New York Yankees: The Yankees have made the biggest splash during the offseason, acquiring Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins in a steal of a trade. They also hired former Yankee Aaron Boone to replace manager Joe Girardi. They were one win short of reaching the World Series last season, losing to the Houston Astros in Game 7. The addition of Stanton makes their lineup very lethal. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Stanton will most likely be the heart of the order all season - all three of which can be penciled in for 40 home runs. The Yankees pitching staff is full of veterans that can eat up a ton of innings to allow the bullpen to keep the staff fresh for another deep postseason run. The staff is led by CC Sabathia and Luis Severino, while the bullpen is anchored with hard-throwing closers Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances. Last season, The Yankees finished second in the AL East as a young team; however, this year they are primed to win it all. With a long ball threat on offense and solid pitching, you can expect to see the Yankees play in late October.
Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox posted an impressive 93-69 record last season while coming up short in the ALDS to the Houston Astros. The season consisted of the team trying their best to regroup in the post-David Ortiz era as they struggled hitting home runs. The Red Sox have been looking for a power bat to add to their lineup the entire offseason, to potentially fill an outfield spot. They will look to their new manager Alex Cora for strong leadership and plenty of knowledge to add to this team. They will look to their ace Chris Sale to be a workhorse on the mound due to the lack of pieces they have in the bullpen. Offensively, outfielder Mookie Betts led the team in most categories, including hits, home runs, RBIs, doubles, stolen bases and runs.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles did not live up to the hype this past season. They finished with a 75-87 record, which is certainly underachieving for the amount of talent they have. Dylan Bundy, Tulsa native, is their ace as he put up a 4.24 ERA this past season. Third baseman Manny Machado is their leader on offense as he had 33 home runs. Machado is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game as he is known for his strong arm and a will to get to the baseball, no matter the cost. Offense was not the issue last season as they finished eighth overall in batting average. Pitching is what this squad needs to get better at. They finished in the bottom tier of the league in ERA, which was 4.97 and put up an astonishing 579 walks.
Toronto Blue Jays: The Toronto Blue Jays had a somewhat disappointing season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and finishing 3rd in the AL East. Led by superstar third baseman Josh Donaldson and pitcher Marcus Stroman, the Blue Jays look to make it back to October baseball in 2018. Unlike their AL East counterparts, the Jays are made up of mostly veterans. Donaldson (32) will be in his eighth MLB season. Other notable vets include catcher Russell Martin, Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielders Curtis Granderson and Jose Bautista. The pitching staff last year put up a 4.42 team ERA which put them just below league average. The Blue Jays will have to earn a lot of their wins to stay within striking range of the AL East. However, don’t be surprised if they become buyers at the trade deadline in July if they are within 10 games of the playoff picture. (2018 Prediction:82-80, third- AL East)
Tampa Bay Rays: The Tampa Bay Rays are in rebuild mode. After trading fan favorite and franchise cornerstone, Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants, the franchise completely bought in to rebuilding. The Rays have one glimmer of hope, pitcher Chris Archer. Archer has had many potential suitors for trades over the past two seasons. This season may be no different since the Rays are looking to acquire young talent to bring in through their minor league system. Although the Rays won’t be topping the standings in 2018, the season won’t be a total loss as the Rays will be forced to play young players and develop them at the highest-level baseball has to offer. (2018 Prediction: 63-99, fifth- AL East)
Cleveland Indians: The Cleveland Indians led the AL with a 102-60 record. They exited the playoffs early after losing the American League Division series to the New York Yankees. After the 2016 World Series loss in Game 7 to the Cubs, the Indians were 2017 World Series favorites. Once again, the Tribe looks to make it back to October baseball. With Francisco Lindor, José Ramirez and Michael Brantley at the top half of the order, the Indians will have plenty of runs scored. Corey Kluber won his second AL Cy Young award last season and will lead a deadly rotation that also includes Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. The Tribe’s bullpen is anchored by Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. The pitching staff will be looking to continue their dominance they had last season, boasting a 3.30 team ERA, which led the entire MLB. As long as the Indians stay healthy, Cleveland will have an October to remember.
