2019 MLB Season Preview

Football is over *sad face emoji*, and March is here, which can only mean one thing: March Madn…no wait, that’s not it. BASEBALL IS BACK. Most people wait to start their baseball following season until after their brackets are sitting in the bottom of the trash can. But not us, and that’s why you came here, to catch up on all the offseason shenanigans, and get ready for the sweet sound of those 7th inning stretches. Last year ended with a Manny Machado strike out to quite arguably the greatest team baseball has seen in a very long time, the Boston Red Sox. The last time baseball saw a repeat champion? 2000, when the Yankees completed their 3rd championship run in as many years. It may be the toughest sport to repeat, as 162 games leaves variance to any team, even those as stacked as well as the Boston Red Sox. Look at the Chicago Cubs last year, who –  2 years removed from their World Series Title – were hit with injuries and stretches of poor hitting, leading to their early wild card game demise. That’s where WE come in to attempt to call the shots. We are going to travel division by division, breaking down the major off season moves, win totals, and our pre-season prediction for each of the teams. And – of course – to wrap up, we will go over our post-season predictions and best season-long bets we can find out there. Let’s dive in!

WS 2018

AL East

2018 finished standings:

Red Sox 108-54 (World Series Champions)

New York Yankees 100-62 (Divisional Round exit)

Tampa Bay Rays 90-72

Toronto Blue Jays 73-89

Baltimore Orioles 47-115

Major Offseason acquisitions: James Paxton, SP (Yankees), Troy Tulowitzki, SS (Yankees), DJ LaMahieu, 2B (Yankees), Adam Ottavino, RP (Yankees), Zack Britton, RP (Yankees), Avisail Garcia, RF (Rays)

Overview: It was a busy offseason for 1 team: the Yankees. Engulfed in talks about Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the Yankees front office decided to skip the big name and address the major concern: the pitching staff. They bolstered not only their starting rotation – brought back J.A Happ and added James Paxton – but now have one of the best bullpens in the AL. Imagine going through one of Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia (yes, he’s still playing), and J.A Happ, and then facing Betances, Ottavino or Britton, to end with the fireball throwing Chapman. Run for your life. The reigning champs lost the likes of reliver Joe Kelly, batting practice pitcher Drew Pomeranz, and infielder Ian Kinsler, but otherwise reloaded on what could be another 100-win team for Titletown. Signing Eovaldi back was huge for their rotation, and the lineup remains a juggernaut that could get scarier with Pedroia set to come back from his yearlong injury. The big question mark for Boston is the bullpen. Joe Kelly stepped up in a big way last year, but he’s off to LA, and left a major role to fill. This also hurts knowing their 1-run game record last year was 25-14. Expect a trade deadline move or 2 to address this issue.

Yankees

I think Tampa Bay has a quietly solid team that hit a stride last year: They have a sneaky good 1-2 punch in Snell-Morton, and a lineup that was 16th in runs last year. Unfortunately for them, they play in a division with arguably the best 2 teams in baseball. Toronto is in half rebuild mode, as they traded away Russell Martin, but brought back the likes of Ken Giles, Kevin Pillar, and Marcus Stroman, who I could see being traded away at the deadline if he is able to bounce back from a subpar (4-9, 5.54 ERA) year. If the Orioles don’t lose 100 games, you can give Brandon Hyde – former Cubs bench coach – the manager of the year award. Unwatchable baseball in Baltimore currently. And worse, they must play Boston/New York 38 times. We’ll set the O/U of wins at 6.5 in those 38. Any takers?

What it all means: I think 2 of the top 3 baseball teams come from this division. Expect to see both the Red Sox and Yankees back in the playoffs, and the Rays taking steps again toward being relevant. I mean, the Yanks and Boston can’t be relevant forever, right?…

TOP BETS: Yankees -118 to win AL East, Orioles UNDER 59.5 wins,

Projected Finish: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles.

