MLB SEASON PREVIEW

Barry Laminack: An in-depth look at every MLB team, plus postseason predictions

Will the Astros celebrate again? Harry How/Getty Images

A few weeks ago I promised you all an in-depth preview and breakdown of the 2018 major league baseball season, so here it is.

There’s a lot to be excited about in 2018 if you’re a baseball fan, especially if you’re an Astros fan. On paper, the Astros are the best team in baseball, again. It’s scary to think that the team that just won the World Series actually got better, but that’s exactly what happened when they traded for Gerrit Cole. The Astros have an outstanding chance to be the first back-to-back champs since the Yankees did it in 1998/1999/2000. It won’t be easy, though because the Yankees and Indians are stacked as well, and the Cubs, Dodgers and Nationals are also elite teams that have what it takes to win a title.

Something that stood out to me during my prep is how many rookie managers there are this year. In total, 3 of the 4 rookie managers this year are with  teams that should be in contention all year.

The Mets hired Mickey Callaway away from the Indians and he could do for the Mets what Bud Black did for the Rockies last year.

The Red Sox tabbed former Astros bench coach Alex Cora to be their skipper. Cora was an excellent hire, with a bright baseball mind. I think of the four he’ll be the least likely to show like a rookie manager.

The Yankees hiring first-time manager Aaron Boone was a bit of a head scratcher for me, but it’s a team that has enough talent to overcome any first year issues he may face, but take a peek at my preview of them for more on that.

The other rookie manager is Gabe Kapler of the Phillies. Kapler is a perfect fit for the Phillies. They’re a team that’s going to surprise some folks but are probably a year or two away from being a serious threat to make the playoffs. A perfect amount of time for the out of the box thinking Kapler to learn the ropes as the head man.

PREVIEW

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AL EAST

BOSTON RED SOX

MANAGER: Alex Cora

2017 VITALS

Records: 93-69
Division Finish: 1st
Run Differential: +117 (784 RS - 668 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

OF J.D. Martinez

1B Mitch Moreland

IF Eduardo Nunez

Key Losses:

RP Addison Reed

SP Doug Fister

OF Chris Young

RP Blaine Boyer

RP Fernando Abad

PREVIEW:

The Sox had a really good lineup BEFORE adding the power hitting J.D. Martinez. Unfortunately for first year manager Alex Cora the question all year will be “Can the Red Sox score/pitch/hang with the Yankees?”

I’m not sure they can put up the kind of run production the Yankees will, but Even if Rick Porcello has regressed back to his mean, as long as David Price returns to form the Sox will hang tough all year.

NEW YORK YANKEES

MANAGER: Aaron Boone

2017 VITALS

Records: 91-71
Division Finish: 2nd
Run Differential: +198 ( 858 RS - 660 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

OF Giancarlo Stanton

2B Neil Walker

1B Adam Lind

3B Brandon Drury

Key Losses:

2B Starlin Castro

3B Chase Headley

SP Michael Pineda

SP Bryan Mitchell

SP Jaime Garcia

3B Todd Frazier

PREVIEW:

As scary as this team was last year, the Yankees actually got better in the offseason. A lot better. The 2017 NL MVP (Giancarlo Stanton) joins the 2017 AL MVP runner-up to form the 2018 version of the “bash brothers” The Yankees don’t have a lot of weaknesses but they could use some rotation help, so it won’t surprise anyone if guys like Haap, Stroman or Archer are wearing pinstripes come August 1.

The biggest question on this team is probably with rookie manager Aaron Boone. Is he ready for the job in New York? Before you answer, recall that he forgot to warm up a pitcher during a game this spring, so the recently exited Dellin Betances had to come back in after already being in the clubhouse cooling down.

That aside, the Yankees feel too big to fail. They have two guys that could win MVP and/or lead the AL in home runs. They have the best bullpen in baseball, and a good rotation (though it does have some questions).

Oh, and two guys on the way up in Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar that could win Rookie of the year in 2018...if they Yankees can find a spot for them.

Ugh, god I hate the Yankees.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

MANAGER: Kevin Cash

2017 VITALS

Records: 80-82
Division Finish: 3rd
Run Differential: -10 ( 694 RS - 704 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

OF Denard Span

OF Carlos Gomez

1B CJ Cron

RP Daniel Hudson

Key Losses:

3B Evan Longoria

RP Brad Boxberger

RP Steve Cishek

RP Tommy Hunter

SP Alex Cobb

SP Jake Odorizzi

OF Steven Souza Jr.

