(Via Christopher Winckenstein/USA Today Sports)
The first day of the draft is behind us, and 32 college football players have begun their journey into the NFL. So, let's look at every first round pick and grade them accordingly.
1. Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma. Grade: C
Murray is a great athlete. He's not that good of a quarterback. Does that mean he's a bad quarterback? No. But he'll need some adjustment in the NFL, when everyone is as fast as he is. I also hope that the Cardinals trade Josh Rosen and he becomes a superstar.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State. Grade: B+
Bosa is a consensus top 2 talent in this draft. His brother is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, and Nick Bosa is probably better than Joey coming out of college. The only reason this gets a B+ is due to his injury situation from last season, so he may not be 100% when his rookie season begins.
3. New York Jets: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama. Grade: A
The best player in this draft. What else is there to say? I can't imagine Williams not being great wherever he goes. He should've gone to Arizona, obviously.
4. Oakland Raiders: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson. Grade: D
What? Honestly, what? I mean, with Josh Allen and Ed Oliver on the board, you take Clelin Ferrell? Someone you could've had in the 20's? He's a good player, sure, but this is a reach and a half. This is why they haven't been relevant for 15 years.
5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devin White, LB, LSU. Grade: B
White’s a solid linebacker, and should be a major contributor to the Tampa Bay defense. He led the SEC, the best defensive conference in the country, in tackles. He has good size and speed, and might even fit in as a hybrid player.
6. New York Giants: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke. Grade: C-
All signs pointed to the Giants drafting Jones, but at 17. Why take him here? I know, they want an heir apparent to Eli Manning since he is getting up there in age. But he would've been available if they waited and took a defensive player with this pick.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky. Grade: B+
I can't believe he fell this far. Honestly. He's done everything he could do in college. Set every major defensive record at Kentucky. Won every major defensive award his last season at Kentucky. He'll be a fine addition to a Jags defense looking to recapture its 2017 form.
8. Detroit Lions: TJ Hockenson, TE, Iowa. Grade: A
They needed a tight end, so they went out and got the best one on the board. One of the Iowa boys, he can catch passes, he can block, and won everything he could've won in his final season as a Hawkeye.
9. Buffalo Bills: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston. Grade: A
Oliver should've gone a long time ago. The only five-star recruit to go Group of Five, he has been an absolute beast in college. Was he going against competition lesser than him? Maybe, but that doesn't detract from him being an absolute athletic freak.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (from Denver Broncos): Devin Bush, LB, Michigan. Grade: C+
Our first draft day trade. Bush is pretty good. He's been nominated for the Butkus Award each of the past two seasons, led the Wolverines in tackles those years, and has blazing sideline to sideline speed. The only reason the grade is this low is because I believe they gave up too much for him, giving up a second and a future third.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama. Grade: B
The best tackle in the SEC. He's been durable ever since he got to Alabama, having started every game in his college career. He's essentially a brick wall, having not allowed a sack all of his last season with the Tide. And, despite his arms being an eighth of an inch too short, he's a tackle, not a guard.
12. Green Bay Packers: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan. Grade: B-
He's an incredible athlete. He was the #1 player in his class back in 2016. Since then, he's been a bit inconsistent at Michigan, but despite that, the potential was always there. If he can tap into that in the NFL, he could be close to dominant.
13. Miami Dolphins: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson. Grade: B
He's probably better than Ferrell. He's athletic, fast, and hey, he almost tackled Roger Goodell on the stage. He might even get some carries in the Fridge formation every now and then.
14. Atlanta Falcons: Chris Lindstrom, OG, Boston College. Grade: C+
This was an interesting pick to say the least. Not a bad one by any means however. He is solid as a rock, not allowing a sack all season for BC. Yes, he is the best guard on the board, but yes, he also could've been available much later.
15. Washington Redskins: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State. Grade: B
He's probably the best quarterback in the class, yes, even better than that Oklahoma guy. I wouldn't call him a franchise quarterback though. I'd call nobody in this class a franchise quarterback. But for what it was, it was a great pick.
16. Carolina Panthers: Brian Burns, DE, Florida State. Grade: C-
The big question with Brian Burns is his size. Sure, he's bulked up to around 250 pounds, but in college he was always around 235. His main thing is his speed, which he could lose by gaining weight. He was explosive at Florida State, but if he's not careful, he could get dominated by NFL linemen.
