I know it just ended, but I already miss baseball. I miss waking up in the morning to read the news and see what Yaisel Puig did last night or seeing that the Cardinals lost again. I miss being able to sit in class and watch Wrigley be packed for a 1pm game. I miss A-Rod being on my screen casually shit talking with Papi. I miss Joe Buck’s wonderful voice as he calls his 7th game in 7 days. Most of all, I miss the beautiful green grass, that had just been cut, creating the ultimate feeling of serenity. For a sport that just ended, it never really ends. In fact, Saturday morning, free agency begins. During that time, I’m sure we’ll hear “oh Harper is going here, no he’s going here” and all that bullshit, but remember, Free Agency is a marathon, not a sprint. Harper won’t sign immediately and it will be a long free agency for everyone involved. Winter Meetings are December 10-14, but I would expect a few signings before then. Last time, I broke down my Way too Early Predictions, but now I’ll tell you who will start the year ranked at the top.
First off, my numbers 6-10 in their correct order: The St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, and the Tampa Bay Rays.
5) The New York Yankees
I’m not as high on the Yankees as most people are. They need some work done and frankly I don’t believe Hal is going to spend much to do so. The Yankees have one of the best offenses in baseball, that can’t be argued. With Judge, Stanton, Voit, Torres, Andujar, Sanchez, etc, they should be back to the ALCS. But, what scares me is they do not have 3 starting pitchers. They have Montgomery coming back after he missed all of last season, but he is shaky at best. Severino and Tanaka will continue to do their thing, but what is after that? They need to go after pitching. They need to get a premier lefty in either JA Happ, who pitched lights out for them last year, Cole Hamels, or Patrick Corbin. Cashman is pretty high on Corbin, so I think they need to land both him and JA Happ. From there, you can sign CC as well, for a hometown discount and alternate CC and Montgomery. That would solve their problems immediately and put them close to #1 on this list. Another thing they need to do is sign a villain. Every Yankees World Series team has a villain, in 2009 it was A-Rod (A-Roid), 2000 it was Clemons. They need a Manny Machado or a Bryce Harper.
4) The Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are a scary team year in and year out. Their team is just so balanced, it is hard to exclude them from a rankings discussion. The Cubs have it all, they have pitching, hitting, fielding, and arguably one of the best catchers in the game. With a healthy Javy, Rizzo, and Bryant that team is going to be hard to beat. Lester, Quintana, Hendricks and presumably Darvish will take up four of the rotation spots, but who gets the last? My guess is they will resign Cole Hamels, depending on how much they are willing to spend on Harper. Ultimately, I don’t believe Harper goes here though. The Cubs are returning a healthier lineup from 2018, with the same talent level. I expect them to be a top 5 team all year long.
3) The Atlanta Braves
The Braves were a shocker in 2018, but now it will be expected of them. They outscored their opponents last season by 102 runs, finishing 90-72. The Braves will win the NL East again, but they’ll need to improve on their pitching if they want to be a legitimate threat. The Braves have a ton of talent within their farm system, so they should package some of it up and offer it for some starting pitchers, maybe deGrom because the Mets won’t want to trade him to their cross town rival. Watch out for Ronald Acuna Jr. If he plays all season like he did in the second half, he could be MVP caliber.
2) Boston Red Sox
Having just come of their 9th World Series Title, Boston is right back in the hunt. David Price announced yesterday that he will not be opting out of his contract, so that leaves them only with Eovaldi left to re-sign. Presumably the Red Sox will go after him hard and if he stays in Boston, Boston very well may repeat as champions. They have their lineup essentially staying the same, so that high powered offense will continue to raise hell for whomever they are playing. My biggest concern for Boston is Chris Sale. His shoulder issues flamed up late last season, but he was able to finish off the year. Boston has a very good shot at winning it all again next year.
1) The Houston Astros
Alright, it’s over. They have the monkey off their backs and can now go back to playing their style of ball. They are no longer the reigning World Series Champions. A few things went wrong for them in the playoffs; the major one was that Altuve could not even walk. Altuve is the heart and soul of that squad and without him, it hurt. They had some unlucky bounces, Mookie faked catching a ball because the Red Sox cheat, and Verlander got shelled. That won’t happen again. Verlander is going to have another amazing year and shut everyone down, per usual. The Astros had the third best offense and the best pitching last season and I expect the exact same for the next. The Astros only struggle will be staying healthy, but on paper, they’re the best team right now.
Can we just fast forward to April, please?