1B Lucas Duda

1B logan morrison

LF Corey Dickerson

PREVIEW:

Kevin Cash says he plans on using a 4 man rotation and on days when a fifth starter is needed, he’ll use relievers.

Yes, that seems kind of crazy, but what’s not crazy is that their rotation isn't that bad.

On the other hand, the offseason was bad. Not only did they lose a ton of talent, but they replaced it with guys like Carlos Gomez. That was their best pickup. The worst part is he's projected to hit THIRD in their lineup. Yes, the lifetime .256 hitting CarGo is their #3 hitter. Yikes.

Only one team (Toronto) scored less runs in the AL. They'll "overtake" the Jays for last place this year as they head in the wrong direction in the standings.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

MANAGER: John Gibbons

2017 VITALS

Records: 76-86
Division Finish: 4th
Run Differential: -91 (693 RS - 784 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

OF Curtis Granderson

SS Aledmys Diaz

INF Yangervis Solarte

RP Seung Hwan Oh

SP Jaime Garcia

Key Losses:

OF Jose Bautista

SP Tom Koehler

PREVIEW:

The Blue Jays didn’t get better in the off-season. They’ll probably be near the bottom of the league in run production again. It’s a team that’s not ready to compete with New York and Boston.

Justin Smoak hadn't hit more than 20 HR and 59 RBi before hitting 38 and 90 last year. Will he regress? Probably.

If you need an idea of what’s going on long term, all of their off season signings were for a year or two, and with Josh Donaldson, J.A. Haap, Marco Estrada all due to be free agents in 2019, if the Jays are out of it by july, look for them to be big time sellers at the trade deadline thus officially kicking off their rebuild.

BUT, if you’re putting together an “All Sons of Former Players” team, look no further than the Blue Jays who count both Vlad Guerrero, Jr. and Bo Bichette as prospects in the organization.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

MANAGER: Buck Showalter

2017 VITALS

Records: 75-87
Division Finish: 5th
Run Differential: -98 ( 743 RS - 841 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

SP Alex Cobb

SP Andrew Cashner

Key Losses:

C Welington Castillo

SP Jeremy Hellickson

SP Wade Miley

SS J.J. Hardy

PREVIEW:

Baltimore was a team in desperate need of  pitching so they grabbed Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner this past offseason. Sandwich Dylan Bundy in between them and the squad has a chance of running out a respectable 1-3 every week.

Jonathan Schoop had a breakout season and is a star in the making, and the Birds should score some runs, despite their lack a prototypical leadoff hitter.

AL CENTRAL

CLEVELAND INDIANS

MANAGER: Terry Francona

2017 VITALS

Records: 102-60
Division Finish: 1st
Run Differential: +254 ( 818 RS - 564RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

1B Yonder Alonso

Key Losses:

1B Carlos Santana

OF Jay Bruce

RP Bryan Shaw

RP Joe Smith

OF Austin Jackson

PREVIEW:

One of the best bullpens in the majors last year had some significant losses in Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith. They also lost Carlos Santana, so in comes Yonder Alonso to try and replace Santana’s production in a still very potent lineup that includes MVP candidate Francisco Lindor.

The offseason losses could see the Indians regress slightly, but with a four headed monster of Corey Kluber (reigning Cy Young winner), Lindor (MVP candidate) and a bullpen combo of Andrew Miller and Corey Allen, the Indians will compete for a pennant again.

MINNESOTA TWINS

MANAGER: Paul Molitor

2017 VITALS

Records: 85-77
Division Finish: 2nd
Run Differential: +27 ( 815 RS - 788 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

RP Fernando Rodney

RP Addison Reed

SP Michael Pineda

RP Zach Duke

SP Lance Lynn

SP Jake Odorizzi

1B Logan Morrison

Key Losses:

SP Bartolo Colon

PREVIEW:

Ervin Santana (last years ace) will miss the first 8-10 weeks of the season and Michael Pineda might miss the entire year, which is partly why they had to step up and sign Lance Lynn. Outside of chasing the Indians (no, they won't catch them) the Twins don't have to worry about anyone else in the division, but are they better than the Red Sox and Angels for the wild card? They surprised many last year and appear to have had a fine offseason, so it should be a tight race

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

MANAGER: Ned Yost

2017 VITALS

Records: 80-82
Division Finish: 3rd
Run Differential: -89 ( 702 RS - 791 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