17. New York Giants (from Cleveland Browns): Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson. Grade: B-
As far as Clemson's defensive linemen go, Lawrence is the average one. Better than Ferrell, worse than Wilkins. He's incredibly athletic and fast for his size, being 342 pounds. In a division with Ezekiel Elliott and Adrian Peterson, he can stuff the run as well as rush the passer.
18. Minnesota Vikings: Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State. Grade: B
Bradbury has amazing athleticism for a lineman. He's versatile, bouncing around from guard to center during his time at Raleigh. He's a converted tight end, which helps with his athleticism like many tight ends turned offensive linemen, and should protect their $84 million man.
19. Tennessee Titans: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State. Grade: C+
If Simmons stays healthy, he will ball out. However, he'll probably miss his rookie season with a torn ACL. Outside of that, there's really no holes in his game. Just a classic high-risk, high-reward prospect.
20. Denver Broncos (from Pittsburgh Steelers): Noah Fant, TE, Iowa. Grade: A
The other of the Iowa boys, Fant would've been the best tight end at any other school in the country, except Iowa. To get him twelve picks after his teammate TJ Hockenson is an absolute steal of a pick.
21. Green Bay Packers (from Seattle Seahawks): Darnell Savage Jr, S, Maryland. Grade: D+
Our second draft day trade, the Packers swapped firsts and gave up two fourths in order to get him. So, why did they do that? They could've stayed put and tried to draft him at 30. That's why his grade’s so low. Not that he's a bad player, not at all.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (from Baltimore Ravens): Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State. Grade: A
Our third draft day trade, the Eagles swapped firsts, gave up a fourth, and gave up a sixth. And this is an absolute steal. There's no reason why Dillard should've dropped as far as he did. With the exception of Jonah Williams, Dillard is probably the best tackle in this class.
23. Houston Texans: Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State. Grade: C+
Howard has perhaps the most unique story in the draft, going from high school quarterback to first round tackle. He also uses this athleticism and ability to read defenses to his advantage. The knock on him is his small school, being that Alabama State is in the SWAC in the FCS. But if he plays as good as he did against Auburn or in the Senior Bowl, bump this pick up to a B.
24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago Bears): Josh Jacobs, HB, Alabama. Grade: B+
Jacobs doesn't really have the stats to get into the first round, but that was due to splitting carries with Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. He does everything you want with running the ball, catching passes, even blocking. And don't count him out in the return game either.
25. Baltimore Ravens (from Philadelphia Eagles): Hollywood Brown, WR, Oklahoma. Grade: C
Hollywood is a beast athletically. He is Antonio Brown's cousin after all. The concerning thing about him for me is his size, being only 5’9”, 166. But he's fast, he's quick, even if he'll need adjustment to the size of NFL defensive backs.
26. Washington Redskins (from Indianapolis Colts): Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State. Grade: A
Yet another draft day trade, the Redskins gave up two second rounders to move up 20 spots to draft this guy. And it was a steal. Due to medical issues, he went from potential top 10 pick to someone who just kept falling. Due to a heart issue, he was removed from the board by many teams, but only recently news came out that his heart isn't as serious as once thought. What a pick.
27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas Cowboys): Jonathan Abram, S, Mississippi State. Grade: B
It feels like the Raiders have needed a safety since Charles Woodson retired. Well, they just got one. And not just any one, not possibly the biggest hitter in the draft. They are definitely adding to their defense after the Khalil Mack trade, and Abram is a good addition to that.
28. San Diego Chargers: Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame. Grade: C
Tillery is athletic. He can blow by tackles and use his natural speed to get to the quarterback. However, there's a few drawbacks, those being his injury history (being injured for part of 2018) and the fact that Notre Dame plays a mostly weak schedule due to their resiliency to remain FBS independent.
29. Seattle Seahawks (from Kansas City Chiefs): LJ Collier, DE, TCU. Grade: D+
Yes, Collier was a First-Team All-Big 12 when he started, but he only started one season. This seems to be a bit of a reach, especially considering they just traded Frank Clark for this pick.
30. New York Giants (from New Orleans Saints via Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks): Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia. Grade: A
A fifth trade today, we get our first cornerback. And what a pick it was. He was the top DB in the nation, a first team All-American, and was part of the defense that flustered the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide for much of the SEC Championship game this past season. Incredible value.
31. Atlanta Falcons (from Los Angeles Rams): Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington. Grade: B-
McGary has good size, speed, and strength for right tackle. He was voted the best lineman in all of the Pac-12 by his fellow players. This was the second lineman taken by the Falcons today, and he's probably better than their first one.
