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MLB Season Preview

Now+that+it%27s+February%2C+baseball+season+is+right+around+the+corner.
Now that it's February, baseball season is right around the corner.

Now that it's February, baseball season is right around the corner.

Photo courtesy of https://www.vrlife.news/mlb-using-vr/

Photo courtesy of https://www.vrlife.news/mlb-using-vr/

Now that it's February, baseball season is right around the corner.

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Pretty soon, the weather will be warmer, the (snow) birds will have flown home, and lawns will need to be mown twice a week. That can mean only one thing: spring is in the air, and with it comes baseball. Now that football is behind us, it is time to focus our attention on the baseball diamond and the upcoming 2018 MLB season.  

Teams who made big moves:

Photo courtesy of https://www.fanragsports.com.
Reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton (pictured with Yankees GM Brian Cashman and new skipper Aaron Boone) makes the Yankees a serious AL contender.

The New York Yankees may have made the biggest move this off-season by  acquiring four-time All-Star and reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins. In return, the Marlins received second baseman Starlin Castro, prospects, and draft picks. This trade will add even more power to the already formidable Yankee lineup that includes last season’s Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, outfielder Didi Gregorious, and catcher Gary Sanchez. Since trading Castro, the Yankees are going to start their number one prospect, Gleyber Torres. The Yankees main problem last year was pitching. The Yankees were the second worst team in runs allowed, averaging 5.1 per game. However, they have big names in CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka.

Another team who made headlines this offseason was the San Francisco Giants. They acquired former MVP outfielder and five-time All-Star Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Giants also acquired third baseman Evan Longoria in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Longoria was an iconic figure in Tampa and helped lead them to their only World Series appearance in 2009. Although he’s on the back end of his career, the Giants are hoping he will still add some offensive production to their lineup.

The Los Angeles Dodgers  seem to have a bright future with the moves they made this offseason. They acquired the number one Japanese prospect, Shohei Ohtani, a right-handed starting pitcher who can throw 100 miles per hour. Unfortunately, he will be out for some time with an injured ligament in his throwing arm. Another player they acquired is Zack Cozart, a shortstop who played for the Cincinnati Reds. Cozart had a breakout year last season, batting .297 with 24 home runs – tied for fourth most by shortstops last year – and 63 runs batted in. Along with arguably the best player in the league in center fielder Mike Trout, a two-time AL MVP, the Angels definitely are heading in the right direction.

AL Contenders:

New York Yankees

After all of the big moves they made this offseason, who doesn’t expect the Yankees to be a contender? Now armed with Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, the Yankees have a great chance. They are the first team in MLB history to have two players in their lineup who hit 50+ home runs the year before: Stanton and Judge. Despite their pitching troubles last year, they still have a solid staff with C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Aroldis Chapman, Sonny Gray, and Luis Severino. The Yankees are set for a deep playoff run and have a good chance to represent the AL in the World Series this year. Last year, the Yankees took the World Series champions, the Houston Astros, to the limit in the American League Championship Series.

“I think the Yankees will win the World Series because of all the trades they made this season,” said Zach Loceff, an eighth grader.  “Also because Judge and Stanton are overpowering.”  

Photo courtesy of Alex Gallardo – Associated Press.
Will the Houston Astros be able to defend their WOrld Series title?

Houston Astros

After beating the Dodgers in the World Series last year, can they do it again? They had one decent pick-up in the offseason. They acquired veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran. The reason they could win again is because most of the team remains intact, save for the loss of reliever Luke Gregerson to the St, Louis Cardinals.  Their lineup features reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve (2B),  center fielder and 2015 Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa, World Series MVP George Springer (RF), third baseman Alex Bregman, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, and left fielder Marwin Gonzalez.  They also have solid starting pitching in Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance McCullers, Jr. They are definitely a force to be reckoned with  this upcoming season.

Cleveland Indians

Last year the Indians came up short, losing the AL Divisional Series to the Yankees, a disappointment as they reached the World Series the year before. They didn’t have a big offseason, just losing first baseman Carlos Santana to the Philadelphia Phillies. They also acquired Yonder Alonso to replace Carlos Santana at first base. Still, the Indians shouldn’t have much competition in the weak AL Central division, and they have a number of stars that have proven themselves over the last few years. The Tribe acquired Andrew Miller from the Yankees last season, a key asset out of the bullpen in the playoffs. Another player who turned from a nobody to a star is Francisco Lindor. Since his rookie year in 2015, he has become one of the best shortstops in the league, and should be in the running for the Gold Glove Award this year. Cleveland should also get great contributions from outfielder Michael Brantley, second baseman Jason Kipnis, and third baseman Jose Ramirez. With the earlier-than-expected exit in the postseason, the Indians will be more dedicated than ever to make it back to the promised land, The World Series.

NL Contenders:

Los Angeles Dodgers

Photo courtesy of Mark J. Terrill – AP.
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw is eager to get back to the World Series this year.

Last year, the Dodgers were the World Series runner-up to the Astros, losing in a hard-fought seven games.  They are the favored to win the World Series this year according to Westgate Las Vegas with odds of 5-1. With a great pitching staff consisting of starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, along with star closer Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers have the ability to keep their opponents off of the scoreboard. Clayton Kershaw is thought to be one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. They also have a dangerous lineup with spectacular power such as shortstop Corey Seager, third baseman Justin Turner, center fielder Joc Pederson, first baseman Cody Bellinger, right fielder Yasiel Puig, and outfielder Chris Taylor. The Dodgers can put up runs in bunches early and often.