SP Ricky Nolasco

OF Jon Jay

1B Lucas Duda

Key Losses:

OF Lorenzo Cain

RP Joakim Soria

SP Mike Minor

1B Eric Hosmer

RP Peter Moylan

SP Jason Vargas

RP Ryan Buchter

RP Scott Alexander

DH Brandon Moss

PREVIEW:

The Royals are circling the rebuild drain, and once they are out of the race (probably early June) they'll consider officially starting said rebuild. Look for them to be sellers at the trade deadline.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

MANAGER:

2017 VITALS

Records: 67-95
Division Finish: 4th
Run Differential: -114 ( 706 RS - 820 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

C Welington Castillo

RP Joakim Soria

SP Luis Avilan

SP Miguel Gonzalez

Key Losses: 

None.

PREVIEW:

The White Sox are still a few years away, but I think this team is going to turn a few heads and make a bit of noise this year. They should be fun to watch...until they start fading around July.

DETROIT TIGERS

MANAGER: Ron Gardenhire

2017 VITALS

Records: 64-98
Division Finish: 5th
Run Differential: -159 ( 735 RS - 894 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

SP Mike Fiers

RP Francisco Liriano

OF Leonys Martin

SP Ryan Carpenter

Key Losses:

2B Ian Kinsler

SP Anibal Sanchez

PREVIEW:

If Mike Fiers is your club's big off season move, your club's off season was pretty bad. Sorry Tiger fans, but this year is going to be a rough one.

AL WEST

HOUSTON ASTROS

MANAGER: A.J. Hinch

2017 VITALS

Records: 101-61
Division Finish: 1st
Run Differential: +196 ( RS 896 - RA 700)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

SP Gerrit Cole

RP Joe Smith

RP Hector Rondon

Key Losses:

RP Luke Gregerson

SP Mike Fiers

OF Carlos Beltran

RP Joe Musgrove

SP Michael Feliz

PREVIEW:

It’s crazy to think that a team that won the World Series last year, and was as dominant as the Astros were got better in the offseason, but that’s exactly what happened. The rotation got deeper with the trade for Gerrit Cole, and that move also made the bullpen deeper by moving Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh out there. If Lefty Specialist STILL

If the team gets hit with a big injury, expect to see Kyle Tucker up, otherwise it might make sense to leave him at triple A to get ABs.

If you want to get picky about this team, it would be in the bullpen. The could use a reliable left handed arm that can get lefties out, as it’s doubtful that Tony Sipp returns to his 2014 form. Ken Giles had a fantastic regular season but was terrible in the playoffs, but there are plenty of capable options to plug in should they need to until the trade deadline.

The Astros have the best rotations in baseball, the deepest/best lineup in baseball. And the second best bullpen in baseball.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

MANAGER:

2017 VITALS

Records: 80-82
Division Finish: 2nd
Run Differential: +1 ( 710 RS - 709 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

SP Shohei Ohtani

INF Zack Cozart

2B Ian Kinsler

RP Jim Johnson

OF Chris Young

Key Losses:

RP Yusmeiro Petit

RP Bud Norris

1B C.J. Cron

PREVIEW:

HEALTH, HEALTH, HEALTH. That's the key to the Angels making a run at the wild card. Can Mike Trout stay healthy? Can the rotation stay healthy? Is Albert Pujols healthy (enough)?

Defensively this team IS GREAT.

Ohtani hasn't looked good in the spring and comes in as a huge question mark for the club. If he meets expectations they'll probably win a wild card. If he struggles, heck they'll probably still win a wild card spot.

Keep an eye on the six-man rotation experiment. I don't think this staff is deep enough to pull it off, but I could be wrong.

It's a right handed dominant lineup (only two lefties and no switch hitter), so look for them to add a lefty stick at the deadline.

SEATTLE MARINERS

MANAGER: Scott Servais

2017 VITALS

Records: 78-84
Division Finish: 3rd
Run Differential: -22 ( 750 RS - 772 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

INF/OF Dee Gordon

1B Ryon Healy

RP Juan Nicasio

RP Wade LeBlanc

RF Ichiro Suzuki

Key Losses:

1B Yonder Alonso

RP Yovani Gallardo

OF Jarrod Dyson

SP Drew Smyly

RP Emilio Pagan

PREVIEW:

A less than stellar off season and an aging King Felix could be trouble for the Mariners in 2018. They have a good 1-4 punch in the order and a rotation and bullpen that isn’t top notch but not terrible. It’s hard for me to gauge what they’ll do this year. This team could contend for a wild card, or could be a total bust.

