By Ben Ramirez
There has been an absence of the sound of bats cracking. We have been wondering about why the free agent market was so quiet. There has been growing excitement throughout Spring Training. However, after five months of sadness the Major League Baseball (MLB) season is finally back.
Coming into the season as the World Series runner ups, the Los Angeles Dodgers are returning to Dodger Stadium, coined “Blue Heaven on Earth,” with almost the same roster as 2017. Notable exceptions include former pitcher Brandon Morrow who signed as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs, Adrian Gonzalez who was among the four players traded to the Atlanta Braves for former Dodger fan favorite Matt Kemp, and fan favorite Andre Ethier after the organization opted out of his contract.
Baseball Prospectus’ Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm (PECOTA) predicts that the Dodgers will win 99 games in 2018, the same prediction they were given the previous season. In 2017 they won a record 104 games, the most since the franchise moved to Los Angeles. The 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers won 105 games.
Players to watch this year include Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger who put on weight during the offseason to add more muscle mass, as well as pitching prospects Walker Buehler and Julio Urias who have the opportunity to close out the pitching rotation.
The National League West will be the best division once again with the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks retaining the majority of their roster as well as the San Francisco Giants adding two all stars Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will be an interesting team to watch in 2018. After finishing 80-82 and second in the American League (AL) West to the World Champion Houston Astros, the Angels made a splash in the offseason acquiring Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Ohtani bolstering both their batting lineup and pitching rotation.
He will be slotted into a line up with a combined five Most Valuable Player awards between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols as well as a handful of other all stars, making their lineup one of the most formidable in MLB.
The AL West will undoubtedly be the most intriguing division this year. Outside of the Astros, the Angels and Seattle Mariners have both improved while the state of the Texas Rangers’ roster is questionable. The Rangers will be the dark horse of the division.
Whether you are a Dodgers or Angels fan, there is a lot to look forward to in 2018. The Southland will once again be the talk of the summer as the MLB season continues.