MLB is back! What better time than Opening Day for ESNY to delve into the 2018 season and bring you all the picks and predictions you can handle?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—MLB is officially back in business.

Opening Day not only brings with it the eternal optimism that fans of every team carry with them, but the promise of warmer weather—no more snow, please—and the knowledge that the dog days of summer are nearly upon us.

Let’s be honest—everyone has a dog in the races that are about to get going around the game. It could be your favorite team itching for a division crown, or your favorite player looking to pick up some individual hardware at the end of the season.

But we’re all invested in what’s about to unfold over the next six months or so.


Speaking of investing, we saw more than a few teams open up their wallets in what will go down in history as one of the more bizarre offseasons in baseball history.

It took awhile, but big-time hurlers like Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish found lucrative deals in new places. A potential ace, Shohei Ohtani, made his way from Japan to Los Angeles.

Impactful free agent bats were also on the move, including J.D. Martinez, who headed to Boston and Eric Hosmer, once thought to be a Kansas City lifer, who took his talents to…San Diego?

No offseason would be complete without trades, and there were a bunch.

The reigning National League MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, was traded to the New York Yankees by their former captain, Derek Jeter. Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, the faces of their former franchises in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, repsectively, now call San Francisco home.

What does it all mean? That’s what we’re here for.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty—let’s get this show on the road.

New York Yankees

AL East

With all due respect to the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and yes, even the Boston Red Sox (who got two votes), the AL East is the New York Yankees’ division to lose in 2018.

Other than Tampa Bay, the rest of the division improved their rosters heading into the season. But so did the Yanks, with the additions of Brandon Drury, Neil Walker and that Stanton guy.

Add in one of the deepest farm systems in the game—a system that is oozing with MLB-ready talent—and the Yankees are in fantastic shape to take home their 19th AL East crown in 2018—the team’s first since 2012.

AL Central

Make it three AL Central titles in a row for the Cleveland Indians, our first unanimous division winner. Sure, they lost a lot this offseason—Carlos Santana, Bryan Shaw and Mickey Callaway the most notable—but the Tribe remains the cream of the Central crop.

They’ve got a pair of Cy Young Award contenders atop the rotation in Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco and two of the game’s brightest young stars, shortstop Francisco Lindor and the versatile Jose Ramirez, anchoring the lineup.

A vastly improved Minnesota Twins squad will make things interesting, while the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and upstart Chicago White Sox could all go on a run. But none of those squads are ready to knock the Indians off of their pedestal. At least not yet.

AL West

The only problem in Houston heading into the season is pegging exactly when they’ll clinch the division. Those predicting a pre-All-Star Game celebration should slow their rolls, but the Astros are the unanimous choice in what amounts to a two-team race.

With talent oozing out of every spot in the lineup, an excellent rotation that added an All-Star in Gerrit Cole and a bullpen that, with Cole’s arrival, adds an underrated, quality arm in Collin McHugh to the mix, there isn’t a weakness to be found at Minute Maid Park.

Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels will keep things close enough that Houston won’t run away with the division, but the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers won’t be much of a factor in the West.

New York Mets

NL East

Thanks to Jeter’s teardown of the Miami Marlins, the NL East is really a four-team division in 2018.

While Atlanta and Philadelphia have lots of young talent—and the Phillies added Jake Arrieta to their rotation—both teams are still a year away from a legitimate run at the division crown.

That leaves just two teams, the New York Mets and Washington Nationals. While one member of our panel sees an Amazin’ upset atop the standings, the overwhelming consensus is that Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer and the Nationals win the NL East easily.

NL Central

Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh need not apply—for while St. Louis received one vote, the Chicago Cubs are going to win the NL Central for the third consecutive season.

The Cubbies replaced Arrieta with Darvish, bolstered the backend of the rotation with the underrated Tyler Chatwood and added savvy vets Steve Cishek and Brandon Morrow to the bullpen. Oh, and guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant still anchor the lineup.

Still, fans of the Brew Crew and Redbird Nation shouldn’t give up all hope just yet. There are two Wild Card berths up for grabs.

NL West

If you’re looking for a West L.A. Fadeaway, you’ve come to the wrong place. For while one voter sees the Arizona Diamondbacks renting space atop the division, it’s the Dodgers that emerge as the owners of the NL West.

