Baseball Predictions 2017
While the Cubs winning their first World Series in 108 years was the pinnacle of the sports world in 2016, it should be pointed out that many sports enjoyed incredibly dramatic championship games in 2016. You had Villanova winning on a buzzer beater in another odds-defying March Madness basketball Tournament. The Patriots started out 2017 (but end of the 2016 season) with the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history that also was the first overtime in Super Bowl history – that just about a month after Clemson defeated the Alabama juggernaut with 1 second remaining in the College Football Championship game. The Cleveland Cavaliers came back down 3-1 against the defending Champion Golden State Warriors for Cleveland’s first championship since 1956.
Top that 2017.
While the Cubs winning it all was incredible, and they too had to not only overcome a 3-1 World Series deficit but it was the first Game 7 extra-inning game since 1991 to boot. Now the big question is can they do it again? It is certainly part of the plan, as this team isn’t a Frankenstein World Champion winner like the ’97 Marlins but built on youth. Will the Royals come back and remind everyone that just in 2015 they won their first franchise World Championship since 1985, or will the Giants, who finally eliminated “BeliEVEN” from Bay Area sports fans vocabulary start an odd year trend?
- Nationals: This division is getting closer to the Braves and Phillies making it competitive again, but we aren’t there just yet at the top. I think Trea Turner will be key in the Nationals in maintaining their crown as well as general distrust of the Met’s pitching staff health. I also think Bryce Harper is better than he was last season but not quite as good as he was his MVP season of 2015. Big year for him as it is longer a debate who is better between him and Mike Trout.
- Braves: What you say? A team that finished tied for the second fewest wins in the entire National League? While my fandom obviously biases this pick, it also illuminates several key points and indicators that many outside observers might not see. For one – the addition of Brandon Phillips gives them a solid infield all the way around. Freddie Freeman is an anchor and my pick for 2017 MVP with protection in the order from Matt Kemp, who actually had a good season in 2016 and was a catalyst for Freddie’s production when he came over in a trade even though he was fat according to Braves GM John Coppolella. Dansby Swanson will be a rookie with experience, and even 3B Adonis Garcia saw an increase in production the second half as he got more comfortable. In what is still strange for Braves fans to fathom, the pitching staff will be tricky. Anchored by Julio Teheran, the Braves signed RA Dickey and Bartolo Colon to fill in innings and be veteran mentors. I still believe in Matt Wisler, former Padre who pitched last year for the big league club with decidedly mixed results. He’ll be fighting for a rotation spot, but I think the Braves plan to mix and match with Dickey/Colon more than make them anchors. The Braves are not afraid of youth historically, and with the right combination of youth and veteran core in Freeman/Phillips/Kemp, I think the Braves snare the second wild card.
- Mets: I am curious how much offense Yoenis Cespedes can provide for this team, and certainly a player to watch is Michael Conforto who seems due to break out sooner than later after hitting (STATS) in parts of two seasons in the Big Apple. Matt Harvey seems like a toss-up though at this point, and in some irony the Mets might actually miss Big Bartolo Colon to fill in innings and starts. Not to mention his power at the plate, right?
- Marlins: The Marlins 2016 season was of course marred by the death of young ace Jose Fernandez, and a disappointing season from Giancarlo Stanton. Dee Gordon came back from his PED suspension and was productive, and Christian Yelich continues his own rise as fellow outfielder Ichiro Suzuki chases history himself, just (number) shy of 3,000 hits in MLB. For some reason, I just don’t see them coming out of this division just yet, but it should be a dogfight over the next couple of years.
- Phillies: Great young pitching, but still recovering offensively. Ryan Howard is finally gone, and as they wait for some prospects to make it to the Majors the offense will continue to struggle in 2017. However, 2018 could easily be more about the Braves and Phillies again in this division than the Nationals and Mets.
- Chicago Cubs: Defending World Series Champions alone gives them this honor, but especially with the fact that though they jettisoned Dexter Fowler and Jason Heyward had a miserable 2016, Albert Almora Jr seems ready to slide right in where needed in the outfield with or without production from Heyward. I expect NL MVP Kris Bryant to do more of the same as it’s hard to imagine what better than be for him. Kyle Schwarber projects as the typical lead-off hitter who showed in his World Series cameo how much he can impact a game just by being in a lineup.
