2018 MLB Season Preview

Thank you all once again for sticking with me and reading my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Now is the part it’s all been leading up to: the 2018 MLB Season Preview. In this preview I’m going to use what I wrote in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series to paint a picture of how this season is going to go. This will range from player rankings to World Series predictions and everything in between. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

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Season Predictions:

Here’s the compilation of the regular season standings from the projected records I did for each team. An asterisk (*) represents the teams that I predict will win the Wild Card spots.

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

So based on this information, we can see which teams are ready for success in 2018. Now let’s take a look at my postseason predictions even though game 1 out of 162 hasn’t been played yet.

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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Congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on your 2018 World Series victory. In my predictions, the Tribe exorcise their postseason demons from the last couple seasons and win their first World Series since 1948 and third overall. For the Dodgers, their first title since 1988 continues to elude them as they fall in the World Series for the second year in a row. It is also worth mentioning that this matchup is between the two previous World Series losers, as the Indians lost to the Cubs in 2016 and the Dodgers lost to the Astros in 2017.

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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Gotta put the reigning champs atop the initial Power Rankings. Plus, they lost virtually nothing in the offseason while getting even stronger with the addition of Gerrit Cole to a pitching rotation that already features two former Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. I also have to put the Marlins as the worst team in baseball simply for how much they gave up in the offseason. I also don’t think they will be any good for at least another 3 or 4 years, maybe even 5 because of the generally weak prospect pool they received for their troubles. I still can’t believe Giancarlo Stanton didn’t warrant a return of everything the Yankees had in their farm system. The guy hit 59 home runs and was NL MVP last season. Now let’s get into the positional rankings for this season.

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

And now onto the preseason awards where I award people for things they haven’t done yet and may not even do at all.

American League MVP: Aaron Judge-RF-New York Yankees

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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American League Rookie of the Year: Willy Adames-SS-Tampa Bay Rays

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National League Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna-OF-Atlanta Braves

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American League Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia-Anaheim Angels

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National League Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

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And finally, on to my bold predictions for the 2018 MLB season. Some will be as harmless as saying “I don’t think the Yankees are going to hit as many home runs as everybody says they will,” and others could get me fired if I had a real job. So let’s get to some predictions.

Prediction: Clayton Kershaw will show slight signs of slowing down now that he’s 30 years old, will post an ERA over 2.50, something he hasn’t done since 2012. People will freak out and panic accordingly.

Prediction: The Yankees’ season will be filled with peaks and valleys en route to 98 wins. Considering Judge and Stanton strike out as often as anyone in baseball, this could lead to some rough slumps at times for the two and their team as a result. However, when they’re on, nobody will be able to beat the Yankees.

Prediction: The Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado to a contender at the trade deadline. The Orioles won’t be super competitive in 2018 and Machado’s contract is up at the end of the year. The smart thing to do would be to trade him to a contender and load up on top prospects. Predicted landing spot? Uhhhh…how about the Brewers? I would say the Yankees but the Orioles’ brass has made it clear they’d prefer not to trade Machado within the division.

Prediction: The Yankees will not break the team home run record. This is mainly because I think teams are going to try and pitch the Yankees a little more carefully this season. Knowing the type of power this team possesses, I doubt they’re going to get great pitches to hit. This may lead to higher walk rates for the team, though.

Prediction: The Marlins won’t be nearly as bad as people think. But let’s be honest, the opinions of the Marlins’ talent can’t be much lower at the moment. However every season there’s a team that everyone thinks is going to be the worst and yet somehow they find ways to be just bad, not historically bad.

Prediction: The American League’s home run king will be an Oakland Athletics player. I can envision this happening, considering the power Khris Davis and Matt Olson showed last season. Matt Chapman could also be a sneaky home run threat as well.

Prediction: Mike Trout will finish outside the top 2 in AL MVP voting for the second consecutive season. This isn’t to say that I think Trout will struggle this season. Far from it. Last season was the first time in Trout’s Major League career (since 2012) that he didn’t finish in the top 2 in AL MVP voting and I think it’s going to happen again. As you saw in my awards predictions, I have Aaron Judge taking home top honors and Trout will have to compete with the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, and many, many more.

Prediction: Don Mattingly will be out as Marlins manager before June. This won’t be Mattingly’s fault, nobody can succeed with this roster. However new ownership has pretty much let go of everyone else and Mattingly just logically seems to be the next domino to fall, especially when the Marlins inevitably struggle.

