Baseball season is back! It’s been five long months since the Cubs broke the one hundred eight year old curse by beating the Indians after coming back from a three games to one deficit, but America’s favorite past time is back. A lot has happened this off-season, but one thing is going to be the same: when the season opens on Sunday April 2, the magic of the MLB will be born again.
Growing up playing the game, baseball has and always will have a special place in my heart. The sweet crack of the bat and the pop of a ball hitting a glove are sounds that excite and bring great memories. The perfectly cut grass and groomed infield are images of summer, baseball, and happiness. Opening Day is the start of all of that. The excitement and buzz of the upcoming season mount and create a time like no other, and this year is no different. No one knows what is going to happen, and the only way to discover it is to let the season begin. But before that happens, it is time for some predictions.
AL Contenders: Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians
Looking to repeat after winning the AL East last year and advance farther in the playoffs, the Red Sox bolstered their team to prepare for this season. Early in December, the Red Sox acquired star pitcher Chris Sale through a trade with the White Sox. Sale is a strong addition and a proven star who will now pitch alongside David Price and last year’s AL Cy Young Award Winner, Rick Porcello. This pitching rotation will do what it can to limit the score and open the game up for the Red Sox’s high-powered offense. One of last year’s AL MVP runners-up, Mookie Betts, will look to improve on an outstanding season last year with an even better one this year, and young outfielder Andrew Benintendi and Pablo Sandoval, who is returning from a bad year, will look to make a difference on the team this year. The Red Sox are in a tough division with the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Orioles all looking for a playoff spot, but these teams are all playing for second behind the star-studded Boston Red Sox.
After game four of the World Series in which the Indians extended their series lead to 3-1, most people fully believed that the Indians had locked up the series and were only a game away from locking up Cleveland’s second title of the year. Three games later, the Cubs were crowned champions and the Indians walked away disappointed. The team will carry that disappointment and fire into this season, and after not losing any major pieces while adding slugger Edwin Encarnacion, the Tribe is prepared to make another run to the World Series. Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis lead a great defense, and Andrew Miller will look to continue his dominance from last season. Terry Francona’s squad is ready to cross that final river this year.
NL Contenders: Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals
Last year’s World Series Champions are set up for another run to the Fall Classic. This offseason, they lost closer Aroldis Chapman and outfielder Dexter Fowler to the rival Cardinals in free agency as well as veteran catcher David Ross, but the team is still stacked with young talent. Kyle Schwarber’s full return from a torn ACL will make up for the loss of Dexter Fowler, and the unbelievable starting pitching rotation will limit opposing teams. Reliever Hector Rondon, who had eighteen saves last year, will look to have another good season to make up for the loss of Chapman. This young and talented team will look to have another one hundred win season and will look for a second consecutive championship.
The Nationals are set up for another good year. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg make a good one two punch for the Nationals’ pitching rotation which is combined with a good offense led by Bryce Harper. It will be a tough year for the Nationals in a good division with the Mets looking to retake the top spot in the NL East, but Washington boasts a good team with great pitching. The Phillies and Braves are also looking to re-establish themselves as National League powers, but the Nationals will be able to navigate the competition and play late into the fall.
Dark Horse Contenders: Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves
As far as the Angels go, I am not sure why I think they can make a run; I guess I just have a feeling about the team (although any team with Mike Trout has a chance to be good). The Angels also have a lot of young talent that I expect to break out this year. For the Braves though, they are greatly improved over last season. This offseason, they traded for second basemen Brandon Phillips and signed veteran pitchers Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey. They also acquired Matt Kemp, a strong player, last summer. These new pieces, when added to outstanding first baseman Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson, a top prospect, will put this team in position to make the playoffs in a tough division. I predict both of these will make runs at the playoffs and also the top spot in their division.
World Series Prediction:
This season will end next October with the Red Sox beating the Cubs to win their first World Series since 2013.
Images in order:
Featured Image: phillyinfluencer.com