MLB Predictions: Hall of Famer Hal McCoy’s 2022 season forecast

Despite its continued efforts to destroy its fan base with a 99-day lockout that wiped out the winter hot stove league and the implementation of experimental rules, Major League Baseball lives to breathe another year.

That means it is time for our yearly predictions, also classified as wild guesses. Who knows about injuries and trades that can change the entire landscape for several teams?

ExploreMcCoy: My all-time Reds' starting lineup

In the instant of a cell phone ringing, Cincinnati Reds general manager Nick Krall can answer his phone and say, “Yes, we’ll trade you Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Jonathan India. Who ya got for us?”

While that is unlikely to happen, who believed that the Reds would hang a sign outside Great American Ball Park that read, “Good Players Available, Inquire Within?”

Who believed that after last season, before this season began, that Wade Miley, Tucker Barnhart, Nick Castellanos, Michael Lorenzen, Sonny Gray, Amir Garrett, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez would be gone?

With all that in mind, I’ve peeked into my extremely cloudy crystal ball, read my soggy Lipton tea leaves, and consulted with my local cleaning lady/palm reader and come up with these prognostications:

~National League Central: 1. Milwaukee, 2. St. Louis, 3. Chicago, 4. Cincinnati, 5. Pittsburgh

As with most successful teams, it starts with pitching and the Brewers are armed and dangerous with Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Adrian Houser as the rotation and two of baseball’s best relievers in Devin Williams and Josh Hader.

ExploreJoe Burrow to throw out first pitch at Reds' home opener

It is all about offense for the Cardinals with Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill. with Gold Glover Harrison Bader in the outfield. And the brought in Corey Dickerson as a perfect DH. Bringing back Albert Pujols was strictly a PR move. Who knows what he might do?

The Cubs, Reds and Pirates are in Reconstruction Eras and could finish in any order behind the Brewers and Cardinals. Well, maybe not the Pirates. They could finish last in any division.

~National League East: 1. New York, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Atlanta, 4. Washington, 5. Miami

New Mets owner Steve Cohen opened his vault as wide as it will go and hired manager Buck Showalter and added pitcher Max Scherzer to a rotation that includes Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco. The offense is solid with Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso.

This, though, is the strongest division in baseball and the Phillies could win it and the defending World Series champion Braves could win it.

ExploreReds release outfielder Akiyama

The Phillies added Nick Castellanos and Middletown’s Kyle Schwarber to help Bryce Harper form an explosive offense and signed relief pitchers Corey Knebel, Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia as part of a bullpen revamp. Other than losing Freddie Freeman, the Braves pretty much stood pat, although they acquired Matt Olson to replace Freeman. Washington is a one-man show in Juan Soto and the Marlins are a franchise in disarray. but the owners of some good young talent.

~National League West: 1. Los Angeles, 2. San Diego, 3. San Francisco, 4. Colorado, 5. Arizona

The Dodgers and their mammoth payroll are an eyes-closed pick. My Aunt Opal would pick them to win a three-team race in this division, As good as the Padres and Giants are, the Dodgers stand high above. Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Freeman, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger … need more be said?

Most of a loaded lineup performed below expectations last season for the Padres. Expect them to bounce back, although they will have to do it early without injured Fernando Tatis Jr. Starting pitchers Blake Snell and Yu Darvish can be expected to do better.

Yes, the Giants won 107 games last season with a strong rotation that remains its best feature — Logan Webb, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Carlos Rodon. Catcher Buster Posey retired, and the Giants signed Kris Bryant to replace the lost offense. Still, not enough offense.

The Rockies and Diamondbacks will be in a two-team argument for next-to-last and last.

~Wild card teams: Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Diego

~Pennant winner: Los Angeles

~American League East: 1. Tampa Bay, 2. Toronto, 3. New York, 4. Boston, 5. Baltimore

The Rays always find a way with young, franchise-developed talent, like budding star Wander Franco and a bunch of who’s-he guys. The Blue Jays went on a talent-grabbing rampage and improved immensely with Kevin Gausman. They’ll mix in with sons of major leaguers Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.

The Yankees always seem talent-laden but find ways to fail. The Red Sox and Orioles are, well, the Red Sox and Orioles, mostly spinning their tires.

~American League Central: 1. Minnesota, 2. Chicago, 3. Detroit, 4. Kansas City, 5. Cleveland

The Twins are all-in, adding shortstop Carlos Correa, catcher Gary Sanchez, pitcher Sonny Gray and relief pitcher Joe Smith. The White Sox remain strong contenders while the Tigers and Royals are weak in a weak division. Cleveland changed nicknames but it is the same low-spending team that makes certain the Reds aren’t the worst team in Ohio.

~American League West: 1, Los Angeles, 2. Seattle, 3. Houston, 4. Texas, 5. Oakland

With Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout leading the way, the Angels finally make the postseason. The always-active Mariners added ex-Reds Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez, plus Adam Frazier.

The Astros are on the decline after losing Correa. The Rangers busily signed big-ticket free agents Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, plus mid-level free agents Garrett Richards and Brad Miller. The Athletics did nothing but lose players to free agency and even Moneyball can’t help them this season.

~Wild card teams: Toronto, Chicago, Seattle

~Pennant winner: Minnesota

~World Series winner: Los Angeles Dodgers

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