2018 NL Central Predictions

  1. Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are still a very good team, but the NL central will be much more interesting this season with the Brewers and Cardinals making big improvements this offseason. However, Chicago still has arguably the most dangerous lineup from top to bottom in the entire MLB. The Cubs have terrific power hitters Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras,  and Kyle Schwarber in the middle of their lineup. However, they also have solid complementary players like Addison Russell and Jason Heyward to make their lineup even deeper. They really don’t have any weaknesses in their lineup and their roster is so deep that quality players Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist don’t even have a starting role. Chicago also has an extremely deep starting rotation even though they lost Jake Arrieta this offseason. The Cubs just ended up replacing him with terrific starting pitcher Jake Arrieta and they also added Tyler Chatwood to be their quality 5th starter. Chicago also returns Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Jose Quintana which makes their rotation arguably the best in the MLB. The Cubs bullpen looks a little bit different especially with Brandon Morrow as their new closer. However, it is likely even deeper than it was last season as they have Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., and Steve Cishek as quality late-inning options. It is very difficult to find a weakness on this roster and that is why they are once again the favorites to win the NL central in 2018.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are in a better position to compete with the Cubs for the division title in 2018 especially after the acquisitions that they made this offseason. The biggest addition that they made was acquiring Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins as he provides the elite power hitter that the team was missing last season. St. Louis already had a good lineup, but now it is great since they have terrific hitters like Tommy Pham, Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, and Paul DeJong all returning for the 2018 season. St. Louis shouldn’t have any problems scoring runs and they certainly have just as good of a lineup as any team in the MLB. The Cardinals also have a very good starting rotation led  by Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and Adam Wainwright. We all know what those 3 pitchers can do, but it will be young pitchers Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty that will need to step up. Both Weaver and Flaherty have tremendous potential, but they will need to make an immediate impact if the Cardinals rotation is to become great in 2018. The Cardinals bullpen is the one area that could potential hold them back in 2018. They do have plenty of depth and they have Dominic Leone and Tyler Lyons as terrific late-inning options. However, the closer role is still somewhat of an issue for the Cardinals heading into 2018. Luke Gregerson was signed in order to fill that void, but even he struggled last season and it is unknown if he will improve that role in 2018. Overall, the Cardinals should be a playoff team in 2018, but they still have a few holes that are holding them back from winning this division.

3. Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers signaled that they are ready to compete for a playoff spot in 2018 after they made some big-time acquisitions this offseason. Milwaukee now has an extremely deep outfield after acquiring Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain this offseason. The team now has Yelich, Cain, Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, and Keon Broxton all competing for 3 outfield spots in 2018 and it’s safe to say that they might have the best outfield in the entire MLB. However, the Brewers also have a very deep lineup with players like Travis Shaw, Orlando Arcia, and Eric Thames all figuring to be key contributors once again this season. Milwaukee is certainly going to score many runs in 2018, but the main area of concern is with their pitching. Their best pitcher Jimmy Nelson is injured right now and he probably won’t return until June. Zach Davies and Chase Anderson both had terrific years for the Brewers in 2018, but besides them the pitching staff doesn’t have much depth. Milwaukee is hoping that veteran pitchers Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo can be the pitchers that they once were and make the Brewers rotation great. Milwaukee has a decent starting rotation right now and it will be better once Nelson returns, but they still need to add some more depth in order to compete with the best teams in the NL. The Brewers bullpen has the potential to be good especially with elite closer Corey Knebel and quality setup man Josh Hader as their 8th-inning option. However, Milwaukee needs somebody to step up and really take control of the other late-inning role. The Brewers have a decent bullpen right now with Knebel and Hader, but the rest of the bullpen needs to prove itself in order for them to be really good. Milwaukee will certainly compete for a playoff spot in 2018 and they are better than last season, although they need to improve their pitching before they can really guarantee themselves a playoff spot.

