By: Chandler Ragsdale
2017 MLB Preview
Yes, that’s right, baseball is back folks, and I’m so excited to see what 2017 holds! We have many questions that we want answered, such as, “Can the Cubs repeat?” or “Will the Nationals finally live up to their expectations?” There are some new faces in new places, like Chris Sale in Boston, and Edwin Encarnacion in Cleveland. Overall, this season will be great, and I’m here to break down the way that I think each division will turn out, and I’ve even thrown in projected records for the 2017 season, MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year predictions, and my World Series prediction at the end. So, enjoy!
P.S.- I’ll be answering fans questions this season when I post weekly power rankings. So email me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tampa Bay Rays (Record: 72-90)– The Tampa Bay Rays have been referred to by me in a previous article as “the runt of the AL East.” They have gotten this title from me simply because of how good the rest of the AL East is. I believe that they play in the best division in baseball, and this will show on their record this season. Former superstar Evan Longoria is getting older, and other than Chris Archer and Kevin Kiermaier, this team doesn’t have enough firepower to allow them to compete in this powerhouse division.
- Toronto Blue Jays (Record: 85-77)– After coming off a season in which they won 89 regular season games and made it to the ALCS, the Blue Jays should feel confident in what they can do. Marcus Stroman performed very well in the WBC, and he has a lot to build on, along with this powerful lineup. However, one huge change has came to this lineup since last season, and that is the loss of Edwin Encarnacion. The top 4 teams in this division will all be close and competitive with one another, but I feel like this loss will separate them from the other 3 top teams in the division, and I see Toronto missing the playoffs in 2017.
- New York Yankees (Record: 90-72)– The Yankees missed the playoffs last year, which is uncommon ground for them. They are now starting to move on from older stars to younger ones, which is bringing a very optimistic feel to this club. The future is bright in the Bronx, with great young talent like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez leading the way. Having Aroldis Chapman return to their bullpen doesn’t hurt either. I am predicting that the AL East will produce 3 playoffs teams yet again this season in 2017, and the New York Yankees will be one of them.
- Baltimore Orioles (Record: 91-71)– The Baltimore Orioles made the playoffs last year, but saw themselves taking an early exit after falling to the Blue Jays in the Wild Card round. This team can say that they have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and that will be a big strength for them moving into 2017. Closer Zach Britton will be looking to improve, if possible, on his unreal numbers from last season, and submarine pitcher Darren O’Day will also be a big part of this bullpen. The Orioles also have one of the best young players in all of baseball, Manny Machado, playing 3rd base for them. Adam Jones will also look to build off of his great performance in the WBC. This team has the right pieces, and they’ll be in a dog fight all season with the AL East, but I see them coming out second in the division with another Wild Card Playoff spot clinched.
- Boston Red Sox (Record: 97-65)– The Red Sox have had question after question thrown their way all offseason and during spring training. Some of these questions have sounded like “How will Chris Sale perform for Boston?” or “How much will David Price’s setback hurt the Red Sox?” or even “Can Pablo Sandoval have a breakout/bounce back season?” But the biggest question surrounding this team heading into 2017 is, “How will this lineup perform without David Ortiz?” Boston will have to face all of these questions sometime, and I believe that they will answer the call this season. Mookie Betts is now mentioned with Bryce Harper as being the best right fielder in baseball, baseball’s number 1 overall prospect Andrew Benintendi will be playing in his first full season, and Rick Porcello is looking to build off of a season in which he won the AL Cy Young award. Yes, the absence of David Ortiz will be felt, but I believe that Boston’s pitching can pick up the team and carry them until the lineup can figure it out. Overall, I see Boston living up to expectations in 2017, and having a monster season as a result.
- Chicago White Sox (Record: 68-94)– The White Sox are clearly in re-build mode. Both Chris Sale and Adam Eaton packed their bags and left Chicago during the winter, so there isn’t much left for this team to compete with at the moment. Both Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito provide some upside for White Sox fans moving forward, but that will be on down the road. They aren’t in a terribly tough division, other than having Cleveland to play, but I don’t see them doing anything towards postseason play anytime soon.