AL Central

2018 finished standings:

Cleveland Indians 91-71 (Divisional Round exit)

Minnesota Twins 78-84

Detroit Tigers 64-98

Chicago White Sox 62-100

Kansas City Royals 58-104

Major Offseason acquisitions: Carlos Santana, DH (Indians), Jonathan Schoop, 2B (Twins), Nelson Cruz, DH (Twins), Matt Moore, SP (Tigers), Jordy Mercer, SS (Tigers), Not Manny Machado (White Sox), Jon Jay, OF (White Sox), Kelvin Herrera, RP (White Sox), Alex Colomé, RP (White Sox), Yonder Alonso, 1B (White Sox), James McCann, C (White Sox), Brandon Guyer, OF (White Sox), Ivan Nova, SP (White Sox), Billy Hamilton, CF (Royals)

Overview: For the second straight year, the Indians will be the clear front runner in this division. Deemed the worst in baseball, the AL Central was the only division with only 1 team above .500. With uncertainty surrounding the Tribe this offseason, they ultimately landed on keeping both Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, while extending Carlos “Cookie Monster” Carrasco. This alone will keep them atop the division, with Clevenger and Bieber – not that Bieber, ladies – bringing up the rear in the rotation. But they also have arguably the best left side of an infield in baseball with MVP candidates Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor. The outfield is a serious concern, and the bullpen is basically a 2 man show in Brad Hand and Oliver Perez. Because of the division however, they are a playoff team with a very limited ceiling. The Twins do contain some fire power, as Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sano should provide sparks in the middle of the lineup. Flamethrower Jose Berrios has the talent to be an ace, but needs to find the consistency to be considered among the elites.

Lindor

The Tigers may be the most boring team of all. They will hope to get a healthy Miguel Cabrera back to fill seats. Nicholas Castellanos is one I would keep an eye on toward the trade deadline, as I expect him to be moved to a contender for prospects, as the Tigers continue to try to bolster the farm system. Speaking of farm systems, you must look at what the White Sox have done this offseason, despite not getting Manny, as a success. This is a slow burn. The lineup is solid from top to bottom and will only get better when the phenom prospect Eloy Jimenez gets brought up to the show. Rodon and Nova make for a decent 1-2, and they addressed possibly the worst bullpen in the MLB with the signing of Herrera and trading for Colomé. Guyer and McCann bring bench depth, and Jon Jay figures to be a major utility player for the south siders. Will Yoan find his bat? If so, he can provide a major spark for the Sox 2020 hopes when Kopech (Tommy John) comes back, along with a large FA class. I absolutely love Billy Hamilton, who will provide defense in center for the Royals, and keeping Whit in KC was probably their biggest win of the 2019 season. Rebuild mode for the Royals.

sox

What it all means: The Indians can start resting players until September. Can the Twins sneak in the 2nd wild card spot?

TOP BETS: White Sox OVER 74.5 wins, looking at Twins OVER win total

Projected Finish: Indians, Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Royals

AL West

2018 finished standings:

Houston Astros 103-59 (American League Championship exit)

Oakland Athletics 97-65 (Wild Card exit)

Seattle Mariners 89-73

Los Angeles Angels 80-82

Texas Rangers 67-95

Major Offseason acquisitions: Wade Miley, SP (Astros), Michael Brantley, OF (Astros), Robinson Chirinos, C (Astros), Joakim Soria, RP (A’s), Marco Estrada, SP (A’s), Jurickson Profar, 2B (A’s), Robbie Grossman, OF (A’s), Yusei Kikcuhi, SP (Mariners), Edwin Encarnacion, 1B (Mariners), Jay Bruce, DH (Mariners), Jonathan Lucroy, C (Angels), Tommy La Stella, INF (Angels), Matt Harvey, SP (Angels), Trevor Cahill, SP (Angels), Cody Allen, RP (Angels), Justin Bour, 1B (Angels), Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B (Rangers), Lance Lynn, SP (Rangers), Drew Smyly, SP (Rangers), Jesse Chavez, RP (Rangers)

Overview: The AL may hold the best 3 teams in baseball, and the Astros are 1 of them. From top to bottom, this lineup may be the best in the AL, led by the middle infield of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and hot corner Alex Bregman. The pitching staff took a definite hit, as Morton signed with the Rays, and McCullers will miss the 2019 season after Tommy John surgery. They did sign Wade from the Brewers, and still have 2 aces in Verlander and Gerrit Cole. A name to watch out for is Collin McHugh, who I believe could have a major role in that 4th or 5th starter position, depending on where Keuchel ends up. Regardless, this lineup is good enough to carry the Astros. It should allow some adjustment time if needed in their rotation. I expect the A’s to take a minor step back. They lost guys like Trevor Cahill and Jonathan Lucroy – in division – and while this lineup has no one that hits under .240, they also hold no real star power. Matt Chapman is the guy to keep your eye on, as he heated up in the 2nd half of the year, and I expect it to carry over to this season.

