2019 MLB expert predictions: Division picks, playoff field, World Series winner

Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

With a new baseball season about to begin, it's time to pin down our expectations for what we expect to happen.

Will the Boston Red Sox repeat as champions? Or are the Houston Astros or New York Yankees poised to take over the American League? Is a third straight trip to the World Series in the future for the Los Angeles Dodgers?

From among our columnists, writers, researchers and editors, we polled 31 of ESPN's leading baseball experts to see what they expect, asking them about who's going to win their respective divisions as well as who's going to wind up winning their leagues and ultimately the World Series.

You might see things differently or agree with our prognostications. But either way, add your own predictions below.

To see who our experts think will walk away with the MVP and other hardware at the end of the 2019 season, check out our awards predictions.

Jump to predictions for: National League | AL and NL champion | World Series champion

American League

AL East

Our pick: New York Yankees (16 votes)

Who else got votes? Red Sox (14); Rays (1)

You picked the Red Sox to win the East -- why?

Even after a 108-win season, the Red Sox still have untapped upside, starting with Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi. And how do they look with 30-plus starts from Chris Sale or full seasons from Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez rounding out the rotation? And while it might seem like a stretch to say they'll get repeat MVP-worthy seasons from both Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, I wouldn't bet against them. -- Christina Kahrl

AL Central

Our pick: Cleveland Indians (28 votes)

Who else got votes? Twins (3)

You picked the Twins to win the Central -- why?

The Indians are vulnerable, and whenever everybody simply assumes a team has a division locked, I look. What if Corey Kluber falls apart? The Twins will score more runs and the pitching is, well, OK. -- Eric Karabell

AL West

Our pick: Houston Astros (28)

Who else got votes: A's (2); Angels (1)

If anyone challenges the Astros, who do you think it will be?

The A's. Their rotation is more like a no-tation, but the bullpen is deep. And the defense, led by MVP candidate Matt Chapman and center fielder/human highlight reel Ramon Laureano, can catch it. I don't think anyone in the West gets within shouting distance of Houston this year, but Oakland gets the closest. -- Eddie Matz

AL wild cards

Votes: Red Sox (17); Yankees (12); Rays (9); Angels (7); A's (7); Twins (5); Astros (3) Indians (2)

National League

NL East:

Our pick: Nationals (13)

Who else got votes? Phillies (11); Braves (5); Mets (2)

You're one who picked the Phillies to win -- why was that?

The Phillies were in the hunt for a playoff spot last season -- at least a year earlier than expected -- before stumbling through an 8-20 September. Then they added J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson. Oh, and that Bryce Harper guy. The NL East is supremely talented, but this feels like the Phillies' time. -- Alden Gonzalez

NL Central

Our pick: Cubs (12)

Who else got votes? Brewers (10); Cardinals (9)

Why are you picking the Cubs?

Yes, there is some age and decline to worry about with the starting rotation -- which is why one projection system infamously picked the Cubs to finish last in the NL Central -- but even in a year when a lot went wrong in 2018, the Cubs tied the Brewers for the most wins in the National League (only to lose the tiebreaker). With a healthy Kris Bryant and better production from Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs will have an elite offense. A healthy Yu Darvish will help stabilize the rotation, and the bullpen is deeper than everyone gives them credit for. -- David Schoenfield

NL West

Our pick: Dodgers (24)

Who else got votes? Rockies (6); Padres (1)

Why did you pick the Rockies to snap the Dodgers' streak of six consecutive NL West titles?

I just don't trust the Dodgers' pitching. Not only is Clayton Kershaw starting the season on the injured list, but Walker Buehler is dealing with the effects of his 2018 workload. I don't think it'll be a runaway for the Rockies, and it will require a bounce-back from a bullpen that has left much to be desired, but with German Marquez and Kyle Freeland atop the rotation, they should be able to survive a tight race in the West, led by an MVP-caliber season from Nolan Arenado. -- Marly Rivera

NL wild cards

Votes: Phillies (9); Nationals (9); Cardinals (8); Dodgers (7); Braves (7); Cubs (6); Brewers (6); Rockies (5); Mets (3); Padres (1); Reds (1)

AL and NL champions

American League

Our pick: Astros (15)

Who else got votes: Yankees (7); Red Sox (5); A's (3); Indians (1)

Why did you pick the Astros as AL champs?

The Astros had a 109-win run differential last year, they are projected by PECOTA to be the best team in the majors this year, and with all due respect to the A's and Angels, there isn't likely to be another 90-win team in the division to push them. Every AL team is going to have a brutal path through October, but the Astros have extraordinary starting pitching, a whole season to build up a playoff bullpen, and a manager whose postseason moves have generally been impressive. -- Sam Miller

National League

Our pick: Dodgers (10)

Who else got votes? Nationals (6); Cardinals (4); Phillies (3); Brewers (3); Cubs (2): Braves (2); Rockies (1)

What was your thinking behind your picking the Braves to break through and win the pennant?

The Braves will open the season with questions about their rotation and bullpen, but they have the depth to address those during the year -- and that depth will enable them to withstand injuries over the long season. They're in an excellent position for midseason deals as well. -- Buster Olney

You picked the Dodgers to repeat as NL champs -- why?

There are five teams who could realistically win the NL Central and four who will contend in the NL East, which leaves the Dodgers as the only almost sure thing to make the National League Division Series. That's enough to earn them my pick, but the Dodgers are also incredibly deep and now have another year of experience dealing with the welcome challenge of having more good players than playing time. -- Miller

World Series champion

Our pick: Astros (14)

Who else got votes? Dodgers (4); Yankees (4); Red Sox (3); Nationals (3); A's (2); Cardinals (1)

Why the Astros?

I love the one-two punch of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, and by October Josh James and Forrest Whitley will be impact arms. The offense will bounce back some after scoring 99 fewer runs than in 2017 (Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve both battled injuries). Michael Brantley adds a much-needed left-handed bat. The bullpen, which led the majors in ERA, is deep and strong. The Astros have star power, depth and attitude. -- Schoenfield

Why the Yankees?

Yes, there are injuries. And rotation questions. And the pesky Red Sox and Astros are ever-present in the American League. And yet the Yankees, with their bullpen surplus and lineup of mashers, embody the modern game as well as any team in 2019. It's been a decade. It's their time again. -- Jeff Passan

Why the Dodgers?

The Dodgers have dominated for six seasons now, yet still have not been forced into the kind of makeover you'd expect from a run of excellence that long, whether it would stem from an aging talent core or a spate of free-agent desertions. They still have more quality depth than any other organization, but what's more, they have the upside of several ascending young players -- we're talking Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Walker Buehler and Alex Verdugo -- all capable of leaping into the races for major postseason awards. -- Bradford Doolittle

Why the Cardinals?

I believe the Cardinals do have a chance to win the World Series this year, and I am basing this mostly on their rotation, one of baseball's deepest and most talented. If they stay healthy, they should be able to come out on top in the NL, supported by a lineup that should be able to score a lot of runs. A healthy Yadier Molina will also be essential to their success, as will banking on Marcell Ozuna and Dexter Fowler not only being healthy but performing to their All-Star capabilities. And I consider the Cardinals' acquisition (and extension) of Paul Goldschmidt -- my pick for NL MVP this year -- a game-changer. -- Rivera