The regular season is right around the corner, so I’m kicking off my 2018 predictions by examining the superior of the two leagues. Here are my picks for each division, and players to keep an eye on.
West: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are the gold standard for throwing a bunch of money at a team and winning just enough without accomplishing anything. They still haven’t won a World Series since 1988 despite having the best starter and closer in the sport. Is it time for them to finally close the deal? Probably not.
Player to Watch: Matt Kemp
Kemp has become a journeyman, but a strong spring leaves optimism that he can make the Dodgers roster to begin the season. He has great upside and is a fan favorite, especially in LA where he finished second in MVP voting in 2011.
Central: Chicago Cubs
The aura of 2016 is alive and well, but this team fell short last year after hype of a potential dynasty. It’s easy to pick a team on the rise like the Brewers or Cardinals to overthrow the Cubs, but Chicago’s rotation and lineup are far superior.
Player to Watch: Yu Darvish
His World Series was historically bad with the Dodgers, starting two games and recording a total of 10 outs, with a 21.60 ERA. Chicago doesn’t need Darvish to win the division, but they will need him to beat the Dodgers in the 2018 postseason.
East: Washington Nationals
I mean, I think I’ve picked this team to reach the World Series every year since Bryce Harper was drafted, so this shouldn’t be a shocker that they can top of the other three teams in the division.
Player to Watch: Bryce Harper
It’s a historic contract year for Harper, both because the value of his new contract will be massive, but also because it may help dictate the direction of baseball free agency after the quiet 2017 winter. The Nationals needs Harper to spark their lineup and be a leader in a clubhouse that has grown accustomed to premature playoff exits.
Yup, same teams as last year. Why not? Next week I’ll have my American League predictions.