Cooper: MLB Postseason Preview

Noah Cooper, Staff Writer

Before leaving for spring break, I told Editor-in-Chief Kellen Fenrich that if the Major League Baseball lockout did not end within two weeks, I would write my article on the negotiations between the players and ownership. The next day, on March 12th, the Major League Baseball Players Association and owners agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to guarantee that the 2022 MLB season would in fact take place. Thankfully, I don’t have to write that article. This should bring joy to all baseball fans, die-hard or casual. This MLB season will be one of the most exciting in recent times. Here are my end of season predictions.


The Division Winners:


NL EAST: New York Mets

March 27th will forever be known as “Degrom-Scherzer Day”, the day on which Mets franchise ace Jacob Degrom and free agency pickup Max Scherzer split a spring training game and wreaked havoc on the Cardinals with their combined 5-Cy-Young-Award-Winning arms. They are joined by All-Stars Chris Bassit and Taijuan Walker as well as Carlos Carrasco to give the Mets possibly the best pitching rotation in the league. In the batter’s box, New York can expect many runs from power hitter Pete Alonso, speedster Starling Marte, and serial base-reacher Brandon Nimmo as well as All-Stars Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil. The Mets lineup is stacked on both offense and defense, so despite their history of underperforming and disappointing fans, I have the Mets winning their first division championship since 2015.


NL CENTRAL: St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals’ legendary catcher Yadier Molina has said that he will be calling it a career at the end of this season after ten All-Star selections and nine Gold Gloves. In his last season, I see him adding one more division championship to his resume. His help consists of 2021 rookie-of-the-year nominee Dylan Carlson, sluggers Tyler O’Neill and Nolan Arenado, All-Star Paul Goldschmidt, and defensive center fielder Harrison Bader. Pitchers Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright give the Cards an important boost twice a week. St. Louis might have some x-factors  if Paul DeJong can step it up at the plate and if Flaherty can return to his 2019 form to carry their team to the playoffs. All in all, the Cardinals have an outstanding outfield, interesting infield, and powerful pitching rotation. I predict that this team will easily be first in the Central division.


NL WEST: Los Angeles Dodgers

Easily my least controversial pick for this season, the Dodgers rotation consists of Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer as well as All-Star Walker Buehler and last year’s wins leader Julio Urias. Trea Turner, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Mookie Betts, and Will Smith highlight one of the scariest hitting lineups in the league. As if that wasn’t enough, LA added MVP Freddie Freeman in the offseason. What would really give this team an edge would be a return to form from Cody Bellinger, who batted terribly last season despite winning MVP two years prior. Even without Bellinger, the Dodgers possess a terrifying hitting core complimented by hard throwing pitchers that will bring them their usual division championship after failing to get their tenth consecutive title last year.


AL EAST: New York Yankees

With four players on their team that have hit 40 home runs in one season (Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, Josh Donaldson), plus strong hitters in Anthony Rizzo and DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees will certainly earn their nickname, the Bronx Bombers. Having Gerrit Cole pitch a game every week will increase their odds, as he struck out an impressive 243 batters last season. Add in a late 2010s level season from Gleyber Torres, and you’re looking at a 95-win team. The main thing holding back the Yanks is the strength of their division, having to play 57 games against the Blue Jays, Rays and Red Sox. Even so, they’re still my favorite to come out on top in the East.


AL CENTRAL: Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are likely to have the best record in the American League this year, for two reasons. The first is the fact that their division lacks any real competitors. Last year, the Tigers, Guardians, Royals, and Twins all failed to reach a winning record. With the exception of Chicago, this pattern of mediocrity in this division is likely to continue this season. Playing 76 of their games against bottom feeders is sure to help their record. Second, the Chi Sox are pretty good themselves. They have depth in every facet of the game, from power hitters like Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal, to all around superstars like Tim Anderson, AJ Pollock, Luis Robert, and Yoan Moncada. They also boast an impressive pitching staff, including Cy Young candidates like Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito, and last year’s best closing pitcher Liam Hendricks.


AL WEST: Houston Astros

When the Astros made the world series last year, I was one of the few who was rooting for them to beat the Braves (who I dislike as they are a division rival of my beloved Mets). It seems like most people still have not forgiven the Astros for their 2017 sign stealing scandal, but unfortunately for the haters, Houston isn’t going anywhere. 30 home run hitters like Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez highlight the run scoring ability of this team. In terms of reliability, Houston has .300 hitters Yuli Gurriel and Michael Brantley. Lance McCullers and Luis Garcia, two premier pitchers, carried the Astros to the third fewest runs allowed in the AL last season. The question for Houston will be whether Alex Bregman can step up and return to 2019 form to help make up for the loss of All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa. Still, the Astros are looking good for 2022.