TEXAS RANGERS

MANAGER: Jeff Banister

2017 VITALS

Records: 78-84
Division Finish: 4th
Run Differential: -17 ( 799 RS - 816 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

RP Mike Minor

SP Matt Moore

SP Doug Fister

Key Losses:

SP Miguel Gonzalez

OF Carlos Gomez

SP Andrew Cashner

PREVIEW:

A lackluster off season from a team that needed to do more in order to gain ground on the Astros. On the surface they look like they can hit, but some of the advanced metrics show otherwise. Everything about the team is slightly above average. The lineup, the rotation and the pen. Much like the Mariners, I haven’t figured out what this team is yet. I guess that means they are just a .500 ball club. Come to think of it, that sounds about right.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

MANAGER: Bob Melvin

2017 VITALS

Records: 75-87
Division Finish: 5th
Run Differential: -87 ( 739 RS - 826 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

OF Stephen Piscotty

RP Yusmeiro Petit

RP Emilio Pagan

C Jonathan Lucroy

DH Brandon Moss

RP Ryan Buchter

Key Losses:

1B Ryon Healy

1B Chris Carter

SP Heath Fillmyer

SP Jesse Hahn

PREVIEW:

It seems as though a lot of talking heads around the baseball world thiink the A’s are going to surprise some folks. That may be true, but if they are going to be this years Rockies/Twins/Diamondback they need more pitching. They’ll probably hit better than I’m giving them credit for, but a -87 is a pretty significant run differential so even if they improve on both sides, they still aren’t ready to compete with the big boys for the wild card.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

NL EAST

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

MANAGER: Dave Martinez (R)

2017 VITALS

Records: 97-65
Division Finish: 1st
Run Differential: +147 ( 819 RS - 672 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

1B Matt Adams

RP Brandon Kintzler

RP Joaquin Benoit

SP Jeremy Hellickson

Key Losses:

RP Matt Albers

RP Oliver Perez

PREVIEW:

Outside of the Dodgers, this might be the most complete team in the NL, and one of the truly elite teams in baseball. Last year they had a ton of issues closing out games thanks to a subpar bullpen, but a trade for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson helped big time. Adding Brandon Kintzler in the offseason means that it's actually a very good pen now. They can hit, pitch, and now thanks to the names I just mentioned close out teams. The only real question about this team is rookie manager Mickey Callaway. That said, put them on your short list to make a serious run at the World Series.

MIAMI MARLINS

MANAGER: Don Mattingly

2017 VITALS

Records: 77-85
Division Finish: 2nd
Run Differential: -44 ( 778 RS - 822RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

2B Starlin Castro

OF Cameron Maybin

OF Lewis Brinson

Key Losses:

OF Giancarlo Stanton

OF Marcell Ozuna

OF Christian Yelich

2B Dee Gordon

OF Ichiro Suzuki

Adding Jeter (j/k?)

PREVIEW:

Nothing to see here folks, move along. Derek Jeter has gutted a team that had a lot of young talent, but some bad contracts. Just be glad you're not a Marlins fan, unless you are then be glad that the Dolphins season starts soo...wait, be glad the Heat...ummm...hey the beaches are nice, right???

ATLANTA BRAVES

MANAGER: Brian Snitker

2017 VITALS

Records: 72-90
Division Finish: 3rd
Run Differential: -89 ( 732 RS - 821 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

SP Brandon McCarthy

SP Scott Kazmir (released)

SP/RP Anibal Sanchez

Key Losses:

1B Matt Adams

OF Matt Kemp

PREVIEW:

The Braves are still a few years away from the playoffs, but not as far as you might think. Ronald Acuna is just about everyone’s favorite to win Rookie of the Year, and rightfully so because dude is a stud (don't sleep on Austin Riley either).

NEW YORK METS

MANAGER: Mickey Callaway

2017 VITALS

Records: 70-92
Division Finish: 4th
Run Differential: -128 ( 735 RS - 863RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

OF Jay Bruce

1B Adrian Gonzalez

INF Jose Reyes

RP Anthony Swarzak

3B Todd Frazier

Key Losses:

RP Chasen Bradford

RP Josh Edgin

OF Norichika Aoki

PREVIEW:

The Mets went out and hired rookie manager Mickey Callaway to lead a club that could make a wild card, or could end up near the bottom of the division again.

