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With baseball season around the corner, it is time we look at the divisions. Of course, it has been an odd off-season as there hasn’t been a lot of moves that have been made all around. Whatever it is, it really stalled out the off-season and many people are having a tough time predicting what the 2018 MLB season will turn out. So we may as well start here…..with the division of the defending World Series Champions, the Houston Astros.
I will go by the teams of where I think they will finish in the standings. So here it is.
1ST PLACE: HOUSTON ASTROS
2017: 101-61, defeated Boston 3-1 in ALDS, defeated New York Yankees 4-3 in ALCS, defeated Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 in World Series.
Off-season moves: Adds: P-Gerritt Cole (trade-Pittsburgh), P-Hector Rondon (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Joe Smith (FA-Cleveland) Subtracts: Mike Fiers (FA-Detroit), Luke Gregerson (FA-St. Louis), 3B-Colin Moran (Trade-Pittsburgh), P-Joe Musgrove (Trade-Pittsburgh), OF/DH-Carlos Beltran (retired)
Outlook: The Astros re-tooled and didn’t really take any major hits to the roster. They added another ace quality pitcher in Gerrit Cole from Pittsburgh to go along with the aces of Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander as it was probably needed to combat what the Yankees did in adding Giancarlo Stanton. The Astros offense is still top-notch with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and the bullpen was addressed with Hector Rondon and Joe Smith coming over despite losing Luke Gregerson. That said, one does have to wonder of a hangover with the Astros similar to the Cubs after their title win. If they can avoid it, then Houston should be the favorites to repeat.
PREDICTION RECORD: 100-62 (I do think there will be a small hiccup with the Astros, probably early on, but they will get it rolling after).
2ND PLACE: LOS ANGELES ANGELS
2017: 80-82, 2nd place
Off-Season Moves: Adds: P/DH-Shohei Ohtani (Japan), 3B-Zack Cozart (FA-Cincinnati), 2B-Ian Kinsler (Trade-Detroit), P-Jim Johnson (Trade-Atlanta) Subtracts: P-Yusmeiro Petit (FA-Oakland), 2B-Brandon Phillips (FA) P-Jesse Chavez (FA-Texas)
Outlook: The Angels since Mike Trout have always been a one-man band vibe. Albert Pujols is not even remotely the player that he was in St. Louis. And the pitching staff has been a struggle with injuries and inconsistencies over the years. So they made a couple of moves to help that out: adding Cincinnati hitter Zack Cozart and then trading for All-Star 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler. Another move that was made was they gave a new contract to Justin Upton after he was traded from Detroit. So the Angels will have a formidable lineup in 2018. The pitching is in question still but the Angels are hoping that Japanese import Shohei Ohtani can do the trick. Call me a pessimist but I don’t see Ohtani being the solution to the Angels pitching.
PREDICTION: 86-76 (offense will be much better, but I am not sold on the Angels pitching at all).
3RD PLACE: SEATTLE MARINERS
2017: 78-84, tied 3rd.
Off-Season Moves: Adds: 2B/CF-Dee Gordon (Trade-Miami), 1B Ryon Healy (Trade-Oakland), P-Juan Nicasio (FA-St. Louis) Subtracts: P-Yovani Gallardo (FA-Milwaukee), 1B-Yonder Alonso (FA-Cleveland), P-Emilio Pagan
Outlook: There has to be a sense of urgency in Seattle as the Mariners stars of notably Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz not anywhere close to being spring chickens. Both are north of 35 in age and there is not a lot of major time for either one. There are some key adds with Dee Gordon, who can get on base and give chances for Cano and Cruz to knock them in while Mitch Haniger is a solid bat in the lineup. But the Mariners are hoping Ryon Healy can be another bat to help out as he played well in his short time in Oakland. The pitching is also a question as Felix Hernandez is on the downturn of his career and has been that way for a while. James Paxton pitched well, but they will need others to help out and right now it doesn’t look like that will happen.
2018 PREDICTION: 77-85 (Like the Angels, the Mariners have no pitching to really consider them a threat)
4TH PLACE: OAKLAND ATHLETICS:
2017: 75-87, 5th place
Off-Season Moves: Adds: OF-Stephen Piscotty (Trade-St. Louis), P-Yusmeiro Petit (FA-Los Angeles Angels), P-Emilio Pagan (Trade-Seattle) P-Ryan Buchter (Trade-Kansas City), OF-Brandon Moss (Trade-Kansas City) Subtracts: 1B-Ryon Healy (Trade-Seattle). P-Jesse Hahn (Trade-Kansas City)
Outlook: The Athletics will be in a rebuild from now until thy kingdom come it seems. With another location for a new park falling apart, the franchise is just lost. That said, Oakland is still a team nobody wants to see just because they work teams over. Oakland also has a few veterans like Jed Lowrie, Matt Joyce, and Khris Davis, who smashed 43 HR last year. Adding on the Athletics have hopes for Matt Chapman at 3rd base and Marcus Semien at shortstop so they will be at least formidable especially if Stephen Piscotty rebounds from a rough year in St. Louis. But much like the Mariners and Angels, the pitching will be woeful (but more of their issues is youth and inexperience), but they could take a step in the right direction. But that means both Sean Manaea and Kendall Graveman have to pitch better with an inexperienced group.
2018 Prediction: 74-88
5TH PLACE: TEXAS RANGERS
2017: 78-84, tied 3rd.
Off-Season: Adds: P-Mike Minor (FA-Kansas City), P-Matt Moore (Trade-San Francisco), P-Doug Fister (FA-Boston), P-Jesse Chavez (FA-Los Angeles Angels); P-Bartolo Colon (FA-Minnesota), P-Edinson Volquez (FA-Miami), Subtracts: P-Miguel Gonzalez (FA-Chicago White Sox), P-Andrew Cashner (FA-Baltimore), C/1B/DH-Mike Napoli (FA), OF-Carlos Gomez (FA-Tampa Bay)
Outlook: Well, the Rangers spent most of the off-season of making moves with the pitching as pretty much the Angels, Mariners, and Athletics did little to upgrade the rotations, they went in, albeit pretty cheap giving the likes of veterans of Colon and Volquez minor league deals and Fister & Minor relatively bargains. However, the offense has some holes needless to say. Yes, they can mash with anybody in the AL with Joey Gallo (41 HR), Rougned Odor (30 HR), etc. but the inability to get on base and drive in runs is a major concern (Gallo and Odor barely hit over .200 in ’17). And the staff wasn’t exactly mistaken for the Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz Braves squads either. But with Adrian Beltre nearing 40 and Sin-Soo Choo getting up there in age, Texas may be better suited for a rebuild than actual contention at this point.
2018 Prediction: 69-93 (We may see an exodus of Rangers going to other teams by the end of July)
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat