Bench Life Sports: 2018 MLB Predictions
Ahhh, baseball season is upon us once again. With Major League Baseball clubs opening up their season’s this past Thursday, those of us on the bench figured it was time to dust off our crystal ball (or dartboard) and fire away with a blog packed full of a variety of our predictions for the upcoming season. What follows is a collection of our picks for division winners, World Series champions and a variety of individual awards. Each of which can all very easily be used as ammunition to completely dismantle our credibility for being completely off in about 7 months time. So without further ado, our 2018 MLB predictions:
Thomas Waind: Boston Red Sox
This really is a tough decision. Both the Red sox and Yankees will be atop the MLB in home runs at the end of the season. The Yankees have a better bullpen and–barring injury–should score more runs than Boston. But Boston still has a formidable offense, they have mobile defenders pretty much at every position, and for all intents and purposes I think their rotation is stronger. Sale is a beast, Price has been deemed so overrated that he’s actually kind of underrated now, Porcello is a year removed from winning the Cy Young, and Pomeranz and Rodriguez are stronger than most back-end options league-wide. The Yankees are getting a lot of buzz but don’t forget about those pesky Red Stockings.
Brendan Ballantyne: Boston Red Sox
This seems like a question of Sox or Yankees at this point. I go Red Sox simply because I’m a bigger believer in their rotation with a Cy Young candidate in Chris Sale leading the way. Mookie Betts had a “down” year by his standards this past season and he should return to that 2016 form that got him voted runner-up for the AL MVP. Rafael Devers will be fun to watch and I have a sneaking suspicion new acquisition J.D. Martinez will become pretty familiar with launching balls over the green monster.
Phil Waind: New York Yankees
This is the best lineup in baseball. After adding NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton to an already star-studded lineup featuring destroyer of worlds Aaron Judge, this team will score lots of runs. On the pitching side they are no slouch either. They have a certified ace in Luis Severino and one of the best bullpens in baseball that includes David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Chad Greene, closed out by “The Cuban Missile” Aroldis Chapman.
Raymond Harrison: Boston Red Sox
I think Boston just slightly edges out the Yankees here mainly due to the strength of their starting rotation. Chris Sale has been one of the better pitchers in baseball over the past few seasons and they have a plethora of other solid arms including Price, Porcello, and Pomeranz. Add in Craig Kimbrel, who had 35 saves last season, and I really like what I see on the mound for the Bo’ Sox. The addition of J(ust).D(ingers) Martinez over the winter gives them the true power bat they’ve missed since Ortiz retired which will fit in perfectly with a team that finished 10th in runs scored last season.
TW: Cleveland Indians
In 2017, the starting staff of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin led the American League in ERA (3.52), Strikeouts per 9 Innings (10.08), Innings Pitched (251.1) and Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement (23.1). I’m not going to be the one to bet against them in an otherwise trash division.
BB: Cleveland Indians
They have a top notch rotation, a two-headed bullpen monster with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen and can score runs with the best of them (6th in MLB last season). They also have some sneaky effectiveness on the basepaths as their stolen base success rate was 2nd in the majors a season ago (79.3%). Finally, we can’t forget that the health of second baseman Jason Kipnis and outfielder Michael Brantley was a major issue for them last year, their consistent presence would be a big add. Maybe this is their year?
PW: Minnesota Twins
The Twins are a young, exciting team that exceeded expectations last year. They won 85 games and captured a wild card spot after being projected at the bottom of the Central Division. The AL Central is now one of the weakest divisions in baseball with the tanking Chicago White Sox battling at the bottom with the underwhelming Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals. This is a top-heavy division and will be decided by who beats up on the bottom feeders more. I think the Twins have a good chance at beating Cleveland in that instance. They have a great young lineup that features Byron Buxton in Centre Field and Brian Dozier at second base who hit 35 home runs in the leadoff spot last year. Their pitching is not great by any means, but not necessarily terrible either. Jake Odorizzi leads the staff that is working out of an unconventional 4 man rotation to begin the season because of injuries to Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes. The staff as a whole had a solid, unspectacular year in 2017 with all starters pitching over 150 innings and a combined starting staff ERA of 4.73.
