This has been an off-season for the ages in the MLB. Numerous teams got way better, while some took major steps backwards in a strange free agent market that seemed to stall completely at time. Still, many big name stars found new homes this offseason, like Eric Hosmer and Yu Darvish. Now that the offseason is almost here, it’s time we look ahead to the next MLB season.
So many things can happen in a given baseball season, as stars can be made, good teams can regress, or average teams can suddenly realize their potential and win the World Series. While we can’t tell the future with extreme accuracy, it’s always exciting to look ahead and predict what might take place. Without any further ado, here are 15 bold predictions for the upcoming MLB season — and we stress “bold” because some of them are a little out of the box.
15. No 20-Win Pitchers
In the past, there used to be a ton of 20-win seasons for pitchers, as the win was as incredibly valuable stat. However, nowadays things like strikeouts, ERA, WHIP and even quality starts are often considered more important stats than the traditional win. That, along with the increased importance of bullpens, has led to starting pitchers getting fewer wins. Despite this, there is usually at least one pitcher who hits 20. However, with no one doing it last year (for perspective, two did it in 2016 and just one in 2015. No one won 20 games in 2014 either), we might be beginning to see a trend, one that we think will continue into next year. The last time there were two straight seasons without a 20-win pitcher was 1994 and 1995, which were years that were shortened due to the player strike.
14. The Miami Marlins Will be One of the Worst Teams Ever
Out of all the teams in MLB, no one had a worse offseason than the Miami Marlins. Sure, they made an exciting addition of Derek Jeter to their ownership group, but Jeets can’t play shortstop anymore. As far as actual players go, they did a lot of losing. Not only did they lose one of the best hitters in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton, but they also lost the likes of Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon, who were all important parts of the team. We understand the new owners paid big bucks for the team and are now trying to cut payroll costs, but it’s gotten a bit ridiculous in Miami. The team will struggle to score runs and we wouldn’t be shocked to see them lose well over 100 games this season.
13. J.D Martinez Won’t Live Up to His Contract
Last year, J.D Martinez was one of the single best hitters in the Major Leagues. He put up a ton of home runs (45) and RBIs (104) and hit for a good average (.303) as well. However, hitting is about all he does well, as he is a below average defender and isn’t going to win any foot races. While we have seen bigger contracts in the past, Martinez’s shiny new one with the Red Sox will pay him well over $20 million a season (for five seasons, assuming no opt outs). We simply don’t think he’ll be able to put up the numbers he did last season and the Sox will soon realize they might have overspent.
12. Khris Davis Will Hit More Home Runs Than Anyone Else in the AL
Khris Davis has been one of the quietest power hitters in the big leagues. He has hit over 40 home runs in each of the last two seasons while hitting for a respectable average of around .250. With guys like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and others around, Davis doesn’t get a whole lot of attention — partly because he plays for a West Coast team that isn’t very good. However, this year we think Davis will take a major step forward and could hit 50+ home runs for Oakland. He is one of the most under appreciated hitters over the last few seasons, but look for that to change during the 2018 baseball season.
11. The Reds Will Make the Playoffs
In the National League Central, the Cincinnati Reds have been the doormat of the division for the last few seasons. They are hardly active at all with free agent signings and haven’t had a winning record, let alone won the division, in a while — they haven’t won 70 games since 2014, and even then they only managed 76 wins. However, we feel that they could take a big step forward this year and potentially even make the playoffs. While it will be tough for them to beat the Cubs or the Cardinals for the division lead, the Reds have a young and hungry team with several players who could take major steps forward this season, ultimately helping the team make the playoffs in one of the Wild Card spots. The have veteran hitter Joey Votto and many young and talented players scattered throughout the roster (including blazing fast speedster Billy Hamilton), and they could be primed for a playoff push.
10. Nolan Arenado Will Have a Shot at the NL Triple Crown
Despite only being 26-years-old, Nolan Arenado has solidified himself as one of the best hitters in baseball. He is capable of launching long balls, but also hitting for a very high average as well. He is currently riding three straight All-Star seasons, as well as being in the top ten in NL MVP voting as well. Last season, his home run numbers went down a little bit but his RBI numbers have remained steady over the last few seasons – 130, 133, and 130 in his last three campaigns. He might not even be in his prime yet, so don’t be shocked to see Arenado take a step from great player to complete superstar. This upcoming season, Arenado could flirt with the NL Triple Crown as he has the potential to lead the NL in homers, RBIs and even batting average.
9. Eric Hosmer will Help the Padres Make the Playoffs
In one of the best signings of the offseason, the San Diego Padres made an offer to Eric Hosmer that he simply couldn’t refuse — an eight-year, $144 million deal. The Padres have been a bad team with some good pieces lately, but have been missing that “superstar” factor, which they now have in Hosmer. Hosmer could put up career numbers with the Padres, while also giving them enough juice to make the playoffs. Their pitching still needs some work and they are a fairly young team, but all that young talent needs to reach their potential at some point. What better time than during the 2018 MLB season?
