Here’s what we know, mere weeks into MLB year

AP Photo | Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich during an April 7, 2019 game versus the Cubs.

Drew White | Staff Writer

April 11, 2019

As we reach the conclusion of the second week of the Major League Baseball season, we can start making opinions on teams. There is now enough of a sample size – granted, still a small sample — but enough of one to begin to formulate opinions. So here is a look at what we know — or, at least, what we think we know.

AL East:

The Tampa Bay Rays will make the postseason.

The Rays were quietly one of the better teams in the MLB last season, winning 90 games yet still missing out on October baseball. They play in the American League East, which has what was thought to be the two best teams in baseball last season (Yankees and Red Sox), yet it’s the Rays who look like the best team in the division right now. I said at the start of the season the Rays were my pick to win a Wild-Card spot in the AL, and I might have been wrong. Instead, they might win the division, as they currently sit at 10-3. With a full season of Tommy Pham in the outfield and Blake Snell on the mound, as well as a dominant and unconventional bullpen headed by Jose Alvarado, this team is set up for October baseball.

The Red Sox and Yankees are in trouble.

The Yankees currently sit at 5-7, but it isn’t the record that is concerning: It’s the massive and growing injury list. The Yanks will be without the whole left side of their infield until at least the All-Star Break when Didi Gregorius gets back, but Miguel Andujar will be on the shelf for the whole season after injuring his shoulder in the first weekend of the year. Meanwhile, the starting pitching is a mess, as well, with C.C. Sabathia and Luis Severino still yet to throw an inning this campaign. Add in the injury to slugger Giancarlo Stanton and the wounded Yankees might be better than the team they throw out on the field on a daily basis.

As for the defending champs, Boston had to start their season on an 11-game road trip and have not looked like the team that won the World Series last October. They currently sit at 3-9 with a negative-28 run differential. The starting pitching, which was believed to be one of the best in the majors, has been rocked thus far, and the star-studded lineup has not been able to keep up with its opponents.

Chris Davis has one of the worst contracts in sports history, but you have to feel bad for the guy.

Davis, the Baltimore Orioles’ starting first baseman, hit 159 homers from 2012-2015, and was rewarded with a seven-year, $161 million contract extension as a result in 2016. Since then, he has looked nothing like that player. He is a true two-outcome player: You can expect either a homer or a strikeout out of Davis, and he has seen a lot of Ks in his recent at-bats. He set an MLB record on Monday night, going 0-for-49 at the plate dating back to last season. No matter the numbers, no matter the money, you have to feel bad for the guy, and hope that he turns it around at some point. I mean, he has to, right?

AL Central:

85 wins might win this division.

Talk about brutal. For the past couple of years, the Cleveland Indians have ruled this division. It is looking like they might win it again this season, but they look average at best. The Tribe has been struck by the injury bug, as well, as they lost MVP candidate Francisco Lindor to an ankle injury early on. They also let a few sluggers walk in the offseason in Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion. And, really outside of Jose Ramirez, the lineup is brutal. The pitching staff is still one of the best in the league, and that should carry them in a weak division that will be contested only by the Minnesota Twins. But, man, is this going to be a snooze-fest of division to watch all year.

AL West:

Mike Trout is the best player in the world and is playing on one of the worst teams in the league.

I was a little shocked when Trout signed that big 12-year, $430 million extension to stay with the Angels. We are talking about a guy who has been an All-Star his whole career, has won multiple MVP awards, has never advanced out of the ALDS and has only played postseason baseball once. This team is terrible, from the starting pitching to the lineup, but man, is Mike Trout good? He alone is worth the price of admission — it’s just a shame that his talent is being wasted in L.A.

The Astros still own this division.

Just like the Indians in the AL Central, this is still Houston’s division to lose. Yes, the Mariners got out to a hot start and currently sit at 12-2, but that is unsustainable with their level of talent across 162 games. The ‘Stros still have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and will walk away with this division. The starting pitching looks great again, and after an injury-ridden 2018, it looks like Carlos Correa is back to his old self.

NL East:

Bryce Harper has looked like he was worth all of his $330 million so far.

Personally, I was a little skeptical when I saw the Bryce Harper deal with the Phillies. Harper is no doubt a star, but his numbers regressed last season and he never really put up huge numbers. Nevertheless, thus far in Philadelphia, he has looked like an absolute steal for the price Philadelphia got him at, especially with the numbers he put up against his former team in the first two series against them. At Citizens Bank Park, there is a real chance he hits 60 homers multiple times in his career.

The Nationals’ bullpen is bad — like, really bad.

This was supposed to be a strong suit for Washington. They were supposed to have a top-tier bullpen, but outside of closer Sean Doolittle, they are terrible. Trevor Rosenthal has made four appearances thus far and has an ERA of infinity — it looks like he has the worst case of the yips a la Rick Ankiel.  Tony Sipp has been hit all around the park this year, as has Matt Grace. If the Nats want any chance to win this division, the most competitive one in the NL, then they need to figure something out quick.

NL Central:

Christian Yelich has showed 2018 was no fluke.

After winning the NL MVP last season, many wondered if Yelich could keep his gaudy second-half numbers up this year. So far, so good. Yelich mashed homers in his first four games, and now has five (and it could have been six if it wasn’t for Trout robbing one at the wall). He leads Milwaukee in every single offensive category and has shown no signs that last year was a fluke. This is a dangerous offense for the Brewers; they just need to shore up their pitching a little bit. (Paging Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel, please).

What happened to the Cubs?

Chicago looked bad last year, losing Game 163 to the Brewers and then the Wild-Card Game to the Rockies, as well. This year, they look worse. The offense isn’t clicking, the pitching has been spotty and that has led to a brutal 3-8 record to start the year in a division that includes both the always-dangerous Cardinals and the red-hot Brewers. If the Cubs want to win this division, they need more out of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, who are both hitting in the mid-.230s.

NL West:

The Dodgers once again will be contending for the World Series.

Just like they have for the past 10 years or so, the Dodgers once again look like a legitimate contender. After reaching the World Series the past few years and falling short, we should expect nothing less, but this season, unlike a few in the past, it has been the bats getting the job done for L.A. Cody Bellinger has been leading the charge offensively, collecting 22 hits, including seven homers thus far, leading the majors. Not to mention the starting rotation has been outstanding thus far, and that is without Clayton Kershaw throwing a pitch.

The Bottom Line:

A lot has changed since the start of the season as only a few of the divisions look how most experts would have thought they would look. Besides, who would have thought the Mariners would have the most wins by now? There is still a lot of baseball to be played, but this year will be exciting.

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