4. Cincinnati Reds

The Reds are a team that might be able to be a respectable team in 2018, but one thing is for sure and that is they are going to score plenty of runs in 2018. Joey Votto is still arguably the best hitter in the MLB and that probably won’t change much this season. However, the one thing that he does have is plenty of offensive threats alongside him as Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, Scooter Gennett, and Eugenio Suarez all proved to be very capable power hitters last season. The pitching is the one thing that will likely destroy the Reds season in 2018 just like it did last season.  Veteran starting pitchers Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey are back from injury and that should provide a major boost to the Reds rotation especially if they can pitch like they have before in their careers. However, the rest of the rotation is a complete unknown as they have a few young unproven pitchers that will likely will the rest of the rotation. Luis Castillo was very impressive last season, but we’ll see if he can continue that success with a full season for the Reds. Brandon Finnegan is another young pitcher that has had some success in the past, but we’ll see if he can bounce back from injury in 2018. The Reds starting rotation has tremendous potential in 2018, although it could also be the thorn in the side of the Reds just like the past couple of years. Meanwhile, the Reds bullpen has the opportunity to be decent in 2018. Raisel Iglesias is the clear leader of the bullpen as he has quietly become one of the best closers in the MLB. The Reds also added some much needed depth to their bullpen by signing veteran relief pitchers Jared Hughes and David Hernandez. Both of those guys will compete with Michael Lorenzen and Wandy Peralta for the late-inning roles for Cincinnati. We’ll see which pitchers win that competition, but just based on depth the Reds bullpen should be better this season. Cinncinnati is a team on the rise and don’t be surprised if they are at least a respectable team in 2018.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh had a few years of success, but now it is back to the rebuilding mode for the Pirates after trading away star players Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen this offseason. However, all isn’t lost for the Pirates as they still have a good outfield with Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, and newly-acquired Corey Dickerson. Marte and Polanco didn’t have very good seasons for Pittsburgh in 2018, but they still have tremendous potential and if they improve in 2018 then it could provide the Pirates with a big boost on offense. The team also has above average starters Josh Bell and Josh Harrison in their lineup and they should provide the offense with even more of a boost. Either way, the Pirates offense should still be decent in 2018 even with the loss of McCutchen and it could be really good if Marte and Polanco bounce back in 2018. The problem for the Pirates could be their starting pitching which wans’t even that good prior to Gerrit Cole’s departure. Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, and Joe Musgrove are all decent starting pitchers, although they all struggled last season as each of them had at least a 4.14 ERA. However, the Pirates absolutely need them to improve in 2018 because the team has no chance without them especially since there isn’t much depth at the back end of the rotation. Pittsburgh’s rotation could be better than most expect, but those guys need to step it up in order for the pitching staff to be successful. Meanwhile, the bullpen also has a chance to be decent for the Pirates in 2018. Felipe Rivero is a terrific closer and he became one of the elite closers in the MLB last season. However, the depth behind him is somewhat of a concern as they don’t have great late-inning options to set him up. George Kontos and Kyle Crick are decent options, but they will need to improve in order for the Pirates bullpen to be successful since they don’t have much depth. The Pirates are technically in a rebuild mode for the 2018 and don’t expect them to compete for a playoff spot. However, Pittsburgh should still be a decent team considering they still have some quality position players to carry the load.

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2018 AL East Predictions

  1. Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians are one of the best teams in the MLB and they are the clear favorites to once again win the AL Central in 2018. Cleveland has arguably the best starting rotation in the MLB as they are led by star pitchers Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. However, the Indians have a very deep starting rotation with pitchers like Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar also being decent starting pitchers. Cleveland possibly has an even better bullpen with elite closer Cody Allen to go along with elite setup man Andrew Miller and quality late-inning option Dan Otero. Cleveland’s pitching staff is the strength of the team, but they also have a very good offense. Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Edwin Encarnacion are all all-star caliber hitters. However, the Indians also have some quality depth in their lineup from top to bottom. Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Bradley Zimmer have all proven that they can be quality hitters. However, they will need to improve if the Indians lineup reaches its full potential in 2018. If those 4 guys can improve this season then Cleveland could make the case that they are the best team in the MLB.

