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Which MLB Division Winner Has The Most Downside Entering 2019?

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Freddie Freeman (Photo by Tom DiPace)

This is one of 10 burning questions in our 2019 MLB season preview. To see all of our bold predictions, click here. All answers to the question are from Baseball America’s editorial team.

Carlos Collazo: Braves. The Braves should still be good, and with a healthy Josh Donaldson the power and depth of the lineup has improved, but the Nationals, Mets and Phillies all did more to improve this offseason so it’s not hard to envision a fourth-place finish for Atlanta if its young core struggles. It’s almost impossible to say that of any other division winner in baseball.

Justin Coleman: Red Sox. Winners of 108 games in 2018, Boston did very little to keep their strong bullpen together. Bullpen arms tend to play up in October, and the Red Sox may find themselves scrambling for pitching at the trade deadline.

Matt Eddy: Brewers. Milwaukee needed a 163rd game to avoid the Wild Card Game in 2018. The Brewers’ offense should be fine, but talented young pitchers Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta are untested as starters for a six-month season. Jhoulys Chacin and Chase Anderson are the returning veteran steady hands. How much will the impact of departed pitching coach Derek Johnson (who left for the division-rival Reds) be felt?

Kyle Glaser: Indians. Cleveland’s outfield and bullpen are among the worst in baseball and weigh down the club’s strengths. If Francisco Lindor’s calf injury lingers, they’re in real trouble. Their competition (the Twins) got better while the Indians got worse. That’s not a recipe for success.

Kegan Lowe: Braves. This has as much to do with the Nationals, Phillies and Mets as it does the Braves, but Atlanta is the only division winner from last year that could conceivably finish fourth in 2019. Therefore, the Braves’ have the largest downside.

Josh Norris: Indians. They seem like the easy choice here, seeing as their three projected starting outfield combined for just 1.1 offensive WAR in 2018—per Baseball Reference—with the bulk of that coming from the pre-trade version of Leonys Martin. They also will deal with how a recent calf injury affects stud shortstop Francisco Lindor.

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