Now on to the American League. If you haven’t seen it yet, go check out my 2018 National League Predictions before reading on to find out who I’ve got in the World Series. Here in the AL, it’ll be a slug fest. From the Bronx Bombers to the defending champs in Houston, it’s all a matter of who’s going to have the hottest offense at the right time. Let’s take a look at who will have that sweet swing by season’s end.
Much to the MLB’s dismay, the Astros are only getting better. The defending World Champions not only retained the bulk of their lineup, but they actually got stronger with the arm of ex-Pirates ace Gerritt Cole. That rotation was already pretty deep with Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel leading the way, not to mention the heat of Ken Giles in the bullpen. Throw in perennial MVP candidate Jose Altuve and his partners George Springer and Alex Bregman, and you have a really fun team to watch that can crush the morale of any team in baseball.
I can save you some time if you want to skip ahead, there is no beating that in the AL West. The other teams all have their individual strengths, but nothing matches the overpowering Astros. Perhaps the furthest off are the A’s who have a very tough ballpark to play in at the O.Co Coliseum. Without Sonny Gray, the pitching looks like it could really scuffle, and a few minor moves in the offseason don’t look like they can revive Oakland. That said, I am never one to doubt the “Moneyball” movement.
The Rangers had a good run last year, but in the end they fell short of the playoffs and sold catcher Jonathan Lucroy and Yu Darvish before the trade deadline to put them out of contention. Despite an above-average lineup, Texas just doesn’t have the power to overcome predominantly poor pitching across the board. In a hitter’s park like Arlington, things can go either way, but the Rangers’ greatest weaknesses will show on the road.
In the northwest, the Mariners have a pretty solid team, but nothing too flashy. The power combo of Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano is always scary, and even if his best years are behind him, you never want to face King Felix on the mound. Also, shortstop Jean Segura’s OBP can raise a few eyebrows just like his glove on the left side of the infield. But overall, Seattle just isn’t built to win championships without a few more pieces.
The Angels are on the rise with the signing of Shohei Otani, but honestly, I’m not a huge fan. As good as he was in Japan, the MLB is a different league. Minor Leaguers can shred their competition, but they won’t get any respect unless they can prove it in the big leagues. Japan should be no different. That said, if he happens to be as good as advertised, L.A. would have one of the best outfields in the world with Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Justin Upton as well as a versatile kicker in Otani. I just don’t see the pitcher/DH making a huge impact.
- Houston Astros
- Los Angeles Angels (Wild Card)
- Seattle Mariners
- Texas Rangers
- Oakland Athletics
The AL Central is just as much of a runaway as the West. The two-time defending champions Cleveland Indians should stay in control wire-to-wire in 2018. Even with the losses of Carlos Santana and Bryan Shaw in the offseason, Cleveland is as dangerous as ever. Namely, their murderer’s row pitching rotation puts a capable starter on the hill every night. Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber leads the Tribe, but I wouldn’t want to square up against Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, or even Danny Salazar. There’s no off day in Cleveland, the only question is what seed they can come away with in the playoffs.
Last year there was a clear pecking order throughout the division, but I think spots 2-4 could be separated by 5 games or less in 2018. The Twins made the jump from one of the worst teams in the MLB to second in the AL Central in 2017, narrowly missing out on a Wild Card spot in a competitive playoff race. I’m tabbing the Twins to move back around .500 this year because I think they over-performed in 2017, and that false confidence led to some stagnant offseason decisions.
There’s always that team that makes a surprise jump like the Twins did. This year, I actually have two. The Giants in the NL, and the White Sox right here. Nobody has made more moves than Chicago since July, and now is when it will start to pay off. They are by no means a team to steal a playoff spot, but they won’t be getting walked over. Yoan Moncada and Lucas Gioloto are two names I’m really excited to watch as they make their mark on the MLB this year. Hang with them through the growing pains, and before long we can see the Sox in October.
Recently the Royals have been hovering around the top spot in the AL Central but have only been able to take the crown once in the history of the division (no pun intended). Unfortunately for KC, they won’t be any closer this year. While they were slowly able to re-sign some of their key players from the famed 2015 World Series run, this year will probably be their last chance to win-now. Even then, the pitching just isn’t there to face the powerful American League bats.
That leaves the lowly Tigers. It’s easy to put them in the cellar after watching them give away Justin Verlander and J.D. Martinez in 2017. Besides an aging Miguel Cabrera and a very inconsistent Jordan Zimmermann, there isn’t much to love in Detroit. But how low can they go?
