March 27, 2019

2019 Predictions: Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NBC Sports, CBS Sports

Sports Illustrated
AL East: Yankees 7 votes, Red Sox 2
AL Central: Cleveland 8, Twins 1
AL West: Astros 9
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox 7, Rays 3, A's 3, Yankees 2, Twins 1, Angels (1

NL East: Nationals 7, Phillies 2
NL Central: Cubs 4, Brewers 3, Cardinals 2
NL West: Dodgers 9
NL Wild Cards: Phillies 6, Mets 4, Cardinals 3, Cubs 2, Brewers 1

AL Champions: Astros 5, Yankees 2, Red Sox 1, Cleveland 1
NL Champions: Nationals 4, Dodgers 2, Brewers 1, Phillies 1, Cubs 1
World Series Champions: Astros 4, Yankees 2, Dodgers 2, Phillies 1

AL MVP: Trout 5, Judge 2, Bregman 1, Ramirez 1
NL MVP: Arenado 3, Acuna 3, Soto 1, Harper 1, Rendon 1
AL Cy Young: Sale 3, Bauer 1, Snell 1, Clevinger 1, Cole 1, Berrios 1
NL Cy Young: Scherzer 3, deGrom 2, Nola 2, Buehler 1, freeland 1
AL ROY: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 4, Eloy Jimenez 3, Josh James 1 (one vote missing?)
NL ROY: Victor Robles 4, Pete Alonso 2, Fernando Tatís Jr. 1, Nick Senzel 1

Emma Baccellieri previews both the Yankees and Red Sox


2018 finish: 100–62, lost in ALDS to Red Sox
2019 prediction: 99–63, First in AL East

Movin' On Up! ... Aaron Hicks ... finally put all the pieces together at the plate in an injury-marred half-season in 2017, and he matched this performance in an almost-but-not-quite-full-season in 2018. In 137 games last year, Hicks amassed 4.7 Baseball-Reference WAR, seventh-highest of any outfielder. ... Hicks just might be one of baseball's best leadoff hitters, and an entire year of solid play can cement that.

Sell! Brett Gardner's performance dipped last year after struggling to elevate the ball. The ensuing high groundball rate fueled his career-low 86 OPS+ over a full season. The 35-year-old should probably rebound some, but at this point, don't expect too much.

Appreciate This Man! Adam Ottavino stepped into the spotlight with a dazzling 2018, striking out more than a third of batters and logging a 2.43 ERA. ... Ottavino ditched his fourseam fastball for a sinker, which was a heavy contributing factor in his sudden success. ... Ottavino's January signing can be a true difference-maker. And, yes, he could definitely strike out Babe Ruth.

A Modest Proposal From Joe Sheehan: The Yankees spent the offseason bolstering their bench and their bullpen, so it was unfortunate that their first major injury of the season came to starting pitcher Luis Severino. Severino was shut down early in March with rotator cuff inflammation, and will be out until at least May. ... Severino is coming off the best two-year stretch of any homegrown Yankees starter since Chien-Ming Wang in 2006-07 ... He is the one irreplaceable Yankee, and until he's healthy, this team is second to the Red Sox in the AL East. ​

MLB.TV Rating: 9.2. You've got masterful slugging from Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, vibrant youth in Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, and first-class pitching from Luis Severino and James Paxton. Just like last year's Yankees, this club can be a bit hard to stomach for seasoned haters of the franchise: It's a Yankees team that's genuinely, seriously, undeniably likeable. They're not just good. They're fun, and that makes all the difference. Maybe you don't have to like them, but it sure is hard to hate them.

Keep an Eye Out for... ... Luis Cessa's strong spring has made him the frontrunner for a spot here after getting a brief showing in the big leagues in each of the last three seasons, mostly in the bullpen. But there are a few other options. There's Jonathan Loaisiga, considered one of the organization's top prospects, who showcased a strong breaking ball last season. Or maybe it's Domingo German, who's shown promise but is probably better suited for a role in the 'pen, given his struggle to develop a third pitch. ...

Scout's Takes - A rival scout analyzes the 2019 New York Yankees

What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?

Starting pitching consistency would be the one big concern. CC Sabathia is 38, J.A. Happ is 36. James Paxton is a great acquisition if he stays healthy. Can Luis Severino repeat what he did last year?

Who is the most overrated player on the team?

