Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

Phillies off-season personnel schedule and deadlines

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Baseball super agent Scott Boras will be a central figure in the game, likely including with the Phillies, once again this off-season

 

Much of the attention surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies during this coming week will be rightly focused on the interview process as the ball club searches for a new manager.

Meanwhile, the Major League Baseball postseason excitement will roll on as both the National and American League Championship Series continue. By the end of this week or early next, both pennants will have been won, and the World Series match-up will be set.

Where individual veteran players are concerned, at least those not still participating in the playoffs, the month of October largely finds them in a holding pattern.

Most of those players are safely under contract for the 2020 season and have a fairly good idea of where they will be playing next year.

However, there are a number of players who will become free agents or the object of trades. Others will have their roster spot come up for evaluation, with some to be protected and remain with their current organization while others are exposed to the free agent market.

Let’s take a first look at the 2019-20 Major League Baseball off-season schedule and deadlines, and the individual Phillies players who will find themselves directly affected.

As the off-season moves forward, I will frequently be addressing these players, events, and deadlines on a more individualized and detailed basis. This should once again be an eventful off-season for the Philadelphia Phillies, so stay tuned.

The NLCS will last at least through Tuesday and the ALCS at least through Thursday. That means the earliest the World Series can begin would be this coming weekend.

Odds are that at least one LCS will go farther, meaning the Fall Classic probably won’t begin until some time next week. The likelihood is that we will have a new world champion crowned by the final week in October, which gets this off-season clock started.

First day after the World Series ends: Teams can trade Major League players once again. Also, eligible players will officially become free agents. However, they must first pass through a five-day period in which these new free agents may negotiate only with their current team.

The following are players of interest who appeared with the 2019 Phillies and who will also become free agents at the conclusion of the World Series: Corey Dickerson, Brad Miller, Sean Rodriguez, Logan Morrison, Drew Smyly, Jason Vargas, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Jared Hughes, Juan Nicasio, Nick Vincent.

Fifth day after the World Series ends: This is the final day to reinstate players from the 60-day injured list. Importance? Room will need to be made on the 40-man roster for any players who the club wishes to retain. This is also the deadline for clubs to tender qualifying offers to eligible free agents.

Currently on the 60-day Injured List with the Phillies are Dickerson, Hunter, Neshek, Robertson, Victor Arano, Jake Arrieta, Seranthony Dominguez, Jerad Eickhoff, Adam Morgan, Andrew McCutchen.

With Dickerson, Hunter, and Neshek all becoming free agents, the Phillies will have to make decisions involving the others. Robertson will be an interesting decision.

If the club protects all seven non-free agents, there are a number of 40-man roster players who still have minor league options and could be strategically demoted/opted to make room. Those include Arano, Deivy Grullon, Edgar Garcia, Austin Davis, Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez, and Enyel De Los Santos.

Fifth day after the World Series ends: Perhaps most importantly at this time, free agents may now sign with any club they wish. Just as last off-season with the pursuits of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, expect the Phillies to be involved in both rumors and actual negotiations with most big-name available players.

The club is expected to go hard for one or two veteran pitchers this off-season in the free agent market. Possible targets include starters Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler, Rick Porcello, and Stephen Strasburg (should he opt out of his contract with the Nationals), reliever Dellin Betances, and former Phillies hero Cole Hamels.

Among position players the Phillies could target as new starters, third basemen Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson and outfielder Marcell Ozuna (as a center fielder) would be among the leading possibilities. GM Matt Klentak will certainly be looking at strengthening his bench in free agency as well.

Players who appeared with the Phillies this past season who will become free agents and could be targeted to return include Dickerson, Miller, Hughes, and Vincent.

Fifteenth day after the World Series ends: Deadline for players to accept qualifying offer.

This should not affect the Phillies in any way. There are no pending free agents who are eligible for a qualifying offer from the club who will receive one.

November 20: In addition to my birthday, this will also be the deadline for MLB teams to add players to their 40-man rosters to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.

The Phillies will need to add top ten organizational prospect pitchers Adonis Medina and JoJo Romero to their 40-man in order to protect both this year.

December 2: Tender deadline. Sometimes referred to the non-tender deadline, it is the time by which teams must formally tender 2020 contracts to unsigned players. If a player is non-tendered, he becomes a free agent.