Astros

Seattle can’t seem to decide whether they want to fully blow it up or stay average. They traded away Paxton, Jean Segura, Cano, and let Nelson Cruz walk, but went and obtained overseas sensation Yusei Kikuchi and Edwin Encarnacion. In fact, 6 of the 9 projected starters did not end the 2018 year on the Mariners. The coolest story out of Seattle is Ichiro Suzuki, as he is back to start the year for the team’s opening series in Japan. Los Angeles remains a mystery, as the 1-2 punch of Trout-Upton is one to be reckoned with, but it remains tough to trust a team who wants to roll out Matt Harvey as their 1. I think we can all take a moment to remember legend Adrien Beltre, who retired after last season. This Rangers team is all around bad, as they were the 23rd best hitting team by average, and 2nd to last in starting pitching ERA. Don’t expect much jump from this either, as it could be another long baseball season in Texas. Joey Gallo, you wanna hit 50 homers this year??

GTY 950898472 S BBA BBN BBO SPO USA TX

What it all means: I wish the A’s did a little more in the offseason, but that has never been the way of Billy Beane – watch Moneyball if you haven’t. This again is the Astros division to lose. The AL is so top heavy, however, that Oakland may be able to sneak to another WC game. Will Manaea be healthy by then? They better hope so.

TOP BETS: Too much uncertainty outside of the Astros. May look at Astros OVER win total and Rangers UNDER win total.

Projected Finish: Astros, Athletics, Angels, Mariners, Rangers

NL East

2018 finished standings:

Atlanta Braves 90-72 (Divisional Round exit)

Washington Nationals 82-80

Philadelphia Phillies 80-82

New York Mets 77-85

Miami Marlins 63-98

Major Offseason acquisitions: Josh Donaldson, 3B (Braves), Brian McCann, C (Braves), Brian Dozier, 2B (Nationals), Yan Gomes, C (Nationals), Patrick Corbin, SP (Nationals), Anibal Sanchez, SP (Nationals), Kyle Barraclough, RP (Nationals), Andrew McCutchen, RF (Phillies), Jean Segura, SS (Phillies), J.T. Realmuto, C (Phillies), David Robertson, RP (Phillies), Jed Lowrie, 3B (Mets), Robinson Cano, 2B (Mets), Wilson Ramos, C (Mets), Edwin Diaz, RP (Mets), Justin Wilson, RP (Mets), Jeurys Familia, RP (Mets), Curtis Granderson, LF (Marlins), Neil walker, 1B (Marlins), Jorge Alfaro, C (Marlins), Sergio Romo, RP (Marlins)

Overview: Every single team from the NL East will have a new starting catcher for the 2019 MLB season. And thus, ends the similarities between the 5 teams! The thing with the NL is that every single Division race is going to be tight, and there’s no better place to start than the NL East. This race was extremely close until Atlanta decided to pull away late in the year, and the Nationals didn’t feel like playing any more baseball. The Braves are led by Freddie Freeman and his 21-year-old side kick Ronald Acuña Jr. Really, this whole lineup is capable from top to bottom, and the addition of Donaldson, who I suspect will hit from the 2-spot, only makes it more difficult. 5th in BA last year, I expect more of the same from them. They don’t have any superstar pitching, and they walk people far too often. If they want to take the next step, this is where the growth must come. The Nationals lost arguably the 2nd most sought-after player in Bryce Harper – Mike Trout is worth the moon – but still have a lineup to be reckoned with. 2-3-4 of Turner, Rendon, and Soto will be tough for anyone who steps on the mound, and Dozier’s addition will help the backend of the lineup. When you lose a guy like Harper, you must add star power elsewhere, and they did that in their rotation. What a luxury to have Stephen Strasburg as your number 3, as Scherzer/Corbin is arguably the best 1-2 punch in baseball. Anibal Sanchez, over from the Braves, was the 38th ranked starter in the MLB according to rosterresource.com and will be a fantastic 4th starter. Good luck against this staff. Philadelphia had the best offseason in the MLB . They signed Andrew McCutchen, who can slide to left field and still has solid baseball left in him, went and got Jean Segura, who is as solid a SS as you’ll find in this division, and then acquired J.T Realmuto, who was a very prized trade piece out of Miami for many teams. That’s your 1-2-3 right there, and we haven’t even gotten to Bryce, who they keep in division to terrorize National fans for a long time. Signing Aaron Nola – certified ace – to a long-term deal was the last thing to complete the offseason list, and that’s done. Look out for the Phillies.