Gary Sanchez. When I heard they wouldn't trade him for J.T. Realmuto, I was shocked, because Sanchez just seems to have lapses of focus defensively and gets into funks offensively. He's got an incredible tool package, but there's a lack of consistency. Second place is Giancarlo Stanton. He's an Adonis, but there are a lot of holes and a lot of streaks where there are some really, really bad at-bats. But when it's all said and done, on a club like that, his numbers fit really nicely.

Who is the most underrated player on the team?

Dellin Betances. When you dig into the numbers, he's been unhittable for four years now. He'll go two weeks without having five balls put in play hard. The other guy, on the offensive side, is Didi Gregorius. He brings so much positive energy. That's something that will be missed this year.

What young player(s) is/are on the cusp of stardom?

They've got three for me: Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres and Severino. Andujar has some glitches defensively which he's been working hard on. Severino's stuff is unhittable at times, but he gets into some funks. Torres I'd put a little bit ahead because he's the whole package. He was pretty consistent all year, plus his defense is so attractive. His power keeps getting better and his maturity at the plate will continue to get better.

What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?

This is a guy I really like, but Greg Bird is kind of a shadow of what you thought he might be. I'm not seeing it. He's probably close to a thousand at-bats behind where he should be because of all of his injuries. He just doesn't seem to have the same rhythm or swing. It's a different look when you watch him now. Maybe the other would be Clint Frazier. I'm not a big fan of his. I think he's going to be an everyday guy, but not an impact guy.

Who gets the most out of his talent?

I have a man crush on Aaron Judge. He's my new hero. It’s about how he handles himself. He's talented, and he has a quiet leadership style where he does the right thing all the time. I think everybody on that team recognizes that. He's so big and strong. You want to rock the boat with that? I'm a huge fan of his.

Who gets the least out of his talent?

Sanchez. A lot of it is laziness and focus. He went and had a huge first year, and then all of a sudden, you saw the lazy, complacent guy.

Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?

Betances and Severino. When they're on, they can be unhittable. You can't get the barrel to the ball. It's high-octane velocity with late movement, hard breaking balls with late depth. It's tough to get the barrel to the ball when those two guys are on.

Who has the best baseball instincts/IQ?

Brett Gardner. He's a little grinder who's gotten so much out of his ability and continues to contribute. He's not afraid to hit with two strikes, he can steal a base, he can play centerfield still. I think that's why they re-signed him so quickly. He's a great leader; he's accountable for what he does everyday. I saw him coming through the minor leagues and I got him right, because he wasn't the most gifted guy, but I had him as at least an everyday guy whose makeup may make him an impact guy.

Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?

It's must-see with Stanton, Judge and Sanchez. You go out there in Yankee Stadium, about 500 feet away [from home plate], and you might get hit.

Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for.

Judge and Severino.

Name the guy (or guys) on this team you would never want in your clubhouse.

Sanchez and Aroldis Chapman. He's very talented, but every year he gets into funks where he can't throw strikes. I guess he helped the Cubs win the World Series, but I don't know how much he really did. And he's had the off-field issues. He's good, but I wouldn't want him.

Whose effort could use a jolt?


Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?

Aaron Judge. You're going to have to get him out, he's not going to get himself out. He does have some holes: his swing can get long at times and he can get into funks, but he's pretty patient. I was amazed at how good each at-bat was in the playoffs against Boston.

On the mound, probably Severino. Don't ask me why, because he shit the bed pretty bad the one year in the playoffs [the 2017 AL wild-card game], but he bounced back from that, and from everything I've heard about him, he has a tremendous focus to be great. I think with maturity, he's got a chance to be like Max Scherzer, that warrior guy, because he doesn't want to come out of games. A lot of starters now will happily give the ball to their manager. You can tell he's pissed when he's gonna come out.

Who don't you want in that situation?

On the mound it's Betances because of some of his funks. I think he's great in that seventh-inning bridge role where he's unhittable, but the later you get in the game, he might get excited. I hate to nail him on that, but I just don't think he's ever going to be a closer. With the way the game is now, though, he still has tremendous value. Their bullpen with him, a healthy Zack Britton, Chapman, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle is going to be lights out this year.

On the hitter side, it'd be Sanchez. He gets himself out sometimes. You saw a lot of that last year. It was a tossup between him and Stanton. Stanton at times can give you some of the ugliest at-bats. He can just wave at three pitches like he doesn't even give a shit.

Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?

Jonathan Loaisiga is a guy who can come up if somebody gets hurt and be pretty dominant. He's fun to watch. He's got a plus curveball, a plus fastball, and he throws strikes.