The Phillies will be tendering 2020 contracts to Rhys Hoskins, Vince Velasquez, and Hector Neris. Interesting decisions will come on a few other players including Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco, and Blake Parker.

December 9-12: The baseball Winter Meetings are held during this week in San Diego. On the final day, the Rule 5 Draft will be held.

For years, this was when many big trades went down. That was because it was a rare opportunity for the management teams of each club to be located in the same place at the same time.

While the Winter Meetings remain a hotbed of rumors in that regard, with the advent of modern communication methods the bigger trades can happen at any time.

Last year, the Phillies signed McCutchen during this period. Also, Carlos Santana, whom the Phillies had dealt to Seattle as part of the Jean Segura deal less than two weeks earlier, was traded by the Mariners to the Cleveland Indians.

January 10, 2020: Salary arbitration figures are exchanged between MLB clubs and any eligible players. It will be interesting to see the figures exchanged between Hoskins, Velasquez, and Neris with the Phillies. Possibly even Hernandez and/or Franco, if either or both is indeed offered a contract.

February 3, 2020: Arbitration hearings begin. The Phillies have not been to a hearing in more than a decade since losing in February 2008 to first baseman Ryan Howard. The club avoided a hearing with Aaron Nola a year ago, agreeing with their budding ace on a four-year, $45-million dollar deal with a club option fifth year.

  • February 22, 2020: The spring training Grapefruit League schedule begins with the Phillies visiting the Detroit Tigers at Lakeland, Florida. The club’s pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Clearwater on a date yet to be set, but which will come roughly a week or so earlier.

There is a chance that big personnel doings could still take place at this point. The Phillies are expected to once again be major players in free agency. Remember, Harper was not signed until spring training was already underway prior to the 2019 campaign.

MLB League Championship Series 2019 preview and predictions

 

The 2019 Major League Baseball postseason has already provided plenty of October excitement, with three of four Division Series pushed to decisive Game 5 dramatic conclusions.

Now the final four surviving ball clubs have moved on to battle in the respective League Championship Series over the next week or so. The two winners will earn their respective league pennant and advance to face-off in the World Series.

As for predictions, I went 1-1 in the Wildcard games and 3-1 in the LDS. With all of the craziness that is normally October baseball, I’ll take that 4-2 record and run with it. My LCS predictions come at the bottom of each series preview below.

This may be hard for most of my fellow Philadelphia Phillies fans to swallow, but at this point I will be rooting for the Washington Nationals to win it all.

My reasoning is that if the Phillies are not involved during any MLB postseason, I always root for any team(s) that have never won a World Series to finally enjoy that experience.

The Nationals have been in Washington since 2005 after playing their first 36 seasons north of the border as the Montreal Expos. The lone World Series crown in the history of our nation’s capital was captured by the Washington Senators back in 1926. That franchise moved to Minnesota, becoming the current Twins, back in 1961.

So, with that said, here the scheduled dates, times, locations, and TV network for each  in both the National League and American League Championship Series.

I have also listed the likely pitching match-ups, and the numbers in parentheses following the team names are where each finished in my final 2019 MLB Power Rankings of all 30 big-league ball clubs.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Washington Nationals (9) vs Saint Louis Cardinals (6)

  1. Friday, 10/11, 8:08 PM EDT at Busch Stadium on TBS: Anibal Sanchez (WAS) vs Miles Mikolas (STL)
  2. Saturday, 10/12, 4:08 PM EDT at Busch Stadium on TBS: Max Scherzer (WAS) vs Adam Wainwright (STL)
  3. Monday, 10/14, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: Patrick Corbin (WAS) vs Jack Flaherty (STL)
  4. Tuesday, 10/15, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: Stephen Strasburg (WAS) vs Dakota Hudson (STL)
  5. IF NECESSARY – Wednesday, 10/16, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: Anibal Sanchez (WAS) vs Miles Mikolas (STL)
  6. IF NECESSARY – Friday, 10/18, TBA at Busch Stadium on TBS: Max Scherzer (WAS) vs Adam Wainwright (STL)
  7. IF NECESSARY – Saturday, 10/19, TBA at Busch Stadium on TBS: Stephen Strasburg (WAS) vs Dakota Hudson (STL)