- Pittsburgh Pirates: This team had a bit of a slip last season, but between what I believe will be a rejuvenated Andrew McCutchen, another step up for Gregory Polanco after a great 2016, and a surprising pitching staff anchored by ace Gerrit Cole, I think the Pirates will get second place.
- St. Louis Cardinals: These Cardinals of the last few years have heard the same refrain: not this year. They keep just plugging along with injuries and new faces, last year missing the second wild card by one game with 86 wins. Again though? Adam Wainwright is an ace in name only, though Carlos Martinez is quite good and the team lost proposed breakout pitcher Alex Reyes early in Spring. They picked up Dexter Fowler after releasing Matt Holliday who was a shell last season, but I don’t think it will be enough this year.
- Milwaukee Brewers: This team has a hodgepodge of former prospects, current prospects, and Ryan Braun. They have some good young talent, but with the market, they were in even finally seeing Chris Carter leading the league in home runs last year on a lucky free agent signing..they had to let him go.
- Cincinnati Reds: One player who I didn’t think got quite the attention he deserved last season was Reds LF Adam Duvall. The guy slugged 33 HR and drove in over 100 runs in his first full season. He only hit .241 and struck out 164 times which is the downside, Another key player to watch is Billy Hamilton in center field. He got hurt last season and still managed to steal 58 bases in just 109 games. Fun fact – he has upped his SB total by exactly one for three straight seasons. Of note: though a smaller sample size, after the All-Star break last year he upped his BA to .293 and OBP to .369. If he can keep that rate it – 59 will be hit by the All-Star break.
- San Francisco Giants:The Giants managed to get within a couple outs of advancing to the NLCS last season despite a bullpen that seemingly could get absolutely no one out. Watching the end of their games took their brand of “torture” to a whole new level. I love their rotation – anchored by of course Madison Bumgarmer and trade deadline acquisition Matt Moore in the 2 spot. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija take the 3 and 4, and former star Matt Cain in the 5 spot for now but I don’t expect him there for law. I’m not convinced Mark Melancon is the end all be all for the bullpen – but he certainly helps and if they get a more heavyweight reliever to help bridge the gap to him.
- Arizona Diamondbacks: There has to be a surprise somewhere…and why not the Diamondbacks? The club lost emotional leader and star center fielder A.J. Pollock on a spring training collision last season, and he is back. Shelby Miller HAS to be better than he was last year – and in fact, he was just a season before when he was an All-Star with the Braves! Yasmany Tomas hit 30 home runs after an uneven rookie year, and Jake Lamb really established himself as a top third baseman to watch. Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock are guys you can build a franchise around, and with a comeback season from Miller and Greinke doing his thing this team can have the season they were supposed to have in 2016.
- Los Angeles Dodgers: It is hard to pick against these Dodgers, until you realize all of the “ifs” they have. They fortified one of their only infield deficiencies by picking up 2B Logan Forsythe who hit 20 home runs last season. With Justin Turner back, Seager, Forsythe, Adrian and Grandal behind the plate, that is a top notch offensive and defensive infield. The outfield though? We are talking about a question mark filled Yasiel Puig in right, a .250 hitting Joc Pederson in center, and wait for it – Andrew Tolles in right. Their rotation still worries me a little bit after Clayton Kershaw. While it is great that they re-signed Kenley Janssen to close – is Sergio Romo really the great missing link for the rest of the bullpen? I’ll probably be wrong like I often am about the predicting the Dodgers lower, but I just think other teams have more dynamic punches to throw.
- Colorado Rockies: I really wanted to go out on a limb and predict the Rockies even higher, but alas in this division there is only room for one team to surprise and I’m hanging my hat on the D’backs this year. On top of that they’ve been hit with some injuries this season to a pitching staff that is always hanging on by a thread. I still like Jon Gray a lot in their rotation, and Tyler Chatwood for that matter, but it won’t be enough to yet erase the Coors Park stigma.
