2017 Major League Baseball Season Preview
Coming off one of the highest-rated and most entertaining World Series ever in which the Chicago Cubs reversed the curse in extra innings of Game 7 and the United States took home gold in the World Baseball Classic in the most electrifying tournament in the history of the sport, baseball is in an awesome position. The game is loaded with young talent all knocking on the door of immortality and executives are fighting to secure their place in October and battle it out for all the marbles once more. With that, here is my full unbiased, unrelenting and unwavering predictions for the 2017 Major League Baseball season. There will be no fake news here.
American League East – Boston Red Sox
The defending AL East Champs are in the catbird seat atop the division once again despite the retirement David Ortiz and the status of David Price up in the air. Why do I have the boys of Boston defending their crown under the leadership of Dave Dombrowski and John Farrell? The answer is simple, Chris Sale. Adding one of the nastiest arms in the game to a rotation that already has the defending Cy Young Award winner in Rick Porcello, All-Stars in Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright and a rising star in Eduardo Rodriguez and you have the makings of an elite rotation, even without David Price. If Price is healthy and making regular turns by June, the Sox will run away with the division crown. The league’s best offense is returning the same crew with the exception of Ortiz who will be replaced by Mitch Moreland. The development of stars like Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi will help mitigate some of the loss of production from Ortiz as well as what has the looks of the resurgence of Pablo Sandoval. Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez will carry the lion’s share of the workload and put up MVP-caliber numbers once more.
American League Central – Cleveland Indians
This Indians team was in extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series and nearly came away with the sport’s most coveted prize, and I’m hard-pressed to see this team under the leadership of Terry Francona and President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti falling victim to a crushing championship loss hangover. Let’s not forget the rotation went all postseason without two of their horses in Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, both of whom slot back in after Corey Kluber and ahead of Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer in one of the most lethal starting rotations in all of baseball. The team also was without one of their best hitters in Michael Brantley for almost all of last season and have added 42 home run hitter in Edwin Encarnacion in free agency. Add to that the venomous bullpen headlined by Andrew Miller and Cody Allen and the Indians are the clear-cut AL Central champions.
American League West – Houston Astros
This was the hardest call for me as far as all of the divisions go. This division has four teams with the talent in place to compete for the crown and I do think this battle will go right down to the wire. The Astros, despite their very ordinary rotation, are loaded with young talented hitters like Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer. Add that to the veteran acquisitions such as Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Brian McCann and there is almost a perfect balance of youth and veteran leadership. Manager A.J. Hinch has a plethora of bullpen arms at his disposal the likes of which include Luke Gregerson, Ken Giles, Will Harris and Chris Devenski. If Houston can get one starter to break-out and overachieve, then they will be in a primed position to win a boat load of ballgames. The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel is the most likely candidate to step up, but McCullers, Fiers and Morton all have the stuff to get outs, throw deep into games and keep the team in it.
American League Wild Card – Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners
The Detroit Tigers tried several times this winter to move star players and shed some payroll under the leadership of Al Avila, but were unsuccessful in their attempts. This is a Tigers team that was vying for the postseason with just two games remaining a season ago and I will argue are much-improved heading into this season. The lineup with veterans like Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez and Justin Upton now will all carry a chip on their shoulder knowing that not only that their team dangled them on the market, but no other team thought they were with the contract and/or the prospects needed to acquire the respective player. J.D. Martinez who missed time last season will open 2017 on the disabled list, but if he can get healthy by mid-May and produce at the plate like he is capable of, Detroit has one of the deadliest lineups in the game to pitch to. Add to that the emergence of young pitchers like Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris that we saw at the end of 2016, Justin Verlander getting back to his old form and Jordan Zimmermann reverting back to what made him successful in the Nation’s Capitol, and the Tigers would have one of the games better rotations. Brad Ausmus managed for his job at times last season, but I think it is clear he is the man for the position and injecting some youth from the Tigers farm system into this current core of veterans can make all the difference.
On to Seattle, General Manager Jerry DiPoto, through a multitude of deals has certainly put his own stamp on this Seattle club that will be knocking at the door of the division come September. Stars Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz are the unquestioned heart and soul of the ball club and through the additions of veterans like Drew Smyly and Jean Segura, the Mariners will be a playoff team. Kyle Seager, Leonys Martin and Jarrod Dyson will all produce in their given roles and the Mariners have a deep lineup that will be tough to face up in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle seemingly has discovered the next-big-thing as far as relievers are concerned in Edwin Diaz, who showcased his stuff during the WBC as well as his fiery passion for the game. Manager Scott Servais is an analytical guy who has worked both in front offices and on the field and will do a tremendous job with this team this season, in fact, he could even contend for the Manager of the Year Award.
