The Braves are World Champions.
That sounds nice, doesn’t it? As a lifelong Braves fan, it certainly does to me. I was fortunate enough to GO to Game 4 of the World Series last year, a good one that the Braves came out on top thanks to back-to-back home runs by Dansby Swanson and Jorge Soler, followed the next frame with a leaping grab by Eddie Rosario.
Then came the off-season. A series of big signings highlighted the early days. Then a bitter labor struggle that had been simmering blew up in a lengthy, ugly lock-out. Then the Braves lost Freddie Freeman, the Twins added Carlos Correia and the Mets started Metsing early with injuries to deGrom and Scherzer.
So what will 2022 hold? If the 2021 season taught us anything, we know it won’t go how we expect, but that’s what makes predictions fun. If they are right, you are a genius. If you are wrong…BASEBALL!
The defending NL West defending champion San Francisco Giants (I also love saying THAT to Dodgers fans) made a couple of moves this off-season, but also lost Kris Bryant who they picked up down the stretch last year, and leader Buster Posey. So again, against better judgment, I can’t pick the Giants to win the NL West. Sorry Giants fans…
- Dodgers: I’ll always love Freddie Freeman. Just hope he Kershaw’s it in October. This team is so good – but does have weaknesses. I’m actually not totally sold on the rotation or Cody Bellinger, and trading AJ Pollack is an interesting move given the Bellinger conundrum.
- San Diego Padres: Losing Tatis Jr to start the season hurts, and they need to get rid of Hosmer and/or Wil Myers offensively…but they have some interesting offensive upside guys coming into 2022 and let’s not forget they should get Mike Clevenger back at some point this season.
- San Francisco Giants: Wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them higher…but then I can’t shake that last year they just had things go the right way and losing Buster will reverberate in more ways than just production.
- Arizona Diamondbacks: The Dbacks might be closer than people think to building something…but not in 2022.
- Colorado Rockies: They added Kris Bryant and still have guys like Charlie Blackmon. They’ll hit.
The Brew Crew pitched their way to the NL Central title last year, holding off a late surge from the Cardinals before falling to the Braves in the Division Series thanks in large part to a Joc Pederson’s Pearls and a Freddie Freeman home run off of Josh Hader.
- St. Louis Cardinals: The rotation has some health concerns, and this isn’t just because Albert Pujols is coming back. I might be biased after just watching the Brewers last year in the Division Series – and they didn’t scare me at all. So for that, and because both the Reds and Pirates are tanking in this division, with the Cubs working at something but not quite enough. I think the Cards pick off enough wins to get the division from the pitching rich but everything else poor Brewers.
- Brewers: I mean, their starting pitching is really good, I just don’t think they fill enough innings and at some point Josh Hader breaks down for an extended amount of time. Who is Christian Yelich, really?
- Cubs: Because someone has to be third place, and if one team has defined mediocrity, it just might be the Chicago Cubs.
- Pirates: More because I think the Reds will be that much worse – and the Pirates have some promise in Ke’Bryan Hayes and prospects – but 2022 won’t be fun from a pitching side.
- Reds: Remember when they made the playoffs in 2020? With ace and Cy Young Winner Trevor Bauer? Feels like forever ago in so many ways…
The Braves are champs until proven otherwise. The Mets and Phillies spent some money this off-season, and even that Nats are trying with the Nelson Cruz signing, but I’m not convinced it will make much of a differnece at all. The East ended up not being great last year after being the talk of the off-season, and unfortunatley I see much of the same this year. The Braves though should wind up on top for their 5th straight division title.
- World Champion Atlanta Braves: Sure, the Braves lost Freddie Freeman. Deep breath. Breathe. Okay, moving on. They replaced him with a younger player in Matt Olson before locking HIM up to the largest free agent contract in Braves history. The team that won the World Series did NOT have 2020 NL HR and TB leader Marcell Ozuna, or 40/40 aspirant Ronald Acuna, Jr. They will be back. Austin Riley’s transformation should’ve gotten more press in 2021, and the addition of Kenley Jansen isn’t a cure-all, but it sure does add some great depth.
- Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies have Aaron Nola in the rotation and some scary offensive additions in Nick Castellanos to join Bryce Harper and JT Realmuto. The bullpen is still scary, along with the defense, but I could see them challenging the Braves into late August.
- Miami Marlins: The Marlins have some amazing young pitching. They also made the playoffs in 2020(which, okay, is why I’m really against a 14 team playoff system) and if their offense strikes often enough could have a good season.
- New York Mets: Personal bias coming into play again here, I hate the Mets. The Mets mets. They’ve proved it over and over again, and money can’t buy happiness or good luck. Already, deGrom is out for at least 4-6 weeks, Scherzer a little unsteady after being unable to finish last season in the NLCS, and I’m not convinced that Robinson Cano has anything left to offer.
- Washington Nationals: They won the World Series in 2019, and they have a future Hall of Fame player in Juan Soto. Their pitching is atrocious.
Last year was crazy. The Rays won the AL East again. The Red Sox had the division most of the way before faltering at the end, but in 2020 they finished beneath the Orioles. Was it all Alex Cora? The Jays were in the playoff hunt until the final weekend, and this year I see them making a big jump to win the division.
- Toronto Blue Jays: Vlad Jr is for real, Bo Bichette is getting better, and now they added Matt Chapman. It will be a fight fo sure, but I think the Jays can pull it off.
