Each year I take a stab at making some prognostications for the upcoming MLB season. Here are some back-of-the-napkin predictions for the 2016 season.
I really don’t know what to make of this division. The Jays and O’s lineups are two of the best in the game. The Orioles legitimately have 8 guys that could hit 20+ homers. If they could just develop / acquire a bona fide ace to compliment their collection of #3 starters, they might make a run. With Darren O’Day and Zack Britton closing things out and Buck Showalter at the helm, I give the O’s a puncher’s chance to win this division. (And it doesn’t hurt that they’re currently undefeated.)
I don’t like the makeup of either the Red Sox or the Yankees. If I had to pick a dark horse here, it’d be the Rays. As usual, their pitching has a chance to be special. And they’re loaded with power arms in the high minors.
Everyone is high on the Indians pitching staff and rightfully so. But their offense is nothing to write home about, even less so with Michael Brantley on the shelf. But the most complete team in the division is still Kansas City. Although the starters are league average, the bullpen, defense, and plate discipline makes this an elite team.
Detroit made a couple of splashy moves (as they always seem to do), but I don’t think it’ll be enough for them to contend. A dark horse here is Chicago. I like some of the under the radar moves they pulled off (Mat Latos, Austin Jackson) and they have the best pitcher in the American League in Chris Sale.
If Texas can stay competitive through the first half, they have a chance to work Yu Darvish back into the mix for a playoff push. Paired with Cole Hamels, the Rangers could be poised to make a deep run in October. But they need to address their bullpen situation. Odds are pretty good that they go out and add a Jason Grilli-type reliever to help solidify the end game.
The Mariners also made some moves that I really like. The new look outfield covers a lot of ground and they have a nice stable of starting pitchers. Much like Texas, this team needs some bullpen help. In what promises to be a tight race, consistent relief arms will make a tremendous difference.
This we know: the Braves and Phillies are bad. That leaves the Mets, Marlins, and Nats. Everyone likes the Mets starters and I’d take any one of them in a heartbeat. But young pitchers often regress and if any one of these young guns underwhelms, this division will tighten up quickly.
The Nationals are no slouches on the mound, by the way. Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Joe Ross can match the New York hurlers. And lets not forget reigning MVP Bryce Harper. I like the Nationals to win this division, although I expect the Mets to take one of the wild card spots.
Everybody is picking the Cubs here. And I mean, EVERYBODY. That’s fine. Let’s see how the Cubs deal with the added pressure of being a preseason darling. You know who everyone is sleeping on right now? The only 100-win team in the majors last season. I know the Cardinals lost out on Jason Heyward and David Price this offseason. I know the Jhonny Peralta injury further depletes what is at times an anemic offensive attack. But the bullpen is one of the best in the league. The rotation loses Jon Lackey (to the Cubs) and Lance Lynn (to TJS) but adds back Adam Wainwright and Mike Leake. And the emergence of youngsters Randall Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty gives the Cards added youth and athleticism. I still like the Cardinals to compete in this division and I’m taking them to win it yet again.
In fact, I’ll take Pittsburgh over Chicago for the second wild card in the NL. The Pirates are a great ball team. If they weren’t in the same division as the Cardinals, I’d really be rooting for them.
This isn’t just another even-numbered-year thing: the Giants are one of the best teams in the National League. I love the additions of Cueto and Shark to the rotation. Denard Span in center pushes Angel Pagan to left; with another full year from Hunter Pence, and further development by Brandon Belt, you’re looking at a possible pennant winner.
But the Dodgers will try to stay afloat in the hopes that they’re within striking distance when they finally get healthy. I don’t see it happening, but it’ll be a fun summer out west.
World Series prediction
This is such a fruitless exercise, since so much can change between now and then (and October is increasingly about who gets hot at the right time). But for kicks, I’m going to take San Francisco and Kansas City to square off in a rematch of the 2014 Series. And I’ll take the Giants to win it all again.
AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
NL Cy Young: Madison Bumgarner
AL ROY: Byron Buxton
NL ROY: Corey Seager