RH: Cleveland Indians
While the Twins are certainly on the rise the Indians are still the kings of the division. They won the Central by a whopping 17 games last season and I think it will be another landslide victory. They boast arguably the best rotation in baseball, possess two of the more dominant relievers in the league, and have a formidable mix of power and speed sprinkled throughout the lineup. The Indians window to win is now and they have all the right pieces to do it.
TW: Houston Astros
Contenders are typically built on pitching. Verlander, Keuchel, newly acquired Gerrit Cole and McCullers is a pretty formidable staff. They are so stacked that the Cole trade bumped Brad Peacock and his 2017 ERA of 3.00 to the bullpen. Now that’s depth with a capital “D”.
BB: Houston Astros
Defending champs…but they got better. Their rotation is disgusting and the key players are still young. They’re fully capable of making another push for a World Series.
PW: Houston Astros
^^ What they said.
RH: Oakland Athlet…Houston Astros
*Yawn*, top to bottom the Astros are still the best team in baseball. Nothing else really needs to be said.
AL Wild Cards:
TW: New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles
It’s more likely than not the Yankees and Red Sox will be two of the American League playoff teams come October. The real debate surrounds who will grab that second Wild Card. The competition will be fierce for this spot with a glut of teams in the AL’s sloppy middle class. The Toronto Blue Jays, Anaheim Angels, Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles all have a reasonable claim to this playoff spot.
I personally feel that it will be an American League East clean sweep with the Baltimore Orioles grabbing the second Wild Card.
The Orioles boast an elite bullpen, Manny Machado is one of the best all-around infielders in the game and as a team they’ll be among the leaders in home runs. The real question surrounds their rotation. Free agent Alex Cobb should be a huge addition considering his track record pitching in the AL East and I feel that Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman have the stuff to break out this year if they can put it all together.
BB: New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins
It’s really going to be one or the other between the Yankees and Red Sox, right? One with the division, one with a wild card spot. It has to be, or something went terribly, terribly wrong and you won’t fault me for making this incorrect pick anyways because of that terrible thing.
As for the Twins, basically what Phil said above, just with less enthusiasm. But I also think 23 year-old Jose Berrios has the ability to take a step towards ace-hood in that rotation. They signed Fernando Rodney as their closer, so it will be extra nice to have steady options like Addison Reed and Taylor Rogers behind him in case things in the 9th inning are to go as off-kilter as Rodney’s hat placement.
PW: Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays
The more surprising look of my playoff predictions is that I don’t have the Red Sox making the postseason at all. This is because I have Minnesota taking the division and I think Cleveland should have a better record than the Sox because of their weak division. Also clearly I am the only real Jays fan here.
RH: New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels
It seems likely that either the Yankees or Red Sox will take the top Wild Card spot in the AL this season because both squads look absolutely fearsome. The Yankees have the most powerful lineup in the AL, a deadly bullpen, and a decent starting rotation. They were one game away from the World Series last year and they only improved over the winter.
As for the Angels, Ohtani hype aside, I really like what they did during the offseason. They re-signed Justin Upton while also bringing in Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart. These moves add stability to the lineup and surround perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout with even more talent. The Angels pitching staff has been decimated by injuries over the past two years but they are almost completely healthy coming into this season. A rotation of Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Ohtani, Shoemaker, and JC Ramirez should be more than enough to see the Angels reach the postseason for the first time since 2014.
