The MLB is back: here’s what to look out for this season


The 2019 MLB season is off to an exciting start. After a few weeks of action, here are some teams we think you should look out for and our predictions for the rest of the year.

By Harry Kaplan

“Take me out to the balll game, take me out with the crowddd. Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks, I don’t care if I never get back!” Spring training rust is gone, the sun is shining and 30 teams are locked in on one goal: win a World Series. MLB opening day was March 28, and the season has gotten off to an exciting start. With games finally back underway, we looked ahead to see which teams have the potential to make a mark on this new season.

Returning World Series Teams

The Boston Red Sox are fresh off their October World Series win—the 9th in franchise history. Coach Alex Cora became the fifth rookie coach ever to win the World Series. The Sox’s starting pitching rotation is one of the scariest in the league; members include Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi, who are all coming off career years. If there is one question mark surrounding this well-balanced Boston squad, it’s their bullpen. After having an inconsistent bullpen during the 2018 regular season, Boston was expected to make some moves. However, Boston let go of flamethrowers Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly this offseason and in their place acquired weaker relief pitchers Colton Brewer and Tyler Thornburg. On the offensive side, the Red Sox can match up with any team. Mookie Betts (2018 MVP) and J.D. Martinez make up the core of the lineup, with powerful complimentary players including Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland. Boston has a target on their back as they look to defend their title. The Red Sox are off to a poor start and are 4th in AL East with a record of 6–10. The starting pitching has been horrendous, but on a positive note, Boston has won three of their last four games.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have lost back-to-back World Series, and generational talent Clayton Kershaw is slowly losing fastball velocity. Even with the mid-season addition last year of All-Star 3B/SS Manny Machado, the Dodgers were unable to defeat the 108 win Red Sox team. Despite the disappointing loss—and Machado’s departure in the offseason—the return of shortstop Corey Seager marks a bright spot for Los Angeles. Complimenting Seager in the star-studded lineup are power hitters Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger, who look to have bounce-back seasons. If all goes well, the Dodgers can again contend for a World Series pennant. The Dodgers have had a tale of two season so far. Los Angeles had a promising start to the young season but have now lost six straight games and have a record of 8–8.


Previewing the Washington Nationals

The post-Bryce Harper era is officially underway after the star outfielder signed a $330 million contract with division rival the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason. Even with Harper on the roster last season, the Washington Nationals had a disappointing 2018 season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2015. On a positive note, the Nats splashed big in the offseason by acquiring former Diamondbacks star pitcher Patrick Corbin. Washington’s pitching staff is arguably top three in the league, if not the best. Pitcher Max Scherzer is coming off another historic 300 strikeout season, and Stephen Strasburg is prepared to bounce back to his elite form. The Nats’ bullpen, consisting of Sean Doolittle and Trevor Rosenthal, is very scary for opposing teams as well. Without Harper’s prolific hitting to rely on, youngsters Trea Turner and Juan Soto will look to carry the load for the developing offense in Washington. The Nats have started this season off slowly, while securing a 7–7 record. Much to the disappointment of Nats fans, Bryce Harper marked his return to Washington in the first week of the season by going 3-5 with a homer and a double.


Teams to Watch

Houston Astros – The 2017 World Series champs had the talent, experience and skill to win again last year, but they fell to a historic Boston squad in the ALCS. Houston is arguably the most well-rounded team in baseball today and possibly MLB history. The Astros’ pitching rotation is stacked with stars like Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Lance McCullers Jr. The bullpen is solid as well, with Roberto Osuna closing out games. Along with the dominating pitching, their hitting is elite. Former MVP and six-time MLB All-Star Jose Altuve leads the powerful lineup consisting of All-Stars Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and George Springer. The Astros won 103 games last season and started this season as the most intimidating team in all of baseball. As of now, the Astros are the hottest team in baseball riding an eight-game win streak. They sit at 10–5 and are second in the AL West.


Philadelphia Phillies – Could the Phillies finally get over the hump after a dreadful decade of losing? With the recent additions of former MVP Andrew McCutchen, 2018 All-Star Jean Segura and superstar Bryce Harper, this could be the Phillies’ year. Last year, Philadelphia surprised many by winning 80 games; if both Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola can repeat their success from 2018, the Phillies could be serious World Series contenders. The new-look Phillies have started off the season strong and lead the NL East with a 9–5 record.


Tampa Bay Rays – The Tampa Bay Rays are by far the most underrated team in baseball. Despite playing in the toughest division (AL East), consisting of two 100-plus win teams, the Rays still found a way to win 90 games last season. Tampa Bay has a very well-rounded squad, led by 2018 Cy Young award winner Blake Snell. Last season, Snell led the American League in wins (21) and ERA (1.89). Offensively, the Rays don’t have many big name players, yet they get the job done. Don’t sleep on the Tampa Bay Rays contending with the Red Sox and Yankees for the division title. The Rays are cruising with a 12–4 record and are already five games ahead of the AL East.


Same Face, New Team

Bryce Harper – The Philadelphia Phillies acquired slugger Bryce Harper on the MLB’s second largest contract in history (was the largest until Mike Trout signed an absurd $430 million contract with the Angels on March 19th).

Manny Machado – After playing for the Dodgers for three months last season, Machado wanted a change of scenery. He will play for the San Diego Padres this year.

Paul Goldschmidt – The St. Louis Cardinals traded for this power hitter, nicknamed “Goldy.” He will now be paired with sluggers Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina in a formidable Cardinals lineup.

Patrick Corbin – The Washington Nationals splashed in big with the acquisition of Corbin to create a “three-headed monster” pitching staff, also including Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

Andrew Miller – The St. Louis Cardinals made another strong move by acquiring lefty flamethrower Andrew Miller.


Regular Season Predictions

AL East: Red Sox

AL Central: Indians

AL West: Astros

AL Wild Cards: Rays, Yankees

AL MVP: Mike Trout (LAA)

AL ROY: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR)


NL East: Phillies

NL Central: Brewers

NL West: Dodgers

NL Wild Cards: Cardinals, Mets

NL MVP: Christian Yelich (MIL)

NL ROY: Peter Alonso (NYM)


Postseason Predictions

AL Champion: Astros

NL Champion: Phillies

World Series Champion: Phillies