Who are the favorites for the MLB World Series?
Opening day begins debates and predictions for the season and while there are consensus views, it is almost never unanimous.
Opening Day is, almost miraculously given the intransigence of the lockout, only a week later than originally scheduled. Somehow we thankfully still have a full 162-game season to look forward to.
Of course, opening day begins debates and predictions for the season, in particular for the World Series Champions, and while there are consensus views, it is almost never unanimous.
Predicting World Series Champions for Opening Day is a little like asking your 10 year old daughter to describe her future husband. A lot can change. A lot will change. But we will give it a go anyway.
The Dodgers are on everybody’s lips as ultimate Champs. But let us not forget that we all, myself included, felt that they would do it last season as well. They had a bullpen that was almost without equal in the history of baseball, but 2021 turned out to be not the year of the pitcher, but of the big hitter. It is for that reason that Los Angeles was so aggressive in signing Freddie Freeman in the off-season.
Not many people outside the I-285 loop give the Braves much chance to repeat, but they are not going away quietly. They picked off the Dodgers bullpen in signing Kenley Jansen, and have replaced Freeman with Matt Olson, a younger first baseman with every bit as hot a bat.
Let’s take a look at each division, and then we will see who is favored for the playoffs.
American League East
The Toronto Blue Jays are likely candidates to take the AL East, but you can never truly discount the Yankees. The Jays only missed the playoffs last season by a hair and they proved durable as the season wore on. The general feeling is that this is the Jays division to lose.
American League Central
The Chicago White Sox look strong contenders to repeat their performance and top the division, mainly behind a strong bullpen and solid fielding. The Minnesota Twins are in the hunt, though, with the acquisition of Carlos Correa from Houston, their infield is looking hot for the first time in years.
American League West
No surprises here, the favorite for the AL West title is the Houston Astros. Even with the loss of Correa, their batting order is as hot as they come. The question marks are all around their bullpen, can Verlander come back to his former level after Tommy John surgery and does McCullers arm injury from the playoffs signal something bigger? Behind the Astros, there is no clear number two. The Angels will ride superstar Shohei Ohtani for all he is worth, but the Mariners look to be in the fight.
National League East
The Mets into their prodigiously deep pockets and grabbed Max Scherzer from the Dodgers to join their bullpen, while picking up Joely Rodriguez from the Yankees. Conventional wisdom puts the Mets as having the edge in this NL East competition, but it seems that the Braves haven’t got the memo. Their loss of Freddie Freeman to LA is offset, maybe even nullified, by signing Matt Olson and with the addition of a healthy Ronald Acuña Jr next month, their offense is likely to be just as potent as during their run to the World Series last year.
National League Central
Not surprisingly, the Milwaukee Brewers are coming into this race as the favorites. They are fielding pretty much the same lineup that gave everyone such trouble last season, and their starting rotation is one of the best in baseball. The only real competitor for their claim to the NL Central is the Saint Louis Cardinals who, with the big bats and emotional experience of having Pujols and Yadi for one last time, could put together just enough to sneak over the line.
National League West
The field is almost united in feeling that this is the Dodgers’ year. They have all of the ingredients: strong hitting, a bullpen that is to salivate over. Picking up Freeman to add to Mookie Betts, Max Muncie and Justin Turner has made this offense one of the strongest in baseball ever. And the return of Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler have kept consistency on the mound with the signing of Craig Kimbrel making their bullpen a formidable weapon. Their only speedbump might be the Padres, but with Tatis out until June, they look to be a distant second.
Most people are giving the Blue Jays the AL Pennant, but Houston stands to make a hard run at it. Over in the NL, the consensus view seems to be that the Dodgers are a shoe-in, although the Braves will have something to say about that. The Dodgers seemed like a shoe-in last season, too, if you remember back.
If you buy the Dodgers vs Blue Jays in the Fall Classic, then you would have to nudge toward Los Angeles as the stronger team. But it is entirely possible to have a repeat of 2021 and see the Astros and Braves slugging it out in October. It has been over two decades since MLB had back-to-back champions, however, so it is more likely that one or the other of these teams make it, but not both. The Dodgers are being picked by everyone to bring the silverware to Southern California, usually by way of a Blue Jays series. Our pick here at AS USA is for a Dodgers vs Houston series, and the Astros taking it in seven.