The Wild Card Teams:


NL West: San Diego Padres

Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. is going to have to miss the first 3 months of the season with a broken wrist after missing a decent chunk of last season due to injury. Despite his partial absense, he still led his league in home runs with a towering 42 bombs on .282 hitting average. However, Tatis Jr. missing the first three months will be a tough loss for San Diego. In lieu of flowers, the Yankees sent the Padres 2020’s home runs leader Luke Voit, who will make up for Tatis’s absence and play alongside him when he returns. San Diego also receives support from Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth when it comes to hitting the ball out of the park. Ace Joe Musgrove had a great year on the mound last year for the Padres, and I also see bounce back years for Yu Darvish and Blake Snell to give San Diego three strong pitchers on top of their elite offense.


NL West: San Francisco Giants

Last year I had the Giants coming last in their division. They ended up having the best record in the MLB. I don’t expect them to do that again this year, though I will acknowledge that I severely underestimated them. San Fran’s two Brandons (Belt and Crawford) had great all around seasons, with veteran Evan Longoria, contact hitter Donovan Solano, and slugger Mike Yastrzemski all putting up great stats. In the offseason they replaced pitcher Kevin Gausman with Carlos Rodon, which shouldn’t really affect the team much, especially since they still have Logan Webb and Anthony Desclafani. The Giants’ only problem is having to play so many games against the Dodgers and Padres, as well as the departure of veteran catcher Buster Posey who retired after one of his best seasons. Nevertheless, they should still make the playoffs.


NL East: Philadelphia Phillies

If I’m being honest, I see the Phillies core as more reliable than that of the Braves. Even though Atlanta saw postseason success, it is not all that uncommon for the World Series winner to miss the subsequent playoffs. Philadelphia added All-Stars Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos to a roster already containing MVP Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura, and Rhys Hoskins, who all give Philly a lot to work with. And with a breakout year from 24-year-old Alec Bohm, the Phillies are set up for success this season. On the mound, they have strikeouts leader Zack Wheeler and a bullpen consisting of Corey Knebel, Jeyrus Familia, Brad Hand, and Ranger Suarez. I think Philadelphia is being relatively overlooked and is a real contender in 2022.


AL East: Toronto Blue Jays

In 2021, Vladimir Guerrero hit 48 home runs and batted .311, Bo Bichette hit 29 home runs and batted .298, and Matt Chapman hit 27 home runs and won a Gold Glove. Combined, these three, along with a healthy Cavan Biggio, potentially give the Jays the best infield in baseball. On top of that, they have three other 20 home run hitters in Lourdes Gurriel, Teoscar Hernandez, and George Springer. They picked up Kevin Gausman in the offseason to be their new star pitcher, throwing alongside Hyun Jin Ryu, Alek Manoah, and Jose Berrios in one of the best rotations in the AL. This should more than make up for the loss of Robbie Ray. However, this is another situation where a team is going to be held back by a great division, and the Yankees simply have more great players.


AL West: Los Angeles Angels

Last year’s biggest headline was the breakout of two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who hit 46 home runs as a batter while also boasting a 3.18 ERA, earning him MVP. He became the first player to put up numbers like this in both facets of the game since Babe Ruth nearly a century ago. And yet, he is still not the “most valuable player” on his team. Center fielder Mike Trout, who has won three MVPs throughout his incredible career due to his power/speed prowess, missed most of last season due to injury. Hopefully he’ll be back this year, ready to put up his typical 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases on a .300 hitting average. With a couple more homers from Jared Walsh and Justin Upton, some quality pitching performances from Ohtani and Patrick Sandoval, plus some good saves from Rasiel Iglesias, the Angels can secure second in the West.


AL East: Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays are pretty easy to count out, mostly because they don’t have big-name, exciting stars like many other teams. And yet, they’ve made the playoffs each of the last three seasons. Mike Zunino And Brandon Lowe hit a combined 72 home runs last year. Tyler Glasnow, despite not being able to play as many games as he would have liked, had a 2.66 ERA. But besides Glasnow, Tampa Bay’s main challenge is their lack of reliable pitching. And in a division as tough as the AL East, you can’t afford to have a lackluster pitching staff to go against sluggers like Aaron Judge or Vlad Guerrero. What will likely end up carrying the Rays to the playoffs is a full season with second-year Wander Franco, formerly one of the hottest prospects in baseball, who made it to the Show in the middle of last year. We’ll see how he fairs in his first full season in the big leagues.


The Bracket: