- Kenneth Cotterill
MLB Division and Wild Card Predictions
We are just a few short days away from the beginning of the Major League Baseball season. Sports fans have been chomping at the bit for sports to come back due to the COVID-19 pandemic and baseball will be the first of the major four sports leagues to do so. Baseball has seen some major storylines since the Washington Nationals were given the Commissioner's Trophy last October. We had the sign-stealing scandal by the Houston Astros, which made baseball fans everywhere furious. There was also the trades of Mookie Betts to the Dodgers and Corey Kluber to the Rangers, two of the games premier talents. And then you had massive contracts handed out to players like World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, and Gerrit Cole. So with baseball now returning for a shortened 60 game season, it is time to look at who I have winning each division crown. Not just the division winners, but also who will get the wild card spots in the American and National leagues.
American League East: New York Yankees (37-23)
Gerrit Cole joins the New York Yankees pitching staff this year (Photo credit to Yahoo Sports)
As a Boston Red Sox fan, this pains me to have the Yankees winning the division. It is pretty tough not to select the twenty-seven-time champions however, as they are stacked across the board. Gerrit Cole will be a great ace for the Yankees and having Tanaka and Happ behind him is pretty solid. Their bullpen is serviceable, but Aroldis Chapman will provide them much needed save support. Throw in dinger machines like Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Giancarlo Stanton and the Yankees should role to a division title. They will beat out the Rays by four games.
AL Central: Minnesota Twins (34-27)
This division should be the closest in the American League, but I give the edge to the Twins. They went and grabbed Josh Donaldson for four years, 92 million dollars, as well as beefed up their rotation. Homer Bailey and Kenta Maeda should see plenty of action this year, plus Trevor May and Taylor Rogers should provide some bullpen depth. Mitch Garver should have a solid year for the Twins as well to join Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, and Nelson Cruz in the Twins hitting rotation. This division will come down to the wire between the Twins and Indians, but I am taking the Twins by two games.
AL West: Houston Astros (35-25)
It pains me to see this team continue to be strong, but the Houston Astros will win this division. With Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke in the rotation and Roberto Osuna on the cleanup crew, the Astros pitching will be solid. They also have arguably the best infield in the league with Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa. To also have Michael Brantley and George Springer in the outfield shows that across the board this team is great. The Astros will take this division by four games, as the Athletics do not have what it takes to take them down.
AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays (33-27) and Cleveland Indians (32-28)
The first wildcard team will come from the AL East and that is the Tampa Bay Rays. Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow are a lethal pitching trio that should carry the Rays all year. Hunter Renfroe and Austin Meadows will bring some batting power for the Rays and that should be enough to help them snag a wild card that. It also helps that three of the five teams in their division will also be below average.
The second wild card team will come from the AL Central and that's the Cleveland Indians. Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger are some of the best arms in the American League and their bullpen is serviceable. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez will be the Indian's best bats and they have plenty of support behind them as well. They will edge out the Oakland A's by a single game to land the final playoff spot.
NL East: Atlanta Braves (34-26)
This was by far my toughest division to pick, as three teams have a shot at winning the division. When it comes down to it I believe the Braves have the best player in this division in Ronald Acuña Jr. Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman provide the support behind him to power their way to a division title. Mike Soroka and Mike Foltynewicz should be solid enough to hold together the pitching staff. The Mets pitching is great and the Nationals are the defending champs, but I am going with the upstart Braves.
NL Central: Chicago Cubs (32-28)
I really like what I see from the Cubs lineup across the board which is why I am taking them in NL Central. Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, and Kyle Hendricks are awesome starters to have and Craig Kimbrel on the backend is phenomenal. The batting order is the greatest strength of this Cubs roster. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Ian Happ, and Kyle Schwarber are all proven veterans. This veteran presence is why I see them taking this division by just a single game over the Reds and Brewers.
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers (38-22)
This was the easiest division pick by far, as the Los Angeles Dodgers are absolutely loaded. They won a league-best 106 games and then reloaded after a disappointing playoff run. They went out and traded for Red Sox stud Mookie Betts, who is a perennial MVP candidate. They still have Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler so their starting pitching is loaded. Kenley Jansen at closer is still one of the best in the majors, but the Dodgers batting lineup is insane. Cody Bellinger, AJ Pollock, Justin Turner, and Max Muncy alongside Betts will have opposing pitchers terrified. The Dodgers will blow away their division by six games.
NL Wild Card: Washington Nationals (33-27) and San Diego Padres (32-28)
The first wild card spot was also pretty easy for me cause the champs are in the National League. They have the best trio of starting pitchers in the league with Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin. They will strike out a ton of opposing batters and Sean Doolittle is a serviceable closer to help clean up late. Trea Turner and Juan Soto will provide the run support needed to finish in the first wild card spot.
The second wild card spot I am going a little bit off the board by taking the San Diego Padres. Outside of the Dodgers, their division is quite weak so they have that going for them. Chris Paddack is the team ace, but their biggest strength pitching wise is Kirby Yates, who is the best closer in the game. Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Tommy Pham will provide the run support needed to win games. The Mets and Reds will just miss the final spot by a single game and the Padres will be heading to the postseason.
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