By Steven Urena
Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers talent this season is superior. Their potential is through the roof. Their only concern is staying healthy and consistent. Dave Roberts guaranteed a World Series title. The players don’t care. They are good and they know it. Walker Buehler and Julio Urias are young and coming off great seasons. Clayton Kershaw, if healthy, will be the best No. 3 pitcher in baseball. If Trevor Bauer comes back, forget about it! The Dodgers line-up is a modern day Murderer’s Row. Mookie, Trea, Freddie, Muncy, JT, Smith, Belli, CT3, Lux. It’s not going to be fun playing the Dodgers. Dodger fans, the time is now. Finish the job.
Contender: San Diego Padres
The Pads had an epic meltdown last season. Epic! They’re coming back wiser. Maybe this season they will learn some humility and will “walk the walk before they talk the talk.” Things are off to a bad start with Hurtnando Ouchies (credit to my dude Z-Man for the Ochies part) missing the first 3 months of the season. The Pads still have a good team and will stay above water. They know the Dodgers are good and just want a chance to get in the dance.
Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals
This was a tough one. I’m guessing more with my heart than with logic here. The Brewers might be the better team on paper but the Cardinals are the Cardinals. They have many traditions and winning is one of them. The Cards played my Dodgers tough in the wild card game last season and had a remarkable run at the end of the season. I think they build on it and keep rolling. They have good hitters in Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O’Neill. As long as Jack Flaherty comes back healthy, him and Adam Wainwright will be a tough 1-2 punch.
Contender: Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are coming back angry after an early exit last season in the first round. With Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff leading the way, the Brewers have one of the best rotations in baseball. Their offense is their weakness. Who’s their best hitter? Christian Yelich? He’s not half the player he was in his MVP season. The Brew Crew will squeak in the playoffs.
Prediction: Atlanta Braves
The defending World Series champs are not happy with one championship but every World Series winner will tell you that it’s hard to repeat. The Braves will win the division and get in the dance but I don’t think they will have another magical run in them. There’s a lot to like in Atlanta. Leading a great offense is Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Marcell Ozuna, Austin Riley and Matt Olson. Their three-headed monster is still very effective in Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Charlie Morton. The Braves will make some noise but will run out of steam.
Contender: New York Mets
The Mets, well, are already banged up. When Jacob deGrom is healthy he’s the best pitcher in the universe. The problem is, he has not been healthy. I don’t think he will hold up over a 162 game season plus playoffs. Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo are the leaders on offense. Alonso hits bombs and Nimmo has been consistent. All eyes will be on the $341 million man. Lindor is looking to bounce back and prove he’s worth the big bucks. Max Scherzer has been a workhorse up until this past postseason when the Dodgers used him in relief. He was scratched from his last spring training start due to “hamstring issues.” Yeah, right. He’s got a dead arm. Every team would hate to see a healthy deGrom and Scherzer in October. They can put you in a 0-2 hole real quick. The issue is, are they gonna get there?
Prediction: Houston Astros
Most people, especially in Los Angeles, hate to admit it but the Astros are not going anywhere. They are still a really good club. Verlander is going to lead the way on the mound and with Lance McCullers out, he will need help from Framber Valdez and Jose Urquidy. Without Carlos Correa the offense is wounded but not dead with the sticks of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Kyler Tucker and Yordan Alvarez. The Astros are that team. I don’t think they’ll lose much swagger without Correa but I don’t see this team getting to the promiseland.
The wild card teams will not be coming from the AL West. Noah Syndergaard will help the rotation but he’s not going to be the savior of a club that has not had a true ace in many, many years. Shohei Ohtani is going to have another good year on the mound but with him pulling double duty, he will never be a Cy Young winner. There’s a lot to like about an offense that features Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon but they can’t score 10 runs every game. I don’t think they get in.
The M’s will tread water all season. They will get a strong season from Robbie Ray but the rest of the rotation will be around the .500 mark. The offense features Jarred Kelenic, Mitch Haniger and Ty France. The Mariners are a solid team but they lack the firepower to hang with the likes of the White Sox and Astros.
Prediction: Chicago White Sox
The ChiSox underachieved last season and they know it. Injuries and inexperience caught up to the club and they simply could not finish. The Astros blew past them in the ALDS and that was all she wrote. Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, AJ Pollock, Yasmani Grandal and Tim Anderson will fly out of the gate offensively. They can do it all. Lance Lynn is sidelined but Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease are looking to have monster years. Both hurlers have potential. The 9th inning will belong to Liam Hendriks and that’s a pretty safe bet. Do the White Sox have what it takes to make Tony LaRussa the first manager to win 3 World Series with 3 teams?
The Twins will be lucky to get in the dance. The AL East is a monster and will most likely represent the wild card spots. The Twins have some hope in Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton but they will be an afterthought. Sonny Gray will be the veteran consistency on the mound but after him there’s not a whole lot of bright spots. Carlos Correa might win the MVP but that’ll be the only highlight in the Twin Cities.
The most competitive baseball will be played in the AL East. The Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rays are going to absolutely slug it out all season. One of these teams will win the division, the other two are getting into the playoffs. I can’t see the Angels, Mariners, Twins or anyone else edging them out of the wild card spots. This division will come down to the last day of the season.
Prediction: Blue Jays
This is more of a personal pick than anything else. I do think the Blue Jays have a fantastic chance to win the AL East but this is the team I would most like to see out of the rest. What’s not to like about young studs like Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Teoscar Hernandez? Add the veteran presence of George Springer and Matt Chapman and you got yourself a winner. These boys will be fun to watch. Jose Berrios and Kevin Gausman are all-stars. Hyun Jin Ryu still has another good season in him. This rotation is good enough to get it done behind their stud offense.
Contender: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays
Anyone got a coin to flip? This is a tough call. Before you read my pick, I want you to know I stared at my computer screen for about 10 minutes. Hard decision. The pick is the Rays. This group of guys is scrappy and they find a way. We saw what their core can do. They got to the World Series in 2020 and duked it out with the Red Sox in last year’s playoffs. Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena, Wander Franco, Ji-Man Choi and the list goes on. That’s a tough lineup to face. Shane McClanahan will lead the rotation along with some fresh young arms and a few veterans.
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