The grueling slog of the offseason is nigh to over and opening day is staring us in the face. This year, at least, we had the World Baseball Classic to keep us warm and it was better than we hoped, but it was no substitute for the real thing, merely something to whet our appetites. Before we move on to the mains and dig in on our analysis of a week’s or month’s worth of regular-season at-bats to make outlandish claims, let’s indulge in another tried and trued tradition: Doing the same thing, but with even less evidence. Here are some predictions for the 2017 season, organized by team. If I make enough; some safe, some crazy, surely, we’ll get some right, right? Cue: the rumbling laughter of the baseball gods.
We’ll ease in nice and slow: Shelby Miller is going to be better than he was last season. A lot better. Not good enough to justify the insane trade that brought him to the desert, but, still, a lot better. Strikeout and walk rates are the first to stabilize and Miller is striking out almost 13 per 9. While he isn’t going to keep that up over a full season, we’re going to quickly forget about his impressively terrible 2016 (even while we cannot forget the trade).
The Phoenix Still Won’t Rise: Even with improvement from Miller and a ridiculous season from AJ Pollock (and Paul Goldschmidt keeping on keeping on, of course), Arizona is going to be fringe contending for a Wild Card spot most of the season but is going to fall short.
Someone on the Braves is going to win NL Rookie of the Year. Whether it will be shortstop Dansby Swanson or second baseman Ozzie Albies (who was converted because of the acquisition of said Swanson) is up for grabs, although the advantage goes to Swanson, who should get a full year of PAs. Regardless, a little friendly competition between the double-play battery mates should make things interesting once Albies is called up.
Hurry Up and Wait: People are going to complain about traffic at the new stadium. You heard it here first, folks.
The Orioles are going to lead the league in homeruns, but they will still finish in last place in their division. They may have removed Yovani Gallardo from the rotation, but that’s the extent of their moves to improve it and the staff looks to be the worst and shallowest among the allegedly contending teams, particularly with Chris Tillman missing time. The offense may hit a lot of homeruns, but the pitchers are going to give ‘em right back. Maybe we should clarify whether we were talking about pitchers or hitters or both in that first sentence...
Lessons Learned: If I’m wrong, and the Orioles do make the playoffs, Zach Britton will actually get to pitch this time around.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are going to win the World Series. Sure, I could be contrarian, and I will (soon), but bringing Chris Sale into the fold will be enough to make up for the loss of David Ortiz and they’ll survive until David Price returns. Oh, and Andrew Benintendi is going to win the AL Rookie of the Year, which isn’t going to hurt, either.
Your World Series MVP: Pablo Sandoval, who will hit well enough to stay in the lineup through the season but then gets hot down the stretch and makes the circa-2012-Verlanders of the world go “wow” in the postseason again. (Color me contrarian.)
As stated in the preceding paragraph, the Cubs will not win the World Series in 2017. Fun Fact No. 1: It is hard to win the World Series. Fun Fact No. 2: It is even harder to win the World Series two years in a row. The Cubs are still going to win their division, but they’re not going to enjoy the ridiculous amount of rotation health and success that they did last year and they aren’t going to win 100 games again.
Girl, You Know It’s True: The Cubs are going to win 99 games and the division but get swept by... (reads over other predictions after almost finishing the article, consults with Leopold, who is a cat and only interested in baseball because it means I will be sitting still-ish for long periods of time)... the Rockies in the NLDS when Jon Gray pitches a complete game shutout in Coors Field.
Chicago White Sox
GM Rick Hahn is going to be the most popular kid in school through the trade deadline. At least one of Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier will likely head elsewhere, but the real question is what’s going to happen to Jose Quintana, who is not only excellent, but also very cheap and around for two more seasons. Somewhere, sometime this season, a contending team is going to decide they need him and Hahn is going to do a full-on Monty Burns impression before he ships him out for their best prospects.
Dream Until Your Dreams Come True: The White Sox aren’t going to be particularly fun to watch after the trade deadline this year, but their fans can sleep tight and with visions of shiny new sugar plum prospects.
