Houston, We Have a Homerun

This season, the Houston Astros will deploy an absolutely stacked lineup, including third baseman Alex Bregman (pictured above) who had a breakout season last year when he hit 31 homeruns, drove in 103 runs and would ultimately be selected as an All Star for the first time in his young career.

Spring training is officially underway for the 2019 MLB season. Teams have begun to weigh their options and round out their rosters ahead of the start of the regular season. For fans and analysts, this is one of the most exciting times of the season, as everyone loves to make predictions for the upcoming season and argue with those who disagree. In keeping with this unspoken tradition, here are my predictions for the winners of all six divisions in the MLB. Some of these choices are fairly safe, while others may be surprising to most. But, I can personally guarantee that every one of these predictions is correct.

N.L. East: Atlanta Braves

The Braves are probably the most obvious choice in the N.L. East. Atlanta already experienced some success last season behind the bats of star first baseman Freddie Freeman, young left fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. and second baseman Ozzie Albies. This past offseason, the Braves bolstered their rotation by adding another valuable piece in third baseman Josh Donaldson. A former MVP and three-time All Star, Donaldson will immediately provide manager Brian Snitker with another consistent bat and the sought-after combination of power and hitting for an average.

The Braves will have their work cut out for them this season, as the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets and Washington Nationals will all also be gunning for a chance to make the playoffs. These three teams have respectable rosters and solid starting rotations, which could pose problems for the Braves down the stretch. That being said, the Braves seem to have all of the right pieces to push them over the top and ultimately win them the National League East division pennant this season.

N.L. Central: St. Louis Cardinals

Perhaps the most tightly-contested division last season, the N.L. Central is really up for grabs for three teams this season. The Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers all have realistic chances to win the division, but it seems like the Cardinals might just have what it takes to beat every other team out. A major component of this is the fact that the Cardinals managed to bring two huge names to St. Louis in the offseason. Former Arizona Diamondbacks’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was acquired via a trade on December 6, and reliever Andrew Miller signed with the Cardinals as a free agent on December 21.

These offseason acquisitions give St. Louis two incredible talents in the lineup and out of the bullpen. These may be just what the Cardinals need to overcome the other top teams in the division. The Brewers and Cubs will surely put up a fight, and the division could go either way. However, the Cardinals seem to have everything falling into place at the right time, and they just might end up winning the N.L. Central this year.

N.L. West: Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers N.L. West dominance is no secret. Los Angeles has won this division each of the last six seasons, and they have shown no signs of slowing down. Other than losing third baseman Manny Machado to the San Diego Padres, though he did not even play a full season with the Dodgers, Los Angeles managed to retain its talented roster and starting rotation. In general, teams that stay together tend to achieve success, and that seems to be manager Dave Roberts’ game plan for the team this season.

With stars such as third baseman Justin Turner and shortstop Corey Seager returning from injuries suffered a season ago, the Dodgers will have their old lineup back together again, ready to contend for a seventh straight N.L. West pennant. The Colorado Rockies will put up a fight, especially with generational talents like third baseman Nolan Arenado in their lineup. Still, the Dodgers have proven in previous seasons that they have the right pieces to be victorious and, until they lose one of those pieces, it seems as though the N.L. West title will be coming back to Los Angeles once again.

A.L. East: Boston Red Sox

The defending World Series champions should have no problem returning to their utterly dominant form of 2018. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, both of whom competed for an American League MVP title a season ago, are remaining in Boston this season, which immediately provides manager Alex Cora with arguably the most consistently reliable lineup in all of baseball. As for the rotation, the Red Sox will again have starters Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello leading the charge from the mound.

The Yankees will also be competing for the A.L. East title this season, and should prove to be a formidable opponent for the Red Sox to overcome. That said, Boston’s stacked lineup, coupled with a solid starting rotation and some reliable options out of the bullpen, should be enough to ultimately come out on top over the Yankees. As much as many fans may hate to admit it, the Red Sox will once again be contending for a World Series trophy and a chance to be the first back-to-back winners since the Yankees three-peat ending in 2000.

A.L. Central: Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians have won the American League Central division each of the last three seasons, one of which resulted in a World Series appearance. The real key to Cleveland’s success lies in its unmatched starting rotation. With pitchers like Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, manager Terry Francona can confidently start every game with an All Star-caliber pitch- er. Though the Indians’ lineup is not quite as dominant as its rotation, the team still has some solid young talent in shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman Jose Ramirez, both of whom were named to the American League All Star roster a season ago.

Aside from the Indians’ talented and deep roster, the team also plays in a relatively weak division. The Minnesota Twins, who are the favorite to finish second in the A.L. Central, have only regressed since sneaking into the postseason as a Wild Card team in 2017. The Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers are all very underwhelming opponents, and Cleveland should not have any issues crushing every one of them.

A.L. West: Houston Astros

Houston has finished with over 100 wins in each of its last two seasons and with no significant losses in its formidable starting lineup, the Astros should find themselves right back atop the A.L. West by the end of this season. There may not be another lineup in the entire league that is as deep or as consistently productive as the Astros’. With a core four comprised of second baseman Jose Altuve, third baseman Alex Bregman, shortstop Carlos Correa and right fielder George Springer, plus other contributors such as first baseman Yuri Gurriel and left fielder Michael Brantley, the Astros have one of the most stacked lineups of all time.

Like the Indians’ situation, the rest of the A.L. West is also fairly lackluster. The Oakland Athletics surprised many fans last season, posting an impressive 97 wins. However, expectations for the A’s should be tempered heavily before we can say that they are the preseason division favorites after just one winning season. The Astros are simply too good for any other team in that division to have a shot at overtaking them and, barring multiple major injuries to key components of the starting lineup, Houston will eventually be right back on top of the American League West division this season.

The 2019 MLB season should bring with it plenty of exciting storylines and enticing debates. Since many well-known players will be wearing new uniforms this season, it will be interesting to see how some of the game’s best players fare in new scenarios. Some divisions may see title win streaks extended. Others may crown new division champions. Regardless, remember to come back to this article in late September, and you will see that every one of these predictions was right.

Contact Ethan Marchetti at emarchetti@colgate.edu.

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