Baseball season starts early next week and here are my predictions for how the season will end in early October. There will be lots of games and storylines and memorable moments between now and then, but here is how I see everything shaking out.
- Boston: Yes, they will miss David Ortiz. However, the addition of Chris Sale to the starting rotation improves their pitching significantly.
- Toronto: They are the “best of the rest” in the division. A significant “comeback year” from Jose Bautista will let the Jays put pressure on the Red Sox.
- New York: They are in the midst of a roster rebooting but their young players appear to be awfully good. They cannot challenge the Jays or Red Sox … yet.
- Baltimore: Chris Tillman is their top-of-the-rotation starter and he is on the shelf for now. To win with their excellent bullpen, they need to have leads in games.
- Tampa: I think the Rays are overmatched in this division and may be major sellers come the trading deadline.
- Cleveland: Losing Mike Napoli cannot help the Indians but adding Edwin Encarnacion will help the Indians.
- Detroit: This is a veteran team that is getting long in the tooth. To finish this high, they must avoid the injury bug.
- KC: I just do not think they have the talent to challenge the top of the division. Losing Wade Davis over the winter surely did not help the team.
- Minnesota: The Twins just have to be better than a 59-win team this year – – don’t they?
- Chicago: How they plan to replace Adam Eaton and Chris Sale is not clear to me. Maybe they can rise above the Twins in the division but nothing beyond that.
- Texas: They will win the division but will be pressed by the Astros all year long.
- Houston: They spent a lot of money in the offseason adding veterans to their lineup. A good comeback year from Dallas Keuchel would go a long way toward getting the Astros over the Rangers.
- Seattle: The Mariners made lots of roster changes in the offseason but the fundamental success of the team rests on Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.
- LA: Mike Trout is the best all-around player in MLB but there is not nearly enough around him to get the Angels anywhere near the top of the division.
- Oakland: A strong comeback year by Sonny Gray could get the A’s over 70 wins this year – – or not.
My call for the wild-card team in the AL is the Houston Astros by a whisker over the Toronto Blue Jays.
- Washington: Adding Adam Eaton and Matt Wieters to a team that won 95 games last year equals another division title. The Nats’ only shortcoming is their bullpen.
- NY: The Mets need a big comeback year from Matt Harvey and the rest of the starting rotation to stay healthy all year long to be able to threaten the Nats.
- Atlanta: The Braves won 68 games last year but they are my pick for most improved team in 2017. I think this year is the start of a long and productive career for Dansby Swanson.
- Miami: The accidental death of Jose Fernandez last year is more than this roster will be able to overcome.
- Philly: Phillies only scored 610 runs last year; the next lowest total in MLB was 649 runs by the Braves. I do not see any potential for an offensive explosion from that roster.
- Chicago: Kris Bryant is the second-best player in MLB today. Unlike Mike Trout, he has plenty of talent around him and the Cubs should win this division in a walk.
- Pittsburgh: Moving Andrew McCutcheon to RF may be the change of scenery he needs to have a bounce-back year. Starling Marte will be a better defensive CF than McCutcheon was. I think a big year is coming for Gregory Polanco…
- St. Louis: The Cards won 86 games last year and might win 88 or 90 this year. That will not be sufficient in this division.
- Milwaukee: If the Brewers finish at .500 this year, the team should break out the champagne in the clubhouse.
- Cincy: The Reds stunk last year and traded away Brandon Phillips. I think they will stink again this year.
- LA: If there is a weakness on this team, I do not know what it is – – unless you count the potential for Yasiel Puig to “go rogue” at any moment.
- SF: The Giants’ bullpen was awful last year leading MLB in blown saves. I don’t know if the addition of Mark Melancon is sufficient to avoid that sort of ignominy again this year.
- Arizona: The three bottom teams in this division are after-thoughts. The D-Backs look like the best of the three to me – but they are not going to threaten either LA or SF for long.
- Colorado: The Rockies can score and the Rockies’ opponents can also score. Probably good to take the OVER in lots of Rockies’ games this year.
- San Diego: The Padres have been torn down and need now to rebuild. It is going to take time – lots more time than the 2017 season will allow.
My pick for the NL wild-card team is the NY Mets. Obviously, if that starting rotation falls victim to injuries – – and at least 3 of the starters have a significant medical history – – this pick could be laughably wrong.
One other thing to note… Two cities lost their NFL franchises since New Year’s Day; the Chargers left San Diego for LA and the Raiders are now cleared for takeoff from Oakland to Las Vegas. The baseball season does not look to be a salve for sports fans in those cities because I think the Padres and the A’s are both going to win fewer than 70 games this year.
Finally, here is a comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle to set the tone for the upcoming MLB season:
“A fond adios to all those elderly Cubbie fans who say, ‘Now I can die happy!’ It’s called ‘thinning the herd.’”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………