FanGraphs 2019 Staff Predictions

There were times this winter when it felt like the offseason would never end. But end it has, and on this, the morning of Opening Day, we engage in our annual tradition of asking our staff to open themselves up to future public ridicule and predict the year in baseball. Some of these predictions will prove to be prescient; others will make their forecaster feel a little silly. Last year, we had the American League playoff picture pretty well pegged, with the exception of the A’s. Washington’s collapse? Not so much. The Rookies of the Year? Got ’em. Either league’s Cy Young winner? Nope! That’s ok, though. Baseball is best when it is energetic, even a touch frenzied.

Folks from FanGraphs, RotoGraphs, and The Hardball Times weighed in; here are the results.

The National League

The National League gets to have all the fun. Of course, some things are as you’d expect. The Dodgers are still anticipated to be a powerhouse. Only two of the 32 ballots cast exclude them from a postseason berth entirely, and they actually received one more vote to take their division than Cleveland did, despite their division opponents being projected for an average of 77.25 wins vs. Cleveland’s 72.5.

The Marlins look quite hopeless. The Giants don’t look a ton better. The Padres have not yet arrived.

But there are a lot of compelling races to be had. The Central and East each have four teams receiving at least one vote to win their division. Only four ballots mirror our current projected division winners precisely (the Dodgers, Cubs, and Nationals). Despite having a worse projected win total than either the Cubs (87) or Cardinals (85), our staff thinks the Brewers will repeat as Central champs, though our predictions suggest that we’re in for a tight race again, with the top spot separated by just two votes. And the Phillies, who last year received just eight total votes, none of which were for the division win, check in with 24 this year, the second-most in the NL. I guess a Bryce Harper and JT Realmuto will do that for you.

One team the staff is not impressed with, despite their offseason additions? The Mets, who at 39.5%, have the sixth highest playoff odds in the NL, but who received just four playoff votes, two of which are for the second Wild Card. And the poor Diamondbacks, who received 19 votes last year, got none this year. That’s particularly rough considering only four teams (Arizona, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Miami) were shut out of postseason voting entirely.

Staff Predictions: NL West
Team Division Wild Card 1 Wild Card 2 Playoffs
Los Angeles 26 3 1 30
Colorado 5 0 1 6
San Diego 1 0 0 1
Arizona 0 0 0 0
San Francisco 0 0 0 0

Staff Predictions: NL Central
Team Division Wild Card 1 Wild Card 2 Playoffs
Milwaukee 13 5 3 21
St. Louis 11 5 5 21
Chicago 7 1 5 13
Cincinnati 1 0 1 2
Pittsburgh 0 0 0 0

Staff Predictions: NL East
Team Division Wild Card 1 Wild Card 2 Playoffs
Washington 14 7 9 30
Philadelphia 14 8 2 24
Atlanta 2 3 3 8
New York 2 0 2 4
Miami 0 0 0 0

The American League

Where the National League lends itself to compelling drama, the American League, much as it was last year, is a wasteland of the assumed outcome. Only one brave soul picked against Houston at the top of the AL West, and even that brave soul still had them making the playoffs through the second Wild Card. 19 of the 32 ballots cast have the Astros, Indians, and Yankees as their division winners. Five more keep Houston and Cleveland, only to swap in Boston.

Cleveland and New York each enjoy a touch less consensus than Houston does in their respective division races, though for different reasons. Where the Yankees’ are acknowledged to be a very good team (projected to be the best in baseball with 97 wins) that happens to play in a very tough division, Cleveland is a pretty good team that refused to expend the resources to become a great one. Their division is weak, but likely won’t be historically so again, and with injuries already cropping up, the seven games separating the Indians from the Twins don’t feel like they come with as much daylight as they once did.

If there is intrigue to be had, it will be found in the East, where the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays are all seen as playoff teams, making the AL East the only division in baseball to boast three teams that we think will play in October. A Red Sox vs. Rays Wild Card game could be fun, a contest between one team with no bullpen to speak of, and another who has built their entire plane out of relievers.

