MLB Mega-Preview: What to Expect in 2018

Clayton+Kershaw+has+been+one+of+the+MLB%E2%80%99s+most+dominant+pitchers+since+he+first+stepped+foot+on+the+mound+in+2008.+The+seven-time+All-Star+and+three-time+Cy+Young+Winner+is+looking+to+continue+his+dominance.

Clayton Kershaw has been one of the MLB’s most dominant pitchers since he first stepped foot on the mound in 2008. The seven-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Winner is looking to continue his dominance.

Ben Polikoff, Michael Tom and Theo Asher Maroon-News Staff and National Sports Editor

MVP, Cy Young Award Picks, Dark Horse Teams to Watch For and World Series Predictions

MVP picks: Polikoff

When looking at the MLB MVP race, it’s hard to pinpoint two players that will make all the difference for their teams. This being because of the unpredictability of injuries and consistencies in the MLB. For the American League Most Valuable Player, how could you look past Jose Altuve; the guy is an all-around winner who can do anything on a baseball field. He has a crazy glove, can hit for power, which is ironic considering his size, and the guy can flat out run. His greatest quality is his ability to lead. Last season, Altuve took a city that went through so much and brought them to the Promise Land. What makes anyone say he can’t do the same thing this year? In the NL race it gets a little more complicated. For me, there’s no real frontrunner for this award. But if I had to choose someone, I would go with Bryce Harper. Part of my reasoning for picking Harper is because of the 75 games he will play against the Phillies, Marlins and Braves. With this sort of schedule against clear inferior opponents, Harper is bound to put up some crazy numbers. He will definitely hit .300 with at least 35 home runs if he stays healthy. But for Harper, the main concern should be winning a playoff series this season. Season after season the Nationals have had extremely underwhelming performances in the playoffs. They have way too much talent to let this happen again and should it happen again they would need to look at their front office and make some serious reforms. 

Cy Young Picks: Tom

It’s now one week into the 2018 MLB season and the race for the Cy Young has begun. The Cy Young Award is given to the best pitcher in the National League and American League, respectively. Here are some candidates for this year’s Cy Young race:

Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians: The 2017 AL Cy Young award winner has been an absolute workhorse, pitching at least 200 innings in each of the last four seasons with a 2.83 ERA over that span. Perhaps even more impressive, he has accumulated 63 wins since 2014. Kluber has played a pivotal role in the team’s recent playoff success, including a world series appearance in 2016.

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers: Kershaw has finished in the top five in voting for this award for seven consecutive seasons, including winning it three times. The power left-hander may be showing signs of aging, however, as he relied more on off-speed pitches in his first start of the new season. While Kershaw was still dominant, limiting the Giants to one run, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

While those are my main picks, I can’t help but sing the praises of the best team’s best pitcher: Luis Severino of the New York Yankees “Sevy” is the definition of a pitcher with “stuff,” sporting a fastball over 100 mph even in late innings. Already a dominant force, if Severino can develop his complementary pitches, he will likely be a favorite for the Cy Young award.

Honorable mentions include Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets and Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox.

Dark horse teams to watch: Asher

AL: Minnesota Twins

Although the top of the American League is rock solid, I think the Twins have a chance to threaten the Indians for the AL Central crown and legitimize themselves as future heavyweights. It starts with their division: the AL Central is terrible. One could argue that the three cellar-dwellers are the three worst teams in the American League. They will all be in rebuilding mode for the foreseeable future, and the Twins are ready to capitalize. Minnesota is lucky because they are past their rebuilding stage, cultivating all-stars instead of MLB newcomers. Their outfield, all 26 and under, has developed beautifully over the past few years – Gold Glove-winner Byron Buxton has affirmed himself as one of the most explosive and versatile centerfielders in all of baseball. Miguel Sano, who hit 28 homers in 114 games last season, is a bona ide slugger at third base. Second baseman Brian Dozier, consistently in the MVP conversation, provides this team with the leadership and production needed to contend. The Twins will put up runs, but it’s also a matter if they can make some kind of deadline move to improve their weak pitching staff. Jose Berrios, the flame-throwing 23-year-old, will need some rotation backup if they are to threaten Cleveland in the AL Central. 

NL: Milwaukee Brewers

Low-key, the Brewers had the reigning champion Chicago Cubs sweating halfway through the 2017 baseball season. Around the middle of July, Milwaukee was tied with Chicago in the NL Central. This was thanks mostly to their offense, who ended up leading the NL in home runs. Players like Travis Shaw, Eric Thames and Domingo Santana provided spark to a lineup that was projected originally as one of the league’s weakest. A big reason why I like the Brewers’ chances to contend for at least the wild card this season is because of their offseason additions: proven all-stars Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, the former adding a stellar bat to the lineup and the latter adding a phenomenal glove to the outfield. Milwaukee’s pitchers, although not as glamorous as other NL rotations, is one of the most promising young groups in baseball. Zach Davies finished the season with a 17-9 record, second in wins only to the immortal Clayton Kershaw. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, their prime strikeout producer Jimmy Nelson (4.2 K/walk ratio, 6th in the NL) will be on the DL for a while to start the year. However, their bullpen, anchored by closer Corey Knebel, should be able to keep the team in close games. The Brewers have proven they have what it takes to win close games in an extremely competitive National League, leading all other teams in 2017 with 54 saves.  

WORLD SERIES PREDICTIONS: 

Tom:

My prediction for the 2018 Fall Classic is that it will be a repeat – the Houston Astros against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both teams are essentially returning their entire starting lineups from last season, while also maintaining their pitching staffs which they have bolstered through free agent signings. With young core players complemented by veteran leadership, it’s highly likely that both of these teams will return to the World Series. In the end I think it will be a close series, but this time with the Dodgers ending on top. 

Asher:

 In the world of athletic competition, eventually, the most elite of stars earn a title. Whether that means LeBron James waiting nine years, two teams, and eight coaches before his first NBA finals or Bryce Harper waiting seven years, one team, and four coaches before his World Series, players who are so dominant at their craft in the regular season fulfill their destiny of capturing their sport’s greatest prize in the postseason. 

After years of first-round playoff disappointment, Washington will finally break through and win the World Series over the Houston Astros in six games. Their roster is one of the most-stacked, well-balanced I’ve come across in recent memory. Although hitting machine Daniel Murphy is out for a while, when their lineup is healthy, the Nats churn out runs like the Coop churns out chicken tenders. The addition of Adam Eaton is huge for the offense, adding five-tool talent to pair alongside Harper.

Washington’s pitching staff has arguably two of baseball’s top-five starters in Max Scherzer and Steven Strasburg. Shored up by Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez, in 2017, the Nats starters produced an astonishing 13.6 wins above the average National league rotation. The only weak stop is their bullpen, but if Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson can access their dominant selves of the past, there’s no reason Harper shouldn’t lift the Commissioner’s Trophy come October. 

Polikoff:

Looking far, far down the line at the World Series, there seems to be more favorites coming out of the American League than the National League. We have the Yankees, Astros, Indians, and even the Minnesota Twins. But I see the Astros getting back there. They have so much character and leadership in their lineup that the outmatch the inexperience of a team like the Yankees, especially with first year manager, Aaron Boone. In the National League, I think the Chicago Cubs will make their way back to the promiseland. Clayton Kershaw’s lack of efficiency in the playoffs is bound to continue and the Cubs just have all the pieces to make a run. In the end, I see the Houston Astros coming out on top in six games and repeating as World Series Champions.

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