In this MLB season preview, we’re predicting the division winners and the outcome of the World Series, even though spring training just started. There are a lot of well-matched teams at the top, but we think it’s the Red Sox’s year: their pitching, matched with a handful of improved players, and an offense that is going to be the best in baseball, secured them the theoretical spot of 2017 World Series champs. But what do we know?
NL East: New York Mets
The Mets are going to top the favored Nationals this season because their pitching staff is finally healthy to start the year. The “Fab Five,” Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler, who are finally all active to start the year, and late-offseason additions in the bullpen will be the difference-maker over the Nationals, who failed to bring in a closer to strengthen the bullpen. The only question marks that may derail their chances is health issues in the infield with David Wright, Lucas Duda, and Neil Walker all attempting comebacks from serious back injuries.
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
It has to be the Cubs again. Prejudices aside, their pitching staff is still the best in baseball, with Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, and Jon Lester dominating the stats board. They’ve got enough back-up to last them the season, with Eddie Butler coming in from the Rockies and Alec Mills from the Royals, as well as Mike Montgomery, who is recently recovered from surgery. With that much talent on their roster it’s impossible for them to lose this year. They’ve got solid offense with Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. Lastly, Kyle Schwarber is coming back to top off their already all-star lineup. Really, did you even need this explanation?
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
When you can assume that your ace is going to have a sub-2.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP year after year, you have to feel pretty strongly about your chances. The Dodgers might also have an intriguing MVP competition between their ace, Clayton Kershaw and their young SS, Corey Seager. Re-signing Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen will certainly help with the offense and the bullpen this season to fend off the competing Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Padres. In the end, Dodgers have to hope that their starters after Kershaw can keep away the injury bug to pull away with the NL West again.
NL Wild Card: Washington Nationals
The Nationals could quite possibly be the most frustrating team in baseball. Year after year they seem to have one of the best teams on paper, and then they falter in the postseason. This year those frustrations will continue due to regressions from Daniel Murphy and inconsistencies from their veterans Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth. The biggest headache for this team will be the bullpen, as the front office failed to acquire any significant help to fill the void left by Mark Melancon this offseason. Nonetheless, Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, and Trea Turner will carry the load enough for this team to win the wild card game this season. They just have to hope they don’t get beat up too much by the far superior New York Mets (says the biased Mets fan).
NL Champion: Cubs
AL East: Boston Red Sox
Yes, the Red Sox lost their beloved David Ortiz this year to retirement. But that will not stop this juggernaut from running through their competition all year long. Their young outfield featuring Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. is bursting with raw talent. In addition, Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia will again prove to be one of the top middle infield combinations in the AL. While the offense will definitely carry the load for many games, the star-studded rotation and bullpen will carry this team to a World Series this year. Look for Price to have a Comeback Player of the Year-type season and Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and Steven Wright to provide ample support for the Red Sox dominate the AL East this season.
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
The reigning AL Champs will come back this offseason with a vengeance. The starting rotation will be the core of this team as Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, and Danny Salazar will look to continue their success. Shortstop Francisco Lindor will continue his development and join the ranks of his fellow elite young shortstops around the league. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen proved last offseason that they can handle the pressure of the late-innings as well. With an especially balanced team on all sides of the ball, the Indians will fend off their AL Central challengers and return to the postseason.
AL West: Houston Astros
This team is young and fiery and ready to take down their intrastate rival Rangers. The middle infield will ultimately carry this team as MVP-candidates Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa will drive the offense with their speed and power. The addition of Carlos Beltran at the DH position may have been a risk not worth taking, but if they end up in October baseball, he could rekindle his record-breaking magic from his stint with the Astros in 2004 when he had an OPS over 1.000 for the postseason. The rotation could be a sore spot for the Astros as well, but Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and a trade deadline addition to the rotation should be enough to secure a division title.
AL Wild Card: Toronto Blue Jays
After years of coming close, yet again, the Blue Jays are gonna come close. They’re nothing if not predictable. Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista aren’t the best in baseball, but they have what it takes to get Toronto a Wild Card spot. Aaron Sanchez and J. A. Happ, again, aren’t gonna take this team to the World Series, but are good enough to get them vying for a spot in the ALCS. I just doubt they’re gonna get any farther than this (and maybe they never will).
AL Champion: Red Sox
World Series Champion: Red Sox
Sean Berman is a sophomore in the SFS, and Claire Goldberg is a sophomore in the College.
Image Credits: Photo source: Wikimedia Commons