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  • Eric Martinez

MLB Opening weekend is here

There has never been such anticipation for a Major League Baseball season to start. With a halt in the labor talks during the offseason, fans,players, and executives all grew anxious to keep the Opening Day weekend still in the beginning of April.

A collective effort by the players union and the owners, kept the start of the season right on schedule. Starting the 2022 season has introduced several changes to the game including the change in the National League that will allow a Designated Hitter for every team. This change will cause ball clubs to strategize how to rotate their bench players during the season, while maintaining the rest days for pitchers and to have them only focus on pitching. Surely bullpen use will increase since the batting rules for National League pitchers have completely changed. Each team has the expectation to raise the World Series trophy, but this season, there are only a few that will realistically have a chance.

The Los Angeles Dodgers might have lost the NL West in 2021, but there’s no doubt this is the best team in the division and National League entering the 2022 season. From the starting rotation to the lineup, the Dodgers hold advantages and its farm system is superior to the other teams. With Freddie Freeman joining the Dodgers, they are undoubtedly the best team in Major League Baseball. After adding closer Craig Kimbrel, the gap between Los Angeles and the other NL West teams is even wider. The San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres made some key signings at needed positions, however when it comes to reinforcing a pitching staff, both teams could not draw in the stars needed to put both teams over the top. With the retirement of Future Hall of Famer Buster Posey, Joc Pederson coming from the World Series champion Atlanta Braves to the SF Giants, Sean Manaea from the Athletics joining the Padres, and both clubs having bullpen questions, expect both of these teams to fight for the NL Wild Card slots. In the NL Central, the Milwaukee Brewers have reinforced their pitching rotation with potential CY Young candidates Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, and potential Rookie of the Year candidate Aaron Ashby. The Brewers can arguably contend with any bullpen in the Major Leagues side-by-side comparison. This makes the Brewers the team to beat in this division especially if Christian Yelich and Kolten Wong stay healthy and have a huge season. It may be that

Milwaukee is the major threat to the Dodgers from going to the World Series out of the National League. To round out the other teams in the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals did strengthen their rotation in addition to a strong bullpen that already is in play, the Cardinals will contend for a NL Wildcard slot, this will depend on the health of possible pitching ace Jack Flaherty that has been placed on the IR for the first two months of the season with a diagnosed bursitis linking the inflammation to mechanical issues. The Cubs, Reds, and Pirates all can control their own destiny’s by beating each other for needed wins, but ultimately each one of these teams needs to take advantage of games against the Brewers and Cardinals in order to fight for a Wild Card. The World Series champions in 2021 came from a division where we had no idea had the firepower to win it all, the NL East.

The Atlanta Braves did lost Freddie Freeman due to free agency, but the ball club did make a move to bring in 2021 All Star Matt Olson from the Oakland Athletics. The money that was saved by this transaction, the Braves did acquire longtime closer Kenley Jansen from the Dodgers and well-traveled starting pitcher Collin McHugh from the Tampa Bay Rays. In order for the Braves to defeat the Dodgers for the National League, they will need to stay healthy and try and secure home field advantage. We predict the New York Mets will give the Braves challenging series’, but the Braves will win the NL East in 2022.

The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies are very interesting teams in the NL East. Although both have the potential of overtaking the Braves, the realistic prediction can be for both of these teams to be in the Wild Card position the entire year. Phillies added firepower with Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. This can help with the batting percentages and runs scored, however if they do not improve their defense (2021 worst defense statistically in MLB) they will not be consistent enough to avoid 1 or 2 run loss games. The New York Mets come in this season with one thing on their mind: Return On Investment. They spent a lot of money last year, but did not see the results. This offseason, they have brought in a former CY Young and World Series pitcher in Max Scherzer. They also filled several holes in their lineup with Sterling Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar. The major concern is the rotation after Scherzer. Jacob DeGrom is sidelined until June, and it is uncertain if they can be durable enough to contend. The remaining teams in the NL East (Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals) have some great individual statistics with power hitter Juan Soto of the Nationals, and newly acquired World

In the American League there are a few teams that can get to the World Series. The American League East is by far the most competitive division and will be a fun roller coaster to enjoy all season long. The Toronto Blue Jays will win the division and host a World Series game by living up to the title of best team in the American League. Adding Kevin Gausman from the San Francisco Giants and Yusei Kikuchi of the Seattle Mariners has bolstered this pitching rotation to the second best in the Majors. Acquiring Matt Chapman from the Oakland Athletics will bring a balance to hitting, but we cannot forget to mention that Chapman is one of the best defensive players at any position as well. Following the Blue Jays, we will have a two-way tie for second in the AL East all year. Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees will challenge for the AL Wild Card slots, and we believe one or both will be in the postseason come October.