Is the current manager one you would hire to run your club?

I'm an Aaron Boone fan, and I would hire him. I like him. I like the relationship he has with his players. He protects his guys. He's a baseball lifer. I think he's only going to get better the more he manages. He's still making mistakes, but I think he's going to learn from them and become more confident.

What is the ceiling for this team this year? What about the next three years?

Deep playoffs, possible World Series, times three. They've done a great job as an organization, they have depth to trade from, they have money to sign. They're in a great place.

Emptying the notebook:

... Troy Tulowitzki has lost a step, but I think a lot of that is trying to play under more control. He's been a very pleasant surprise. His swing looks better, and I really think he's got a 'fuck you Toronto, I'll show you I can still play' vibe about him ... They signed a great makeup kid in DJ LeMahieu, who's going to help them win a bunch of games. ... Masahiro Tanaka is a great pitcher ... He's going to win 13–14 games and have a couple of stinkers ... 
[Note: Man, that scout does not think much of Gary Sanchez!!]

Red Sox

2018 finish: 108-54, won World Series in five games over Dodgers
2019 prediction: 96-66, Second in AL East

Movin' On Up! Rafael Devers's first full season in the majors had plenty of rough patches. The young third baseman logged a pedestrian 94 OPS+ after struggling to draw walks and hit lefties. But Devers is just freshly 22 and already shown big-league patience, power (21 HRs in 2018) and an improved ability to hit southpaws. He'll likely master all of these traits by the time he's old enough to rent a car.

Sell!: Dustin Pedroia has finally made a return to gameplay in spring training—a good sign, after a knee injury kept him out for a chunk of 2017 and essentially all of 2018. Even if he manages to stay healthy for 2019, though, Pedroia is still a 35-year-old whose comeback attempt looks like a uphill battle.

Appreciate This Man! It's hard to stand out on a club so studded with stars; Jackie Bradley, Jr. might not do so even if he was able to consistently hit like he did during his breakout 2016 season. But the centerfielder is worth your attention for his defense alone. The human highlight reel regularly manages not only to make some seemingly impossible acrobatic catches, but to make them look smooth.

A Modest Proposal From Joe Sheehan: Last year, Xander Bogaerts broke out with a .288/.360/.522 season. This year, look 40 feet to Bogaerts's right for the next young Red Sox star. Devers was disappointing in 2017, posting a .298 OBP and playing poor defense at third base. Eduardo Nunez, no glove man himself, was chipping away at Devers's playing time in the second half. Still, Devers is just 22, younger than almost every player who got Rookie of the Year votes in the AL last season. When he hit the ball in the air, he averaged an exit velocity of 95.4 mph on his line drives and fly balls, in the top 50 among all hitters. His strikeout rate of 25% is just barely above average in today's game, and his walk rate of 6.6% is good for a player in his age-21 season. Devers will take a big step forward in 2019.

MLB.TV Rating: 9.1. They're the reigning World Series champions featuring Chris Sale's slider, J.D. Martinez's dingers and Mookie Betts' everything? Yeah. (Now included: Heightened drama in the later innings, courtesy of a bullpen that lost Craig Kimbrel and does not look fit for a team of this caliber.)

Keep an Eye Out for… Michael Chavis, one of the organization's top prospects, should be up this year at first or third, with the potential for plenty of power and plenty of strikeouts. ...

Scout's Takes - A rival scout analyzes the 2019 Boston Red Sox

What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?

Who's gonna pitch the ninth? I think Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes are co-favorites here. Stuff-wise, it probably should be Barnes, but both are similar guys: They throw hard and have good offspeed but are unproven. Do they go out and spend a lot of money and re-sign Craig Kimbrel? If they did, they'd probably be the favorites in the league again, but it's a lot of money.

Who is the most overrated player on the team?

I don't think they have one.

Who is the most underrated player on the team?

Brock Holt's a good player. Other people look at him and see a utility guy. He's better than that. He'd be a starting second baseman for most clubs. He can hit good pitchers. He uses the whole field. He understands what pitchers are trying to do with him.

What young player(s) is/are on the cusp of stardom?

Rafael Devers is a good hitter. He's got power. He has to improve his footwork at third base. His hands are okay and he can get to most things.

What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?

Christian Vázquez really hasn't made any offensive strides at all. He's always been a good defender, but he never got better offensively. He doesn't make enough contact and is easy to beat: just locate fastballs and throw him breaking stuff.

