Ben Clanin, 23 Sports

The MLB season is just a month away and the 2018 season is looking to be one of the most intriguing years in recent memory. Many teams have made some power moves this offseason and have reshaped the entirety of some divisions, which is one of the most beautiful things about baseball, just a few moves here and there can make the difference between a World Series contender and a below .500 finisher. Let’s dive right in and take a look at the American League.

It is a tough call between the A.L. East and the A.L. West, but for the number one spot I have to give it to the East. If you had asked me this question about a month ago I think I would have had the two flipped, but the Boston Red Sox acquisition of J.D. Martinez changes everything. When the Yankees stole Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins the East looked extremely one sided but the rivalry is going to be on in full force out in the East. Both squads were playoff teams this past year, with the Yankees just squeaking into the Wild Card Spot but this year will be different. Those two teams will be battling it out all season long and I see Red Sox coming out on top for the sole reason that I don’t think Aaron Judge will be as productive as he was last season, especially now that Stanton is in that lineup he may take his foot off the gas, so to speak, because now he doesn’t need to be the big producer. On the other hand, though I think JD Martinez is going to fit in very nicely in the Red Sox lineup and he is going to have a much better time hitting in Fenway which is much more hitter friendly than Chase Field. Rounding out the rest of that division is Toronto, who is best equipped to compete with the two giants at the top, then the Baltimore Orioles, followed up by the Tampa Bay Rays.

As I already mentioned the second best division in the AL is the West. The West has the defending World Series champion Houston Astros, who I see as running away with the division. The Astros are very close to the same team they were last year, and if they are capable of staying healthy then they are on the road to having another 100 plus win season and possibly another World Series run. The rest of the division though is what is most intriguing to me, the Angels, Mariners, Rangers, and A’s as of right now are all projected to finish within five, that’s right a mere five, games of each other. If it goes plays out the way that it is projected, any one of the four other teams can compete for second place in that division which is absolutely insane, and as a fan it is arguably the most fun thing to watch in baseball. That division could be decided in the last game of the season which would be madness to watch.

To wrap up the AL we head to the Central division. The AL Central has the potential to be the weakest division in the entire league as of right now. The Indians and Twins are the only teams in the division that are projected to even finish above the .500 mark. And we are taking mercy on the Twins here because as of right now they are only projected to finish a mere two games above the .500 mark. Granted the Twins were a playoff team last year, squeaking in the Wild Card spot and losing to the Yankees. The rest of the division though looks to be pretty dismal. Rounding out the rest of the division is the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, and the Kansas City Royals. The Royals have lost the vast majority of the core that lead them to a championship just a few years ago, the White Sox have a very bright future but their talent down in the farm will not be big league ready this year, and finally the Tigers will be lucky to win 70 games this year.

Moving on from the American League we are now going to dive into the National League, and we are going to shift from arguably the worst division in the entire league in the A.L. Central to possibly the best in the league with the N.L. West. Last year the N.L. West emerged almost out of nowhere with three playoff teams in the Dodgers (no surprise there), the Diamondbacks, and the Rockies. But this offseason the last place finisher in the division, the Giants, went out and made some power moves to thrust themselves back into a position to compete out in the wild wild west. I expect the Dodgers, who are the defending N.L. Champs to run away with this division, I know that’s a really bold take, but it’s hard to bet against these Dodgers. The next three teams though will be the most intriguing part of that division because like A.L. West the Giants, Rockies, and Diamondbacks I believe will all finish within four to five games of each other and the N.L. West has a chance to put three teams in the playoffs again. The Padres round out that division, and I think that they have a chance to stay within a few games but I don’t think at the end of the year they will be in the running to compete in the division.

The second spot in the National League goes to the N.L. Central. The Central is shaping up to be a three-team race now between the Cubs, the Cardinals, and the Brewers. The Brew Crew kind of snuck up out of nowhere last year and was in command of the Central for a decent chunk of the season but ended up running out of gas toward the end of the season and fell to third place. The Brewers though went out and bolstered up their lineup with the additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain and now have one of the top outfields in the league with Ryan Braun thrown in there. The Cubs are the clear-cut favorite as they have won the division for the last two years in a row and they went out and added a big piece to their rotation in Yu Darvish. On the flip side of that though they lost Jake Arietta this offseason to free agency. The Cardinals also went out and made improvements to their team this offseason adding slugger Marcel Ozona who will add 35 homers to the Redbirds lineup for the first time since the departure of Albert Pujols. They’ve also patched up the bullpen with the addition of Bud Norris, Luke Gregerson, and Dominic Leone. In my eyes, the Cubs will end up winning the division for the third straight year, the Cardinals will come in close second and then the Brewers will take the third-place spot with the Pirates and Reds duking it out for last place.

Finally, the worst division in the National League goes to the N.L. East. Outside of the Nationals the East is shaping up to be a division of mediocre teams at best. As of right now the Mets are eying second place with a .500 record. The rest of the East is finished off by the Phillies, the Braves, and the Marlins. The Marlins had an absolute fire sale in the offseason dumping off their three top players and giving the organization a whole new look, I expect them to finish in the basement of the East and quite possibly have the worst record in the MLB. The Braves are also poised to have another down year but Freddie Freeman is still the light at the end of their tunnel. And finally, the Phillies have bright future with a lot of young talent but they are still a few years off from making the leap.

The MLB is shaping up to be very interesting this year and who knows there are some teams that could come out of the woodwork and surprise us all.