Little known fact: Handel penned the “Hallelujah Chorus” after seeing Tris Speaker track down a Ty Cobb liner in the left center field gap and realized that was the highest moment of human existence.
If only he’d seen Ken Griffey Jr. swing a bat, or Andrelton Simmons turn a double play at second base.
With that in mind, let’s make some fearless predictions for the Major League Baseball regular season
10. Trade Winds a-blowin
With the greatest free agent class in history about to hit the market, teams are goin to make some major deals at the deadline this year. Don’t be surprised to see a former World Series MVP (Cole Hamels) hit the market.
9. Centers of attention
The Major Leagues are stuffed with incredible center fielders right now. They’re going to dominate the show like they have in no other era since Willie, Mickey and the Duke, not to mention Whitey and Larry Doby manned the position. Defensive dynamos with fantastic offensive skillsets are not the rarity. We all acknowledge Mike Trout is the best centerfielder in the game, but who’s second? Is it Byron Buxton? But what about World Series hero Russ Springer? Or Charlie Blackmon of the .331/.399/.601 mark with 37 homers and a league-leading 14 triples. The position is still deep with players like Tommy Pham, Odubel Herrera, Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain still playing at high levels.
8. Super team dominance
Five of the six divisions will be wrapped up by mid-September, but the Wild Cards will be wild. If either the Yankees or Red Sox struggle, it’s likely that all six divisions will be sewn up quickly.
7. Milestones will be reached
Albert Pujols will get his 3,000 hit sometime in May. Joe Mauer will become just the fifth catcher with 2,000 hits. Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler will get their 400th doubles. Adrien Beltre will score his 1,500th run. Justin Verland will get his 2,500th strikeout and 200th win.
6. Clayton Kershaw will dominate
The Dodgers’ Ace is at the age where pitchers slow down. This will be his last dominant season. He hasn’t pitched 200 innings in three of the past four years. He will this year.
5. No one will hit 50 homers
Home run records will be shattered this year. Unlike last year, no one will get to 50, but several players will reach the 40s.
4. The National League will win the All Star Game
It won’t be a bad game, but it won’t be super close.
3. Youth is served
The game is riddled with young talent, especially considered it’s cheaper than paying established veterans. But the top of the crop is poised to blow you away this year. From Scott Kingery to Joan Moncada to Ronald Acuna, this should be fun to watch.
2. Labor strife will heat up and the MLBPA will change leadership
The sport is headed toward a work stoppage. The MLBPA will move toward a more lawyerly centered opperation in preparation for that.
1. No manager will be fired until September’s final week
Team’s won’t make any midseason firings because the teams that will lose will have been expected to lose, the superteams will win and many of the mediocre teams have new managers.
Houston Astros 96-66
The reigning World Series champs are a serious threat to repeat. The rotation is lights out. The offense is dynamic. So long as the pitchers don’t struggle after pitching so many innings last year, they’re a playoff lock. Best case scenario: The Astros got an 84 OPS-plus out of Carlos Beltran and a 93 OPS-plus out of Nori Aoki. Those at-bats are going to be replaced by Evan Gattis (119 OPS-plus the past two years) and Marwin Gonzalez (117 OPS-plus the past three years). They could win 103 games. Worst case scenario: With rotation struggles, the team wins 88 games and a wild card.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 89-73
The Angles have the best player in baseball (Mike Trout) and the most intriguing player (Shohei Ohtani). If Ohtani delivers a decent season on the mound it could be enough to put the Angels in the playoffs. The team won 82 games last year and has improved greatly at second base with Ian Kinsler taking over and Zach Cosart manning the hot corner. Best Case scenario: Ohtani entrenches himself at DH with a 15-homer season and pitches 140-165 innings of effective baseball, helping the team win 92-93 games. Worst case scenario: Trout gets hurt again and the team wins 78 games.
Oakland Athletics 79-83
This team is fascinating. The pieces could fit together and the team could end up winning 85 games. But that’s the Best case scenario: Sean Manea, Kendall Graveman and Daniel Gassett exceding expectations and Matt Olson and Steve Piscotty reaching their fullest potential. Worst case scenario: None of the young players develop and Olson proves to have been a flash in the pan.
Seattle Mariners 73-89
They’re older and more broken down than you think until you realize they’re going to start Ichiro Suzuki in left field and Dee Gordon in Center. Best case scenario: If Seattle’s best players have healthy seasons, they could compete. Worst case scenario: Nelson Cruz or Mike Zunino get hurt and the offense stagnates.
Texas Rangers 71-91
This team is going to make some midseason trades, shipping off Cole Hamels and Shin Soo Choo. But they are close to being a good team. They’re young players could develop quickly. But until the pitching arrives they’re going to lose a ton of slugfests. Best case scenario: Cole Hamels pitches like a Cy Young candidate and the Rangers go shopping instead of selling. Worst case scenario: Hamels or Doug Fister get hurt and the team wins 65 games.
