East Divison Preview
When the Pirates joined the FCBL they were trying to rebuild a team who’s future draft picks were decimated. Now, they’re the favorites to win the division heading into the 3rd season of the project. The Buccos have far and away the best rotation and bullpen within the division. They are led by pre-season Cy Young candidate Luis Severino and young guns Aaron Nola and Marcus Stroman. The acquisition of veteran Andrew Cashner just before the season really put the rotation over the top compared to the rest of the East.
As far as hitting goes, the Pirates hold an overall edge as well. The gap between Pittsburgh and the rest of the division is smaller in hitting categories than it is in pitching. They are, however just 3rd in the division vs LHP, slightly behind Atlanta and St. Louis. They are far superior vs RHP though led by breakout candidate Marcell Ozuna who is primed for an All-Star type season. Andrew Benintendi and Trea Turner provide a solid one-two atop the batting order, and will give teams fits on the basepaths.
Writer’s Prediction: 90-72 record; Division winner
St. Louis Cardinals
Jacob deGrom and Lance McCullers Jr. are the only things saving what would be considered a down pitching staff. The two righties prop up the numbers of the rotation as a whole making them the 2nd best rotation within the East division. Games in which deGrom or McCullers get the start, the Cardinals will always have a chance to win, but if it’s Stratton, Guerra, or Gsellman they will just be hoping for the best. The bullpen is a different story for the Cards. Led by Kenley Jansen and Steve Cishek, St. Louis relievers will be very stingy versus right handed hitters as they also rank 2nd just behind Pittsburgh in this phase of the game.
The Cardinals lead the East division vs LHP thanks to the 3-4-5 of Beltre, Goldy, and Dozier. They rank 2nd against RHP and are led, as always, by likely future FCBL Hall of Famer Paul Goldschmidt. Dozier provides some unique power from the middle infield, and Realmuto gives the Cardinals an advantage as he gives them some offense from the Catcher position.
Writer’s Prediction: 83-79 record; Just misses the playoffs
Toronto Blue Jays
I really went back and forth for a while on who would finish better between the Jays and the Braves. I’ll start with pitching where they Jays are slightly better than the Braves from a rotation standpoint. Jeff Samardzija will be dawning the title of the staff ace, and that’s not pretty considering he wouldn’t crack the rotation of the team they’re chasing, the Pittsburgh Pirates. McCarthy is the wild card for Toronto. If he can remain healthy, he could give them some real quality outings this season. The bullpen is an obvious weakness for the Jays, especially once the closer Robertson was moved to Minnesota. They have a bunch of average, but not good throwers in the back end led by Pat Neshek.
Toronto is easily the worst team within the division vs left handed pitching. They rank last among the teams in the East Division in that aspect. The fact that their overall rotation had slightly better numbers than Atlanta, coupled with the fact that Toronto’s 1 through 5 vs RHP is really solid, is the reason I ranked them above Atlanta for the preview. Cozart, Gennett, Pham and Morrison make up the 1 through 4 against righties and all had solid numbers and an RC-RA score in the 20’s versus right handed pitching. Follow them up with the hard hitting Gary Sanchez, and that’s a recipe for success for the Blue Jays. They’ll need the top half of the order to produce, however, because the bottom half of the lineup is atrocious.
Writer’s Prediction: 73-89 record; Back in the lottery
As mentioned above, the real weakness for the Braves is the starting rotation. It ranks dead last within the division and by the numbers is one of the worst in the league. David Price is the ace of the staff and the only real weapon Atlanta has within the rotation. All 4 other starters are a liability when they take the mound. Rookie Jordan Montgomery serves as the next best option for Atlanta in the rotation and should have an okay year. The bullpen is also not a strong point for Atlanta as it ranks 3rd within the division and Adam Warren is the only real threat on the back end for opposing hitters. Raisel Iglesias should do well vs righties, but may struggle at times vs lefties.
The Braves rank 3rd against both LHP and RHP in the East Division. Manny Machado will lead Atlanta once again from the hot corner and look to provide them with as much offense as possible. Contreras will be a bright spot for the Braves and provide some offense from the Catcher position. The lineup vs RHP is consistent 1 through 9, but nobody in the order will provide numbers that will strike fear in opposing pitchers.
Writer’s Prediction: 69-93 record; Lottery pick