Here in Northern Virginia, the signs of Spring are all around. Birds are building nests; trees have leaf buds; crocuses are in bloom; the sun is in the sky more than 12 hours a day. However, here in the confines of Curmudgeon Central, Spring awaits one more thing before it can officially announce itself. And that would be:
Opening Day for MLB
If I had a countdown clock running – which I do not – there would be less than 100 hours remaining until the first pitch of the first game on Sunday afternoon when the Pirates host the Cardinals at 1:05 PM EDT. Therefore, I guess it is time for me to make my predictions for the upcoming season.
I like the Astros to win the division. They say a team needs to be “strong up the middle” in baseball and the Astros have a solid catcher, good pitching (the addition of Doug Fister will not hurt them at all), outstanding young players at second base and shortstop and a good centerfielder who was injured last year and should return to form this year. If you think there is a better SS/2B combination than Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, you will have to convince me.
The Rangers will challenge the Astros and finish second. If Yu Darvish finishes his rehab on schedule and is the pitcher he was prior to surgery, they could make the AL West race interesting.
The Mariners should finish third. They have 3 solid starters in Hernandez, Iwakuma and Walker. Kyle Seager is a really good third baseman but he may be only the second best player in the Seager family. (See below…)
The Angels have Mike Trout (perhaps the best all-around player in MLB) and an aging Albert Pujols and decent starting pitching, but they do not have enough to be serious contenders this year.
The A’s do not have anywhere near enough pitching to keep up.
Naturally, I like the Royals to win the AL Central. They have won it the last two years and basically have the same team this year. What’s not to like?
I will take the Tigers to finish a distant second here on the assumption that their starting pitching holds together. The Tigers should score runs with the likes of Justin Upton, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler in the lineup. The starters have good pedigrees but recent performances have been less than expected…
I guess I like the Indians to finish third in the division. They are sort of the mirror image of the Tigers – solid pitching but should struggle to score runs. Michael Brantley opens the season on the DL; the Indians need him back in the outfield ASAP.
In a coin flip, I’ll take the Twins to finish fourth here. There is just not all that much to like about the Twins.
Losing the coin flip puts the White Sox last in the AL Central. Chris Sale is a top-shelf starting pitcher; after him, the Sox have nothing but question marks. Offensively, the White Sox have Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera and a bunch of other guys.
The Blue Jays should win the AL East on pure offense. They scored 891 runs last year; that is 5.5 runs per game; everybody is back including Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnation in the middle of the lineup. Having Drew Storen in the bullpen to close games is a plus; the Jays should be taking leads into the ninth inning more than once in a while.
I’ll take the Red Sox to finish second in the division by a nose over the third place Rays. The Red Sox should score runs and the addition of David Price to the starting rotation cannot hurt. Nevertheless, the rest of the Sox rotation is not much more than ordinary and they have huge question marks at the corner infield positions. Pablo Sandoval at third base and Hanley Ramirez at first base could make infield plays more exciting than they need to be.
I’ll put the Rays in third place as a mirror image of the Red Sox. I like the Rays pitching but they might struggle to score much.
The Yankees will finish fourth in the AL East because I think that Father Time is going to pay a very unwelcome visit to the Yankees’ clubhouse. A-Rod is 41; CC Sabathia has his own issues; Mark Teixiera is not nearly the player he was. The starting pitching is OK but nothing more than that. The Yankees’ bullpen is very good with Aroldis Chapman and Dellen Betances.
The Orioles will trail the field here. I love Adam Jones in centerfield and Manny Machado at third base. The bullpen is very good too. Other than that…
I’ll take the Giants to win this division because I like the Giants pitching more than the Dodgers’ pitching and I like the Giants offense better than the D-Backs offense. Those 3 teams sit atop this division. The keys to the Giants’ winning are solid years from Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto and a healthy Hunter Pence.
I like the D-Backs to finish second in the division because they have Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller to head their starting rotation and Paul Goldschmidt in the middle of their lineup.
I have the Dodgers finishing third here. The Dodgers’ starting pitching was great last year; this year it is Clayton Kershaw and a bunch of guys. I am not a Scott Kazmir believer… Corey Seager at shortstop is even better than his brother on the Mariners and that says a lot. Yasiel Puig is a head case; if he figures out how to play the game consistently, he can be a star.
I like the Padres to finish a distant fourth in the division. If both Wil Meyers and John Jay bounce back from bad years in 2015, the Padres’ offense might be half-decent; otherwise… Oh, and their pitching staff is nothing to write home about either.
I’ll take the Rockies to finish just a hair behind the Padres here. I just do not think the Rockies can score enough runs to keep pace with the number the pitching staff will give up.
I like the Cubs to win the best division in MLB. Any lineup that projects Javier Baez and Jorge Soler as “bench guys” has to be taken seriously. The Cubs’ starting pitching is very good and deep. If they have a weakness, it might be in the bullpen. Remember, I said “if” …
I like the Pirates to chase the Cubs in the NL Central. If Gregory Polanco plays up to his hype, the Pirates will have an outfield that matches any in the game. Their pitching is solid. Their biggest problem is that they are in the same division as the Cubs.
I’ll take the Cardinals to finish third here. If you want an example of a deep starting rotation, look at the Cards. This is the Lake Woebegone of starting pitching; they are all above average. I think the Cards will not score enough to win enough to match the Cubs or the Pirates.
The Reds will finish fourth in the NL Central simply because they have Billy Hamilton, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips at the top of their lineup. That is not nearly enough to make them contenders but it is enough to keep them out of last place.
The Brewers will finish last in the NL Central.
I like the Mets to win the division simply because of their pitching. They have 4 really good young starters and Bartolo Colon who continues to find ways to get guys out. Oh, and their bullpen ain’t bad either. If David Wright’s health can let him play 120 games, the Mets will do just fine. The schedule is really nice to the Mets; their last 16 games of the season are against the Twins (3), Braves (3), Marlins (3) and Phillies (7).
I like the Nationals to finish second in the NL East. The Nats need a big year from Jayson Werth who is 37 years old and they need the injury bug to stay away from Anthony Rendon. Bryce Harper will put up big numbers but he needs help. The Nats starting rotation needs Stephen Strasbourg to pitch to his reputation consistently and for Gio Gonzalez to pitch better than he did in 2015. Jonathan Papelbon is a very good closer – but I wonder what might happen if he takes a loss because Bryce Harper makes an error in the outfield…
I’ll take the Marlins to finish third in the NL East for a very simple reason. They are not nearly as good as the Mets or the Nats and they are not nearly as bad as the Phillies or the Braves.
I’ll take the Phillies to finish fourth in the NL East because I think they are a year ahead of the Braves in the “teardown/rebuild” process. The Phillies’ future is still in the minor leagues but at least they have a couple of their young guys on the main squad getting experience like Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez and Aaron Nola.
I think the Braves will finish last in the NL East and may lose 100+ games this year. They have recognizable names in the lineup – but the players attached to those names are on the downside of their careers like Erick Aybar, Nick Markakis and AJ Pierzynski. The Braves are a work-in-progress.
Finally, in keeping with the theme of the day, here is a baseball item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“The Savannah, Ga., Bananas will become the 16th team in the Coastal Plain League, a summer circuit for college baseball players. So obviously the team MVP award will be known as the Top . . . nah, too easy.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………