- San Diego Padres: So we know I like the Padres, but even I can’t justify a team with a starting rotation of Clayton Richard, Jered Weaver (the 85mph fastball version), Jhoulys Chacin as your top three. I do like Luis Perdomo after a strong second half, but after throwing a ton of innings will need to be watched this season. The exciting part for the Padres is outside of pitching, with my mancrush rookie Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot in addition to seeing what Austin Hedges can FINALLY do with a full starting season at catcher. Wil Myers is locked up for years and I guarantee next year I will predicting the Padres to break out of the cellar with at least a 3rd place finish. 2019 first place prediction might be more realistic than many people think.
WC 1: Pirates
WC 2: Braves
NL ROY: Hunter Renfroe
NL MVP: Freddie Freeman
NL CY YOUNG: Madison Bumgarner
- Houston Astros: The Astros hit a little blip last year on the pitching side and still managed to add another can’t-miss rookie in Alex Bregman to play third base alongside future best player in baseball Carlos Correa. The Astros also brought in Brian McCann to catch with another former Braves catcher Evan Gattis now a part-time catcher, part-time DH in addition to Astros playoff legend Carlos Beltran brought in near the end of his career to be a veteran presence. Pitching questions remain but this team is young, exciting, and I haven’t even mentioned near AL MVP Jose Altuve and outfield slugger George Springer until the end of this paragraph.
- Seattle Mariners: The Mariners have never played in a World Series, and now a couple of seasons in a year have quietly made a late season push to the playoffs only to fail and make most people forget they made the push at all. (1 game out of WC in 2014, 3 games out last season). King Felix Hernandez looked great in the WBC after a tough 2016 by his high standards. Their outfield is going more of the Royals defense-first route which is great for Safeco, but will it provide enough offense?
- Texas Rangers: The Rangers were counting on Padres cast-offs Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross to fill in their rotation and add depth. Right. Adrian Beltre continues his HOF credential push, Elvis Andrus finally had the season we had all been waiting for, and Rougned Odor punched his way to a 30+ home run season(get it?). A wild card here could be Jurrickson Profar – who has a ton of talent but has never stayed healthy long enough for anyone to see it. He is slotted into left field and a productive year could help the Rangers overcome their pitching issues and push up the standings.
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons, and Albert Pujols. Those three guys alone make paying to watch the Angels worthwhile. Trout is a projected greatest of all time, Pujols is a first-ballot Hall of Fame player, and Simmons is still the best defensive shortstop since Ozzie Smith. If the pitching can come together a little bit they might be competitive, but not counting on it this season.
- Oakland Athletics: Visalia native and All-Star Stephen Vogt mans the catcher position for the A’s, and Khris Davis hit like Chris Davis last season blasting 42 home runs. Their rotation, anchored by ace Sonny Gray has a chance to be more competitive than you think. I still love the “stuff” of former Padre Jesse Hahn, and Kevin Graveman showed improvement, and wait, what’s that? Sonny Gray is already injured? Oh no…
- Cleveland Indians: The Indians were one win away from a World Series win for three straight games, and failed to get it done. That was basically with one starting pitcher in Corey Kluber and without their supposed best player in Michael Brantley. As long as Trevor Bauer stays away from his drones and Brantley can have even a healthy second half, this team should be even better after adding Edwin Encarnacion even though they lost emotional leader Mike Napoli. They can’t expect Andrew Miller to do what he did in the playoffs all season, but with an improved offense and quality starts from the rotation, he shouldn’t have to.
- Kansas City Royals: I think that my emotions are getting the best of me here, but I want to think that the years of building this team will reverberate longer than two World Series appearances and one championship. This team missed Mike Moustakas last season after he hit 22 homers in 2015 and hit .284. They saw a horrible year from Alex Gordon as well, who I think will bounce back at least some. The rotation still has questions, but the bullpen will continue to be solid and I think this team with a strong start to the year has a good shot to challenge for at least a wild card spot.