PREDICTION: Nationals in five

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

New York Yankees (10) vs Houston Astros (2)

(Pitching match-ups in Game Four are speculative, especially for the Yankees where J.A. Happ could be starting instead of Sabathia)

  1. Saturday, 10/12, 8:08 PM EDT at Minute Maid Park on FOX: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) vs Zack Greinke (HOU)
  2. Sunday, 10/13, 8:08 PM EDT at Minute Maid Park on FS1: James Paxton (NYY) vs Justin Verlander (HOU)
  3. Tuesday, 10/15, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FOX/FS1: Luis Severino (NYY) vs Gerrit Cole (HOU)
  4. Wednesday, 10/16, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FOX/FS1: C.C. Sabathia (NYY) vs Wade Miley (HOU)
  5. IF NECESSARY – Thursday, 10/17, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FOX/FS1: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) vs Zack Greinke (HOU)
  6. IF NECESSARY – Saturday, 10/19, TBA at Minute Maid Park on FOX/FS1: James Paxton (NYY) vs Justin Verlander (HOU)
  7. IF NECESSARY – Sunday, 10/20, TBA at Minute Maid Park on FOX/FS1: Luis Severino (NYY) vs Gerrit Cole (HOU)

PREDICTION: Astros in six

Once the two series have finished and the World Series match-up is set, I’ll be providing a preview as well as the Fall Classic prediction.

 

With Gabe Kapler out, what’s next for the Phillies?

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Kapler was let go after two seasons as the Philadelphia Phillies manager

 

Under tremendous fire from their fan base after a disappointing 2019 season, the Philadelphia Phillies had to make some type of change at the management level. Today, that change was announced.

The Phillies have fired manager Gabe Kapler after two seasons as the skipper and with one year remaining on his contract. The club went 80-82 in 2018 and then finished at 81-81 in the recently completed campaign under his guidance.

Telling in the decision is that it reportedly did not come from club management in the front office, but instead was made by ownership.

Per Bob Nightengale and Chris Bumbaca of USA Today: “The decision was made by Phillies owner John Middleton, and not general manager Matt Klentak, a high-ranking Phillies executive told USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity.

Middleton then released a statement himself, as reported by ESPN:

Several years ago, I promised our loyal fans that I would do everything in my power to bring a world championship team to our city. I will never waver from that commitment. … I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective. Consequently, we will replace our manager.

Just last week, I wrote that the Phillies should bring Kapler back. I felt that, while he indeed made mistakes, the injury situation was bad enough that he should be given the final year of his contract in 2020 to see if he could push the club forward.

However, Middleton reportedly took the time to not only consider the situation in his own head, but also sought out the opinions of a number of his team’s key players. It can now be assumed that those players did not aggressively back their manager.

So, the owner made the decision that most of the problems with the 2019 Philadelphia Phillies were in the clubhouse and the dugout, and not in the front office. That much became clear when Middleton also let it be known that Klentak would “lead the search” for the new manager.

Be sure of this, while Klentak sorting through the candidates during the search and lining them up for interviews may indeed be the case, no manager will be hired at this point without input and likely final approval from Middleton.

I believe you can also be sure of another thing as well – the new manager will have some real experience in that role, unlike Kapler when he was hired.

That would leave out candidates such as former Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez and the recently retired Carlos Beltran, two hot names being bandied about to fill one of the open MLB managerial positions this off-season.

While I believe he would make a perfect candidate, I do not believe that Joe Maddon will be the man. A big-league skipper for parts of 16 seasons, Maddon has an overall 1,252-1,068 record.

He has taken his teams to the postseason eight times, and won a World Series with the 2016 Chicago Cubs. Maddon was also the Tampa Bay Rays manager when they captured the American League pennant in 2008 before dropping the Fall Classic to the Phillies.

However, Maddon is widely seen as the front-runner for the open managerial position with the Los Angeles Angels. He has history there, spending more than three decades from 1975-2005 as a player, coach, scout, minor league manager, and big-league coach.

Maddon also served previously as the Angels interim manager in both 1996 and 1999. It is hard to believe that he wouldn’t take that job, hoping to help make Mike Trout and company into legitimate contenders.

