Thu. May 23rd, 2019

Tyler Carmical

NL West Team Previews and Predictions

Arizona Diamondbacks

Preview: After trading their best player in Paul Goldschmidt, the D-Backs are stuck between rebuilding and contending. The organization doesn’t seem to have enough talent to compete and presents an unimpressive farm system. Any team should expect a dip in offensive production after losing a player of Goldschmidt’s caliber. Arizona should be expecting the same. Key returning members of the D-Backs lineup are an outfielder, David Peralta (.293 BA and 30 HRs in 2018) and infielder, Eduardo Escobar (23 HRs and 84 RBIs in 2018). In order for Arizona to have a shot at the playoffs, David Peralta will have to find the same kind of success as he found in 2018. Along with production from Peralta and Escobar, the D-Backs are hoping to get some help from power-hitting infielder, Jake Lamb. After hitting 59 combined home runs between 2016 and 2017, Lamb struggled in a shortened (due to injury) 2018 season. The lineup in Arizona appears mediocre; not good enough to contend for this division. With a strong possibility of a lack of offense in 2019, there will be plenty of rotation on this D-Backs pitching rotation. Zack Greinke is still a reliable starter and will once again be the ‘ace’ in Arizona. Zack Godley and Robbie Ray are coming off a 2018 season in which they both looked shaky but showed some signs of dominance along the way. A new addition to the rotation, replacing Patrick Corbin, is a former first-round pick, Luke Weaver. The Diamondbacks acquired Weaver from the Cardinals in the Goldschmidt trade. Weaver struggled last season but still shows lots of potential to be a quality starter at the top of a rotation. The fifth starter spot is expected to be taken by a 30-year-old rookie, Merrill Kelly. Kelly spent four years pitching in Korea before returning back to his home in Arizona to pitch for the Diamondbacks. Arizona presents an average bullpen. They could possibly close by committee. Key relievers in this bullpen include Archie Bradley, Greg Holland, Yoshihisa Hirano, Andrew Chafin, and T.J. McFarland. The Diamondbacks will be playing for a second wild-card spot, but an Arizona postseason appearance in 2019 is a long shot.

Prediction: 75-87

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NL Central Team Previews and Predictions

Chicago Cubs

Preview: The Cubs are coming into 2019 looking to take back the NL Central pennant. This will be a tough task since it looks like one of the tougher divisions in baseball. The Cubs return the same lineup from 2018 featuring former all-stars, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Javier Baez, and 2016 NL MVP, Kris Bryant. As expected now in Chicago, the Cubs look solid at the plate and in the field. The starting pitching isn’t to be overlooked. The rotation returns Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks, and Jose Quintana; all of whom turned in solid 2018 seasons. Yu Darvish seems to be the only question mark in the rotation as he turned in an unimpressive 4.95 ERA last season after his World Series meltdown in 2017. Should Darvish struggle too much this season, look for Manager Joe Madden to give LHP Mike Montgomery some spot-starts. The Cubs bullpen should be reliable as well. The back-end of the ‘pen looks very strong with Pedro Strop (2.26 ERA in 2018), Steve Cishek (2.18 ERA in 2018), Carl Edwards Jr. (2.60 ERA in 2018), and expected closer, Brandon Morrow (1.47 ERA with 22/24 saves in 2018). Barring any injuries, the Cubs bullpen will be a reliable one in 2019. Once again, Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon have the Cubs in position to compete for another World Series. The NL Central pennant race will be a tight one, and the Cubs will surely be right in the middle of it.

