By Jacob Westendorf
Good morning everyone and welcome to one of my favorite national holidays. Opening Day is a sacred day. I remember making up illnesses when I was in high school so I could stay home and watch all the games.
Opening Day is a special day that brings optimism to all 30 fan bases across the league.
Some teams will lose that optimism quickly, but it’s that feeling that makes this day so special.
Predictions are tough to make in a 162-game season, but it’s a fun exercise if nothing else. If I am wrong feel free to make fun of me.
Here’s how I see divisions shaking out, starting in the American League.
Division Winner: Yankees
Wild Card: Red Sox
Analysis: This is a two-horse race. The Yankees have loaded up with Giancarlo Stanton. They have a bevy of prospects they can deal at the deadline should they decide to need another starting pitcher like Cole Hamels or Chris Archer for example. The Red Sox are defending their division crown and sort of the forgotten team with the headlines the Yankees received this offseason. The Yankees’ biggest edge probably comes in the bullpen. The Red Sox have Craig Kimbrel, but could be on shaky ground aside from him. That’s what gives the Yankees the edge.
Division Winner: Indians
Analysis: I like what the Twins have done this offseason. With what I affectionately refer to as the participation trophy wild card, almost anything is possible.The Indians were maybe the best team in the American League last season before falling to the Yankees in the ALDS. They return most of their team. They did lose Carlos Santana, that will hurt them but not enough to concede the division.
Division Winner: Astros
Wild Card: Angels
Analysis: The Astros are an easy pick. They’re the defending world champions and they’ve only gotten better. They get organic growth from their young players and they’ve added Gerrit Cole to an already strong rotation. The Angels had a busy offseason. They added the most coveted piece in baseball in two-way phenom Shohei Otani. Otani struggled in the spring, but he’s too talented not to figure things out. The Angels sneak in as the second wild card and give Mike Trout another chance to compete on the big stage.
MVP: Giancarlo Stanton
Cy Young: Cory Kluber
Division Winner: Nationals
Analysis: The Nationals bring back 24 of their 25-man roster from a season ago. They have perhaps the best pitcher in baseball with Max Scherzer. They have Bryce Harper. Drama will surround him all season, but I expect him to block it out and have an MVP caliber season. The Nationals have to hope this is the year they get over the hump. Harper’s pending free agency makes the future cloudy. This is the year to do something big.
Division Winner: Cubs
Wild Card: Cardinals
Analysis: The Cubs might have the best roster in baseball from top to bottom. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have done a wonderful job rebuilding their roster. The biggest concern for them might still be a bullpen that was shaky in last year’s playoffs. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo form the only duo in baseball that can rival Judge and Stanton. Both players should be MVP candidates. Yu Darvish will make for a great addition to their rotation. The Cardinals are almost never bad in back-to-back years. They’ve improved their roster. The second wild card is a good target for them.
Division Winner: Dodgers
Wild Card: Diamondbacks
Analysis: The Dodgers are another team that has failed to meet expectations. Granted, win-or-else is a tough expectation to meet, they still have yet to win a World Series. They’re hoping this is the year that changes. They’ll be without Justin Turner for some time, but they have a loaded roster that should be able to overcome most losses. They had the best record in baseball last season, and the best pitcher in the world missed a decent chunk of time.
The Diamondbacks have a good roster that should be able to overcome the loss of JD Martinez. They were able to make the playoffs last season before being promptly swept by the Dodgers. My guess is their fortune will be a little better this time around.
MVP: Bryce Harper
Cy Young: Jose Quintana
ALCS: Yankees over Astros
NLCS: Cubs over Dodgers
Analysis: Two rematches in the LCS series. This time both results are different. The Yankees are a different team than the one that blew a 3-2 series lead last year in Houston. The Cubs are a different team than the one that was wiped off the map by the Dodgers. Both teams recover this year and find a way to get into the Fall Classic.
World Series: Yankees over Cubs