Bryce Harper pauses to look at the ball he just hit. Keith Allison/Flickr.com

The best time of the year is upon us, folks. We are a mere two days away from opening day of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season.

The 2017 season was one for the books, capped by a thrilling seven game World Series that saw the Houston Astros claim their first title in franchise history. An epic 2017 season was followed by an uneventful off season, headlined by big name free agent signings. With opening pitch so close, here are some bold predictions for the upcoming season.

Neither the Astros or Dodgers reach the World Series

Fresh off a 2017 that saw both teams put up 100+ wins and reach the World Series, the Astros and Dodgers both seem poised to make a run for another meeting in October. However, when the World Series takes place, neither team will represent their respective league.

For the Astros, this seems like a bad prediction, but they will have to overcome the daunted World Series hangover along with improved competition in the American League (AL). When it comes to the Dodgers, health issues will be their Achilles heel. Their ace Clayton Kershaw spent an extended period on the DL last season and third baseman Justin Turner just suffered a broken wrist in spring training. Look for two new teams to battle it out come this fall.

Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combine for less than 100 home runs

A power surge is heading for the Bronx this season and it’s coming in the form of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

Last season the two mashers combined for a whopping 111 home runs on their respective teams, a feat the Yankees hope they can replicate in 2018. You read it here first, but this will not happen.

While yes, Stanton did hit an insane 59 home runs, he did so in 159 games played. Appearing in that many games is somewhat of an outlier for Stanton, who has dealt with injuries over the course of his career.

That being said, expect the deadly duo of Judge and Stanton to combine for 85-90 home runs.

The AL West will account for three AL playoff teams

While the Astros will not repeat as World Series champions, they more than likely will repeat as AL West winners. The rest of the division, however, will battle for the two AL wild card spots.

Up until the last few weeks of the 2017 season, the Angels, Mariners and Rangers were all in the thick of the AL wild card race. The Angels and Mariners both made key off season acquisitions, while the Rangers are an under the radar team that could surprise fans this season. Three of these four teams will account for spots in the AL playoff picture, with the fifth just missing out after a competitive 2018 season.

The World Series will be…Boston Red Sox vs. Washington Nationals

The 2018 World Series will be hard pressed to top the instant classic that was the 2017 World Series. However, there will be no lack of talent or star power.

Bryce Harper will make his first appearance in the Fall Classic, leading a loaded Nationals squad against J.D. Martinez and a sneaky good rotation. The Nationals have struggled to make it past the first two rounds of the playoffs in recent years, but 2018 will be the year they end the drought. And while the Yankees may be the presumed favorites to win the AL East, look for the Red Sox to surprise people and challenge New York for the division crown.

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