- Minnesota Twins (Record: 70-92)– I don’t see the Twins being competitive in 2017, but I do believe that they’ll make big strides from where they found themselves at the end of 2016, with them only winning 59 games and posting the worst record in baseball in the process. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano will continue to develop, and they have a great veteran to learn under in Joe Mauer. Brian Dozier is a great hitter, and Max Kepler can hold his own in right field as well. Pitching will continue to be a problem for the team from the twin cities, but I see them improving from a catastrophic 2016 and beating out the White Sox for 4th place in this division.
- Detroit Tigers (Record: 83-79)– The Tigers had a pretty good season last year, but they missed the playoffs. I see the same result for them this year, and a little backslide to add to that. Miguel Cabrera is as good as you can get when it comes to hitting a baseball yes, and J.D. Martinez will continue to keep tearing it up I’m sure, but I don’t know if they’ll have the pitching to put together a season in which they compete for a playoff spot, especially because they have to play the 2 teams which I see finishing ahead of them in the AL Central.
- Kansas City Royals (Record: 86-76)– The Royals had about as average of a season as you can have in 2016, splitting the baseball right down the middle with an 81-81 record. They did backslide tremendously from their 2015 World Series run, but a lot of that was honestly just due to key injuries that they had to face. Wade Davis may be gone yes, but both Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas will both be coming into 2017 healthy and ready to go, and they both make a big difference for this team. It will also be interesting to see how Jorge Soler performs in Kansas City. Ace Yorando Ventura will be remembered after his tragic death as well, and this team is definitely going to want to play for him. If the Royals can stay healthy, I like where they are going, but I don’t see them earning a Wild Card spot because of how good the AL East will be.
- Cleveland Indians (Record: 95-67)– Cleveland proved a lot last season, and came within one game of winning a World Series. Terry Francona definitely knows how to use the talent that they have on this team, and I don’t see why they can’t keep improving and getting better. Fransisco Lindor is an absolute stud at shortstop for them, and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen have proven that they can hold down the bullpen. Michael Brantley has been hitting like he hasn’t missed any time and seems poised and ready to start the season. Although, what makes this team really scary is their starting pitching. Now that everyone is healthy in this rotation, watch out. Corey Kluber has shown that he can pitch in the big games, and Danny Salazar is now ready to go and will be a vital part of this pitching staff too. This team can easily win the AL Central and make another Postseason run.
- Oakland Athletics (Record: 66-96)– It looks like 2017 will be another down year for the Oakland A’s. I think that Sonny Gray can come and have a bounce back season after a pretty bad 2016, and Khris Davis, Steven Vogt, and Rajai Davis will help the A’s score a few runs, but four players can’t win baseball games day in and day out. I’m excited to see what Billy Beane has up his sleeve next, but until we see what his next move is, this is the expectation that I have for the A’s in 2017.
- Los Angeles Angels (Record: 73-89)– Mike Trout is obviously an MVP candidate and one of the top 3 players in all of baseball, but the Angels have failed yet again to get him the help that he needs. Albert Pujols is way past his prime, and the rest of their lineup isn’t productive enough to put them in a position to win games consistently with the pitching staff that they have. They may prove me wrong, but I don’t see this pitching staff doing much for the Angels this season. I think that they can win more games than the A’s to avoid being last in the division, but they need to get Mike Trout some help or his patience might run out…taking him right to the other side of L.A.
- Seattle Mariners (Record: 83-79)– The Mariners faired pretty well in 2016, but age is starting to catch up with them, specifically with the man who’s been the face of the franchise for years, Felix Hernandez. “King Felix” hasn’t been the same superstar that he was before, and this is starting to show more and more. He will still continue to post good numbers, but I don’t believe that they will be like those that we are used to seeing from him. Hisashi Iwakuma is usually consistent with his numbers, and Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz can carry this lineup enough to help Seattle to avoid posting a losing record, but I don’t see them being an over the top team, contending with the 2 teams from Texas in this division.