Who gets the most out of his talent?

The outfield as a group. They work hard at their craft. They're outstanding defenders, especially in Fenway, where it's very tough to play. J.D. Martinez plays it like Mike Greenwell used to—he's out there and does what he can, but he's not really a great outfielder—but the other three have basically got the whole thing covered.

Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?

Nathan Eovaldi's gas sets everything else up. Chris Sale's slider is incredible. It grinds like Steve Carlton's used to grind, like Randy Johnson's. It just keeps coming. It grinds right into the back foot of righthanders.

Who has the best baseball instincts/IQ?

Dustin Pedroia, but he's just starting back to playing. They'll ramp him up a little bit. He's an absolute tiger.

Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?

Jackie Bradley Jr.'s, because nobody expects it. It's not because he hits it longer than anybody, it's because he's not supposed to be a power guy and he just mashes.

Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for.

Mookie Betts and Sale. Mookie is obvious: He works hard, he's a great talent, an all-around player, a clubhouse guy. I have concerns that they're not going to keep him. They'll offer him a ton and a half and he might take the money. Sale has electric stuff and electric commitment to his craft. He wears down a little bit, though.

Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?

Mookie steps up.

Who don't you want in that situation?

Right now, Rafael Devers, because he expands the zone, but he's going to get better. Going into last year it would definitely have been David Price, but he stepped up a little bit this year.

Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?

Darwinzon Hernandez. He's got some kind of arm, it's electric, but he's a puppy. Right now the only thing he can command is his fastball.He needs a lot of work, but it's in there, boy.

Is the current manager one that you would hire to run your club?

I give Alex Cora all the credit. He'd be at the top of the list. He's been there. He's played in the big leagues. He was not a great player himself, but he understands how to handle all kinds of guys. He's got a great feel for the ebb and flow of the clubhouse. In tough situations, Alex is never frantic.

What is the ceiling for the team this year? What about the next three years?

Win the whole thing. It's gonna depend on what they do in the ninth inning. If this were a seven-inning game, they'd win it again, but they have to figure out the eighth and ninth innings. Kimbrel is a huge loss, but Joe Kelly put up a lot of important innings for this club, too.

Emptying the notebook:

The core of the team is the outfield, obviously. Mookie Betts is probably the best player in the league. Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn't hit a lot of home runs, but has big power. He's a little like Ichiro — Ichiro could have hit 35 home runs a year if he wanted to, but then couldn't hit .350. ... I'm a big fan of Eduardo Nuñez. He knows how to win games. His numbers are never great, but he's an ideal utility guy. He knows his role, he can play a number of positions. He's what a winning team has to have on their bench.
AL East: Yankees 16 votes, Red Sox 14, Rays 1

AL Central: Cleveland 28, Twins 3
AL West: Astros 28, A's 2, Angels 1
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox 17, Yankees 12, Rays 9, Angels 7, A's 7, Twins 5, Astros 3, Cleveland 2

NL East: Nationals 13, Phillies 11, Atlanta 5, Mets 2
NL Central: Cubs 12, Brewers 10, Cardinals 9
NL West: Dodgers 24, Rockies 6, Padres 1
NL Wild Cards: Phillies 9, Nationals 9, Cardinals 8, Dodgers 7, Atlanta 7, Cubs 6, Brewers 6, Rockies 5, Mets 3, Padres 1, Reds 1

AL Champion: Astros 15, Yankees 7, Red Sox 5, A's 3, Cleveland 1
NL Champion: Dodgers 10, Nationals 6, Cardinals 4, Phillies 3, Brewers 3, Cubs 2, Atlanta 2, Rockies 1
World Series Champion: Astros 14, Dodgers 4, Yankees 4, Red Sox 3, Nationals 3, A's 2, Cardinals 1

MVPs, Cy Youngs and Rookies

AL MVP: Trout 12, Judge 6, Lindor 6, Bregman 2, Chapman 2, Betts 1, Correa 1, Stanton 1
NL MVP: Arenado 10, Goldschmidt 7, Acuna 4, Machado 3, Bryant 2, Harper 2, Bellinger 1, Rendon 1, Soto 1

AL Cy Young: Cole 10, Bauer 4, Sale 4, Snell 4, Verlander 4, Kluber 3, Berrios 1, Carrasco 1
NL Cy Young: Scherzer 18, deGrom 5, Nola 5, Darvish 1, Flaherty 1, Syndergaard 1