Yankees are facing injury concerns to their starting rotation, and with the subtraction of some key RBI hitters from last year, we question whether or not that the Yankees can get runs from several inexperienced hitters. The Tampa Bay Rays have a superstar with Wander Franco. No doubt about it, Franco is one of THE best players in the MLB. The advantage that the Rays have over the Yankees is the depth that they have at pitching. Not only starters, but also their bullpen is experienced and ready to make another run. Besides the Blue Jays, we expect Rays to be in the postseason as a Wild Card. The Boston Red Sox can play spoiler to either of the teams. Their signing of Trevor Story improves their infield, however their bullpen is at best mid ranking in the American League and their starting rotation lacks depth and true value. The Baltimore Orioles will possibly win 60 games, but continue to try and find their identity and lack a structure to keep their farm team players on their roster and happy with losing every year.

Even though we believe there is a strong fight for second place in the AL West, the Houston Astros continue to be the favorite to win the division. With the departure of Carlos Correa, the Astros turn to younger stars like Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, and Alex Bregman to produce hits and runs. Add the health of Jose Altuve and the return of Justin Verlander and they will be back in the postseason again. In all actuality, we predict a major difference of wins between first and second place. The Los Angeles Angels hold a slight edge over the Seattle Mariners for 2nd place in the AL West.

Health will be a major telltale sign for the success of the Angels. They will need Anthony Rendon, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Noah Syndergaard to stay healthy all year long. If this does happen, the Angels have an improved bullpen and a better statistical starting rotation than last year. They can secure a Wild Card slot and be postseason bound. The Seattle Mariners are ready to win the AL West but it will not be this year. Jarred Kelenic still needs to make strides to improve and the potential that Rookie of the Year candidate, Julio Rodriguez, has on the team will determine how far the Mariners can go. The starting rotation still has us doubtful even with the acquisition of Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez. We expect the Mariners to have a good season, but miss the postseason by a few games back in the Wild Card race. The Texas Rangers improved defensively with the signings of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. Not just on the field, but they will bring power and percentage hitting that leads to RBIs. Our only concern is the bullpen and the lack of depth that the Rangers have over the course of a long season. Rangers will improve, but realistic prediction is a possible 3rd of 4th in the AL West division. The Oakland Athletics are in a total rebuild and will explore all options for the ball club and see where 2023, 2024 leads them.

Besides the Los Angeles Dodgers being the heavy favorite in the NL West, there is no other division in baseball that has a clearer winner predicted than the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. The Chicago White Sox have the best rotation in the American League. The lineup, top to bottom, is superb and they all have experience now after being eliminated by the Houston Astros last year in the ALDS. Jose Abreu, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Yasmani Grandal, and Tim Anderson all will lead the team and possible league in several statistical categories. The only concern we have with the White Sox heading to the World Series would be the bullpen injuries. Lance Lynn is on the injured list until June and Garrett Crochet had Tommy John Surgery. The division will be the White Sox triumph, but we do not believe they will get to the World Series. The Minnesota Twins improved by several signings and trades and needed positions. Sonny Gray, starting pitcher, was a great signing and the All Star signing of Carlos Correa sent shockwaves throughout the Majors. We predict an improvement for the club with a possible 80 to 82 win season, fight for a Wild Card, but ultimately have outfield concerns and have issues producing runs. Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Guardians, and Kansas City Royals all will have trouble beating the White Sox or Twins

in season series’ and each will fight for 3rd in the division, which we predict will see Tigers ending in third, Guardians in fourth, and last will be the Royals, even though Rookie Bobby Witt will give Royal fans a glimpse at the future. After considering everything that will occur in the playoffs, we expect the NLCS to be LA Dodgers vs. Milwaukee Brewers and the ALCS to be Toronto Blue Jays vs. Chicago White Sox. World Series prediction: LA Dodgers vs. Toronto Blue Jays – Winner 2022 World Series Champions: Los Angeles Dodgers.

Opening Day will always allow fans, players and franchises to dream of what if, possibilities. In our opinion, we believe it’s the Los Angeles Dodgers title to lose.

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