TW: Washington Nationals
I’ll keep harping on this but it’s all about pitching, pitching, pitching. Scherzer, Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez could go toe-to-toe with any pitching trio in the bigs. Also it seems every other year Tanner Roark pitches a sub 3.00 ERA. After last year’s 4.67 he might just continue the trend and suddenly dominate again. There’s a lot to like about this team and they play in a painfully thin division with the Marlins, Phillies and Braves not posing much of a threat. Then again the Mets could maybe threaten but…
BB: Washington Nationals
A very strong squad in all facets. Lead off man Adam Eaton is back after tearing his ACL early last season and the Nats get a full season out of the shutdown bullpen trio of Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler and Sean Doolittle that they picked up at last year’s deadline. Trea Turner and Bryce Harper missed a fair chunk of games last season and they still managed to put up 97 wins. Look out.
PW: New York Mets
The Mets were not good last year. This ineptitude was largely due to significant injuries to key players such as Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes. There were very few bright spots to the Mets season but one of them was Michael Conforto who had an OPS of .939 and a 3.7 WAR and was the lone Mets representative at the All Star game. But like everything else for the Mets 2017, nothing could go right and Conforto hit the DL at the end of August for the rest of the season. While last season was poor, the turnaround to this year is going to be drastic. Noah Syndergaard is back to stabilize the rotation and give the team two aces alongside stud Jacob deGrom. The Mets also filled the hole at third base by signing Todd Frazier to replace the always injured David Wright and added yet another outfielder by bringing back Jay Bruce. I think the Mets are back baby.
RH: Washington Nationals
I really wanted to say the Phillies or Mets here especially after the lackluster offseason the Nats had, but I just cannot go against this starting rotation. “Mad” Max Scherzer is still one of baseball’s premier arms while Strasburg has had back-to-back 15-4 seasons. The biggest issue with the Nationals last season was their bullpen, but after adding Doolittle, Madson, and Kintzler at the trade deadline they quickly became one of the better relief groups in the game. Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Adam Eaton lead a team that should have no issue scoring runs. The Nationals have been one of the best squads in the league for the last half-decade and like all Washington franchises, have had no playoff success to show for it. Maybe this is finally their year.
TW: Milwaukee Brewers
I mostly picked the Brewers because I think that the Cubs will regress a bit. John Lester is another year older and has definitely started to tail off as evidenced by his 2017 ERA of 4.33. I’m not confident that 2018 Yu Darvish will be able to replace the value that Jake Arrieta has provided over the past three years (that isn’t to say that I disagree with them not bringing Arrieta back). Couple that with a suspect bullpen that will lean heavily on injury-prone Brandon Morrow and the Cubs could have a hard time keeping limiting runs. A dominant offense will only take them so far.
The Brewers on the other hand have some nice young pieces and acquired one of the most valuable players relative to his contract in Christian Yelich. The Brew Crew are just solid across the board in terms of a dangerous lineup, competent fielders and enough pitching to get the job done. I think they will be a legitimate threat this year.
BB: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs had a terrible start to last season as the World Series hangover appeared to be very real. They had a 43-45 record (.489) at the All-Star break but then flipped a switch and rattled off a 49-25 (.662) record in the second half to seal the Central. This roster is ridiculously deep and Manager Joe Maddon will most certainly be taking advantage of that. It should be expected that they take the division once again.
PW: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are just as good as ever. They still have Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the lineup who are one of the best one-two punches in baseball. There is not too much I can say on the Cubs that hasn’t already been said. They have a strong rotation and one of the deepest lineups in baseball. But what I am most excited about is the addition of their new closer and former Blue Jay, Brandon Morrow. Morrow was awesome for three years as a Blue Jay and I thought he was going to be the next great Toronto Ace, especially after this performance:
Morrow has been riddled with injuries ever since that start and because of these injuries has has permanently been moved to the bullpen. He had a great year in the set-up role with a 2.06 ERA for the World series runner up Los Angeles Dodgers and could be a huge x-factor for the Cubs this season.