AL Rookie of the Year: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 19, Eloy Jimenez 8, Yusei Kikuchi 2, Jesus Luzardo 1, Forrest Whitley 1
NL Rookie of the Year: Victor Robles 15, Pete Alonso 5, Nick Senzel 5, Fernando Tatis Jr. 3, Francisco Mejia 1, Chris Paddack 1, Brendan Rodgers 1

David Schoenfield:

Most exciting outfield: Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox had the highest cumulative WAR from outfielders in 2018, at 18.6, edging the Brewers' 17.9 mark (the Yankees were a distant third at 13.7). There is the possibility that the Red Sox group fares even better, as there was a lot of optimism in Red Sox camp that Bradley is poised for his best season yet. In 2018, the batted-ball metrics suggest that Bradley hit into a lot of bad luck in the first half, when he hit .210 with a .265 BABIP. In the second half, with more normalized batted-ball results, he hit .269/.340/.487. He still struggled against lefties (.185 on the season), but look for him to repeat his 2016 numbers and boost his WAR by two or three.
NBC Sports
AL East: Yankees 7
AL Central: Cleveland 6, Twins 1
AL West: Astros 7
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox 7, Rays 3, Athletics 1, Twins 1, Angels 1, Cleveland 1

NL East: Nationals 3, Phillies 3, Atlanta 1
NL Central: Cubs 4, Cardinals 2, Brewers 1
NL West: Dodgers 5, Rockies 2
NL Wild Cards: Cardinals 3, Nationals 3, Dodgers 2, Phillies 2, Atlanta 2, Cubs 1, Brewers 1

AL Champions: Astros 4, Yankees 3
NL Champions: Nationals 4, Dodgers 1, Rockies 1, Cardinals 1
World Series Champions: Astros 3, Yankees 2, Dodgers 1, Nationals 1

AL MVP: Trout 5, Bregman 1, Correra 1
NL MVP: Arenado 3, Goldschmidt 2, Freeman 1, Harper 1

AL Cy Young: Sale 3, Cole 2, Verlander 1, Carrasco 1
NL Cy Young: Scherzer 2, Buehler 2, Nola 2, Taillon 1

Todd Dybas: "The Yankees are built for the modern game with bullpen pitching and multiple guys who could hit 40 homers."

Alex Pavlovic: "The World Series hangover is real, so expect the Yankees to pull away from the Red Sox."

Lou Merloni: "The Yankees won 100 games last year and have improved their biggest weakness ... The Red Sox are loaded but the bullpen will cost them the division ..."

Vinnie Duber: "The Yankees' lineup is going to hit about a million home runs ... The Red Sox are still a playoff lock in a top-heavy AL ..."

Tony Andracki: "[T]he Yankees somehow improved upon a 100-win team even without breaking the bank ... There's no way the Red Sox will miss the playoffs ..."

Corey Seidman: "I just think the Yankees have more than the Red Sox for the division ..."
[Note: A million home runs. Really? ... And the WS hangover is real. ... Oh, okay, Mr. Science.]
CBS Sports
AL East: Yankees 3, Red Sox 2
AL Central: Cleveland 4, Twins 1
AL West: Astros 5
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox 3, Athletics 2, Yankees 2, Rays 1, Twins 1, Angels 1

NL East: Nationals 4, Phillies 1
NL Central: Cardinals 3, Cubs 2
NL West: Dodgers 5
NL Wild Cards: Cubs 3, Phillies 3, Cardinals 2, Mets 1, Atlanta 1

AL Champions: Astros 3, Yankees 2
NL Champions: Nationals 3, Cubs 1, Dopdgers 1
World Series Champions: Astros 3, Yankees 2

AL MVP: Trout 2, Bregman 2, Judge 1
NL MVP: Goldschmidt 3, Acuna 1, Baez 1

AL Cy Young: Verlander 2, Sale 1, Cole 1, Kluber 1
NL Cy Young: Scherzer 4, Buehler 1

AL Rookie: Yusei Kikuchi 3, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 2
NL Rookie: Victor Robles 3, Nick Senzel 1, Pete Alonso 1

AL Manager: Rocco Baldelli 3, Charlie Montoyo 1, Aaron Boone 1
NL Manager: Dave Martinez 4, Mike Shildt 1

AL Comeback Player: Byron Buxton 3, Miguel Cabrera 2
NL Comeback Player: Corey Seager 4, Yu Darvish 1

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