MLB Preview and Predictions
Jeremy Young '24
The MLB season is now in full swing and already some teams are starting to pull away and assert themselves as playoff contenders while others are already accepting their role as bottom feeders of the divisions. With a 162-game season, there are inevitably some teams who are not as good as their record indicates and vice versa. In a league that last season was led by the Rays, Braves, and Astros, they all are either average or below average at the beginning of this year. And while some of these teams will most likely rebound and 25 games are a small sample size, it is already becoming clear which teams are for real, and which others are frauds. In this article it is time
Blue Jays: For Real
The Blue Jays went all in this offseason: acquiring Kevin Gausman, Yusei Kikuchi, Raimel Tapia, and Matt Chapman but also losing Marcus Semien, Steven Matz, and Robbie Ray. They also have a great young core with Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Some surprising stars have emerged as well, most notably closer Jordan Romano who has been the most dominant closer in baseball and reliever for the month for April. The Blue Jays spending splurge seems to have paid off as they sit well above 500 behind the red hot Yankees for second place. This team is absolutely stacked in terms of hitting, pitching, and bullpen, but their one drawback has been that Hyun Jin Ryu has not lived up to expectations but hopefully will be better after returning from the injured list. Also, Bichette has yet to catch fire.
The Yankees have been hands down the best team in baseball this season and have been on fire recently. The Yankees are the classic example of a team that beats up on bad teams. As of the beginning of May, they have played one team with a winning record, that being the Blue Jays. The Yankees are full of big bats that can easily beat up on teams like the Tigers, Orioles, and Royals, but how will they do against the aces of the Blue Jays who already shut the Yankees down this year and the Rays? There are also major red flags around their starting rotation. Gerrit Cole has not been the same since the middle of last year; Luis Severino hasn’t pitched a full season since 2018; Nestor Cortes is still relatively inexperienced and has only started 20 games in his career, and Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery are average but not all stars.
Rays: For Real
The Rays have never had the best lineup or rotation but continue to be one of the better teams in baseball. Shane Mcclanahan, Corey Kluber, and Drew Masmussen have emerged as aces of this staff while the team waits for the return of Shane Baz and Tyler Glasnow. While the bats of this team are not exceptional, the Rays have got a star in Wander Franco. This team is not a World Series contender like in years past, but they are good enough to make the Wild Card Game, not bad for a team that was 24th in offseason spending.
The Marlins have been sitting at the bottom of the MLB for quite a few years now. In fact, last year they lost 95 games. The Marlins have surprised many by being quite good to start this year. Unfortunately, don’t expect for this to last. Through trading and drafting, the Marlins have built a very good young core with guys like Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Jesus Luzardo, and Jazz Chisholm. With the lineup that the Marlins have now and the front office being historically conservative and unlikely to take a risk on a big trade or signing, the Marlins don’t seem like a team that will be able to sustain this success for 162 games and feel like they are still a year or two off from being really good. Not to mention they have to play the next two teams a combined 38 times this year.
Mets: For Real
The Mets have been putting together this roster for years now, and it seems the pieces are finally all coming together. They have the best pitching staff in baseball right now as the highest ERA in their five starters is 3.00. The craziest part about this is that the Mets are going to get even better when Jacob Degrom - the consensus best pitcher in baseball - makes his return in late May. The fact that this pitching staff has five all-star caliber players on it in Scherzer, Bassit, Megill, Walker, and deGrom is astonishing. The bullpen is far improved from last year as well with the addition of Adam Ottavino adding to Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo. The Mets lineup is stacked as well with more stars than you can count. The Mets are a dangerous team and one that could be a handful for any team in the playoffs.
The Phillies were a hard team to pick. Their pitching staff is good but not on the same level as the Mets, while their lineup is comparable with the Phillies. Any lineup that has last year’s MVP in Bryce Harper and added Nicholas Castellanos is going to give pitchers trouble. The pitching is the problem for the Phillies. Their bullpen has always been bad, and their starters have not not been as good this year as they were last year. The NL East is going to be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball; the Mets, Phillies, both have made steps in the right direction. World Series winners Braves, Marlins, will be very good and the Nats will be one of the worst teams in baseball.
The Twins lost 89 games last year and finished last in the AL Central (a historically weak division) but this year they have surprisingly rebounded and actually lead the division. Byron Buxton and Luis Arraez have been the leaders of this team and really their only offense as Carlos Correa, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano have all underperformed. Byron Buxton is another guy who has been plagued by injuries throughout his career; only playing in more than 100 games one time (back in 2017). In terms of pitching, Chris Paddack, Chris Archer, Dylan Bundy, and Joe Ryan aren’t exactly an elite staff. Chris Archer is a good six years past his prime; Chris Paddack has underperformed in the last two seasons; Dylan Bundy is coming off the worst season of his career, and Joe Ryan has only ever started nine games. The stars would need to align for all of these guys to stay at the pace they are at right now and even now the Twins are only a little better than average.