Prediction: Pace of Play will continue to be a topic of discussion and the new mound visit rule will be hated by catchers even though we could probably count the number of issues this rule causes on one hand. The new mound visit rule limits non-pitching-change mound visits to 6 per 9 inning games. There have already been players such as Willson Contreras who are outspoken against this, however if you think about it, catchers don’t really visit the mound all that much, especially if their guy is pitching really well. I don’t think this will cause nearly as many problems as some guys think it might.

Prediction: The newly-signed pitchers (Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta) will struggle. Darvish has had injury problems throughout his Major League career and Arrieta has been trending downward since winning the 2015 NL Cy Young Award. Im predicting both guys finish with ERA’s in the low-4’s.

So that’s going to do it for my MLB 2018 season preview. Words can’t express how excited I am for Thursday’s Opening Day to roll around, when all 30 teams will be opening on the same day for the first time in over 50 years. Let me know how you think this season’s going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Cincinnati Reds

Outside of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, JD Martinez’s contract with the Red Sox is finally official a week after the agreement was announced. Apparently their might be an issue with Martinez’s foot that could have some long-term implications that forced both sides to adjust some language in the actual contract. But nonetheless, Martinez is officially a member of the Boston Red Sox now. Also, in the world of football, it’s rumored that Roger Goodell is going to fine Cowboys owner Jerry Jones “millions” for “conduct detrimental to the league.” What did Jones do exactly? Criticize Goodell’s handling of the Ezekiel Elliott situation and tried to get other owners to side with him to dock Goodell’s pay and get him out of office. I’m not a Jerry Jones fan, I think he’s an ass, but I’ve got to side with him on this one. Fining a guy millions because he disagrees with the job you’re doing as commissioner and wants somebody better in charge? That’s dictatorial. It’s one thing if Jones did something like compare you to Hitler. That’s crossing a line. But to be outspoken because he thinks one of his players’ 6-game suspension was unjustified is well within his rights. It’s literally just Goodell trying to flex his power on the owners and prove to everybody he isn’t their bitch when everybody knows that’s just not the case. It’s like what happened with Deflategate and the loss of draft picks for the Patriots. It’s Goodell trying to prove to people that Robert Kraft doesn’t own him. Can’t wait until 2024 when this asshole retires and we hopefully get somebody competent in charge. So now we’re in Day 8 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and we’re on to the Cincinnati Reds. Let’s get to it.

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2017 Results:

Record: 68-94, 24 games behind Chicago Cubs, 19 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RP Oliver Perez, 2B Cliff Pennington, RP David Hernandez, SP Vance Worley, RP Jared Hughes, 2B Phil Gosselin, RP Kevin Quackenbush

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SS Zack Cozart, OF Scott Van Slyke, SP Bronson Arroyo, CP Drew Storen, SP Scott Feldman,

Best Offensive Player: 1B Joey Votto

Best Pitcher: CP Raisel Iglesias

Depth Chart:

C-Tucker Barnhart, Devin Mesoraco

1B-Joey Votto

2B-Scooter Gennett, Cliff Pennington

3B-Eugenio Suarez

SS-Jose Peraza, Phil Gosselin

LF-Adam Duvall

CF-Billy Hamilton, Phillip Ervin

RF-Scott Schebler

SP-Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Luis Castillo, Robert Stephenson, Vance Worley

Bullpen-Raisel Iglesias (CP), Michael Lorenzen, Wandy Peralta, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Ariel Hernandez, Kevin Quackenbush, Oliver Perez,

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Brian Pryce (5th Season with Reds)

Hitting Coach-Don Long

Pitching Coach-Mack Jenkins

1st Base Coach-Freddie Benavides

3rd Base Coach-Billy Hatcher

Bench Coach-Jim Riggleman

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If you read my preview of the Chicago White Sox yesterday, you may remember that they had one excellent first baseman, a guy who had one big season, and the rest was a bunch of guys who probably wouldn’t crack most Major League rosters. You can basically copy and paste that here with the Cincinnati Reds. One could argue that Joey Votto is the best pure hitter alive today and the reason he’s not getting Bryce Harper levels of coverage is because he plays for a bad Reds team. I mean, look at this lineup.