Cleveland Indians 98-64
Terry Francona has a dynamic squad with great pitching, hitting and defense. The bullpen is strong. The bench is solid. There is nothing not to like here. This is probably the safest bet for a postseason berth. They have the depth and confidence to overcome injuries. Their only competition in the division is the Twins and, if they really grow, the White Sox. Best case scenario: They stay healthy and win 102 games again. Worst case scenario: They get hit with the Injury bug and win the Wild Card with 87 victories.
Minnesota Twins 86-76
Byron Buxton might have turned a corner in the second half last season, hitting .300/.347/546. If he did, the 24-year-old will be an MVP candidate. He could be a 30-30 guy. The Twins rotation got a boost with the signing of Lance Lynn. Best case scenario: Buxton wins an MVP and the team wins 93 games. Worst case scenario: Buxton reverts back to his first half numbers and Ervin Santana flounders as they win 71 games.
Chicago White Sox 81-81
After winning 67 games in 2017, this team is poised to make a huge jump in the win column. With a lineup anchored by Jose Abreu, this team could cause a lot of headaches for pitching staff’s in the division. The rotation is probably a year away from putting the team in the playoff hunt, however. Best case scenario: The young pitchers surprise and the team earns a wild card with 88 wins. Worst case scenario: Joan Moncada and Avisail Garcia struggle and the team wins 72 games.
Kansas City Royals 71-91
This team is falling from last season’s 80-82 mark because it lost a lot of talent. The youth isn’t going to make up for it. Best case scenario: Alex Gordon bounces back from two bad seasons and the Royals come close to a .500 record. Worst case scenario: None of te youth develops and the team loses 95 games.
Detroit Tigers 65-97
If it weren’t for the Florida Marlins this would be the worst team in the big leagues this year. Even if Miguel Cabrera ounces ack this team is going to be terrible. Best case scenario: The pitching staff surprises and the team wins 72 games. Worst case scenario: This is the worst case scenario.
Boston Red Sox 96-66
These guys won 93 games last year with almost every player having a down season. Jackie Bradley Junior went from two years of 119 and 118 OPS to an 89 OPS. Hanley Ramirez went from a 126 OPS to a 95 OPS. Mookie Betts dropped from 133 to 108. Xander Bogaerts went from 107 and 111 to 95. It’s hard to imagine those guys not bouncing back. The addition of J.D. Martinez could be huge. Best case scenario: David Price and Rick Porcello shine and the team wins 100 games. Worst case scenario: The downword trend continues with the young stars and the team wins 85 games.
New York Yankees 92-70
This offense could be all world. Gary Sanchez is an MVP candidate if he’s on another team and he isn’t even in the discussion thanks to Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. It could break the 1997 Seattle Mariners’ record for home runs by a team. The only thing that can stand in the Yankees’ way is injuries. Since 2012, the Stanton has had just one season with 140 games played. Greg Bird, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery have injury histories. Best Case scenario: Everyone stays healthy: 110 wins. Worst case scenario: Injuries abound and the rotation struggles. 82 wins.
Baltimore Orioles 83-79
This franchise makes no sense. It should have traded Manny Machado, who it isn’t going t0 seriously attempt to resign, for a king’s ransom. The future Phillie/Yankee is probably going to have a monster season, though. They nabbed Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner in free agency. Best case scenario: Chris Tillman and Dylan Bundy deliver on the promise of their youth and the team wins 90 games. Worst case scenario: Machado or Schoop get hurt and they win 65 games.
Toronto Blue Jays 72-90
If they’re smart, they’ll sell off some stars at the deadline. Josh Donaldson and Marcus Stroman could set them up with major hauls. They just don’t have the depth to compete now. Best case scenario: Aaron Sanchez and Jamie Garcia pitch well and the team’s rotation is the second best in the division, helping them to 88 wins. Worst case scenario: JA Happ and Stroman don’t pitch well and the team wins 65 games.
Tampa Bay Rays 68-94
The Rays are run well and often find ways to exceed expectations. This year, however, they are playing after losing several key players, including Evan Longoria and Alex Cobb. Best case Scenario: Carlos Gomez turns into an MVP candidate and a rookie blows the doors off the league to get them to 78 wins. Worst case scenario: None of their youth develops and they lose anyway.
Wild Card Game
New York Yankees over Anaheim Angels
Cleveland Indians over New York Yankees, 4-2
Houston Astros over Boston Red Sox, 4-2
Cleveland Indians over Houston Astros, 4-2
Los Angeles Dodgers 99-63
This team has holes. It’s rotation could use some buffing up. You don’t know what you’re getting with Yasiel Puig. Justin Turner, Rich Hill, Matt Kemp and Chase Utley are long in the tooth. But any hole the Dodgers have can be filled by an insanely talented young player. Best case scenario: Winning 100 regular season games and not losing a playoff series. Worst case scenario: Clayton Kershaw gets hurt.
Arizona Diamondbacks 91-71
This rotation is probably the most underrated in the game. The lineup is deep. They could be a dangerous team. Best case scenario: Taijuan Walker takes the next step and becomes an All Star starter and the team wins 95 games. Worst case scenario: Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollack age prematurely and the Diamondbacks miss out on the playoffs.
