NL East and Central appear to be the most competitive, AL East is top heavy
With another season of baseball upon us, it’s pertinent to take a look at how each division might shape up in the 2019 season.
Bryce Harper signing his insane 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies will shift the balance in their favor to win the division.
However, the Phillies will have plenty of competition from the Braves and Nationals. The Braves pulled off a surprise upset last year by winning the division and still have 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna, Jr., who could be a darkhorse MVP candidate.
The Nationals still have a devastating amount of talent on both sides of the ball despite losing Harper. The Mets may even emerge as a surprise with their great pitching rotation headlined by 2018 Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom.
The only team who can truly be counted out of the division race is the Marlins, who did not do anything in the offseason to match up with the other top-tier talent in the division.
The NL Central will be arguably the most competitive division this season. Last year, four out of five teams in the division were above .500 and the only one below — the Reds — was one of the most aggressive teams in the offseason to improve on its 95-loss season.
The Brewers won out a thrilling regular season finish with the Cubs to capture the division title, eventually advancing to the NLCS.
The Cardinals decided that they did not want to be left out of the playoffs for the fourth straight year and went out and got the best available first baseman in Paul Goldschmidt, signing him to a long-term contract extension.
Even though the Cubs sat out most of the playoffs, a healthy Kris Bryant and Yu Darvish combined with no more 43 games in 43-day stretches should help the 95-win team get even better. This division is the one to watch this season and could go in almost any direction.
The NL West will also be interesting to watch this year. The Dodgers have won the division every season since 2013, and the reigning National League champs hope that will translate to a third straight World Series berth. Despite clearing house in the outfield in a failed attempt to get Bryce Harper, their success depends on how much better their competition will get this year.
The Padres made a splash by signing Manny Machado but have a long climb to the top after 96 losses. The Diamondbacks lost their best player and will likely fall below .500 this year.
The biggest question here is whether the Rockies, a team that was only one game back last year, can leapfrog the Dodgers to prevent them from winning their seventh consecutive NL West championship.
The AL East will be top heavy again in its standings with the reigning World Champs. The Red Sox won 108 games in the regular season and will lead the charge again.
The Yankees will be close behind, and the Rays can get interesting with their unique “opener” tactics. The most interesting questions facing the AL East are when Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., will get to the bigs and if the Orioles can crack 50 wins this season.
The Indians, despite not re-signing a lot of their core players, will most likely win the AL Central again this year. This isn’t saying much though.
The rest of the division isn’t very good and also remained relatively quiet in the Harper-Machado sweepstakes.
American League ball in America’s heartland will see a lot of young guys piling up a lot of losses. It is entirely possible the division could be won by a sub .500 team.
The Angels made a huge splash by re-signing the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, to a 12-year, $420 million contract. They will still have a big hill to climb to catch up to the Astros, who won 100 games last year.
Despite losing Dallas Keuchel to free agency, they will still have one of the best pitchers on the mound with veteran Justin Verlander. The Astros also inked George Springer to a big contract.
The Athletics may also surprise with a couple of their super star hitters, but the question remains to be seen if their rotation, headlined by Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada, can take the team to the postseason with an abundance of lethal hitters in the lineup.
By: Jack Dunn | U.S. & World News Editor