So, let’s get right to it. Who do I see as the leading contenders to become the new Philadelphia Phillies manager beginning with the 2020 season? I have three leading candidates.

Buck Showalter

Now 63 years of age, Showalter has been the manager with four different organizations: New York Yankees (1992-95), Arizona Diamondbacks (1998-2000), Texas Rangers (2003-06), and Baltimore Orioles (2010-18).

Showalter has an overall record of 1,551-1,517 and won a division title with three of the four clubs. However, his teams had winning seasons in just 10 of the 19 full years that he was at the helm, and only reached the postseason five times.

It may be in his favor that he was hired for the Orioles managerial job during the time that current Phillies club president Andy MacPhail was serving in that position with Baltimore and while Klentak was their Director of Baseball Operations.

Joe Girardi

Turning 55 years of age this coming weekend, Girardi was the man in the dugout as the New York Yankees skipper when the Bronx Bombers took out the Phillies in the 2009 World Series. He put together an overall 910-710 mark in the Big Apple over 10 seasons from 2008-17.

Girardi’s teams reached the postseason six times, and reached the American League Championship Series four times. Just two falls ago, his Yanks held a 3-2 lead in the ALCS vs Houston before the Astros rallied to win the final two games.

He also won three World Series rings as a member of the Yankees late-1990’s dynasty. Girardi was the NL Manager of the Year with the Florida Marlins in 2006 after keeping a low-budget team in Wildcard contention for much of the summer. But he was fired following that one season after clashing with owner Jeffrey Loria.

Mike Scioscia

A local product who was born in Upper Darby and attended Springfield High School and Penn State University, Scioscia will turn 61 years of age in late November.

He was the manager with the Angels for 19 seasons from 2000-2018, leading that franchise to their only World Series championship in 2002. During his tenure the Angels won six AL West Division titles, including over five of six seasons between 2004-09.

Scioscia had an overall 1,650-1, 428 record at the Angels helm and seven of his teams reached the postseason. However, despite having the game’s best player in Trout for most of that time, the Angels made the playoffs just once over his final nine years.

He had a 13-year playing career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was the starting catcher on their 1981 World Series championship team. Scioscia was an NL All-Star in both 1989 and 1990.

Other possibilities who fit the bill of an experienced big-league manager who might be open to consideration for the position would include John Farrell, Dusty Baker, John Gibbons, Clint Hurdle, Brad Ausmus.

Whomever gets the job of trying to guide the Philadelphia Phillies back to the postseason from inside the locker room and dugout, both Klentak and MacPhail should now consider themselves as being squarely on the hot seat.

The Phillies have not only failed to reach the postseason during the four full seasons of the MacPhail-Klentak front office regime, but the minor league system is widely regarded as among the weakest in the game.

That comes after four years of their leading the draft and international signing process. If the Phillies cannot become winners on the field, and should that minor league organization not begin to display legitimate depth of talent, heads in the front office should be the next to roll.

MLB Division Series 2019 preview and predictions

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Washington Nationals celebrate their victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2019 National League Wildcard Game

 

With a pair of wildcard playoff games in the books, the 2019 Major League Baseball postseason is now fully underway.

The host Washington Nationals rallied in dramatic fashion, scoring three times in the bottom of the 8th inning for a 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wildcard Game on Tuesday night.

Then last night, the visiting Tampa Bay Rays scored four times over the first three innings and coasted to a 5-1 victory over the host Oakland Athletics.

With those opening salvos in the books, the drama will only ratchet up a notch as the weather turns cooler across the nation over the coming weeks of October baseball.

The match-ups are now set for a pair of Division Series in both the National and American Leagues. Those best-of-five series will get underway in New York, Houston, Los Angeles, and Atlanta over the next two days.

Having predicted victories by Washington and Oakland in the Wildcard games, I am 1-1 thus far in this postseason.

The following are my picks for each of the four Division Series. I have also listed the scheduled dates, times, location, and TV network for each game in the series as well as the likely pitching match-ups for the first three contests. TBA means that no time has been set as yet.

The numbers in parentheses are where each team finished in my final 2019 MLB Power Rankings of all 30 big-league ball clubs.

