With the MLB season just over a few days away, it’s time for prognosticators everywhere to break out their 2016 MLB Predictions. Who will hoist the World Series Trophy in October? Here are my predictions. They are almost guaranteed to be wrong, but please enjoy them anyways.
|AL EAST||AL CENTRAL||AL WEST|
AL Wild Cards: Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians
- I’m not as high on the Boston Red Sox as most, but with a young core – Mookie Betts (4.4 projected fWAR) and Xander Bogaerts (3.2 fWAR) – and an improved rotation led by David Price (5.0 fWAR), the Red Sox should have enough to win the East, provided age doesn’t have a huge impact on David Ortiz (1.9 fWAR) or Dustin Pedroia (3.0 fWAR).
- While the Toronto Blue Jays should regress this year, their offense, led by Josh Donaldson (6.0 fWAR) should still be among the best in baseball. But without David Price down the stretch, a weaker rotation, albeit with a full-year from Marcus Stroman (3.4 fWAR), will relegate the Jays to a second place finish.
- With a healthy Greg Bird, the Yankees might have been able to win the East, but without him, New York is just too old and injury-prone to put together a full season to win surpass the Red Sox or Blue Jays.
- The Rays could certainly surprise if they can hit, but a lackluster bullpen, no Tampa Bay reliever is projected to finish with more than 0.8 fWAR, especially after trading away Jake McGree (1.5 fWAR), will keep the Rays a year or two away from contention.
- When the story of your offseason is how you outbid yourselves for Chris Davis (3.9 fWAR), it’s not looking good. The Baltimore Orioles will have the hitting behind Davis and Manny Machado (6.1 fWAR), but with a rotation that’s mediocre at best (Orioles SPs: projected 8.8 fWAR), a last place finish is looming for the Orioles.
- Time and time again the Royals manage to outperform their projections and it’ll be more of the same this year with great fielding and a lockdown bullpen, even with a much weaker rotation than in previous years (Royals SPs: projected 8.5 fWAR).
- With one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball (Indians SPs: projected 17.5 fWAR), the Indians are just a hitter or two away from serious contention. However, with Michael Brantley (2.6 fWAR) expected to miss the start of the season, and possible regressions from Jason Kipnis (2.9 fWAR) and Francisco Lindor (3.8 fWAR), Cleveland will be stuck behind the Royals, unless they can find another bat to put in the middle of the order.
- The White Sox’s free agency spending didn’t pan out last year, but even with a different approach this year, Chicago’s still a year away. With a big hole in RF, Melky Cabrera’s projected to post just 0.4 fWAR, and not much behind their front three of Chris Sale (6.6 fWAR), Jose Quintana (4.4 fWAR) and Carlos Rodon (2.5 fWAR) in their starting rotation, the South Side Sox are still a player or two away from the upper echelon of the AL.
- How the Tigers do will depend a lot on Justin Verlander (2.9 fWAR) and Miguel Cabrera’s (4.4 fWAR) health. If both can stay healthy for much of the year, the Tigers could remain in contention. If not, it could be a long year in the Motor City.
- Miguel Sano (2.6 fWAR) and Byron Buxton (2.7 fWAR) will provide some fireworks for the Twins this year, but neither is enough to carry a Twins squad with a middle-of-the-pack rotation (Twins SPs: 11.0 projected fWAR) that doesn’t strike people out. The Twins SPs were No. 28 in the MLB in K/9 last season.
- The Rangers aren’t getting enough love this offseason, but with a formidable 1-2 punch in their starting rotation with Cole Hamels (3.6 fWAR) and Derek Holland (1.8 fWAR) along Yu Darvish (2.7 fWAR) when he returns in May from Tommy John, the Rangers have a very good front-line rotation. Combine that with a healthy Prince Fielder (1.3 fWAR) and Adrian Beltre (3.8 fWAR) along with a breakout season from Rougned Odor (2.6 fWAR), and the Rangers could surprise many and win the West.
- It’s all coming together for the Astros, whose combination of youth and pitching catapulted Houston to the playoffs ahead of schedule last season. Carlos Correa (4.9 fWAR), is one of the best SS in baseball, and add in Jose Altuve (3.2 fWAR) and George Springer (3.5 fWAR) and the Astros have some of the best young hitters in baseball. Even if Dallas Keuchel (4.8 fWAR) takes a step backwards, Houston should be playing in October this season.