One big question I have is will this lineup hit? I don't think they will, but they did get a bit better with Bruce and Frazier.

As for the rotation, after the 1-2 punch of Thor and DeGrom 3-5 are question marks, and health is a major concern for almost the entire staff. The bullpen was shaky at times last year so Swarzak was a nice pickup, plus a full year of A.J. Ramos (acquired via trade last year) and Jeurys Familia (missed most of 2017) will help. I think they’ll be in it for most of the year, but then fade a bit around September.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

MANAGER: Gabe Kapler

2017 VITALS

Records: 66-96
Division Finish: 5th
Run Differential: -92 ( 690 RS - 782 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

1B Carlos Santana

RP Pat Neshek

RP Tommy Hunter

SP Jake Arrieta

Key Losses:

None

PREVIEW:

Watch out for this team. They had a tremendous off season and have a ton of money to spend. Rookie skipper Gabe Kapler will do a lot of things different and the team has enough talent to rattle a few cages this year. They might even be in the playoff hunt until August-ish.

Arrieta is still good but he's lost some velocity and is trending down. The rotation still needs help and the bullpen doesn’t have a clear solution for a closer.

I do think this team is going to be a lot of fun to watch, but they are still a year or two away.

NL CENTRAL

CHICAGO CUBS

MANAGER: Joe Maddon

2017 VITALS

Records: 92-70
Division Finish: 1st
Run Differential: +127 ( 822 RS - 695 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

SP Yu Darvish

RP Brandon Morrow

SP Tyler Chatwood

RP Steve Cishek

SP Drew Smyly

RP Dario Alvarez

Key Losses:

RP Wade Davis

RP Hector Rondon

SP Jake Arrieta

OF Jon Jay

C Alex Avila

OF Leonys Martin

PREVIEW:

The Cubs had a decent off season. The losses of Davis and Arrieta were countered with additions of Darvish, Morrow and Chatwood. They're the cream of the crop in the NL Central but if they falter at all, the Cards and Brew Crew are ready to pounce.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

MANAGER: Craig Counsell

2017 VITALS

Records: 86-76
Division Finish: 2nd
Run Differential: +35 ( 732 RS - 697 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

OF Lorenzo Cain

OF Christian Yelich

SP Jhoulys Chacin

SP Yovani Gallardo

RP Matt Albers

RP Boone Logan

Key Losses:

RP Jared Hughes

2B Neil Walker

OF Lewis Brinson

RP Jared Hughes

RP Anthony Swarzak

RP Wily Peralta

PREVIEW:

I was really impressed with the Brewers offseason. This is a team that should score a ton of runs. Do they have enough pitching? The pen was a strength last year (carried the team for most of the season) but they need their starters to step up in a major way if they are going to compete.

I think they’ll be in it all year and will swing for the fences with a big arm at the trade deadline.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

MANAGER: Mike Matheny

2017 VITALS

Records: 83-79
Division Finish: 3rd
Run Differential: +56 ( 761 RS - 705 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

OF Marcell Ozuna

RP Luke Gregerson

SP Miles Mikolas

RP Bud Norris

Key Losses:

RP Juan Nicasio

RP Zach Duke

SS Aledmys Diaz

SP Lance Lynn

RP Seung Hwan Oh

PREVIEW:

The Cardinals added a HUGE bat in Marcell Ozuna to go with break out SS Paul DeJong. Lance Lynn is gone but Luke Weaver is a stud and will have cards fans saying "lance who?" soon. Tony PHam is one to keep an eye on (.411 OBP!!!). He's playing for a big payday in arbitration next year after turning down a 2 year deal from the club.

Is Luke Gregerson good enough to be a closer again? Hold that thought because he's opening the season on the DL - Greg Holland (still available) would make for some nice insurance.

Look for the Cards to get go after an upgrade at the back end of the pen around the trade deadline.

