Tuesday, April 2, 2019

2019 Pre-Season Profiles: #4 - #1

Well, we are a series into the 2019 season, and I am still a few teams away from finishing this pre-season project.  So I am going to bust out my last few in shortened format in one article.

St. Louis Cardinals
Most Important Hitter: Marcel Ozuna
Most Important Pitcher: Jack Flaherty
Prospect to Watch: Dakota Hudson
2019 Prediction: 1st in NL Central, lose in NLCS
Bold Prediction: Miles Mikolas will finish in the top 5 in NL Cy Young voting.
Of all the major splashes this offseason, the most underrated might be the move that landed the Cardinals the most underrated player of the last decade.  Paul Goldschmidt gives the Cards a presence in their clubhouse that puts them back in the elite.  St. Louis never feels like a trendy pick in the NL Central, but I think they surprise and steal it.  Ozuna was their big acquisition last year, and he needs to produce.  Flaherty and Hudson are some young guns in their rotation that should break out in 2019.  I see them getting a step away from the pennant before someone finally knocks them out.

Houston Astros
Most Important Hitter: Carlos Correa
Most Important Pitcher: Collin McHugh
Prospect to Watch: Forrest Whitley
2019 Prediction: 1st in AL West, lose in ALCS
Bold Prediction: Gerrit Cole wins the AL Cy Young.
I wanted to say the Astros regress in 2019 and maybe even miss the playoffs, but they are just too talented.  Their lineup is stacked, even getting better with All Star Michael Brantley joining the outfield.  One of their keys this year is if Carlos Correa can stay healthy.  Their stud shortstop spent a lot of last year injured and is starting this year on the IL as well.  His success will help lead to greater success for the team.  Everyone knows the top of their rotation, but their depth took a hit this offseason when they didn't re-sign Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, and Lance McCullers went down with Tommy John.  Collin McHugh spent last season in the bullpen because the rotation was out of room.  Now he is going to be counted on to be an innings eater in the back end of their rotation.  If some of their starters fail, look for Forrest Whitley to burst onto the scene and show why he is a top 10 prospect in all of baseball.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Most Important Hitter: Corey Seager
Most Important Pitcher: Kenley Jansen
Prospect to Watch: Alex Verdugo
2019 Prediction: 1st in NL West, lose in World Series
Bold Prediction: Brian Roberts will be fired after the season.
This is a fascinating team to me.  It is so hard to make three straight World Series, but I think they have to enter the season as the favorites to do it.  The health and production of Corey Seager will be key.  He is a backbone of their offense, and after missing all of 2018 with Tommy John surgery, it will be interesting to see if he can get back to being the budding superstar.  There are a lot of question marks surrounding the rotation, especially the health of ace Clayton Kershaw.  However, without Kenley Jansen closing every important game, the starters don't matter.  His health scare from the offseason that required heart surgery has some questioning his health moving forward.  If he can be as dominant as he has been the last several years, they will have nothing to worry about.  Alex Verdugo has been on the verge of breaking out for a few years, but has been blocked by a loaded outfield.  Either he gets his opportunity or is traded for a starting pitcher mid-season.

New York Yankees
Most Important Hitter: Giancarlo Stanton
Most Important Pitcher: James Paxton
Prospect to Watch: Jonathan Loaisiga
2019 Prediction: 1st in AL East, win World Series
Fearless Prediction: James Paxton finishes in the top 3 of the AL Cy Young voting.
To me, the New York Yankees are the most talented and best team in the league.  They have young phenoms combined with star veterans in their lineup, they have a deep and talented starting rotation (which is being tested at the start of the season with injuries), and they have the deepest and strongest bullpen in the league.  Look for Giancarlo Stanton to return to his form that led to an NL MVP.  Look for James Paxton to become a superstar.  As one of the sneaky best acquisitions of the season, look for Paxton to quickly become a superstar if he can have a healthy season.  They are the team best built for playoff success in 2019 and be the 3rd different team to defeat the Dodgers in the World Series in the last 3 seasons.

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