Baseball is back and it’s time to give out my predictions for the 2018 season. The new year officially kicks off with a full slate of games on Thursday, March 29th. It’s the earliest Opening Day in history and will mark the first time since 1966 that all 30 teams open on the same day.
One year removed from the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series title in 108 years, the Houston Astros claimed the throne and secured their first World Series championship in franchise history. The Astros finished 101-61 and won the AL West by 22-games. They were 1 of 3 teams to win 100 or more games. The other 2 being the Indians (102) and the Dodgers (104), who they defeated in Game 7 of the World Series.
It’s also interesting to note that there were 19 teams that finished under .500, which was 5 more than the 14 teams we saw below the mark in 2016. With how much success the Cubs and Astros have had rebuilding (tanking), it appears to be the new trend.
Instead of trying to at least be competitive, teams are essentially not signing big name free agents to lose on purpose. It’s resulted in one of the slowest offseason in recent memory. We are just a little over a month from the start of the season and several big names are still on the market.
According to the oddsmakers, the odds on favorite are the Dodgers and Yankees share the honor of being labeled the team to beat, as both are currently listed at +550 to win it all. Other serious contenders are the Astros (+600), Indians (+800), Nationals (+800), Red Sox (+1000) and Cubs (+1000).
Future odds are a great source to help make educated projections on where teams will finish. I also like to look at the regular season win totals for every team. Speaking of future odds, now is a great time to check out the MVP odds and Cy Young award odds.
Accurate predictions also requires spending a lot of time breaking down the offseason moves. You also want to look at individual players and their expected performance.
I’ve included my predictions on where each team will finish in the standings below. I also give out my early season playoff predictions. Be sure to check out my MLB handicapping guide if you plan on betting baseball this year.
2018 Baseball Projected Win/Loss Records & Division Standings
Most are going to have the Yankees winning this division, especially after the huge acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton. New York will have one of the most potent 3-4-5 combinations in the league with Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. My big concern with the Yankees is the other 6 guys that make up the lineup, as well as how the starting rotation will hold up. Let’s not forget that Stanton has a history of not being able to stay healthy and without him I think this team could struggle to make the playoffs.
My pick is for Boston to repeat as AL East champs. An early exit in the postseason has a lot of people forgetting just how good this team was. The Red Sox won 93-games and did so with a clubhouse that wasn’t on the same page. The starting rotation is more than good enough and don’t be surprised if they don’t sign a power bat like J.D. Martinez to bolster an already potent offense.
The perception will be that this is a two-team race between Boston and New York, but I wouldn’t completely sleep on the Blue Jays. Toronto should be able to keep pace offensively with just about any team in the league and have a better rotation than they get credit for. With that said, I don’t think it will be enough for the Blue Jays to be a serious factor in the division and I have them just on the outside looking in at the two Wild Card spots.
That leaves the Orioles and Rays to battle it out for the basement of the AL East. I do want to point out that both of these teams have the potential to leapfrog Toronto and be that team in the mix for a Wild Card spot. Baltimore has the offensive fire-power that can be one of the best in the game, but I just don’t feel that they have done enough to bolster their starting rotation. It’s the exact opposite for Tampa Bay, as they might end up with one of the best starting rotations, but unable to score enough runs to be taken seriously.
Unless the Indians are decimated with injuries, I think they are going to runaway with the division for a second-straight year. Not only does Cleveland have the pieces in place to be one of the best teams in the league, the AL Central is way down right now.
The only other team that’s even in playoff consideration is the Twins, who were one of the best stories of 2017. Just one year after finishing with the worst record in the big leagues at 59-103, Minnesota went 85-77 and secured a Wild Card berth. Keep in mind that even with the drastic improvement, the Twins still finished 17-games back of the Indians. While I actually think the Twins could regress some, they should be able to rack up enough wins against the other 3 teams in the division to be in a position to make the playoffs.
As far as trying to figure out how the bottom 3 teams will shape up, I think it’s anyone’s guess. The Royals finished 3rd last year at 80-82, but have lost 3 key pieces in Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. I think KC is going to take a big step back and with the White Sox still in the early stages of a full-on rebuilding phase, I’m going to take the Tigers to finish 3rd in the division.
The Houston Astros ran away with this division last year and are the overwhelming favorites to defend their title. While I flirted with the idea of not picking the Astros to win the AL West, I couldn’t pull the trigger. With that said, don’t be surprised if this is a much tighter race this time around. It’s hard to repeat after winning it all and we saw this with the Cubs a year ago. Chicago won 103 games in route to winning the 2016 World Series and were the favorites going into last season. While they still won the NL Central, their win total dropped from 103 to 92.