MLB: All Star Game-Home Run Derby

I seriously feel for deGrom and Thor, as this IS the best 1-2 punch in baseball. But this lineup is not. Edwin Diaz was ranked the top relief pitcher last year, and acquiring him and Cano from the Mariners was a big deal, but Cespedes won’t be back until midway through the year, and runs are going to be tough to come by. Miami has nice weather, and every day I think about how screwed Starlin Castro has gotten in his career. Sucks.

What it all means: I don’t want to predict this division. Up for grabs is an understatement, though the Mets just don’t have enough scoring for me to include them in the race. I liked this Braves team last year, and I think they take another step forward. The NL is so stacked that only 1 team out of the East may be making it to the dance.

Acuna

TOP BETS: Braves +290 to win division, Phillies OVER 86.5 wins

Projected Finish: Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Mets, Marlins

NL Central

2018 finished standings:

Milwaukee Brewers 96-67 (National League Championship exit)

Chicago Cubs 95-68 (Wild Card exit)

St. Louis Cardinals 88-74

Pittsburg Pirates 82-79

Cincinnati Reds 67-95

Major Offseason acquisitions: Yasmani Grandal, C (Brewers), Daniel Descalso, UTL (Cubs), Paul Goldschmidt, 1B (Cardinals), Andrew Miller, RP (Cardinals), Lonnie Chisenhall, RF (Pirates), Erik Gonzalez, SS (Pirates), Melky Cabrera, OF (Pirates), Francisco Liriano, RP (Pirates), Yasiel Puig, RF (Reds), Matt Kemp, OF (Reds), Sonny Gray, SP (Reds), Alex Wood, SP (Reds), Tanner Roark, SP (Reds)

Overview: As a Chicago Cubs fan, this is by far the division I will be paying attention to most. For money-making purposes, and the knowledge of the reader, I will put my fanhood aside and give you the FACTS. 3 teams could have easily made the playoffs from the Central, but the Cardinals ran out of steam and injuries deemed too much to overcome. Much of Milwaukee’s success came from 1-run games, as they were 33-19 in those instances thanks to the best bullpen in baseball. Led by Corey Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress, and Josh Hader, the Brewers went to their pen early and often, especially in the post-season. They got tons of help from MVP Christian Yelich, who was the best player in baseball the 2nd half of the season. Starting pitching may become a problem for the Brewers, and they could use Eric Thames as a piece to try and trade for another arm at the deadline. The Cubs were hit with injuries all year, and yet managed 95 wins and a wildcard spot. Many people were calling for offseason moves and the relief of manager Joe Maddon, but neither happened. Yu Darvish will be the key here, as he is penciled as the 5th starter for the Cubs. If they can stay healthy, that staff will give people trouble all year long. The lineup 1-9 is about as solid as it gets, as Kris Bryant comes back from shoulder and mental health issues to try and find the pop they had in 2016. The continued growth of Javy Baez, and the much-needed return of Kyle Schwarber will be key for this North side unit. Finally, I get to the team that intrigues me the most this year: the St. Louis Cardinals. They have the best starting pitching 1-5, and they haven’t even brought up the 24-year-old stud Alex Reyes, who may slide to the pen due to the strength of the starting 5. The bullpen is suspect, but the signing of Andrew Miller should help if he can be anything near the 2017 pitcher he was, and I expect them to go find another arm for the pen as well. The biggest transaction not tied to Harper or Machado was Goldschmidt. He will fit right into the 3-spot and allow Matt Carpenter to solely play 3rd. With Goldy, Carp, and Marcell Ozuna, the Cardinals now have major firepower that they haven’t in a while. This is my team to watch for the 2019 season!

Yelich

The Pirates are a team that shouldn’t be slept on, as they have a nice 1-2 punch in Taillon and Williams, and roll out one of the best bullpens in the National League. Runs will be tough to come by and will most likely have to be off the bat of Starling Marte. The Reds of course were tied with the big trade that brought over Puig and Wood from the Dodgers, and they have a lot of people’s attention. Votto-Suarez-Scooter-Puig is a tough stretch for most teams, especially if Puig decides to be engaged with the team. Sonny Gray will be one to watch. If he, Wood, and Roark can join Castillo and perform, they have a nice little starting rotation.

What it all means: “I don’t want to predict this division. Up for grabs is an understatement.” A lot of people are jumping in on the Reds due to the offseason. If they were in the AL, I’d jump too. But they play in arguably the best division in baseball. The top will be a battle. 2 playoff teams from this one.