- Yankees: The Yankees fans always want more, but I think the Yankees will have enough to slug their way to second place in the AL East.
- Red Sox: I think Trevor Story’s addition is a little on the hype side, but no matter he is a really good player and the luxury of already having an All Star shortstop that forces him to second shouldn’t be under-stated. When most articles about the Red Sox start with “If Chris Sale is healthy…” they are in a bad spot, and Nathan Eovaldi can’t ride 2018 postseason heroics and adrenaline forever, can he?
- Tampa Bay Rays: Wander Franco is amazing, but like most years I think the big spenders have to catch up to the Rays at some point. Right? Would love to be proved wrong.
- Balitmore Orioles: Cedric Mullins should be traded along with Trey Mancini. Some good ones coming along though, maybe by 2025?
The AL Central should be the most exciting division in baseball in 2022. The White Sox battled injuries all season and weren’t fairly represented in the playoffs last year. The Twins went big to build around Byron Buxton, the Royals boast the best prospect in baseball in Bobby Witt Jr, and the Guardians still have Jose Ramirez, for now.
- Chicago White Sox: I think Tony LaRussa shows more how for teams with enough talent the manager doesn’t matter. I believe that managers do make a difference for teams in the margins. For example, the Braves of 2021 – Brian Snitker kept that team together after losing Acuna Jr. and others and gave the front office time to bring in reinforcements – all of whom worked out in magnificent ways. All to say – the White Sox are loaded. They had many big injuries last season and STILL waltzed to the playoffs. A full season of Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson, Jose Abreau, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito and more…wow.
- Detroit Tigers: This young pitching was MUCH better than people gave them credit for the second half of the season. It will be interesting to see how their workloads are managed. With the addition of Javy Baez – a deal I don’t actually like overall BUT will bring a very good, energetic player to this core – means they are ready to go. Casey Mize, Derek Skubal, Spencer Turnbull, and Matt Manning should all be good and hopefully can spell each other some. Veterans like Michael Pineda should help the rotation stick together(see what I did there) through the inevitable valleys. Throw in a dynamic player like Austin Meadows two days before Opening Day and rookie promise of Spencer Torkelson make the Tigers an exciting team for the first time in awhile. Finally, Miggy just needs 13 hits to mercifully get to 3,000.
- Minnesota Twins: Love what the Twins did this off-season. They cut bait with Josh Donaldson and went to work building around Byron Buxton – who has only surpassed 100 games played one season – but is incredible when he does play. Signing Correa to the contract they did was genius. If he plays great, the Twins win. If he doesn’t, they can trade him. The pitching worries me a bit but the bullpen has good pieces. Sonny Gray? Dylan Bundy? Not sure I trust them to lead the staff.
- Kansas City Royals: Really like what the Royals are building. I almost put them in 3rd and I just as easy could have put them in 2nd. Not this year though. I still want to actually see what Bobby Witt Jr can do at the Major League level. Their pitching staff has some intriguing pieces and I’m curious what Zack Greinke and the veteran effect will have on this young staff. I think he could be a huge mentor.
- Cleveland Guardians: This says more about the strength of the other teams then the low-payroll Guardians. They still have Shane Bieber and Jose Ramirez. The starting staff should be good in general, I just don’t think they will generate enough offense.
Love seeing a potential changing of the guard in the AL West. While Oakland trades away everything(they were sad to realize they couldn’t trade entire stadiums), the Angels are trying to build around Trout/Ohtani and the Mariners Jerry Dipoto relentless deal making is also making some progress on the field. Should be another fun division race all season long!
- Seattle Mariners: This seems to be the trendy pick, but I’m okay with that. Furthermore, the baseball players merit the pick. They picked up the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner in Robbie Ray, who long has been fantasy gold with K/9 ratio. Last year he also cut down on his walks with a 4.8 K/BB rate. Throw in some of the kids like Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez and this should definitely be the year Seattle brokes their 21 year post-season drought after falling just short last season.
- Houston Astros: This team did just go to the World Series after all…and while Verlander being back is huge, what kind of season can he provide and how many innings after Tommy John Surgery? They are still full of talent however and should be able to make things interesting all season long.
- LA Angels: We all really want the Angels to be good, don’t we? They have literally the top two players in baseball with Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. I like their gamble on Syndergaard but as always the pitching will be tough to watch. Offensively, they’ll be completely fine. I foresee a rebound year for Rendon both with his health and his numbers, and their young outfield might also turn out a lot better than some think. The playoffs are possible, which hasn’t been able to be said in Anaheim for some time!
- Texas Rangers: They made some big splashes with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien along with rookie surprise Adolis Garcia who had 19 homers by the end of June before only managing 11 the rest of way. The starting pitching and the fact that Brad Miller is scheduled as their starting left fielder is what has me worried.
- Oakland A’s: The cupboard isn’t fully empty…but this won’t be a fun year. That said, as their history has consistently shown, they will be back contending sooner than people think. Early 2025 Prediction has the A’s winning the AL West.
Division Winners: Braves, Dodgers, Cardinals
Wild Cards: Phillies, Padres, Giants
Division Winners: Blue Jays, White Sox, Mariners
Wild Cards: Tigers, Astros, Angels
Braves versus White Sox
Braves become the first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees to win consecutive World Championships!