Overall, the team has a good mix of solid veterans and young kids eager to prove themselves. At worst they’ll just miss out on a Wild Card bid, at best, but they could also shock the Cubs this year if everything bounces their way.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

MANAGER: Clint Hurdle

2017 VITALS

Records: 75-87
Division Finish: 4th
Run Differential: -63 ( 668 RS - 731 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

LF Corey Dickerson

RP Josh Smoker

RP Michael Feliz

3b Colin Moran

SP Joe Musgrove

Key Losses:

OF Andrew McCutchen

RHP Gerrit Cole

SP Wade LeBlanc

RP Daniel Hudson

RP Joaquin Benoit

C Chris Stewart

PREVIEW:

Remember when you were a kid and you tried to beat your dad at arm wrestling and he'd let you hang in there for a few seconds before you just gave up? That's pretty much the Pirates over the last few years (with the Cubs playing the part of the dad in the division). After and off-season that included trading away Cole and McCutchen (and pissing off the entire fan base) it’s obvious they have thrown in the towel.

A bad offense last year didn't get better and the pitching is actually worse. 100 loses isn't out of the question.

CINCINNATI REDS

MANAGER: Bryan Price

2017 VITALS

Records: 68-94
Division Finish: 5th
Run Differential: -116 ( 753 RS - 869 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

RHP Jared Hughes

RP David Hernandez

Key Losses:

SS Zack Cozart

PREVIEW:

A bad team that didn't do much to get better now. This team might lose 100 this year, if those darn Pirates don't beat them to it.

NL WEST

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

MANAGER: Dave Roberts

2017 VITALS

Records: 104-58
Division Finish: 1st
Run Differential: +190 ( 770 RS - 550 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

OF Matt Kemp

RP Scott Alexander

SP Tom Koehler

Key Losses:

RP Brandon Morrow

RP Brandon McCarthy

1B Adrian Gonzalez

OF Curtis Granderson

RP Luis Avilan

RP Tony Watson

SP Yu Darvish

PREVIEW:

With the losses of Morrow, Watson and McCarthy, the bullpen might not be as good/deep as it was last year. Adding Kemp didn't move my needle, but the Dodger faithfull seem to love him.

The offseason was mixed overall. The team saw a lot of talent leave and very little come in, but they got their payroll right so they might have an eye on Harper next year.

They can hit (though I don’t think theyll score like they did last year), they have the best pitcher and closer in the game, but…

They play in the toughest division in baseball, so don't be surprised if they aren’t as dominant as they were last year. In fact, if you made me pick one of the elite teams that could fall off this year it would be the Dodgers.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

MANAGER: Torey Lovullo

2017 VITALS

Records: 93-69
Division Finish: 2nd
Run Differential: +153 ( 812 RS - 659 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

RP Yoshihisa Hirano

RP Brad Boxberger

RF Steven Souza Jr

C Alex Avila

OF Jarrod Dyson

Key Losses:

RP Fernando Rodney

OF J.D. Martinez

3B Brandon Drury

RP David Hernandez

C Chris Iannetta

PREVIEW:

This team won't have the element of surprise on their side like they did last year. Everybody knows the Diamondbacks are for real now. Are they good enough to win the West? The Dodgers and Rockies will have something to say about that.

They need help in the pen and a big year from Souza and Greinke (again). They have enough to win the division, but it’s the best division in baseball so that won’t be easy.

COLORADO ROCKIES

MANAGER: Bud Black

2017 VITALS

Records: 87-75
Division Finish: 3rd
Run Differential: +67 ( 824 RS - 757 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

RP Wade Davis

RHP Bryan Shaw

C Chris Iannetta

Key Losses:

RP Pat Neshek

RP Tyler Chatwood

RP Greg Holland

C Jonathan Lucroy

PREVIEW:

We know the rockies can hit. that's never been a question. It's always been about the players on the bump. But, as I predicted last year, Bud Black is a wizard and turned the entire mindset of this team around as it pertains to pitching. They have a lot of young talent in the rotation and the bullpen is actually better now. They are a real threat for a wild card again and I think they can finish second behind the Dodgers. But if the Dodgers slip up don’t be surprised if the Rockies end up winning this division.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

MANAGER: Andy Green

2017 VITALS

Records: 71-91
Division Finish: 4th
Run Differential: -212 ( 604 RS - 816 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

1B Eric Hosmer

3B Chase Headley

RP Bryan Mitchell

Key Losses:

SP Jhoulys Chacin

2B Yangervis Solarte

PREVIEW:

The youngest team in the majors isn't going to do much now, but in a few years they could be a real threat to the division. Hosmer was on odd add to a team in the midst of a rebuild, but I guess you have to start somewhere. Put the Padres in the class of young, in the middle of a rebuild but will have moments that will be fun to watch.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

MANAGER: Bruce Bochy

2017 VITALS

Records: 64-98
Division Finish: 5th
Run Differential: -137 ( 639 RS - 776 RA)

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Additions:

OF Andrew McCutchen

3B Evan Longoria

OF Austin Jackson

RP Tony Watson

SP Derek Holland

OF Gregor Blanco

Key Losses:

OF Denard Span

PREVIEW:

The Giants didn’t play like they were capable of playing last year. The went out and got better in the offseason, I’m just not sure good enough to fade half a season without MadBum, who isn’t expected back until June/July.

