Saturday, April 15, 2017

My 2017 MLB Picks

The Cubs will be the best dynasty since those Yankees.

In the past, I have done in depth division-by-division breakdown... this year, I'm doing a quick report of my thoughts & predictions on 2017 MLB Season. Last year, I predicted the Chicago Cubs to win it all from day one & kept with them all season long... this year definitely gave me tougher decisions to make on my predictions.

I'm going to show Sports Illustrated (SI) & The Sporting News (SN) picks, along with mine (SB)...

A.L. East
SI: Boston, Toronto, New York (A), Tampa Bay & Baltimore.
SN: Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, New York (A) & Tampa Bay.
SB: Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, New York (A) & Tampa Bay.

Kimbrel comes with warning labels.
Universal choice at top in A.L. East with the Boston Red Sox, they have amazing depth, excellent rotation, with bullpen bringing up the most question marks -- starting with Craig Kimbrel, whose numbers dictate that he's not the same Kimbrel we experienced from 2010-2014. It came off as a shock in Baseball when Atlanta right at the start of the 2015 season traded Kimbrel to San Diego, then (especially after slow start in 2015) Kimbrel was pitching unlike his usual self, makes you wonder if Atlanta knew something no one else did.
  • 2010-2014: 186 Saves, 1.43 ERA, 14.8 SO9, 3.4 BB9, 0.903 WHIP & 266 ERA+
  • 2015-2016: 70 Saves, 2.96 ERA, 13.6 SO9, 4.2 BB9, 1.068 WHIP & 139 ERA+
His control has been a bigger problem, while his ERA & ERA+ shows that his era of dominance is over, he might have fallen out as one of the elite closers... numbers have definitely declined.

Back to the picks, I completely disagree with Sports Illustrated's choice of the Baltimore Orioles as a last place team. This team, year-in & year-out, still doesn't get enough respect, they seem to be knocking on the door of the playoffs (or making the playoffs) every year since they landed Buck Showalter as the skipper... I see them as 3rd place, at worst 4th place, after Edwin Encarnacion departed Toronto for Cleveland, for a moment, I even questioned if they are capable of 2nd place. 

Toronto should still be a second place team, and a team on the wild card bubble.

For Boston there has to be a lot to go wrong for them not to make the playoffs, the bullpen has a lot of upgraded pieces & pieces that showed much improvement in 2nd half of last season to show it has the potential to be a solid bullpen, but don't be surprised to see them get a few arms during the All-Star break to beef the pen up.

A.L. Central
SI: Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota & Chicago (A).
SN: Cleveland, Kansas City, Minnesota, Detroit & Chicago (A).
SB: Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Chicago (A) & Minnesota.

Andrew Miller redefining the reliever with his mean slider.
Another no-brainer at the top of this division choice with the Cleveland Indians, who have great depth with their starting pitching, they found out they have other options at starting if any of their starters go down (like last season; Cleveland is hoping for no repeat in the starting pitching situation when it comes to 2017. Corey Kluber, once again, will be a Cy Young candidate, while anchoring a rotation with a solid #2 in Danny Salazar. The team also has maybe the deepest bullpen in baseball led by Andrew Miller, who may have the nastiest stuff -- I'm really curious to see how he is used for an encore of last season, he could have a chance to holster the Cy Young at the end of the season, himself.

Overall, the Detroit Tigers' long run of dominance & Championship window from 2011-2014 is over... There is still plenty to be optimistic about for 2017, they missed the playoffs barely, while they dealt with plenty of injuries that came up at the worst times possible. 

2017, is it for Detroit, any last shot for this group happens this year... but with that would come ridiculous luck, breakout seasons from Daniel Norris & Matt Boyd, a comeback season for Jordan Zimmermann, a full season of 2nd-half caliber Justin Upton, a repeat season of Micheal Fulmer (who I feel may suffer a sophomore slump), a fully healthy J.D. Martinez & Nick Castellanos, while Justin Verlander & Miguel Cabrera have solid seasons.... 

All of the above has to happen for Detroit to become Cinderella, crashing the ball... I feel that, not all of that will happen & that they will be a wild card at best. Of course, I will be cheering my lungs out for my Tigers, but I just don't want my Tiger fan friends to get overly-excited, that championship run is over. If all goes bad... we may see many familiar faces elsewhere.

Duffy had a breakout 2016 for the Royals.
All the teams in this division for the most part can be inter-changeable, I do not agree with SN's choice of Tigers at 4th though. I think Kansas City is a hard one to peg, taking a chance on Ian Kennedy paid dividends, while Danny Duffy has emerged as a rising star (finally); I think they will have a hard time dealing with the passing of Yordana Ventura, then again, maybe they will get sick of all the disrespect, come together & make another run. I do like their bullpen pieces actually, despite trading off Wade Davis. I think Brian Flynn & Matt Strahm will be pleasant breakouts for this season.

