one NLDS participated in to go along with a couple of Wild Card games played in. We will never know what those Pirates could have accomplished if they would have just believed in themselves.

5. Cinncinati Reds(67-95): The Reds have a lot of promising young players, but they are still very early in their long rebuild.

NL West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers(97-65): These aren’t the Dodgers from about five years ago that throws money around like drunken sailors. General Manager Andrew Friedman has not been afraid to spend, but he spends intelligently. What he has mainly done, is spend the majority of his fund locking down the Dodgers young talent long term, and will continue to do so. Clayton Kershaw is a free agent this upcoming offseason, but I don’t expect the Dodgers to let him get to the airport.

2. Colorado Rockies(87-75): The Rockies are a good team now, but I don’t think they are quite as good as their record showed a year ago. They still don’t have a rotation. Still, 87 wins is a good season.

3. San Diego Padres(80-82): The Padres are a good young boring team that is slowly getting better. They went out this offseason and added first basemen Eric Hosmer for not just his talent, but for his leadership skills and big game experience. This Padres team is one year away from being ready for the big time, finally.

4. San Fransisco Giants(77-85): The Giants had a 2017 to forget which was a sign that their run was coming to an end. Unlike what most teams would do in that situation, they went the other way, going out this offseason and emptying their farm for the likes of Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. This is now baseball’s new “old, overpaid, underachieving” team.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks(75-87): Who are the real Diamondbacks? Does anybody know? They have been as up and down the last few seasons as a team could be. Well, according to their current trajectory, 2018 will be down.

Awards
Manager of the Year: Dave Martinez/Nationals- Martinez does a great job in year one, settling the Nationals down, and finally fixing the clubhouse tension.

Rookie of the Year: Victor Robles/OF/Nationals- The next great National is outfielder Victor Robles, who has a combination of speed and skill rarely seen. He is a true five-tool player.

MVP: Kris Bryant/3B/Cubs- Bryant continues to add to his already impressive resume with a second MVP award.
  
American League

AL East
1. Boston Red Sox(94-68): The Yankees made the big offseason splash, trading for superstar right fielder Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins. Yeah, that’s nice, the Red Sox are still the much better team.

2. New York Yankees(90-72): Speaking of those Yankees, here they are. Everybody is on the Yankees train, but I don’t think this is going to work out as well as a lot of people think. Having two high strikeout guys in the same lineup back-to-back is a bad idea and after these two(Stanton and Aaron Judge)strikeout 400 times between the two of them maybe people will change their minds.

3. Baltimore Orioles(81-81): The ultimate definition of the .500 team, the Orioles will do just that in 2018. That’s about as far as a great offense and no pitching staff gets you these days.

4. Toronto Blue Jays(80-82): There is really not much to say here. The Blue Jays are just another average team. Moving along.

5. Tampa Bay Rays(69-93): The Rays finally let go of the past this offseason, trading away Evan Longoria and others, and will let the bottom fall out in 2018. This is the beginning of a long rebuild.

AL Central
1. Minnesota Twins(97-65): The Twins weakness was their rotation. So they fixed it. Jose Berrios is now established in the major leagues and will ascend to the top of that rotation. They added Lance Lynn, who’s one weakness is fly balls, and he will thrive in Target Field, the building where all fly balls go to die. They added Jake Odorizzi, another fly ball pitcher who will excel in Target Field. Stephen Gonsalves, the southpaw, who it seems like we have been hearing about for 30 years, is finally ready for the major leagues. Still, 97 wins? Yes. See, in baseball, to project win-loss records, you have to examine the division as a whole. The Twins and Indians get to beat up on three bad teams, whereas the Yankees and Red Sox don’t.

2. Cleveland Indians(95-67): These Indians are still very good, but at this point, the Twins may be just a little bit better than them. They did lose Carlos Santana this offseason and that will hurt the offense a little bit.

3. Kansas City Royals(71-91): No, these Royals will not finish around .500. They lost too much this offseason with the likes of Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain.  Low-70’s win total seems more correct.

