It’s Opening Day! On March 28, baseball starts up. It feels strange to say that. It’s a Thursday and we have a full slate of MLB.
The Yankees host the Orioles in the South Bronx. The Mets are in DC to take on the Nationals featuring last year’s Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom versus Max Scherzer. The newly minted deGrom with his extension signed two days ago after Noah Syndergaard spoke out.
At the Stadium, it’s Masahiro Tanaka for the Yankees on the mound while the Orioles counter with Andrew Cashner. The Birds will use the ‘opener’ a lot due to being bad. Something fans should be used to after how much success the Rays had last year. Oakland too even though it backfired last October against the Yankees in the cheesy one game wildcard.
Who’s psyched to see their favorite ballplayers and teams?!?! Everyone starts with the same record. Even the lowly Orioles, Tigers, Royals, Marlins and Giants. Who’ll lose 100 games?
Will anyone win 100 like the world champion Red Sox did with a jaw dropping 108? The Yankees hit the century mark too before bowing out in ugly fashion at home to Boston. But the Red Sox crushed everyone including the Astros and Dodgers, who are aiming for three consecutive World Series appearances. The pressure is on to win. They don’t want to become the Buffalo Bills of baseball.
Which player will have the biggest impact on a new team?
A.Bryce Harper, Phillies
B.Manny Machado, Padres
C.Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
D.Patrick Corbin, Nationals
It’s truly an exciting time for baseball. Mike Trout is locked up with a record $430 million extension with the Angels. Will the game’s best player see October soon in the City of Angels? They do have Shohei Ohtani due back in May to DH following Tommy John surgery. Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons too. But the rest of the roster remains sketchy. Matt Harvey is an Angel being counted on in their rotation. Justin Bour was brought in for lefty power.
The AL West remains a battle between the top heavy Astros and the Athletics. Houston boasting stars Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Justin Verlander and trendy Cy Young pick Gerrit Cole. Oakland possessing young talent Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, former Ranger Jurickson Profar, Marcus Semien and big slugger Khris Davis. Sean Manaea is back to anchor the staff.
The AL Central is the worst in the game. Only the pitching strong Indians should top 85 wins led by Cy candidates Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Francisco Lindor will be sidelined with an ankle injury. But Jose Ramirez is ready for another big year. Does Hanley Ramirez have anything left and how much can power hitter Carlos Santana help the lineup? The outfield lost Michael Brantley to Houston. It’s not good. Only the Twins should challenge Cleveland with over 81 victories. We’ll see how much Marwin Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop and CJ Cron can help a lineup featuring Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and breakout candidate Byron Buxton. Miguel Sano is due back next month. Ace Jose Berrios could be a dark horse for the Cy Young. It’ll depend on Jake Odorizzi and former Yankee Michael Pineda.
3.White Sox 73-89
The Yankees will battle the Red Sox in the AL East all summer. Can James Paxton be that reliable big lefty with Luis Severino sidelined until May? JA Happ is ack. Tanaka is the ace for now with CC Sabathia entering his final year. He won’t start the season either. It’s all about MVP candidates Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who headline a lineup that still features Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Didi Gregorius won’t return until probably July. It’s Troy Tulowitzki at short for now. With Aaron Hicks on the DL, Brett Gardner shifts to center field. That weakens the outfield. Both Greg Bird (healthy) and Luke Voit are in the lineup. The bullpen also will start without Dellin Betances, who needs to get up to speed. It still has Zack Britton, Chad Green, free agent addition Adam Ottavino and closer Aroldis Chapman. DJ Lemahieu is a good utility player. It’ll be interesting to see how Domingo German and Luis Cessa perform on the staff.
Boston boasts a great lineup that includes AL MVP Mookie Betts. The outfield is the best in baseball with all three Gold Glove caliber including Jackie Bradley, Jr. Andrew Benintendi will only get better. A scary thought for AL pitchers. JD Martinez made a huge difference last year. Even though Betts won MVP, Martinez was the biggest reason for the Red Sox success. He’s a scary hitter who challenged for the Triple Crown in 2018. Expect a bug year out of Rafael Devers. Xander Boegarts could fare better than last year. Second will be Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt until Boston feels comfortable bringing back Dustin Pedroia. What does he have left? They will go as far as Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi take them. Former closer Craig Kimbrel remains unsigned. He’s priced himself out along with Scott Boras client Dallas Keuchel. So, Auston Barnes will close with Ryan Brasier setting up. Eduardo Rodriguez could be a key.
