Let’s make some predictions, eh?
National League East
1. New York Mets
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Miami Marlins
5. Washington Nationals
I can see one of the top two here running away with it, but the Mets have the most upside and the Braves have the most stability.
I’d be very surprised if one of the other three clubs won this division. Wouldn’t you?
National League Central
1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
This division is the Marvel movie of the six: It’s only good to those committed to it. Fact is, it sucks. But I do like the Brewers’ rotation and if Christian Yelich can stay healthy and put up above-average numbers they should run away with it this year.
Also, Corbin Burnes is one bad-ass son of a gun.
Also, part 2, the Pirates are bad, but Ke’Bryan Hayes, Oneil Cruz, and Bryan Reynolds is a great start to a good lineup. Wonder if the Reds don’t keep selling off pieces and the Bucs overtake them this season.
National League West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2.San Francisco Giants
3. San Diego Padres
4. Colorado Rockies
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
I really love the Bob Melvin move for the Padres and believe it will pay dividends, but I still don’t like the pitching staff that much from a stability standpoint, so the Giants the nod behind the Dodgers.
By the way, I think LA is vulnerable.
National League MVP: Bryce Harper, OF — Phillies
Barring a breakthrough no one sees coming, and considering the injuries to Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jaco deGrom, I see four leading MVP candidates in the National League: Harper, Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan Soto, and Trea Turner, with no one else appearing all that close.
Darkhorse No. 1: Ozzie Albies, 2B — Braves
Albies would have to have career-best marks in the first two areas of the triple-slash, but everything else already exists for him to make another run at 6-plus wins at some point. He’s 25 now, so why not this season?
Darkhorse No. 2: Walker Buehler, RHP — Dodgers
He’s their ace now, and the right-hander’s curveball and cutter have improved each of the last two years, giving him weapons not only versus lefties and righties a like, but a way to attack every part of the zone looking for every kind of out result (fly ball, ground ball, strike out). For a pitcher to win MVP he has to be special, and Buehler might be.
No Surprise: Other than the favorites noted above, I’d be surprised if anyone else won the NL MVP. Including Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts, two former MVPs.
National League Cy Young: Walker Buehler, RHP — Dodgers
Jacob deGrom’s health, Max Scherzer’s age and workload lead me to Corbin Burnes repeating, Phillies ace Zack Wheeler, and Buehler.
Darkhorse No. 1: Logan Webb, RHP — Giants
Webb had a very good year last season, but managed just 26 starts. If he’s able to take another step and make 32 starts for a playoff-bound Giants team, he could have a shot. Dude’s a groundball machine (61%).
Darkhorse No. 2: Sandy Alcantara, RHP — Marlins
I almost went with Brewers righty Freddy Peralta, and considered Julio Urias, who seems to get overlooked some, but Alcantara seems primed for the next step, and if that includes missing a few more bats, he might win this thing in 2022. Man, the Marlins are loaded with power arms.
National League Rookie of the Year: Max Meyer, RHP — Marlins
I also like Oneil Cruz here, as well as Joey Bart, C.J. Abrams, Nolan Gorman, Hunter Greene, and Francisco Alvarez.
Darkhorse: Elly De La Cruz, SS — Reds
He’s electric to watch with a pretty left-handed swing that produces above-average to plus power, and there’s consistency and supporting plate skills to boot.
No Surprise: Again, any highly-rated prospect, but Alek Thomas, Edward Cabrera, Nick Lodolo, and Luis Campusano all deserve mentions.
National League Champion: New York Mets
American League East
1. Tampa Bay Rays
2. Toronto Blue Jays
3. New York Yankees
4. Boston Red Sox
5. Baltimore Orioles
Wouldn’t be floored if any of the top four teams won this division, but it’s clear the Rays and Jays have the best pitching and the best overall rosters. I flipped a coin on the winner.
And if the Yankees finish third or fourth this season, are we going to start hearing talk about Brian Cashman’s job? We should, even if that third-place finish means a Wild Card berth.
American League Central
1. Chicago White Sox
2. Minnesota Twins
3. Cleveland Guardians
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals
The White Sox may have the most complete roster in the American League (followed by the top two teams in the AL East), and barring a weird year — it happens in baseball — they should win this division by at least eight games.
The Twins have added some dogs — Carlos Correa, Sonny Gray, Gio Urshela, Chris Paddack — but they were building on a 73-win season, so I’m not sure this a playoff team yet, but they’re going to be a pain in the backside if Byron Buxton and their rotation stays healthy.
