We’re just a few weeks from Opening day 2017, so it’s time to look into the crystal ball for MLB season predictions.
AL East Projected Winner – Boston Red Sox
2016 record: 93-69 (first in division)
[the_ad id=”567″]The Red Sox were already a solid team before they traded for Chris Sale in the early days of the offseason. Sale will add to a rotation which already includes 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price and defending AL Cy Young winner, Rick Porcello. Their projected starting outfielders (Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Mookie Betts) are all under 27 years old, and all-star shortstop Xavier Bogaerts brings athleticism to the middle of their infield. Baltimore is chasing behind them with a strong offense led by Manny Machado and Chris Davis, but they lack a consistent starting pitching rotation. Last season, the Orioles ranked 19th in team ERA and 14th in opponent’s batting average. The Jays will be led by Marcus Stroman but will enter this season missing Edwin Encarnacion after he signed with the Indians. The Yankees are currently in a minor rebuild, but they’ll still compete while the Rays are looking to test the waters in hopes of bringing in prospects. They’ve already dealt Logan Forsythe, and he might not be the last one leaving. Boston will likely be the team coming out of the AL East, just like they did last season.
AL Central Projected Winner – Cleveland Indians
2016 Record: 94-67 (first in division)
The Indians couldn’t have come closer to winning it all last season, so they went and reloaded to make another strong playoff run. They went out and brought Encarnacion in on a three-year deal. Michael Brantley, who missed a majority of last season due to injury, is taking rehab slowly and will likely be on the season-opening roster. Between Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer, their rotation was top ten in 2016 in ERA, strikeouts and quality starts. Division rivals will have a tough time keeping up with them. Detroit has an intriguing pitching rotation behind veterans Justin Verlander, Justin Zimmermann and second-year starter Michael Fulmer, who posted an impressive 11-7 record with a 3.06 ERA last year. However, the Tigers were only able to muster a 4-14 record against Cleveland last season. Kansas City finished at a mediocre 81-81, and without any significant additions besides adding Jorge Soler, they’ll likely end with the same record again. The White Sox have started their full-scale rebuild, shipping Adam Eaton and Chris Sale for prospects. At the bottom, the Twins hit the reset the button by firing their general manager, and rumors continue to swirl around trading Brian Dozier. There’s a solid chance the AL Central title will run through Cleveland.
AL West Projected Winner – Houston Astros
2016 Record: 84-78 (third in division)
[the_ad id=”384″]Ultimately this will end up becoming a three-team race for the West. The Astros, Rangers, and Mariners are all capable of winning this division, but I feel Houston’s offensive weapons will push them ahead of the pack. Jose Altuve had an incredible season last year, batting .338 with a team-leading 96 RBI’s while 22-year-old Carlos Correa hammered 20 home runs. The Rangers, assuming their pitching staff can stay healthy, will be battling right behind them with an offense led by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, and Rougned Odor. Seattle will be the team to watch in this division because of all the moves they’ve made. Since the offseason began, they’ve made 13 trades, and since general manager Jerry Dipoto joined the franchise in 2015, they’ve made 37 trades involving 95 players. The Oakland A’s had a breakout year from Khris Davis with 42 home runs, but they’re still years from competing for the division. The Angels have Mike Trout and an aging Albert Pujols, who powered up 115 RBI’s last year but concerns with their pitching staff have held them back. It’ll be a tight race that’ll likely come down to the final days of the season, but the Astros will get out on top.
NL East Projected Winner – New York Mets
2016 Record: 87-75 (second in division)
This division will either go to the Mets or the Nationals with the Marlins trailing behind in third place. Washington and New York have equally talented teams but a healthy Mets pitching staff will give them the edge. If all five of the Mets starters are healthy, their rotation will look something like Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zach Wheeler and a few other young pitchers waiting in the minors. Any one of those starters could likely hold a #1 or #2 spot in most rotations across the league. Yoenis Cespedes added some pop to the offense, contributing 31 home runs and 86 RBIs last year. Washington brings a solid rotation as well, including 20 game winner Max Scherzer. Their offense was headlined by former Met Daniel Murphy batting .347 and leading the team in all major batting categories last season. You can’t forget about the always dangerous Bryce Harper and newly added Adam Eaton from Chicago. The Marlins will have Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon leading their offense but have a massive hole to fill in their rotation after the tragic loss of their ace, Jose Fernandez, who passed away towards the end of last season. The Phillies have some bright spots on their extremely young team, including third baseman Maikel Franco, but they’re still a few years from competing. By not resigning Ryan Howard, the Phillies no longer have a single player from their 2009 World Series team. Dansby Swanson has emerged as a star in Atlanta as the team mixes youth with veterans in hopes of holding down positions while they develop their prospects. The Braves reached out to sign R.A Dickey and Bartolo Colon, both former Mets, to hold down their staff while their pitching prospects work out in the minors. Atlanta finished above .500 in the second half last season, so watch out for them as a possible sleeper team that could finish close to .500 on the year.
NL Central Projected Winner – Chicago Cubs
2016 Record: 103-58 (first in division)
[the_ad id=”384″]You would have to be crazy or a Cardinals fan to not pick the Cubs to win the NL Central this season. Chicago rolled to a hundred win regular season before storming back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series for their first title since 1908. It couldn’t have been better scripted. The team’s only losses will be David Ross, who’s retiring after 15 major league seasons and Dexter Fowler, who signed with the Cardinals. With a young infielder core of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and a strong pitching rotation led by John Lester and Jake Arrieta, Chicago will be the team to beat in the Central. The Cardinals have the ability to be in the playoff race every season; will compete for the wildcard spot behind Aledmys Diaz, who had a tremendous rookie season, batting .300 with 17 home runs. Pittsburgh struggled last season due to an off year from Andrew McCutchen, and a pitching staff ranked 20th in earned runs with 679. With no major changes to their team, they’ll likely finish around the same mark at third in the division. The Brewers have been floating around in the cellar the past few seasons as many rumors swirled about them possibly trading Ryan Braun. They lost their home run leader, Chris Carter, who signed with the Yankees and will not be a significant threat in the division this season. Cincinnati hit the restart button and started shipping players for prospects, most recently Brandon Phillips. There are a few bright spots on the team, which include the emergence of Adam Duvall, the speed of Billy Hamilton and the always consistent Joey Votto, who batted .326 last season. However, their pitching rotation has been atrocious, ranked in the bottom three in ERA and runs allowed. Bet on the Cubs to win the NL Central this season.
NL West Projected Winner – Los Angeles Dodgers
2016 Record: 91-71 (first in division)
The Dodgers team was good last season and made offseason moves to get even better. For starters, they traded for second baseman Logan Forsythe and signed setup man Sergio Romo from San Francisco. An offense with Forsythe, Justin Turner, and Corey Seager, who batted .308 last season, will be tough to beat. The Giants will compete with them, but it’s not an even year this season. Madison Bumgarner is one of the best pitchers in the game and Buster Posey is arguably the best catcher in the game but I feel the Dodgers have more offensive weapons that’ll give them the edge. The Diamondbacks tried to make moves to compete last season but Zach Greinke so far has been a bust, and their pitching staff is ranked as one of the worst in the league. The Padres are relying on a lot of minor leaguers to keep them afloat, and their significant offseason acquisition was Jared Weaver, not exactly a major move that will allow them to compete. The Rockies have talent in the forms of Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, and they made the moves to sign Ian Desmond and Greg Holland, but it might not be enough to keep with the Giants and Dodgers. Expect LA and San Fran to battle for the West.