Minnesota Twins: The Minnesota Twins had unexpected success last season, making the AL Wildcard game but losing to the Yankees. The Twins have been in a rebuilding stage since about 2012 and have finally developed enough talent to compete. Miguel Sano, Brian Dozier and Byron Buxton are all players the Twins have built around franchise cornerstone and first baseman Joe Mauer. The Twins look good offensively and defensively as they have guys like Eduardo Escobar and Max Kepler that can flash the leather. The one positon group the Twins could improve on this season is the pitching staff. The Twins posted a 4.59 ERA which was 19th best in the MLB. To keep up with the Indians in the Central, the Twins must be able to trust their pitching. Look for the Twins to be buyers when it comes to free agency and the trade deadline.
Kansas City Royals: The Royals are entering the 2018 season on the outskirts of the playoff picture. Their cornerstone pieces, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain, are not with the team anymore. Those three led the Royals to their first World Series title since 1985. They are losing a lot of production on the offensive side, which is expected after losing three guys of that nature. Shortstop Alcides Escobar and catcher Salvador Perez were on that dynamic World Series run and will look to be the leaders of the Royals. As a catcher, Perez is a consistent presence on offense and defense. He hit 27 home runs, 80 RBIs and had a .792 OPS to go along with only five errors during the entire season. The Royals are going to need more help with starting pitching in the future. 35-year-old Jason Vargas was the leader for this young pitching staff last season.
Chicago White Sox: The White Sox are heading into Spring Training with plenty of vital prospects with great potential in this league. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez is ranked the fourth best prospect in MLB, according to Baseball America. Although he has only reached AA thus far, he is expected to contend for a roster spot at some point this season. Former top prospect Yoan Moncada will start at second base for the White Sox this season. Moncada had a great learning experience last season and he will be put to his first true test this season, being an everyday starter for a team that is desperate need of his talent. Slugging first baseman Jose Abreu will look to continue his streak of four seasons with at least 25 home runs, 100 RBIs, a .290 average and a .460 slugging percentage. The pitching staff is led by James Shields. Despite the club having an off year on the bound, they will look to regroup as a whole for a chance to compete in this competitive division.
Detroit Tigers: The Tigers seem to be in the midst of a rebuild, but they do have a stable roster. How well the Tigers do this season will depend on how their pitching, which felt they took the year off. As a group, the staff allowed the most earned runs, runs and hits last season. Michael Fulmer is expected to be their leader and posted the best ERA on the team last season (3.83). Jordan Zimmerman did not have his best stuff, finishing the season 8-13, 6.08 ERA and only 103 strikeouts in 160 innings pitched. First baseman Miguel Cabrera battled injury through much of last season. The 34-year-old has 462 career home runs and a .317 career average. After losing some offensive production in Justin Upton and Ian Kinsler, there are some shoes to fill. Nick Castellanos is moving from his original position, from third base to right field. Castellanos had a good offensive season last year, putting up a .272 average, 26 home runs, 101 RBIs and .811 OPS.
Anaheim Angels: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have been in somewhat of a slump the past few seasons. However, 2018 could be a season that makes the franchise trend upward again. They made the biggest ripple in the international market as they signed Shonei Ohtani or as he’s known in the baseball world, “Japanese Babe Ruth”. Ohtani can hit for power as well as strike batters out with a deadly arsenal of pitches. Ohtani (23) does have slight damage to his ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm. While not deemed a current candidate for Tommy John surgery, further damage to Ohtani’s UCL could put him out for over a year. Although Ohtani’s MLB debut may be pushed back, the Angels still look primed for a good old AL West shootout with the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros. With the best five-tool player in baseball, Mike Trout, patrolling center field and veterans like Albert Pujols, Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton, the 2018 Angels look poised to make a run at the playoffs this year. OU alum, Garrett Richards heads the pitching staff alongside starters Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs and JC Ramirez. The Angels will be a team to keep an eye on going into the dog days of summer. (2018 Prediction: 83-79, second-AL West)
Houston Astros: Managed by Midwest City High School alumnus AJ Hinch, the 2018 Houston Astros look ready to defend their World Series title. Behind Tulsa native and 2015 Cy Young award winner Dallas Kuechel, 2011 AL Cy Young and AL MVP Justin Verlander lies a very stacked pitching staff. The infield is full of guys capable of winning gold gloves. Jose Altuve, Alex Correa and Alex Bregman are all Gold Glove and Silver Slugger contenders. The Astros are the cream of the crop in the American League and will have one of the best title defenses in years.