2. Minnesota Twins

Minnesota surprisingly sneaked its way into the playoffs last season, but now they have made some improvements this offseason to possibly make their team even better. The Twins already had a very good lineup as they had breakout seasons from players like Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano. Minnesota also has proven veterans Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer that can still produce at a high level on offense. The main concern for the Twins is their pitching. The Twins did acquire Jake Odorizzi via trade recently and that will provide some much needed depth for their rotation. Minnesota also has emerging star pitcher Jose Berrios who should continue to get better in 2018. However, the back end of the Twins rotation is a complete mess right now as they need more production from pitchers like Kyle Gibson and Adalberto Mejia. Minnesota will be without ace Ervin Santana due to injury until May, so the rest of the rotation will need to step up. The Twins starting rotation has the potential to be good, but they will need Santana to come back healthy and be the player that he was last season and they will need Berrios and Odorizzi to continue to improve. Minnesota’s bullpen wasn’t very good last season, but they made a few moves to improve in that area for 2018. Fernando Rodney is the team’s new closer, although he has been inconsistent in recent years. Addison Reed was a terrific addition for Minnesota as he will be a very reliable 8th inning option for Minnesota. Also, the addition of Zach Duke should provide some depth to Minnesota’s bullpen in the middle innings. Minnesota’s bullpen is a complete unknown heading into 2018, but it should be better than it was last season. Either way, Minnesota should be a playoff contender in 2018, although they likely don’t have the pitching to be able to compete with the Indians in the AL central.

3. Chicago White Sox

Chicago is a team on the rise despite starting the rebuilding process not too long ago as they have many elite prospects that could make an impact at the MLB level in 2018. Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Matt Davidson, and Tim Anderson are the players that should carry the White Sox offense in 2018. However, they also added catcher Welington Castillo this offseason and that should make the White Sox lineup even better in 2018. However, the White Sox could be have really good lineup if elite 2nd base prospect Yoan Moncada improves in 2018. Chicago has major weaknesses in left field and center field heading into the 2018 season, but the rest of the lineup should be good enough to be an above average offense. The White Sox starting pitching rotation is unproven for the most part, but it does have the potential to be a very good rotation in 2018. The keys will be talented young pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez who will need to prove why they were such highly touted prospects. If those guys can pitch like we know they can then it will automatically make the White Sox rotation good. Carson Fulmer is another young pitcher with tremendous potential and he pitched well in 7 starts for the White Sox last season. James Shields and Miguel Gonzalez are the veteran pitchers of the group and Chicago is hoping that they can return to the players that they were several years ago. We’ll see if the White Sox rotation is good in 2018, but Fulmer, Lopez, and Giolito will need to be good if this rotation reaches its outstanding potential. The White Sox bullpen also could be decent as they have veterans Joakim Soria and Nate Jones at the back end of their bullpen. Soria is a proven closer and he should help to solidify that role and Nate Jones is an outstanding setup man as he proved once again last season. However, the rest of the White Sox bullpen is inexperienced and not very good. They will need somebody to step up in the 7th inning and middle relief roles if the White Sox want to have a good bullpen. Overall, Chicago should be an improved team in 2018 and they do have tremendous potential because of the great prospects that they will have on their team in 2018. However, this team is still rebuilding and they are likely a year or two away from playoff contention unless their pitching can make great improvements in 2018.