We already subtly hinted at a prediction that the Orioles might lead the league in giving up the longball. Which means that the Reds’ staff will improve this season after giving up 258 last season. There will still be plenty for chicks of the opposing teams to dig, though.
I’m Sorry, So Sorry: It should be noted that the Reds are rebuilding and I feel bad. They’re doing the best they can, and the fans should be rewarded with something to make things worth watching: Joey Votto will, as he often does, lead the league in OBP, and he’ll break .500 for the first time since Barry Bonds.
Andrew Miller is going to win the AL Cy Young Award. Sure, we could play it a bit safer and go with either Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco or even Danny Salazar. However, we (the internet) spent a lot of time discussing (arguing over) Zach Britton and his Cy Young merit last year. Now, Miller is going to take what he did last season and run with it and people will lose their minds. It will be glorious.
The Tribe Abides: The Indians’ rotation is going to be so, so good and they’re going to be healthier than last year. They’re going to give Miller a run for his money.
Speaking of rotations, this is going to be the year the Rockies rotation is good enough. They’re not going to dominate or anything, and the terrible news of Chad Bettis’ cancer keeping him out for at least part of the season hurts, but there is enough upside already there, some of their youngsters will surprise and the group as a whole will be able to get it to their newly dominant bullpen.
Mile High Hopes: Then, there’s the fact that, led by another MVP-level season from Nolan Arenado (who just keeps getting better, but still manages to come in second in the awards race), Colorado\'s offense is going to be good enough to mask some of the pitchers’ flaws, and they will make the playoffs.
The Tigers\' bullpen as a whole was middle-of-the-pack last year, by most of the advanced metrics, and near the bottom by ERA. It’s going to be even worse this year. Francisco Rodriguez’s peripherals haven’t been trending in the right direction and, while we don’t want to put too much stock in spring stats, things haven’t looked too good throughout the pen.
Detroit (Caught Between a) Rock (and a Hard Place) City: The Tigers still feature some of the best players in baseball, but their inability to do anything to improve this offseason is going to cost them the playoff spot they were so close to for another year and we’ll see some players moved as Detroit tries to figure out how to proceed.
The Astros\' rotation has a lot of question marks and is going to struggle this year. They’re going to be in the thick of it, though, and they’re going to make a trade for a pitcher this season. They’re going to have to dig deep to do it, but them’s the breaks.
(Almost) Sitting Pretty in Space City: Despite the rotations’ struggles, the Astros’ lineup and bullpen are going to be good enough to get them into a Wild Card spot, but they’re going to have to wait for another year to make it out of the Division Series alive.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals are going to be among the biggest sellers at the trade deadline. They have oodles of players who are hitting free agency this year and Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar. The Royals already don’t look anything like the slap-happy team that took them to back-to-back World Series, and they’re going to be basically unrecognizable come August.
Sweet, Sweet of Relief: It won’t just be position players moving at the deadline, they’re going to get a big haul for a reliever, as well. Kelvin Herrera would be the prime candidate, as he’ll likely be closing and his stock has been rising as his strikeouts have gone up and his walks have gone down. Somebody is going to pay.
Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout wins the MVP, again. Seriously, this predictions business is easy. But, he’ll do it easily this year, as his team makes the playoffs and there won’t be any stupid arguments about whether he was or wasn’t valuable because the management didn’t put enough good players on the roster around him.
Plenty Less Fish in the Postseason: Unfortunately, the Angels are going to lose the Wild Card Game to their division rivals in Houston and we’re going to have to wait another day for a long Trout-filled playoff run.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are going to finally get over the hump of the NLCS this year and play in their first World Series since 1988. Just like last year, they’re going to use an insane number of pitchers again for a team that wins its division, but, again, they’re going to make it work.
Time Is But a Circle: Clayton Kershaw tosses another Cy Young Award into his pile of trophies. But the Dodgers are still going to just miss out on the trophy that they covet the most.
Christian Yelich is coming for you. He’s not going to win the MVP. That rare company is reserved for players on teams that make the playoffs and, on occasion, Mike Trout. That being said, Yelich is quietly becoming one of the best players in baseball. It’s been quiet because he plays in Miami in the same outfield as TMGS, but this is going to be the year that all that changes as he takes advantage of Miami moving in the fences and becomes a household name.