Rockies Cardinals Baseball

TOP BETS: Cardinals 17/1 to win WS, Brewers UNDER 86.5 wins

Projected Finish: Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers, Reds, Pirates

NL West

2018 finished standings:

Los Angeles Dodgers 92-71 (World Series Runner-Up)

Colorado Rockies 91-72 (Divisional Round Exit)

Arizona Diamondbacks 82-80

San Francisco Giants 73-89

San Diego Padres 66-96

Major Offseason acquisitions: A.J Pollock, CF (Dodgers), Russell Martin, C (Dodgers), Joe Kelly, RP (Dodgers), Daniel Murphy, 1B (Rockies), Mark Reynolds, 1B (Rockies), Wilmer Flores, 2B (Diamondbacks), Carson Kelly, C (Diamondbacks), Luke Weaver, SP (Diamondbacks), Greg Holland, RP (Diamondbacks), Gerardo Parra, RF (Giants), Drew Pomeranz, SP (Giants), Ian Kinsler, 2B (Padres), MANNYYYYYYYYY Machado, 3B (Padres)

Overview: 162 games weren’t enough for this division last year, as the Rockies climbed their way to the top of the division post all star break. But it was the Dodgers that ended up winning the 163rd game and wouldn’t stop winning until the World Series. Depth was the main course for this team, as they were able to trout out a variety of different lineups all year, keeping guys fresh and getting other reps that proved crucial down the stretch. Manny Machado is gone, but Corey Seager is back, and he is joined by Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger to round the heart of their lineup. Led by Clayton Kershaw, this one of the soundest starting pitching staffs you will find in the NL, and they have Stripling and Urias at their disposal should any of them go down or start to struggle. The bullpen is an issue, but they did add Joe Kelly over from Boston, and he should help set up Kenley Jansen, who continues to be as solid as they come. The Rockies are another intriguing team who I believe had a great offseason. Blackmon-Murphy-Arenado is a hell of a way to start a baseball game, and the emergence of David Dahl provides depth in the lineup. Mark Reynolds provides some depth off the bench, and Daniel Murphy fits perfectly in Coors Field, as well as being able to play numerous positions. The pitching staff is one to watch, as Marquez-Freeland-Gray do a fantastic job despite pitching in a hitter’s park. I’ll be keeping an eye on this team for an in-season future hit.

Manny

The Diamondbacks went full rebuild this off-season, and I could see Zack Greinke (SP) and David Peralta (LF) being in many trade talks come trade deadline. The Giants haven’t seemed to be able to stay healthy for a couple of seasons now, and will start the year without Johnny Cueto, who is out after Tommy John. Depending on how the season goes, we could see MadBum on the move at the deadline as well. As always, keep an eye on Brandon Crawford, who is one of the most underappreciated players in the MLB. The Padres are easily the most intriguing last place team of 2018. Enter MANNNNYYYYYYYY. He and newcomer Ian Kinsler should start this lineup off. But the fun doesn’t end with Manny. This is a very young team with a ton of upside at the dish, as players like Eric Hosmer and Hunter Renfroe should take strides this year. Sadly, their starting pitching is one of the worst in the MLB, so those thinking about buying into Year 1 of the Padres, think again.

What it all means: This division IS up for grabs, but it’s a 2-horse race. The Dodgers don’t have as much depth as normal, but some may say this will allow players to get into more of a rhythm. How healthy can Kershaw stay? Can the Rockies find that 4th starter? My guess may shock some, but I’ll drink the Rocky Coors this year. The Dodgers are lucky they play in NL West and the Phillies/Braves are out in the NL East, and I think that could decide who gets that 2nd Wild Card spot.

Rockies

TOP BETS: Rockies +405 to win division

Projected Finish: Rockies, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Diamondbacks

Playoff Prediction

AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox over Minnesota Twins

AL Divisional Round: New York Yankees over Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros over Cleveland Indians

American League Championship: New York Yankees over Houston Astros

NL Wild Card: Chicago Cubs over Los Angeles Dodgers

NL Divisional Round: St. Louis Cardinals over Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies over Chicago Cubs

National League Championship: St. Louis Cardinals over Colorado Rockies

World Series: New York Yankees over St. Louis Cardinals

(Yankees vs Cardinals WS matchup is 30.5/1, lets sprinkle some on that for fun!)

Baseball is coming folks. Strap in for the long haul and catch a game or two this summer. America’s past time is better in person. As always, let’s make some moneys! Cheers.

Closing photo

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