RH: Chicago Cubs
Damn, my predictions have been pretty cookie-cutter so far but the Cubs still have all of their core intact and should have an even better starting rotation this season. Aside from a historically poor World Series performance, Yu Darvish was awesome in 2017 and should be more than capable of replacing Jake Arrieta’s numbers. I also like the addition of Tyler Chatwood (who is finally free from homerun heaven Coors Field) to solidify the back-end of the staff. Aside from the Astros I am hard pressed to find a deeper lineup in baseball.
TW: Los Angeles Dodgers
What’s not to like? Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet, Kenley Jansen is the most dominant reliever around and the heart of the order features a lethal combination of Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager. While the NL West has gotten tougher with the breakouts of Arizona and Colorado this is still LA’s division to lose.
BB: Los Angeles Dodgers
This team was a great story last season and a really easy group to get behind from a fan’s perspective. The breakout of Chris Taylor and rookie Cody Bellinger alongside the flowing red hair of Justin Turner was amazing to watch. They were able to ride it all the way to game 7 of the World Series, ultimately falling short to the Astros. Coming that close should have these Dodgers hungry for more this season.
PW: Los Angeles Dodgers
RH: Los Angeles Dodgers
Clean sweep! The Dodgers are fairly young and gained valuable experience with last year’s World Series run. Taylor, Seager, Puig, Bellinger, and Wood are all 27 or younger while Kershaw, Utley, Hill, Jansen, Forsythe, and Turner give them a nice blend of veteran experience. They have talent at every position and should be poised to take home their 6th straight NL West crown.
NL Wild Cards:
TW: Chicago Cubs and New York Mets
Now I don’t think the Cubs will slide out of the playoff picture. They’ll hit enough to cover up some mistakes to be sure. The Mets almost have the opposite problem with one of baseball’s best rotations (when healthy) but a lineup that relies too heavily on three bats. Now if you could combine the Mets pitching with the Cubs hitting we’re talking possibly one of the greatest lineups of all-time.
BB: Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants
I’m a fan of a lot of what the D’Backs have to offer. Perennial MVP candidate and the quietest superstar in baseball, Paul Goldschmidt, is money in the bank when it comes to production. He’s protected in the order by Jake Lamb and their outfield is very deep with the additions of Steven Souza, Jarrod Dyson and a now healthy A.J Pollock alongside David Peralta. But the pitching staff is what this team is all about. The emergence of Robbie Ray and Zach Godley as legitimate front of the rotation guys behind Zach Greinke was a major reason this team was 3rd in the majors in ERA a year ago. This to me looks like a playoff team once again.
I’m a believer in the rekindled Giants playoff hopes. They were absolutely atrocious last year, no denying that. But adding Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria isn’t nothing. This team is full of veteran players and if any team can mentally bounce back from a terrible season it may be them. Health is a major, major factor for this aging team though.
PW: Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers
Sports Illustrated picked the Nationals to win the World series this year, making it the third time in the last four seasons that they’ve picked them to win it all. So I guess they should at least be in the playoffs. The Brew Crew on the other hand are young and exciting adding Christian Yelich just as Thomas outlined before.
RH: Arizona Diamondbacks and St. Louis Cardinals
If anybody is going to end the Dodgers NL West reign, it’s the D’Backs. Robbie Ray was my favourite player in the MLB last season and is a huge part of a surprisingly stout starting rotation comprised of Greinke, Godley, Taijuan Walker, and Patrick Corbin. Brendo already mentioned how great Paul Goldschmidt is and he should continue to rake in a quietly efficient lineup. Jake Lamb has power for days while Peralta, Ketel Marte, and A.J. Pollock all carry an OBP of around .340%. The D’Backs should not be taken lightly in the NL playoff race.
I also think the Cardinals should be able to bounce back into the postseason picture. I loooooove that they brought in Marcell Ozuna to bat in the heart of their order. His offensive ability gives them the impact bat they desperately needed and forms an incredibly potent lineup from 1-through-8. Carlos Martinez is a gem at the top of the rotation while Wacha, Wainwright, and Luke Weaver should be competent enough to get this team to around 86 wins.
