The favorites definitely reigned strong during the 2018 MLB season. But it was a good year for the underdogs, too, with teams like the Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics and Atlanta Braves all unexpectedly making the playoffs.
The Brewers and Houston Astros both fell just short of the Fall Classic in 2018. Both teams are poised to take that extra step this year. The Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Dodgers have dominated their divisions in recent years. And while we like both to make the playoffs again, we don’t think either will win the division. But which teams will?
With the 2019 MLB season right around the corner, we have to wonder not only about who’ll make the playoffs, but how every team in the league will finish. These are our predictions.
American League East
- Boston Red Sox: 97-65
- New York Yankees: 94-68 (No. 1 Wild Card)
- Tampa Bay Rays: 84-78
- Toronto Blue Jays: 76-86
- Baltimore Orioles: 56-106
The Red Sox and Yankees have both qualified for the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. As they’re two of the best three teams in the AL, it would be pretty surprising to see that trend stop this year. It’d also be surprising to see the bottom two be anything other than the Blue Jays and Orioles, in that order. The Rays could compete for a playoff spot. But to get to the playoffs in a top heavy American League, they’ll need to not only dominate Toronto and Baltimore but also tread water against Boston and New York. It’ll be tough sledding.
American League Central
- Chicago White Sox: 91-71
- Cleveland Indians: 89-73 (No. 2 Wild Card)
- Minnesota Twins: 78-84
- Kansas City Royals: 64-98
- Detroit Tigers: 61-101
If we’re trying to find this year’s version of the Braves or A’s, then we needn’t look beyond the White Sox. Eloy Jimenez is a star in the making. While Michael Kopech will be sidelined, Dylan Cease should make his way to the majors this year. Both Jimenez and Cease are prime Rookie of the Year candidates. We’re not banking on a free fall from the Indians. But in recent years, they’ve been a clear AL favorite along with the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros. We don’t get that feeling anymore. That said, with a chance to beat up on the rebuilding Royals and Tigers, we do like two AL Central teams to make the playoffs.
American League West
- Houston Astros: 99-63
- Oakland Athletics: 87-75
- Texas Rangers: 82-80
- Los Angeles Angels: 79-83
- Seattle Mariners: 69-93
One would be hard pressed to find a more complete team than the Astros. Where this division gets interesting is after Houston. We can imagine a world where the Rangers and Angels compete for the playoffs. But they both have serious questions about the pitching. The A’s do, too, at least in the starting rotation. They overcame those issues in 2018. But the bullpen and offense will have to be just as good (if not better) to get back to the postseason. That’ll be hard to accomplish. But while we’d expect only AL West one team to make the playoffs, at least three others have potential to be in the mix.
National League East
- Philadelphia Phillies: 90-72
- Atlanta Braves: 88-74 (No. 1 Wild Card)
- Washington Nationals: 85-77
- New York Mets: 78-84
- Miami Marlins: 52-111
While we’re not expecting the Braves to repeat as division champs, we’re not looking for a nosedive, either. Look for Atlanta to make the playoffs. Washington lost Bryce Harper but with the addition of Patrick Corbin, has a phenomenal pitching staff. We’re concerned with the Mets staying healthy. If they do, though, they’re realistic Wild Card contenders. The additions of Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, and J.T. Realmuto alone were enough to make the Phillies a playoff team. Then they signed Harper. That makes Philadelphia the team to beat in a division that fields a top-four as strong as any in the game.
National League Central
- Milwaukee Brewers: 91-71
- St. Louis Cardinals: 86-76
- Chicago Cubs: 85-77
- Cincinnati Reds: 82-80
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 80-82
While Milwaukee’s starting pitching isn’t a strength, it’s good enough to compliment the offense and dominant bullpen. As far as the rest of the division goes — it’s not hard to imagine any team from this division making the playoffs. And really, there in lies the problem. These teams are going to play 76 games within a division that doesn’t offer a single pushover opponent. So, even if these might be better, more complete teams than other postseason contenders, the records might not reflect that. As such, while this is the toughest top-to-bottom division in MLB, we’d expect only one postseason representative.