32. New England Patriots: N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State. Grade: A
Wow. I have personally been a fan of Harry's for a while, but I never expected the Patriots to draft him. He has great size, speed, hands, athleticism, similar to a clean Josh Gordon. What a pick to end the night.
On September 14, 2018, with no one on and no one out in the bottom of the second inning, Chris Davis doubled to right field off of James Shields of the White Sox. He would immediately get thrown out at third one batter later. To date, it is his last hit. But to anyone who has watched him play, his decline has been shocking to say the least. Sure, any athlete declines with age. But to decline as sharply as Davis did as quickly as Davis did? That's historic. How did he get here?
Out of Longview, Texas, Davis was drafted in the final round of the MLB draft by the Yankees. He declined them, and two seasons at Navarro Junior College later, he'd sign with the team he grew up just a couple hours away from: the Texas Rangers. His three and a half seasons in Texas would be up and down, both in his performance, having his OPS go from .880 as a rookie to only .726 his second season, and literally, since he'd be consistently called up to the majors or sent down to the minors depending on the injury situation at the major league level. He'd be shipped off to Baltimore at the deadline in 2011, where he would spend the rest of his career. He'd make the team despite his struggles with the 2012 Orioles, since the year prior they only won 69 games and had nothing to lose. Davis responded with a breakout season. 33 home runs, an OPS of .827, and 75 runs scored. The Orioles would break out as well, winning 93 games before falling to the Yankees in the ALDS. The best of Davis had yet to come. In 2013, he'd hit a franchise record 53 home runs, have an OPS of 1.004, lead the AL with 370 total bases, and finish third in the MVP voting behind Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. Just for good measure, he'd start at first base for the American League All-Star team. This was Chris Davis at his peak. Throughout this whole season, he'd brag about how clean he was, how if he managed to hit 62 homers he'd consider himself the all-time single-season record holder, all that stuff. This would turn out to be a lie, as just the next season he'd be suspended for 25 games for amphetamines. Due to the suspension and a couple injuries, his numbers would dip slightly. Playing in only 127 games, he'd hit only 23 home runs and post only a .704 OPS. But I wouldn't consider this the fall. Not yet, anyway. He'd rebound in 2015. Yes, he did strike out 208 times. But he returned to form doing what he did best: crushing pitches, with his 47 dingers leading the AL once again, and his .923 OPS didn't hurt either. The fall would come shortly thereafter.
Chris Davis was on top of the world. He was an All-Star, the American League’s most feared home run hitter, and he was about to get paid. Sure, he struck out a lot, and he didn't really walk enough to make up for it, but you can't teach power, and you can't get more powerful than the guy who led the AL in dingers two of the past three seasons. The Orioles made sure he'd be back once he hit the open market, so they gave him seven years and $161 million. This is where he began to fall. Sure, he hit 38 homers. But his OPS dropped to .792, over 130 points. More importantly than that, he also struck out 219 times. That is the third most in a single season, behind Mark Reynolds and his 223 in 2009 and Adam Dunn's 222 in 2012. Davis's 219 may even be worse though. For Reynolds, he still had an .892 OPS that season. For Dunn, he also led the league in walks and was named an All-Star. Davis wouldn't be anywhere close to that. His 2017 was even worse. His home runs dipped to only 26, which isn't bad by any means, but for a guy whose only real tool left is power, that won't cut it. His OPS dropped another 60 points. His OPS+, which is a good measurement of how much better or worse than average a player is, dipped below the league average of 100 for the first time in a non-suspension season since 2011. If it ended there, you could make the argument he'd declined and wasn't worth the money. But it didn't end there.
There is nothing to say about Chris Davis's 2018 season except bad things. He played rather fittingly for one of the worst teams in modern history, but his stats require context. Let's start with his batting average. Before Chris Davis, the lowest batting average in a season was .179 by Rob Deer in 1991 and Dan Uggla in 2013. Then Davis hit .168 in 2018. The lowest OBP in any season since integration was Vernon Wells, who put up a .248 OBP in 2011. Then Davis put up a .243 OBP in 2018. Add in a .296 slugging, and Davis put up a pitiful .539 OPS. For context, in the modern era, Babe Ruth in 1923, Ted Williams in 1941, and Barry Bonds in 2002 and 2004 all posted an OBP higher than Chris Davis's 2018 OPS. Davis's OPS+ in 2018 was 50. German Marquez, the Rockies pitcher, had an OPS+ of 65 that season. Of course, the season ended with the first part of his now 0 for 49 streak. He continued it into this season, and shows no sign of picking it up.