The only other team to keep an eye on is the Rays. Led by AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, they have a interesting roster that features potential breakout candidate Austin Meadows with talented infielders Willy Adames and Joey Wendle. Charlie Morton is a nice addition to the rotation. Tyler Glasnow is a big arm to watch they stole from the Pirates. Kevin Kiermaier should bounce back. He plays unbelievable defense in center. Tommy Pham is a decent bat. It’s pitchers like Ryan Yarbrough and Ryne Stanek who will be counted on in unconventional fashion under skipper Kevin Cash. Mike Zunino supplies power behind the plate. Jose De Leon could return mid summer. The Rays will challenge the A’s and possibly the Twins for the wild card.
*2.Red Sox 95-67
4.Blue Jays 70-92
The NL East is the best division. You have four possibilities who can win it. That includes the Mets, who added Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners in a blockbuster deal made by new GM Brodie Van Wagenen. What do you know? Cano took Scherzer deep in his first at bat as a Met. You know what they say about first impressions. The former All-Star second baseman remains a terrific defensive player who should still put up good numbers even though he’s getting up there. He will hit third in a lineup that features outfield tandem Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. Adding slugging catcher Wilson Ramos was smart. Hopefully, he can stay on the field. Bust Travis d’Arnaud backs up for now with Devin Mesoraco displeased with being designated for Syracuse. He might retire. But he’s de Grom’s preferred catcher. A lot of excitement surrounds rookie first baseman Pete Alonso. He led the team in hitting this Spring. Alonso won the job over Dominic Smith. He’s penciled in batting second versus Scherzer today. Think Aaron Judge impact if he’s ready. Expect Amed Rosario to take the next step at short. Even though their lineup should improve, there are still holes. Juan Lagares in center and the third base situation aren’t great. Jed Lowrie is on the DL. Todd Frazier is a good power bat, but that’s it. They’re really counting on Jeff McNeill to hit at the hot corner. He reminds me of Daniel Murphy.
The top three of de Grom, Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler could be one of the game’s best. As long as Noah’s ark does his talking on the mound and Wheeler carries over his incredible second half in a contract year, that 1-3 is capable of carrying them. But they need more offense. That’s why they went out and got Cano and Lowrie. I still think it hinges on Alonso. Diaz closes with a nice balance that includes Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and former closer Jeurys Familia setting up. The back of the rotation is also a question due to Steven Matz, who can be good and bad. Whatever they get from Jason Vargas is a bonus.
So, are the Mets good enough to challenge the Braves, Nationals and Phillies? You be the judge. Atlanta added Josh Donaldson to play the hot corner. He’s a former MVP who if right, can put up huge numbers. I’ll go conservative and project 27 home runs and 80 RBI. Imagine the possibilities with MVP candidate Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and young left field future star Ronald Acuna, Jr. The rest of the lineup isn’t overwhelming, but contains solid players such as Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson and Nick Markakis. I still think Johan Camargo should be a key in a utility role. He had a good 2018. I’m uncertain how much Brian McCann has left, but he’ll platoon with Tyler Flowers behind the plate. As much hype as the Mets Big Three get, Atlanta boasts young arms Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Kevin Gausman, who pitched well after Baltimore gave up on him. Kyle Wright is their big rookie to watch. Julio Teheran is hit or miss. Arodys Vizcaino closes and AJ Minter is a big arm who will miss the first week. Keep an eye on Touki Toussaint. Max Fried and Jesse Biddle are middle relievers with strikeout stuff.
The dynamic between the Nationals and Phillies is a interesting one. Bryce Harper went from Washington to Philadelphia. It took a while for the polarizing right field star to decide. It wasn’t much of a choice. He wasn’t going to sign with the White Sox or Giants. So, he decided for security. Now, he is in pressure packed Philly where the crazies boo Santa. Considering the kind of big personality he is, Harper should fit in. Think Reggie with the Yankees. But there’s a huge difference. Harper has an MVP on his resume and two big seasons. But Reggie Jackson was in a class of his own delivering for the Oakland A’s before becoming Mr. October. Bryce has yet to carry a team in the playoffs. We’ll see if he can in a potential lineup that features Rhys Hoskins, Andrew McCutchen, breakout candidate Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera and new catcher JT Realmuto. They also traded for shortstop Jean Segura. A guy who can hit and run. This lineup has everything. Nick Williams is overlooked. Aaron Altherr can come off the bench.
