Sports Here are 18 thoughts and predictions for the 2018 MLB season

18:22  03 january  2018
18:22  03 january  2018 Source:   Sporting News

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RIVERA: New Year's resolutions for all 30 MLB teams. Anyway, on the first day back at work of 2018 , here are 2,018 thoughts about baseball for you to read. Only 18 thoughts about baseball in 2018 . You don’t have the time or inclination to read 2,108 thoughts on baseball , and I’m pretty sure I don’t

RIVERA: New Year's resolutions for all 30 MLB teams. Anyway, on the first day back at work of 2018 , here are 2,018 thoughts about baseball for you to read. Only 18 thoughts about baseball in 2018 . You don’t have the time or inclination to read 2,108 thoughts on baseball , and I’m pretty sure I don’t

a baseball player holding a bat on a field: Aaron Judge, Clayton Kershaw, Byron Buxton© (Getty Images) Aaron Judge, Clayton Kershaw, Byron Buxton As Tuesdays go, Tuesday wasn't much fun.

Most of the country is back at work after a holiday season that gave us at least a couple of extra days away from the office, hanging with family and friends. It’s the start of a new year, which is cool, but it’s a day back to the old routines (save for those of you at the gym for the first time in 11 months). At some point today or tomorrow, your mind will drift away from work. You’ll want something to distract you.

Baseball is a great distraction, and I want to help. Actually, that sounds bad, like I want to help distract you from work. But, well, kinda.

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Anyway, on the first day back at work of 2018, here are 2,018 thoughts about baseball for you to read. Just kidding. Only 18 thoughts about baseball in 2018. You don’t have the time or inclination to read 2,108 thoughts on baseball, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have the time to write that many.

1. At some point, Eric Hosmer will sign a contract. Same thing for J.D. Martinez. And Yu Darvish. And Jake Arrieta. And so on and so forth. Only one of the 10 players in SN’s original ranking of the Top 101 free agents, Wade Davis, has actually signed a contract this offseason (Shohei Ohtani was a late add to that list because of his uncertain status). The rest of that group has either watched potential new teams go in different directions or they’re playing chicken when it comes to salary terms (both years and money).

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However, it is never too early to make predictions . Here are 6-way-too-early predictions for the 2018 MLB season . He drove in 132 last season , so 18 more is within reach.

Here 's some Christmas buzz for you to peruse over a… Phillies won’t issue Roy Halladay’s number to any player in 2018 The Philadelphia Phillies will honour Roy Halladay by not issuing his No. 34 to any player on their roster next season , according to Todd Zolecki of MLB .com.

Eventually, though, they’ll all sign. Might not be this week or next week, but eventually. Don’t be stunned if there are a handful of impact guys still patiently waiting as spring training approaches, though.

2. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge will not combine for 100 homers. For some reason, some people will see that as a failure. The Yankees will win the AL East, though.

3. The Marlins will trade both J.T. Realmuto and Christian Yelich by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Heck, both guys could be gone before the regular season starts. The Marlins have to make these deals count. They’ve already traded away Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcel Ozuna, and they didn’t get a single Top 100 prospect in return. Derek Jeter and company have taken a ton of criticism (much of it deserved) but you know Jeter understands the value of young, controllable talent. That’s what Realmuto — three years club control remaining — and Yelich — five years left on his contract, counting club options — will certainly bring back to Miami. If I had to guess, Houston gets Realmuto (though Arizona should be all-in, immediately) and Atlanta deals for Yelich.

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There you have it: 50 vaguely informed predictions for the calendar year 2018 in baseball . Fifty. We counted twice and everything. MLB Free Agent Tracker 2017- 18 . Keep tabs on the top 50 free agents right here .

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4. Mike Trout will win the AL MVP. I like going out on limbs. Byron Buxton will finish second. We will marvel at both guys all season. Highlights aplenty.

5. We all love the “worst to first” storyline. The Twins pulled off an epic variation of that turnaround in 2017, going from 103 losses in 2016 to 85 wins and a playoff spot last summer. Sure, technically they didn’t reach the “to first” part because Cleveland won the division, but I think it’s safe to say the Twins were overwhelmingly happy with the whole postseason thing.

So which last-place team in 2017 has the best chance of playing meaningful games in October 2018? The six candidates are the Orioles, Tigers, A’s, Phillies, Reds and Giants. The Tigers are diving into full rebuilding mode, so they’re out. The Reds are still in that process and the Orioles are starting to realize contention isn’t their best option in 2018. They’re both out. The A’s are the A’s, and while you can never count them out, you probably should never actually count on them, either. The Giants are bound and determined to make 2017 look like an aberration, but that’s a team that had multiple issues last year and will need a lineup full of 30-somethings to stay healthy all season.

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The Phillies are the pick here. Something special is brewing with that ballclub, and though 2018 might be a bit ahead of full-arrival schedule, it’s not way ahead of schedule. The offseason signing of free-agent Carlos Santana to provide pop and stability in the lineup was an excellent addition to a roster that’s young, talented and has a bit of big-league experience under its belt. And I still think they’ll make at least one more significant talent acquisition, likely in the starting rotation. They aren’t locks for the playoffs, of course, but they’re easily the best postseason bet of any of 2017’s last-place clubs.