- Jerry Dipoto rebuilt the Mariners over the offseason after Seattle finished with the worst OBP in baseball in the last decade. But even with one of the better rotations in baseball (Mariners SPs: projected 14.2 fWAR), unless everything falls into place offensively for Seattle, the Mariners will be on the outside looking in come October.
- Mike Trout (8.7 fWAR) can only do so much for an aging Angels’ squad. C.J. Wilson (1.1 fWAR) and Jered Weaver (0.4 fWAR) will drag down a poor rotation and with major holes in LF and at 2B, the Angels will look towards the offseason, where they’ll have some money to spend.
- Billy Beane continues to rebuild the Athletics, and this year is no exception. But with little behind Sonny Gray (3.7 fWAR) in the starting rotation and a very young core, the A’s will be looking at another last place finish in the AL West.
|NL EAST||NL CENTRAL||NL WEST|
NL Wild Cards: Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates
- With the best rotation in baseball (Mets SPs: projected 19.7 fWAR) and almost everyone back from last year’s World Series run, including Yoenis Cespedes (3.7 fWAR), the Mets are poised for another deep October run and a second straight year atop the NL East.
- Led by Bryce Harper (7.3 fWAR), the Nationals are talented, maybe even the most talented team in the NL East. But with issues behind Stephen Strasburg (4.7 fWAR) and Max Scherzer (5.8 fWAR) in the starting rotation, and holes in the middle infield, the Nationals won’t be able to catch the Mets for the second straight year.
- The Marlins are the third best team in a very bad NL East, with two “tanking” teams behind them. If Giancarlo Stanton (5.7 fWAR) and Jose Fernandez (4.7 fWAR) can stay healthy, Miami may be able to hang around .500, but with not much star-power behind them, the Marlins are still far behind the Nationals and Mets in the East.
- Young and rebuilding, the Phillies are still a number of years away from contention. Aaron Nola (2.4 fWAR) will give them a future front-of-the-line starter, while Maikel Franco (2.3 fWAR) and Odubel Herrera (1.8 fWAR) will continue their development, but this isn’t the year it all comes together for Philadelphia.
- Outside of Freddie Freeman (3.7 fWAR), the Braves are pretty bad as FanGraphs gives Atlanta a 0.0% chance of making the playoffs. It’s going to be a long season for the Braves, but there’s some light at the end of the tunnel with SunTrust Park opening next season and Dansby Swanson potentially seeing some time in September.
- The Cubs are the best team in baseball with both the pitching, behind Jake Arrieta (5.2 fWAR) and Jon Lester (4.7 fWAR), and the hitting with Kris Bryant (5.4 fWAR) and Anthony Rizzo (4.9 fWAR). A tough division will keep them from reaching 100 wins, but after adding Jason Heyward (4.3 fWAR) and John Lackey (2.8 fWAR) this offseason; the Cubs should fly the W many times this year.
- The Pirates beat out the Cardinals in what’ll be an extremely close race for the NL’s second wild card spot. Andrew McCutchen (5.3 fWAR) shines again for the Pirates as fully healthy seasons from Starling Marte (4.1 fWAR) and Jung-ho Kang (2.3 fWAR) catapult Pittsburgh past St. Louis in the Central.
- The Cardinals are just counting on too many pieces to bounce back and too many things to go their way. Their rotation (Cardinals SPs: projected 15.3 fWAR) will again be among baseball’s best, but it’s their lack of hitting, the Cardinals are counting on bounce-back years from Yadier Molina (3.1 fWAR) and Matt Holliday (2.1 fWAR) along with breakout seasons from Randal Grichuk (2.5 fWAR) and Stephen Piscotty (1.9 fWAR), that’ll have St. Louis missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
- In arguably baseball’s toughest division, the Milwaukee Brewers are rebuilding and could easily be facing a 90-95 loss season. Ryan Braun (2.1 fWAR) will need to rebound if the Brewers are to many any noise, but with Jonathan Lucroy (2.7 fWAR) being shopped and a poor rotation (Brewers SPs: projected 9.4 fWAR), Milwaukee will again be on the outside looking in this year.
- Another rebuilding squad, the Reds have a young rotation in place that’ll give fans hope for the future, but with Jay Bruce (1.2 fWAR) and Joey Votto (4.8 fWAR) both facing the possibility of being dealt at the deadline, the Reds will be cellar dwellers in the Central this season.
