Just over five months after one of the most exciting World Series’ in recent memory, the 2017 MLB season is just a few days away. The Indians and Cubs reloaded, but both teams will face a stiff test on the road to October. Who will hoist the World Series Trophy in October? Here are my predictions. Last year I correctly predicted the World Series, the AL and NL MVPs, the NL Rookie of the Year and the AL Manager of the Year, so feel free to take my predictions to the bank.
|AL EAST||AL CENTRAL||AL WEST|
AL Wild Cards: Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros
- The Red Sox made the biggest move of the offseason, acquiring Chris Sale (5.5 projected fWAR) to solidify their rotation. But with Dr. James Andrews needed to take a look at David Price’s (4.7 fWAR) elbow, Boston’s rotation could have some serious issues. If Price misses time, there’s not a lot of depth behind him, Sale and Rick Porcello (3.8 fWAR). Offensively, the Red Sox should be just fine, even with the retirement of David Ortiz, and unless Price misses the entire season, Boston should win the AL East once again.
- The Blue Jays rotation ranks up with the best in baseball, if they can stay healthy, but it’ll be the Jays’ lack of hitting that keeps from winning the East. Not re-signing Edwin Encarnación is a tough blow, and the combination of Steve Pearce (1.8 fWAR) and Kendrys Morales (0.3 fWAR) won’t be enough to replace him. Add in some regression from their rotation and Toronto is relegated to second in the East, and a Wild Card spot.
- Manny Machado (5.9 fWAR) has established himself as an MVP candidate, and the Orioles will once again have a potent offense. But unless they can find another starter or two, Baltimore will have to count on Wade Miley (2.0 fWAR), Ubaldo Jimenez (1.1 fWAR) and Chris Tillman’s (1.3 fWAR) health, not an ideal scenario for a potential contender.
- Trading Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller has turned the Yankees farm system into one of the best in the league, but Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres are at least a year away, so the Yankees won’t find themselves back in contention just yet. Gary Sanchez (3.4 fWAR) will make things interesting in the Bronx, but a lack of starting pitching behind Masahiro Tanaka (4.0 fWAR), will keep New York waiting till next year.
- A breakout year from Kevin Kiermaier (4.4 fWAR) and a return to form from Chris Archer (4.2 fWAR), will keep the Rays competitive, but unless everything goes right for Tampa Bay, Kevin Cash’s squad won’t be winning the East this season.
- Without Carlos Carrasco (4.7 fWAR), Danny Salazar (3.4 fWAR) and Michael Brantley (2.0 fWAR) the Indians won the AL and came within inches of winning the World Series. Then they added Edwin Encarnación (2.8 fWAR) and Boone Logan (0.3 fWAR) in the offseason. The Cleveland Indians should run away win the AL Central even if Francisco Lindor (5.1 fWAR) and Jose Ramirez (3.3 fWAR) regress.
- An aging Miguel Cabrera (4.1 fWAR) and Justin Verlander (4.6 fWAR) can only take the Tigers so far. Michael Fulmer (2.7 fWAR) and Jordan Zimmerman (2.4 fWAR) round out a decent rotation, and Justin Upton (2.5 fWAR) and J.D. Martinez (2.4 fWAR) add some offense, but there just isn’t enough there to compete for a Wild Card spot, much less with the Indians.
- It might be the last hurrah for this current Royals’ team, but with only Kelvin Herrera (1.3 fWAR) left from their once-dominant bullpen, and little behind Danny Duffy (3.3 fWAR) in their rotation, Kansas City’s window is basically shut. Lorenzo Cain (3.1 fWAR) and Eric Hosmer (1.4 fWAR) will keep KC relevant, but the Royals did the right thing starting the rebuild early, trading Wade Davis for Jorge Soler (0.6 fWAR).
- Former prospects Byron Buxton (2.6 fWAR), Max Kepler (2.0 fWAR) and Miguel Sano (2.9 fWAR) are starting to round into form, and along with Brian Dozier (3.3 fWAR), give the Twins the makings of a potent offense. But a lack of pitching, Ervin Santana (2.4 fWAR) is the defacto ace, will keep Minnesota relegated to the Central cellar.
- After “going all in” the past two offseasons didn’t pay off, the White Sox finally made the decision to rebuild, trading away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for prospects. Todd Frazier (2.6 fWAR), Jose Quintana (4.4 fWAR) and David Robertson (1.4 fWAR) are probably on their way out as well, which will make the White Sox close to unwatchable near the season’s end. But “South Siders” can take solace knowing Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech will be up soon.
- A bounce back season from Felix Hernandez (3.2 fWAR), along with an improved rotation from the acquisition of Drew Smyly (2.8 fWAR), could spell the difference in a tight AL West race. Jerry DiPoto’s bound to make a move or two at the deadline, and the trio of Kyle Seager (4.0 fWAR), Robinson Cano (3.6 fWAR) and Nelson Cruz (2.5 fWAR) should give the Mariners enough offense to win the West for the first time since 2001.