Oakland Athletics: The A’s have seemingly fallen off the face of the Earth since their last playoff appearance in 2014. Since then the A’s have lost key players like Josh Donaldson, Josh Reddick and Sonny Gray to trades or free agency. With the franchise still wanting to hold on to the Moneyball mentality, the Athletics will once again be at the bottom of the AL West. With key hitters Khris Davis and Brandon Moss likely on the move before the trade deadline the A’s have a lack of star power. However, with 4 top 100 prospects according to Baseball America, the future seems to be looking up for Oakland. (2018 Projection: 58-104, fifth, AL West)
Texas Rangers: This past offseason, the team’s main focus was on pitching, and for good reason. Texas finished 20th overall in ERA and gave up the seventh most walks in the league. Signing veterans Doug Fister and Bartolo Colon are a sign that Texas could potentially have a better season on the mound. A bright spot for the Rangers is definitely their offense. Texas has a young and talented group of hitters; however, they are led by the newest member of the 3,000 hit club: Adrian Beltre. If the Rangers are not in contention around the trade deadline, look for teams to go after Beltre and for the team to build more towards the future. Texas has 11 guys on the current 40-man roster who are 25 years or younger, eight of which are position players. Two guys that are considered the future for Texas as of now are third baseman Joey Gallo and outfielder Nomar Mazara. The two combined for 61 home runs and 181 RBIs.
Seattle Mariners: The Seattle Mariners are heading into the 2018 campaign looking to officially turn the corner and get back to playing October baseball. Seattle acquired Dee Gordon from Miami during the offseason to potentially enhance their chances. Gordon will be utilized as a center fielder in Seattle, bringing his league-leading 60 stolen bases along with a .308 batting average. When it comes to pitching, Seattle was in the middle of the pack, as they had an opponent’s batting average of .254, which was 13th in all of baseball. The Mariners will look to Felix Hernandez and James Paxton to carry the staff this season. Paxton had a 12-5 record, 2.98 ERA with 156 strikeouts in just 136 innings pitched. Hernandez was out with an injury for the majority of the season, posting a 6-5 record and 4.36 ERA. At age 31, Hernandez will look to stay healthy for a club that will need his talented arm down the stretch.
Washington Nationals: The Washington Nationals look like an All-Star team from top to bottom. Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strausburg and David Murphy are all guys that will most likely be playing in the midseason classic. The Nats are tired of early exits in the playoffs. Their All-Star caliber roster combined with what is the easiest division in baseball, makes the Nationals a lock for October baseball.
Philadelphia Phillies: Although it’s been a rough stretch the past few seasons for the Phillies, they are trending in the right direction. A lot of young talent will get to play this season. They added free agent first baseman Carlos Santana who came from Cleveland. Santana adds a veteran presence to a very young group. Rhys Hoskins made a lot of noise late last season and will attempt to carry that momentum to avoid a sophomore slump. If the Phillies play their cards right, they could see themselves using this season as a spring board into the next few seasons. However, don’t be surprised to see Philly ahead of schedule.