National League East – Washington Nationals
Defending NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, batting title runner-up Daniel Murphy, former MVP Bryce Harper and young phenom Trea Turner make up a Nats team that will be an absolute force in the National League in 2017. I haven’t even mentioned the rest of their starting rotation that includes Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross. General Manager Mike Rizzo traded for veteran outfielder Adam Eaton and signed backstop Matt Wieters from down the beltway in Baltimore. Dusty Baker has a squad that is just far too talented to have a lapse and not win the division, they won it last season even without the superstar production they received from Bryce Harper in 2015, imagine what this team looks like once he finds his swing again?
National League Central – Chicago Cubs
Baseball season’s underway
Well you better get ready for a brand new day
Hey, Chicago, what do you say
The Cubs are gonna win today
Go, Cubs, go
Go, Cubs, go
Hey, Chicago, what do you say
The Cubs are gonna win today
Get used to hearing that song Cubs fans, because you won’t have to worry about any World Series hangover with this team that Theo Epstein has built. I mean, what could I possibly say that hasn’t been said about this team a million times? The Cubs have a stacked starting rotation with Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. Theo acquired All-Star and World Series Champion closer Wade Davis from Kansas City to close out ballgames and have young guns in the pen like Carl Edwards Jr. and Mike Montgomery. Then to the lineup that is top-to-bottom just purely unfair. Schwarber, Zobrist, Hayward, Russell, Contreras, Baez, Rizzo and Kris Bryant… oh my! Good luck to all Cubs opponents this season, you’re gonna need it. The St. Louis Cardinals are a good baseball club overall, but the NL Central is going to be a runaway for this powerhouse Cubs team just like a season ago.
National League West – Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers even beyond arguably the game’s best pitcher Clayton Kershaw, have a deep rotation after re-signing Rich Hill. They get back a healthy Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu added to the Japanese buzz-saw Kenta Maeda who was huge for the Dodgers a season ago. LA also spent big on the market to retain core players like Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen. After numerous failed trade attempts for Brian Dozier, The Dodgers front office opted to make the deal for Logan Forsythe who will undoubtedly make a profound contribution for the boys of Chavez Ravine. Young rising stars like Joc Pederson and Corey Seager will lead this Dodgers team into the new area and with veterans like Adrian Gonzalez serving as the straw that stirs the drink, the Dodgers will edge out the Giants for the NL West.
National League Wild Card – New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks
Surprised? Good, that’s what I was going for. The Mets were in the World Series just two years ago and its hard to argue with that starting rotation as long as they have a healthy and dominant Matt Harvey leading the charge. Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard will follow suit, Zack Wheeler is also back and even without Steven Matz to start the season, the Mets are still loaded with pitching in Gsellman and Lugo. Terry Collins has a tremendous closer in Jeurys Familia and a charged lineup powered by Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets are getting back to playing October baseball in 2017 and with that rotation and the potential of that lineup as we saw a few years ago, anything can happen.
Arizona Diamondbacks, baby. Buy stock in the D’Backs before its too late. Paul Goldschmidt finally has the leadership structure in place to get to October in former Boston General Manager Mike Hazen and new Manager Torey Lovullo who is great in-game and will steal the D’Backs crucial games late in the season. Led by a reawakened Zack Greinke, the Diamondbacks will be on their way to a one-game playoff. Shelby Miller will be more like his days in St. Louis and Robbie Ray is my pick for breakout player of the year. Ray has all the stuff and makeup to put up big numbers on the mound and I think this is the year he puts it all together. Hazen also acquired starter Taijuan Walker who has great stuff and will surely dominate on a whole new level in the National League. Arizona will also get back a healthy A.J. Pollock to go with young rising stars in Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury to surround the All-Star first baseman. The D’Backs will be a very under-the-radar team in 2017 and I think they will sneak in and edge out the Cardinals and Giants for the final wild card spot.
NL ROY: Dansby Swanson
NL Manager of the Year: Salvatore Anthony “Torey” Lovullo
World Series Prediction:
Indians over Nationals
Cleveland will get back to the promised land and end their 69-year World Series Championship drought. As stated above, this team is too talented already and add back the players that were injured last season and a slugger like Encarnacion to the equation and there will be no stopping the Tribe come October. A very game Nationals team will be knocking on the door this season led by their ace Scherzer and a revived Bryce Harper. I have Washington taking out Chicago in the NLCS and Cleveland beating Boston in 6 games over in the American League.
There you have it, my full 2017 Major League Baseball season preview and while this is just an exercise and my pre-season opinion, we can all agree it is going to be one hell of a season. You are now exiting the no-spin zone.
Follow Frank Pimentel on Twitter: @FrankBostonTank