TW: Los Angeles Dodgers over New York Yankees
The Yankees have one of baseball’s most lethal and flexible bullpens which always plays in the playoffs. The Dodgers have been a legitimate title threat for around five years now and I think this is the year that they finally get over the hump.
BB: Washington Nationals over Cleveland Indians
This is it, the year the Nationals finally get it done. They’ve qualified for the postseason in 4 of the last 6 seasons but have lost in the National League Division Series in each of those years. It feels to me like they’re simply just due. Baseball can be really cruel when the postseason comes around, but if Washington is finally able to get the Monument sized monkey of their back and win an NLDS series, I see them being capable of rolling with it all the way through.
PW: Houston Astros over Washington Nationals
RH: Los Angeles Dodgers over Cleveland Indians
The Dodgers avenge last year’s Game 7 defeat and get the elusive title they’ve been chasing since 1988. I like everything about their squad, plus, I want Kershaw to get a ring soooooooo badly. As for the Indians, I really thought they had a formula for success going into last season’s playoffs but they were hit hard by injuries and the Yankees dismantled them. Their rotation/bullpen combo is a terrifying proposition for any team.
TW: AL Giancarlo Stanton, NL Paul Goldschmidt
Giancarlo could very well hit 60+ home runs hitting in the small confines of new Yankees Stadium. 70 home runs might not even be out of the question. I don’t envy any pitcher in the AL East right now.
As for the NL, has there ever been a more complete offensive threat than Goldschmidt? Over the past three seasons he has a gaudy slashline of .305/.417/.540 while ranking sixth in the NL with 71 stolen bases over that same span. Has a first baseman ever been this much of a threat on the base paths? If he keeps this dominance up and Arizona games draw a few more eyeballs he’s sure to draw some serious MVP consideration.
BB: AL Carlos Correa, NL Bryce Harper
It’s too bad that Correa got injured last season because the head to head race he and teammate Jose Altuve had for the MVP award in the early goings of the season was amazing. The Astros are obviously in a great position to be a dominant ball club once again, so I think this is Correa’s time to shine.
Bryce Harper has already won this award before (2015) so he’s clearly capable of doing so again. He had an unbelievable bounce back a season ago as his batting average jumped 76 points from his average in 2016. He also managed to put up better totals in runs, home runs and RBI’s in 36 less games. I’ve picked the Nats to finally get over the hump and win it all this season, so it’d make sense the MVP of the regular season is on their squad pushing them to glory in the postseason.
PW: AL Manny Machado NL Joey Votto
Manny has finally moved away from the hot corner and over to Short where I think he belongs. This automatically makes him the second best shortstop in the AL before even playing a game. He had a down year by his standards last year and I think the change in scenery will give him the MVP he deserves.
Joey Votto just barely missed out on the MVP last year finishing second in voting. He played 162 games and posted a league leading .454 On Base Percentage. This season came from a guy that already has an MVP from 2010 and was 33 last season. It seemed as though that Votto was on the decline of his career but he just keeps getting better with age. That’s why the Canadian will win his second MVP this year.
RH: AL Mike Trout, NL Nolan Arenado
It is Mike Trout and it should always be Mike Trout if he is healthy. He is the best player in baseball and the additions the Angels made should only help his numbers. 50 HRs is not out of the question. It was downright cruel that he only played in 114 games last season because he was slashing a ridiculous .306/.442/.629. Except for last year, Trout has been top two in MVP voting EVERY season he’s been in the league.
Arenado has averaged 41 dingers and 134 RBIs over the past three seasons. Couple that with the fact that he’s one of the best defensive 3B in the league and you have a strong formula for MVP candidacy. Oh, and he’s only 27.
TW: AL Chris Sale, NL Max Scherzer
Sale versus Kluber is a tough choice considering they are both strikeout generating machines. Here’s the breakdown between the two pitchers over the past three seasons:
Kluber definitely has an edge, but it is largely skewed by the fact the Kluber pitched one of the greatest seasons of all-time last year with a 2.25 ERA and 0.869 WHIP. In a normal year it is more of a coin flip and as long as Sale’s stuff remains, I think his insane strikeout numbers should carry over this year.
