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The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

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MLB division predictions

Sports opinion
Ronald Acuña Jr. looks to claim the NL East for the Atlanta Braves.

We are two weeks into the Major League Baseball regular season and it is already looking to be a great one. After a record breaking offseason filled with megadeals and big time acquisitions, 30 teams came into the new season with hope of a successful season, some more than others. I’ll be spotlighting some teams and players to watch as well as making my division winner predictions. 


From 2018-2021, the Baltimore Orioles had a record of 178-368, placing at the bottom of the AL East in every year but one. During that stretch, they owned the #1 overall pick twice, and they cashed in both times. In 2019, they drafted Adley Rutschman, who has anchored their team to an over .500 record the past two seasons. Rutschman has hit 33 home runs and has driven in 127 runs in his two years in the big leagues. In 2022, the Orioles selected shortstop Jackson Holliday, who has hit .321 in his first two years in the minor leagues. At times, the rebuild has been tough, both for fans and management, but it seems that the Orioles have finally turned the corner. After a 101 win season in 2023, the Orioles look to repeat as the division winner and another postseason berth. 

Since the turn of the century, the New York Yankees have only missed the playoffs 5 times. 2023 was one of those years, registering a record of 82-80. The “Bronx Bombers” look to rebound after a disappointing 2023 campaign. The addition of superstar Juan Soto will help. Soto has been one of baseball’s best players over the past six seasons. Starting his career with the Washington Nationals, Soto helped the Nationals win the 2019 World Series. Soto joins a loaded lineup that includes former-MVPs Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Their pitching depth is also a reason to be excited, as their starting rotation has big names like Marcus Stroman, Carlos Rodón, and Gerrit Cole, who is currently on the 60-day IL. A bounce back year is in store for the Yankees if they can stay healthy. 

While the Blue Jays, Rays, and Red Sox all pose a threat, I believe this division is a two horse race between the Orioles and the Yankees. The Yankees talent is off the charts, but a majority of their star players are getting older. The Orioles also have lots of star power, but are riddled with injuries to their starting rotation during spring training. Both teams have injury problems, but I’ll go with the younger team and more juice. 

MY PICK: Baltimore Orioles


The AL Central will be one of the toughest divisions to predict. Four different teams look to be in the mix for the division crown. The winner from a year ago, the Minnesota Twins, will look to go back to back. The departures of pitcher Sonny Gray and infielder Jorge Polanco hurt, but the depth of the Twins infield and pitching should be able to keep them competitive. Shortstop Carlos Correa and Gold Glove outfielder Byron Buxton will try to make up for the absence of Royce Lewis, who is out for the first month of the season with a quad injury. 

The Cleveland Guardians didn’t make many moves in the offseason, so essentially they return most of their roster from last year. A 16-win difference from 2022 to 2023 put the Guardians in 3rd place in the AL Central last year. At the plate, the Guardians will be led by infielder Jose Rameriez and outfielder Steven Kwan. Shane Bieber is the team’s ace, but it seems that he may be dealt by the end of July at the trade deadline. The Guardians lack power at the plate, but in a not so strong division, they could be up for the top spot. 

The Detroit Tigers are finally on the rise after a long rebuild window. Holding the largest active playoff drought in baseball (10 years), the Tigers look to take a big step forward in 2024. The Tigers have a variety of players that they will play. The lineup will constantly consist of Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson. The starting rotation is led by notable names that include Jack Flaherty, Kenta Maeda, and #1 overall pick Casey Mize, who is returning from Tommy John surgery. While this might be a year early for the Tigers first division crown since 2014, things definitely look a lot better than previous seasons. 

Finally, the Kansas City Royals look to rebound after an abysmal 2023 campaign that saw just 56 wins, their lowest amount since 2005. The Royals will be led by star shortstop Bobby Witt Jr, who made big strides from his first year to his second. Other key contributors include MJ Melendez, Vinnie Pasquantino, and veteran catcher Salvador Perez. Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo were brought in to bolster the pitching depth, which will need to improve from a year ago if they want a chance at a postseason berth. 

The Chicago White Sox are in full rebuild mode and could be in contention to have the worst record in baseball. This division doesn’t have a clear favorite, but I think the Twins are clearly the best team. If they were in any other division, I probably wouldn’t pick them, but the lack of an elite team in the AL Central gives me no choice. 

MY PICK: Minnesota Twins


This division is home to the reigning World Series champs, the Texas Rangers. The Rangers finally reached the peak of the mountain for the first time in franchise history. It’s easy to forget the fact that the Rangers’ run started from the wild-card spot. They didn’t even win their own division, which was won by the Houston Astros. Corey Seager and Adolis Garcia became postseason heroes a season ago, helping win the World Series last season. The Rangers have lost more than they have gained, including the departures of reliever Aroldis Chapman and Mitch Garver. It’ll take a season’s effort to win the AL West, one of the toughest divisions in the MLB. 

The betting favorite to win the division is the Houston Astros. The Astros won the division last season, marking five division crowns in the last six years. They’ve made the playoffs in seven straight years. Not only that, they’ve also reached the AL Championships Series the last seven years. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Yordan Alvarez spearhead the potent offense. The addition of Josh Hader will help the bullpen and Ronel Blanco will try to carry the starting rotation. 