Nobody wants to trade for Chris Davis. Even if a team did for some reason, he has his 10/5 rights to decline all trades. He costs too much to release. The Orioles are paying him too much money to bench him. As it stands, Baltimore is stuck with him. Normally, I'd say to remember the good times. But Chris Davis doesn't deserve that. Instead, remember him as one of the worst players in major league history.
(Via Getty Images)
NASCAR is great. It's been kind of niche for a good while, but its fanbase is still there and still dedicated. Despite that, NASCAR is determined to get a new fanbase that probably isn't there, existing fans be damned. It has turned away so many actual fans you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for Major League Baseball. But NASCAR isn't a lost cause. At least, it isn't a lost cause yet. It can be fixed, and here's how.
Market your stars
For the love of everything this sport used to represent, please NASCAR, if you do nothing else on this list, market your superstars. Every other era of NASCAR has had a national superstar even non-racing fans knew, be it Richard Petty in the 70’s, Bill Elliott in the 80’s, Dale Earnhardt in the 90’s, or Dale Earnhardt Jr in the 2000’s. The 2010’s haven't really had that guy to be the face of NASCAR. Sure, guys like Dale Jr, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson tried to really fill that role, but by now, they're all retired or at least washed up. As we enter the 2020’s, find a star and market the hell out of him. Don't choose one of the old guys like Johnson, Kyle Busch, or Martin Truex Jr. Pick someone who will could define a decade. Basically, what I'm trying to say is this: market Chase Elliott. Please.
Like most other sports, NASCAR has a de facto “minor league” system, namely, the Truck Series and the Grand National Series. Now, unlike those other sports, NASCAR not only lets the drivers in the big leagues compete in the minors, up until 2011, they actually encouraged it, allowing full-time Cup Series drivers to win championships in the lower series. Even now, NASCAR still allows Cup Series drivers to race in the lower series. End this as soon as possible. I've said this before, but if the MLB allowed Mike Trout to play a season in Triple-A while he was in the majors or if the NFL allowed Tom Brady to play a full season in college while he was still with the Patriots, every fan of every team would have a problem with it. So, why is it okay for someone like Kyle Busch to race in all three series? Not only does it hurt the development of younger drivers in these series, it makes the races less entertaining to watch. For example, this weekend's Xfinity Series race at Bristol was awesome because the only Cup Series regular in that race, Ross Chastain, wrecked out early.
End the Dash for Cash
Let's stick with the minor leagues. The Dash for Cash is at best confusing and at worst is absolutely terrible. Basically, NASCAR has four races where four drivers compete for a cash bonus, with said bonus going to the top finisher among those four. That isn't so bad. Don't get me wrong, it's pointless, unnecessary, and changing something just to say you've changed something, but ultimately it's relatively harmless. The problem is that beginning in 2016, it also decided which of those four would make the playoffs. So, in theory, a driver could fail to qualify for 32 races but finish better than three other drivers in the last four races and make the playoffs. That's just wrong.
Stop messing with the schedule
In 2020, NASCAR has decided to shake up the schedule for… no reason in particular. Now, being fair to NASCAR, there are some changes they made that are actually positive. Martinsville getting a night race will be considered fun until it's proven otherwise. Pocono getting Cup races on back to back days was something I personally wasn't a fan of, but I'll admit that the novelty of it has grown on me and I'm excited to see how it turns out. My biggest problem with the whole schedule change is changing the location of the championship race for no reason. Nobody really had any problem with the season ending at Homestead. I will gladly admit that ISM Raceway will make a good racetrack to end the season at if it's a good racetrack to end the season at. Some, most notably reigning Cup Series champion Joey Logano, thought it would be cool if the Championship race was at a different racetrack every season, like how the NFL plays the Super Bowl at a different stadium every season. I just think it's a pointless change and is trying to appeal to a fanbase who couldn't care about racing.