For the Phillies, it’s all about the pitching. We know Aaron Nola is one of the game’s best pitchers. He could’ve won the Cy if deGrom wasn’t all worldly. After that, Jake Arrieta needs to be more consistent. Three through five are unproven. Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Effin are all young. They’ll get swings and misses. Adding former Yankee David Robertson was a good move. He can set up or close if Seranthony Dominguez struggles. Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter are middle relievers. If they can limit the damage, the Phillies could go from 80 wins to 90.
Are the Nats better minus Harper? The talent is still there. Anthony Rendon headlines a balanced lineup that includes Trea Turner, slugging outfielder Juan Soto and Adam Eaton. It’s all about the health of both Turner and Eaton. Turner could be a MVP guy if he stayed on the field. He can hit, run and play defense. Eaton is a good center fielder. He’s had bad luck. They added Yan Gomes to catch and brought in Kurt Suzuki to back up. That’s a very good tandem. Brian Dozier is the second baseman. Does the former Twins 40 hone run man have something left? Ryan Zimmerman remains a good power hitting first baseman when on the field. Matt Adams is back to supply pop from the left side. Keep an eye on rookie Victor Robles. A potential five tool outfielder they expect big things from. Michael Taylor has power and speed. Wilmer Difo plays second too. When you look at a rotation headlined by Million Dollar Max, Stephen DL Strasburg and big free agent addition Corbin, this is a team that could contend. Jeremy Hellickson and Anibal Sanchez aren’t scaring anyone, but will give them innings. Sean Doolittle can close as can Koda Glover. Trevor Rosenthal once was a huge reliever for the Cards. There’s a nice balance here. Maybe they’re better off without the Harper distraction.
The NL Central was a two horse race last year between the Brewers and Cubs. In the end, an awful September slump did in the Cubs. They didn’t hit or pitch and blew the division to the red hot Brew Crew, who were carried by surprising NL MVP Christian Yelich. It was that former Marlin of the outfield trio that included Stanton and Marcell Ozuna that put together a special season. Can he duplicate it?
The same can be asked for Cubs do everything middle infielder Javy Baez. Yelich has a three-run dinger today. What can Baez do for a Cubs team that needs a big bounce back from former MVP Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras. Kyle Babe Schwarber must improve following a disappointing 2018. He has 35-40 home run potential. But not if he doesn’t make consistent contact. Think the Rangers’ Joey Gallo. The top of the rotation should be better with a full year of Cole Hamels combining with newly extended Kyle Hendricks and veteran southpaw Jon Lester to form a formidable top three. The scary part is that excludes Jose Quintana, who is very capable of going deep. Yu Darvish was okay in Spring Training. How will he do? Brandon Morrow was missed in the second half. He could be ready to close in May. So, who closes? Probably Pedro Strop or Brandon Kintzler. Brad Brach was a good add. He’s more reliable than Carl Edwards, Jr. Don’t forget the Cubbies have Anthony Rizzo at first. He’s usually good for 30 homers and 100 RBI. Ben Zobrist is the second baseman for now. Baez is at short. Albert Almora should continue to improve. Jason Heyward is basically a fourth outfielder despite his contract. Are they really gonna bring back Addison Russell? Considering all the details of his domestic abuse against his former wife, I wouldn’t. I don’t even know why he’s not suspended for the entire year. The Cubs could be very good if the offense hits to form. The pitching should carry them.
The Brewers don’t have that kind of staff. Jhoulys Chacin is the ace. Zach Davies, Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson are decent. Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff are power arms with plus stuff. Josh Hader is the best reliever in baseball. He can dominate the end of games. If the writers weren’t so insistent on voting for starters, I would seriously consider picking Hader for the Cy. He’s that good. Milwaukee can rake with the best of them. A balanced lineup that features do everything center fielder Lorenzo Cain with MVP Yelich includes sluggers Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw and Mr. Brewer Ryan Braun. Mike Moustakas is also back. Orlando Arcia is hoping to improve at short following a nice October. Yasmani Grandal was signed to boost the catching. Though not for his defense. Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress are still at the back to close even though Hader is way better.