If I had to pick a team to dethrone the Astros it would be the Marines. I think Seattle has one of the more underrated offenses going into this year and if Felix Hernandez can return to form, they got quite a 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation with James Paxton.
The Angels are another team that figures to be greatly improved and could give Houston a run for their money. Los Angeles made a massive signing in Shohei Ohtani, who is not only expected to be one of their top starters, but also figures to bat DH a good chunk of the time. They also added in a couple of veteran infielders in Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart. It appears the Angels have finally pieced together some talent to pair with the best player in the game in Mike Trout.
Unlike a lot of divisions, where I think there’s a massive gap from top to bottom, the AL West figures to be one of the deeper divisions. The Rangers have plenty of offensive fire-power and a lot people forget this team went 95-67 and won the division just two years ago. As for the A’s, they might be one of the more underrated teams in baseball. Oakland has a lot of no-names that won’t garner a lot of attention, but won 75 games last year with a similar make-shift roster.
I don’t think you are going to find any legit expert out there picking anyone besides the Nationals in the NL East this year. With Bryce Harper potentially leaving in free agency next year, it feels like this may be Washington’s best shot at finally living up to expectations and bringing a title back to the nations capital. This team finished 9th in scoring, despite one of the big free agent signings, Adam Eaton, only playing in 23 games. They also got fewer than 100 games from star youngster Trea Turner. With that kind of offensive fire-power combined with a rotation that features 3 studs in Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, I think they finish with the best record in the league.
It certainly helps Washington’s cause that they play in one of the weaker divisions in baseball. The only other team with legit playoff aspirations are the Mets and there’s all kinds of concerns with New York after they won just 70 games last year. It all comes down to the health of their starting rotation, which is no sure thing. However, it’s hard to imagine the Mets won’t have some better luck with injuries this season.
The team I think you have to keep an eye on is the Phillies, who had a lot of young talent flash last season. Another team that you can’t discount is the Braves, though I’ll admit the make-up of Atlanta doesn’t exactly get the juices flowing.
One thing I am pretty sure on is the Marlines being not just the worst team in the NL East, but all of baseball. Miami has gutted the franchise of all their best players and simply have no talent to work with. I have them winning just 58 games and wouldn’t be shocked if they were even worse than that.
While St. Louis looks to be improved and the Brewers were in the division race right up to the end, the Cubs are still the team to beat in the NL Central. I wasn’t surprised at all to see Chicago take a minor step back last year after winning it all the previous season. It’s hard to defend a title in professional sports and this team looked emotionally drained for a good chunk of the first half. All of that and they still managed to make the NLCS. I think we see a number of the Cubs youngsters have bounce back seasons and the rotation should be one of the best in the game. While I have them winning 95-games, they are certainly capable of eclipsing the century mark.
The big question is who finishes second. I give the Cardinals a slight edge, as I feel they really upgraded their offense with the addition of Marcell Ozuna and have the better arms in terms of starting rotation. Offensively the Brewers are going to score a ton of runs, but unless they make a big signing the starting rotation will hold them back.
My minor surprise in this division is the Reds overtaking the Pirates and escaping the basement of the NL Central. Cincinnati has an MVP candidate in Joey Votto to lead the charge offensively and a sneaky good pitching staff. As for the Pirates, I believe the trade of Andrew McCutchen signaled the end of their run as contenders.
In terms of overall talent the Dodgers are right there with the other super-teams and no way am I not picking Los Angeles to win the NL West this year. Last year the Diamondbacks and Rockies both made the playoffs as Wild Card teams and yet the Dodgers still won the division by 11 games. There is some concern with the emotional toll of being so close to winning it all, but I think the talent they have is too good for them to regress that much.
I think the real interesting thing in this division, is who will finish second behind the Dodgers. Arizona and Colorado have to be taken seriously after what they accomplished last year, but you also have to factor in the Giants into the equation. San Francisco knows a thing or two about winning and added in two big name veterans this offseason in McCutchen and Evan Longoria. Keep in mind that ace Madison Bumgarner only started 17 games last season and Johnny Cueto was not his usual self.
Those additions have me picking the Giants to be one of the most improved teams in 2018, as I have them going 88-74 and sneaking in just ahead of the Diamondbacks for the final Wild Card spot. That leaves the Padres as the clear-cut pick to finish last in the division. It’s not so much that I think the Padres are going to be awful, it’s more about how talented the other 4 teams are in the NL West.
MLB Postseason Predictions: Playoff Projections & World Series Winner
|WORLD SERIES WINNER|