Staff Predictions: AL West
Team Division Wild Card 1 Wild Card 2 Playoffs
Houston 31 0 1 32
Oakland 1 0 4 5
Los Angeles 0 1 4 5
Texas 0 0 0 0
Seattle 0 0 0 0

Staff Predictions: AL Central
Team Division Wild Card 1 Wild Card 2 Playoffs
Cleveland 25 0 1 26
Minnesota 7 0 2 9
Chicago 0 0 0 0
Detroit 0 0 0 0
Kansas City 0 0 0 0

Staff Predictions: AL East
Team Division Wild Card 1 Wild Card 2 Playoffs
New York 26 6 0 32
Boston 6 19 5 30
Tampa Bay 0 6 15 21
Baltimore 0 0 0 0
Toronto 0 0 0 0

Individual Awards

We couldn’t quite make up our minds on NL MVP. I picked Anthony Rendon personally, because when is that guy going to finally get his due, but the field is a mix of established stars, young luminaries, and a couple of veterans returning from injury, not to mention the reigning NL MVP.

Staff Predictions: NL MVP
Player Votes
Nolan Arenado 6
Paul Goldschmidt 6
Anthony Rendon 4
Bryce Harper 3
Ronald Acuna Jr. 2
Kris Bryant 2
Manny Machado 2
Juan Soto 2
Justin Turner 1
Trea Turner 1
Josh Donaldson 1
Corey Seager 1
Christian Yelich 1

Cy Young feels more certain, with 2018 first place finisher Jacob deGrom one of two Mets, third place finisher Aaron Nola making a showing, and second place finisher Max Scherzer leading the way. It is also a tally marked by an absence. This is the first year I could find since 2012 (the internet fails me after that) in which Clayton Kershaw did not receive a Cy Young vote from our staff.

Staff Predictions: NL Cy Young
Player Votes
Max Scherzer 16
Noah Syndergaard 5
Jacob deGrom 4
Aaron Nola 4
Jameson Taillon 2
Jack Flaherty 1

Victor Robles was Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel’s fifth overall prospect on this year’s Top 100, but he is first in voters’ hearts here.

Staff Predictions: NL RoY
Player Votes
Victor Robles 15
Chris Paddack 6
Fernando Tatis, Jr. 4
Peter Alonso 3
Garrett Hampson 2
Nick Senzel 2

The size and composition of the voting body isn’t exactly the same, but after Mookie Betts won the award last year, and Alex Bregman put up what would have been an MVP season in many other years, Mike Trout has still somehow increased his share of the vote from last year to this year (59.3% vs. 55%). And why not? Barring injury or a sudden desire to become a cobbler, he’s a hard guy to pick against.

Staff Predictions: AL MVP
Player Votes
Mike Trout 19
Alex Bregman 3
Aaron Judge 3
Francisco Lindor 2
Jose Altuve 1
Mookie Betts 1
Matt Chapman 1
Carlos Correa 1
Giancarlo Stanton 1

Sale led last year’s voting, and the year before that’s voting. He might well lead next year’s voting, too. At some point, he will stop leading our staff voting, but with the second-best starting pitcher projection (5.8 WAR) and the best among AL starters (deGrom edges him slightly at 5.9 WAR), I can’t fault our staff for their selection, nor for the names that follow him.

Vlad Jr.’s recovery from an oblique strain is reportedly proceeding apace, but it does feel rather rude of baseball to hurry itself along to the point of it finally being Opening Day, only to deny us the top prospect in the game, who Eric and Kiley described by saying, “He is the cornerstone of the Blue Jays franchise, and perhaps a cornerstone of our sport.” Then again, based on the fact that he was ticketed for Buffalo to work out defensive woes that were set to resolve in about 15 days, I suppose we were due to wait regardless.

Staff Predictions: Al RoY

That’s the whole shebang. As we always do, we’ll check in on how close to right we were when the season wraps up. We look forward to writing about all of the ways in which we end up being surprised in the meantime. We hope you’ll tag along. Happy Opening Day, everyone.

