Baseball is back. Last Wednesday, when Oakland A’s starter Mike Fiers delivered a pitch to Dee Gordon of the Seattle Mariners, the 2019 MLB season officially began. Nonetheless, baseball will be fully back on Thursday when the other 28 teams officially kick off their season. With a fresh slate and endless optimism, there is clear excitement from all 750 players who will make up the thirty Opening Day rosters. The question is, however, whose optimism will hold true throughout the long and grueling season? That being said, here is your guide to the upcoming season, full with award and playoff predictions.
The Favorite: Mike Trout
Other Favorites: Mookie Betts, JD Martinez, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Alex Bregman
Sleepers: Xander Bogaerts, Khris Davis, Shohei Ohtani, Mitch Haniger, Jose Ramirez
MY PICK: Aaron Judge
The American League Most Valuable Player race should be an exciting one to watch as the season plays out. You can’t have an AL MVP conversation without mentioning Mike Trout. Trout, who has never finished lower than 4th in voting, has won two and is the undisputed best player in the game. However, in the end I see Aaron Judge taking home the hardware. Judge is coming off a season in which he only played 112 games, and as long as he can avoid another fluke-like injury, he should be able to build off his insane rookie campaign two seasons ago in 2017. Somehow, it appears as if Judge is finding room for improvement as he has changed his two-strike approach by eliminating his leg kick in those situations. In fact, five of his six home runs this spring have been in this new no leg-kick, two-strike approach. There is no reason to suspect this adjustment won’t help him cut down on strikeouts and result in more hard contact put in play.
The Favorite: Nolan Arenado
Other Favorites: Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Kris Bryant, Christian Yelich, Paul Goldschmidt
Sleepers: Rhys Hoskins, Marcell Ozuna, Anthony Rendon, Trevor Story, Javier Baez
MY PICK: Paul Goldschmidt
Amid non-stop rumors and a highly contested offseason, somehow a borderline playoff team acquiring a top five player flew under the radar. Although Manny Machado and Bryce Harper agreed to contracts worth nearly $650 million combined, Paul Goldschmidt may very well have been the best player to change teams this winter. Last season, the Cardinals won 88 games and finished just three games out of the second wildcard in the National League, and adding Goldy to the fold will only improve their chances to build off a successful 2018 campaign. With protection in the lineup like Matt Carpenter and Marcell Ozuna, and finally getting the ability to play meaningful games all year long, I fully expect Goldschmidt, a guy who is consistently in the conversation, to finally get his due and win his first MVP.
AL Cy Young:
The Favorite: Corey Kluber
Other Favorites: Chris Sale, Blake Snell, Luis Severino, Gerritt Cole, Justin Verlander
Sleepers: Jose Berrios, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, James Paxton, Wade Miley
MY PICK: Jose Berrios
2018 proved to be Blake Snell’s breakout season, and he sure broke out in a big way. Snell pitched his way to 21 wins and a minuscule 1.89 ERA en route to winning his first Cy Young Award. I expect 2019 to be similar in a way, as I think we’ll see a big breakout from Twins twenty-four year old phenom, Jose Berrios. In essentially two and a half seasons in the big leagues, Berrios has improved each year and had a career best 3.84 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 2018. As I expect a surprisingly good season from Minnesota, I also expect a big step forward from Berrios, much like the one we saw from Snell take a year ago.
NL Cy Young:
The Favorite: Max Scherzer
Other Favorites: Jacob deGrom, Aaron Nola, Noah Syndergaard, Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw
Sleepers: Walker Buehler, Kyle Freeland, Miles Mikolas, Cole Hamels, Sonny Gray
MY PICK: Aaron Nola
Jacob deGrom’s historic 2018 campaign overshadowed fantastic seasons from the likes of Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola. Scherzer has been the most consistently great pitcher in the NL over the last 3-5 years and I wouldn’t expect that to change, and I would expect quite the encore from deGrom as well, but my pick to take the award home is Aaron Nola. The Phillies surprised many people a season ago and will certainly build off that with quite the new look and I expect Nola, who seemed to perform when the lights were brightest, to top his season from a year ago.
AL Rookie of the Year:
The Favorite: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR)
Other Contenders: Eloy Jimenez (CHW), Jesus Luzardo (OAK), Kyle Tucker (HOU), Forrest Whitley (HOU), Jonathan Loaisiga (NYY)
MY PICK: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
It’s hard to watch Vlad Jr. play and not be amazed with what he can do with the bat. When making predictions like this, I don’t like to just go with the odds on favorite but in this case, I can’t avoid it. A career .331 hitter in the minors, Vlad Jr is primed to take the league by storm the minute he first steps on the field. After an injury in spring training and a service-time stipulation, who knows how early on we will actually see Guerrero in a Blue Jay’s uniform but we can fully expect his impact to be felt immediately, whenever that time comes.
NL Rookie of the Year:
The Favorite: Fernando Tatis Jr. (SDP)
Other Contenders: Brendan Rodgers (COL), Pete Alonso (NYM), Victor Robles (WAS), Nick Senzel (CIN), Dakota Hudson (STL)
MY PICK: Pete Alonso
Second generation ballplayers seem to be the trend going right now. Fernando Tatis Jr. making the Padres Opening Day roster comes as a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one at that. Ranked as the #2 prospect in baseball (behind just Vlad Jr.), Tatis is one of the most purely talented players we’ve seen over the last few years. At just twenty years of age, Tatis will be thrust into a great situation where he can learn alongside the likes of Manny Machado, Ian Kinsler and Eric Hosmer, potentially forming one of the best infields in baseball. While Tatis and the Padres will be must-watch TV, I see Pete Alonso of the New York Mets being the NL’s top rookie performer in 2018. Like Tatis, we weren’t sure when exactly we would see Alonso, but he too has made the Opening Day roster and will be there Thursday afternoon when the Mets take on the Washington Nationals.
AL East: New York Yankees (105-57)
AL Central: Cleveland Indians (95-67)
AL West: Houston Astros (103-59)
AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox (98-64) over Minnesota Twins (90-72)
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies (98-64)
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals (96-66)
NL West: Colorado Rockies (95-67)
NL Wild Card: Chicago Cubs (95-67) over Los Angeles Dodgers (93-69)
ALDS: Yankees over Red Sox, Astros over Indians
NLDS: Phillies over Cubs, Rockies over Cardinals
ALCS: Yankees over Astros
NLCS: Phillies over Rockies
WORLD SERIES: Yankees over Phillies