Now that the bulk of the March Madness is out of the way, we can talk about the other sport that starts in only nine days, March 29, Major League Baseball.
From the looks of things heading into the season it is like a chalky type of year, and for guys like me who enjoy playing futures now and then it’s not an ideal situation.
For the American League, the Astros and Indians should be right back to the playoffs with balanced rosters, both true World Series contenders. The Yankees could be back in the mix with the trade for Giancarlo Stanton, but the pitching is still a question mark.
Out in the National League, the Dodgers still look on paper like the top team, thanks to an amazing pitching staff and some of the best young bats in the game. Tons of hype on the Brewers and Giants while everyone seems to have cooled on the Cubs, but I can see them jumping right back to contender.
So with those factors in mind let’s look for some future options.
My favorite option is the New York Mets at 30-1 at the Golden Nugget. Now I know what you are gonna say, what about the hitting. First, in asking that question I would rather hear hitting than pitching. New York has a ton of pitching and at the end of everything that’s usually what wins championships in MLB.
The Mets also have a ton of help, playing 19 games against the Nationals, Braves, Phillies and Marlins. The last three aren’t expected by experts to have a winning record this season. The Marlins in particular are expected to have wins in the middle 60s. I also think they win the NL East over the Nationals, who are bound to have a letdown season, which happens this year.
Now, the Mets’ lineup doesn’t really make anyone shake in their boots but I truly expect the Mets to be a buyer at the deadline and they have enough young arms to make a trade and bring in a bat or two for the playoff push. New York will have to do a better job just getting on base. Todd Frazier, a new signee, struggled switching from the NL to AL, hitting .225 for the White Sox in 2016 and .213 for the Yankees in 2017.
Hopefully the switch back will get him back to a .250-.260 average, which for a guy capable of hitting 30-40 home runs a year should be just fine. The Mets also got back Jay Bruce as a free agent, whom they shipped off to Cleveland last summer; he hit .254 for 36 HRs and 101 RBIs. Those two should have just enough juice to make them a threat for some big innings.
Also be on the lookout for Dominic Smith, a likely callup from the Las Vegas 51s, to platoon 1st Base with FA signing Adrian Gonzalez. Smith was a 1st round selection back in 2013.
For my dark horse selection I keep going back and forth. As I said, I look for the pitching and also like to find teams that can win the division. Problem is the NL East and NL Central are the only two divisions I don’t think are a lock. Hopefully I am wrong but, like I said, it looks chalky. So without a better idea, let’s go with the Tampa Bay Rays, 250-1 at William Hill.
They have a solid young pitching staff, misfits from other clubs, and some young guys still learning to hit at the Major League level. No one expects them to do anything with Yankees and Red Sox the cream of the crop in the AL East. So let’s really step out and challenge that theory.