Let’s Make a Deal (Crosses Fingers): Will this be the year Jeffrey Loria finally sells the franchise? There were rumblings this offseason, and let’s go with “yes.”
There will be much of their signature beverage drank by their fans as they continue to tear things down.
Less Chutes, More Ladders: Bernie Brewer will be doing a lot less sliding after Ryan Braun is traded this season prior to his acquiring his 5 and 10 rights and the Brewers work on building a farm system that will help them climb back into contention.
Byron Buxton is going to turn into the player the scouts have been expecting all along. He hit .287/.357/.653 over 113 PAs down the stretch last season and is having a better spring training this year as well. He’s pulling the ball more, hitting the ball harder, is more chill and is going to shut us all up this year.
Feeling Sorry Again: The Twins are still going to finish last in their division, even with the White Sox going full rebuild.
New York Mets
Speaking of feeling sorry, there comes a point when you’re doing these sort of things where the malaise sinks in as you write. We’re over halfway through and that’s where I’m at right now. The Mets certainly have the pitching to get into another Wild Card game, even if it’s not enough to get them the division. I just can’t shake the feeling that the Mets aren’t in the clear yet when it comes to their pitcher’s health, no matter how much it pains me to write that or how much muscle mass Noah Syndergaard put on this offseason.
No Offense Taken: The Mets were in the bottom of the league in both AVG and OBP last season, and there’s not really much reason to expect much improvement there. The offense was never going to be enough without the dominant pitching. Yoenis Cespedes is still going to rake, though.
New York Yankees
New York is going to be entirely quiet come the postseason, as the Yankees are going to miss the playoffs again. Don’t get too sad for them, though. Their youngsters are going to continue to evolve and improve and this will be the last year we can talk like this, but they’re another year away from being back in the mix.
Birdman (or the Expected Virtue of Left-Handed Power at Yankee Stadium): Among those youngsters, Greg Bird is going to be the big story this year. He might have had the best spring in all of baseball, so it suffices to say he did OK in getting over his shoulder surgery and should be a perennial threat to knock the ball out of the park.
The A’s are finally going to figure something out in regards to getting a new stadium. With the Warriors breaking ground on their new arena on the other side of the bay and the official news that the Raiders are headed to Vegas, it’s going to happen and it’s going to happen soon. The City of Oakland may not want to fund it with taxpayer money, but something’s gotta give.
Sitting on the Dock of the Bay: This will be the best thing that happens for A’s fans this season, but at least something’s coming their way.
I’ve got a pheeling that Phillies phans are in phor another season of phailure bephore Philladelphia is phielding a team in October.
Please Phorgive Me, I Know Not What I Do: Sorry about that. In positive news, their young and promising rotation is still going to make them fun to watch, though. But let’s give them another year to figure things out and, once they start throwing their money around in free agency, then we’ll revisit.
Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are going give Pittsburgh a one-two punch at the top of their rotation that’s going to be the envy of much of baseball. Andrew McCutchen is going to bounce back from his lackluster 2016 and I’ll go ahead and predict further good things from Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte.
The Curse of the Black and Yellow Pearl: That being said, the rest of the lineup looks and staff isn’t going to do enough to give the Pirates a shot at even the play-in game. It’s going to be a sad day when it happens, but McCutchen’s resurgence is going to get him moved at the deadline.
St. Louis Cardinals
It’s a tough time to be the not-Cubs in the NL Central right now. The Cardinals are going to be in a similar boat as the Pirates. The addition of Dexter Fowler is going to help, but the loss of Alex Reyes is going to offset that and they’re going to just barely miss the playoffs again this season.
The Baseball Gods Are Going to Flip Me the Redbird: All that being said, I apparently have the Rockies making the postseason and not the Cardinals. The gods are laughing as they sprinkle their Cardinal devil dust on (consults minor league roster…) Harrison Bader this year, who is a 4.3 WAR player after he’s called up in late May and helps St. Louis back to the postseason.
San Diego Padres
The Padres will play exactly 162 games of baseball this year.