Atlanta Braves: The Braves finished last season 72-90 and third in the NL East. Although the record does not show, Atlanta is on the rise. According to MLB, they have the second ranked overall prospect, outfielder Ronald Acuna. Acuna is expected to arrive in Atlanta at some point this season and contribute to a team that finished with a .263 batting average, tied for fifth overall in the majors. First baseman Freddie Freeman and outfielder Ender Inciarte will be the leaders of the team, as they both led the squad every major offensive category except RBIs. Julio Teheran is their best pitcher who unfortunately had an off year. Teheran went 11-13, 4.49 ERA and an opponent’s batting average of .257. In order for Atlanta to have any shot of competing in this division, Teheran must be the catalyst of the pitching staff.
Miami Marlins: Marlins CEO Derek Jeter and the organization decided to go a different direction this offseason and clean house. They are losing most of their productivity on offense including 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon. With the moves that were made, it is clear that the organization wants to rebuild from the ground up. A pivotal piece remaining on the team is catcher J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto is a Carl Albert High School graduate and he is coming off the best season of his career. At age 26, Realmuto had a .278 batting average, 17 home runs, 65 RBIs and .783 OPS. He has proven to be one of the best catchers in the league and would be a great fit to a contender.
New York Mets: The New York Mets are coming off a season where they could not get it done on the mound. They had the third worst ERA in the majors at 5.01. They also gave up the second most hits at 1,538. In order for the Mets to be successful, there pitching staff will need to be healthy. Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz have all struggled with injury throughout their young careers. To go along with their pitching struggles, the offense was subpar at best. They lost outfielder Jay Bruce who led the team with 36 home runs and 101 RBIS. Outfielder Michael Conforto will be out to start the season due to an injury. Yoenis Cespedes was injured a lot of last season and they are losing veteran leadership in Curtis Granderson. If this team is not healthy, it will be difficult for them to contend.
Milwaukee Brewers- Milwaukee surprised everyone in baseball, including themselves, with how well their season went. By the trade deadline in late July they were within striking range of not just the NL Wildcard, but also the division leading Chicago Cubs. This gave the front office every reason to buy in and make trades at the deadline. Although they struck out on the big names like Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray, the Brew Crew acquired solid relief pitchers that boosted their bullpen and will continue to do so heading into this season. Management wasn’t satisfied and traded for Christian Yelich (Miami Marlins) and signed free agent Lorenzo Cain (Kansas City Royals). They will complete the outfield alongside all-star Ryan Braun. The Brewers proved last season that they were ahead of schedule. Look for them to stay ahead of schedule and compete in the ever-difficult NL Central.
Pittsburgh Pirates - Pittsburgh has gone from a perennial contender in the NL Central to the bottom of the entire league in the matter of two seasons. Trading the faces of their franchise, Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, has shown the city of Pittsburgh that the front office is unwilling to spend money to win. The Pirates essentially start from scratch with the skeletal remains of the playoff contender they had in prior years. Starling Marte, Josh Harrison and Oklahoma native, Jordy Mercer are going to be the pieces the Pirates are looking to build off of for the future.
Cincinnati Reds- Much like a majority of the league, the Reds are rebuilding. Joey Votto and Billy Hamilton as their only true stars is going to make for a long and painful season. The Reds are likely going to bring up the rear in the NL Central for a fourth consecutive year. Look to see a lot of their farm system being called up during the second half of the season to be shown off to other teams.
St. Louis Cardinals: No matter what year it is or who is playing, the Cardinals always find themselves competing. They finished 83-79 which was third best in the NL Central. They acquired a big bat in outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins, who can only upgrade this offense that looked mediocre at times. Ozuna is coming off a career year with 37 home runs, 124 RBIs, .312 batting average, 64 walks and a .924 OPS. An area Ozuna can improve on is strikeouts where he had 144 last season. First baseman Matt Carpenter, considered the leader in the clubhouse, had a down year last season. At age 32, staying healthy can play a huge factor into how productive he will be going forward. St. Louis has a plethora of pitchers that can win them games. They were above league average ERA-wise at 4.01. Carlos Martinez is seen as a viable option to get them over the hump. Martinez had a career best 217 strikeouts and 205 innings pitched.
