Bobby Tuzzio ’20
With the 2019 MLB season starting next week, here are my picks for each division’s regular season winners.
Projected Winner: Boston Red Sox
Coming off arguably the best season in franchise history, culminating in a 108-54 regular season record and a World Series title, the Boston Red Sox are going into the 2019 season with great odds to win it all again this year. They’re bringing back almost all of their 2018 squad, including Mookie Betts, who looks to build upon his stellar 2018 MVP campaign.
However, the Red Sox will see stiff competition in the AL East, with the New York Yankees being the obvious contenders to steal the division. Look out for the Tampa Bay Rays to also make some noise and possibly earn a wild-card berth.
Projected Winner: Cleveland Indians
Cleveland came up short last season, losing to the Houston Astros 3-0 in the ALDS. However, the Indians had a strong regular season, going 91-71. The rest of the division is weak, with none of the other teams in AL Central going above .500 last season, so look for the Indians to repeat as division champs.
However, if there is one team that looks to make a push against the Indians, it would probably be the Minnesota Twins. The Twins had a surprise Wild Card berth in 2017. But they followed that up with a 78-84 campaign in 2018. They made some smart signings this offseason, including Marwin Gonzalez, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, and Nelson Cruz. Their pitching is rocky, so they’ll have to rely on their offense to drive in runs and beat teams in high-scoring games.
Projected Winner: Houston Astros
The Houston Astros have had tremendous success in recent years, culminating in a 2017 World Series win. They fell to Boston in the ALCS last season. However, they bring back a dynamic squad, including Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve on the offensive end, and aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole on the mound. If everything goes according to plan, they will most likely go pretty far again.
Look for the Los Angeles Angels to make a run for a Wild Card berth. The Angels bring back arguably the best baseball player on the planet in Mike Trout, who just signed a record-setting 12-year, $430 million deal. The Angels are not looking to rush phenom Shohei Ohtani’s return. Ohtani, who was having a stellar rookie season, was shut down early to receive Tommy John surgery on his UCL. However, even though his season was cut short, he still won the AL Rookie of the Year. Angels fans everywhere are praying that he returns to top form following his surgery. If Ohtani and Trout each have a solid year, look for this team to make some noise.
Projected Winner: Atlanta Braves
Alright, this division is going to be tough. Every team (except for the Marlins) has a chance to win the division. While I am personally a New York Mets fan, and as much as it pains me to say this, I think that the Atlanta Braves will repeat as champions in the division. The Braves 2018 division crown came as a surprise last season, and they didn’t really lose anyone this offseason. I think they are a team on the rise, and they could make a deep run in the playoffs this season.
As for the rest of the contenders in the NL East, let’s start with the Mets. The Mets have made some notable additions to their lineup, including veteran slugger Robinson Cano, catcher Wilson Ramos, and infielder Jed Lowrie. I personally think their best addition was reliever Edwin Diaz, who had one of the best seasons by a relief pitcher in recent memory. The team certainly has the aces, including 2018 NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom and hard-throwing Noah Syndergaard. However, they need their young bats, including Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, and Peter Alonso to step up, and they also need Yoenis Cespedes to return and be productive. If this team is healthy, they could be dangerous.
The Phillies made a big splash this offseason, signing Bryce Harper to a then-record long-term contract. They also traded for catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. Realmuto was an All-Star and Silver Slugger last year. They also added Andrew McCutchen, who is always productive when he’s healthy. With these big additions, the Phillies could make a big splash this year and steal the division title.
Finally, the Nationals may have lost Bryce Harper, but this team still has some serious weaponry. Three-time Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are arguably the best pitching duo in baseball. On top of that, they also added Patrick Corbin to the pitching staff. I still have a hard time believing that this team will find a way to win the division title, but I can never count them out, especially if the offense find its groove.
Projected Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
In the NL Central, it’s really going to come down to three teams to win the division: the Cardinals, the Cubs, and the Brewers. The Brewers won 96 games and took home the division title last season. However, I think the Brewers are going to cool off this season. On the other hand, the Cardinals could return to the top of NL Central. With additions such as right-handed slugger Paul Goldschmidt, look for the offense to take a big step forward. Pitching is going to be a concern for the Cardinals, so keeping everyone healthy is essential.
However, we can’t rule out the Cubs, who, after winning the 2016 World Series, have continued to make strides. They return most of their lineup, so they can definitely steal the division from the Cardinals or the Brewers. They also only finished one game behind the Brewers last season, so this team definitely has a shot.
Projected Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
After coming up short in the last two World Series, look for the Dodgers to come out for vengeance this year. With a strong bullpen and some depth in the batter’s box, the Dodgers have proven time in and time out that they are more than just Clayton Kershaw’s team. This squad could go back to the World Series for the third year in a row this season. One could hope that they don’t end up becoming the Buffalo Bills of baseball.
The Rockies posted a solid 91-72 record last season. They added Daniel Murphy this offseason, who will fill one of their infield holes. Nolan Arenado is an absolute beast who continues to get better every season. While I think the Dodgers will win the NL West, I could definitely see the Rockies finding a way to take home the division crown, or at least a Wild Card berth.