A.L. West
SI: Houston, Texas, Seattle, Los Angeles (A) & Oakland.
SN: Houston, Texas, Seattle, Los Angeles (A) & Oakland.
SB: Houston, Texas, Seattle, Oakland & Los Angeles (A).

When you first glance at the division, while thinking of the history of the division, the first thought is ...what a boring division.. but when you start looking deeper into the teams, there is plenty of reason to believe there will be plenty of excitement coming from the division.

Just like many of the divisions, I feel it has consensus 1st place team as well, and I'm going with the Houston Astros as well. They made a good run last season, and that's after a slow start out of the gate, and some down years -- I expect them to only be better, while they made some strong additions to their lineup as well.
Astros' Jose Altuve will make MVP run, leading Houston.

There was a big part of me, wanting to buy into the changes that the Seattle Mariners, but for some reason they always fall short, so third place is where I have them slotted. The Texas Rangers have an unheralded bullpen that could be among the very best, in 2017... they'll need the pen to be top notch, while the back end of that rotation will have some huge question marks.

I think the Oakland Athletics will only improve, while the Los Angeles Angels continue to be one of the most bland teams out there. They just seem to get worse & worse for poor Mike Trout, who you have to think may jump ship when he hits the free agent market -- Sure, the Angels will throw tons of cash his way, but so will the New York Yankees, New York Mets & Los Angeles Dodgers, all teams going in the right direction & have shown to make great choices of late.... Angels' upper management is piss-pour at best; Also their scouts just don't seem to know how to find any talent.

N.L. East
SI: Washington, New York (N), Atlanta, Miami & Philadelphia.
SN: Washington, New York (N), Miami, Atlanta & Philadephia.
SB: Washington, New York (N), Atlanta, Miami & Philadelphia.

Not much argument with the above placements, I think Atlanta Braves have the least pressure on them, which means they could over-achieve and reach 3rd at least, there is no way they reach 2nd... unless, the floor falls out beneath the New York Mets' rotation & they are dealing with more injuries than usual to that rotation. That Mets' rotation has the potential to be the very best in all of baseball, if they were to stay healthy... noting their track record, not all their pieces will deliver. The Miami Marlins will still be thinking of that over-sized shadow darkening the clubhouse with the absence of Jose Fernandez.

Braves' New World: Dansby Swanson leading new batch of Braves youngsters to new territory.
The Philadelphia Phillies are heading in the right direction, unfortunately the rest of the division for the most part (except maybe the Marlins) have improved.

N.L. Central
SI: Chicago (N), St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee & Cincinnati.
SN: Chicago (N), St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee & Cincinnati.
SB: Chicago (N), Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Milwaukee & Cincinnati.

The Chicago Cubs own this division -- Simple as that! Cardinals & Pirates fans, you are in some deep denial or taking some impressive drugs if you think (even in the slightest bit) that you are going to win this division. The Chicago Cubs ARE the NEXT dynasty, first since the New York Yankees that made an impressive run between 1996-2003.

The St. Louis Cardinals are an overrated bunch that may have a hard time making it to the post-season for 2017. Their lineup is not strong one bit, while their rotation is banged up, they always seem to have a bunch of depth, but the starters don't look much better than the ones projected to be on the bench. I see a team of average stars, with Matt Carpenter being the biggest star on that club.

Chad Kuhl & Jameson Taillon will be part of bright rotation for Bucs.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are my N.L. dark horse, with their up & coming rotation with the likes of Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow & Chad Kuhl to go along with excellent defense, that star-studded outfield, which will be led by a bounce-back Andrew McCutchen (who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder), along with stars Starling Marte & Gregory Polanco -- There could be plenty to be excited about in the Steel City.

I do want to pick Cincinnati Reds over Milwaukee Brewers, I feel they have more to offer with their pitching, but their lineup looks fringy. I do like the Reds' bullpen with Micheal Lorenzen & Raisel Iglesias at the top. 

N.L. West
SI: Los Angeles (N), San Francisco, Colorado, Arizona & San Diego.
SN: Los Angeles (N), San Francisco, Colorado, Arizona & San Diego.
SB: Los Angeles (N), San Francisco, Colorado, Arizona & San Diego.

