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Division Favorites Before Spring Training

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For the second year in a row, the MLB offseason has been excruciating slow. Some of the top free agents remain unsigned such as Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Craig Kimbrel, and Dallas Keuchel. Despite this, many teams were able to bolster their rosters for the 2019 season with other signings or a flurry of trades. Here is the division favorites before Spring Training starts.

NL East

division
Image courtesy of Reflections On Baseball

The Washington Nationals were preseason favorites to win the 2018 World Series. Instead they proved to be the biggest appointment of the 2018 season and led way to the Atlanta Braves winning their first division title since 2013. This offseason, the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Washington, and Atlanta have all made moves for what will be a very competitive division race.

Atlanta signed former MVP Josh Donaldson to a one year deal, while the Mets traded for Robinson Cano and elite closer Edwin Diaz. New York also signed former Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos as well as second baseman Jed Lowrie. Washington signed the top free agent pitcher in Patrick Corbin and the Phillies signed a former MVP of their own in Andrew McCutchen. They also made a trade with the Seattle Mariners to acquire All-Star, Jean Segura to play shortstop.

The Miami Marlins are the lone man out as they are committed to the rebuild and won’t be competing for the division for at least a few years.

The division race will be close as the division has enough talent to see three teams make the playoffs. But as of now, the division favorite has to be Washington. They upgraded their two weakest positions in catcher and second base. They traded for Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes, and signed Kurt Suzuki to platoon behind the plate. Washington also agreed to a one year deal with Brian Dozier to patrol second. He had a down year due to playing with a bone bruise on his knee, but is in great position to have a bounce back year. Despite probably losing Harper to free agency, the team made significant moves to better position themselves without him. Having Max Scherzer anchor your pitching staff also helps.

Now things can change if the Phillies land either Harper or Machado as well if Atlanta pulls the trigger and signs Dallas Keuchel. Until then, Washington made enough moves to overcome their problems from 2018.

Division Favorite: Washington Nationals

NL Central

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Image courtesy of Garber Sports

The Chicago Cubs offense went silent at the wrong time last season as the Milwaukee Brewers were able to surpass them on the last day of the season and win the division for the first time since 2011. This year Chicago has decided to remain quiet during the offseason as other teams such as the St. Louis Cardinal and Cincinnati Reds made moves.

Chicago will need Yu Darvish to bounce back significantly due to his expensive contract and disastrous 2018 season. They needed to make a splash after their offense fell apart in 2018, but instead, the front office stood pat and let other teams pass them. Despite being loaded with talent, the Cubs haven’t lived up to expectation since the won the World Series in 2016.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will be battling an improved Reds squad for last place in the division. They haven’t made enough headway this offseason to challenge the Cardinals, Cubs and Brewers for the Central title.

The Reds are still at least a year away as their top prospects are almost on the cusp of arriving. Tired of being in the cellar, they traded for Alex Wood, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig from the Dodgers. The Reds also traded for Tanner Roark from the Nats and Sonny Gray from the Yankees to help out the rotation. Cincinnati will sell more tickets this year due to the names they acquired, but won’t be a serious competitor until 2020.

The Cardinals signed Andrew Miller and traded for Paul Goldschmidt in an attempt to regain division supremacy. The front office is convinced they will be able to resign Goldschmidt in the offseason and if he does then the Cardinals have found the slugger they have been looking for. Miller is coming off a down season due to injuries, but if he can return to form then the Cardinals will have one of the most dominant relievers in the game. Marcell Ozuna is a candidate to bounce back to his 2017 form when he hit .312 with 37 home runs.

The Brewers remain a powerhouse despite losing trade acquisitions Joakim Soria and Jonathan Schoop to free agency. Mike Moustakas remains a free agent, and they could always resign him, which would allow for Travis Shaw to play second. They still have one of the best bullpens in the game led by Josh Hader and an offense powered by 2018 MVP Christian Yelich. If the Brewers trade for an ace such as Madison Bumgarner or sign Dallas Keuchel, they will be favorites to go to the World Series.

Division Favorite: Milwaukee Brewers

NL West

division
Image courtesy of East Village Times

The Los Angeles Dodgers are coming off their second straight World Series loss and sixth straight division title. The Colorado Rockies and injuries seem to be the only things in the way of the Dodgers winning their seventh straight division title.

The San Fransisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks are stuck between retooling and rebuilding. Both teams need to choose the latter, but are hesitant to do so. The San Diego Padres have been sticking to the rebuild and their stacked farm system is one-to-two years away from contributing.