It’s impossible not to like the Dodgers chances. They’ve got two of the best young superstars in the game (Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager), the best pitcher on the planet (Clayton Kershaw), arguably the best closer in the game (Kenley Jansen) and reinforcements waiting in the upper levels of the minors.

As for the rest of the division, Colorado still hasn’t figured out how to pitch effectively at home, San Diego still hasn’t figured out how to build a contender and San Francisco opens the year without two of its best starters, Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija.

AL Wild Card

For the first time since 2014, we get to see Mike Trout in the playoffs, albeit in a win-or-go-home scenario against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Unfortunately for both wild-card participants, it doesn’t matter who wins, as neither team will be playing for a chance to go to the World Series.

ALCS

It took seven games to decide last year’s ALCS between these two teams, and nobody would be surprised if another seven-game set was in store for us in 2018.

With some new faces on both teams—including a pair of former National League standouts in Cole and Stanton—this budding rivalry could take a big step forward as the two teams do battle for the pennant.

NL Wild Card

Just like in the AL, the winner of this game isn’t going to be playing in the Fall Classic—though they might be watching on TV like the rest of us.

That said, it’s a strong showing for the Brewers, who jumpstarted their rebuilding process to the team’s first postseason appearance since 2011.

NLCS

You heard it here first, folks. The Washington Nationals will win a playoff series in 2018. That’s not a typo, you don’t need to clean your screen or use Visine in your eyes. The Nats will win a playoff series in 2018.

Unfortunately for the Nationals, they won’t be able to make it two.

World Series Logo
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Once upon a time, this would have been a Subway Series. But since neither Doc Brown, Stewie Griffin nor Dr. Who is willing to lend us their time machines, we’ll have to settle for a coastal battle between two of the most storied teams in baseball history.

The storylines, aside from the Dodgers’ Brooklyn roots, are scintillating.

You’ve got some of the game’s best young talent—Cody Bellinger, Judge, Gary Sanchez and Corey Seager—on display. You’ve got the world’s best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, facing a modern-day Murderer’s Row.

And you’ve got a World Series matchup that we haven’t seen since the strike-shortened 1981 season when the Dodgers beat the Yankees in six games and three players—Ron Cey, Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager—shared World Series MVP honors.

This time, things will be different, as it’ll be a Yankee accepting MVP honors after the Bronx Bombers dispatch the Dodgers in six games.

World Series
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

World Series Champions

MLB

Awards

AL MVP: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

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So long as he stays healthy, Carlos Correa beats out two-time AL MVP Mike Trout by a single vote in a hotly contested race.

Correa was well on his way to an MVP-caliber season in 2017 before tearing a ligament in his left thumb during a July at-bat, an injury that cost him roughly a month-and-a-half of the regular season.

He may not have Trout’s speed, but Correa has more than his 29 career stolen bases would indicate. But his ability to hit for average and power plays well in the middle of one of the game’s most explosive lineups.

What puts Correa over the top is the fact that he leads his team to a division crown, while Trout and the Angels finish second to him in that race too.

PlayerTeamPositionNo. of Votes
Carlos CorreaHOUSS6
Mike TroutLAAOF5
Aaron JudgeNYYOF2
Francisco LindorCLESS1
Giancarlo StantonNYYOF1

NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

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Like Correa, injuries cost Harper significant time in 2017. The 2015 NL MVP missed 42 games from mid-August through late September due to a bone bruise and strained left calf.

Unlike Correa, Harper wins the game’s highest individual, single-season honor running away. Eight different players received support for NL MVP, but only three—Harper, Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt and Los Angeles’ Cody Bellinger got more than one vote of confidence.

While it feels like Harper has been around for awhile, he’s only entering his age-25 season. His best baseball remains ahead of him.

PlayerTeamPositionNo. of Votes
Bryce HarperWASOF5
Paul GoldschmidtARI1B3
Cody BellingerLAD1B2
Nolan ArenadoCOL3B1
Kris BryantCHC3B1
Yoenis CespedesNYMOF1
Clayton KershawLADSP1
Corey SeagerLADSS1

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

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After six straight years of top-six finishes in the AL Cy Young Award voting—including a second-place finish in last year’s voting—Chris Sale finally takes home the hardware as the AL’s best pitcher.