ALDS: New York Yankees  (10 ) vs. Minnesota Twins (5)

  1. Friday, 10/04, 7:07 PM EDT at Yankee Stadium on MLBN: James Paxton (NYY) vs Jose Berrios (Min)
  2. Saturday, 10/05, 5:07 PM EDT at Yankee Stadium on FS1: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) vs Jake Odorizzi (Min)
  3. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Target Field on FS1: Luis Severino (NYY) vs Kyle Gibson/as primary with possible “opener” used (Min)
  4. Tuesday, 10/08, TBA at Target Field on FS1: if necessary
  5. Thursday, 10/10, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FS1: if necessary

PREDICTION: Yankees in three

ALDS: Houston Astros (2) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4)

  1. Friday, 10/04, 2:05 PM EDT at Minute Maid Park on FS1, TBS: Justin Verlander (Hou) vs Tyler Glasnow (TB)
  2. Saturday, 10/05, 9:07 PM EDT at Minute Main Park on FS1: Gerrit Cole (Hou) vs Blake Snell (TB)
  3. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Tropicana Field on MLBN: Zack Greinke (Hou) vs Charlie Morton (TB)
  4. Tuesday, 10/08, TBA at Tropicana Field on FS1: if necessary
  5. Thursday, 10/10, TBA at Minute Maid Park on FS1: if necessary

PREDICTION: Astros in five

 

NLDS: Atlanta Braves (11) vs. Saint Louis Cardinals (6)

  1. Thursday, 10/03, 5:02 PM EDT at SunTrust Park on TBS: Dallas Keuchel (Atl) vs Miles Mikolas (StL)
  2. Friday, 10/04, 4:37 PM EDT at SunTrust Park on TBS: Mike Foltynewicz (Atl) vs Jack Flaherty (StL)
  3. Sunday, 10/06, 4:10 PM EDT at Busch Stadium on TBS: Mike Soroka (Atl) vs Adam Wainwright (StL)
  4. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Busch Stadium on TBS: if necessary
  5. Wednesday, 10/09, TBA at SunTrust Park on TBS: if necessary

PREDICTION: Cardinals in four

 

NLDS: Los Angeles Dodgers (3) vs. Washington Nationals (9)

  1. Thursday, 10/03, 8:37 PM EDT at Dodger Stadium on TBS: Walker Buehler (LAD) vs Patrick Corbin (Was)
  2. Friday, 10/04, 9:37 PM EDT at Dodger Stadium on TBS: Clayton Kershaw (LAD) vs Stephen Strasburg (Was)
  3. Sunday, 10/06, 7:45 PM EDT at Nationals Park on TBS: Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) vs Max Scherzer (Was)
  4. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: if necessary
  5. Wednesday, 10/09, TBA at Dodger Stadium on TBS: if necessary

PREDICTION: Dodgers in five

 

Once these series have fully ended and the match-ups have been set for each League Championship Series, I will come back with a preview and prediction for each of those.

2019 MLB preview and predictions

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Paul Goldschmidt powers up the Saint Louis Cardinals for 2019

 

With the 2019 Grapefruit and Cactus League schedules drawing to a close this week, all eyes are now squarely focused on Opening Day. All 30 teams in Major League Baseball will be playing in the regular season on Thursday.

How will superstars such as Bryce Harper with the Philadelphia Phillies, Manny Machado with the San Diego Padres, and Paul Goldschmidt with the Saint Louis Cardinals fare in their new homes? Which teams will become surprise contenders? Which major injuries will derail a team’s postseason hopes?
Each new MLB campaign comes with its own unique storylines. This year will be no different. Over the coming six months there will be excitement, drama, heartbreak, and controversy as each club plays out its 162-game schedule.
For years now I’ve been looking into my own personal crystal ball to make predictions for MLB’s division winners and individual award winners as well as my picks for the postseason.
A year ago in my 2018 MLB Preview and Predictions piece, I got four of the six divisions correct. I missed out on the Milwaukee Brewers edging my Chicago Cubs pick for the NL Central, as well as the Atlanta Braves, who I had for third place in the NL East.
My NL Wildcards were those Brewers and the Colorado Rockies. So the Braves were the only NL playoff team that I missed. In the AL, I had the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels as those Wildcard teams. Right divison, wrong team, as the Oakland Athletics actually captured an AL Wildcard spot instead of those Halos.
For the Fall Classic, I predicted that the defending champion Houston Astros would repeat by downing the Cubs in five games in a match-up between the two previous World Series titlists.
Those Cubs would end up losing a thrilling 2-1 NL Wildcard Game to the Rockies at Wrigley Field. The Astros returned to the ALCS, but were eliminated in five games by the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
Since I am writing for a Phillies-centric site, a bit of a disclaimer: this piece is not Phillies-centric. There will be plenty of times here at Phillies Nation where we cover the wider story of Major League Baseball. As for our favorite home nine, well, you are going to have to look elsewhere if you want to find a “homer” World Series prediction. At least this year.
Now time to reveal my predictions for the upcoming 2019 season. As always, I would love to hear your own picks in the comments section or on social media. Play ball!

