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 stumble in his new role, or that the San Francisco Giants, New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays would struggle so badly after reaching the playoffs.
At the same time, predictions are simply too tempting to resist. These five are sure to come true in 2018:
1. Shohei Ohtani will live up to the hype as baseball’s first two-way player in decades
Any player compared to Babe Ruth will inevitably disappoint, right? Especially when he has elbow damage and limited experience facing elite velocity? In some ways Shohei Ohtani has been set up to fail.
Until you consider his talent, that is. The right-handed pitching, left-handed hitting 23-year-old has physical abilities rarely seen on a baseball field. We’ve all heard about his 101 m.p.h. fastball and array of breaking stuff. We’ve seen the clips of him launching home runs deep to right field. But he also has elite speed – 70 or 80 on the 20–80 scouting scale – that will allow him to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples.
That’s something Babe Ruth never had. So if you’re expecting a Japanese copy of the Great Bambino, brace yourself for disappointment. But expecting a true two-way star seems realistic given Ohtani’s diverse skillset.
2. The Minnesota Twins and Colorado Rockies will both regress after reaching the playoffs in 2017
The Twins and Rockies had magical 2017 seasons, earning playoff berths when few had predicted they’d contend. In both cases, however, a repeat seems unrealistic.
The Twins patched their way to the post-season last year but lack the pitching necessary to return. While their division looks extremely weak, other wild-card contenders such as the Los Angeles Angels stand in their way.
As for the Rockies, they have no assurances that their largely unproven rotation will provide the stability required for another playoff push. Plus, two of the division rivals they beat up on in 2017, the Giants (12-7) and San Diego Padres (12-7), should both be stronger in the coming season.
3. Bryce Harper will have a monster season in his walk year
Even if you set aside the fact that Harper’s less than 12 months away from the biggest payday in baseball history, it’s easy to see why he’ll be motivated. The Nationals have yet to win a playoff series, and a perfect opportunity for playoff success exists in a weak NL East division.
Better still, Harper’s entering his age-25 season – typically prime time for the game’s best power bats. Expect a huge season for Harper, one that sets up the record-breaking payday we’ve been anticipating for years.
4. J.D. Martinez’s 2018 season will justify his inevitably big new contract
Every one of J.D. Martinez’s suitors is well aware of his flaws. He’s a below-average defensive corner outfielder and he’s not going to win many footraces.
Don’t let that overshadow his considerable offensive ability, though. He led all of MLB with a .690 slugging percentage in 2017, when he hit 45 home runs in just 119 games. If you go back to 2014, only four players have out-performed Martinez by wOBA: Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Giancarlo Stanton and Harper. Given those results it’s entirely reasonable to expect another big performance in 2018.
5. Jose Altuve will win yet another batting title
In recent years, Jose Altuve has started hitting for more power. With 31 home runs between the regular season and playoffs this past season, he showed that he can clear the wall with regularity.
And yet his ability to hit for average hasn’t diminished at all. He continues making exceptionally hard contact and using his speed to leg out extra hits when possible. That combination will lead to a fourth career batting title for Altuve in 2018.
Agree? Disagree? Got predictions of your own? Let us know in the comments below.