Chicago Cubs

Last year the Cubs lost to the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series in five games. The year before, they brought their long-suffering city a World Series title. The Cubs had a big offseason, signing multiple pitchers to improve their defense, which was a major problem last year.

They signed Yu Darvish, a four-time All-Star and starting pitcher from the rival Dodgers, starting pitchers Jose Quintana and Drew Smyly, and relievers Steve Cishek and Justin Wilson.

The Cubs best fielders are also their best hitters. The trifecta of former Rookie of the Year, league MVP, and two-time All-Star Kris Bryant (3B), three-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner Anthony Rizzo (1B), and outfielder Kyle Schwarber is a powerhouse. The addition of pitchers this offseason, and their already strong squad, will make the Cubs a force with which to be reckoned. The Cubs should be in the playoff mix again this year.

Washington Nationals

Photo courtesy of http://www.nj.com.
Will Bryce Harper be surrounded by enough talent this year to lead the Nationals back to the playoffs?

Last year, the Nationals lost to the Cubs in five games in the NL Divisional Series. Even though the Nationals were a higher seed and had home field advantage, the Cubs were favored, so it was not a surprising loss. The Nationals did not have a big offseason this year, so it would be a long shot for them to win the World Series, but not impossible.

The Nationals possess some solid pitching in starters Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, along with reliever Koda Glover. They’re built around 2015 NL MVP and five-time All Star Bryce Harper, who churns the offense along with two-time Silver Slugger award winner Ryan Zimmerman, and up-and-coming shortstop Trea Turner.

Zimmerman hit the 15th most home runs last year in the MLB. Along with being good hitters, Harper, and Turner are also sterling defenders.  The Nationals have a good team, but perhaps not enough superstars to make them go all the way. If the Nationals are have a shot, they will need to add a couple more superstars on the offensive side.

On the Rise:

Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers have had a great offseason in acquiring All-Star outfielder Lorenzo Cain to improve their fielding and hitting. With a career average of .290, the former ALCS MVP and World Series champion is in his prime. In addition, 3B Travis Shaw and 1B Eric Thames really played well at the end of the year and showed a lot of people they will be a big threat this coming season. They are a very young team that possess a lot of young talent in outfielder Keon Broxton and shortstop Orlando Arcia. The only downside, if anything, is their pitching.They may simply not have the depth in their rotation to make them major contenders this year. Their best starting pitchers are Chase Anderson and Yovani Gallardo. Their best relief pitchers are Corey Knebel and Matt Albers. Overall, this is a young team with a lot of spirit that may be poised to contend in the next few years.

Seattle Mariners

Even though this team is not a contender, the Mariners look like they could compete for a playoff spot in a few years. They made a decent trade for second baseman Dee Gordon from the Marlins, a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner. The main strength of the Mariners is their hitting. They have two experienced players who have made it to the big stage before: second baseman Robinson Cano – an 8-time All-Star and 5-time Silver Slugger – and right fielder Nelson Cruz, a 5-time All-Star and 2-time Silver Slugger. They also have some young hitters that have been playing really well such as 3B Kyle Seager and SS Jean Segura. Their pitching has improved over the last few years, too. Before, Felix Hernandez was their only dominant pitcher. As he has gotten older, the Mariners have been looking for other players to step up. Starter James Paxton and relievers Edwin Diaz and James Pazos may be just what the defense needs for them to compete. The only problem with this team is its bullpen. Beyond Diaz and Pazos, there’s not much there.

Who Will Win?

There are many great teams in the NL and AL, but for the writers of this article, the World Series looks like it’s shaping up  to be the Dodgers and the Yankees. Some of the TBS students agree, even if they have different opinions about which team will take home this year’s trophy.

“I think that the Dodgers will win it,” said eighth grader James Hoffman. “They have such an all-around, solid team that there is really no weak link in the lineup, with rookie Cody Bellinger, and All-Stars Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager that are insanely good. Other than them, there are fielding geniuses like Yasiel Puig and Logan Forsythe who keep the runs low.”

“The Yankees will win the World Series because Judge and Stanton will hit so many home runs, and no pitcher will be able to handle them,” said eighth grader WIll DiMaio. “It will just be too much for them.”

As for our take? We like the Dodgers over the Yankees in a 6-game series. The Dodgers will take home the Commissioner’s Trophy this year. The Yankees do have great hitting in Stanton and Judge, but the Dodgers pitching should keep their home runs to a minimum. Also, the Dodgers hitters in Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Joc Pederson, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig, and Chris Taylor should overwhelm the Yankees decent pitching squad of C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Aroldis Chapman, Sonny Gray, and Luis Severino.The Dodgers are also better fielders than the Yankees.

But, we’ll see how it shakes out. Teams that look good on paper in February may not end up in the playoffs at all, but that’s why they play the game – everyone has the same record heading into the regular season, and the World Series is up for grabs. Grab your hot dogs and Cracker Jack – it should be a fun and competitive MLB season.

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