The winter of discontent turned to the spring of contract extensions and now we're headed full steam toward our version of Christmas: Opening Day. Yes, we've already seen two games but those don't really feel like the start of the actual season since both of the participants return to spring training afterward. No, this coming Thursday is the big day., too, instead of seeing something like three games on the first day and everyone else playing the following day. This is beautiful.
As for how I expect things to shake out this season, let's take a look.
There are three teams that can win the American League. That's it. There will be two other playoff teams, sure, but the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros won't let another team get to the ALCS. They'll all win 100 games again. Pick whatever team you want from that group to represent the AL. I went with the Yankees.
Over in the NL, it's far more murky.
I like the Nationals in the NL East due to the rotation being killer, improvement at the catcher position and Victor Robles breaking out alongside Juan Soto in the outfield. That division, however, has four teams that will be in the mix. It's entirely possible we see all four teams finish with between 81 and 90 wins.
In the Central, we've got a 95-win Cubs team that endured near-worst-case scenarios pretty much everywhere but Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist last year. They'll get lots of bounce-backs (Kris Bryant, Yu Darvish and Willson Contreras as the big ones) and win the division for the third time in four seasons. The Cardinals are going to be better and they won 88 last year. They'll finish second and grab one of the wild cards.
I'm of the belief that the Brewers are good but just had their dream season. Christian Yelich hit .373/.481/.833 with 18 homers and 50 RBI in his last 40 games. He's good, but he's more what he was before that (.309/.372/.514 with 18 homers and 60 RBI in 107 games). Lorenzo Cain is good, but he's also 33 and pretty leg-reliant. Corey Knebel is hurt and I'd be concerned about Josh Hader holding up a full season after 81 1/3 regular season innings in 55 appearances followed up with 10 innings in seven postseason outings. They also lost their pitching coach. They are more 86 wins than 96 to me. That could still get them into the Wild Card Game, but I've got them missing out by an inch to the Phillies.
The Dodgers are the easy and obvious pick to win the NL West. Their season doesn't begin until October. The Rockies contend for another wild card. The rest of the West finishes below .500 and leaves the wild card race to the Phillies, Cardinals (my two picks), Mets, Brewers, Braves and Rockies. The upstart possibilities are the Reds and Padres.
The races in the AL are relatively boring while the NL side has amazing races down to the wire, maybe even with a few more one-game playoffs for Game 163 like last year.
Oh, and I'll get some of the above right and some of the above wrong. It's baseball! Bring it on.
|I'm certainly concerned about Luis Severino's shoulder, but I think this offense goes to the next stratosphere this season and the bullpen is loaded even without Dellin Betances.||1||0-0|
|The bullpen needs to sort itself out. If it does, the Red Sox are probably just as good as last year, even if repeating 108 wins seems very unlikely.||1||0-0|
|It doesn't seem like they were vigilant enough with their rotation this offseason, but it likely won't end up harming them much. It's possible Wade Miley, Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock are a very good 3-5.||--||0-0|
|Third time is a charm to win the World Series? They are the deepest team in baseball and most talented in the NL.||--||0-0|
|This team is still loaded, but the rotation and bullpen are definite concerns.||--||0-0|
|With Michael Taylor hurt, Victor Robles has lots of pressure on him to perform well. The outfield depth is really thin, but otherwise this team looks great.||--||0-0|
|There's enough here to see them returning to the top of the NL Central and even the NL.||--||0-0|
|While we fawn over the top five in the lineup, let's not forget that Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez have flashed good offensive upside at some point in the past.||--||0-0|
|Kudos to the Brewers for going with the upside in the rotation (Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff over Chase Anderson).||--||0-0|
|A 2015 repeat? If the rotation stays strong and keeps them in contention, Yoenis Cespedes could return for the final two months and give the offense a big boost.||--||0-0|
|The rotation -- especially with injuries to Kevin Gausman and Mike Foltynewicz to start the season -- is a concern.||--||0-0|
|They will probably still win the division, but this offense is atrocious outside Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, both of whom have injury concerns at the moment.||--||0-0|
|Sorry, I'll take the under.||1||0-0|
|For as much as we talk about how Coors Field inflates offensive players' stats (and it does), let's also do the opposite for the pitchers. This is a quality rotation. Don't just use raw ERA to judge it.||1||0-0|
|They still got a bargain with the Mike Trout deal.||1||0-0|
|It's a small sample of two games! But also, not a great trip to Japan.||3||0-0|
|Good offseason (though I still wish they'd have made a strong run at Dallas Keuchel and/or Craig Kimbrel) and there's definitely a path to winning the Central.||--||0-0|
|Right-handed starter Chris Paddack has only made seven starts above Class A and that was at Double-A. He'll leap straight to the bigs. If he's got the goods, he'll be fine. Jose Fernandez made the jump from High-A to the majors and won Rookie of the Year (2013).||1||0-0|
|The rotation is going to be sneaky-good, but the Pirates have a really tough assignment in the NL Central.||1||0-0|
|I feel for Reds fans who were excited to watch this season with a possible breakout. I'm sure they're still excited, but that Scooter Gennett injury is such a gut punch.||2||0-0|
|The loss of A.J. Pollock and trade of Paul Goldschmidt took a lot of punch away, but you can squint your way to seeing them contend. They need a LOT of things to go right, though.||1||0-0|
|If they were in the Central, I'd be saying they have a chance to sneak up and win the thing if everything broke right. Instead, the best they can do is third place.||1||0-0|
|This is not a good team, but they'll be better than what you expect during the "rebuild." There's veteran power in the offense.||1||0-0|
|Most of their core is comprised of players over 30 who aren't that good anymore and have long-term contracts still in effect. Is that good?||3||0-0|
|The rotation appears to be Mike Minor, Edinson Volquez, Lance Lynn, Drew Smyly and Shelby Miller. Good lord, that's a stadium full of landmines.||--||0-0|
|They weren't willing to do what it took in free agency and now it seems like everyone that might be a free agent in the next two years is signing an extension. Yuck. At least they got Eloy Jimenez locked up! Quality AL Rookie of the Year prediction there.||--||0-0|
|Good bet to lead the majors in steals. Beyond that ...||--||0-0|
|The most amazing thing to me down this low is there are two teams worse than the Tigers.||--||0-0|
|A fun game every season is trying to figure out what playoff team Curtis Granderson ends up with.||--||0-0|
|They can't possibly be worse ... can they?||--||0-0|