I only picked Scherzer over Kershaw because, while Kershaw just is better, their excellence is comparable and Scherzer is way more durable. Scherzer has pitched at least 200 innings every season since 2013. That’s 1092.1 innings pitched from 2013-2017 versus Kershaw’s 991 over the same stretch (including two major DL stints over the past two seasons). You can’t win games for your team if you aren’t on the field.
BB: AL Chris Sale, NL Clayton Kershaw
Sale does his thing every year and it’s clear the move to playing in Fenway Park on a regular basis hasn’t phased him at all. The Red Sox are going to be very good and a lot of the credit will be going to Sale.
That’s right, two lefties will be taking home the hardware. That hasn’t happened since Barry Zito and Randy Johnson won the awards back in 2002. Kershaw has already won 3 Cy Young awards and was the runner up a season ago, so he seems like a pretty good bet to be in the mix once again.
PW: AL Corey Kluber, NL Noah Syndergaard
As the lone person that picked Kluber to win the Cy Young, I feel like it’s important to point out that since he won the Cy Young last year it means that he is currently the best pitcher in the AL. Winning the award two years in a row is not unheard of. Looking at Thomas’s chart above it is clear that Kluber dominated last season and edges Sale out in the important categories of ERA and WAR where he has almost 4 more wins than Sale.
Syndergaard is poised for a big comeback year. We all know what Thor is capable of dominating until his shoulder injury last season. He is one of the best power pitchers in baseball posting a K/9 of 10.7 over his last full season in 2016. Thor is ready to throw the hammer.
RH: AL Chris Sale, NL Noah Syndergaard
I’m taking two strikeout kings for my winners. Sale is a monster but is still chasing his first Cy Young. I expect another season with 20+ wins, 300+ strikeouts, and a ERA below 3.00.
As for Thor, he’s fully recovered and rested from the partially torn lat that stole his entire 2017. He had a 1.35 ERA in spring training and possess a disgusting array of pitches. I expect the fireballer to dominate the NL this year.
TW: AL Gleyber Torres, NL JP Crawford
I’d be shocked if Torres wasn’t called up for an extended amount of time this year. Baseball Prospectus has Torres ranked as the MLB’s third best prospect heading into the year and there really isn’t any second baseman on the Yankees blocking him.
As for Crawford, I picked him despite losing some of his top prospect sheen (he dropped from BP’s 4th ranked prospect last year to *gasp* number 14 this year) because he’s actually on an MLB roster. While his brief stint with the Phillies last year and his numbers dropping in Triple-A last year leave some worried, he still has the tools that made him a blue chipper in the first place.
BB: AL Shohei Ohtani, NL Ryan McMahon
To say Shohei Ohtani is one of the more intriguing stories of this season would be an understatement. The guy can pitch and apparently he can hit pretty well too. No other rookie stands a chance for this award because the Ohtani case can always be made by simply saying “oh yeah, well what’s that rookie hitter’s ERA?” or “what’s that pitcher’s batting average?”. Alright maybe that isn’t how this works, but he still has a great shot.
Ryan McMahon looks like he’s got a clear pathway to an everyday first baseman’s role with the Colorado Rockies. Hitting on a regular basis in Coors Field definitely adds to the potential for big numbers; but when it comes to rookie of the year awards, opportunity is always the key. McMahon looks like he’s got the key to success to this point.
PW: AL Shohei Ohtani, NL JP Crawford
Ohtani is the japanese Babe Ruth. He can crush the ball and throws 98 MPH on the black. Enough said.
Crawford is the ninth youngest player in the NL at 23 years old and was slightly disappointing in his 23 MLB games last season. But he is still an elite infield prospect with the ability to make a difference and he could end up helping Philly make a run for the second wild card spot.