Chicago Cubs: The Chicago Cubs, coming off their first World Series title since 1908 back in 2016, fell short in the National League Championship Series to the NL Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. They signed starting pitcher Yu Darvish to a six-year, $126 million deal to help bolster their loaded pitching staff. The Cubs finished top ten in the majors in most pitching categories. Offensively, the Cubs looked inept at times throughout the season. Although they hit 223 home runs as a team, they struck out over 1,400 times. They have franchise players in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo who are the heart and soul of the clubhouse. Bryant had a down year compared to what he did in 2016, but he was still impressive. He went from 102 RBIs to 73, but he struck out 26 fewer times and increased his batting average from .292 to .295.
ColoradoRockies- The Colorado Rockies are coming off a hard-fought divisional battle last year. They secured the second wildcard and lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Three of the five teams in the NL West made the playoffs last year, which makes the NL West the hardest division in baseball. Adding even more pressure this year are the San Francisco Giants who have bolstered their roster this offseason. With a loaded lineup that includes Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, the Rockies have plenty of noise to make offensively.
Arizona Diamondbacks- Arizona made a great second half run but lost to the LA Dodgers in four games. With great pitching and a solid lineup featuring Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and AJ Pollock, the D-Backs are poised to run the gauntlet that is the NL West. Being in the NL West, the D-Backs will be in a dogfight from Opening Day all the way to the last day of the season. However, Arizona is built to fight over the long dog days of summer. Look for the D-Backs to lead the pack for the NL Wildcard.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Coming off a heartbreaking loss in the World Series, the Dodgers will still be the favorite to come out of the competitive NL West. Clayton Kershaw will make his eighth Opening Day start, a Dodgers record. Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball and the leader of the Dodgers. Los Angeles is also equipped with one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. Pitcher Walker Buehler, a top 10 prospect according to MLB.com, is expected to arrive sometime this season. The Dodgers had the second-best ERA last season at 3.38, and closer Kenley Jansen had 51 saves, which proved to be third most in the majors. In 2016, shortstop Corey Seager was a breakout star. Last season, Cody Bellinger jumped onto the scene and stole the show. As a rookie, Bellinger hit for a .267 batting average, 39 home runs, 97 RBIs and posted a .933 OPS. Not only was he an all-star, he was also chosen as the NL Rookie of the Year. The future looks brighter than the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
San Diego Padres: The Padres are coming off a 71-91 season, finishing fourth in the NL West. San Diego did not hit the ball well last season as they were dead last in batting average at .234, hits at 1,251 and RBIs at 576. They were the worst offense in baseball and it was not close. First baseman Wil Myers led this depleted offense in every offensive category except batting average and triples. Myers was the only bright spot for this club offensively and will look to keep the Padres as competitive as possible in a division where every team is tough. To go with their offense, their pitching felt worse than it was because the defense could never get off the field. The Padres had 113 errors which was the fourth most in the majors. Even though San Diego is not as talented as other teams around the league, their young pitching staff could make them more competitive.
San Francisco Giants: The Giants made two big splashes this offseason, acquiring third baseman Evan Longoria from the Rays and outfielder Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates. These moves addressed a large need for the Giants, which was offense. They were next to last in RBIs, with 612 and near the bottom in hits with 1,382. Despite the Giants not being competitive, catcher Buster Posey was able to put up a .320 batting average which was the second highest of his career. Posey played a pivotal role in all three of the Giants’ recent World Series victories. Pitcher Madison Bumgarner will look to bounce back this season after missing time last year with an injury. If the Giants find themselves playing postseason baseball once again, expect Bumgarner to be the workhorse for this squad during crunch time.
AL East 1. Yankees (98-64) 2. Red Sox (94-70) 3. Blue Jays (82-80) 4. Orioles (78-84) 5. Rays (63-99)
AL Central 1. Indians (102-60) 2. Twins (86-76) 3. Royals (84-78) 4. Tigers (76-86) 5. White Sox (70-92)
AL West 1. Astros (104-58) 2. Angels (83-79) 3. Mariners (79-83) 4. Rangers (72-90) 5. Athletics (65-97)