McCutchen and Longoria make them better, but are on the downside of their careers as are Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.

The Giants enter 2018 the oldest team in the majors, so if they plan to compete with Arizona and Colorado they can't play like it.

PREDICTIONS

DIVISION STANDINGS

AL EAST

1 Yankees

2 Red Sox

3 Blue Jays

4 Orioles

5 Rays

AL CENTRAL

1 Indians

2 Twins

3 Royals

4 White Sox

5 Tigers

AL WEST

1 Astros

2 Angels

3 Rangers

4 Mariners

5 Athletics

NL EAST

1 Nationals

2 Mets

3 Phillies

4 Braves

5 Marlins

NL CENTRAL

1 Cubs

2 Brewers

3 Cardinals

4 Reds

5 Pirates

NL WEST

1 Dodgers

2 Rockies

3 Diamondbacks

4 Giants

5 Padres

PLAYOFFS

AL

1 Astros

2 Yankees

3 Indians

WILD CARD

1 Red Sox

2 Angels

NL

1 Nationals

2 Cubs

3 Dodgers

WILD CARD

1 Brewers

2 Rockies

AL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Astros def Yankees

NL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Nationals def. Cubs

WORLD SERIES

Nationals def. Astros

AWARDS

MVP

AL: Mike Trout

NL: Bryce Harper

CY YOUNG

AL: Chris Sale

NL: Noah Syndergaard

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

AL: Willie Calhoun, OF Rangers

(Other Candidates: Francisco Mejia, C Indians, Gleyber Torres, 2B, Yankees)

NL: Ronald Acuna, LF Braves

(Other Candidates: Ryan McMahon, 1B Rockies, Scott Kingery, 2B Phillies, Lewis Brinson, OF Marlins)

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

AL: Aaron Boone
NL: Dave Martinez


 

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The Texans didn't have an answer for Derrick Henry. Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Romeo Crennel made a valorous call that might have costed the Houston Texans from winning their second consecutive game on Sunday. Up by seven with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter, Crennel decided to call a two-point conversion following Deshaun Watson's one-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

During the two-point conversion, Watson had a look at an open Randall Cobb, but Titans' defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons got a hand on the ball to deflect the pass. The failed conversion allowed the Titans to take a 42-36 victory over the Texans inside Nissan Stadium. Tennessee scored 13 unanswered points, which included a seven-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to A.J. Brown to send the game into overtime.

"I think I would do it again," Crennel said during his media availability on Monday. "You are on the road against a divisional opponent who is undefeated, and if you could get that two-point conversion — you shut the door on them. We had a guy open, but unfortunately, the ball got tipped and we did not make it. I would do it again because it was a good choice."

The decision to not kick the field goal caused somewhat of an uproar, but it is understandable why Crennel made the call. Crennel had faith in Watson to put the Texans in a position to close the game, similar to his 4th-and-4 call during last week's victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the end, Crennel's risky decisions could stem from the lack of faith he has in the Texans' depleted defense.

Houston's defense hit an all-time low against the Titans. They gave up a franchise-worst 601 total yards — with Derrick Henry accounting for 212 yards on 22 carries. But despite their struggles against the run, the Texans' secondary were just as faulty. They gave up a total of 338 yards through the air and allowed Tannehill to go 8-for-9 down the field during the Titans' final drive of regulation.

Had Houston's defense made a stop during the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, the Texans could have ended the game 2-0 under their interim head coach.

"I wanted to go ahead and get the two points — I felt like that would have put the game out of reach for them," Crennel said. "If we had gotten it, we would have been in much better shape. But we did not get it. We did not perform well in overtime, and they [Titans] won the game."

Following Sunday's heartbreaking loss, Texans safety Justin Reid said it best, "Had we converted on the two-point conversion, this would be a totally different conversation. So it is what it is."

Up next, the 1-5 Texans will look to bounce back from defeat against the 4-1 Green Bay Packers, inside NRG Stadium on Sunday. Kick-off is at 12:00 PM CT.

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