Now that we finally get a full 162-game season back, predictions sound way more fun to make. So let's do that. Here are MY standing predictions for the upcoming baseball season:
The Oakland A's should be a force this season, even after losing reliever of the year, Liam Hendricks. Plenty of reinforcements to step in this year in his absence as the team had a combined 3.89 bullpen ERA. Also won't hurt that the Athletics can develop talent in the farm like no other.
Offensively, Matt Chapman looks fantastic after season-ending hip surgery. The All-Star is expected to be an...All-Star again. He and the A's will put on a show in 2021 and will win an American League West title.
I wish I could buy into the Chicago White Sox, but the Minnesota Twins have earned my respect. Won 36 games last year and have done so two of the past three seasons. Yes, Giolito is expected to be back healthy, as are flame-throwing stud Michael Kopech, oh, and AL MVP Jose Abreu. Well, maybe the White Sox do have a chance?
Anyway, this division is a total toss up, and I'd like to revisit the Sox midseason to check out how they handle their new expectations. Eloy Jimenez being out 5-6 months with a torn pectoral muscle won't help.
Yankees. This one is not hard and there really should be no lip in the comments. They're a veteran team that wins the division practically every year--they just haven't gotten over the hump in the postseason. Too much depth in this organization for any injury to derail a season. If outfielder Aaron Hicks goes down with an injury--a utility roll guy will step in and have a career year.
The new-look Toronto Blue Jays should be fun eventually after everyone recovers from their recent onslaught of injuries, and the Boston Red Sox will be much better than people are anticipating. Prediction here is that the Yankees will lose plenty talent during a long season and they'll plow through the division to 95 wins.
Again, the Los Angeles Dodgers JUST won the World Series. Win the whole thing and then you add Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer to the rotation? Hard to imagine anything other than a Dodgers repeat.
However: The Padres are FILTHY. They have Fernando Tatis. Jr, Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, and I haven't even mentioned that pitching staff. Also have to remember that the Padres didn't get a chance at a fair fight during last year's postseason once they lost their two best starting pitchers to season-ending injuries.
If the Padres get off to a monster start and win 105 games, they could outrun the Dodgers-- and I would not be surprised in the slightest bit. Another "can't miss" division, unless, of course, you like watching the Giants play.
Brewers for a few reasons. Christian Yelich stunk last year, but how likely is that to happen again? He's already off to a blistering start this spring, which makes me believe his dismal short season was an outlier. Attach that to the fact that the Brew Crew gets star centerfielder Lorenzo Cain back, and they added defensive wizard Jackie Bradley Jr. into that infield as well.
No clue where they put all that talent, but it's a good problem to have. Most teams in baseball can't say they have a surplus in just about anything--let alone outfielders.
Honorable mention would have to be the St. Louis Cardinals. They just traded for star third baseman Nolan Arenado. I don't exactly love that team, so I'll have to watch for what they bring to the mound. If they can find more reliable ways to get outs from the seventh inning on, then I'll have no choice but to put some respect on their name. Solid division.
Atlanta Braves will continue to be the pick until they show me otherwise. Their core of Acuna-Freeman-Albies has proven to be a regular season slam dunk, as much as I'd like the Mets to rain on this parade.
Real baseball fans know the Mets seem to find ways to underperform and the Braves somehow do more with less. Let this team get healthy, and we'll be talking more than a division title.