1. Billy Hamilton-CF

2. Eugenio Suarez-3B

3. Joey Votto-1B

4. Adam Duvall-LF

5. Scott Schebler-RF

6. Scooter Gennett-2B

7. Tucker Barnhart-C

8. Jose Peraza-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Don’t get me wrong, this team is capable of scoring runs. Despite lacking real talent, the Reds ranked 14th in the Majors in runs scored. Part of that is due to the fact that Great American Ballpark is very hitter-friendly but there is also some power in this Reds lineup. Aside from Votto, whom we know is about as dangerous a hitter as there is in baseball, Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, and all of a sudden Scooter Gennett can take you deep if you’re not careful. Last season, Gennett became possibly the most unlikely member of the 4-home-runs-in-one-game club when he accomplished the feat in June. Prior to last season, Gennett’s season high home run total was 14. He hit 27 in 2017. And it wasn’t even like the benefit of Great American Ballpark was the big factor here, he played the first few years of his career at one of the more hitter-friendly parks in Miller Park in Milwaukee. Gennett just altered his swing and it seemed to unlock his power stroke. Hell, Gennett is 5’10 185 pounds. That doesn’t exactly scream “30 home run threat.” Adam Duvall is another guy who found his power stroke upon joining the Reds. After having been a career minor leaguer in the Giants’ organization, Duvall really came into his own in 2016 once he got regular playing time in Cincinnati when he hit 33 home runs and drove in 103 runs. He proved in 2017 that that newfound power wasn’t a fluke as he hit 31 home runs and knocked in 99 RBI last season. Duvall is pretty much an all-or-nothing guy at the plate as he typically hits in the .240’s and only walks about 6% of the time but also will hit 30+ home runs and provides some decent protection for Votto. And I’ve been beating around the bush quite a bit because I wanted to give his teammates a little bit of recognition, but Joey Votto really is the best pure hitter in the game. He just doesn’t take a bad swing. His patience at the plate is well-documented, as he walked 19% of the time last season, but when he does swing, he rarely misses. In fact, in 2016, Votto didn’t hit a single infield fly. Not one. He hit only hit 1 in 2017. Plus he only strikes out about 11% of the time so typically when he puts a swing on, he doesn’t miss. The fact that he’s spent his entire 10-year (entering 11th) career with the Reds during a time when they’ve typically struggled (they had some success at the start of the decade) is a shame and it will result in him probably not being remembered as fondly as he should, which is saying a lot since he was 2010 NL MVP. There’s your Joey Votto appreciation for the day.

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Reds pitching seems to always have been a struggle. In fact, the only pitcher I can ever remember having any real success in a Reds uniform is Johnny Cueto and he had to resort to a little gimmick to aid in his success (the shimmy he does in his windup). Last season the Reds finished with the second worst team ERA in the Majors (ahead of only the Tigers) and worst in the National League. Homer Bailey is their best starting pitcher but he’s dealt with a lot of injuries since he signed his extension with the Reds a couple years ago. The author of 2 no hitters in his career, Bailey hasn’t pitched a full season since 2013 and last season in 18 starts he had an ERA over 6. The best stretch of Bailey’s career was 2011-13 where he consistently had an ERA in the mid-3’s in all 3 years but he just hasn’t been on the mound since that time due to injury. The Reds will hope to have him return to full health this season if they’re going to have any hope of escaping the cellar of the NL Central, a place they’ve been stuck in since 2014. Anthony DeSclafani is a decent pitcher and Luis Castillo has some electric stuff, but nobody in their starting rotation is an established stud.

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If you think the Reds’ starting rotation is bad, shield your eyes from their bullpen. Aside from their closer, Raisel Iglesias, there is nobody in their ‘pen that would give manager Brian Pryce any confidence. Iglesias, who has also been an Opening Day starter for the Reds, saved 28 games last season and pitched to a 2.49 ERA while striking out nearly 11 batters per 9 innings. After him, their best options are Michael Lorenzen, a failed starter with inconsistent bullpen success (he was good in 2016, bad in ’17), Jared Hughes, who is actually pretty decent as his ERA is consistently in the low 3’s, and David Hernandez. Those are the best options the Reds have to set up Iglesias. Late innings should get interesting in Cincinnati.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Cincinnati Reds. In fact, I suspect they will finish last in the NL Central once again. Their bats coupled with the benefits of Great American Ballpark will keep them in games but their pitching is just so bad I can’t envision them ever really sniffing the .500 mark. They have a good closer, but actually having a lead so that he can shut the door is going to be a struggle for the Reds. They have some decent prospects in waiting, such as the 18 year-old flamethrowing pitcher/shortstop Hunter Greene, third baseman Nick Senzel, and outfielder Taylor Trammell, but those guys are still a little ways away. Expect the Reds to finish with one of the worst records in the National League in 2018.

Projected Record: 69-93, last in NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Cleveland Indians, who look to exorcise their postseason demons in 2018. Let me know what you think of the Reds’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.