2017 MLB Preview

April 2, 2017, 1:02 p.m. | By Benjamin Yokoyama | 6 years, 10 months ago

Spring training and the month of March are an exciting time for baseball fans, but as the spring drags on, fans want to see some real action. The season begins Apr. 2 with an exciting slate of games including the World Series champion Chicago Cubs and the ever-popular New York Yankees, with the first pitch of the MLB season being thrown by young Tampa Bays Rays star Chris Archer. As for local teams the Nationals are hoping to not lose another first round playoff series, while the Orioles will look to stay afloat in the AL East with the always improving Boston Red Sox. In the AL the Chris Sale-led Red Sox are my favorite to win the pennant over the Indians and their pitching depth, while in the NL if the Nats do not beat themselves they will be able to get past the big bats in Chicago and ride it all the way to a November victory.

Playoff Predictions
AL Wild Card: Astros over Orioles
NL Wild Card: Cardinals over Giants
AL Division Series: Red Sox over Astros, Indians over Rangers
NL Division Series: Cubs over Cardinals, Nationals over Dodgers
ALCS: Red Sox over Indians
NLCS: Nationals over Cubs
World Series: Nationals over Red Sox

AL East
1. Boston Red Sox
The Sox hit it big this offseason after winning the East last season, making the move of the year for starter Chris Sale. Although Drew Pomeranz will have to prove that he can pitch well for more than half a season, Sale and Cy Young winner Rick Porcello will pair nicely atop the rotation. Losing David Ortiz hurts but with Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. roaming the outfield, the Red Sox will be hard to beat.

Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are among the best outfields in baseball. Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Live.

2. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles bring back roughly the same team as last year, led by power hitters like Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis and a strong bullpen led by closer Zach Britton and Brad Brach. The rotation is again shaky, but if young arms Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman can step up the O's should be in good shape. Third baseman Manny Machado and shortstop J.J. Hardy will have to stay healthy to have a shot in this strong division.
3. New York Yankees
A strange look for the Yankees this season: A team filled with youth. Catcher Gary Sanchez and first baseman Greg Bird impressed last season, and the signing of Matt Holliday and Chris Carter add depth in the outfield. The Yankees bullpen is much stronger than their rotation this season. However, the loss of shortstop Didi Gregorius for the start of the season hurts a lot. Expect the Yankees to compete for the top spot in the East.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays lost a big bat in Edwin Encarnacion but still have two of the best power hitters in the league with third baseman Josh Donaldson and right fielder Jose Bautista in the middle of their lineup. Their rotation is headlined by Team USA star Marcus Stroman and 2016 ERA leader Marco Estrada. This aging team might have some trouble keeping up with the Red Sox.
5. Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa is still a rebuilding team who did not add much this offseason. They do have great young pitchers in Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, but their bats are weak and unproven yet again. Expect another last place finish for Evan Longoria and the Rays, who will get a midseason boost when former National Wilson Ramos returns from knee injury.

AL Central
1. Cleveland Indians
The AL champs lost virtually no one save strikeout prone Mike Napoli and added power bat Edwin Encarnacion and will return Michael Brantley from injury. They have rotation that runs six or seven deep led by Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, and even with Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall out to start the season, the Indians will be the favorites in the Central.
2. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers' bats are strong, with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler leading the way, paired with a powerful rotation of Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann and Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer. Young outfielders JaCoby Jones and Tyler Collins will have to step up if Detroit wants to make the playoffs.

Michael Fulmer won the 2016 Rookie of the Year award in the AL. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

3. Kansas City Royals
KC finished third in the Central last season, but adding Brandon Moss and Jorge Soler boosts their offensive production. However, the loss of Wade Davis in the bullpen really hurts an already weak pitching staff. Their rotation of journeymen veterans behind Danny Duffy will have to produce.
4. Chicago White Sox
Other than Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu, the White Sox do not have much offense after trading for prospects this offseason. They still have a deep staff after getting James Shields, Miguel Gonzalez and Derek Holland this winter. Do not expect much offensively from this team.
5. Minnesota Twins
The Twins were miserable last year and seem to be banking on the development of prospects Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco because their only major acquisition was lefty Hector Santiago. Expect great production from infielders Miguel Sano, Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer, but do not expect the Twins to finish anywhere but well below .500.

AL West
1. Texas Rangers
The reigning two-time AL West winners bring back a similar team with loads of young talent led by veterans Adrian Beltre and Jonathan Lucroy. Their strong staff with Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish will allow young bats like Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor to become solid everyday players. Expect these guys to lock up a division championship and a playoff berth.
2. Houston Astros
Houston may have the best lineup top to bottom in the majors, with perennial MVP candidate Jose Altuve at the top, a great outfield led by George Springer and young stars Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa on the left side of the infield. Their pitching is where they fall short, with only Lance McCullers and Dallas Keuchel as trustworthy arms. They also have a strong bullpen, but can they keep up with the Rangers?
3. Los Angeles Angels
LA, where Nationals go to die. Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Ben Revere will be competing to start alongside Mike Trout, the best player in the game according to players and analysts alike. However, even Trout and legend Albert Pujols cannot bring the Angels into the playoffs, though pitchers Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker should bounce back from injuries this season.
4. Seattle Mariners
The M's have strong starting pitched led by Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, and huge bats Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager in the middle of the lineup, but after that the Mariners will be lucky to finish third in this division.
5. Oakland Athletics
The A's are in trouble. They do not have the pieces of a rebuilding franchise, but do not have the pieces of a franchise that is looking to win. Their best pitcher, Sonny Gray and Kendall Graveman will have to carry this lowly team.

NL East
1. Washington Nationals
The Nats are looking to get to the second round of the playoffs for the first time ever, but Bryce Harper will have to have a bounceback year for that to happen. The pitching of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark will keep them steady all year, and star shortstop Trea Turner will use his speed to produce like he did last season. Not to mention they picked up catcher Matt Wieters. If the Nats can stay healthy, they should breeze through the regular season.
2. New York Mets
The Mets return quite literally the exact same team as last season minus closer Jeurys Familia, who is suspended 15 games. Plagued by injury the last two seasons, the Mets will need all seven or eight of their starters for this season. They will also need captain David Wright and outfielders Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes to have big seasons in Queens.
3. Miami Marlins
The Marlins may have the best outfield in the major leagues led by Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, but their pitching is far from perfect, with an aging Edinson Volquez at the top of the rotation. If infielders Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria can hit, the Marlins should put some pressure on the Mets and Nats.
4. Atlanta Braves
Adding Brandon Phillips, R.A. Dickey and Matt Kemp in the last year makes the Braves older and wiser, because rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson is rearing to go for the Braves, whose pitching staff led by Julio Teheran will be average at best. Expect the Braves to finish no higher than third in this division.
5. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies were so desperate for pitching they paid Jeremy Hellickson a max contract, but they also got Clay Buchholz. The Phillies are definitely still rebuilding and will not have many wins this season, but they do have solid young players to build around.

NL Central
1. Chicago Cubs
The reigning champions lost Dexter Fowler and closer Aroldis Chapman, then went and traded for Wade Davis. Not a bad tradeoff. We already know about Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo, but this season Kyle Schwarber will be there the whole year. The rotation led by Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester proved effective enough for the hitters to power the Cubs last season, so expect more of the same this year.

Dexter Fowler went from the Cubs to the Cardinals this offseason. Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune.

2. St. Louis Cardinals
Haven't heard this one before, but the Cardinals are very good. They replaced Matt Holliday with World Series hero Dexter Fowler and moved Randal Grichuk over to left field. Yadier Molina is still a top three catcher, but the rotation took a hit with Tyler Lyons, Zach Duke and Alex Reyes all out for the season. Kolten Wong and the Cardinals will still compete with the Cubs for the top spot.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates
Another team with depth everywhere, the Pirates might be the odd team out in the NL. Star Andrew McCutchen's strong second half proved he's back, while Josh Harrison and Starling Marte are ready to prove they are perennial All-Stars. The young pitching staff needs to prove themselves, but overall the Pirates are not to be messed with.
4. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers and Reds counter the strength of the top three in this division. They still have Ryan Braun, but other than Orlando Arcia at shortstop, the Crew are not going to have much success this year. Starting pitchers Javy Guerra and Wily Peralta cannot carry this team.
5. Cincinnati Reds
After losing Brandon Phillips, the Reds have Joey Votto and Billy Hamilton as their only recognizable names in the lineup. Their rotation led by Scott Feldman leaves much to be desired. Do not expect anywhere near a winning record from this team headed in the wrong direction.

NL West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
LA was not close to beating the Cubs in the NLCS, but with Corey Seager developing, anything is possible for these guys. The staff of Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda is excellent and Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner round out a terrific infield for the boys in blue. Expect more Yasiel Puig drama to mask how good the Dodgers really are.
2. San Francisco Giants
The Giants have the best catcher in the league in Buster Posey, and one of the best pitching staffs led by Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. The addition of closer Mark Melancon only adds to this team's power. They lack depth in the outfield but do have shortstop Brandon Crawford and first baseman Brandon Belt. They will keep it tight with the Dodgers.

Buster Posey and the Giants will try to keep up with the Dodgers in the West. Photo courtesy of ESPN.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks
The D-Backs are led on offense by Paul Goldschmidt and on the mound by Zack Greinke. They will get back A.J. Pollock from injury and acquired a young arm in Taijuan Walker to top off a strong pitching rotation. If their rotation stays healthy the Diamondbacks can come close to the top two in this division.
4. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies signed Ian Desmond, who promptly broke his hand, and already had defensive stud Gerardo Parra to replace him. These Rockies are deep in the field, but the mound is a different story. Jon Gray will lead a weak rotation in a field where the air is already thin, while a below average bullpen will not help their chances.
5. San Diego Padres
The Padres seem keen on trying their luck with prospects Manny Margot and Hunter Renfroe in the outfield, partially because they have no one else to put there. They might be able to energize a lineup that features Wil Myers, but not much else. The pitching leaves much to be desired because Jhoulys Chacin and Trevor Cahill are not front line starters. Anything above last place would be a happy surprise for the lowly Padres.

Tags: Baseball MLB Baltimore Orioles Washington Nationals MLB Preview

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