While he more than doubled up his closest competition, four pitchers each received two votes: Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, New York’s Luis Severino and Houston’s Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.

Still, it’s Sale, who went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and led the AL in both innings pitched (214.1) and strikeouts (308) last season, who stands tall above the rest.

PlayerTeamPositionNo. of Votes
Chris SaleBOSSP5
Dallas KeuchelHOUSP2
Corey KluberCLESP2
Luis SeverinoNYYSP2
Justin VerlanderHOUSP2
Carlos CarrascoCLESP1
Marcus StromanTORSP1

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

While six pitchers received support in the NL Cy Young Award voting, Clayton Kershaw runs away with the award, picking up six votes. It’s the fourth NL Cy Young Award of his career, his first since 2014.

Harp on his mediocre postseason numbers all you want. But know this: They are completely irrelevant when it comes to recognizing his regular-season dominance.

PlayerTeamPositionNo. of Votes
Clayton KershawLADSP7
Jacob deGromNYMSP2
Steven StrasburgWASSP2
Madison BumgarnerSFGSP1
Aaron NolaPHISP1
Max ScherzerWASSP1
Noah SyndergaardNYMSP1

AL Rookie of the Year: Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers

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Willie Calhoun’s bat is ready for the big leagues. His defense, however, is not, which is why he’ll start the year with Triple-A Round Rock. But that didn’t stop our panel from picking the second baseman-turned-outfielder as the American League’s Rookie of the Year.

The 23-year-old may not begin the season in the big leagues, but with the Rangers using the incredibly unimpressive platoon of Ryan Rua and Drew Robinson in left field, Calhoun won’t be down on the farm for long.

PlayerTeamPositionNo. of Votes
Willie CalhounTEX2B/OF4
Rafael DeversBOS3B2
Miguel AndujarNYY3B1
Christian ArroyoTB3B1
Franklin BarretoOAKSS1
Dustin FowlerOAKOF1
Michael KopechCWSSP1
Shohei OhtaniLAASP/OF1
Gleyber TorresNYY2B/SS1

NL Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves

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There are a lot of reasons people are high on Atlanta’s future, but none is bigger than 20-year-old outfielder Ronald Acuna.

Ranked as baseball’s top prospect heading into the season by both Baseball America and Baseball ProspectusMLB.com has him at No. 2 behind Shohei Ohtani—Acuna seemingly has no weaknesses. All of his tools grade out as plus or better, and his upside is endless.

That said, Acuna didn’t run away with the award. Another über-talented outfielder, who will also call the NL East home for years to come, came awfully close to forcing a tie in the voting.

PlayerTeamPositionNo. of Votes
Ronald AcunaATLOF6
Lewis BrinsonMIAOF5
Scott KingeryPHI2B/OF2
Austin RileyATL3B1

AL Manager of the Year: Aaron Boone, New York Yankees

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According to our panel, a first-year skipper—the Yankees’ Aaron Boone—will take home a Manager of the Year Award in 2018. In 2017, it was Arizona’s Torey Lovullo who kept the streak alive.

Boone inherits a supremely talented ballclub, one that, as noted earlier, only got better during the offseason. While some may question how much actual managing Boone will get to do, he’s a baseball lifer from a legendary baseball family.

The odds are in his favor for success in the dugout.

ManagerTeamNo. of Votes
Aaron BooneNYY6
Terry FranconaCLE2
Paul MolitorMIN2
Mike SciosciaLAA2
Ron GardenhireDET1
Scott ServaisSEA1

NL Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers

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After guiding the Brewers to a second-place finish in the NL Central in 2017, ownership rewarded him with a bunch of shiny new toys.

Newcomers Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain not only provide Counsell with two dynamic bats to serve as table-setters atop the lineup but a vastly improved outfield defense as well.

They, along with the holdovers from last season, will find Counsell and the Brew Crew pushing the 90-win mark for the first time since 2011.

ManagerTeamNo. of Votes
Craig CounsellMIL5
Dave MartinezWAS3
Mickey CallawayNYM2
Joe MaddonCHC2
Gabe KaplerPHI1
Mike MathenySTL1

AL Comeback Player of the Year: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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Last season, for the first time in 14 years, Miguel Cabrera’s name didn’t appear on any ballots for MVP. While he may not get back to his MVP form in 2018, our panel expects the two-time AL MVP to come back with a vengeance.