6. Alex Reyes will remind everyone why he was the odds-on favorite to win the 2017 NL rookie of the year award before he underwent Tommy John surgery. He’ll pitch big innings for the Cardinals in 2018 (not big as in a lot, but big as in important), and the Cardinals will need every out he can give them as they try to get back to the playoffs after a two-year absence.

7. If the Cardinals aren’t in prime playoff position by August (at the latest), they’ll reassign Mike Matheny somewhere in the organization and name current third-base coach Jose Oquendo manager. “If” is the key word there. The Cardinals’ brass loves Matheny, but the possibility of missing October three years in a row will be too much to accept.

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8. The Nationals will not win the World Series in their final year with Bryce Harper (and D.C.’s “professional” football team will miss the playoffs again). I’m not sure how the hopes of Harper’s Heroes will be crushed, but I’m sure it will be avert-your-eyes painful. It won’t be fun for anyone, except for fans of the team that does the hope-crushing, and even those people will probably feel a little guilty (especially if it happens in the NLDS).

9. The Dodgers won’t let Clayton Kershaw exercise his opt-out clause. They just can’t. Of all the potential free-agent losses in this upcoming mammoth class, Kershaw’s absence would be the most devastating, more than Harper leaving the Nationals, Josh Donaldson leaving the Blue Jays, Manny Machado leaving whatever team he’s playing for in August or Charlie Blackmon leaving the Rockies. Kershaw is L.A. The Dodgers will give him pretty much whatever he wants to sign an extension in exchange for not exercising his opt-out clause after the 2018 season. That new deal might have to include an opt-out after 2020 (pure speculation on my part), but in this case it’s OK to push that bridge back a couple of years.

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10. Speaking of extensions, don’t be surprised to see the Astros figure out one with AL MVP Jose Altuve. He’s been more than they could have ever expected when they signed him to a no-arbitration contract that will wind up being worth $25 million over six years (four years and $12.5 million were guaranteed, with another $12.5 million total for club options in 2018-19). There are few better player-team/fanbase fits than Altuve and the Astros, and he’ll just be 29 at the start of the 2020 season. Pretty sure everyone in Houston — players included — would revolt if the Astros let him leave town. Might as well end the thought of that possibility sooner than later.

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11. Ronald Acuna will become your favorite player this spring (if you watch a lot of spring training baseball). The Braves’ rookie outfielder is so much fun to watch.

12. And Shohei Ohtani will be a lot of fun to watch in Anaheim. He’s far from the most important element of the 2018 Angels, though. They need Mike Trout to be Mike Trout, of course, and they need new infielders Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart to produce as expected. But this team isn’t making October if the pitching staff, especially the rotation, struggles to stay healthy, as has been the case the past couple of seasons. They have plenty of options, but almost every option has an element of risk, and that’s most about injuries — Garret Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney have all missed significant time in the past couple of seasons. If they’re all healthy and in the rotation mix along with Ohtani, Parker Bridwell and J.C. Ramirez, then, yeah, the Angels could be really darn good.

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13. Andrew McCutchen will play in the 2018 postseason. It won’t be for Pittsburgh.

14. The pitch clock, which is almost certainly coming to the bigs for the 2018 season in some fashion (MLB wants it, but the Players Association is resistant), will cause more than a few veterans to be highly annoyed.ESPN reported in November that MLB wants a 20-second pitch clock when the bases are empty; also noted in that report, the average time between pitches was 23.5 seconds during the 2017 season. So, yeah. The youngsters will be used to the faster pace; pitch clocks have been in effect in the minors for a couple of years now. In the minors, pitchers are assessed a ball if the home-plate ump deems it’s their fault, and batters are hit with a strike if they’re deemed the issue. If that happens in the bigs in 2018? Yep, you’ll see upset veterans. And you'll see all the hot takes. All of 'em.

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In its own way, every baseball season is unpredictable. Who would have anticipated that in 2017 Aaron Judge would hit 52 home runs, that Derek Jeter would become the Marlins’ owner only to At the same time, predictions are simply too tempting to resist. These five are sure to come true in 2018

15. Bryce Harper will win the 2017 NL MVP. And then he’ll sign an insane contract (north of $400 million) somewhere other than D.C. next offseason, almost certainly before the calendar turns to 2019.

16. As much as I’d like to see the Mariners end their playoff drought, I don’t see that happening this year, as the team’s currently constructed. With Jerry DiPoto as the GM, though, there’s a good chance they make at least two or three more roster moves this offseason. Seattle hasn’t been to the postseason since the 2001 team won 116 games — future Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez hit .306 with a .966 OPS in his Age 38 season in 2001, btw — even though the franchise has been close on multiple occasions. If the stars of the rotation can stay healthy (hi, King Felix and Big Maple!) then I take back my won’t-make-October prediction. I hope that happens.

17. The Mets will continue to drive their fans crazy (yeah, that one’s probably too easy).

18. This is a long way off, but the 2018 Winter Meetings will be more exciting than the 2017 Winter Meetings. Seriously, watching the dominoes fall for next offseason’s crop of free agents will be thrilling to watch. Good times.

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Report: Orioles, Machado agree to $16M deal .
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