After falling short for a third straight year, the Cardinals beefed up by acquiring arguably the best first baseman in the NL in Goldschmidt. Adding his big bat to a lineup that boasts Ozuna, Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong. Harrison Bader is someone to watch in the outfield. Yadier Molina is still behind the plate with Matt Wieters as insurance. It’s guys like Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong who’ll determine if the order is more than just the big boppers. Andrew Miller got big money to set up or close out of a bullpen that includes Jordan Hicks, John Gant and Dominic Leone. Jose Martinez shifts to the outfield with Goldschmidt on first. Health will be the key for Miller, who might not be the same pitcher. St. Louis is banking on him. Michael Wacha is in a rotation that has ace Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson and veteran Adam Wainwright. It’s a interesting mix.
The final two teams are the Reds and Pirates. A doormat for years, Cincinnati traded for former Dodger Yasiel Puig and veteran Matt Kemp. Puig should be highly motivated in a contract year. He doesn’t understand why the Dodgers traded him. They weren’t playing him every day. Puig is a unique talent with a plus arm and the capability of 30 homers. Something he’s never done. In a lineup that includes Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto, who will bounce back, Puig could finally reach his full potential. Jose Peraza is the speed demon. The Reds traded for Sonny Gray. Hopefully, it’ll be a sunnier disposition for him there than the Bronx where he failed miserably. Luis Castillo is a big arm. Alex Wood is solid and Tanner Roark is a decent add to the rotation. Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson must fulfill potential. Anthony DeSclafini is okay. Raisel Iglesias closes. On paper, this isn’t a bad roster. It’s no match for the upper echelon.
The Pirates won’t blow you away. They still should be a solid ball club. They took a risk trading away both Meadows and Glasnow to Tampa for Chris Archer. A strikeout guy with a proven arm. He’s never delivered the big season he’s capable of. He better in Pittsburgh. Jameson Taillon is full of potential. He won 14 games last year. He’s the ace. Trevor Williams is a decent third starter. I couldn’t tell you much about the other two starters. I know Felipe Vazquez (Rivero) closes. He’s got superb stuff. Keone Kela sets up and Kyle Crick they stole from the Giants for McCutchen. Nick Burdi once was considered a good prospect for Minnesota. He’s 26. Starling Marte is the best position player they have. He can hit for power and speed. Greg Polanco was a huge disappointment last year. Josh Bell could hit 30 dingers if he returns to form. Corey Dickerson is a solid professional hitter who kills righties. Francisco Cervelli is quietly one of the most underrated catchers in baseball. Adam Frazier is a solid utility guy and Lonnie Chisenhall is a decent fourth outfielder. How well will Colin Moran and Jung Ho Kang do? The offense could have issues scoring runs.
The NL West is basically a two horse race. No. The Padres aren’t quite ready to compete with the Dodgers or Rockies. The Diamondbacks are retooling. So, they eliminated themselves by trading Goldschmidt and losing Corbin as expected. Steven Sousa is also done for the year. The Giants are going to be very bad. They don’t have any superstars that can carry them. It’s just a question of when Madison Bumgarner is moved.
So, if three teams will all be under .500, what’s to get excited for? The Dodgers remain the class of the West. They dealt away Puig and Kemp in a cost cutting move with Alex Wood. They still have great talent. Walker Buehler supplants Clayton Kershaw as the staff ace who could challenge for the Cy Young. He is electric, young and will dominate. Kershaw starts on the DL. He’s expected back in two to three weeks. Last year, Max Muncy came out of nowhere to lead the Dodgers in home runs. He takes pitches and can go to the opposite field. That should bode well. Similar to the Yanks’ Voit, who got off to a quick start with a three-run blast to Monument Park in their win.
Cody Bellinger remains one of my favorite players. A versatile player who can play first or outfield due to his athleticism, expect him to improve at the plate. Justin Turner is the veteran leader at the hot corner who is a professional hitter with pop. What about shortstop Corey Seager? He’s back from Tommy John. If he rounds into form, watch out. Chris Taylor can play second and left field. Joc Pederson supplies plenty of power versus righties. Rather than pay Harper, they added solid outfielder AJ Pollock. A good ball player who can get on base, hit for a little power and run, it’s all about staying healthy for the ex-DBack. A very nice addition. Austin Barnes is catching with fan favorite Russell Martin backing up. Enrique Hernandez is a good right bat who will get starts and pinch hit. Keep an eye on top prospect Alex Verdugo. Either they’ll make room or use him as a trade chip in July.