Miggy dealt with a back injury suffered while playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic all season and could never get himself going. He finished the year with the worst numbers of his Hall of Fame career, hitting .249 with 16 home runs, 60 RBI and a .728 OPS in just 130 games.

There’s no question that his best baseball is behind him. But entering his age-35 season, a healthy Cabrera will still be a dangerous, productive hitter, one opposing pitchers would be wise to try and work around.

PlayerTeamPositionNo. of Votes
Miguel CabreraDET1B5
Aaron SanchezTORSP2
Greg BirdNYY1B1
Josh DonaldsonTOR3B1
Jason KipnisCLE2B/OF1
Manny MachadoBAL3B1
Rick PorcelloBOSSP1
Garrett RichardsLAASP1
Devon TravisTOR2B1
Troy TulowitzkiTORSS1

NL Comeback Player of the Year: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

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A partially torn lat muscle cost Noah Syndergaard all but seven starts in 2017. It was an injury that not only killed his season but the New York Mets’ campaign as well (though other injuries contributed, of course).

We’ve seen what a healthy Syndergaard is capable of, and there’s no reason to think that the 25-year-old can’t return to his pre-injury form in 2018. He wins this award going away from one of his fellow rotation-mates at Citi Field.

PlayerTeamPositionNo. of Votes
Noah SyndergaardNYMSP11
Matt HarveyNYMSP3

ESNY City Stream

ESNY Staff Picks

You’ve seen the picks, the predictions and the numbers. Now it’s time to put names with all of those selections.

Our esteemed panel of voters includes:

First up, division picks.

WriterAL EastAL CentralAL WestNL EastNL CentralNL West
Steven BassinNYYCLEHOUWASCHCLAD
Justin BirnbaumNYYCLEHOUWASSTLLAD
Skylar DarelNYYCLEHOUWASCHCLAD
Ricky KeelerNYYCLEHOUWASCHCLAD
James KellyNYYCLEHOUWASCHCLAD
Mark KellyNYYCLEHOUWASCHCLAD
Geoff MagliocchettiNYYCLEHOUWASCHCLAD
Ryan MorikNYYCLEHOUWASCHCLAD
Jon PinoNYYCLEHOUWASCHCARI
Dominick RennaNYYCLEHOUWASCHCLAD
Daniel RiveraBOSCLEHOUNYMCHCLAD
John SantamariaBOSCLEHOUWASCHCLAD
Donny SavitskyNYYCLEHOUWASCHCLAD
Mike VivaloNYYCLEHOUWASCHCLAD
Rick WeinerNYYCLEHOUWASCHCLAD

With the regular season in the books, here’s how each voter sees things playing out in the postseason.

WriterALWCNLWCALCSNLCSWSWS Winner
Steven BassinBOS vs. SEAMIL vs. NYMNYY vs. HOUWAS vs. LADNYY vs. WASNYY in 5
Justin BirnbaumBOS vs. MINCHC vs. MILNYY vs. HOUMIL vs. LADNYY vs. LADNYY in 7
Skylar DarelBOS vs. MINMIL vs. ARINYY vs. HOUWAS vs. LADNYY vs. LADNYY in 6
Ricky KeelerBOS vs. LAAMIL vs. NYMNYY vs. HOUWAS vs. LADNYY vs. WASNYY in 7
James KellyBOS vs. LAAMIL vs. COLNYY vs. CLECHC vs. LADNYY vs. LADNYY in 7
Mark KellyMIN vs. BOSNYM vs. ARINYY vs. HOUWAS vs. LADWAS vs. HOUWAS in 6
Geoff MagliocchettiLAA vs. BOSARI vs. MILNYY vs. HOUARI vs. LADNYY vs. LADNYY in 7
Ryan MorikBOS vs. LAANYM vs. MILNYY vs. HOUNYM vs. WASNYY vs. NYMNYY in 6
Jon PinoBOS vs. MINARI vs. STLCLE vs. HOUARI vs. CHCARI vs. HOUARI in 7
Dominick RennaBOS vs. LAAARI vs. MILNYY vs. CLEWAS vs. CHCCLE vs. CHCCLE in 7
Daniel RiveraNYY vs. SEAWAS vs. CHCBOS vs. CLENYM vs. LADNYM vs. CLENYM in 6
John SantamariaNYY vs. SEANYM vs. SFGHOU vs. BOSNYM vs. WASHOU vs. NYMHOU in 6
Donny SavitskyBOS vs. LAAARI vs. SFGNYY vs. HOUWAS vs. CHCNYY vs. CHCNYY in 7
Mike VivaloBOS vs. DETARI vs. STLNYY vs. HOUARI vs. CHCNYY vs. CHCNYY in 4
Rick WeinerBOS vs. LAAARI vs. MILNYY vs. HOUCHC vs. LADNYY vs. LADNYY in 6

