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Saturday, March 24, 2018

2018 MLB Preview and Predictions

The Boys of Summer are set to begin the 2018 season
The crack of a bat ripping a line drive. The pop of a fastball into a catcher's mitt. Fireworks exploding. Hot dogs steaming.

It's that time again folks. The start of another season in Major League Baseball.

For the first time in 50 years, all MLB teams will experience Opening Day on the same date. That comes this Thursday, March 28, when 15 games will take place scattered at various times throughout the day and night.

Those first games will begin a regular season that will stretch out over more than six months, leading to the drama of the MLB playoffs as Fall arrives.

Which teams are most likely to reach those playoffs? Which players will stand out over the course of the 162-game MLB regular season?

Each year, I give you my picks for the final standings across each of MLB's six divisions, as well as my playoff predictions. I also make picks for some of baseball's most important awards.

A year ago in my 2017 MLB Preview and Predictions piece, I correctly picked the winners in five of those six divisional races. The biggest letdown from those picks was for the San Francisco Giants to edge out the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. The Giants collapsed to a last place finish after winning three World Series crowns in the previous seven seasons.

I had the Washington Nationals beating the Boston Red Sox in seven dramatic games a year ago. As we know now, it was the Houston Astros beating the Dodgers in six to capture their first-ever world championship.

So now it's time to make my team picks and my awards predictions for the upcoming 2018 MLB season. Would love to hear your own picks in the comments section below this piece. Here we go again, baseball fans.




2018 NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Kris Bryant, Chicago
Contenders: Corey Seager LAD, Bryce Harper WAS, Nolan Arenado COL, Paul Goldschmidt ARZ

CY YOUNG AWARD: Stephen Strasburg, Washington
Contenders: Clayton Kershaw LAD, Max Scherzer WAS, Noah Syndergaard NYM

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Lewis Brinson, Miami
Contenders: Jack Flaherty STL, Ronald Acuna ATL, Scott Kingery PHI, Nick Senzel CIN

MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Craig Counsell, Milwaukee
Contenders: Joe Maddon CHC, Dave Roberts LAD, Dave Martinez WAS, Gabe Kapler PHI

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Noah Syndergaard
Contenders: Adam Eaton WAS, Mark Melancon SF, Homer Bailey CIN




2018 AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland
Contenders: Giancarlo Stanton NYY, Carlos Correa HOU, Mike Trout LAA, Mookie Betts BOS

CY YOUNG AWARD: Chris Sale, Boston
Contenders: Corey Kluber CLE, Luis Severino NYY, Justin Verlander HOU, Chris Archer

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles
Contenders: Dustin Fowler OAK, Gleyber Torres NYY, Francisco Mejia CLE, Chance Sisco BAL

MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Alex Cora, Boston
Contenders: Aaron Boone NYY, TerryFrancona CLE, A.J. Hinch HOU, John Gibbons TOR

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Michael Brantley CLE
Contenders: Doug Fister TEX, Miguel Cabrera DET, Francisco Liriano DET



2018 MLB DIVISIONAL & WILDCARD PREDICTIONS

NL EAST: Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Miami

NL CENTRAL: Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati

NL WEST: Los Angeles, Colorado, San Francisco, Arizona, San Diego

NL WILDCARDS: Milwaukee, Colorado

AL EAST: Boston, New York, Toronto, Baltimore, Tampa Bay

AL CENTRAL: Cleveland, Minnesota, Detroit, Kansas City, Chicago

AL WEST: Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Oakland

AL WILDCARDS: New York, Los Angeles



2018 MLB PLAYOFFS & WORLD SERIES PREDICTIONS

As stated at the top of this article, a year ago I had the Washington Nationals finally breaking through to win the franchise first-ever World Series by edging out the Boston Red Sox. I genuinely believe that making that exact same prediction this season would be just as valid. It would also be just as likely to go another way entirely.

A major development will come as the summer rolls on, and the impending free agency of superstar Bryce Harper becomes more and more realistic. At some point, the powers-that-be with the Nationals may have to actually entertain trade offers for their outfielder, or risk losing him for nothing later this Fall.

If Harper stays and is both healthy and focused come October, the Nats are my pick. But that is way too questionable at this point. So let's call it the Chicago Cubs as winners of their second NL Pennant in three years.

Over the in AL, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros are the cream of the crop until someone proves differently. The Bosox and Yankees will do a Battle Royale in the AL East, and both could be good enough to dethrone the Astros. Same can be said of the Tribe in the Central. Still, I'm taking Houston to repeat in the American League.

The 2018 World Series would then be a battle between the winners of the last two Fall Classics. There is an old saying in sports that goes "you gotta beat the champ if you wanta be the champ." I just think that Houston is too good for that to happen.

Given health, the Houston Astros will defeat the Chicago Cubs in five games in the 2018 World Series. After never having won a title, the Astros will make it back-to-back World Series crowns. They would become the first team to repeat since the 1998-2000 Yankees won three in a row.

There you have it, my 2018 Major League Baseball preview and predictions. Again, feel free to leave your own picks in the comments section below. Play ball!




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