Unfortunately, this year I was not able to complete my pre-season profiles of each team before the season started. I will complete the list with an abbreviated preview to each team left starting with #20-16.
San Diego Padres
Most Important Hitter: Wil Myers
Most Important Pitcher: Brad Hand
Prospect to Watch: Luis Urias
2018 Prediction: 5th in NL West
Bold Prediction: The Padres will trade for a top-end starting pitcher mid-season.
The Padres are moving in the right direction. Their problem is they are in possibly the most competitive division in baseball full of teams ready to win now. If they keep on their current course, they will be competing for this division in the next few years. With Eric Hosmer coming over from Kansas City, Wil Myers is transitioning into a crowded outfield. Their best last player last year needs to show he is can still be elite even if he isn't the face of the franchise. Same with Brad Hand. A great year in 2017 has the Padres looking to Hand to be their closer. He needs to show 2017 wasn't a fluke. Look for the Padres' front to once again be aggressive at the Trade Deadline. If guys like Chris Archer or another ace with years of club control left becomes available, look for the Padres to bolster their rotation by dealing one of their many outfielders.
Most Important Hitter: Maikel Franco & Odubel Herrera
Most Important Pitcher: Jake Arrieta
Prospect to Watch: Scott Kingery & J.P. Crawford
2018 Prediction: 3rd in NL East
Bold Prediction: This will be Gabe Kapler's only season as Phillies' manager.
The Phillies are another team starting to set themselves up to be a contender in a few seasons. For them to be able to do this, Franco and Herrera need to show that they can be consistent enough to be stars and the centerpieces of this offense. Jake Arrieta was brought in late in the offseason to mentor a young pitching staff. If he gets back to his glory days in Chicago, he might be the best signing of the offseason. Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford will soon be mentioned as one of the best young double play combos in the league. The only question is Gabe Kapler, managing for the first time and already getting a great deal of criticism. He needs to improve quickly or else he may be in danger of being a one and done manager.
Chicago White Sox
Most Important Hitter: Yoan Moncada
Most Important Pitcher: Lucas Giolito
Prospect to Watch: Michael Kopech
2018 Prediction: 3rd in AL Central
Bold Prediction: Michael Kopech will be in the top three for the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year.
No one remade their roster more efficiently and effectively than the White Sox did before the 2017 season. Now all those prospects they got back are starting to hit the big leagues. Guys like Moncada, Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez need to start showing why everyone was excited about their future. Watch out for guys like Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez to crash the party in 2018. Kopech is a future stud that will quickly be one of the top rookie in the big leagues as soon as he makes his debut.
Most Important Hitter: Dansby Swanson
Most Important Pitcher: Julio Teheran
Prospect to Watch: Ronald Acuna
2018 Prediction: 2nd in NL East
Bold Prediction: Ronald Acuna will be the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year.
The Braves are still a year or two away from really competing, but a weak division will make them look better than they are. It is time for former #1 pick Dansby Swanson to become an All Star caliber shortstop. Julio Teheran has been the Braves' ace for awhile, more by default than anything, but his production needs to take a step forward before he is passed by guys like Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb. Ronald Acuna might be the most exciting young player to yet make his major league debut. When he does, watch out!
Most Important Hitter: Rougned Odor
Most Important Pitcher: Matt Moore
Prospect to Watch: Willie Calhoun
2018 Prediction: 4th in AL West
Bold Prediction: Cole Hamels will be traded before the end of the season.
The Rangers seem to be stuck in this spot where they aren't quite competing, but they aren't quite losing either. This year appears to be another one of those years, especially considering their division. Rougned Odor has shown flashes of brilliance, but needs to get consistent. Matt Moore they are hoping finally shows the greatness that made him a top prospect a few years ago. This might be the year the Rangers finally decide to start to sell a little. This could start with Cole Hamels, who is in the last year of his contract.
Stay tuned for more!