- The Astros offense, led by Carlos Correa (5.2 fWAR) and Jose Altuve (4.3 fWAR), might be the best in the AL, but their pitching leaves something to be desired. Dallas Keuchel (4.7 fWAR) has struggled to live up to his 2015 Cy Young campaign, while Lance McCullers (3.7 fWAR) is a huge injury risk. If their pitching holds up, they could win the West, but if not, a Wild Card spot is more likely for Houston.
- At some point, the Rangers luck, Texas was 36-11 in one-run games last season, is going to run out. Cole Hamels (3.3 fWAR) and Yu Darvish (4.4 fWAR) are a formidable one-two punch at the top of the rotation, but there isn’t much behind them Texas can count on. And offensively, with Adrian Beltre (4.0 fWAR) and Jonathan Lucroy (3.4 fWAR), the Rangers will once again be good, but probably not great. Will it be enough to compete in the West? Yes, but to win the division? I doubt it.
- The Mike Trout (8.2 fWAR) continues to roll along in Anaheim. Luis Valbuena (1.0 fWAR) and Danny Espinosa (0.8 fWAR) will prove to be decent additions, and the Angels’ rotation should be much improved, with Matt Shoemaker (3.3 fWAR) back healthy. But until Arty Moreno surrounds Trout will more talent, the Angels aren’t going to be in the playoff hunt anytime soon.
- The Athletics will remain relevant till August, with their rotation headed by Sonny Gray (2.7 fWAR) and Sean Manaea (2.4 fWAR), but without much power at the plate, the rebuilding-Athletics don’t have enough to compete in September, much less have a shot at a Wild Card spot.
|NL EAST||NL CENTRAL||NL WEST|
NL Wild Cards: New York Mets and San Francisco Giants
- Bryce Harper (5.2 fWAR) is an MVP candidate and Trea Turner (3.9 fWAR) may emerge as one soon enough, giving the Nationals a potent top of the order. Add in a bounce back season from Anthony Rendon (3.8 fWAR) and a healthy Stephen Strasburg (4.4 fWAR) and Washington is poised to reign atop the NL East once again, narrowly beating out the New York Mets.
- If Noah Syndergaard (5.6 fWAR), Matt Harvey (2.7 fWAR) and Jacob deGrom (3.9 fWAR) can stay healthy, the Mets will have the best rotation in baseball. But offensively, there just isn’t enough there outside of Yoenis Cespedes (3.1 fWAR) to overtake the Nationals. A second consecutive Wild Card berth is more likely.
- Aaron Nola (3.3 fWAR) and Vince Velasquez (2.9 fWAR) will improve upon their 2016 campaigns giving Philadelphia a young and improving rotation. But aside from Odubel Herrera (2.5 fWAR) and Maikel Franco (2.4 fWAR), the Phillies just don’t have enough in their lineup to compete with the Mets and Nationals in the East.
- RIP Jose Fernandez. With him, this Marlins team might have had a shot at a Wild Card spot. Without him, Wei-Yin Chen (2.3) is their ace, and that is a less than ideal scenario. Miami might have the best outfield in the majors with Giancarlo Stanton (3.9 fWAR), Christian Yelich (4.0 fWAR) and Marcell Ozuna (1.9 fWAR), but it just won’t be enough with their rotation.
- Dansby Swanson (2.2 fWAR) is a budding superstar and Braves fans’ will have the pleasure of watching Bartolo Colon (2.0 fWAR) pitch in SunTrust Park. But aside from that, there isn’t much to get excited about in Atlanta, as their plethora of pitching prospects are a year or two away from making the Braves a contender.
- Losing Dexter Fowler (2.1 fWAR) shouldn’t hurt much, and it’ll be the Cubs pitching, if anything, that takes a step back. Jake Arrieta (4.1 fWAR), Jon Lester (4.5 fWAR) and John Lackey (2.9 fWAR) are all 30+, so at minimum, some regression is to be expected, and at worst, their health could become an issue. Still, another NL Central, and potentially World Series, title is well within reach.
- The addition of Fowler should give the Cardinals an improved lineup, and if their starting rotation can stay healthy, St. Louis could be competitive in September. Are they going to catch the Cubs? No. But if Mike Leake (2.3 fWAR), Lance Lynn (2.3 fWAR) and Michael Wacha (1.7 fWAR) can round out their rotation, a Wild Card berth is a possibility.
- Andrew McCutchen (3.6 fWAR) should bounce back from a forgettable season, but the Pirates just don’t have enough to compete with the Cubs and Cardinals. A Wild Card berth is potentially within reach if Jameson Taillon (3.1 fWAR) and Tyler Glasnow (2.0 fWAR) develop faster than expected, but that’s a big if.
- When Scott Feldman (1.2 fWAR) is your No. 2 starter, you know you have issues. The Reds are rebuilding, and Cincinnati fans are in for a few bad years as their young starters struggle early on. Joey Votto (4.1 fWAR) will keep them relevant till the All-Star break, but after that, the Reds will once again be cellar-dwellers.
- The Brewers have a couple young pitchers in Junior Guerra (2.2 fWAR) and Zach Davies (2.5 fWAR), but after them there isn’t much worth mentioning in their starting rotation. Ryan Braun (2.0 fWAR) trade rumors might be the most interesting Brewers’ story come July.
- It’s only a matter of time before Corey Seager (4.5 fWAR) establishes himself as an MVP candidate, and Logan Forsythe (2.4 fWAR) is a sneaky good pickup to fill their hole at second base. Clayton Kershaw (7.4 fWAR) will once again be Clayton Kershaw, and the Dodgers should have enough to get past the Giants and win the West. But the question is can they get past the Cubs and their NLCS hump?
- Adding Mark Melancon (1.3 fWAR) will do wonders for a bullpen that really struggled last season. Add in a healthy Joe Panik (2.7 fWAR) and a full-season of Matt Moore (2.3 fWAR) and the Giants should be toe to toe with Los Angeles come September. If they don’t win the West, the Giants, as always, will be a dangerous Wild Card team.
- Ian Desmond’s (1.2 fWAR) injury doesn’t help but the Rockies should improve upon their 75-win 2016 season. Jon Gray (3.2 fWAR) leads a revamped rotation, that should keep the Rockies in it till September, but they’re still a piece or two away from the Giants and Dodgers.
- Zack Grienke (3.3 fWAR) and Paul Goldschmidt (4.4 fWAR) will keep Arizona relevant, but unless Shelby Miller (1.7 fWAR) or Taijuan Walker (1.8 fWAR) figure themselves out, the Diamondbacks aren’t good enough yet to compete for the NL West crown.
- The Padres might be the worst team in baseball. Will Myers (2.6 fWAR) is coming into his own, and they have a few bright prospects, but otherwise, there’s going to be some awfully bad baseball played at PETCO Park this season.
Wild Card Round
AL: Toronto Blue Jays over Houston Astros. The Astros have the better lineup, but do you really trust Dallas Keuchel in a one-game playoff? Marco Estrada gets the better of Houston and Toronto pulls out another Wild Card win.
NL: San Francisco Giants over New York Mets. Syndergaard vs. Bumgarner Part II looks a lot like the first matchup. Both teams struggle at the plate with the starters on the mound, but a few clutch hits from the Giants prove to be just enough against a suspect Mets’ bullpen.
AL: Cleveland Indians over Toronto Blue Jays. The Indians took last years’ ALCS matchup in five, and Encarnación was playing for the other team. With Encarnación in an Indians’ uniform, and Carrasco and Salazar healthy, the Indians sweep this time.
AL: Boston Red Sox over Seattle Mariners. Chris Sale proves to be too much for the Mariners, as he picks up two wins in his first playoff series, sending the Red Sox to the ALCS for a 2016 ALDS rematch.
NL: Chicago Cubs over San Francisco Giants. Bumgarner takes game one, sending Cubs fans into a frenzy, but the Cubs levelheadedness – and superior talent – prevails, as they take the series in five.
NL: Los Angeles Dodgers over Washington Nationals. Kershaw shuts the door on the Nationals again, with great performances in games one, four and five. Even with Adam Eaton, the Nationals just can’t get over their postseason woes.
AL: Cleveland Indians over Boston Red Sox. In the series that makes the Red Sox regret signing Mitch Moreland over Encarnación, the Indians advance to their second straight World Series, behind their dominant collection of arms and Encarnación’s postseason power surge.
NL: Los Angeles Dodgers over Chicago Cubs. Kershaw and the Dodgers finally slay the beast, taking down the Cubs in an epic, seven-game series for the ages. Kershaw picks up wins in games one, four and seven and the Dodgers finally have their World Series berth.
Cleveland Indians over Los Angeles Dodgers. Kershaw, Kluber, Jansen, Miller, Seager, Lindor. What more could you want from a playoff series? A year after coming up short, the Indians exorcise their demons and win their first World Series since 1948.
- AL MVP: Mike Trout, CF, Angels
- NL MVP: Bryce Harper, RF, Nationals
- AL Cy Young: Chris Archer, SP, Rays
- NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers
- AL Rookie of the Year: Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
- NL Rookie of the Year: Dansby Swanson, SS, Braves
- AL Manager of the Year: Scott Servais, Mariners
- NL Manager of the Year: Dave Roberts, Dodgers