Margot & the Nuclear Renfroe and So’s: The rotation is going to make Padres wish it was less than that in the early goings, but, by the end of the season, the outfield trio of Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe and Alex Dickerson is going to be the talk of the town.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants are not going to lead the league in blown saves again. The regression angels will be laying their blessings on the Giants. But that still isn’t going to be enough to catch the Dodgers, and the Rockies are coming for the Cubs, so that means the Giants aren’t going to win another Wild Card Game. Unless… While the even year nonsense died last year, perhaps the best way to bury it would be with the Giants winning a World Series in (deep breath...) an odd year. Probably not going to happen, though.
All Aboard the Seoul Train: Jae-gyun Hwang is going to be a huge success for the Giants once they actually get him semi-regular playing time in the majors, but even with the bullpen improvement, it’s still not going to be enough.
All of Trader Jerry’s exploits are going to bear fruit this year and Seattle is going to win the division. A resurgent turn from Felix Hernandez is going to lead the way, and the rest will fall into place around him.
It’s Not Good to Be the King: Hernandez is going to get robbed of the Cy Young by the aforementioned Miller. Like I said, people’s heads are going to explode.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays aren’t going to give up as many home runs as they did last year and their pitchers are going to return to their devilish ways. Unfortunately, the lineup doesn’t look like it’s going to be enough to give them an edge in the brutal AL East and they’re going to miss the postseason again.
Ray of Hope: Now is when I second guess myself and think that the Rays are going to pull a couple rabbits out of their trusty farm system hat and squeak into the postseason after all. Unfortunately, I’ve already set up my brackets and I’m not changing anything. Sorry, Rays fans.
As referenced above, the Rangers aren’t going to win their division this time around. But it’s going to be even worse: the Rangers are going to miss the playoffs this year. The baseball gods have grown tired of their one-run winning ways and, as with the Giants, will send in their angels to right these wrongs. Perhaps they will truly do something crazy and the Rangers will fail to win a single one-run game all season, setting a record and laying down the groundwork for a new baseball curse now that certain other demons have been exorcised.
Reality Check: The Rangers will not lose every one-run game. They will just win way less than last year. Also, Andrew Cashner is going to give up a lot of home runs.
Toronto Blue Jays
Kendrys Morales is going to hit an awful lot of homeruns. The Blue Jays are going to wish they didn’t go to three years by the time this is over, but this year will not be that year.
Don’t Fear the Beard: Unfortunately for Morales, the Blue Jays will, like all non-Boston AL East teams, beat up on each other too much and no one will be able to get enough of an edge and they will miss out on the proud Canadian tradition of playoff beards. I also predict that Coby Rasmus’s wife will not let him grow back his amazing neck beard. Shame.
I’m sorry if my MVP picks are supremely boring, but I’m going with Bryce Harper in the NL. Just trying to hedge a couple of my bets here, y’all.
Over and Over Again: While the Nationals will avoid having to play in the Wild Card Game, they are going to fail to make it past the Division Series, and we’re going to postpone any plans for a Trout vs. Harper World Series for another year.
If you shake it all out, here’s what we got:
NL Division Winners
NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Dodgers
NL WC1: Giants
NL WC2: Rockies
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
NL MVP: Bryce Harper
NL Rookie of the Year: Dansby Swanson
AL Division Winners
AL East: Boston
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Mariners
AL WC1: Angels
AL WC2: Astros
AL Cy Young: Andrew Miller
AL MVP: Mike Trout
AL Rookie of the Year: Andrew Benintendi
NLWC: Rockies over Giants
NLDS: Rockies over Cubs, Dodgers over Nationals
NLCS: Dodgers over Rockies
ALWC: Astros over Angels
ALDS: Boston over Astros, Indians over Mariners
ALCS: Boston over Indians
World Series: Boston over Dodgers
And there you have it, many, many predictions, which will almost all be spectacularly wrong. My awards picks are pretty unexciting, but the Rockies in the NLCS! One thing I can guarantee you this: Colby Rasmus’s neck beard is gone for good. Cue: baseball gods send their avenging angels to imbue his wife with insatiable neck beard fetish. Happy baseballing, everybody!!!