LA will have star shortstop, Corey Seager, back from injury and they signed All-Star, A.J. Pollock to be their new center fielder. They also signed reliever Joe Kelley, who had a dominant postseason. In 11.1 playoff innings, Kelley posted a .79 ERA with two wins and 13 strikeouts. He will become the setup man for Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers elite closer.

The Rockies lost reliever Adam Ottavino and second baseman D.J. Lemahieu to the Yankees but signed Daniel Murphy. The team is working on a contract extension for the face of the franchise, Nolan Arenado. Colorado hasn’t been as busy this offseason as they should have been, especially with it only being a two-team race with the Dodgers. LA is currently in talks to trade for top catcher J.T. Remaulto, while the Rockies have been standing relatively still. Colorado lost significant depth and will struggle to challenge the Dodgers like they did last season.

Division Favorite: Los Angeles Dodgers

 

AL East

division
Image courtesy of Baseball Fam.

The Boston Red Sox won the 2018 World Series after a dominant postseason where they steamrolled all opposition. The team lost reliever Joe Kelley to the Dodgers and their All-Star closer Kimbrel remains unsigned. A reunion may be in the works, but the team is over the luxury tax as they face heavy penalties.

The New York Yankees lost David Robertson, but re-signed Zach Britton and added Adam Ottavino to form one of the deepest bullpens in recent memory. They also traded for ace, James Paxton, resigned starters C.C. Sabathia and J.A. Happ and signed Troy Tulowitzki as well as D.J. Lemahieu to play short and second respectively. New York is all in after a disappointing loss to the Red Sox in the ALDS last year. The Yankees and Red Sox will be joined by Tampa in a three-team race for the division. Boston still has most of their World Series core, but the Yankees made significant splashes this offseason that they might have finally surpassed them.

The dark horse of the division is the Tampa Bay Rays as they are coming off a quiet 90 win season. They were the forgotten team last year due to the Yankees and Red Sox both winning 100 or more games. Tampa traded for catcher Mike Zunino and added pitcher Charlie Morton. The Morton signing is one of the most underated moves of the offseason. Tampa didn’t make any splashy signings, but added depth to an already solid line up in an attempt to at least clinch a wild card.

Division Favorite: New York Yankees

AL Central

division
Image courtesy of The K Zone.

The Cleveland Indians won the division for the third straight year and baring collapse, are the clear favorites to make it four straight. Kansas City Royals, and Detroit Tigers

The Minnesota Twins were unable to build upon their surprise wild card appearance in 2017 and had a losing record in 2018.

The Chicago White Sox are one-to-two years away from seriously competing. Their top pitching prospect Michael Kopech is out for the season with Tommy John surgery. Fortunately for Chicago, their top prospect Eloy Jimenez should be on the opening day roster after tearing up Triple-A in 2018. The rest of Chicago’s top prospects won’t be ready till at least 2020.

This makes the Indians a lock to win the division once again. Led by MVP candidates Fransisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez as well as Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, the Tribe are poised for another October run. Unlike years past, the Indians aren’t as deep a team. This offseason they made moves to cut payroll. They traded Yan Gomez, Yonder Alonzo and Edwin Encarnacion and lost reliever Cody Allen as well as Andrew Miller to free agency. While Cleveland’s World Series window might have come to a close, they should win the division once again.

Division Favorite: Cleveland Indians

AL West

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The Oakland Athletics surprised everyone last year when they won 92 games and clinched a Wild Card spot. They look to build on their early success but the juggernaut Houston Astros stand in their way. Houston won the World Series two years ago, and most recently lost in the ALCS to Boston. Houston returns the same core of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Justin Verlander and Alex Bregman.

Mike Trout is undoubtedly the best player in baseball, but the Los Angeles Angels still lack the talent around him to make a run at Houston. They signed Justin Bour, Matt Harvey. and Cody Allen to help out Trout, but it probably won’t be enough to overthrow the Astro’s. It also doesn’t help that Shohei Ohtani is out for the season with Tommy John surgery.

The Texas Rangers are fully committed to the rebuild and won’t be a factor in the division race. The Seattle Mariners decided to tear it down this offseason and start over so they won’t be competing either.

This makes the division race between Oakland and Houston. Oakland is young and lost a few contributors from last season in Jed Lowrie and Sean Kelley to free agency. They shocked the league by hitting the third most home runs last season with 227 and are bound to have some drop-off. Oakland’s top prospects are a year away that will help them contend in Jesus Lezardo and Sean Murphy. But until they are ready Houston is the favorite to win the division for a third straight year due to their depth.

Division Favorite: Houston Astros

Feature Image From Seventh Inning Stretch

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