Baseball season is here. It's happening. Games have been played, yabos have been crushed and players have been K'd. It's going to be an exciting season and it'll be a good one to follow. That being said, a few thoughts from Opening Weekend: Cincinnati Reds' second baseman Scooter Gennett might actually prove last year wasn't a fluke (the man can mash, going 4-for-4 on Opening Day), Harper may silence his doubters, the Yankees are overrated and the Brew Crew might be the real deal.
Al East: Boston Red Sox
Bean-Town has an elite rotation, an outrageous outfield and an above average infield to boot. They added J.D. Martinez this offseason - they're the real deal. If Boston stays healthy, they will run away with the division.
The Yankees will not be as good as promised. There is simply no way they will live up to the hype surrounding them this season. Their rotation leaves questions about whether or not they'll be able to win against the better lineups in the American League. Stanton will hit homers - probably a lot of them - but will he stay healthy? The rest of the Yankees' lineup, including Didi Gregorius is mostly unproven, sans Gary Sanchez who is probably the best offensive catcher in baseball. Aaron Judge is simply the most overrated player in baseball - he'll likely hit below .260, less than 40 homers this year and will probably set a strikeout record of some sort. Greg Bird cannot and will not stay healthy, as his is an unlucky player, missing all or part of the last three MLB seasons.
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
The Indians are a legitimate title contender this year, and they will not be challenged for the Central Division crown. They have the staff and the bats to win it all.
The Minnesota Twins will be an intriguing team to watch this season, as they will play 51 games against the dumpster fire that is the rest of the AL Central (the Tigers, the Royals and the White Sox). They'll walk away with a lot of wins from these matchups. I think they will be one of the AL Wild Card teams.
AL West: Houston Astros
The Astros are good - like really good. They added Gerrit Cole to strengthen an already formidable rotation. Their offense is the same offense that won a World Series last year. They have no true competition in the division, and probably in baseball, until after the trade deadline when other teams add key players. There's not much else to say.
The second place team in this division will be the LA Angels. The Angels have the best player on the entire planet in Mike Trout and they finally started to build around him. Cozart and Kinsler are huge additions to the team, adding to a lineup that already included Trout, Albert Pujols, Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons. The Angels will make noise this year.
AL Wild Cards: Minnesota Twins & Los Angeles Angels
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NL East: Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals have one of, if not the best, rotation in baseball (Scherzer, Strasburg, and Gonzalez) that will dominate this year. Incredibly though, their lineup is better. Their lineup includes Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, Adam Eaton and Matt Weiters. They will hit homers, steal bases and drive in runs at a frightening rate. Their rotation will strike out and dominate opposing lineups at about the same clip this year.
The New York Mets will place second in the NL East this year if, and only if, they can stay healthy. The Mets have an elite rotation that includes Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and former all-star Matt Harvey, as well as an elite outfield including Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes. The pitchers can pitch and the hitters can rake (the Mets' outfield is joined by Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez), but the thing that will hold them back is injuries because they'll likely occur.
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers
The hardest division in baseball this year is the National League Central. The division features the 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs, the St. Louis Cardinals who consistently play what feels like .700 baseball every year, the completely revamped Brewers of Milwaukee, a young but extremely underrated Cincinnati Reds team and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Milwaukee Brewers missed the playoffs last year by only a few games, so naturally they went out and bought the farm, adding Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. The Brewers have a lineup that can flat out hit, featuring Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, Lorenzo Cain, Domingo Santana, Christian Yelich and Stephen Vogt. The Brewers' top prospect who fills an offensive hole at second base, is also likely to contribute in the near future. They are facing a good problem right now - they don't have enough spots for all of these dangerous bats. Their biggest issue is pitching, but it would be crazy to think they won't make a trade for improved pitching after everything they did this offseason. And, having all of those great hitters gives them an enticing trade chip to secure a top starter.
My pick for second place in the division is the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have the secret formula to win baseball games, as seen by their dominance in baseball for as long as I can remember. They added Marcell Ozuna this offseason who is an underrated player after playing in the shadow of Stanton his whole career. Ozuna joins a Cardinals' lineup who can already hit and a rotation that can pitch.
Coming in third will be the Chicago Cubs. Only one word describes the Yankees and the Cubs - overrated. The Cubs are a good team and I expect them to win between 80 and 90 games, which speaks to the level of play in the Central this year, but there is too much hype surrounding a team that lacks a true ace and a lineup that is constantly being changed, unable to realize its true potential.
The race for fourth place is a toss up that includes the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates traded away the face of their franchise, Andrew McCutchen, and their ace Gerrit Cole. The Pirates still have some quality players in - Josh Harrison, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell - but they won't amount to much this year.
The Cincinnati Reds are perhaps the most underrated team in baseball. They're a team that can hit and field, but remain unproven as far as pitching is concerned. The Reds return five players this year who hit at least 20 home runs last year (Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Adam Duvall, Scooter Gennett and Scott Schebler), three Gold Glove finalists and one winner (Votto-1B, Duvall-LF, Billy Hamilton-CF and Tucker Barnhart who won at catcher). Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza, two regulars for the team this year, won't hit homers, but will most likely steal at least 30 bases. The pitching staff is what will hold this rebuilding team back because it is young, unproven, and still searching for an ace.
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
There isn't much to talk about in the NL West. Expect the Dodgers to win around 100 games and not win the World Series. They have the staff and the bats to do it, but come post-season, they resemble any Cincinnati sports team in recent memory. A quick note - they will be without third baseman Justin Turner to begin the year, which is a devastating loss.
Expect a race for second between the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rockies play half of their games at Coors Field and have perennial NL MVP finalist Nolan Arenado anchoring the team. The Diamondbacks return ace Zack Greinke and another perennial MVP finalist in first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
An interesting story to watch will be the San Francisco Giants. This off-season, they traded for Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen and, after all, it is an even year which means the baseball gods might have a World Series Championship in store for them.
NL Wild Cards: St. Louis Cardinals & Chicago Cubs
Other Picks for the Season
Most Disappointing Team: New York Yankees - it is impossible to live up to the hype surrounding them.
Most Surprising Team: Cincinnati Reds - prospects will be called up, and they will make noise.
Biggest Regression: Aaron Judge - hits under .260 and less than 40 dingers.
Comeback Player: Kyle Schwarber - lost the weight, will still hit yaboos and play better defense in left field.