The third team in contention for the division title is the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners snapped their long playoff drought in 2022 but found themselves sitting at home for last year’s postseason. Their 88 wins put them in third place in the AL West. Julio Rodriguez is the star of the show offensively, registering 32 homers and 37 stolen bases. Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, Mitch Haniger, Luke Raley, and Luis Urias were all brought in to help improve the offense, which ranked 12th last year. 

The starting rotation looks to be one of the league’s best, which includes Luis Castillo. 

The Angels and Athletics both look to be non-threats when it comes to the top spot. This division really could go any way. I could pick the defending World Series champions, who returned most of their core from last year. I could pick the team who is the betting favorite and who has had recent success. But I’m not going with either; instead, I am picking the Mariners. I think Rodriguez will have a big year and will be in the AL MVP discussion. 

MY PICK: Seattle Mariners


There isn’t much of a discussion on the favorite to win this division. Led by the reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuna Jr, the Atlanta Braves eye a big year ahead. The Braves have won 100 games in each of the last two seasons. They have also been atop of the NL East the last six years, including a World Series championship in 2021. With many of their young players in their prime, the Braves look as good as any to bring home another Commissioner’s Trophy. Other notable players include ace Spencer Strider, Orlando Arcia, Ozzie Albies, Matt Olson, Marcell Ozuna, and Michael Harris. Yep. This team is loaded. 

The real question is who will be fighting for second place. The Philadelphia Phillies certainly have the star power to do so, and came up just one win short of back to back NL pennants. Bryce Harper is the best player on the team, who battled through injuries in 2023. Pitcher Aaron Nola leads the rotation. The Mets are an interesting team, who rank in the top half of the MLB’s highest payrolls. Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor are their leaders on offense while Sean Manaea, Jose Quintana, and Luis Severino lead the pitching staff. Then there’s the Marlins, who have gotten off to a slow start in 2024. After winning 84 games a season ago, they are due for regression. That’s because the Marlins ran hot with a 33-14 record in one-run games in 2023. Their ace, Sandy Alcantra, will miss the whole season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. 

This pick is simple. I won’t waste your time. 

MY PICK: Atlanta Braves


Every single team in this division can make a case to win it this year. After adding division rival coach Craig Counsell, the Cubs are poised for a big jump in 2024. Led by Cody Bellinger, Dansby Swanson, and other key contributors offensively, the Cubs offense should be electric every night. They bring in Japanese pitcher Shōta Imanaga, who is paired up with Cy Young candidate Justin Steele. The big question for the Cubs will be the bullpen. 

The St. Louis Cardinals are the favorites to win the NL Central. After coming off their first losing season since 2007, the Cards went to free agency to add to their pitching depth. Kyle Gibson, Sonny Gray, Andrew Kittredge, Lance Lynn, and Keynan Middleton all look to make an impact on the mound. Offensively, they are led by Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt. Was last year a fluke or will the Cardinals repeat their 2023 campaign? Only time will tell. 

The Milwaukee Brewers are in an interesting situation. They lost their manager to a division rival and traded their star pitcher, Corbin Burnes, for young talent. Typically, this is when they would enter the rebuilding era, but they still have some key pieces in place to win now. William Contreras, Willy Adames, and Christian Yelich are all players capable of producing up and down the lineup. We will know by late July if this team is a contender or a pretender. 

The Cincinnati Reds enter the 2024 season with high hopes. They had their third winning season in the last four years last season, with an 82-80 record. Their young talent is ready to compete in a division up for grabs. A top two finish in the division would be the Reds first since 2012. The Reds are led by young star Elly De La Cruz, the do-it-all shortstop who can hit for power, steal bases, and flash the leather. He is one of the brightest stars in the game and has a big year in store. 

Last, but certainly not least, is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Speaking of last, the Pirates are pretty accustomed to it, as they haven;t finished higher than fourth in the division since 2016. They haven’t posted a winning season in six years. But they’ll put that all to the side, as they look to be one of the dark horse candidates to win the division. Like the Reds, the Pirates are led by a dynamic young shortstop in Oneil Cruz. Mitch Keller has seemed to find a groove in Pittsburgh, taking the role of the top pitcher. 

This division is as wide open as any. Expect a race to the top in September. I think 88-90 wins will get the job done. My pick might be a little biased here, but that’s why it’s an opinion piece. GIMME THE CUBBIES!

MY PICK: Chicago Cubs


Much like the NL East, this one has a clear favorite. After committing over 1 BILLION DOLLARS this offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers have minus odds to take the division title. The Dodgers have won 10 of the previous 11 division crowns since 2013. Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, Max Muncy, Gavin Lux, Teoscar Hernandez, Miguel Rosas…this is like an MLB the Show Diamond Dynasty team, and that’s just the hitters. Yoshinobu Yamamoto joins a rotation that was already good. These Dodgers are no joke, and it would be very shocking to not see them still playing in late October. 

Don’t get me wrong, this division is good. The Arizona Diamondbacks made it to the World Series a season ago. The Giants added Jung Hoo Lee and look to compete for a playoff spot. Losing Juan Soto and most of their pitching will hurt, but the San Diego Padres still have a good roster, including the dangerous Fernando Tatis Jr. The Rockies, well, may not be the greatest this year, but still play in a hitter’s stadium where they can explode for double digit runs on any given night. The Dodgers, on paper, take this division every day of the week, but their division rivals won’t just lay over and die. 

MY PICK: Los Angeles Dodgers

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