I don’t like Detroit’s rotation yet — Spencer Turnbull is on the 60-day IL, and the rest are young bucks trying to break through — but they should score runs and be better than last season.
Are we sleeping on the Royals? Because this isn’t a bad roster and if they finished third I wouldn’t be shocked one bit.
American League West
1. Houston Astros
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Los Angeles Angels
4. Texas Rangers
5. Oakland Athletics
Houston remains the best roster in the division, but the Angels and Mariners have tons of upside. If LAA stays healthy they’re going to be a 90-plus win team, and if Seattle’s youth steps up enough they’ll be better than the Halos, even a healthy edition, — and I’m betting on that happening for the Mariners.
American League MVP: Mike Trout, OF — Angels
Damn right, it’s chalk. While Shohei Ohtani is the reigning MVP, I think it’s a bit much to ask for him to repeat, considering how great he was last season and the toll his role takes during the year, and Trout was having his best-ever season when he got hurt a year ago. He’s not what he once was defensively, but I don’t think a 10-win season is out of the question if he can stay off the IL.
Darkhorse No. 1: Luis Robert, CF — White Sox
Robert is a tremendous physical talent who offers good centerfield defense and might hit 40 homers if he’s healthy all year. That could end up looking like MVP numbers, even if he’s merely equipped to hit .260. But he did show signs last season of more contact.
Darkhorse No. 2: Bo Bichette, SS — Blue Jays
Bichette was a five-win player last season at age 24, and while his teammate gets more MVP attention, Bichette does everything, while adequately manning a premium position. If he takes another step with the bat in 2022 he probably overtakes Correa and Xander Bogaerts, and may stave off Corey Seager, as the circuit’s best all-around shortstop.
No Surprise: Vlad Guerrero Jr., Aaron Judge, Buxton, Bogaerts, Anthony Rendon, Seager, Marcus Semien, Jose Ramirez, Ohtani, Gerrit Cole, Correa
American League Cy Young: Gerrit Cole, RHP — Yankees
Cole is the best bet, but this wasn’t a clear, easy choice, as we’re still figuring out who needed the sticky stuff, and which arms can thrive without it. White Sox righties Dylan Cease and Lucas Giolito, and Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi are very much in the discussion from Day 1.
Darkhorse No. 1: Noah Syndergaard, RHP –Angels
The obvious caveat here is Thor’s health. He made two starts last season, missed all of 2020 with UCL surgery, and has made more than 25 starts in a season just twice since he debuted for the New York Mets in 2015. But he’s had no major shoulder flare-ups — his other injuries have been freakish, including a finger tendon injury, a viral infection and a hamstring issue.
A near-100% Thor is a legit Cy contender. A fully-healthy version might have the best stuff in the league. But there’s a second caveat to this: Pitchers don’t typically get back to full form right away. When does Syndergaard? June? September? Next season?
Darkhorse No. 2: Alek Menoah, RHP — Blue Jays
Menoah may actually have the best raw stuff on the Jays’ staff, and that’s saying something since Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, and Hyun Jin Ryu also pitch north of the border. Menoah debuted very promisingly last season (28% K rate in 20 starts) and is set to pitch without significant workload concerns.
No Surprise: Shane Bieber, Robbie Ray, Lance Lynn, Berrios, Gausman, Frankie Montas
American League Rookie of the Year: Julio Rodriguez, OF — Mariners
The early favorites here all make sense: Rodriguez, Bobby Witt Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Shane Baz, even Riley Green, despite a fractured foot.
Darkhorse: Josh Lowe, OF — Rays
Lowe moved up the org depth chart when Tampa sent Austin Meadows to the Tigers, and could again if/when Kevin Kiermaier and his contract is moved. The Rays have Kiermaier’s clone in Brett Phillips, and any notable cash savings in the deal is a bonus for their efforts — they’ll probably use it to trade for a pair of relievers, because, ya know, Rays.
Lowe is big-league ready and would be jumping into a no-pressure situation on a roster with a lot of support.
No Surprise: Any highly-rated prospect, including Mariners righty Matt Brash. Reid Detmers still qualifies and should be considered among the favorites.
American League Champion: Tampa Bay Rays
World Series Champion: Tampa Bay Rays
After two runner-up campaigns — 2008, 2020 — third time’s a charm for Tampa.
Bonus Prediction: I will again not watch the All-Star Game
I won’t be able to say this next year, so I’m soaking it all in this summer.
Jason A. Churchill
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