4. Kansas City Royals

It was a very rough offseason for the Kansas City Royals as they basically lost their 3 best position players Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas. However, that wasn’t the only players that they lost as they also didn’t retain Melky Cabrera, Jason Vargas, and Joakim Soria. The team still has Salvador Perez, Whit Merrifield, and Alex Gordon to carry the offense in 2018. However, the rest of the lineup is basically filled with unproven or unproductive players. Cheslor Cuthbert, Jorge Soler, and Jorge Bonifacio all need to make improvments if the Royals want to have a good lineup in 2018. Also, young players like Hunter Dozier and Paulo Orlando will need to make contributions in 2018. Perez, Gordon, and Merrifield are enough to make the Royals offense decent, but for their offense to be successful then they will need other position players to step up. The Kansas City Royals starting pitching rotation appears to have major issues as well. Danny Duffy is the clear ace of the Royals pitching staff, but the problem is he is the only reliable starter that they have. Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel are both proven veteran pitchers in the MLB, but they both were absolutely terrible last season. The Royals need Kennedy and Hammel to improve quite a bit if they even want a decent starting rotation. It is unclear who the 4th or 5th starters will be in the Royals rotation, but Kansas City needs at least somebody else besides Duffy to step up and have a good 2018 season or else the Royals will have a very poor rotation. The Royals bullpen also could be a weakness in 2018 especially after they lost Joakim Soria this offseason. Kelvin Herrera is the team’s closer and he is a decent option in that role, although he struggled for the team last season. Brandon Maurer is the new 8th-inning guy for Kansas City after being acquired this offseason, but he was absolutely terrible last season. The Royals absolutely need Herrera and Maurer to be much better in 2018 or else the Royals bullpen could be very bad. Either way, the Royals need some more depth in their bullpen even if those two guys return to form in 2018. Kansas City is clearly rebuilding their roster once again and they don’t appear to even have a shot at making the playoffs this season.

5. Detroit Tigers

Detroit still has some big bats in the middle of their lineup with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Alex Castellanos. However, the problem is that the rest of the lineup isn’t very good and they probably won’t help the other 3 guys out very much. Cabrera and Martinez also are getting older and they didn’t have very good seasons in 2017 especially by their standards. If the Tigers have any hope of scoring runs in 2018 then they will need Cabrera and Martinez to step up and return to the all-star caliber players that they once were. The bullpen also appears to be a weakness as they don’t have much depth besides Shane Greene and Alex Wilson. Greene was a very good late-inning option for the Tigers last season and he figures to provide the team with a good closer. Alex Wilson had a down 2017 season, but he is likely to bounce back in 2018 and he is still a quality setup man. However, Detroit needs another relief pitcher to step up if they even want to have a decent bullpen. The strength of Detroit’s team is clearly their pitching staff. Michael Fulmer is the new ace of their rotation and he should continue to get even better in 2018 as he gains more experience at the MLB level. Jordan Zimmermann once was a terrific pitcher, but since he signed with Detroit he has been absolutely terrible. However, Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris are the keys to the success of the Tigers starting rotation. Both Boyd and Norris are talented starting pitchers, although they both had a very disappointing 2017. If they bounce back and at least become decent pitchers then the Tigers could have a good starting rotation. Detroit still has some good players, but they are in a clea rebuilding mode and it doesn’t appear that they have much hope at all for the 2018 season.

2018 NL East Predictions

  1. Washington Nationals

The Nationals are definitely the team to beat in the NL East and there isn’t really a team that will likely compete with them in 2018. Washington has a terrific lineup led by Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmermann, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, and Trea Turner. Also, having a healthy Adam Eaton for the 2018 season makes this lineup even better. It is very difficult to find a weakness in their lineup as they have very dangerous hitters from top to bottom. Washington also has a very good starting rotation especially with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez. It will be key that those 3 pitchers stay healthy because they have struggled with injuries in recent seasons. Washington also has a very good bullpen with Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Brandon Kintzler as solid late-inning options. Overall, it is very difficult to find any weakness on this roster and they are not only the favorites to win the NL East, but they are legitimate world series contenders as well.

2. New York Mets

The Mets should certainly be a playoff contender if all goes well in 2018 and they might even provide some competition to the Nationals in the division. New York has arguably the best starting rotation in the MLB with Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and Jason Vargas. However, the issue for the Mets is that their starting pitchers have really struggled to stay healthy. If the Mets pitchers can stay healthy for the most part in 2018 then they will clearly carry the team. The Mets also have a decent lineup led by very good outfielders Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, and Michael Conforto. New York also added 3rd baseman Todd Frazier this offseason to provide even more depth to their lineup. It is unknown what they will get from the other starters like Asdrubal Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez. However, if the Mets lineup can be above average then the Mets could be a very good team. New York’s bullpen also has the potential to be good as Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, and A.J. Ramos are all good late-inning options. However, the team needs to find a more reliable closer than they had last season and hopefully Familia can improve in that role in 2018. New York still has a few weaknesses that will hold them back, but if their starting rotation can just stay healthy and their lineup can be average then this could be a playoff team.

3. Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia had a very disappointing 2017 season, but they made several key additions that should help them to at least be a respectable team in 2018. Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams are two solid outfielders that provide some power in the Phillies lineup and they should only get better in 2018. Also, the team signed veteran 1st baseman Carlos Santana this offseason and he will provide a big power bat in the middle of their lineup for sure. However, Philadelphia needs more production from other players in their lineup like Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, and Cesar Hernandez. The Phillies have the potential to be a good hitting team, but it is unknown what type of production that their young players can provide. However, Philadelphia clearly needs some starting pitching help. Aaron Nola is the clear ace for the Phillies rotation, but besides him the rotation is very inconsistent. The key for the Phillies pitching staff will be whether Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez can improve from their poor 2017 seasons. If Eickhoff and Velasquez can return to form in 2018 then the Phillies could have a decent starting rotation. However, Philadelphia still needs to find some better 4th or 5th starters as they are relying on unproven players Nick Pivetta and Ben Lively to fill those roles. Philadelphia did improve their bullpen this offseason though as they signed Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek to be reliable setup options for quality closer Hector Neris. Philadelphia is a team that has high potential for the 2018 season, but they could also be a very bad team in 2018. The Phillies need their young players to step up and if they do so then the Phillies could possibly be a playoff contender.

4. Atlanta Braves

Atlanta is a similar team to the Phillies because they are still in a rebuild mode, although the Braves still could be a team that surprises some people this season. Freddie Freeman is an elite player that will carry the Braves offense once again in 2018. However, the rest of the lineup isn’t too much of a threat. Nick Markakis and Ender Inciarte should continue to be productive players, although neither provides much power as they only combined for 19 home runs last season. However, if the Braves want to be successful offensively they will need more production out of young infielders Dansby Swanson, Johan Camargo, and Ozzie Albies. Atlanta’s lineup has tons of potential with the young players that they have, although don’t expect much production out of it in 2018 besides Freeman. The Braves starting rotation doesn’t appear to be very good heading into the 2018 season. Julio Teheran is the only good starting pitcher that the team really has and even he didn’t have a very good 2017 season. Atlanta is hoping that Teheran can bounce back and be the ace that he has been for most of his career. The Braves also have Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb as a couple of inconsistent young starting pitchers. Both of those guys have tremendous potential, although they haven’t proven that they can be consistent starters at the MLB level. Atlanta will likely struggle quite a bit with their starting pitching and that will hold them back from being a competitive team. The Braves bullpen should be good this season as they have talented young closer Arodys Vizcaino leading the way. However, the depth behind him is kind of concerning as Jose Ramirez and A.J. Minter are the next best options and both of them are kind of unproven. Overall, Atlanta is a team that has some talented young players, but unless those players make significant improvements in 2018 then this team probably won’t be very competitive.

5. Miami Marlins

New owner Derek Jeter came in this offseason and basically made the Marlins a Triple-A team for the 2018 season as he traded away basically every quality player that the team had. The Marlins had a great outfield with Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich. However, Jeter decided to significantly cut payroll and he traded all three of those players away. The Marlins did get some good prospects back in those deals by acquiring Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, and Isan Diaz., yet that won’t help the Marlins be competitive in 2018. Brinson could win a starting job for the Marlins in 2018, but the other two guys will likely be starting in the minor leagues. Miami still has some good players in their lineup with J.T. Realmuto, Justin Bour, and Starlin Castro. However, the rest of the lineup is just filled with very unproven players or players like Cameron Maybin and Derek Dietrich that are just temporary starters. The Marlins won’t score many runs this season especially if they trade away Realmuto which they are highly likely to do. Meanwhile, the Marlins rotation have a couple of good starting pitchers with Dan Straily and Jose Urena. However, the rest of the rotation is not very good and they will be relying on unproven starting pitchers to make their rotation effective. The Marlins bullpen could be decent, but they will need closer Brad Ziegler and setup man Junichi Tazawa to improve tremendously in 2018 because they both weren’t good last season. Overall, Miami is arguably the worst team in the MLB heading into the 2018 season and they basically will be lucky if they are even a respectable team.