The Brewers have had one of the best rotations in baseball for the last couple of years, led by Corbin Burnes, Eric Lauer, Adrian Houser, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta, and with a stacked bullpen of Devin Williams and Josh Hader. Any number of those guys will be all stars and can be counted on to win games. The glaring flaw of this team is the same problem they had last year and have still failed to address; they can’t hit. Instead of trying to go out and get some big bats this offseason to boost a stale lineup, the Brewers opted for roleplayers and guys like Andrew McCutchen, who is a good eight years out of his prime. Christian Yelich has not been the MVP player he was in 2018 or 2019 and the Brewers are in desperate need of some kind of life for this offense that holds only two guys batting .250 and no one above .260. The Brewers need to try and make a trade to add something because the team they have now is a waste of some great arms.
As a Cardinals fan, this one hurts. For a team with Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, it is baffling how few runs they are able to score. In fact, the Cardinals have scored 1 run or less seven times in twenty-three games against bad teams. The stars and young players people had high expectations for have not started off the year hot, as the Cardinals have seven players on the roster batting below .200. The pitching staff is good, but not good enough to carry a bad offense. The Cardinals also happen to have one of the oldest rosters in baseball, and while seeing Yadier Molina (39), Adam Wainwright (40), and Albert Pujols (42) take the field for their final season together makes me incredibly nostalgic, they haven’t contributed as much as I had hoped they would early on.
Astros: For Real
The Astros have made it to the playoffs in the last five years, including two World Series appearances. They’re off to a cold start this season however, falling to third place in the AL West. On the bright side, young stars Jeremy Pena, Chas McCormick, Yordan Alvarez, and Kyle Tucker have been very good while veteran Michael Brantley has also been good. The established core of the Astros is what has been the most disappointing; Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, and Martin Maldonado have all yet to hit their stride. Jake Odorizzi and Jose Urquidy have both disappointed pitching while Justin Verlander, Frankie Valdez, and Ryan Pressly have been excellent. If the Astros can get their all stars back on track, they could be looking at a return to the playoffs.
As much as we would all like to see Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the playoffs, that isn’t going to happen this year. The achilles heel of the Angels has always been their pitching. While on paper it might seem that the Angels have figured this problem out, as Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen have been excellent, Ohtani has taken a big step back and the Angels lack depth in the backend of the rotation. The bullpen is a mixed bag as well as some have been excellent while others like Archie Bradley have been bad. The bats have always been there for the Angels, but if anything, they are worse this year with the exception of Mike Trout, Taylor Ward, and Brandon Marsh, the lineup is pretty average. I would be surprised to see the Angels in the playoffs come October.
Giants: For Real
The Giants were by far the most surprising team last year, taking the Dodgers to the brink of elimination. They have continued this success this year and have reloaded quite well considering they lost some key parts. While the Giants definitely lack the starpower and flashiness of many other teams on the west coast, they make up for it with consistent and under-the-radar guys who have been putting up great numbers. The case in point is Logan Webb. Webb has been criminally underrated in the last year as he went almost a full calendar year without losing a game. The rotation and bullpen are full of guys who are not the biggest names, but have put together an excellent season. The Giants truly feel like a team that is one piece away from being a World Series contender.
Dodgers: For Real
There isn’t a whole lot to say about the Dodgers that hasn’t already been said. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, you probably know that the Dodgers are really good and were consensus World Series favorites coming into this year. It comes as no surprise that this team is in first place in their division as they are definitely the team that the Padres and Giants are chasing after.
Padres: For Real
The Padres suffered one of the most dramatic implosions of any team in the second half of last year. They went from one of the most exciting teams in baseball, to going 13-34 down the stretch. What makes this team so hard to rate is that they hardly did anything to change the lineup. Sure, they added Sean Manea, but they also lost a lot of depth in their bullpen and most importantly lost Fernando Tatis until at least the beginning of July. For right now, the Padres have one of the most menacing lineups in baseball; Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer have been unstoppable at the plate while Joe Musgrove, Sean Manaea, and Yu Darvish have all been solid pitching. The Padres do lack depth in their pitching staff especially in the bullpen and do need Blake Snell and Fernando Tatis to carry heavy loads when they return from injury. This is a team to be wary about as we have seen what has happened before and the NL West have only gotten better since last season. The Padres need their players to be healthy and to be hot at the right time if they want to make it to the postseason again. Unlike the Dodgers, the Padres don’t have unlimited money and they have gone all out this year, they really need to start performing as the window for success is closing.
The 162 baseball season is truly a war of attrition; people who are playing well now will run out of gas before the All Star break. Remember, there is a lot of time left in this season. Injuries, slumps, luck can all change for a team and affect a team's chances. Because of this, baseball is easily the most unpredictable sport; any team can beat anyone else on any given night. This year is as unpredictable as any, coming off a surprise Braves World Series win, and with many of the expected favorites such as the Giants and Red Sox finding themselves in the middle of the field. The Yankees might be the clear favorite for now, but there’s no telling if they can keep this up.