West Division Preview
With the emergence of Aaron Judge, the Nationals have become a contender for the West Division. Judge will be helped out by left fielder Bryce Harper, speedster Dee Gordon, and DH Jean Segura. However the lineup becomes inconsistent afterwards. Although Jackie Bradley Jr provides great defense, he’ll have a tough time hitting right handers and will split time with Max Kepler. Adeiny Hechavarria is a solid defender but challenged offensively. Although the top of the order is stellar, the bottom half will struggle to provide much offense.
The starting pitching is dominated by left handers. Robbie Ray leads the staff with fellow lefties Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez joining him. The right handers are Jimmy Nelson and Charlie Morton. Felipe (Rivera) Vazquez is the closer with super setup men Chad Green and Josh Hader providing support.
Although the Nationals have gotten off to an extremely hot start, expect them to come back to the pack over the course of the season.
Writer’s Prediction: 100-62 record; Division winner
The Orioles, coming off a 113 win season, were once again one of the most active teams in the offseason. The pitching staff was overhauled. Corey Kluber was shipped to the Red Sox for a treasure trove of picks and Gerrit Cole was brought in from Minnesota. What’s left should pass for a solid, if not spectacular rotation. Ervin Santana is the ace, followed up by Jhoulys Chacin, Rich Hill, Lance Lynn, and Cole. The bullpen is one of the best in the division led by Corey Knebel, Carl Edwards Jr, and Ryan Madson.
The defense up the middle is a strength of the squad. Francisco Lindor and DJ LeMahieu should both contend for gold gloves. The corner spots are manned by Justin Smoak and Anthony Rendon. The outfield provides the power with Mookie Betts in Right Field, George Springer in Center, and a platoon of Gerardo Parra in Left. With a solid pitching staff and a good lineup, Baltimore is the most balanced team in the division and should be able to make the playoffs again.
Writer’s Prediction: 90-72 record; Wild Card
Kansas City Royals
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Kansas City Royals have gotten off to a very slow April. The Royals have a very strong pitching staff led by Alex Wood and Zack Godley followed by Yu Darvish, Drew Pommeranz, and Jose Berrios. The rotation is one of the deepest in the league. The bullpen is a different story. Archie Bradley and Fernando Rodney lead one of the thinnest bullpens in the league. Look for Manager Blue to upgrade this area if he’s still in the hunt at midseason.
The offense is led by JD Martinez and Buster Posey, both among the top players at their respective positions. Didi Gregorius mans the shortstop position, providing outstanding defense with a little pop. Andrew McCutcheon provides average defense in CF and solid contributions against left handers. Mike Moustakas and Matt Olson platoon against right handers at the corners and should be solid offensively. Although the offense has some good pieces, I don’t see it providing enough punch to overtake the Orioles or the Nationals.
Writer’s Prediction: 81-81 record; Lottery
The Tiger pulled off a blockbuster deal in acquiring Giancarlo Stanton in exchange for Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner, Gregory Polanco, and Trevor Rosenthal. Stanton will play everyday in right field and immediately makes the Tigers lineup one of the tops in the league. Austin Jackson plays CF and will lead off. Shortstop Carlos Correa bats second with potential murderer’s row of Kris Bryant, Stanton, and Miguel Cabrera batting three through 5. Left Fielder Justin Upton, first baseman Will Myers, and second baseman Jonathon Schoop are the other every day players. If the Tigers are going to contend this team will need to score a ton of runs.
The starting pitching grades out as bottoms in the division. Stanton acquisition really set the staff back. Leading up the rotation are Trevor Bauer and Marco Estrada. Mike Foltynewicz, Parker Bridwell, and Julio Teheran round out the rotation. Closing for the Tigers is Roberto Osuna with Hector Neris setting up.
Although the offense is potent, I don’t see the Tigers overcoming their pitching issues. Look for them to have a lottery pick in the 2019 draft.
Writer’s Prediction: 70-92 record; Lottery pick