- It’s an even year this baseball season, which means the San Francisco Giants are the team to beat in the NL. With a stacked rotation after adding Johnny Cueto (3.8 fWAR) and Jeff Samardzija (3.4 fWAR) and one of the best lineups for one to eight in all of baseball, the Giants could be once again playing for another title in October.
- Losing Zack Grienke (4.6 fWAR) to a division rival will hurt, but with Clayton Kershaw (7.7 fWAR) at the helm, along with free agent signees Scott Kazmir (2.7 fWAR) and Kenta Maeda (3.3 fWAR), the Dodgers rotation wil again will among the best in baseball. If their hitting can hold up down the stretch and they can stay healthy, the Dodgers have a chance to compete for more than just the NL West.
- Rarely does the offseason winner perform up to their high expectations during the year (see the San Diego Padres last season) and the same will be the case with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Paul Goldschmidt (5.4 fWAR) is one of the best hitters in baseball, but they’ll need more than him and A.J. Pollack (4.1 fWAR) at the plate, especially if either regresses a bit. Grienke and Shelby Miller (1.9 fWAR) give the Diamondbacks a formidable 1-2 punch in their rotation, but with not much behind them, Arizona will be hard pressed to compete with the Giants and Dodgers.
- With a lot of aging veterans, the Padres don’t have the look of a contender, with FanGraphs projections giving them just a 2.1% chance of making the playoffs. James Shields (3.1 fWAR) and Tyson Ross (3.8 fWAR) will keep them competitive, but it’ll be another long season in Petco Park for the Padres.
- After trading away Troy Tulowitzki (3.5 fWAR) last year and Corey Dickerson (1.1 fWAR) this offseason, the Rockies have finally started the rebuilding process. Carlos Gonzalez (2.1 fWAR) is probably next out the door, and with a bottom tier rotation (Rockies SPs: 9.8 projected fWAR), the Rockies will be playing for next year by mid-August.
Wild Card Round
AL: Cleveland Indians over Houston Astros. In a one-game playoff, Corey Kluber outduels Dallas Kuechel and with a healthy Michael Brantley, the Indians have just enough offense to squeak out a wild card win in Houston.
NL: Los Angeles Dodgers over Pittsburgh Pirates. Playing in their fourth straight NL Wild Card game, the Pirates this time have to face Clayton Kershaw, and there’s no way I’m picking against the best starter in baseball in a one-game playoff, especially in Los Angeles.
AL: Cleveland Indians over Texas Rangers. If the Indians make it past the Wild Card round, they have the pitching to go the distance, and the combination of Kluber, Carrasco and Salazar overtakes Hamels, Darvish and Holland propelling the Indians to the ALCS.
AL: Kansas City Royals over Boston Red Sox. There’s just something about the Royals in October, and with a few question marks behind David Price in the Red Sox rotation, the Royals head to a third straight ALCS.
NL: Chicago Cubs over Los Angeles Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw can’t pitch every game for the Dodgers, and as the Cubs are the more all-around team, Chicago moves onto the NLCS behind great performances from Bryant and Rizzo in front of the home crowd.
NL: San Francisco Giants over New York Mets. Is “it’s an even year” a good enough explanation? The Mets have a better rotation, but when it comes down to it Bruce Bochy and the Giants know how to win in October.
AL: Cleveland Indians over Kansas City Royals. I’m probably being a bit bias, but pitching wins in the playoffs and the Indians rotation is vastly superior than Kansas City’s. One year after winning the World Series, the Royals’ luck runs out against their division rival.
NL: Chicago Cubs over San Francisco Giants. Pitting the Giants’ even year winning ways against a team of destiny, the Cubs come out on top with a deeper rotation and superior lineup, heading to the World Series for the first time since 1945.
Chicago Cubs over Cleveland Indians. In a battle between the two teams with the longest World Series droughts, the Cubs get the better of the Indians behind a top-notch rotation and a better lineup than the Indians, especially when Kyle Schwarber gets to play DH on the road.
- AL MVP: Mike Trout, CF, Angels
- NL MVP: Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs
- AL Cy Young: Carlos Carrasco, SP, Indians
- NL Cy Young: Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants
- AL Rookie of the Year: Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
- NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
- AL Manager of the Year: Terry Francona, Indians
- NL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Cubs