Prediction: 95-67

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2019 NL East Previews and Predictions

Atlanta Braves

Preview: The Braves are coming off of a 90-win season in which they won the NL East. With the return of All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman and young studs Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, as well as the addition of Josh Donaldson, the Braves have the opportunity to repeat. However, it won’t be easy as the Phillies and Mets have both improved this offseason and the Nationals still have one of the best pitching rotations in all of baseball. The Braves lineup returns basically everybody, it only improved with Josh Donaldson. Donaldson only played in 52 games last season, but he has proved over the years to be a threat at the plate. He will takeover third base this year in Atlanta and likely be hitting somewhere in the middle of the order. Also in the middle of the order for the Braves will be Freddie Freeman who put together an MVP-caliber season in 2018 with a .309 BA, 23 HRs, and 98 RBIs. Maybe the most exciting player returning to the Braves lineup is reigning NL ROY, Ronald Acuna Jr. Acuna batted .293 with 26 HRs and posted a .917 OPS in his rookie season, establishing himself as one of, if not the most exciting young player in baseball. Starting pitching isn’t Atlanta’s biggest strength, but they are an underrated group in my opinion. All four returning starters had an ERA of less than 4.00 last season. One of those four is Mike Foltynewicz who had a breakout season in 2018 posting a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts. Atlanta will be eager to see how former first round pick Touki Toussaint pitches this season. The 22 year old right-hander posted a 4.03 ERA last year in 29 IP. Toussaint could help solidify the starting rotation on a contending team. A fully healthy Arodys Vizcaino returns to the Braves bullpen on a one year deal. Vizcaino is the favorite to be the closer, but LHP A.J. Minter is also a closer candidate after a solid 2018 season in which he had 15 saves. Relievers Johnny Venters, Jesse Biddle, and Danny Winkler also return to the Braves bullpen after impressive 2018 seasons along with veteran Darren O’Day. The Braves may not be the NL East favorites anymore after the Phillies’ Bryce Harper acquisition, but they very well could crash the Philly bandwagon party and take the NL East pennant again.

Prediction: 88-74

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2019 AL West Team Previews and Predictions

Houston Astros

Preview: The Astros have been World Series contenders for the past few years now. It’s not looking like that is going to change anytime soon. They have added outfielder Michael Brantley (.309 BA and .832 OPS in 2018) to what was already a deadly lineup consisting of all-stars Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and Carlos Correa. Last season, the Astros had the best starting pitching rotation in baseball. While they could potentially have that title again, the rotation is going to look a little different this year. The Stros have already lost Charlie Morton to free agency and Lance McCullers is out for the entire 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. Also, it is still unclear whether Dallas Keuchel will remain in Houston as he is testing out free agency as well. Even with the changes, Houston looks to have a very solid starting rotation led by right-handers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, both among the best pitchers in the league. The Astros added lefty Wade Miley to the rotation this offseason. Miley had a solid, but limited, 2018 season in Milwaukee with a 2.57 ERA in only 80.2 innings pitched. The Astros bullpen has improved over the past couple of years; the addition of closer Roberto Osuna late last season being one reason. The Astros are also looking for productive seasons from relievers Chris Devenski, Will Harris, and Ryan Pressly. The Astros remain one of the top contenders in the league and are undoubtedly eyeing a return to the World Series.

Prediction: 96-66

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2019 AL Central Predictions and Previews

Chicago White Sox

Preview: The White Sox are still in the middle of a rebuilding stage. Chicago has been stockpiling a long list of highly touted prospects. It’s still too early for the White Sox to contend, but they will enter the 2019 season with hopes that their young talent is developed and competes. Returning veterans for the ChiSox include star 1B Jose Abreu, reliable backstop Welington Castillo, and RHP out of the bullpen, Nate Jones. The Sox also decided to add some veteran talent to perhaps help smooth the young guys’ transition and develop. This offseason they added power-hitting Yonder Alonso, outfielder Jon Jay, SP Ivan Nova, and relief pitchers Kelvin Herrera and Alex Colome. An interesting prospect to look for on the White Sox this year is SP Michael Kopech, who is expected to play his rookie season this year. Kopech has been a highly rated prospect since he was drafted in the first round of the 2014 draft straight out of high school. The White Sox are hoping for Kopech to be a huge part of their future. There are two other young players that the White Sox are looking for a breakthrough from: 24 year old SP Lucas Giolito and 23 year old middle infielder Yoan Moncada. Both Giolito and Moncada struggled last season, failing to meet expectations. After a rough couple of years for south siders, 2019 could show a much improved White Sox team that could show signs of a team that will be ready to contend within the next few years.

Prediction: 70-92

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