Here are the individual picks for the individual awards. First up, the American League honors.

WriterAL MVPAL CY YoungAL ROYAL MOYAL Comeback
Steven BassinAaron JudgeDallas KeuchelMiguel AndujarAaron BooneGreg Bird
Justin BirnbaumMike TroutChris SaleMichael KopechAaron BooneGarrett Richards
Skylar DarelMike TroutCorey KluberN/AAaron BooneN/A
Ricky KeelerCarlos CorreaChris SaleWillie CalhounAaron BooneAaron Sanchez
James KellyCarlos CorreaLuis SeverinoRafael DeversPaul MolitorMiguel Cabrera
Mark KellyCarlos CorreaCarlos CarrascoFranklin BarretoN/AMiguel Cabrera
Geoff MagliocchettiAaron JudgeDallas KeuchelWillie CalhounMike SciosciaDevon Travis
Ryan MorikMike TroutChris SaleGleyber TorresTerry FranconaManny Machado
Jon PinoMike TroutJustin VerlanderWillie CalhounAaron BooneMiguel Cabrera
Dominick RennaCarlos CorreaChris SaleWillie CalhounMike SciosciaRick Porcello
Daniel RiveraFrancisco LindorCorey KluberShohei OhtaniTerry FranconaJason Kipnis
John SantamariaGiancarlo StantonJustin VerlanderChristian ArroyoScott ServaisJosh Donaldson
Donny SavitskyMike TroutMarcus StromanDustin FowlerAaron BooneAaron Sanchez
Mike VivaloCarlos CorreaLuis SeverinoN/ARon GardenhireMiguel Cabrera
Rick WeinerCarlos CorreaChris SaleRafael DeversPaul MolitorMiguel Cabrera

Last, but certainly not least, individual award picks in the National League.

WriterNL MVPNL CY YoungNL ROYNL MOYNL Comeback
Steven BassinBryce HarperStephen StrasburgRonald AcunaDave MartinezNoah Syndergaard
Justin BirnbaumPaul GoldschmidtNoah SyndergaardLewis BrinsonCraig CounsellNoah Syndergaard
Skylar DarelKris BryantMax ScherzerN/ACraig CounsellN/A
Ricky KeelerBryce HarperJacob deGromRonald AcunaDave MartinezNoah Syndergaard
James KellyNolan ArenadoClayton KershawRonald AcunaJoe MaddonNoah Syndergaard
Mark KellyYoenis CespedesStephen StrasburgRonald AcunaN/AMatt Harvey
Geoff MagliocchettiCody BellingerAaron NolaLewis BrinsonCraig CounsellNoah Syndergaard
Ryan MorikBryce HarperClayton KershawRonald AcunaJoe MaddonMatt Harvey
Jon PinoPaul GoldschmidtClayton KershawScott KingeryGabe KaplerNoah Syndergaard
Dominick RennaPaul GoldschmidtClayton KershawRonald AcunaCraig CounsellNoah Syndergaard
Daniel RiveraCorey SeagerJacob deGromAustin RileyMickey CallawayMatt Harvey
John SantamariaBryce HarperMadison BumgarnerLewis BrinsonMickey CallawayNoah Syndergaard
Donny SavitskyBryce HarperClayton KershawLewis BrinsonDave MartinezNoah Syndergaard
Mike VivaloClayton KershawClayton KershawLewis BrinsonMike MathenyNoah Syndergaard
Rick WeinerCody BellingerClayton KershawScott KingeryCraig CounsellNoah Syndergaard
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