2018 AL East Predictions

  1. Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox were quiet for most of the offseason until they finally jumped into free agency in a big way by signing power hitter J.D. Martinez. Boston already had a terrific pitching staff led by Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, and Rick Porcello. Also, they have a very good bullpen led by elite closer Craig Kimbrel. Boston also had a very talented lineup already with players like Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Hanley Ramirez, and Dustin Pedroia. Adding J.D. Martinez to the mix gives the team the power bat in the middle of their lineup that they desperately needed. Boston has won the AL East two years in a row and they are a stronger team than they were a year ago. The Yankees will certainly give the Red Sox some tough competition this season, but it is difficult to find a weakness on Boston’s team and they are still the team to beat in the AL East.

 

2. New York Yankees

The New York Yankees made it to the ALCS last season, but they actually appear to be a more dangerous team this season especially after the addition of 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. He hit 59 home runs for the Marlins last season and he will form a dynamic duo with Aaron Judge who hit 52 home runs for the Yankees in 2017. New York also has catcher Gary Sanchez who has proven that he can be an elite power hitter as well. The Yankees also appear to have a really good pitching staff heading into the 2018 season. They have a terrific bullpen with Aroldis Chapman as the closer and Dellin Betances and David Robertson as very reliable late-inning options as well. New York also has a good starting rotation with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and CC Sabathia. The only real concern for the Yankees is at 2nd base and 1st base. Ronald Torreyes and Gleyber Torres will compete for the starting 2nd base job, but they are both inexperienced players and it is unknown what they can provide in 2018. 1st Base is clearly the biggest area of weakness for the Yankees as Greg Bird struggled last season. Bird is the clear starter at 1st base, but he needs to bounce back in 2018 in order to help the Yankees lineup reach its full potential. New York is definitely a playoff-caliber team and they will compete with the Red Sox for the division, but the Yankees still have a few weaknesses that hold them back a little bit.

3. Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are a team that has playoff potential, but they also have the potential to be a completely bad team in 2018. Josh Donaldson will obviously carry the Blue Jays lineup this season assuming that he can stay healthy. Justin Smoak will also probably provide some solid power in the middle of the lineup for the Blue Jays. However, it is unknown what the rest of the lineup will provide. Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin are proven MLB players, but they have struggled with injuries and inconsistent play recently. Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk are the new starting outfielders for the Blue Jays after being acquired by Toronto this offseason. However, it is a mystery as to how much they will provide to the Blue Jays lineup. Toronto’s pitching staff appears to be the strength of their team as they have a good starting rotation led by Marcus Stroman and J.A. Happ. Also, Toronto’s 8th and 9th inning options in the bullpen appear to be very good with Roberto Osuna as the closer and Ryan Tepera as a quality setup man. However, the Blue Jays need better production from the rest of their bullpen and they need to find another good setup man. Toronto isn’t on the same level as the Yankees or the Red Sox, although if all goes right for Toronto then they still could compete for a wild card spot in 2018.

4. Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore is kind of on the same level as Toronto as they are a team that won’t challenge for the division title, but they could still be a playoff contender. We all know that the Orioles will probably score a ton of runs this offseason as they have many dangerous threats in their lineup. Manny Machado is their best hitter overall, but they still have Jonathan Schoop, Adam Jones, Trey Mancini, Chris Davis, and Mark Trumbo as other dangerous hitters in their lineup. Baltimore also has an extremely good bullpen, but they will have to be without star closer Zach Britton for awhile as he probably won’t be back until at least late May. Brad Brach should be just fine as the closer until Britton returns, but Britton’s injury will still hurt the Orioles a little bit. The good news is that Baltimore has a very deep bullpen with Darren O’Day and Mychal Givens as solid late-inning options as well. Baltimore’s main weakness is their starting pitching as they don’t really have a clear ace on their team and they don’t really have any good consistent starters. Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Chris Tillman, and Andrew Cashner are all decent pitchers. However, they are all very inconsistent and they aren’t enough to be a good starting rotation. Baltimore just needs their starting rotation to be decent and if that happens then the Orioles are good enough in other areas to possibly be a playoff team.

5. Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay is clearly hitting the rebuild button after getting rid of Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi, Tommy Hunter, Evan Longoria, Alex Cobb, Steven Souza Jr., Steve Cishek, and Brad Boxberger. That is a long list of quality major league players that they let go of, but the issue is that they didn’t even come close to replacing those players. The only players that they added that are proven MLB players are Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, and C.J. Cron. Tampa now basically has inexperience at many positions on their roster with Matt Duffy, Daniel Robertson, Mallex Smith, Denard Span, and C.J. Cron as new starters in their lineup this season. Tampa is going to have a really difficult time scoring runs this season as their best hitter is probably Kevin Kiermaier and even he isn’t a great hitter. The Rays still have a good starting rotation led by Chris Archer. However, it is unknown what kind of production that they will receive from the rest of their young starting pitchers like Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, and Matt Andriese. Tampa’s bullpen is probably the strength of the team with elite closer Alex Colome and quality setup options Dan Jennings and Sergio Romo. Tampa is a very young team with many unproven players and it appears that it could be a very rough season for the Rays in 2018.

Ranking the Top 10 Catchers in the MLB

It is very difficult to find quality catchers in the MLB these days especially ones that can provide some offensive ability. However, these are the top 10 catchers entering the 2018 MLB season.

10. Tyler Flowers – Team: Atlanta Braves

Tyler Flowers is one of the most underrated catchers in the MLB probably because he hasn’t been known to be a very consistent batter during his time in the MLB. However, his bat finally caught up to his defensive skills as he hit a respectable .281 with 12 home runs for the Braves. Flowers is clearly an above average starting catcher right now and hopefully his last couple of years of offensive success wasn’t just a fluke.

9. Welington Castillo – Team: Chicago White Sox

Welington Castillo is one of the premier catchers in the MLB mostly because of his offensive abilities. In fact, Castillo had 20 home runs last season for the Orioles and he showed that he has rare power for a catcher. He also hit a very respectable .281 for Baltimore and he drove in 53 RBI’s as well. The problem for Castillo is that he isn’t a very good defensive catcher, although he was very good at throwing runners out last season. Either way, the White Sox made a wise decision to sign him to a 2-year/$15 million contract this offseason as that could prove to be a good bargain deal since Castillo is an above average catcher.

8. Mike Zunino – Team: Seattle Mariners

Mike Zunino seems to have finally reached his full potential since he proved that he has tremendous power especially for a catcher as he hit 25 home runs last season. Zunino still struggles to make contact as he strikes out a lot and he only hit .251 last season. However, when he does make contact with the bat then he has the potential to do some serious damage. His defense is just about average, but as long as he continues to show off his power then he should be considered an above average catcher in the MLB.

7. Yasmani Grandal – Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

Yasmani Grandal is a very good hitter for a catcher as he has tremendous power as proven by his 22 home runs for the Dodgers last season. However, he does struggle to make contact with the bat as he only hit .247 in 2017 and that was actually good by his standards. Grandal is also a good defensive catcher for the most part, but he needs to stop allowing so many passed balls. Either way, he is an above average catcher in the MLB and his power is tremendous especially for a catcher.

6. Willson Contreras – Team: Chicago Cubs

Willson Contreras has become a tremendous offensive force for the Cubs and he is still only 25 years old. Contreras is already one of the best catchers in the MLB, but he has the potential to become an even better player in 2018. Contreras is an above average defender and he has been since he entered the MLB. However, his offense finally caught up to his defensive skills as he showed his power with 21 home runs and he hit a respectable .276. Contreras still has room to grow offensively and defensively in order to become a top 5 catcher, but he isn’t too far away.

5. J.T. Realmuto – Team: Miami Marlins

J.T. Realmuto has really become a terrific catcher in the MLB and he is still relatively young as he will be 27 before the 2018 season begins. Realmuto is arguably the most athletic catcher in the entire MLB and that is what makes him so unique. However, he is a good defensive catcher and his offense has really come along tremendously as well. Realmuto finally developed some power as he hit a career-high 17 home runs for the Marlins last season to go along with a good .278 batting average. Realmuto might not be with the Marlins for long as he wants to be traded as the Marlins start what could be a very lengthy rebuild. We’ll see how long Realmuto stays in Miami, but he has quickly become one of the best all-around catchers in the MLB.

