Friday, March 31, 2017

2017 Major League Baseball Predictions

The 2017 Major League Baseball season gets under way with three games on Sunday, April 2, 2017, and then the rest of the league gets started the following day on Monday, April 3rd. Like any other baseball season, 2017 should bring some surprising names to the game leaving people asking "Wait, where'd he come from?" and some teams with surprising records leaving people asking, "Wait, where'd this team come from?" This year, Major League Baseball is applying some new rules to the game. Most of these rules have to do with speeding up the game. While some of the rules make sense there also some that I question. I'm not going to list all the new rules here but you can read them by clicking here. New rules aside, I am looking forward to the 2017 season and here are my predictions.
* - denotes Wild Card winners.

Josh Reddick 
American League West
Texas Rangers  (90-72)
Houston Astros (87-75)
Seattle Mariners  (82-80)
Los Angeles Angels (75-87)
Oakland Athletics (72-90)

After years of losing, the Houston Astros have come away with some excellent top draft picks to compete in the AL West. Not only do they have guys like George Springer and Carlos Correa, but they've also added Brian McCann and Josh Reddick. I still can't get used to seeing Josh Reddick in anything but an Oakland A's jersey. However, the Astros success will come down to their pitching. Can 2015 NL CY Young Award winner, Dallas Keuchel, rebound after a rather disappointing 2016? So why do I have the Texas Rangers finishing in first? The answer is home field advantage. Their ballpark is quite the launching pad for home runs. Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli should drive in plenty of runs for the Rangers. The Seattle Mariners could be one of the surprising teams in 2017 but I'm not sure if it will be surprisingly good or surprisingly bad so I just stuck them in the middle. Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano will set the pace for how well the Mariners do in 2017. The Los Angeles Angels will be relying heavily on the comeback of starting pitchers, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, from injury problems. How much longer can Albert Pujols keep things going in terms of being a run producer? My beloved Oakland Athletics have a promising future, especially with an announcement of a long overdue new stadium coming soon, but the 2017 season will be a long one. Oakland's ace, Sonny Gray, has been sidelined with an injury to start the season after injury problems last year too and it wouldn't surprise me if there is surgery for him in the near future.

Edwin Encarnacion
American League Central
Cleveland Indians (95-67)
Kansas City Royals (90-72)*
Detroit Tigers (86-76)
Chicago White Sox (76-86)
Minnesota Twins (69-93)

The Cleveland Indians will come into 2017 hungry as they came so close to winning it all last season. The addition of Edwin Encarnacion and his parrot holding arm to their lineup will definitely help their chances. The pitching staff will be once again led by Corey Kluber but this could also be the year that Trevor Bauer has a breakout season. The Kansas City Royals have to overcome the tragic death of starting pitcher, Yordano Ventura, but their roster still has plenty to offer. Adding Brandon Moss and Jorge Soler should just mean more runs on the board for the Royals.  What will Justin Verlander have in store for the 2017 for the Detroit Tigers? Will Kate Upton have something to say when this season ends as well? The Tigers offense still has middle of the order punch but it takes Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez a while to get around the bases. The Chicago White Sox have Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier, but not much else to be excited about these days. Starting pitcher, Jose Quintana, is likely to be traded by the All-Star break for Chicago.  The Minnesota Twins are relying a lot on youth to carry them in 2017. How much will Byron Buxton and Max Kepler be able to provide the offense? The pitching staff is nothing to write home about so I won't even write about it here.

Chris Sale
American League East
Boston Red Sox  (97-65)
Toronto Blue Jays (88-74)*
Baltimore Orioles (84-78)
New York Yankees (77-85)
Tampa Bay Rays (76-86)

Even with David Price sidelined to start the season, the Red Sox pitching staff is pretty strong especially with the addition of Chris Sale to the rotation. On offense, Andrew Benintendi is getting all the headlines as being a must-watch rookie in 2017. The Toronto Blue Jays still have a heavy hitting lineup and should compete. They've added Kendrys Morales to a lineup that was already pretty strong. Marcus Stroman pitched well to get the USA the championship in the World Baseball Classic, but will it have a negative impact on his season with Toronto? The Baltimore Orioles starting rotation has a lot to prove especially Kevin Gausman, who was named their opening day starter. Their offense will provide plenty of runs though with Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Mark Trumbo. The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays will battle for last place in the division. Should the Yankees really have reacquired Aroldis Chapman? Will there be that many games for him to save? Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury will need to get on base a lot to keep this Yankee team in contention. The Tampa Bay Rays are a team I really want to see succeed but don't seem to have enough to contend in the AL East. Chris Archer is the  ace of the pitching staff for sure and Kevin Keirmaier is arguably one of the most exciting players in the majors.