4. Chicago White Sox(69-93): The White Sox have young talent and are getting there. But they’re not there quite yet. I project 2019 will be mid-70’s for this team, and then 2020 is where they will return to contention.

5. Detroit Tigers(68-94): The Tigers finally, and I mean FINALLY, saw the obvious, and let go, trading away the likes of Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, and others for prospects. 2018 is going to be a long season in the Motor City while they sort through all of these prospects.

AL West
1. Houston Astros(112-50): Speaking of teams that get to beat up on inferior opponents, here’s the undisputed king of that at the moment. The reigning World Series champions are just that much better than the rest of their division right now. If they don’t win the AL West in 2018, it will be one if the biggest failures in baseball in recent memory. The question is, can baseball’s great experiment, which became baseball’s great prophecy, now become baseball’s great dynasty?

2. Los Angeles Angels(76-86): Yes, you are reading this correctly, the Houston Astros are going to win this division by 36 games. The Angels are the closest thing they have to competition and all they have is an old out of shape Albert Pujols who can’t play the field anymore, Kohl Calhoun, Mike Trout, a Japanese rookie who has looked awful in Spring Training, and a bunch of “blah.”

3. Seattle Mariners(70-92): Well they tried. It got them nowhere, but they tried. The Mariners have made more moves the last six years to try to push their roster over the hump but to no avail. They are simply out of gas at this point.

4. Texas Rangers(68-94): This will be the worst season in Arlington for baseball in over a decade. The Rangers have been a good team for a long time, but that is about to come to an end.

5. Oakland Athletics(67-95): These A’s are headed for another bad season, and no, Jonathan Lucroy won’t change much. I’ve been saying this for a while now, and I will say again. I understand everything Billy Beane has accomplished for this franchise with nothing to work with, but he is past his time, and it is time for him to go.

Awards
Manager of the Year: Paul Molitor/Twins- Molitor wins his second straight manager of the year award, leading the Twins to 97 wins.

Rookie of the Year: Vladimir Guererro Jr./3B/Blue Jays- Shohei Ohtani has looked awful in Spring Training and this smells like a bust already. So the door is wide open for Vladimir Guererro Jr. to walk right through it.

MVP: Jose Altuve/2B/Houston Astros- The smallest player in the game, the man who proves it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog, wins his second straight MVP award.

National League Playoffs
Wild Card Game: Mets vs. Cardinals- In a one-game-playoff, the Mets just outmatch the Cardinals in every aspect, and will win this game 4-0.

ALDS
Nationals vs. Mets- I so very badly want to take the Mets in this series, but the Nationals have a good rotation too. Sorry. Nationals in five well-pitched games.

Cubs vs. Dodgers- Two powerhouses with great lineups littered with super-talented young all-stars go head to head in a colossal brawl. Dodgers have the home-field advantage and win this series in five games.

NLCS
Nationals vs. Dodgers- What a good series this will be. I can’t find a difference, seriously. The only difference could very well be home-field, which the Nationals have. Nationals in seven great games.

American League Playoffs
Wild Card Game: Indians vs. Yankees- This game will be in Cleveland, and all of those Indians power arms against the free-swinging Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in a one-game-playoff. This won’t end well for the Bombers. Indians win 5-2.

ALDS
Astros vs. Indians- For as great as the Astros are, they have a free-swinging lineup that relies on home runs, and free-swinging lineup vs power arms contest, advantage power arms. Indians in four.

Twins vs. Red Sox- Finally, the Twins get an AL East opponent in the postseason and they have the home-field. Twins in five.

ALCS
Twins vs. Indians- Unlike the Indians previous two opponents, the Twins are not a free-swinging team that relies on hitting the ball out of the ballpark. Rather, they rely on plate patience and hit placement. The home-field advantage carries the Twins to their first pennant in 27 years. Twins in seven.

World Series
Nationals vs. Twins- Whoever comes out of the National League is going to win the World Series this year, unless it is the Astros out of the American League. I just don’t see any of the other contenders beating one of these great National League squads in seven games. The Nationals finally get the job done in October and win their first World Series since moving to Washington D.C.

The Nationals have to win the World Series. They are just too talented not to.