- Cleveland Indians
- Kansas City Royals
- Chicago White Sox
- Minnesota Twins
- Detroit Tigers
Here’s where it gets fun. The AL East is a beast of a conference, probably only rivaled by the NL West. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Orioles all have legitimate shots at winning it, and the Blue Jays are in the hunt for the Wild Card too. As for the Rays, well, without Evan Longoria it’s better luck next year.. maybe.
Toronto is a long shot mainly due to two big losses already. That is, Troy Tulowitzki dealing with a nagging heel problem, and Jose Bautista just not getting signed for some reason. Edwin Encarnacion has been out the door for a while now, and that leaves exactly zero stars from the glory days a couple of years ago. The good news is that the pitching is still there, but there are a lot of big bats to beat in the AL East.
Baltimore has the opposite problem. Their lineup is dangerous from top to bottom. You’ve got Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones, and you have the undervalued Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini in the mix too. The problem is their pitching. If this tells you anything, their ace is Dylan Bundy, and Zach Britton will miss at least the first two months of the season with a torn achilles. Every game the Orioles play will be a shootout, and they can only win so many of those.
Boston. I picked you to win it all last year. What happened? You had everything going for you. A plethora of young talent, the ace of aces in Chris Sale, and a winning fanbase led by manager John Farrell. Oh.. John Farrell. Well, he’s gone now, so we’ll see what new manager Alex Cora can do in that clubhouse to get you back on top.
Well, that is, if you can get past the New York Yankees. In March 2017, I picked the Yankees to win the 2018 World Series. The signing of Giancarlo Stanton and a lower budget only affirmed that prediction. There are hardly words to describe the dominance of this 40-man roster. Even with some blockbuster trades over the winter, they still maintain an incredibly strong farm system. If the Yankee dynasty was over, it’s surely back now.
- New York Yankees
- Boston Red Sox (Wild Card)
- Baltimore Orioles
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Tampa Bay Rays
Game 163: Los Angeles Angels vs. Baltimore Orioles- I can’t decide who will advance to the Wild Card game to face the Red Sox between the Angels and Orioles, so I declare a tie. Given the history of the Orioles in sudden-death games, Angels win.
AL Wild Card: Los Angeles Angels at Boston Red Sox- I still like the Sox this year; it’s just a tough draw playing with the Yanks. Chris Sale can ground the Angels, and the bats won’t have a problem with anyone in that rotation. Red Sox win.
NL Wild Card: San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals- I picked the Cubs to win the NL Central before the signing of Greg Holland to St. Louis, and I’m already regretting it. Nevertheless, here they are against Madison Bumgarner in an elimination game. No chance. Giants win.
ALDS: (1) Houston Astros vs. (4) Boston Red Sox- They’ve been here before. Last year, Houston knocked out my predicted champions in a speedy 4 games. The same rosters return for both squads, except the Astros added Gerrit Cole. I won’t commit to the sweep, but Astros in 4.
ALDS: (2) Cleveland Indians vs. (3) New York Yankees- The Yankees are the three seed because their schedule is going to be way harder than their AL West and AL Central counterparts. So we have another rematch, this time of the 2017 ALCS, and we have the same result. Yankees in 3.
NLDS: (1) Washington Nationals vs. (4) San Francisco Giants- The Nats just can’t escape the NL West. D.C.’s struggles in the postseason have been well documented, from the Giants to the Dodgers, and most recently the Cubs, ousting them in the very first round. This is the Nationals’ last chance to win with Bryce Harper, and new manager Dave Martinez finally, finally makes the most of it. Nationals in 5.
NLDS: (2) Los Angeles Dodgers vs. (3) Chicago Cubs- A really fun matchup of the past two World Series champions will collide in an exciting series that features everything a fan could want. Two great teams, the world’s best pitcher, and the league’s best fanbases. That said, the Dodgers are just too complete of a team to lose in a series format. Dodgers in 4.
ALCS: (1) Houston Astros vs. (3) New York Yankees- What a fun series this will be. The best two offenses will go at it in 7 games that could all reach double digits. Throw any kind of pitching advantage out the window; it comes down to clutch hitting and who wants it more. Yankees in 7.
NLCS: (1) Washington Nationals vs. (2) Los Angeles Dodgers- What a nightmare for those Nationals fans. Riding high off their first ever postseason series win, the Nats are ready to take their momentum to the very last game. Unfortunately, they’re about to run into the buzzsaw that is L.A. Dodgers in 5.