2024 MLB season: AL, NL and World Series picks on Opening Day

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Sportsnaut

Technically the 2024 MLB season has been underway for over a week after the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers played two games that counted in the standings in Seoul, South Korea. But not everyone watched those games due to their early morning start time. Today, fans of all 30 teams can watch their team of choice play some baseball.

This year is going to be extremely interesting. Two of the biggest stars in baseball land on different teams, with Juan Soto getting traded to the New York Yankees and Shohei Ohtani signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Those two clubs, along with the Atlanta Braves, appear to be the consensus favorites heading into the 2024 MLB season. Behind them there are a couple of standout teams like the Philadelphia Phillies and the always-dangerous Houston Astros. Then, there’s a dozen teams projected to win between 81 and 86 games. A couple of those clubs will end up winning their divisions, but the rest of them will be fighting to secure one of the three wild-card spots in each league.

It should be fascinating to watch.

Related: 2024 MLB season preview, a look at the top lineups

2024 MLB season: American League predictions

Best MLB lineups 2024
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

While the Yankees are projected to win the AL East, they already had questions about their starting rotation–which is relying on bounce back seasons from Carlos Rodón and Nestor Cortes–before reigning CY Young winner Gerrit Cole went down. The offense is improved, but it’s also possible this team misses the postseason entirely with a couple of key players missing a few weeks. The Baltimore Orioles take the division, just like last year.

The Central could go any number of directions. The Minnesota Twins are the frontrunners without question, but both the Cleveland Guardians and Detroit Tigers could end up sneaking enough wins in a tight race. In our season preview series, the Twins had one of the worst off-seasons in terms of talent that they lost from last season, and what they ended up bringing in to replace those guys.

They followed that up by going 9-19 during spring training with a -44 run differential. Obviously spring stats don’t mean much, but those two factors combined have me leaning towards the Tigers. They have a lot of guys with upside on the roster and a solid manager in A.J. Hinch at the helm.

The West came down to the final week a year ago with Houston ultimately taking the division. They didn’t do a whole lot this winter except add on five-time All Star Josh Hader, giving them perhaps the best 7-8-9 combination in baseball. Add in the fact that Yanier Díaz is going to be the primary backstop, and this club is probably in line for another AL West crown.

If one team can push them this season, it’ll be the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers just won the World Series, but they will be without Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer for the first half of the season. They’re better suited for October than the regular season. They’ll just have to make sure that they earn a wild-card spot.

Related: Best MLB rotations heading into 2024 season

2024 MLB season: National League predictions

2024 MLB season: Shohei Ohtani
Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Starting in the East, we have one of the two best teams in baseball with the Atlanta Braves. They’re going to be in the postseason, and they’re likely going to win the division to get there unless the Philadelphia Phillies over-perform their projections. The big question for Atlanta is going to remain whether they can handle the layoff they’ll receive before the beginning of the NLDS after winning the East.

The NL Central, much like the American League version, could go any number of ways. Both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus like the St. Louis Cardinals to take the division with just above a .500 record, and not by a wide margin over the Chicago Cubs. In a division this close, you have to go with the team that just shelled out a bunch of money to land Craig Counsell and make him the highest paid manager in the game.

The NL West, much like the East, feels like a forgone conclusion. It’s the Dodgers. They won 100 games last season and then went out and added Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow, and a slew of other talented players. They’ll also be getting Walker Buehler back at some point. Since 2013, the only season that the Dodgers didn’t win the West was in 2021 when the Giants won 107 games. It’s tough to see anyone in the division putting up a win total like that this year.

What about the Wild Card Teams?

Best MLB lineups 2024, Baltimore Orioles
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

So we have our division winners in the Orioles, Tigers, and Astros in the AL, and the Braves, Cubs, and Dodgers in the NL.

It would appear as if only one team is making it out of the AL Central, so that leaves the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays as the contenders in the East, and the Rangers and Mariners in the West. Only three of them can make it in. After letting the postseason slip through their hands last year, the Mariners stay strong and nab one of those spots. The Rangers are good enough to stay afloat while their rotation heals, but they can’t afford too many more injuries. I still think they make it in.

The Yankees are projected to be the fourth-best team in baseball over at BP, but the fact that they’ll be without Cole is worrisome. Their rotation outside of Cole isn’t necessarily a sure thing, either. For that reason, I’m taking the Toronto Blue Jays. This feels like a year that they need to show what they’re made of. Vlad Jr. has to establish himself. Toronto can’t afford not to make the postseason, so they do.

In the National League, the Phillies seem like the easy pick since they have made it to the NLCS the past two seasons. Beyond them, the Giants are a very interesting club. They may win somewhere in the 83-87 game range, but once October begins they could be dangerous, especially if Robbie Ray is pitching like the ace he’s shown in the past. Blake Snell is viewed as the big pitching addition that San Francisco needed to make, and that’s true, but there’s a chance that Jordan Hicks is more impactful, at least by WAR, if he can rack up enough innings.

Then you have the Arizona Diamondbacks, who just went to the World Series and boast a nice mix of young guys and veterans. This winter they signed Eduardo Rodriguez and Jordan Montgomery, giving them a pretty solid rotation with Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, and Brandon Pfaadt in the mix as well. San Diego and New York are the only two teams that could be in the conversation here as a contender, but the snakes, Phillies, and Giants look to be a step above the rest of those teams.

Related: Power rankings heading into 2024 MLB season

2024 MLB season: World Series prediction

Back I December I made the prediction that the Atlanta Braves would not end up facing the Phillies in the postseason, but would still end up losing in the NLDS. That still feels like it could happen, especially if they end up as the second seed in the NL behind the Dodgers. They end up losing to the Giants this year instead. The Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, riding Ohtani’s 12-for-12 with 12 home runs series.

That’ll give us a Giants/Dodgers NLCS.

In the AL, Baltimore was the number one seed last year, and they’ll repeat the feat this year. After Seattle defeats the Rangers in the four/five matchup, the Mariners head to Baltimore. Detroit and Toronto face off, and the Blue Jays get their first postseason series win since 2016, only to meet up with the Houston Astros. Seattle knocks off Baltimore, and the Astros make their millionth ALCS in a row.

That gives us a Mariners/Astros ALCS.

If the Mariners are able to make it this far, then they’re playing with house money. They have the pitching staff to compete with anyone, and Julio Rodríguez is a guy that shines on the big stage. They ride into their first World Series appearance in franchise history.

The Dodgers are just so talented and now they have seemingly two rotations worth of arms. They’ll pick the best five and win a tight one against their familiar foes.

America will be rooting for the Mariners, but the world may be cheering for Ohtani and the Dodgers. This would be a fun matchup if we see it, and while it would be great to just award Seattle their first World Series title, the story of Clayton Kershaw getting his first full-season ring would be a pretty great way for him to go out.

Dodgers in seven.

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