2019 Staff Predictions: National League
Author Name West Central East WC1 WC2 MVP Cy Young RoY
Mike Werner LAD STL PHI ATL WSN Acuna Jr. Scherzer Robles
Nick Dika LAD CHC PHI WSN COL Acuna Jr. Syndergaard Robles
Ariel Cohen COL STL WSN LAD CIN Arenado deGrom Alonso
Justin Mason COL MIL PHI LAD WSN Arenado Scherzer Robles
David Laurila COL CIN ATL LAD CHC Arenado Nola Robles
Sung Min Kim LAD MIL WSN PHI STL Arenado Scherzer Robles
Rachael McDaniel LAD STL PHI WSN CHC Arenado deGrom Paddack
Alex Chamberlain LAD MIL PHI WSN CHC Arenado Syndergaard Paddack
Ryan Pollack LAD MIL WSN PHI STL Bryant Scherzer Robles
Brice Russ LAD CHC WSN PHI ATL Bryant Scherzer Tatis, Jr.
Dustin Nosler LAD MIL WSN ATL PHI Donaldson Scherzer Tatis, Jr.
Rian Watt LAD MIL PHI CHC WSN Goldschmidt Scherzer Robles
Ben Clemens LAD STL WSN MIL NYM Goldschmidt Scherzer Alonso
Brad Johnson LAD STL PHI MIL WSN Goldschmidt Nola Robles
Audrey Stark COL STL PHI MIL WSN Goldschmidt Scherzer Robles
Al Melchior LAD MIL WSN PHI STL Goldschmidt Scherzer Hampson
Nick Pollack LAD MIL PHI STL CHC Goldschmidt Taillon Tatis, Jr.
Jeff Zimmerman LAD MIL WSN PHI CHC Harper Scherzer Senzel
Devan Fink LAD CHC PHI WSN STL Harper Scherzer Alonso
Jay Jaffe LAD CHC PHI WSN MIL Harper deGrom Robles
Eli Ben-Porat LAD STL ATL PHI WSN Machado Scherzer Paddack
Dan Szymborski LAD CHC WSN STL MIL Machado Scherzer Paddack
Craig Edwards LAD CHC WSN PHI STL Rendon Scherzer Senzel
Paul Sporer LAD MIL NYM STL WSN Rendon Syndergaard Hampson
Meg Rowley LAD MIL PHI STL WSN Rendon Syndergaard Paddack
Eric Longenhagen LAD STL PHI WSN MIL Rendon Taillon Tatis, Jr.
Ben Kaspick LAD CHC WSN PHI NYM Seager Nola Paddack
Shane Tourtellotte LAD STL WSN MIL ATL Soto Scherzer Robles
Sheryl Ring LAD MIL WSN STL PHI Soto Syndergaard Robles
Birchwood Bros. SDP MIL WSN ATL LAD Turner Flaherty Robles
Greg Simons COL STL NYM MIL WSN Turner Nola Robles
Kiley McDaniel LAD STL PHI WSN ATL Yelich deGrom Robles

2019 Staff Predictions: American League
Author Name West Central East WC1 WC2 MVP Cy Young RoY
Kiley McDaniel HOU CLE NYY BOS LAA Trout Sale Guerrero
Alex Chamberlain HOU CLE NYY BOS LAA Correa Sale N. Lowe
Devan Fink HOU CLE NYY BOS MIN Trout Sale Guerrero
Rian Watt HOU CLE NYY BOS OAK Bregman Verlander Guerrero
Jay Jaffe HOU CLE NYY BOS OAK Trout Verlander Guerrero
Dustin Nosler HOU CLE NYY BOS OAK Trout Cole Jimenez
Ryan Pollack HOU CLE NYY BOS TBR Trout Cole Guerrero
Nick Dika HOU CLE NYY BOS TBR Trout Cole Guerrero
Ariel Cohen HOU MIN NYY BOS TBR Trout Cole Guerrero
Sung Min Kim HOU CLE NYY BOS TBR Bregman Sale Guerrero
Ben Clemens HOU CLE NYY BOS TBR Trout Sale Guerrero
Dan Szymborski HOU CLE NYY BOS TBR Trout Sale Guerrero
Craig Edwards HOU CLE NYY BOS TBR Trout Sale Guerrero
Rachael McDaniel HOU CLE NYY BOS TBR Trout Sale Guerrero
Meg Rowley HOU CLE NYY BOS TBR Trout Sale Guerrero
David Laurila HOU CLE NYY BOS TBR Chapman Bauer Jimenez
Nick Pollack HOU CLE NYY BOS TBR Trout Bauer Jimenez
Mike Werner HOU CLE NYY BOS TBR Judge Carrasco Jimenez
Eric Longenhagen HOU MIN NYY BOS TBR Betts Paxton Jimenez
Brad Johnson HOU MIN NYY LAA BOS Trout Berrios Guerrero
Sheryl Ring OAK CLE BOS NYY HOU Judge Kluber Kyle Tucker
Brice Russ HOU CLE BOS NYY LAA Bregman Cole Guerrero
Shane Tourtellotte HOU CLE BOS NYY LAA Trout Sale Guerrero
Al Melchior HOU CLE BOS NYY MIN Trout Sale Guerrero
Jeff Zimmerman HOU CLE BOS NYY TBR Altuve Sale Guerrero
Audrey Stark HOU CLE BOS NYY TBR Trout Sale Guerrero
Greg Simons HOU CLE NYY TBR BOS Lindor Berrios Jimenez
Justin Mason HOU MIN NYY TBR BOS Stanton Snell Jimenez
Paul Sporer HOU MIN NYY TBR BOS Judge Verlander Jimenez
Birchwood Bros. HOU MIN NYY TBR BOS Trout Verlander N. Lowe
Ben Kaspick HOU MIN NYY TBR CLE Lindor Bauer Jimenez
Eli Ben-Porat HOU CLE NYY TBR OAK Trout Cole Guerrero

Meg is the managing editor of FanGraphs and the co-host of Effectively Wild. Prior to joining FanGraphs, her work appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Lookout Landing, and Just A Bit Outside. You can follow her on twitter @megrowler.

