Believe it or not, baseball is here.
The 2018 Major League Baseball season gets underway Thursday, and with it comes renewed hopes and expectations for every team and player. But while the new season gives everyone a clean slate, we still have a decent idea of who will succeed — and who will fail, throughout the spring, summer and fall months.
With that in mind, let’s go through our predictions for which teams will win each division, which players will win the big awards and who ultimately will be celebrating at the end of the postseason.
Boston Red Sox
Are the New York Yankees going to be good? You bet. They were great last season, and the addition of Giancarlo Stanton will make them even more formidable this year. However, we’re not confident that New York’s pitching will lead to as many regular-season wins as many expect. But Boston’s staff — led by starters Chris Sale, David Price and lights-out closer Craig Kimbrel — is built for the long haul. Furthermore, J.D. Martinez should give Boston the one thing it sorely lacked last season: power. The Sox will win their third straight A.L. East crown.
Don’t be surprised if the Minnesota Twins challenge the Indians. It they get out to a hot start, Minnesota has the ability to win the Central. Still, the Indians have perhaps the American League’s best starting rotation and bullpen, and their lineup is more than capable of putting up big numbers. Cleveland once again will be among the best teams in baseball.
The defending World Series champions will start slower than expected. But make no mistake: This is the most talented team in baseball, and you have to be a special kind of crazy to pick against them.
New York Yankees over Minnesota Twins
Just like last season, the Yankees will crush the underdog Twins in the wild-card game. Obviously, anything can happen in a one-game playoff, but the Yankees are built to win these kinds of games. In what will be a battle of bullpens, Aroldis Chapman and the Bronx Bombers will come out on top.
Carlos Correa — shortstop, Astros
Honestly, you could pick no less than three Astros players for MVP without getting an argument from us. Outfielder George Springer and reigning MVP Jose Altuve have what it takes to win the award if they stay healthy. But Correa, whose all-around talent perhaps is only surpassed by Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout — ultimately will win the award.
Chris Sale — Red Sox
If it weren’t for a rough, fatigue-driven September, Sale would’ve won this award by a mile last season. But the Sox are committed to managing the star left-hander’s workload more closely this year, which will keep him relatively fresh down the stretch. Sale is the most dominant starter in the American League, and should be the favorite to win the Cy Young.
Rookie of the Year
Eloy Jimenez — Outfield, Chicago White Sox
Sorry, Shohei Ohtani: We’re not sold. Could the “Japanese Babe Ruth” be a star in the United States? Sure. But his ugly spring has us concerned, and a slow start to the season could snowball into full-fledged “bust” talk. That will open the door for Jimenz, whose power in spring training turned a lot of heads. One of the top prospects in all of baseball, Jimenz will be a big contributor on what could be a surprisingly good White Sox team.
Manager of the Year
Rick Renteria — White Sox
Speaking of the White Sox, Renteria will lead the young South Siders to a strong season in the A.L. Central. The White Sox might be a year or two away from really contending, but they’ll do enough this year to get Renteria the award.
The question isn’t whether the Nationals will win the N.L. East — they will. The question, as it is every year with this group, is will they get over the hump in October? Armed with one of the best lineups and pitching staffs in all of baseball, Washington has no more excuses.
The Cubs followed up their 2016 World Series title with a largely lackluster 2017 season. Still, the North Siders turned it on when it mattered and secured the N.L. Central title. Assuming their rotation delivers (which isn’t a guarantee), the Cubs should hold off the Milwaukee Brewers and the always-competitive St. Louis Cardinals.
Los Angeles Dodgers
For stretches last season, the Dodgers looked like one of the greatest baseball teams ever assembled. And guess what? Almost everyone is back. If Clayton Kershaw stays healthy, and their young hitters continue to progress, the Dodgers should win this division.
Arizona Diamondbacks over Milwaukee Brewers
Yes, J.D. Martinez and all his power now is in Boston. And yes, the D-Backs must compete in a division that also has the Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies. But we believe in Torey Lovullo and his stud first baseman — so much so that we expect the Diamondbacks to be one of the best wire-to-wire teams in the game.
Paul Goldscmidt — first base, Diamondbacks
If this guy stays healthy, he has the ability to put up all-around numbers that no player in the National League can match. Goldy’s case also will be strengthened by the fact that he’s playing on one of the better teams in baseball.
Noah Syndergaard — New York Mets
The hard-throwing Thor lookalike is fully recovered from the torn lat that cost him the 2017 season. We expect the 25-year-old Syndergaard — and his 100-plus MPH fastball — to remind everyone that he’s one of the best pitchers in the game.
Rookie of the Year
Ronald Acuna — outfield, Atlanta Braves
Once Acuna gets called up, which won’t take long, he’ll begin his dominant march toward the Rookie of the Year award. The Braves outfielder is a five-tool stud, and he’ll showcase those talents on an Atlanta squad that could turn some heads.
Manager of the year
Gabe Kapler — Philadelphia Phillies
Speaking of teams that could surprise, the Phillies have enough talent to at least sniff one of the N.L. Wild Card spots. If they’re still in contention come August and September, Kapler should win the award.
Arizona Diamondbacks over Cleveland Indians
Fear the snakes! Arizona isn’t the most talented team in baseball, and it competes in perhaps MLB’s toughest division. But as long as the D-Backs make it out of the Wild Card Round, we think they’ll go all the way.