Bring back Dodge as a manufacturer
When Toyota joined NASCAR in 2007, some old school fans left, as a foreign manufacturer had invaded a distinctly American sport. However, due to the successes of drivers like Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone still vehemently anti-Toyota. However, when Team Penske made the move to switch back to Ford in 2012, it marked the first time since the late 1940’s that Dodge was not represented in the NASCAR Cup Series. As recently as late 2018, NASCAR has shown interest in adding a fourth manufacturer for the 2021 Cup Series season. And there have been multiple manufacturers that have expressed interest in being said fourth manufacturer, most notably Nissan and, you guessed it, Dodge. Re-adding Dodge, an American manufacturer, to the Cup Series would definitely bring back some of those fans who left when Toyota joined twelve years ago.
NASCAR is a long way away from coming back, and these are nowhere close to the sport's only problems. But these are a good start to bring back some of its former fans. I love NASCAR. I grew up watching it, and I've spent all of my life watching this sport. I don't want to see it die a slow, painful death. Unfortunately, given how the France family and NASCAR itself is handling things recently, it’s looking like we're much closer to the final race in the history of NASCAR than the first.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is great. If possible, every baseball fan should make the trip to Cooperstown at least once in their lives. But it isn't perfect. There's numerous players that shouldn't be in but are, and even more that should be in but aren't. Let's look at some borderline players to see if they should have made the cut.
Ozzie Smith (Padres and Cardinals SS, 1978-96)
Ozzie might just be the greatest defensive player of all time. But is that enough to earn him an induction? Looking at the five tools, we know Ozzie’s defense is off the charts, so we can skip that, since nothing else needs to be said. His arm is alright, he would've gotten more if he played third base or any outfield position, but as it stands, it's good enough. He doesn't have blazing speed, but it's still above average, stealing 580 bases in his career. That's really good, good for xth all time. I'll give him credit where credit is due here. Offensively though? That's a diffrerent story. How does he hit for contract? Only .262 for his career. That isn't good by any means. However, it can be excused with power. Harmon Killebrew’s batting average was lower than that at .256, but his 573 home runs are more than enough to get him inducted. Ozzie has the most famous home run in Cardinals history this side of David Freese, but he hit only 28 for his career. I can't ignore his offense when it's such a big part of the game. My verdict is: he doesn't deserve induction.
Kenny Lofton (Indians, Astros, Braves, White Sox, Giants, Pirates, Cubs, Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, and Rangers CF, 1991-2007)
In recent years, Lofton has been a sabermetrics darling. However, he got only 3.2% of the vote his first and only year on the ballot, leading to his dropping off the ballot. Did he deserve better? Just like with Ozzie, let's start with the positives. Lofton had blazing speed. His 622 stolen bases are 15th all time. His defense was also a plus, as he was one of the best defensive center fielders of his era. He wasn't too bad on contact either, hitting a respectable .299 for his career. That's even higher than Mickey Mantle’s. However, just like with Ozzie, it's Lofton's power numbers that bring him down. So, Lofton played 17 years in the major leagues. How many dingers did you think he hit in that time? You can probably tell he's not a huge power guy, but how many did he hit? Maybe 250? Maybe 300? More than that? No. He hit 130. There's no excuse for a player who played that long to have that few homers. Nolan Arenado already beat him in less than half the time. And besides, look at his ballot: Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, and even more who made it to Cooperstown. My verdict is: the BBWAA made the right choice. Lofton shouldn't get in.
Barry Bonds (Pirates and Giants LF, 1986-2007)
Barry Bonds is one of the most controversial players in any sport of all time. Statistically, he is a Hall of Famer. 762 home runs (the most all-time), 162.8 WAR (the most all-time), 2558 walks (the most all-time), and countless other records. However, he has yet to be inducted due to the cloud of steroids hanging over his head. It's as clear as day. No player who is clean can hit much more than 60 homers in a season. Hitting 73 in a season? That's essentially impossible for a clean player. He must have been on something. And that's why I agree with the BBWAA. The Baseball Hall of Fame is a sacred place, and it shouldn't be tainted with cheaters. My verdict is: the BBWAA is making the right decision keeping him out.
There are more borderline cases than just these guys, but they're the most famous. And at the end of the day, none of them deserve to be inducted.
We are so close to baseball season. In fact, tomorrow is Opening Day for most teams, if we discount the Ichiro Retirement Tour that was the Tokyo Series. So, why not look at some bold predictions for the oldest professional league in sports, the National League?