8. Jonathan Schoop Will Take a Major Step Forward
On a team where Manny Machado gets most of the praise and attention, it was actually Jonathan Schoop who was the Orioles most valuable player last season. We wouldn’t be shocked to see this also take place in 2018. The 25-year-old second basemen hit over 30 homers and drove in over 100 RBIs last season, while also hitting a very solid .293. He has made large improvements each season in the majors and the sky is the limit for him going forward. With him still being incredibly young, don’t be shocked to see him perform even better next season, and he could even potentially see his name thrown in the AL MVP mix.
7. The White Sox Will Shock Some People
The Chicago White Sox haven’t had a lot to smile about these last few seasons, but we think that might change this year. They haven’t been to the playoffs in a decade and haven’t had a winning season in five years. However, we think that the future is bright. They have so many young players all across the diamond, from talented second basemen Yoan Moncada to stud pitching prospect Michael Kopech. These players are on the cusp of being stars and the Sox are very close to contention. While they might not make the playoffs in 2018, we could definitely see them getting around 85 wins or so, which would be a large improvement over their last few seasons.
6. Neither the Dodgers or Cubs Make the World Series for the NL
Heading into 2018, we would bet that most people feel it will either be the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Chicago Cubs who represent the National League in the World Series. Both of these teams have a ton of talent everywhere across the diamond and neither really suffered too many offseason losses — plus they’ve both been there in the last couple of years. However, we predict neither of them will make the World Series. As for who gets in instead of them, there are a few teams that we think might shock some people. The Washington Nationals have a great shot to finally get in, and don’t be shocked if a dark horse like the San Francisco Giants (even year magic!) or Arizona Diamondbacks have a great season either.
5. Shohei Ohtani Will Live Up to The Hype
It has been a good while since we have seen a player as hyped up as Shohei Ohtani. The reason he so is so talked about is that he could potentially become the first legitimate two-way player in a very long time. He can throw absolute heat and a variety of breaking balls on the mound, while also being able to hit accurately and powerfully at the plate — they don’t call him the Japanese Babe Ruth for nothing! While he has a lot of hype, we feel he will live up to it and then some. He is a very dangerous player and could give opposing teams fits as both a hitter and a pitcher. He and Mike Trout could help the Angels have an amazing season.
4. Tim Tebow Will Play in an MLB Game
That’s right, we think Tim Tebow might finally get his shot to play in the MLB this season. During the 2017 season, Tebow made some amazing strides in the minor leagues and improved a ton as the season went on. While he will never be a top MLB prospect like some others out there, Tebow is talented enough for a shot. Also, his team (the New York Mets) aren’t going to be a super talented team and might have a tough time selling out games. However, you can bet that if they call up Tebow, it will draw a ton of fans to the park. While he definitely won’t play all season and might not do a whole lot with a handful of at bats, we bet he will suit up for at least a game — maybe during September call-ups.
3. Stanton and Judge Will Combine for Less than 100 Home Runs
Last year, during his first full MLB season, Yankees giant Aaron Judge went off for a massive 52 home runs and was a nightmare for defenses everywhere (although he also struck out a ton). The only person to hit more dingers than Judge last year was the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton. However, with the gigantic off-season move of the Yankees trading for Stanton, the Bronx Bombers now have two of the hardest hitters in the MLB. However, despite how many homers they are capable of hitting, we simply don’t believe that they will be able to match their numbers from last season. Call it regression. Call it questions about their durability. Call it plain bad luck. Call it whatever you want, but we would be shocked if either of them put up even 50 this upcoming season — especially with a ton of games against the Red Sox and Blue Jays, who each have pretty solid pitching staffs.
2. Bryce Harper Will Have a Career Year
Bryce Harper will be a free agent following this season and is likely to sign the biggest payday in the history of the MLB — numbers above $400 million (!) have been tossed around. That’s a pretty good motivator to have the best season possible, to help entice teams to bid against each other next winter. Add in the fact that the Nationals have under-performed throughout his tenure in Washington, there will be a fire inside Harper that we have never seen before. Don’t be surprised to see him have a monstrous season across the board, topping previous career highs of 42 home runs and 99 RBIs. This great season will set him up for a contract with more dollars on it than any in history.
1. The Houston Astros Will Repeat as Champions
This upcoming season will feature several teams that have improved in a big way over the offseason. However, despite all the big movers and shakers, we think the World Series champion will be the same. Not only did the Houston Astros keep most of their players from last year, but they also acquired star pitcher Gerrit Cole and will actually have a full season of Justin Verlander on the mound. Simply put, the champions probably have the best pitching staff in the majors and a young, but now even more experienced, batting order featuring dangerous hitters like Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer. They are battle tested and have proven they can win when it matters, and that’s exactly what we think they will do again this year.