RH: AL Willie Calhoun, NL Ronald Acuna
Both of my picks are in AAA right now so that doesn’t bode well in the present, but both should be up by the end of April and will immediately impress. Calhoun could potentially hit 30 bombs this season for the Rangers while Acuna is the consensus “best prospect in baseball” for a reason. He has a great bat and is a stalwart defender in the outfield.
TW: AL Trevor Bauer, NL Amed Rosario
It’s been a while since Bauer has had any sort of “ace potential” hype. To be fair, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle among Cleveland’s glut of dominant pitchers. Bauer was terrible at the beginning of last season but rebounded nicely with a second half of 3.01 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.5% BB%, and 26.7% K%. Word on the street is that he’s throwing his slider more. If the 27 year-old Bauer can stretch out some success over a full season he could be in store for a legitimate breakout.
Rosario is the shortstop of the present and future for the Mets. Entering 2017 he was the 8th ranked prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. In 46 games with the Mets last year he had a mundane .665 OPS. But if Rosario’s hitting starts to click like it has at every level of the minors then you should believe the hype surrounding this guy.
BB: AL C.J. Cron, NL Archie Bradley:
This C.J. Cron pick may seem ridiculous given the young talent that’s on the come-up in the American League. Sure, I could’ve taken a Rafael Devers or a Byron Buxton and mailed it in, but I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night. As a Jays fan, I saw what Justin Smoak did last year and I think Cron could potentially become Smoak 2.0. He’s hit 16 bombs in each of his past three seasons but was never receiving starters at bats with the Angels. Now he’s in Tampa without too much competition for at-bats and is trotting out to cushy hitters ballparks in the AL East on a regular basis. You saw what Logan Morrison did last year with the Rays. 30 bombs for C.J. Cron? Why not?…okay don’t answer that.
Archie Bradley was a dominant reliever in the back-end of the Diamondbacks bullpen last season. He was plugged into the set-up role because the ageless firecracker that is Fernando Rodney was still there doing his thing. But now Rodney is in Minnesota and there’s an internal competition for the closers role on a D’Backs team that’s capable of making the playoffs. I’d say Bradley is at least a super-reliever once again for Manager Torey Lovullo, but at some point he thrives in the closer role.
PW: AL Randal Grichuk, NL Tyler Chatwood
Grichuk isn’t just the new right fielder for the Blue Jays he is also the newest heartthrob of the American League East. I say this as heterosexually as possible: Grichuk is one good looking dude. He has taken over JD’s spot of best looking guy on the Jays and will probably launch 30 home runs this season in the smaller Rogers Centre. Randal Grichuk: number 15 in your program, number one in your heart.
Chatwood is the newest edition to the Chicago Cubs after signing a three year deal with them this offseason. Chatwood has played the last 5 seasons with the Colorado Rockies and as a result has had the majority of his starts in the launching pad that is Coors Field. The Cubs hope that his change in scenery will help keep the ball in the yard for Chatwood and help him to have a breakout year.
RH: AL Jeimer Candelario, NL Jameson Taillon
The Tigers are going to be bad, really bad; but that does not mean there will not be bright spots on the team. Enter Candelario, a 24-year-old 3B who has plate discipline far beyond his years. He played in 27 games last season for the Tigers and batted a scintillating .330. He looks poised to be an everyday contributor for Detroit in 2018 and should see a ton of plate appearances in the 2-hole. He is the future of the infield in the Motor City.
Taillon figures to be the headliner of the Pirates rotation now that Gerrit Cole has moved on. He had a solid 8.4 K/9 last season so cutting down on the walks (3.1BB/9) will be the biggest factor for Taillon this year. He has a 95+ MPH fastball, a filthy curve, and is excellent at keeping the ball in the park. 14+ wins is not out of the question as the Pirates playoff hopes lie firmly in his glove. I do love the Tyler Chatwood pick though.