Clayton Kershaw will win the Cy Young
It's incredible that only a few years ago this wasn't bold, but a foregone conclusion. Kershaw has accomplished everything in the game of baseball with the notable exception of winning the World Series (which he very well could still do). Kershaw had his “worst” full season since 2010 where he still posted a 2.73 ERA but missed the All-Star Game for the first time since that 2010 season. However, this year he'll be (mostly) healthy and back to being Clayton Kershaw, winning his fourth Cy Young over finalists Max Scherzer and….
Josh Hader is a Cy Young Finalist
Josh Hader is the best relief pitcher since Mariano Rivera retired. Who else can even compare? Hader's 2018 was just straight dominance, leading to his first ever All-Star appearance. He completely (almost singlehandedly) changed the ways relievers are looked at in Major League Baseball. No more will relief pitchers be judged on how will they finish the job like Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, but rather how they can come in whenever and how they can shut down an offense in a jam. I call this the Josh Hader revolution, but that's a story for another time. Expect Hader to have the greatest season of any reliever since Zach Britton was in his prime.
Craig Kimbrel goes unsigned until May, then signs with the Brewers
If Josh Hader singlehandedly revolutionized all relief pitchers, then Craig Kimbrel is the last hope for outdated “traditionalists” who still think closers are necessary for a good team to do anything successful. For what it's worth, Kimbrel is a good relief pitcher. Sure, if this was fifteen or twenty years ago, Kimbrel would be rivaling The Great Mariano as the best reliever in the majors, but he's still solid. His fatal flaw is his lack of versatility. While Hader can come in whenever, Kimbrel is only useful in the ninth or extras, and only then in save situations. Still, he could help a team, but not for the first month. He will sign with the reigning NL Central Champions, the Milwaukee Brewers. Why? The Brewers have a pretty good bullpen including Hader and fellow 2018 NL All-Star Jeremy Jeffress. They're the only team (except the Braves) to show real interest in Kimbrel, and they don't have a real “closer” in case they think that's important, for some reason. Signing Kimbrel will give the Brewers a 1-2-3 punch out of the bullpen and would probably be the best bullpen in at least the National League.
The Rockies win the NL West
The Rockies are very much on the rise. German Marquez and Kyle Freeland look to be blossoming, which is great news for a team that claims its best pitcher in franchise history as Ubaldo Jimenez. Trevor Story is blossoming into an MVP candidate, guys like David Dahl and Raimel Tapia have untapped potential, Daniel Murphy replaces DJ LeMahieu at second, which is at worst a wash and at best an improvement, they have the National League's best manager in Bud Black, and that's not even mentioning their franchise faces of Charlie Blackmon and especially Nolan Arenado. Don't be surprised if the Dodgers start to slip after back to back World Series losses, despite having won the NL West for six consecutive seasons.
Lorenzo Cain wins MVP
In the AL, the best center fielder is obvious: Mike Trout. But what about the National League? That's not so clear. I know nobody cares about defense, but I believe it's Lorenzo Cain. In Milwaukee, Cain has been even better than he was in Kansas City. But didn't a Brewers outfielder win MVP a year ago? Yes, Christian Yelich did. But here's the thing: for a lot of the season, Cain was just as good as Yelich. After the All-Star break though, Yelich flipped the switch. His OPS was 1.219 over the second half of the season. To put that number into context, only six players have ever OPSed 1.219 in a full season: Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, and Mark McGwire. Before the break, Yelich would OPS .823, still good, but nowhere close to his second half. Cain's first half OPS was .820, just below Yelich. In fact, in that first half, Cain posted a higher OBP than Yelich did. It's more likely for Lorenzo Cain to keep on keeping on than it is for Christian Yelich to post a historically great season. Don't be surprised if Yelich has another good season, but Cain will outperform him in 2019.
The Milwaukee Brewers win the World Series
That's what, four Brewers predictions? Well, they should be optimistic after what they've done over the past few seasons, going from 73-89 in 2016 to 86-76 and the brink of the playoffs in 2017 to 96-67 and one game from the National League Pennant in 2018. They've taken a massive step forward every season ever since Craig Counsell got the interim tag removed, and there's isn't really any reason to believe they won't do more of the same in 2019, especially since they retained most of their same players. So, amazingly, the Milwaukee Brewers are my pick to advance to their second World Series in franchise history (remember: they won the American League Pennant back in 1982 before losing to the Cardinals) and they will capture their first ever World Series championship. And just for good measure, your 2019 World Series MVP will be Travis Shaw, and they'll win the series in six games.
So those are my bold predictions for the National League. Remember to check out my American League bold predictions, as I'll revisit both after the season to see how I did.