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3 years ago

Greg Simons has Justin Turner winning the MVP and the Dodgers missing the playoffs entirely. Exactly what set of circumstances would have to transpire for that prediction to become reality?

3 years ago
Reply to  pqskgt

He hits .400 with 50 HR and 130 RBI, but the entire rotation is beset by persistent blister problems.

3 years ago

Checks out

3 years ago
Reply to  pqskgt

There’s a bunch of those. Like Dika picking Acuna as MVP, but ATL missing the playoffs. Kim, R. McDaniel and Chamberlin picking Arenado without the Rockies making the playoffs. Pollack picking Bryant without the Cubs getting to the postseason. Wiatt picking Goldschmidt without the Cards. Ben-Porat and Szymborski taking Machado, and K. McDaniel picking Yelich without the Brewers. And that’s just the NL. Barely anyone who picked Trout also picked the Angels, and interestingly, two of the 5 people who picked the Angels to make the playoffs DIDN’T pick Trout to win the MVP.

I’d have expected there to be stronger linkages between their playoff outcomes and the award winner outcomes.

With that said, gotta give a shout out to Tourtellotte for picking a Nationals sweep (MVP, CYA and ROY as well as winning the NLEast). Points for consistency!

David Kleinmember
3 years ago
Reply to  willl

Harper had a historically great season in 2015, and the Nats missed the playoffs and look how historically great Trout has been and just one playoff appearance so individual success doesn’t always come with team success. I see no issue with the prediction.

3 years ago
Reply to  David Klein

17 of the 32 AL MVP picks are predicted to not make the playoffs. 10 of the 32 NL MVP picks are predicted to not make the playoffs.

The vast majority of MVP winners make the playoffs. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with picking a player and not predicting their team to make the playoffs (especially Trout), I just think it’s strange that nearly half of the MVP picks come from teams that the same writer doesn’t think will be good.

3 years ago
Reply to  willl

You missed Kaspick having Lindor as MVP, Bauer as Cy Young, and the Indians missing the playoffs. Although, come to think of it, that doesn’t sound too farfetched.

3 years ago
Reply to  pqskgt

Turner puts up a 10 WAR season, no other NL hitter eclipses 6 or 7 WAR, and every other Dodger gets hurt.

Greg Simonsmember
3 years ago
Reply to  pqskgt

Actually, I’m predicting Trea Turner to win the NL MVP, not Justin.

3 years ago
Reply to  Greg Simons

As one of the only peeps to pick the Mets to win the NL East, do you see any potential surprise MVP candidates on their team? Cano, Conforto if he breaks out and stays healthy?

Greg Simonsmember
3 years ago

I see the Mets with enough solid hitters to support what could be an amazing set of starting pitchers. I don’t see any hitters stepping up to the point of winning the MVP, but pitchers do occasionally win, so maybe deGrom or Syndergaard is stellar while no NL hitters stand above the crowd.

3 years ago
Reply to  Greg Simons

That makes a ton more sense, but is not what is presented in the “Staff Predictions: NL MVP” table. Nowhere in this article is Trea’s name even mentioned.

You guys do great work so not trying to be overly critical. Look forward to reading you throughout the season.

Greg Simonsmember
3 years ago
Reply to  pqskgt

Sorry, it was a miscommunication. I’ll take the bame for that. We’re working to get things updated.

3 years ago
Reply to  Greg Simons

No apology necessary and thanks for the correction. Love the site’s work so keep crushing it!

3 years ago
Reply to  pqskgt

A runaway bus hits a dozen Dodgers, ending the season for Buehler, Seager, and multiple other starting players. Turner lifts the team on his shoulders (with that fantastic leg kick) but they just fall short of the playoffs.

Greg Simonsmember
3 years ago
Reply to  oconnk11

I have Buehler and Seager on my fantasy team, so I sure hope that doesn’t happen.