2019 NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYERPaul Goldschmidt, Saint Louis
Contenders: Bryce Harper PHI, Nolan Arenado COL, Christian Yelich MIL, Ronald Acuna ATL, Cody Bellinger LAD
CY YOUNG AWARDStephen Strasburg, Washington
Contenders: Max Scherzer WAS, Noah Syndergaard NYM, Jack Flaherty STL, Aaron Nola PHI, Patrick Corbin WAS
ROOKIE OF THE YEARVictor Robles, Washington
Contenders: Alex Reyes STL, Fernando Tatis Jr. SD, Nick Senzel CIN, Luis Urias SD, Chris Paddack SD
MANAGER OF THE YEARDave Martinez, Washington
Contenders: Joe Maddon CHC, Dave Roberts LAD, Dave Martinez WAS, Gabe Kapler PHI
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEARCorey Seager, Los Angeles
Contenders: Yu Darvish CHI, Alex Reyes STL, Josh Donaldson ATL, Andrew Miller STL
2019 AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS
MOST VALUABLE PLAYERCarlos Correa, Houston
Contenders: Giancarlo Stanton NYY, Mike Trout LAA, Mookie Betts BOS, Alex Bregman HOU, Francisco Lindor CLE
CY YOUNG AWARDChris Sale, Boston
Contenders: Gerrit Cole HOU, Blake Snell TB, Justin Verlander HOU, Trevor Bauer CLE, James Paxton NYY
ROOKIE OF THE YEAREloy Jimenez, Chicago
Contenders: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.TOR, Josh James HOU, Danny Jansen TOR, Yusei KikuchiSEA
MANAGER OF THE YEARBrad Ausmus, Los Angeles
Contenders: Aaron Boone NYY, A.J. Hinch HOU, Bob Melvin OAK, Kevin Cash TB, Alex CoraBOS, Terry Francona, CLE
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEARByron Buxton, Minnesota
Contenders: Gary Sanchez NYY, Miguel Cabrera DET, Aaron Sanchez TOR, Jonathan Schoop MIN
2019 MLB DIVISIONAL & WILDCARD PREDICTIONS
NATIONAL LEAGUE
NL EAST: Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Miami
Since their franchise moved to Washington, the Phillies and Nationals have never been involved in a genuine NL East campaign where both were contenders. That changes this year and likely for years to come, and the Harper move adds a next level of spice to the budding arch-rivalry. But the Braves also have a lot of good young talent. I’ve been referring to the Mets as the “Mess” for years. Something always seems to go wrong, and until they prove it on the field, I’ll say the same this year. The Marlins are simply a rebuilding non-factor for the most part. This should prove to be a division where key injuries go a long way towards deciding things each year for awhile.
NL CENTRAL: Saint Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh
A contending Cardinals team is nearly as certain as death and taxes. The arch-rival Cubs and defending division champ Brew Crew should each again be strong. This looks a bit like the NL East to me, a real three-team dog fight that may only be settled by key injuries and big September head-to-head battles. The Reds are better, but not good enough. The Bucs also have talent, just not enough to keep up with the leaders here. This could well be baseball’s “black and blue” division in 2019, with no truly easy divisional opponents.
NL WEST: Los Angeles, Colorado, San Diego, Arizona, San Francisco
The Dodgers have won six straight divisional crowns and eight of the last 11 in the west. You want to be the best? Gotta beat the best. The Rockies are talented and the Padres are coming, but Los Angeles still looks to me like they have enough of everything – assuming health of their key performers. The Dbacks and Giants may need to start more seriously thinking about major rebuilding plans or face years of non-contention here.
NL WILDCARDS: Philadelphia, Chicago – welcome back to the MLB postseason, Phillies Nation! Oh, and how would you like to try an Aaron Nola – Cole Hamels winner-take-all pitching match-up on for size?
AMERICAN LEAGUE
AL EAST: Boston, New York, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Baltimore
The Bosox and Yankees could each well win 100 games again this year. Last year, Boston’s 108 victories gave them an eight-game cushion on their arch-rivals. I think it will be much closer this time around. The Rays almost always put up more of a fight than anyone believes, so much so that we now expect it. The Jays have possibilities down the road, but not in 2019. If you are looking for a current sad-sack story in the AL, well, there should prove to be plenty of seats available all summer at gorgeous Camden Yards in Baltimore. It’s worth the ride, Philly.