Nolan Arenado
National League West
San Francisco Giants (93-69)
Los Angeles Dodgers (91-71)*
Colorado Rockies (85-77)
Arizona Diamondbacks (80-82)
San Diego Padres (73-89)

It should be a close battle for first place until the end of the season between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants addresses their closer problems by obtaining Mark Melancon during the offseason. If he can provide the needed help then there is no reason the Giants shouldn't find themselves in first place at the end of the season. Another key to the Giants success is starting pitcher, Jeff Samardzija. He wasn't horrible last year but he has shown before that he can be better. Last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers obtained Rich Hill in a trade with the Oakland A's. Hill had a surprisingly good season. Was this for real or was it a fluke? Shorstop Corey Seager is definitely for real and Dodgers fans will continue to enjoy watching him play. The Colorado Rockies may be surprise team to compete this season. They have the offense without a doubt. Nolan Arenado has proved he can hit in any ballpark. The Rockies also added Greg Holland to their bullpen. Holland is coming off Tommy John surgery so it'll be interesting to see if he will take over the closer role he once dominated with Kansas City. The Arizona Diamondbacks will hover around the .500 mark for most of the season. Zack Greinke can't pitch every game of the season. A lot is going to be expected out of new manager, Torey Lovullo. His first order of business should be to tell Fernando Rodney how to wear his fucking hat. The San Diego Padres will carry a pretty young roster with perhaps the best defensive catcher in the game in Austin Hedges. Hedges can guide the pitching staff but he definitely can't control them. The Padres look to Jered Weaver to help solve some of their pitching woes.

Jason Heyward
National League Central 
Chicago Cubs (96-66)
St. Louis Cardinals (93-69)*
Pittsburgh Pirates (86-76)
Milwaukee Brewers (73-89)
Cincinnati Reds (68-94)

The National League Central is going to be exciting to watch this season as the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals battle for the top spot. What makes this even more interesting is Dexter Fowler, who helped guide the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series title since 1901 last season, is now a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. To fill the void left by Fowler, the Cubs will need Jason Heyward to rebound from a dismal 2016 season. The Pittsburgh Pirates will do their best to keep pace with the Cubs and Cardinals but could end up trading Andrew McCutchen at some points during the season. Josh Hader is a pitcher to keep an eye on for the Milwaukee Brewers. Hader is a left-hander with the ability to strike out a lot of batters. Ryan Braun will likely be among the league leaders in intentional walks received. The Cincinnati Reds are a completely different team going into 2017 and not in a good way. They are definitely in a rebuilding stage. Aside from Joey Votto and Billy Hamilton, there isn't too much to be excited about this season. 

Max Scherzer
National League East
Washington Nationals (95-67)
Miami Marlins (87-75)
New York Mets (85-77)
Atlanta Braves (72-90)
Philadelphia Phillies (62-100)

The Washington Nationals success is based on how good their starting pitchers pitch. It also depends on how healthy those pitchers happen to be too. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg start off the rotation but let's not forget that Gio Gonzalez has also been an All-Star pitcher before too. Many critics say Bryce Harper had an off year last season. If the Nationals can put all the pieces together this season then look out. The Miami Marlins are an intriguing team. I think this team may play inspired and with heavy hearts after the loss of their pitching ace, Jose Fernandez, late last season. Christian Yelich will continue to see his star rise and Giancarlo Stanton will continue to hit mammoth home runs. As is the case with Washington, the New York Mets chances will rely on their starting pitching staff. Can the Mets return to their 2015 form? How many more games can David Wright play at 3rd base and be effective? The Atlanta Braves might as well play in Florida themselves since they decided to sign old farts Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey. However, they do have top prospect, Dansby Swanson, ready to take over at shortstop. The Philadelphia Phillies will suck. Howie Kendrick will likely be their lone All-Star then he'll cross his fingers in hopes that he will get traded. 

Wild Card Games
Kansas City Royals over Toronto Blue Jays
St. Louis Cardinals over Los Angeles Dodgers

Division Series
Kansas City Royals defeat the Boston Red Sox (3-2)
Cleveland Indians defeat Texas Rangers (3-1)
Chicago Cubs defeat St. Louis Cardinals (3-2)
Washington Nationals defeat San Francisco Giants (3-2)

Championship Series
Kansas City Royals defeat Cleveland Indians (4-2)
Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs (4-3)

World Series
Washington Nationals defeat Kansas City Royals (4-1)

AL MVP - Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
NL MVP - Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
AL CY YOUNG - Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
NL CY YOUNG - Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR -  Jharel Cotton, Oakland Athletics
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR -  Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves
AL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR - Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR - Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants