On the heels of what most would consider the most successful baseball season in a long time (mainly due to the Cubs winning the World Series, and in dramatic fashion no less), we are less than a week away from the beginning of the 2017 season. Since I’m the old guy at Buffalo Wins, it seems the baseball preview is left to me. Let’s have a look at how I think things will shake out.
- Red Sox- Boston is probably the most complete team in the American League. Most had them as the favorites in the AL once the post season started last year. They probably have the best OF, and they are all still very young. Mookie Betts is an MVP candidate once again and will lead the offense. The big offensive question for them is will we get first or second half Bogaerts. Their top 2 is as good as anyone in baseball with Sale and Porcello. If David Price can pitch well, this team will coast to the best record in the AL.
- Blue Jays- Losing Edwin will hurt this offense no doubt, but their signings do allow them some flexibility, as they needed a LH bat. I think this team could be sneaky good and if they can squeak into the post season will be a team nobody wants to play because of their starting pitching. Sanchez is a Cy Young candidate, Stroman looks great in the WBC, and Estrada, Happ, and Liriano are as good a 3, 4, and 5 as you will find.
- Yankees- This team will be much improved. They have 2 great young bats in Sanchez and Bird, and their bullpen, led by Chapman and Betances will continue to be lights out. It’s their starting pitching that gives me pause. IF (big if) Tanaka is back, they will have a true #1. However, when CC Sabathia is your number 3 starter, I don’t think that’s enough to get you to the playoffs.
- Orioles- Orioles fans will likely never get over the fact that the best pitcher in baseball last year, Nate Britton, never pitched in their wild card loss. This team has some pop and can score runs, led by Jones, Machado, Davis, and Trumbo. However, they have nothing to stop opposing teams other than Britton. They may lead the league in runs and still have a negative differential.
- Rays- People are high on the defensive team that the Rays will trot out. They have a decent pitching staff, led by ace to be Chris Archer. I just don’t see how this team can score enough runs to consistently win.
- Indians- The defending AL champs appear to have gotten better. They added Encarnacion to a sneaky good offense led by Lindor. It’s their pitching that will be much healthier and improved. Kluber is a true #1 guy, and Carrasco, Salazar, and Bauer are all legit #2 or #3 starters. Andrew Miller will close, but their top set-up guy, Cody Allen is no joke either. I expect them to run away with this division
- Royals- Many forget that in 2015, this team won the World Series. They still have guys who can hit, like MVP candidate Hosmer and Moustakas. The big question is how will their pitching respond to the death of Ventura. This is likely the last year this team is together as several guys are in walk years with their contracts. I expect them to make one last run at it before completely hitting reset this upcoming offseason.
- Tigers- On paper, this team always looks really good, until you remember it is 2017 and not 2012. They have many guys who can play when healthy, but due to age, this team has been unable to stay on the field. Cabrera is still a fanstaic hitter, and Upton, Kinsler, and Victor Martinez can still swing it. Verlander still leads a decent rotation, but they worry me after their top 3 starters. I have zero confidence in their bullpen, which is the reason I think they miss the playoffs.
- Twins- Minnesota was awful last year. They should be a bit improved because of the number of young guys they played last year. Al eyes will be on Buxton and Dozier to see if they can build something moving forward. When Ervin Santana is your clear-cut number one, your pitching isn’t great.
- White Sox- They got a nice haul when dumping Sale to Boston, but they have basically hit reset and already given up on the season. All eyes will be on prized-rookie Charlie Tilson. I expect them to dump a few more vets at some point. They are clearly looking towards 2018 and beyond.
- Astros- It’s time to see if the NBA style tanking this organization did will pay off. They have a nice line-up led by MVP candidates Altuve and Correa. I also like the Josh Reddick addition. The big question is what they will get from their pitching staff. Is Keuchel closer to what we saw in 2015 or 2016? This will likely determine the ceiling for this team.
- Mariners- I expect the West to come down to the last day of the season. This team can score in bunches, still led by Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz. I expect Mike Zunino to have a breakout year at C. Their pitching is deep and really, really good. Felix Hernandez is still as good as anyone is, and their bullpen has some power throwers. This is clearly the race to watch.
- Rangers- The 3rd, 4th, and 5th best teams in the AL may be in the AL West. We know all the guys here, Beltre and Odor will lead with their bats, and Hamels and Darvish are a strong 1-2 punch. Picking them has more to do with Houston and Seattle getting better.
- Angels- Obviously this all starts with Mike Trout, but there is some talent around him for once in Maybin and Escobar. I don’t love their pitching, and this division is too tough.
- Atheltics- Gray, Graveman, and Cotton lead a decent pitching staff. They will be able to keep teams off the scoreboard, but their line-up is filled with a bunch of guys who would struggle to start on most AL teams.
- Nationals- Is this the year they finally breakthrough in the NL? Scherzer and Strasburg lead a good starting rotation, and their already good offense led by Werth, Murphy, and Harper (who will be much improved) added Eaton and Wieters. On paper, they have the talent to compete with the Cubs and win the NL.
- Mets- Most every team in baseball would take their starting pitching. Syndergaard, DeGrom, and Harvey can all be lights out. Keeping Cespedes was important for this line-up, who with Granderson and Jay Bruce provide some pop. My fear is this is an old line-up outside of their pitching, and I don’t know how much the Mets really trust Familia when it counts.
- Marlins- Make no mistake, losing Jose Fernandez, purely from a baseball standpoint, may cause this season to go down the tubes in a hurry. There is talent, led by Dee Gordon, Yelich, and Stanton in the line-up, but they just have so little pitching now.
- Braves-I like the rebuilding effort they have undertaken here. There is enough offense here with Freeman, Kemp, and Markakis. Braves fans will like what they see from rookie Swanson at SS as well. Their minor league systems has lots of good arms in it, but none are in Atlanta yet. A rotation with Colon and Dickey is just here to hold the fort until 2018.
- Phillies- The youth movement has also started here as gone are all the names you know. I like what I saw last year from CF Odubel Herrera, but there just isn’t a lot of talent on this roster. The big question is can we get a full season from prospect Roman Quinn finally.
- Cubs- We all know the story and the players. The line-up is deadly with Schwarber, Bryant, and Rizzo, and they have pitching depth with Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks, and Lackey. If they have a weakness, it is their bullpen, but on paper, they are the best team in baseball. The question is how hungry are they now?
- Cardinals- All this organization does is win. I don’t see how they win the central, but a wild card spot is theirs for the taking. Their line-up is 7 hitters deep, and Molina may be the best 2 way player in the game. If Wainwright and Wacha can stay healthy, they will join Carlos Martinez forming a really good rotation.
- Pirates- This team is stuck in the middle right now. They don’t have enough to contend, and aren’t nearly bad enough to tank. McCutchen and Marte can still hit, and Gerrit Cole is still a really good pitcher. They just don’t have enough to compete in this division however.
- Brewers- Ryan Braun has recovered nicely from his PED scandal, and Jonathan Villar provided a nice option of the top of the order. This team just has no, and I mean zero starting pitching.
- Reds- The question is to trade Votto or keep Votto. He is their only true MLB hitter, but he has a huge salary, and for a team not contending, they should look for a package of prospects for this guy. This is as bad a pitching staff as money can buy.
- Dodgers- They have enough pop on offense, led by Turner, Seager, Pederson, and Gonzalez to score enough runs to win lots of games. When you couple that with a rotation led by arguably the best pitcher (regular season) in Kershaw, you win the division and win many,many games.
- Giants- I do really like this team, and like most years, the West will likely be won in the last days of the season. MadBum is as good a pitcher and as fun to watch as any player in baseball, and Johnny Cueto, Shark, Matt Moore, and Cain fill out a nice rotation (if Cain is healthy). If Posey and Pence can stay healthy, this team has a shot at the division, I just like the Dodgers offense a bit more.
- Diamondbacks- This team is much improved, especially in the rotation. Greinke, Walker, and Miller are a nice top 3. If Goldschmidt gets any help at all at the plate, this team could surprise us. I just don’t trust them to score enough yet.
- Rockies- This team is the anti-DBacks. With CarGO, Ian Desmond, and Arenado, this team can score in bunches. John Gray has a chance to become a true #1, but the drop-off is huge after him.
- Padres- It’s going to be really bad. Rookies Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot will be the ones to watch. Literally, that’s the only reason to watch this team. I won’t be surprised if this is the worst team in baseball.
Mariners over Blue Jays
Indians over Mariners
Red Sox over Astros
Red Sox over Indians
Giants over Cardinals
Cubs over Giants
Nationals over Dodgers
Cubs over Nationals
In a dream MLB scenario, the Cubs repeat by beating the Red Sox.