2018 MLB Preview

MLB opening day is upon us, a sign that winter is gone and spring is coming. Let's take a look at how our favorite local teams might be faring once the snow finally melts.

Pittsburgh: The Pirates have an interesting season ahead of them after pressing the 'retool’ button after two consecutive losing seasons. They traded Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole in the off-season leaving Pirates fans wondering who is next. The Pirates do have several familiar faces returning to the batting order including CF Starling Marte, RF Gregory Polanco, C Francisco Cervelli, and SS Jordy Mercer. The team also added Rays All Star LF Corey Dickerson.

The pitching staff looks solid despite the loss of Cole, with cancer survivor RHP Jameson Taillon leading the way in the starting rotation along with RHP Chad Kuhl and RHP Trevor Williams who had solid rookie campaigns last season. Flamethrower LHP Felipe Rivero is in the closer’s spot.

I think the big key to the Pirates' success this year will be the performance of the players brought in from the Gerrit Cole trade with the Astros. I like the potential they got in the deal, specifically 3B Colin Moran. Moran lit up AAA last year with huge numbers but saw limited time in the big leagues because of Houston's long line of third base prospects. He will see lots of playing time this year alongside the aging but effective 3B David Freese.

The Prediction: A Buccos fan myself, I'd love to say the team will go 162-0, but the Pirates will likely experience much of the same disappointment as they have the last two seasons. Expect to see lots of young prospects getting called up in mid-summer.

Record: 78-84

Philadelphia: The Phillies are in a good position to improve on last season’s 66-96 record. The players that were prospects at the beginning of the Phillies rebuild are veterans now and are starting to make more of their mark, especially on offense.

1B Carlos Santana is the biggest addition to the offense. The former Cleveland Indian hit .259 with 79 RBI last year and should add some power to the lineup. LF Rhys Hoskins will also take on a bigger role after going on an incredible home run streak late last season.

The Phillies made a huge addition to their starting rotation when they signed former Cubs ace RHP Jake Arrietta. Arrietta had a slightly down year by his standards last season, posting a 3.53 ERA. Arrietta will join with Phillies ace RHP Aaron Nola to form part of a starting rotation that is starting to look more robust than in recent years.

The Prediction: The Phillies have plenty of money to sign some more high profile players during the 2018 season. If the roster performs it's best and they continue to add, the Phillies could be in the Wild Card conversation at seasons end. But for now it looks like the Phillies are still a year away from legitimate contention.

Record: 74-88

Washington: The Nationals are at a crossroads heading into the 2018 season. They have a fantastic lineup, a new manager Dave Martinez, and likely a clear path to the playoffs in the uncompetitive but tightening NL East. But many of their key players will be free agents at seasons end, including yearly league MVP candidate, RF Bryce Harper.

On offense, the batting order remains the same as last season except for the  addition of a healthy Adam Eaton who made only a little over 100 plate appearances in 2017. The rest of the lineup is good, young, but proven talent.

The Nationals starting rotation didn't add any new pieces to the gameboard, but it was good already. Led by Cy Young award candidate RHP Max Scherzer and RHP Steven Strasburg, the bullpen, which was a weak link last season, was vastly improved by late season trades. All of those pitchers return for 2018.

The Prediction: The Nationals will dominate the NL East again this year, but they will lose a couple extra games to the improving Phillies and Mets. Expect to see the Nats go all in to get Bryce Harper and Co. past the NLDS this season

Record: 90-72

Baltimore: The Orioles are searching for a direction after a down season last year. The O’s did not trade SS Manny Machado during the off-season, but they might if the team fails to produce in the manner it did last year.

Machado will lead the offense that also includes CF Adam Jones, and 1B Chris Davis. But the offense did not produce nearly as much power in 2017 as they did in 2016 when the Orioles led the MLB with 253 home runs. The O's will need a big improvement from their offense to be competitive in 2018.

The Orioles starting rotation was average at best in 2017 and they didn't make any big changes for 2018. RHP Dylan Bundy will be the opening day starter in a rotation that doesn't inspire much confidence.

The Prediction: The O’s won't likely be in contention by the time the trade deadline rolls around in August, and the team will likely be moving on from their big name players.

Record: 78-84

~Josh Micsky

I will be writing a sports blog for our Fusfoo page this year. I play soccer for Northern and I love to ski in the winter. In the future I hope to work as a sports broadcaster or sports anchor.

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