Winners

Predicting MLB Division Winners

By Jordan Swofford

I’m the kind of guy to spell Opening Day with capital letters because it’s a national holiday in my book. Reason being it’s America’s pastime and there’s nothing like a hot dog, a cold beer and a spot in the sun at a baseball game to make you feel like a real American.

On Opening Day, the slates are wiped clean. Before the games start, there are no losers or winners. There’s only possibility.

SO GET YOUR BALL CAP ON, IT’S OPENING DAY BABY!

Before I get started, I found this super awesome article about how to legally stream all 30 MLB teams online. If you’re like me, I generally only buy cable to watch sports but it’s been just so affordable lately. Then I want to get MLB.TV but come to find out I can’t even watch my hometown team because I’m in the “blackout zone.” Absolutely unbelievable. Hopefully these solutions help you as much as they do for me.

Now let’s get to it, we’re making picks for division winners today

AL Central champion: Cleveland Indians

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With the Whitesox, Tigers, and Royals still rebuilding; it seems likely that the Indians have a clear path for their 3rd straight division crown. The Twins might be their only thorn in the side, but Minnesota is still young and just now turning the corner of their rebuild. On top of that, the Twins won’t be able to match the pitching depth that Cleveland has. The tribe features 3 top arms in the MLB in Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer. They also have one of the best shortstops in the game, a dynamic third baseman, the RBI machine – Edwin Encarnacion. It hurts me to say, but because of the soft division they might make a run at the Mariners all-time win record in a season this year.

AL West champions: Houston Astros

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On paper, the reigning champions remain the best team in baseball by a fairly wide margin. They returned almost the entirety of a historically good offense, and they’ll benefit from a full season of Justin Verlander and the addition of Gerrit Cole in the rotation that also features Dallas Keuchel. They have one of baseball’s most potent offense and I think they’re going to score a ridiculous amount of runs this year. If George Springer can stay away from the injury bug (as well as the rest of them) they have huge chance to repeat as World Series champions.

AL East champion: New York Yankees

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Between the Yanks and the BoSox, this was a tough call. On paper both teams will match up well, and I’m excited to see this rivalry renew after going stale the past few years. I’m going with the Yankees to win the AL East because they’re always making moves at the deadline. Come July, they’re completely willing to trade prospects to fill a hole in the roster. Brian Cashman wants to win now, plain and simple. With the off-season addition of Giancarlo Stanton to join Arron Judge in the lineup, were going to see a lot of baseball’s exiting Yankee Stadium this season.

NL East champion: Washington Nationals

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Of all the division winners I’m predicting, the Nationals seem the most likely to fall flat after a lazy offseason of no big additions. They did send a message by firing manager Dusty Baker after an early exit in the playoffs and the bottom line is that they’ve got Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon set for their lineup with Daniel Murphy due to return at some point, and they’ve still got Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer fronting their pitching staff. A couple of key injuries could derail them, and both the Phillies and Mets seem like they might be a lot better than many expect. But the Nats are still my favorites in the East.

NL Central champion: Chicago Cubs

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There’s cases to be made for other teams in the division to step up. The Cardinals underperformed last season but look solid all over, and the Brewers’ offseason additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain make their lineup appear real strong. But the Cubs still have the offensive core of Rizzo & Bryant that won them the World Series in 2016. The have slugger Willson Contreras and the electric Javier Baez to add some pop to the lineup as well. The pitching staff replaced Jake Arrieta with Yu Darvish. They’re number 3 starter, Jose Quintana, had 200 strikeouts last year. On any given night, they’ll have 2-3 guys on their bench that would be starting for just about every team besides the Astros.

NL West champion: Los Angeles Dodgers

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I call it the wild west for a reason. Both the Diamondbacks and Rockies emerged as contenders in 2017 and the Giants’ flurry of offseason activities made them a popular pick to unseat the Dodgers in 2018 until news broke that Madison Bumgarner will start the season on the disabled list. The Dodgers are still my favorite despite Justin Turner going down with a thumb injury. The Dodgers bring back just about everyone from a team that won a fifth consecutive division title and made it to within one win of a World Series title. They also uncovered a pair of secret weapons in Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger – to fuel the offense expected to give Clayton Kershaw a chance at a tremendous amount of wins this season.

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