AL CENTRAL: Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City
I truly believe that they are no longer at the level of the American League’s ‘Big Three’ ball clubs. But something tells me that Terry Francona is once again going to get the most out of his team. The Twins have been the fashionable pick as a surprise American League contender. If that turns out true, I believe it will have to be for a Wildcard berth. The Chisox have a ton of serious young talent coming, but it may take another couple of years to pull it all together. I just don’t see any scenario where either the Tigers or Royals contend here for the next few years.
AL WEST: Houston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, Texas
The Astros won the first World Series in franchise history two years ago, were good enough to win it last year, and remain one of the favorites in 2019. Everyone else here is fighting for Wildcard relevance. With Mike Trout locked up for the rest of his career, look for the Angels to do everything in their power to start putting more pieces in place around him to truly contend. The A’s over-achieved last year. I don’t believe in them doing it again at that level. And there is just not enough talent in either Seattle or Texas for a playoff push, and may not be for a few years to come.
AL WILDCARDS: New York, Los Angeles
2019 MLB PLAYOFFS & WORLD SERIES
Two years ago, I predicted that the Washington Nationals would finally end years of postseason frustration and capture the first-ever World Series title in franchise history, defeating the Boston Red Sox in seven games. It didn’t happen as the Nats were edged out by the Cubs in a five-game NLDS.
Now with Harper gone to the division-rival Phillies, some might think that the Nationals best chances to win are over. Not so. There is plenty of talent and veteran leadership remaining in the nation’s capital. What was already the best starting rotation in the NL may have gotten better and deeper. And the Nats will replace Harper with the dynamic Robles, my NL Rookie of the Year choice.
I’m going to pick Washington to finally win a playoff series. It will be the first since the move to D.C. from Montreal, and only the second in franchise history. Not only that, but the Nats take it a step further, finally pushing their way into the Fall Classic behind strong pitching and a versatile lineup.
After the Phillies and Aaron Nola win the NL Wildcard Game over the Cubs the local crew is dispatched in an emotional NLDS by the Nationals. The Cardinals knock the Dodgers off the National League perch. And then the Nats take out Saint Louis in the NLCS.
The American League should once again be dominated by a Big Three made up of the defending world champion Boston Red Sox, their arch-rivals the New York Yankees, and the 2017 champion Houston Astros.
I’ll be stunned if the American League pennant winner does not come from one of those three ball clubs. Honestly, I cannot pick between those three. The Yanks overpower Mike Trout and the Angels in the AL Wildcard Game, then dispatch the Astros in an ALDS. The rival Bosox take out the Indians in the other ALDS, setting up a classic rivalry ALCS.
Picking a winner in a Yankees-Red Sox series is always a tricky proposition. But repeating is very difficult, and something is telling me that the Yanks, who have not been back to the World Series since their 2009 win a decade ago over the Phillies, are ready to power their way back to the Fall Classic.
And then, much to the chagrin of Harper and the Phillies, I am going to predict that the Washington Nationals erase their name from the list of seven MLB teams to never win a World Series. Call it Washington in six games over the Bronx Bombers.
And there we have it, my 2019 Major League Baseball preview and predictions. Feel free to leave your own picks in the comments section, and let’s get ready to play ball.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Matt Veasey’s 2019 Major League Baseball preview and predictions