Only division that there is total agreement to... That said, I think this will be the weakest contending team that the San Francisco Giants have had since 2009, a year before they have made this incredible run. The Colorado Rockies made many improvements, and I would like to think they could leap San Fran, but with all the injuries & bad luck this spring, plus the fact that they never seem to have a pitching staff, makes it very difficult to make such a bold prediction. The Arizona Diamondbacks seem to make a surprise effort every so often, and this could be one of those years, if their potential ever gets there.

The San Diego Padres will be a fun, young bunch to watch, but will lose many games in the process.

Before jumping to the playoffs, here is my prediction on the Award Winners...

Most Valuable Player - Jose Altuve (Houston)
Cy Young Award -  Justin Verlander (Detroit)
Rookie of the Year - Andrew Benintendi (Boston)
Manager of the Year - Terry Francona (Cleveland)

Safe bets would be more on Mike Trout (Angels) or Mookie Betts (Red Sox) for MVP, Altuve will win the MVP as he helps Houston reach new astronomical heights. For some of my readers, picking Justin Verlander may feel like a homer pick for the Cy, but just from his one outing, he looks like a man on a mission -- he knows just like many of us, he got screwed out of last year's award. I was really going to pick Corey Kluber, than I saw J.V. come out with a vengeance. I had a tough time picking the ROY, so I went along with what I feel will have a Boston theme, and will go with Andrew Benintendi. Ex-Red Sox skipper Terry Francona will win the Manager of the Year, hard to go against a winner.

Justin Verlander will show why he still among the very best in 2017.

Most Valuable Player - Nolan Arenado (Colorado)
Cy Young Award - Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles)
Rookie of the Year - Dansby Swanson (Atlanta)
Manager of the Year - Dusty Baker (Washington)

I really wanted to go against the norm & go against Clayton Kershaw, but if he remains healthy, he will be a lock for the N.L. Cy Young Award. Dansby Swanson seems to be the guy to beat for top rookie. Nolan Arenado is only getting better, it's his time to hold the MVP hardware, as he may lead a surprising Rockies team.

A.L. PLAYOFF TEAMS (* Wildcards):
SI: Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Texas* & Seattle*
SN: Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Texas* & Seattle*
SB: Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Texas* & Detroit*

I wanted to pick Toronto over Detroit, but the loss of Edwin Encarnacion may hurt the Jays in the long run... I don't expect Tigers to go any further though. Other teams that will likely be in the mix: Baltimore, Kansas City & Seattle.

Trea Turner & Bryce Harper will give plenty of title hopes for those in Washington.

N.L. PLAYOFF TEAMS (* Wildcards):
SI: Chicago (N), Los Angeles (N), Washington, New York (N)* & San Francisco*.
SN: Chicago (N), Los Angeles (N), Washington, St. Louis* & San Francisco*
SB: Chicago (N), Los Angeles (N), Washington, New York (N)* & Pittsburgh*

ALDS Results
SI: Cleveland over Seattle, Boston over Houston.
SN: Boston over Seattle, Cleveland over Houston.
SB: Boston over Texas, Cleveland over Houston.

We all agree that Houston will not get past the LDS one way or another.

NLDS Results
SI: Chicago (N) over New York (N), Los Angeles (N) over Washington.
SN: Chicago (N) over St. Louis, Washington over Los Angeles.
SB: Chicago (N) over New York (N), Washington over Los Angeles.

I believe heavily that the Washington Nationals has a legitimate shot at winning the whole thing this season, I just feel their bench lacks something, but at the same time would not be surprised if they win it all.

LCS Results
SI: Cleveland over Boston, Los Angeles (N) over Chicago (N).
SN: Boston over Cleveland, Chicago (N) over Washington.
SB: Boston over Cleveland, Chicago (N) over Washington.

I was in such agreement with Sporting News, that they ended up picking who I believed all winter & early spring-long that the Chicago Cubs will defeat Washington & then will repeat as World Champions... so at the last second, I went with the below...

SI: Los Angeles (N) over Cleveland.
SN: Chicago (N) over Boston.
SB: Boston over Chicago (N).

I really like Boston's rotation a little better, and I believe the Cubs will have a bulls eye on their backs, a little hesitant on their back end of rotation & bullpen... There is a lot of scouts & rumblings saying Wade Davis' arm is not in good shape, if he's out -- the Cubs bullpen may end up spoiling the repeat.

It was like a 51-49 decision for me, I want to back what is clearly the best team in the Chicago Cubs, that lineup is beyond sick, I would hate to be the opposing pitcher that has to face them.... but something's got to give. I am confident that the Chicago Cubs are in solid shape to be the next dynasty, but I'm going with Boston sneaking a title out.

We'll find out mid-season if I am still backing the horse out of "Beantown"

Flexing Some Muscle (L-to-R): Benintendi, Bradley Jr & Betts.

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