- Texas Rangers (Record: 88-74)– The Rangers are a very feisty club that will be very competitive in 2017. The addition of Johnathan Lucroy last season will continue to prove to be a great move for this team moving forward. Rougned Odor gives this team an attitude like no other in the MLB, and Carlos Gomez can put up some good numbers from center field. Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish provide a solid 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation, and I think that this club will be a good team, but not one that will win this division in 2017. Mainly because the other team from Texas is ready to come and take the torch from them.
- Houston Astros (Record: 94-68)– Man do the Astros look good. This team has looked good on paper for a while now, but just by seeing them in spring training and by taking into account all of the good players that they have, I truly believe that this year is the year that Astros will take the AL West, and make a Postseason run. Their middle infield is arguably, if not, the best in baseball already. Jose Altuve works harder than anybody in baseball, and that shows in his play. Carlos Correa is an up and coming superstar who can change a game with one swing of the bat or one spectacular play at shortstop. This roster as a whole can be a little inconsistent at times, but I think that they have now figured out how to be the best possible team that they can be. I’m also predicting Dallas Keuchel to have a major breakthrough season after a rough 2016, by going back to his inside fastball, and as a result he will end up being a Cy Young candidate by the end of the season. This Astros team has all of the pieces, now it’s just time for them to produce.
- Philadelphia Phillies (Record: 67-94)– The Phillies avoided finishing last in this division a year ago, but I don’t see that happening again in 2017. They have been in re-build mode for a while now, but they still have a few more years to go before they’ll start being competitive for a playoff spot again. One thing that really hurts this team is that, other than Howie Kendrick in left field, they don’t have any veterans who know what it’s like to be a part of a winning team. The Phillies have a lot of young talent, with players like Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco. However, they need more time to develop into players that can lead a team, and having some more veterans on this roster can help speed that process up.
- Miami Marlins (Record: 77-84)– Watching the Marlins will be very interesting this season. Obviously, the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez hurts the Marlins from an emotional and baseball standpoint, and it has hurt all of baseball. Overcoming this will be tough, but this team can do it, and number 16 will definitely be missed. I predict that this team will start off hot in 2017, but I don’t see them being a consistently good team, and by the time September rolls around, this team might already be looking to 2018. They have a couple of top notch offensive weapons with speedster Dee Gordon and home run machine Giancarlo Stanton. Not to mention, they also have a really good center fielder in Christian Yelich. Pitching will end up being the achilles heel for the Marlins in 2017, and as the season rolls along, I think this will show more and more.
- Atlanta Braves (Record: 84-78)– SunTrust park is ready to go, and there is a lot of excitement around this Braves team heading into the 2017 season. Former number 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson is expected to get a full season in at shortstop for this team, and now seemingly all of a sudden, this roster is loaded with a lot of popular names. Brandon Phillips, Freddie Freeman, Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis, Bartolo Colon, and R.A. Dickey are all still good players who can bring a lot of leadership to this team, and that is just what they need. With that leadership being brought to young talent like Dansby Swanson, Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, and Ender Inciarte, this team can do some real damage in 2017. By the end of the season, I’m not sure if their record will indicate their overall success because of the 2 top teams in this division that they have to play, but I think that it will be a big jump forward from where they were at last season, and a great way to bring in this new ballpark of theirs.