National League West
- Colorado Rockies: 93-69
- Los Angeles Dodgers: 87-75 (No. 2 Wild Card)
- San Diego Padres: 83-79
- San Francisco Giants: 77-85
- Arizona Diamondbacks: 68-94
This division has belonged to Los Angeles for six consecutive seasons. We’re not expecting No. 7. Clayton Kershaw is becoming a question mark. Overall, it just feels like the Dodgers are primed to be topped. The Rockies are the team to make that happen. Colorado’s offense is one of baseball’s best. And anyone who saw Kyle Freeland and German Marquez in the second half of last season knows that they can pitch, even at altitude. Manny Machado was a huge splash for the Padres and they’re solidly No. 3 in this division. But without better pitching, San Diego will have an uphill climb for even a Wild Card spot.
Wild Card Games: Indians over Yankees, Dodgers over Braves
Predicting one baseball game is always tough, especially months ahead of time. But the rule of thumb is to go with the team that will pitch better. As good as the Yankees bullpen is, New York doesn’t have the starting pitching to compete with Corey Kluber or really any one of Cleveland’s top-three starters. Even worse for the Yankees is that those Indians starters can miss bats. That will go a long way towards neutralizing the offense.
In the NL, it’s a similar issue. Walker Buehler is going to be awfully hard to match in a one-game setting. Also, unlike New York in the American League, Atlanta doesn’t have a shutdown bullpen to rely on. The Braves shape up well to have another good season. And if they get into a series, the starting rotation depth will be a huge asset. But in a one-game setting, Atlanta’s chances aren’t nearly as good.
NLDS: Rockies over Dodgers, Brewers over Phillies
Los Angeles’ run of consecutive NL pennants will come to an end in this series. The Rockies just have a more reliable offense. And while logic would say that the Dodgers have more reliable pitching, that’s not really the case. This will be especially true if, as we expect, Los Angeles has to win a Wild Card Game to reach this series. Colorado has made the postseason in each of the last two years. Now, the Rockies are ready to take the next step.
Milwaukee and Philadelphia would be a fun series. It would match up two teams that can absolutely pound the ball. The difference maker would be the Brewers bullpen. Milwaukee relievers have the stuff to largely offset the power of the Phillies. The Philadelphia bullpen is very good, as well. But if it comes down to a battle of which relievers blink first, the Brewers hold a good edge over just about anyone in baseball. With that in mind, we’re expecting to see them in the NLCS for the second straight year.
ALCS: Astros over Red Sox
While it only went five games, the 2018 ALCS was a very competitive series. Look for another very close series in 2019, just with a different result. As good as the Red Sox were in 2018, everything broke their way. One of those things was that the Astros were not a completely healthy team in the ALCS. That’s of course a risk again. But Houston has also added depth in the offseason. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have largely remained stagnant. There’s a reason no team has repeated in 19 years. Boston ended Houston’s repeat bid in 2018. Look for the Astros to return the favor in 2019.
NLCS: Brewers over Rockies
The Rockies having home field would help buoy their chances. But in the end, it won’t be enough. With these offenses in these stadiums, we’d expect to see the depth of the pitching staffs (both starters and relievers) really put to the test. Not only is that Milwaukee’s strength, but it’s also Colorado’s weakness. That will be too much for the Rockies to overcome. This series will be a lot of fun to watch. When the dust settles, the Brewers will head to their first World Series since 1982.
World Series: Brewers over Astros
Something that needs to be mentioned, of course, is that the rosters as we see them now may be different than what we see in October. That can help any team. But the Brewers specifically have the pieces to add someone like a top-tier starting pitcher midseason. In the end, though, it still comes down to Milwaukee’s bullpen. This group can shrink games and keep even the best offenses in the league off balance. We’re expecting a good series here. Don’t expect it to go any less than six games. And when it’s over, we like the Brewers to be crowned as baseball’s best for the first time in their history.