Oh what a difference a year makes.
When 2018 opened up the Padres had Chase Headley at 3rd base, Brian Mitchell in the starting rotation, and no chance of getting Fernando Tatis Jr. to Petco Park during the season.
As 2019 opens up they have Manny Machado at 3rd base, Brian Mitchell nowhere near the starting rotation, and Fernando Tatis Jr. guaranteed to start hitting bombs in the East Village. Oh, and you can throw in a healthy Paddack coming off winning the Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say the second scenario is more desirable than the first.
San Diego had arguably one of the best off-seasons in baseball but not so much because they added guys like Machado and Ian Kinsler, who looked a decade younger than his 36 years during a red-hot Cactus League performance. No, it’s more because of who they aren’t going to have to rely on.
Basically it’s your classic “addition by subtraction.” Gone are the guys who had a good night and it came as a big surprise (Mitchell, Luis Perdomo, Cory Spangenberg, Carlos Asuaje, etc.). They’ve been replaced by guys short on experience but long on talent (Paddack, Matt Strahm, Luis Urias, Franmil Reyes, etc.).
So San Diego is, at worst, going to be more exciting to watch in the 2019 season. But will they be able to contend for a playoff spot? That might be stretching it. Here’s how I think this year’s baseball season will go down, division by division, and who is going to win the World Series and the major awards come November.
(* indicates Wild Card team)
National League West
1) Los Angeles Dodgers 92-70
2) Colorado Rockies 88-74
3) San Diego Padres 80-82
4) San Francisco Giants 71-91
5) Arizona Diamondbacks 70-92
The Dodgers are still the best in the West but the gap is closing. Plus, their starting pitching rotation is going to be seriously short-staffed early in the season with Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill both missing time. The Rockies are going to be in the thick of things all the way to the end because their starting rotation (IN DENVER!?!?) is awfully good. The Padres should be flirting with the .500 mark. If some of their young starting pitchers exceed expectations they legitimately can avoid a losing record for the first time since 2010. That’s a big “if,” though, so for now I have to keep them on the losing side of things but still MUCH improved from the last couple of years. The Giants and Diamondbacks are both probably going to trade aces in the middle of the year and once Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke are gone they’ll be immersed in rebuilding mode. San Francisco gets the edge simply because I cannot pick Bruce Bochy to retire with a last place team. He deserves better than that.
National League Central
1) Chicago Cubs 90-72
2) St. Louis Cardinals 89-73*
3) Milwaukee Brewers 85-77
4) Cincinnati Reds 78-84
5) Pittsburgh Pirates 74-88
The Cardinals adding Paul Goldschmidt makes this already tight division even closer but Chicago will have Yu Darvish and Kris Bryant healthy, plus a full season of Cole Hamels. That gives the Cubbies the edge. The Brewers will score a lot of runs again but I just don’t see their pitching staff matching what it did last year. Cincinnati got a lot better with its insanely active off-season but they still don’t have the arms to compete here while the Pirates are kind of stuck on the outside looking in.
National League East
1) Philadelphia Phillies 91-71*
1A) Washington Nationals 91-71*
1B) New York Mets 91-71*
1C) Atlanta Braves 91-71*
5) Miami Marlins 50-112
This is, far and away, the toughest division for me to get a read on because I could make a case for any of the top four to win the division. The Phillies have Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins leading a potent offense and Aaron Nola is a stud. The Nationals have Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg leading a good rotation and young outfielders Victor Robles and Juan Soto who could be All-Stars. The Mets have Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard along with a completely revamped lineup that added Robinson Cano and will get slugging prospect Pete Alonso at some point. The Braves won it last year and Ronald Acuna is a stallion, plus they brought back Brian McCann to handle a young and talented pitching staff. Oh, and if Josh Donaldson gets back to form look the heck out. One of those four will win the division and one will get a Wild Card. If I had to pick which two it would be I’d say the Nats and Phillies will be playing in October. The Marlins … well, the other teams in the East will get a ton of their W’s from Miami.
American League West
1) Houston Astros 101-61
2) Oakland A’s 86-76
3) Los Angeles Angels 82-80
4) Seattle Mariners 77-85
5) Texas Rangers 69-93
The Astros are loaded again and on the short-short list of World Series favorites. I just don’t see how the A’s can replicate what they did last year but they’ll be in the conversation for a Wild Card spot. The Angels will do what they usually do: hover around .500 because they have a roster that can win 65 games plus Mike Trout. The Mariners sold off darn near everything to the Mets and Yankees so they’ll take a downturn and the Rangers are in rebuilding mode.
American League Central
1) Cleveland Indians 94-68
2) Minnesota Twins 87-75*
3) Chicago White Sox 78-84
4) Detroit Tigers 67-95
5) Kansas City Royals 66-96
I have no idea why the Indians have been looking at trades for Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. Cleveland is the class of the Central division and has plenty in the tank to try and make another run to the World Series. I’m expecting bounce-back seasons from Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano (who will be out until about May with a deep cut on his leg) and if those two can get back to the players they were becoming in 2017 then Minnesota will be in the Wild Card hunt. The White Sox made a lot of moves to try and lure Manny Machado. That will make them better but not great, although the imminent arrival of Eloy Jimenez will give them a jolt. Detroit and Kansas City are pretty much interchangeable at the bottom of the division.
American League East
1) Boston Red Sox 100-92
2) New York Yankees 98-64*
3) Tampa Bay Rays 84-78
4) Toronto Blue Jays 72-90
5) Baltimore Orioles 49-113
Aside from the two teams at the top this division is one of the easiest ones to predict. Boston is still loaded in its lineup and starting rotation but the bullpen is going to cause more than a few headaches again. New York will once again club most other teams to death and added James Paxton to its rotation but health issues with C.C. Sabathia and Luis Severino will keep them barely behind Beantown. The Rays will overachieve again and if any of their top prospects (Tampa Bay has the 2nd-ranked system behind San Diego) arrive they’ll compete for a Wild Card spot. The Blue Jays are going to make headlines when they trade Marcus Stroman and bring up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. but they’re nowhere near being contenders. The Orioles are abysmal.
NL Wild Card = Phillies beat Cardinals
AL Wild Card = Yankees beat Twins
NLDS = Dodgers beat Phillies
NLDS = Cubs beat Nationals
ALDS = Astros beat Yankees
ALDS = Red Sox beat Indians
NLCS = Cubs beat Dodgers
ALCS = Astros beat Red Sox
World Series = Astros beat Cubs
NL MVP = Bryce Harper, Phillies
AL MVP = Aaron Judge, Yankees (because I can’t say Mike Trout every year)
NL Cy Young = Max Scherzer, Nationals
AL Cy Young = Chris Sale, Red Sox
NL Rookie of the Year = Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
AL Rookie of the Year = Eloy Jimenez, White Sox
NL Manager of the Year = Mike Schildt, Cardinals
AL Manager of the Year = Rocco Baldelli, Twins
2019 MLB Season Preview
Who will win everything from playoff spots to post-season awards
Oh what a difference a year makes.