- Detroit Tigers: The Tigers are one of those teams that on paper looks like they should be really good every single year. Why aren’t they? Miguel Cabrera is at 446 career home runs and just 33 years old. He bounced back from a “rough” 2015 (only 18 HR and .336 BA) to hit 38 home runs and another BA over .300. Justin Verlander had another good season on the mound and reclaimed the ace title of the rotation. Michael Fullmer won AL ROY and hopes to improve in his second season. Question marks beyond that and in the bullpen make me wonder about this team.
- Minnesota Twins: This team has a chance to surprise after a very disappointing 2016 (and a nice surprise in 2015). Max Kepler hit 17 home runs last season, and Byron Buxton might have figured out MLB pitching after a minors demotion last year. Buxton is also going to challenge Billy Hamilton as the fastest man in MLB. The rotation needs some work, but as they build their offense up in youth, this team might be ready by 2018 to make a move up as the Royals and Tigers likely keep moving in the opposite direction.
- Chicago White Sox: The White Sox took forever to realize they have to rebuild, but finally made a few moves when they traded Chris Sale in the off-season. They still have Todd Frazier for this year’s trade deadline but they also still have James Shields holding down the #4 spot in the rotation.
- Boston Red Sox: This team had a scare with the arm of David Price in spring training, and no one really cared. They still have Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, All-Star Steven Wright, and oh yea 2016 AL Cy Young Rick Porcello. Losing David Ortiz will hurt, but if they actually get some production from Pablo Sandoval at 3B and with Hanley Ramirez in the DH role they might not miss him all that much. Their outfield looks like a juggernaut, with hyped prospect Andrew Benintendi in LF, Jackie Bradley Jr in CF, and Mookie Betts in RF. They should lead the AL East nearly wire to wire.
- New York Yankees: Don’t look now, but the New York Yankees will have three young players from their own farm system starting on Opening Day. Catcher Gary Sanchez had such a great call up that Giuseppe says he could soon replace Buster Posey as the best, and Aaron Judge wasn’t too shabby himself in RF. Greg Byrd started out well in 2015 before injury cost him 2016, but he is manning first base after Mark Texiera quietly retired and A-Rod of course is still getting paid but no longer a New York sideshow. Unless of course you count the fact he’s now dating J-Lo. Questions abound in the starting rotation but for some reason I think the Yankees can beat out the Blue Jays and Orioles for the second spot in the AL East.
- Toronto Blue Jays: I see Jose Bautista having a big year after losing a lot of money by his own defiance last year, and Aaron Sanchez will blossom into a full fledged ace if he didn’t already last year. The problem with the rotation is I see JA Happ regressing this year after winning 20 games last year, and I have major questions about how long Tulo can stay healthy and Kendrys Moralez defying age in the DH position.
- Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles of 2016 will be defined with Zack Britton not being used in their one game playoff game in extra innings. When will they reach the playoffs again? They are still anchored by Manny Machado and Adam Jones, with Machado firmly one of the best players in baseball. However, 2016 breakout ace Chris Tillman will start the year injured, which means they will count even more on Kevin Gausman and former top prospect Dylan Bundy in the rotation. Bundy debuted in 2012 after being drafted in the first round of 2011, but injuries kept him from the majors again until last season. He pitched well in 14 starts though, and will be important to any chance the Orioles have in 2017 and even more important for beyond 2017.
- Tampa Bay Rays: How long will Evan Longoria and Chris Archer remain Rays? Longoria has stated he wants to stay a Ray forever and after seeing the success of the Rays wants to be there when they are good again, but this division continues to get stronger, not weaker. The Yankees have youth and a farm system and the Red Sox should be good for years in the future too. What do the Rays do?
WC 1: Mariners
WC 2: Yankees
AL ROY: Aaron Judge
AL MVP: Mike Trout (until proving otherwise!)
AL CY Young: Chris Sale
Braves beat Pirates for NL WC
Mariners beat Yankees for AL WC
Cubs beat Nationals in NLDS
Astros beat the Red Sox in ALDS
Giants beat the Braves in NLDS
Mariners beat the Indians in ALDS
Cubs beat Giants in the NLCS
Astros beat the Mariners in the ALCS
Astros beat the Cubs for first ever World Series