- Washington Nationals (Record: 90-72)– We say it every year, “The Nationals have one of the best rosters in baseball.” On paper, this looks like an accurate statement. However, the Nationals still have not been able to make it to a World Series and live up to their expectations. 2017 won’t be any easier for this club either, because the NL East as a whole keeps improving. Bryce Harper will continue to be Bryce Harper, and Mad Max should deliver also. Their newest addition from Chicago, Adam Eaton, shouldn’t have a problem fitting in to an already powerful lineup either. Trea Turner burst onto the scene last year, and more excitement from him is sure to come too. Let’s not forget what Stephen Strasburg can do either. So overall, this team has the talent, but the question is, can they win the big games? My answer to that is yes, enough to make the playoffs, but not enough to win their division, because the team that I’m predicting to win the NL East looks ready to knock them off.
- New York Mets (Record: 94-68)– The New York Mets are here folks. They’re healthy, experienced, and ready to go. Making the playoffs last season was a success for this team, but now the ceiling is much more higher now that this team has almost everyone in their rotation healthy, and they’ve all gotten a little glimpse of what playoff baseball is about. The biggest reason that I’m regarding the Mets so highly, is the same reason that everyone else is, and that is because of their starting pitching. Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Zack Wheeler are the core names of this rotation, and they all have the potential to dominate a game on any given day. Steven Matz should recover from his setback relatively quickly also. Captain America, David Wright, is also going to be returning to this lineup, which helps them a lot. The outfield is looking very nice, with the likes of Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and Yoenis Cespedes handling the work out there. If this team can manufacture 3-4 runs a game, then they can win enough to win this division, and can become a very scary team by late September.
- Milwaukee Brewers (Record: 64-98)– The Brewers and Reds will be in a fight for who will not finish last in the NL Central, but that’ll be about all that these teams will be competing for in 2017. The main buzz surrounding this team at the moment consists of fans wondering where Ryan Braun will be sent in a trade, if anybody will take him in the first place. After that, there isn’t much to talk about with this club. Travis Shaw could make a name for himself in this lineup after coming over from Boston, and Johnathan Villar can help the team also. However, the Brewers right now seem set on continuing to build up their farm system and going from there.
- Cincinnati Reds (Record: 67-95)– The Reds may have the most depleted pitching staff in all of baseball. If not the most, they definitely have one of the most, and that will continue to be the main reason for their lack of success, until they address the issue and get some consistent arms in the Great American Ball Park. Scott Feldman can help out with this some this season, but he isn’t a true number 1 starter. Joey Votto will continue to get on base like a maniac, and Billy Hamilton is always in contention to steal the most bases in all of baseball. I see this team being better than the Brewers, but the rest of the division will have their way with these two teams.
- Pittsburgh Pirates (Record: 84-78)– The Pirates had a down season last year, and most of that was due to the fact that their ace, Gerrit Cole, just didn’t seem right. However, the good news for Pittsburgh in 2017 is that, Cole will be starting the season healthy. All of their other pieces seem to be in order as well, with Andrew McCutchen moving from center to right field, Starling Marte and Gregor Polanco in center and left, Josh Harrison at second, and Fransisco Cervelli behind the plate for the Buccos to round out some of their big names. Ivan Nova is a new addition to this rotation who can make a splash, and Jung-Ho Kang is a player who can splash some balls into the crowd at PNC Park himself. I don’t see the Pirates winning the division or making the playoffs as of right now, but they can easily prove me wrong and surprise the Cardinals to move into a Wild Card spot.
- St. Louis Cardinals (Record: 87-75)– The Cardinals made some really good moves before the start of the 2017 season, by signing Dexter Fowler in the winter, and just recently agreeing with Yadier Molina to a 3-year extension. Having Molina means so much to this team, not only because he hits so well for a catcher, but because he brings so much to this pitching staff. All of these young guys in their rotation and bullpen all benefit from having Yadi behind the plate day in and day out. Many were surprised by Dexter Fowler leaving Chicago for St. Louis, so it will be very interesting to see how much he helps this team. I like the Cardinals’ chances to make a playoff spot, but I don’t believe that they’ll have enough to out do the Cubs.
- Chicago Cubs (Record: 105-57)– I see the Cubs not only winning this division again, but I also see them having the best record in baseball yet again in 2017. Their lineup is absolutely loaded, and now that they’ll have Kyle Schwarber back for the start of the season, there’s no telling how many games that this team can win. The “Bryzzo” duo (Anthony Rizzo & Kris Bryant) will be back in business, and Jason Heyward has right field locked down. Wilson Contreras is coming into his own, and if he needs to sit for some reason, Miguel Montero is always there to help out also. As for pitching, Kyle Hendricks is their 5th starter, and that’s saying something. Every pitcher in this rotation is experienced and confident, and I only have them behind the New York Mets for having the best rotation in baseball. Oh yeah, and they got one of the best closers in the game, Wade Davis, this offseason. The sky’s the limit Chicago…
- San Diego Padres (Record: 60-102)– The Padres are in bad shape heading into 2017 with their roster. Apart from Wil Myers, this team doesn’t have much of a lineup, and to make things worse, they don’t have much of a pitching staff either. I see them finishing not only last in the NL West, but I also see them ending up with the worst record in all of baseball by the end of the season. The San Diego front office needs to start getting Wil Myers and company some help, before they can be competitive, because as of right now, they just simply don’t have enough.
- Colorado Rockies (Record: 75-87)– The Colorado Rockies are looking like they will have a very potent lineup this season. You might’ve heard about Trevor Story last season, and what a story he was indeed. His sophomore season will allow us to see how consistent he can be, and I believe that he will answer the call. Carlos Gonzalez, or “Cargo” as some of us know him, is still an elite outfielder, to go along with Charlie Blackmon who will be playing center for the Rockies this season. Their problem will be the same as always though, their pitching. Coors Field doesn’t do their pitching staff any favors in the first place, but I don’t think that they can perform well enough to finish with a winning record and to be in position for a Wild Card spot.
- San Fransisco Giants (Record: 83-79)– The Giants are always in contention to win a World Series it seems like, and I’m not writing them off to be a team that won’t compete by any means. But, 2017 is a new season for everyone, and I feel like this is the year that Arizona will overtake San Fran, and beat them out for 2nd in the division. Madison Bumgarner is still one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball, and he will be looking to continue his dominance. Hunter Pence is about as consistent of a player as you can ask for, and Buster Posey knows how to handle things behind the plate. The NL West will be one of the most intriguing divisions to watch down the stretch, but for the moment, this is what I’m predicting.
- Arizona Diamondbacks (Record: 86-76)– The Diamondbacks were arguably the most disappointing team in 2016. After the huge signing of Zack Greinke, there was a lot of optimism surrounding this club from the desert. Now that we’re in 2017, Greinke has had a year to get a feel for Chase Field, and the team has also made another really good pitching acquisition by acquiring former Seattle Mariner Taijuan Walker. That 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation can be a very good one and should scare the rest of the NL West. They still have one of the best 1st basemen that there is in Paul Goldschmidt, and with Yasmany Tomas and A.J. Pollock helping him lead this lineup, I believe that this team can surprise some people in 2017.
- Los Angeles Dodgers (Record: 92-70)– The Dodgers can hold down this division again in 2017 and make it theirs for the taking. Having the best pitcher in all of baseball in Clayton Kershaw is where their success starts. Yasiel Puig is looking to recapture his old form, and new addition Logan Forsythe came as somewhat of a surprise, but the Dodgers will definitely take him. The biggest thing that the Dodgers did this off-season was the re-signing of 3rd baseman Justin Turner. With him locked in, this team is looking to make another postseason run, and with hopes of making it to a World Series. They’ve proven that they can beat Washington, but, can they beat Chicago?
AL- Mookie Betts (BOS)
NL- Kyle Schwarber (CHC)
AL- Marcus Stroman (TOR)
NL- Noah Syndergaard (NYM)
ROY’s (Rookie of The Year)
AL- Andrew Benintendi (BOS)
NL- Dansby Swanson (ATL)
Chicago Cubs over the Houston Astros, 4-2.