Are you ready for the annual rite of passage that is Opening Day for Major League Baseball? Yes, yes, I know the 2019 season opened last week in Japan (thanks for the memories, Ichiro, you were one of the best – see you in Cooperstown), but the REAL launch is Thursday, March 28th and I cannot wait! So with excitement at maximum level, all but one draft completed, and my cable bill paid in full (who needs to eat, c’mon, I have priorities), I am indeed ready for some action on the diamond. 

Today I would like to make some predictions (boo, hiss, throw rotten tomatoes at the author of this trash here) and also include a key player from each team that is integral to that club’s potential success in this campaign. Of course, feel free to email or message me with your own predictions and players (predictions stink, by the way…we all know it) if you want to discuss them. Please note, the key player is not necessarily the best or most recognizable (read ‘overblown, overhyped’ like a worn out Bryce Harper mannequin) – it simply is my opinion of the one player that who’s seasonal performance is most likely to make or break the hearts of the hopeful fan base. Especially when considering the fate of my beloved Cubbies… Okay, here we go:

American League East (Do all predictions always begin with the AL East?)

1 – New York Yankees (JA Happ – with Severino iffy at best to make 20+ starts and Tanaka’s elbow held together with less stability than a WalMart First Act guitar string, the Yanks are going to need the veteran Happ to not only toe the rubber for 32 starts, but to also exceed last year’s stats)

2 – Boston Red Sox (Matt Barnes – aha, and here is the name that signifies the reason the BoSox will finish second in the AL East; this bullpen is their Achilles heel, and unless Barnes is the closer Beantown needs him to be, all the offense in the world won’t be able to surpass the Pinstripes)

3 – Tampa Rays (Tommy Pham – as much as this club uses smoke and mirrors to get things done, they need an offensive version of Cy Young winner Blake Snell to give a potentially punch less set of bats a stick that they can count on to put up some runs in that godawful home park of theirs)

4 – Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Sanchez – SP must put injuries behind him to return to relevance if Jays even have a remote prayer of losing less than 100 games in 2019)

5 – Baltimore Orioles (Cedric Mullins – O’s are going to be disastrous, but this dude can play and will give what fans show up to Camden Yards some hope for the future)

American League Central (Worst division in baseball? I think so…by far)

1 – Minnesota Twins (Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda – yeah, I know there are two, but they are the ‘Twins’ so get over it, okay? Besides, for this team to usurp the Tribe up top it will take the entire pitching staff to rise above the mediocrity displayed in seasons past)

2 – Kansas City Royals (Ryan O’Hearn – the young first baseman needs to supply the power to go along with the insane speed blazing the base paths, and if he does then the pitching has a chance to magically gel and then – AND THEN – this prediction won’t seem so nuts come end of season)

3 – Cleveland Indians (Terry Francona – oh yeah, he isn’t a player anymore, he is the Manager, but in order to win with a team of injury woes, no outfield worthy of program space outside of Altoona, PA, and a pitching staff sexy as hell but as vulnerable as a supermodel caught without makeup leaving the club at 4am, well, it will take all of the magic Francona can muster in 2019)

4 – Chicago White Sox (Yoan Moncada – look, the ChiSox aren’t going anywhere this year, but the once uber-prospect has to find a way to cut down on the strikeouts and become an actual MLB player, not a poster or press clipping)

5 – Detroit Tigers (Miguel Cabrera – vet needs to bounce back from injuries and continue HOF run if only because he is Miguel Freakin’ Cabrera and baseball deserves its best players to be great)

American League West (Is Houston the runaway winner here, or…?)

1 – Houston Astros (Collin McHugh – the ‘Stros need a pitcher to develop behind Verlander and Cole for the postseason, and McHugh seems to me to be the best bet to do that; Whitley and James are young, Brad Peacock is likely not going to hold up as a starter the entire season, and Dallas Kuechel doesn’t seem to be re-signing anytime soon)

2 – Seattle Mariners (Felix Hernandez – maybe I’m just feeling a little sentimental after watching King Ezekiel on The Walking Dead, but this king could lead his flock to a surprise finish if he can discover some of that old special power he used to tantalize the great northwest with for so long)

3 – Oakland A’s (Blake Treinen – last year dude was sick in the closer role, and his gaudy season covered up a lot of warts from the rest of that pitching staff that will be even more noticeable this time around. No way the rest of A’s bullpen is as good as ’18, no way possible in my opinion)

4 – Texas Rangers (Nomar Mazara – if this 23 year old outfielder can continue to blossom and take that next major step, the Rangers may be able to slug their way out of the division basement)

5 – Los Angeles Angels (Andrew Heaney – if the slick lefty can return to the starting rotation before end of April, Halos can be decent enough…if no, not even Mike Trout stops losing in ’19)

National League West (I wanted to end with NL East, and as the writer I have that prerogative)

1 – Colorado Rockies (David Dahl – for the gift of health upon this lad we would all bear witness to prodigious numbers worthy of high praise and grandeur shouted upon us all from high. In other words, this cat is good and with the young arms clicking in the high mountains, this team is tight)

