19 bold predictions for MLB in 2019

January 1st, 2019

When the New Year arrives, we aim to be more dedicated, more disciplined versions of our natural selves. We vow to bring something good and useful and meaningful to the world.
And yet, for all the "New Year, new you" resolve in the air right now, some of us still just can't help ourselves: We like to make bad baseball predictions.
Here are 19 of them for '19 (and I of course reserve the right to update these to even worse predictions once the offseason dust settles).
1. The Red Sox will barely make the playoffs
Boston is far too talented and the American League has too many suspect squads for me to pick against the Sox reaching the postseason at all. But it will be via the second AL Wild Card spot, and the defending champs will not get back to the World Series.
Why, you ask? Because of Chris Sale's left shoulder? 's October workload? Some kind of statistical setback for and/or J.D. Martinez?
Nah. I just don't think your fans can break the World Series trophy with an errant beer can without some sort of penalty from the baseball gods.

2. will sign with the Cardinals
At this point, my head still says that Harper will wind up with the Phillies or the White Sox. But this is the prediction I made at the start of the Hot Stove season, and, darn it, I'm going down with the ship, with all the accumulated evidence sinking me fast.
I do maintain that the Cardinals have the resources to pull it off and need to veer from an established organizational course of short-term solutions and half-measures. was a great get, but only for one year (and he's 31). Harper would take this club from borderline National League Central contender to clear World Series-caliber squad.

3. The Astros will trade for J.T. Realmuto
And ? Despite the reports about the Astros balking at the Marlins' current asking price, you're going to look good in Miami blue and caliente red, bud. Speaking of the 'Stros…
4. will win the AL Most Valuable Player Award over
Steamer is projecting Trout to be worth 9.3 Wins Above Replacement this year. I know to some of you that sentence might as well have come from a medical dictionary, but what that means is that a cold and utterly rational projection system is pegging Trout to have roughly one of the top 100 individual position player seasons of all-time. That's how ridiculous this has gotten. Greatness from Trout is simply expected.
So picking against Trout is also ridiculous. But it's still hard to be sold on the Angels, overall, and voters notoriously (and wrongly) hold team standing against Trout. Every year, there's some other guy who has an insane season (in 2018, it was Betts) that challenges Trout's MVP bid, and this year it will be the full-on Correa explosion, thanks to better health and a stronger (and healthier) supporting lineup cast.
5. Manny Machado will sign in the next 10 days
And he will sign with the Yankees. Not all predictions have to be bold predictions, folks.

6. will become an Atlanta Brave
It won't happen prior to the start of the 2019 season, but Bumgarner will build up just enough trade value to be viewed as a viable upgrade to the Braves' rotation in the midst of the NL East race this summer.
7. will win 20 games
Let's just say he's due.
8. The Nationals will win the NL East
What would have been a bland prediction a year ago becomes a bit of a bold one now, with Harper, in all likelihood, leaving and the Nats coming off one of the more disastrous seasons by a clear contender in recent memory. The NL East is setting up to be the baseball equivalent of the "Anchorman" news team fight, but the Nats -- buoyed by a strong rotation, the second season of the Juan Soto experience and an NL Rookie of the Year Award bid from Victor Robles -- will be the rare team that loses a star (perhaps even to a division foe in Philly) and somehow gets better.
Or, you know, they'll re-sign Harper and everybody will pick them. Either way.

9. will hit a home run in the season-opening Japan Series
And No. 118 will push him past Ty Cobb and tie him with Wade Boggs as he wraps up an incredible, indelible career.
10. Somebody other than Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will win the AL Rookie of the Year Award
This prediction is not a knock on Guerrero himself, as I see no reason why the No. 1 prospect in the game won't have a strong transition to the Major League level in 2019. This is just about swimming against the stream of what I'm sure will be darn near unanimous assumption that Guerrero will win the AL's rookie prize. I'm predicting strong showings from White Sox outfielder and Astros starter Josh James that push Vlad Jr. in the rookie race.
11. There will be a three-man BBWAA Hall of Fame class
Mariano Rivera is a lock, Roy Halladay is not a lock but is not far off and the voters will have done the right thing in getting Edgar Martinez over that final hump. But I see the 2019 vote as coming agonizingly short of the 75-percent threshold for Mike Mussina, who pitched his entire 18-season career in the brutal AL East in the 1990s and 2000s and came out with a better career ERA+ than Bob Feller.
We'll see you in 2020, Moose, alongside your former teammate, Derek Jeter.

12. The Rays will win the AL's top Wild Card spot
Not only will turn all that exit velocity into dingers, but Tampa Bay will have something that resembles an actual starting rotation.
13. A team other than the Rays will lead the Majors in "starts by a reliever"
I've got my eye on the A's, for whom MC Hammer is currently penciled in as the No. 3 starter. (Please, Hammer, don't hurt 'em.)
14. The Indians will not trade or
And Bauer will win the AL Cy Young Award, thanks in part to his invention of a new form of breaking ball that strikes batters out and then talks trash about them on Twitter.

15. The Padres will be this year's "Wait, how are they this good?" team
They won't make the postseason, but San Diego will be one of those teams that cause you to look up at the standings in late July and go, "Huh?"
The Padres will beef up their win total a bit against the rebuilding Giants and D-backs, get some nice contributions from , and , see a little bit of a bounce back from and, like the 2018 Rays, try some unusual mixing and matching with their pitching staff.
16. will win the Home Run Derby
This is the best guess I can muster this early, and only because Hoskins was so certain about wanting to do the event again after competing in last year's Derby. Also, the All-Star Game is Cleveland, where the airport is named Hopkins, so there's probably good wordplay to be had if Hoskins hits a bunch of fly balls.
(Although I'm not ruling out winning it and inspiring "Cleveland Rox" headlines.)

17. The Cubs will win the NL pennant
Another one of those that wouldn't have been very bold a year ago, but now? The rotation looks old and iffy, 's coming off a right shoulder injury, the bullpen is a big question (particularly with on the shelf) and Joe Maddon is a lame duck.
Fear not, North Siders. While you are going to lose the NL Central to Bryce Harper's Cardinals, you're going to advance in October on the heels of Bryant's return to MVP-caliber form and the Darvish Redemption Tour. Darvish's story will have shades of the 2018 saga, and, as an added bonus, we'll get to say this World Series is sponsored by "YuTube."

18. The Yankees will win the World Series
Those of us who grew up in baseball's smaller markets (or Boston) and have a natural aversion to the Yankees' stockpiling Series titles have had a pretty good run, haven't we? The Yankees have won just won championship this millennium (yes, calendrical experts will tell you the millennium began in 2001, not '00, so don't tweet me about this). By Yankee standards, that's an abyss.
But look, our luck is going to run out eventually. Since their 1919 acquisition of Babe Ruth, the Yankees have not gone a decade without a World Series appearance. The odds are against us, folks. I envision a 2019 with a more comfortable , a healthier , a better rotation and the Yankees getting it done, with or without (likely with) Machado.
19. I will go back and read this column on Dec. 31, 2019, and cringe
This one I feel good about. Happy New Year, everybody!