Colorado Rockies 85-77
The Rockies were a surprising team last year and had two players put up MVP-caliber seasons. The pitching staff isn’t good enough in this division to make compete with the top tier. Best case scenario: The rotation cuts down on its walks and starts missing more bats. Worst case scenario: The rotation cuts down on the bats it misses and misses more of the plate.
San Diego Padres, 79-83
This team made some improvements, particularly with the addition of Eric Hosmer. But it’s still going to have trouble getting on base when it has guys like Freddy Galvis turning at-bats into outs. Best case scenario: The team’s defense and bullpen steal them some extra wins. Worst case scenario: Will Myers gets injured again.
San Francisco Giants 78-84
The giants made some improvements on paper this offseason, but a raft of pitching injuries in Spring Training will hamper their season. So it’s hard to see the pitching making the jump the offense will with Best case scenario: They play like they’re under 30. Worst case scenario, they play like they’re all older than 30.
Chicago Cubs 97-65
People might be sleeping on the Cubs, who still boast a ridiculous lineup anchored by Chris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Wilson Contreras. The rotation incredibly deep with the addition of Yu Darvish. Best case scenario: Kyle Schwarber becomes the best power hitter in the National League and the Cubs win 105 games. Worst case scenario: The entire team comes down with an infectious disease and the team still wins 85 games.
Milwaukee Brewers 90-72
The Brewers added Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain to a lineup that was already athletic and balanced. With them, Domingo Santana, Jonathan Villar and Travis Shaw they have five guys who can steal bases, hit home runs and get on base. Best case scenario: The younger rotation arms get even better. Worst case scenario: The rotation crashes and burns and the team wins 70 games.
St. Louis Cardinals 81-81
The Cardinals added a potent bat in Marcel Ozuna but Yadier Molina is a year older, Tommy Pham might not repeat his 2017 and the rotation is lacking. Best case scenario: Someone steps up in the rotation and the team wins 85 games. Worst case scenario: Molina continues to regress, but at a worse rate.
Cincinnati Reds 73-89
Just watch Joey Votto and appreciate how good he is. For example: Votto is a career .313/.428/.541/.979 line in 13 seasons. Joe DiMaggio hit .325/.398/.579/.977. He should get more help from Eugenio Suarez and Billy Hamilton. Best case scenario: The young arms develop more than expected. Worst case scenario: Votto gets hurt.
Pittsburgh Pirates 70-92
The Pirates are going to have a rough season, but they have enough young talent that their rebuild should be quick. Best case scenario: Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell take huge developmental leaps while Sterling Marte and Josh Harrison play well. Worst case scenario: Those players take steps backwards.
Washington Nationals 95-67
The Nationals risk losing Bryce Harper at the end of the season and will likely make their biggest push for postseason glory. The franchise hasn’t faired well in the playoffs but has the talen that should push it to a World Series. Best case scenario: Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon develop into even better players, giving the team a murderer’s row-like lineup. Worst case scenario: Harper gets injured and the pitching staff turns into the 2012 Phillies that seemingly aged overnight.
New York Mets 83-79
It’s harder to find a team with a bigger difference between its ceiling and floor. It all depends on the pitching staff’s health. If Matt Harvey, Noah Syndegaard, Jacob deGrom and Co. are healthy, they have a chance at the World Series. Best case scenario: Dominic Smith takes over for Adrian Gonzalez by April 1 and hits .270/.350/.450 and wins the rookie of the year, boosting the offense. Worst case scenario: If the rotation doesn’t pitch a lot, this team is going to struggle behind a lackluster offense.
Philadelphia Phillies 83-79
The team is a sexy pick as this year’s surprise team, but the rotation isn’t good enough after Aaron Nola and Jake Arrietta to be competitive. The offense is going to be more fun than any team in Philly since the 2011 squad. This team is going to be good quickly. Best case scenario: Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta turn into a reliable No. 3 or No. 2 starter and the offense hits as expected. Worst case scenario: An injury to Aaron Nola will crush this rebuil.
Atlanta Braves 72-90
Despite Feddie Freeman and some improved talent around him, this team is not going to be able to compete, though it could make a big transitional step. As the youths arrive it should get better. Best case scenario: Ronald Acuna delivers on his talent and drives the team towards a .500 record. Worst case scenario: The rotation can’t keep the other National League offenses in the yard.
Miami Marlins 59-103
This is a trainwreck. The team didn’t need to be blown up the way Derek Jeter and crew have. This might be as shamefull a selloff as the 1998 firesale was. Consider what that firesale netted the Marlins: The Kevin Brown trade brought in Derrek Lee. Other trades brought in key pieces of the 2003 team like Brayden Looper. Best case scenario: Derek Jeter no longer makes decisions for the club. Worst case scenario: The Yankees need another player and grab J.T. Realmuto for a used Playboy and half eaten Snickers bar.
Wild Card Game
Milwaukee Brewers over Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Dodgers over Brewers, 4-0
Washington Nationals over Chicago Cubs, 4-3
Dodgers over Nationals, 4-2
Dodgers over Indians, 4-3