2 – Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw – it is a shame when our heroes get older and start breaking down, losing their luster…it’s worse for a pitcher that is literally the difference between a seventh straight division crown and a season of gloating on how I said he should retire last year)

3 – Arizona Diamondbacks (Carson Kelly –young catcher came over as part of the package in the Goldschmidt trade over the winter; if he can develop an MLB bat while holding his own in the handling of the Snakes’ staff, this team is one step closer to .500)

4 – San Diego Padres (Matt Strahm – while Manny Machado may seem like the obvious choice here, it is the youthful arms in San Diego that will accelerate the build of this budding team; also along with Chris Paddack, oh boy, wait until Danielson Lamet is back from elbow surgery!)

5 – San Francisco Giants (Madison Bumgardner – not for the veteran’s wins and losses in ’19, but for his potential trade value he will bring at the deadline to jumpstart the coming Bay rebuild)

National League Central (dogfight, top to bottom, all season long)

1 – St. Louis Cardinals (Yadier Molina – the unquestioned leader on and off the field for the Redbirds, this veteran catcher must be healthy enough to catch 120+ games; if he is, their pitching depth and balanced offense will overcome a couple of injured arms and killer divisional foes)

2 – Milwaukee Brewers (Brandon Woodruff – Brew Crew needs this potential stud Starting Pitcher to become an ace if only to push everyone else down a peg to where they belong in the pecking order. Oh don’t laugh –Woodruff has the stuff, and he has already proven his mental fortitude)

3 – Cincinnati Reds (Yasiel Puig –have you ever watched one of those unbelievable movies where something crazy happens and it spreads like wildfire until the whole world is affected? Welcome to Puig 2019, 40 homers, 30 steals, 125 RBI, and .290 average with gold glove defense…the Queen City is about to explode, people, and a wildcard may just be in the offing if pitching gets a bit too) 

4 – Chicago Cubs (Ian Happ – kid sneaks back from Iowa, abducts Joe Maddon and sends him to an insane asylum in Port. St. Lucie so a real manager can take over and treat the Cubs like a MLB squad and not some sort of church league coed softball team where everybody gets to play and they all share lemonade and no bake cheesecake during the fourth inning…seriously…like, really)

5 – Pittsburgh Pirates (Josh Bell – ultra talented 1B in search of his power stroke and confidence. If found, please contact Clint Hurdle ASAP for the sake of the Bucs having an offense this year)

National League East (or, as I like to call it, the best division in baseball, even with Miami in it)

1 – Washington Nationals (Stephen Strasburg – In 2014 he pitched 215 innings, but hasn’t come close since. If in 2019 he can log 200 IP to go along with Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin, the Nat’s bullpen will be rested, effective, and ready to help this squad to the National League Pennant)

2 – New York Mets (Robinson Cano – dude was on path to HOF career until he got busted for PED and served an 80 game suspension last season; if he can be the old Robbie Cano and bash for the Mets offense so very much in need of a lynchpin stud, Queens will feel like kings this summer)

3 – Philadelphia Phillies (Jean Segura – with all of the great moves made by Philly brass this offseason, one of the steadiest of acquisitions will ultimately prove to make or break the hearts of the Phanatics. If Segura is his solid self and spearheads a powerful lineup with high on base and professional base running, the top three in this division are truly fluid and up for grabs)

4 – Atlanta Braves – (Liberty Media Corporation – yes, again I know, not a player, but as the owners of this club, Liberty has more of an effect upon the fate of the 2019 Braves than anyone positional player or pitcher. I say that because, after the buzz generated by the exciting, talented 2018 Braves, this year’s version was handed a broken down third baseman, a hometown catcher better suited for retirement, and little to nothing else. What they really needed was a couple of starting pitchers and one life-like garden gnome named Craig Kimbrel to really set that town and this division on fire. Alas, Liberty offered up sparklers instead of fireworks. Fizzzzzz……..

5 – Miami Marlins – (Billy the Marlin – sorry, that’s all you get when Derek Jeter even admits the team can’t win so fans should just come out and have fun….ugh…)

So there you have it, my predictions for team finishes and key players during this much anticipated 2019 season. Oh, in case you were wondering about my true assessment of the Chicago Cubs, that was it – they are too threadbare in the pitching staff and void of depth position-wise to withstand Maddon’s incessant tinkering, and they will finish fourth in that division. Or they will win it, win the World Series, and I will pretend I was only kidding way-way-way back in March. Happy Baseball, everyone!

*****

Questions? Comments? Hit me up via email at mditon.edwards@gmail.com, or on Facebook (search Michael Diton-Edwards)…I am not a fan of twitter and social media, so I am happy to converse via the tried and true landscape of email or Messenger. Oh, and PS, I don’t actually condone abducting Joe Maddon. Billy the Marlin maybe, but not an actual MLB Manager, or in this case, the facsimile of one.

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