If Julio Urias can return to form, the Dodgers pitching could be scary. Rich Hill is a five inning lefty with pinpoint control. Hyun-Jin Ryu is a good pitcher with nice stuff. They can use Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling as starters and relievers. Pedro Baez sets up and former Red Sox flamethrower Joe Kelly should be a good fit in the pen. How does closer Kenley Jansen do following the heart procedure? He was shaky last year.
Colorado got back to the postseason in 2018. They even upset the Cubs in the wildcard to advance to a division series they lost to Milwaukee. The Rockies added Daniel Murphy to a lineup that boasts the game’s best third baseman Nolan Arenado, who got the big extension that should make Manny Machado jealous. Kidding. Arenado is all world at the plate and in the field. He’s surrounded by shortstop Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. Ian Desmond supplies pop and speed. David Dahl is a emerging slugger. Mark Reynolds made the roster out of camp. This could be it for the first baseman. Chris Iannetta catches and Tony Wolters backs up.
The Rockies pitching was a reason they made October. Ace Kyle Freeland was one of the Senior Circuit’s best pitchers. German Marquez won 14 games and fanned 230 in 196 innings. Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray and Chad Bettis are 3-5. Wade Davis is the closer. The former World Series hero saved 43 games, but had over a 4.00 ERA. They lost key set up man Ottavino to the Yankees. Bryan Shaw was lousy in 2018. Jake McGee will be a key factor.
The Padres should finish third by default. They gave Machado big money. Now, we’ll see if he can be an impact player on a young rising team. It’ll be interesting to see the moody slugger in that big ballpark. Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers have good power. So, the middle of the order should be solid. Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe are key players. Austin Hedges does the catching with former Indians top prospect Francisco Mejia having huge power. He had a big Spring. Most exciting is number two MLB prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr. made the team and will be the starting shortstop. He’s only 20 and considered to be a can’t miss prospect. Let’s see how he handles it. Ian Kinsler is a upgrade at second. The pitching isn’t good enough to compete. Best of luck to Adam Warren.
The Diamondbacks still have ace Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray headlining the rotation that includes Zack Godley and ex-Cardinal Luke Weaver, who came over in the Goldschmidt deal. Taijuan Walker isn’t ready yet. They signed Adam Jones to play right field and hit leadoff. A solid player who was disrespected by the lowly Orioles. He’s a guy you root for. David Peralta hit a career high 30 homers last year. Was it due to Goldschmidt? Jake Lamb returns, but they added Eduardo Escobar to play third. Former Met Wilmer Flores is a utility playing second today. Ketel Marte has shifted to center. Ex-Yankee John Ryan Murphy might be the worst starting catcher. Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano set up veteran Greg Holland.
The Giants are basically Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Evan Longoria. They’re all in decline. Though Bumgarner isn’t 30 until August 1. If he can find whatever he had before the injuries, then the Giants should get a huge return for the proven winner. His Spring was worrisome. Johnny Cueto is out until September. They added Drew Pomeranz. Dereck Rodriguez had a good rookie season. Chris Stratton is okay. Infielders Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are good defensively. All three underachieved last year with bad finishes for Belt and Crawford. Yangervis Solarte is the only newcomer at third with Pablo Sandoval the backup. Mark Melancon makes a ton of money to not save games. I’m a fan of him due to covering the Staten Island Yankees in 2006 when they won a Penn-League Championship. He was on the same team as Cervelli and popular former Giants reliever George Kontos. It’s Bruce Bochy’s last year as manager. He’s going to Cooperstown.
Red Sox over Athletics
Yankees over Red Sox in 5
Astros over Indians in 4
Yankees over Astros in 7
Nationals over Brewers
Cubs over Nationals in 4
Dodgers over Braves in 5
Cubs over Dodgers in 7
Yankees over Cubs in 6
MLB 2019 AWARDS
AL ROY Eloy Jimenez, White Sox
AL Cy Young Trevor Bauer, Indians
AL MVP Aaron Judge, Yankees
NL ROY Victor Robles, Nationals
NL Cy Young Jacob deGrom, Mets
NL MVP Trea Turner, Nationals
Hank Aaron Award Mike Trout, Angels
HR King Giancarlo Stanton (52), Yankees
RBI Leader Nolan Arenado (125), Rockies
Highest Batting Average Jose Altuve (.333), Astros
WS MVP Didi Gregorius, Yankees