4. Salvador Perez – Team: Kansas City Royals

Salvador Perez could be the face of the franchise for the Royals in 2018 especially if Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer sign elsewhere in free agency. Perez is arguably the best offensive catcher in the MLB as he hit a whopping 27 home runs to go with a respectable .268 batting average last season. He is also known as being a good defensive catcher, although he is a very poor pitch framer. Perez is a good all-around player and he is clearly now the best player that the Royals have on their team.

3. Yadier Molina – Team: St. Louis Cardinals

Yadier Molina has been a top 3 catcher in the MLB for many years mostly because he is an elite defensive player. However, he doesn’t receive enough credit for what he provides offensively as he hit 18 home runs and had a .273 average for the Cardinals last season. Molina turns 36 years old in July, yet he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down as he continues to be an elite catcher and the face of the Cardinals franchise.

2. Gary Sanchez – Team: New York Yankees

Gary Sanchez is not a very good defensive catcher and that is what holds him back from being the best catcher in baseball. However, his offense is unlike anything that I have ever seen from a catcher as he has ridiculous power and he has proven to be one of the elite hitters in the MLB. Sanchez hit a whopping 33 home runs last season for the Yankees to go along with a very good .278 batting average. He is by far the best hitting catcher in the MLB, although he will need to become a better defender in order to be considered the best catcher in the MLB.

1. Buster Posey – Team: San Francisco Giants

Buster Posey doesn’t have the power numbers that most of the catchers on this list have as he only had 12 home runs for San Francisco last season. However, Posey is still a terrific offensive catcher as he had a remarkable .320 batting average to go with 67 RBI’s. He also provides much above average defense as he doesn’t allow much to get past him since he only allowed 1 passed ball last season. Posey does basically everything very well and that is why he is still the best catcher in the MLB.

Rockies sign Wade Davis to a 3-year deal

The Colorado Rockies made it a priority to make their bullpen better heading into 2018 and it appears that they have done so by signing closer Wade Davis to a 3-year/$52 million contract. Davis has become arguably the best relief pitcher in the MLB since he converted to a full-time bullpen role back in 2014. The Rockies surely realize what he has accomplished in the past few years as this signing breaks the record for the average annual salary for a relief pitcher. Colorado had an improved bullpen last season as closer Greg Holland had a terrific first half of the season. However, Holland fell apart later in the season and he is now a free agent that the Rockies clearly won’t re-sign now that they have acquired Wade Davis this offseason. Davis provides even more stability to the Rockies bullpen that should be improved next season with the addition of Brayan Shaw this offseason as well. The Rockies already have an elite offense and if their bullpen can just be average then Colorado could be a very good team next season. Colorado still needs some pitching help, although this signing provides tremendous stability to the back of their bullpen.

Grade: A+

wade davis

Reds sign Hughes to a 2-year deal

The Cincinnati Reds are looking to improve their bullpen that was one of the worst in the MLB last season and they have upgraded it somewhat by signing veteran right-handed pitcher Jared Hughes to a 2-year/$4.5 million deal. Hughes is a very underrated relief pitcher, but he has proven to be a reliable option out of the bullpen as he has an impressive 2.85 career ERA. We’ll see if the Reds put him in a setup role for the 2018 season as he is probably a better option in that role than what the Reds currently have. The Reds could use him in a middle relief role which they will most likely do since they didn’t give a very big contract. However, Hughes could also slide into the 7th inning setup role for Cincinnati considering the success that he’s had throughout his career. Either way, Hughes should provide the Reds with the much needed stability to improve the Reds bullpen in 2018 after they were only the 27th ranked bullpen in the MLB last season. Hughes isn’t a dynamic pitcher and he won’t strikeout many batters, but it is difficult to argue against his career production and this could be a very good signing for Cincinnati.

Grade: B+

jared hughes