As the 2019 Major League Baseball season quickly approaches,
I find myself running out of time to get out ahead of the yearly prediction
game. Looking at the key individual awards, as well as how the Postseason will
shake out, there’s plenty of excitement to come in the year ahead. I am of the
belief there’s a significant number of teams not currently trying, but there’s
a good cluster that will battle against each other in both leagues this year.
Before we get to how I see the year going for teams, it’s
worth looking at what the cream of the crop may look like individually. We don’t
have the obvious Shohei Ohtani out of the gate, and we’ll need to see the
emergence of the next Ronald Acuna or Juan Soto. Pitching awards are littered
with favorites of guys that have done it all before, but there’s also some new
names right on the cusp. Here’s who I see capturing individual recognition.
MVP: American League – Mike Trout (Dark Horse Carlos Correa)
National League – Nolan Arenado (Dark Horse Cody Bellinger)
One guy is looking for his third MVP award while another is
looking to get over the hump and capture his first. Mookie Betts jumped up and
nabbed the title out from under Mike Trout last year, but the greatest player
in the game is ready to take back his throne in 2019. On the flip side, Arenado
came ever so close to his first MVP a season ago but fell just short. With the
ink still drying on his newly signed contract extension, he should find the hardware
as a nice reward for his efforts.
I’m not all in on either dark horse candidate here but think
they both have some nice post-hype appeal. Correa hasn’t played a full season
in two years, but flashed MVP caliber abilities at multiple points throughout
his career. Bellinger ran away with the Rookie of the Year vote in 2017, and
then slide backwards a bit in 2018. I’d think his true ability lies somewhere
in between, but at just 23-years-old, there’s no reason to think that the
ceiling may not be even higher.
Cy Young: American League – Justin Verlander (Dark Horse
Jose Berrios) National League – Walker Buehler (Dark Horse German Marquez)
Outside of Verlander, this may be my favorite prediction of
the offseason. I love how many new names are popping up on the elite pitching
scene, and as baseball fans, we all stand to benefit from them. Verlander was
right there a season ago and could be looking at his second victory (and first
with the Astros). For the Dodgers it’s obviously disheartening seeing the decline
of the great Clayton Kershaw, but what better way to mitigate that than to have
Walker Buehler in tow. This kid is the real deal, and I wouldn’t be shocked if
we’re talking about multiple victories a handful of years from now.
The dark horse candidates for the Cy Young are so fun. Jose
Berrios is already a staff ace for the Minnesota Twins, and looks like a bit
more refinement could have him making a significant leap forward. The breaking
pitches are ridiculous and commanding them a bit better should do the trick.
German Marquez may be the best under-the-radar hurler in the game right now,
and he’s working to dispel the notion that pitchers can’t be great in Colorado
(with teammate Kyle Freeland doing the same).
Rookie of the Year: American League – Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
(Dark Horse Forrest Whitley) National League – Victor Robles (Dark Horse Nick
There’s no prospect that has been talked up more in baseball
than Vlad Jr. Son of the recently inducted Hall of Famer, Guerrero Jr. wields a
bat that is otherworldly. The Blue Jays have suppressed his service time all
they can, and while he’ll need to wait a few more weeks before breaking into
the big leagues, there’s no reason why the bat shouldn’t play. He’s not going
to last at third base long, but if the OPS is north of .900 in his debut
campaign, he’ll run away with this. Now that Bryce Harper is gone for the
Nationals, Victor Robles finally has a clear path to playing time. Previously
the best overall prospect in baseball, his breakout following teammate Juan
Soto of a year ago would be a nice development for Washington.
It almost seems unfair that the Astros would be able to add
another ace to their pitching staff, but Forrest Whitley could prove to be just
that. The best pitching prospect in the game has looked great this spring, and
he’d be a mid-season addition any team would love to have. He may not be up
long enough to catch Vlad, but he should make this interesting. The Reds are going
to give Nick Senzel a shot to stick in the outfield after coming through the
system as an infielder. His bat should play for both average and power, while
all early indications suggest he’s made a seamless position change.
American League - Yankees, Twins, Astros Wild Card – Red Sox,
National League – Nationals, Brewers, Dodgers Wild Card – Phillies,
ALCS – Astros over Yankees
NLCS – Nationals over Dodgers
World Series – Astros over Nationals
A big believer in what the Nationals did this offseason,
despite losing Bryce Harper, they’re going to be a tough team to beat. That
rotation should be one of the best in baseball, and is Robles breaks out as
expected, their outfield could challenge that title as well. Depth could be a
concern in multiple places here, but I like what Dave Martinez must work with.
Houston came up just short last season losing to the Red Sox
in five games. Boston has taken a step backwards, and the Astros are ready to
make it two World Series victories in three years. This lineup is loaded, the
pitching staff is for real, and A.J. Hinch has a group that knows how to win.