Baseball’s Back! “Bold” Predictions Heading Into the 2018 MLB Season

After an offseason that saw many teams improving drastically, this upcoming baseball season will be one of the most exciting yet.

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Although the Major League Baseball (MLB) offseason was relatively slow compared to prior offseasons, there were several notable splashes late in the game. Right fielder and 2017 National League (NL) MVP Giancarlo Stanton was traded from the Miami Marlins to the New York Yankees in exchange for second baseman Starlin Castro and two prospects. The Milwaukee Brewers upgraded their outfield by trading for right fielder Christian Yelich and signing center fielder Lorenzo Cain. Left fielder J.D. Martinez signed with the Boston Red Sox, first baseman Eric Hosmer signed with the San Diego Padres, and starting pitcher Yu Darvish signed with the Chicago Cubs. The Los Angeles Angels made a number of changes to their roster, acquiring starting pitcher/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani from Japan, third baseman Zack Cozart, and second baseman Ian Kinsler.

American League (AL)

East Champion: New York Yankees (NYY)

Central Champion: Cleveland Indians

West Champion: Houston Astros

Wild Card: Boston Red Sox

Wild Card: Los Angeles Angels (LAA)

If the Angels’ rotation can stay healthy, they will sneak into the postseason for the first time since 2014 with their improved lineup. The Yankees, led by their powerful lineup of outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez, will win at least 95 games and dethrone the Red Sox as AL East champions. The Cleveland Indians, who had a quiet offseason, will again easily win the weak AL Central, while the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros will win the AL West for the second straight season.

Most Valuable Player (MVP): Mike Trout (LAA)

Trout is the best positional player in the majors and has been for the past five years. He has put up crazy numbers over his career and can be counted on to hit at least .300 when healthy, with 30+ home runs, 100+ Runs Batted In (RBIs), and 20 stolen bases. The only competition this year is Houston’s Jose Altuve, who won the award last season, always seems to sneak on base, and has developed surprising power over the past two years.

Cy Young: Luis Severino (NYY)

Yankees ace Luis Severino will build on his two years of experience in the big leagues to become one of the American League’s top pitchers. He has a fastball that tops out at 100 mph and a wicked slider with ever-improving control. The sky's the limit for this stud.

Rookie of the Year: Shohei Ohtani (LAA)

Japanese phenomenon Shohei Ohtani was one of the most highly coveted players this offseason due to his impressive play in Japan and ability to pitch, hit, and play the field at a high level. Though he had a rude awakening during Spring Training, expectations are still high for him. He’s gotten off to a great start both on the mound and at the plate this regular season, winning his first start and hitting three early home runs, not to mention that this is a relatively weak field compared to previous years.

National League

East Champion: Washington Nationals

Central Champion: Chicago Cubs

West Champion: Los Angeles Dodgers (LAD)

Wild Card: Milwaukee Brewers

Wild Card: Colorado Rockies

In the National League, the Washington Nationals, led by 2017 NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and 2015 NL MVP right fielder Bryce Harper, will win the NL East by a sizable margin. The 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs will win the NL Central for the third straight season, though they will face some tougher competition with the revamped Brewers, who will make the postseason for the first time since 2011. The NL West, arguably the best division in baseball, will see the Los Angeles Dodgers crowned as division champions for the sixth consecutive season. The Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks will face off in the last few weeks of the season for the second wild card spot, with the Rockies eventually winning that battle.

MVP: Nolan Arenado (COL)

In each of the past three years, Arenado has hit nearly 40 home runs and batted in 130 runners while maintaining a batting average of around .300. He has always been in the running for MVP for his power, clutch factor, and stellar glove at the hot corner but has somehow never won the award. The only reason why he has not won the award yet is because many attribute his crazy statistics to the high altitude of Colorado that allows the ball to travel further. However, after another elite year, Arenado will prove himself to be the most valuable player in the NL.

Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (LAD)

As long as he can stay healthy, this pick shouldn’t come as a surprise, as this future hall- of-fame-r will win his fourth Cy Young award in 2018. Kershaw has been regarded as the best pitcher in the majors for nearly his entire career, and nothing is slowing him down, unless, of course, it is the playoffs.

Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuña (ATL)

Braves top prospect Ronald Acuna had high expectations going into Spring Training and lived up to them, batting .432 while hitting four home runs in only 16 games. This five-tool player was on fire and showed us just a glimpse of what he might be able to do when he inevitably gets called up later in the year.

Playoff Predictions

AL Championship Series: Astros over Yankees

NL Championship Series: Cubs over Dodgers

World Series: Astros over Cubs

In the postseason, the Yankees and Astros will cruise through the rest of the AL and will once again face off in the AL Championship series. The series will be extremely close, as the home run hitters in the Yankees lineup will look to keep up with the Astros’ potent lineup of its own. Ultimately, the difference in this series will be the starting pitching, as the Astros’ rotation of Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, and Lance McCullers Jr. will be able to dampen the Yankees’ bats, while the same cannot be said about the Yankees rotation, which is mediocre aside from Severino. Astros in 7.

Meanwhile, the Cubs’ lineup struggled last season, as the World Series hangover prevented them from making it past the Dodgers in the NL Championship series. This time around, things will be different. The Cubs’ hitters, led by 2016 NL MVP third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Addison Russell, and outfielder Kyle Schwarber, will have huge bounce-back years and produce ample amounts of runs throughout the postseason. The Cubs’ addition of Darvish to their rotation will certainly help, as he will stifle the Dodgers’ bats when he pitches. (Potential) 2018 Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw’s postseason struggles will continue, and the injury bug may bite the rest of the rotation (especially Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu) again, putting the Dodgers at a severe disadvantage. Cubs in 6.

The 2018 World Series will feature the champions from the last two seasons in the Cubs and Astros. In a 7-game series, Houston’s rotation and strong bullpen combined with the depth in their lineup will overwhelm the Cubs. The Astros also made life a living hell for Darvish (who was with the Dodgers last season) in last year’s World Series, by lighting him up for four runs in only 1.2 innings pitched. The Houston Astros will repeat as champions, becoming the first team to do so since the Yankees in 1999 and 2000.