Well, well, well. As hopefully many of you know, pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training yesterday and its officially Washington Nationals World Series Defense Szn. To get into the spirit of the best time of the year, and due to immense boredom that comes with the black abyss of NBA/NHL midseason games, I’ve compiled some MLB futures for you that I have fallen deeply in love with. Follow or fade, I’m just trying to give away money here.

Cincinnati Reds o83.5 wins (lock of the season)

I’d like to make a formal announcement that I am chugging the Cincinnati Red Kool-Aid. After being burned by this exact same bet last year at five wins lower, I’m gonna go ahead and double down. With that being said, this simply cannot lose. The Reds return a very solid rotation that is led by the trio of Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray and have beefed up the bullpen with Pedro Strop. In the field and at the plate, this team on paper could make a real run for the NL Central title. Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto are the returning veterans, and the additions of Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos and Japanese phenom Shogo Akiyama have this team looking chalk full of power. That’s even without mentioning Aristides “The Punisher” Aquino who just blasts balls to untouchable parts of parks. If they can get some production from role players like Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel and Freddy Galvis, this team is one that can make some noise. Going up nine wins from the 75-win campaign last year just is so clear in my mind it’s unbelievable.

Washington Nationals o90.5 wins

This pick is more just off of principle than actual research, but I still do think this line is interesting. Obviously they return the best staff in baseball featuring the three-headed monster that is Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin. Not beating around the bush, losing Rendon suuucks. That production pretty clearly won’t be made up by one guy, but the additions of Eric Thames and Starlin Castro who combined for 47 HR’s last season with the Brewers and Marlins respectively should give the Nats some cheap help. Bringing back Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera also adds depth and two veteran leaders to help raise interesting infield prospect Carter Kieboom. The bullpen in DC is always the definition of shaky, but bringing in righty Will Harris to pair with Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle in the back-end is very promising. Nailing down the fifth spot in the rotation is the glaring issue for this team and whether it’s Joe Ross or Erick Fedde, as a fan, all I ask is to be serviceable. With 93 wins last year, I don’t find it hard to see them hovering around that total again.

Tampa Bay Rays 089.5 wins

Something about this seems weird to me, and I don’t understand it: but I’m still taking the bait here hook, line and sinker. This team won 96 games last year and they can’t actually be seven whole games worse than that, right? The only key departures I can really put my finger on are Tommy Pham and Jesus Aguilar, but they also got a stud in Hunter Renfroe from San Diego and utility man Jose Martinez from St. Louis. They return Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow on the hill and their whole “bullpenning” thing of which they return all their key pieces seemed to work out pretty much to perfection. The rest of their lineup features solid pieces all around in Brandon Lowe, Kevin Kiermaier, Austin Meadows, Ji-Man Choi and young infielder Willy Adames. So why is their total seven games lower? I’m not even thinking about it. My gut says take the over, so that’s what I’m going with.

New York Mets u86.5 wins

After the Mets increased their total by nine games last year with 86 wins, this is me saying they’re the exact same team as last year so why not expect the same result? Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil are undoubtably one of the best young duos in our sport, and Michael Conforto and J.D. Davis definitely solidify the shit out of front end of the lineup. The question becomes can the likes of Robinson Cano, Brandon Nimmo and the long-awaited return of a questionable Yoenis Cespedes be enough to increase their win total? On the mound, the Mets have deGrom and Syndergaard as a mighty one-two punch and have the Stro Show in his first full season in Flushing which is very promising. What kind of impact will the departure of Zach Wheeler have, leaving a hit-or-miss Steven Matz and new additions Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello to round out the five. The bullpen can’t physically get worse than last year, can it? Adding flamethrower Dellin Betances is a great first step, but will Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz be able to bounce back to their former All-Star selves? My bet is on something going wrong this season: or just simply, the Mets being the Mets.

Miami Marlins o64.5 wins

You may be thinking, “man Jake, you’re fucking crazy” and to be fair, I might be. But hear me out for a second, there’s some method to this madness. Sure, they’re the Marlins, but I think it’s time for the young guys they’ve been waiting on to show up. Miguel Rojas, Brian Anderson and Jorge Alfaro are three key pieces returning for Miami this year and all have solid floors, with Anderson having a particularly high ceiling. The additions of veterans Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson and Jesus Aguilar have me liking this pick. They add much-needed depth on a very inexperienced team that also desperately needs some production from prospects like Lewis Brinson and Isan Diaz. The rotation is very interesting. Not any household names, but some serious high expectations. Caleb Smith, Jordan Yamamoto and Sandy Alcantara are the three guys I’m looking out for since Jose Urena has been rightfully relegated to the bullpen. Will this team be good? No. But will they lose 99 or 100 games? I’m thinking not.

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