Today is Opening Day! The baseball season, after what seems like forever, is finally back! Today I share with you my predictions for the 2016 MLB season, with a “player to watch” on each time.
5. Philadelphia Phillies
If you look at Philadelphia’s roster this year, you’d think that they’d never win a game all season. Even the loss of Jonathan Papelbon seemed to hurt them. However, expect a productive year from Odubel Herrera. He is one of my favorite rookies to watch for both his consistent hitting and solid defense. But they still finish last in the NL East.
4. Atlanta Braves
The Braves seem to be planning for the future. They got a steal in 2 of the D-Backs’ prized prospects in Touki Toissant and Dansby Swanson, and dealt Shelby Miller to Arizona. Atlanta also has Freddie Freeman, who seems like the only homegrown Brave not traded away. Watch for Jace Peterson this year. I see 20 homers and a good bit of RBIs out of him this year. With many candidates for 2nd now out of Atlanta, I see him playing a lot.
3. Miami Marlins
It’s really hard to put a team with Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton in 3rd place, but that is always where Miami seems to end up. Miami’s outfield is stacked. Marcell Ozuna, Stanton, Ichiro Suzuki, and Christian Yelich all will have time patrolling one of the largest outfields in the league. The Fish also had a promising closer in Carter Capps, who the Marlins will lose due to Tommy John Surgery. Justin Bour will be a quality player this year. He always has some pop in the bat, and will start at first for the Marlins this year. But they rank below the Nats and Mets.
2. New York Mets
Why did the Mets do so well in the playoffs? Who was that one guy that everyone was praising? That man was Daniel Murphy. Well, he’s now in DC. The Mets still have a pretty darn good lineup, consisting of All-Stars such as Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey, and David Wright. The Mets will have another old-fashioned dogfight to the top, but the Nats will get the edge this time. My player to watch is Juan Lagares. He is an absolute Nat killer, but he plays awesome defense and can hit a couple of homers along the way, too.
1. Washington Nationals
There are a lot of reasons why I’m picking Washington in first this year. Firstly, their rotation is very good. Gio Gonzalez, who would go 1st or 2nd in many rotations, has the 3rd spot in ours. Joe Ross looks like he will have a very bright future. Secondly, even with the loss of Denard Span, our outfield is still on point. Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, and Ben Revere are all top-of-the-line outfielders and will be productive, supplemented by Michael A. Taylor. Lastly, I think that the Nats deserve revenge on the Mets. Don’t forget- it’s an even year! (Nats division champs in 2012, 14). Keep your eye on Trea Turner. He’s not getting the nod on Opening Day, but will be up by the end of the season!
5. Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa is a good team but in a very tough division. They’ve got one of the game’s top rising stars in Chris Archer, and still have Evan Longoria at the hot corner. Also in Tampa is Steven Souza, who is famous in DC for saving Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter in September 2014. But my value pick here is Corey Dickerson. I think he will have some amazing stats for the Rays down in Florida. Some home runs, some RBIs, and some stolen bases, along with possibly some defensive stats. But I still put them at the bottom of the Division.
4. Boston Red Sox
Enter the David Ortiz goodbye trail. As with Derek Jeter, I think that the Red Sox will not make the playoffs in their star’s last season. Luckily for them, the Sox have some players coming up in the system. Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts have already made their first statements last year, as did Eduardo Rodriguez. They will have a tough time against their division (as with Tampa), but you have to cut them some slack. They are a very good team. The player to keep your eye on is Steven Wright. A pitcher out of Torrance, CA, Wright is a knuckleballer and will throw some quality innings for the Sox. I know that firsthand because I was able to see him in action when I visited Boston over Memorial Day weekend last year.
3. New York Yankees
You might want to re-name the Yankees the New York Retirees after this season. Their best players- Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira (from Annapolis), and Brian McCann to name a few are all aging. The retirements of the “core four,” Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite, and Jorge Posada really hurt the Yankees, and the others aren’t going to be in pinstripes much longer. But one of the rising young stars is Dellin Betances. Watch him for the Yanks’ bullpen, shutting down the game as the closer.
2. Baltimore Orioles
Some of the offseason’s prized pick-ups were eventually Baltimore-bound. Mark Trumbo, Pedro Alvarez, and Odrisamer Despaigne all signed contracts with Baltimore this year. Those join J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado, and Adam Jones up at OPACY. Pitching won’t be a problem for Baltimore, as Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman, and Yovani Gallardo headline the rotation and Zach Britton mans the closer position. But the player I like is Hyun-Soo Kim. An outfielder out of South Korea, Kim was signed by the O’s in one of their many major splashes. Kim was the 2008 KBO (Korea Baseball Organization) batting champ. Although he didn’t make the Opening Day roster, I think he will make a huge contribution to the Orioles this year when he’s called up.
1. Toronto Blue Jays
O Canada! The Jays didn’t disappoint last year, and should have made it to the World Series. The Jays improved even though they didn’t necessarily need to. Power is the key word in Toronto. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are the keys to success, hitting homers that almost hit the CN Tower outside of Rogers Centre. Pitching-wise, the Jays are led by Marcus Stroman, who is looking to bounce back after missing the 2015 season with Tommy John surgery. The bullpen is strong, with Roberto Osuna and possibly even Drew Storen now closing games. Osuna is my player to watch. The righty from Mexico will have an important role withe the Blue Jays, earning the closing spot at the start of the season.
5. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds are a pretty darn good team. Led by Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Billy Hamilton, the Reds have the talent to be a very good playoff contender. There’s just one problem- they play in the same division as the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates. Let’s talk about the team’s offense- it’s pretty good. The right side including Phillips and Votto never disappoint, and the outfielders like Jay Bruce can really slug a baseball. Billy Hamilton is a speed demon, and steals about 60 bases a season. The Reds’ pitching staff isn’t as skilled as their offense. You should watch Adam Duvall. He should start over at 3rd base, replacing Todd Frazier. Duvall was traded from San Francisco over to Cincy for Mike Leake, who he hit his first home run off of. He will have a good year driving in runs, and he shows that even with Type 1 diabetes, he can do anything!
4. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brew Crew has a lot of pop in their bats. Ryan Braun, their franchise player, always has a good year offensively (unless he’s using PEDs), and Jonathan Lucroy is always a threat to get an extra-base hit. Projected 1st baseman Chris Carter hits a ton of home runs (24 last season) but doesn’t have a necessarily good average every year (.199 last year). The Brewers have some good, young talent, including Scooter Gennett, Orlando Arcia, and Taylor Jungmann. The rotation would also have Chase Anderson and Wily Peralta in the mix. The bullpen, anchored by the closer Will Smith (no, not that Will Smith), also will have Jimmy Nelson for the 7th and Jeremy Jeffress for the 8th. Keep an eye out for backup catcher Martin Maldonado. He has tons of pop and can also play first base. He will be a good idea if you are looking for a backup catcher on your fantasy baseball team.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates
This is the most competitive division in baseball. What I think the Pirates, Cubs, and Cardinals in the NL Central will be this year is almost identical to the race right now between the Blackhawks, Stars, and Blues in the NHL. With one game, the standings can be changed. The Bucs have 8 series in September against the Cards and Cubs, but I am projecting them in 3rd place. The Pirates always get a great year from their outfield, which this year will be Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, and Starling Marte. The infield will be headlined by utility man Josh Harrison. The pitching is perfect on this team. Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano will have slots in the rotation, as well as Ryan Vogelsong. Liriano was fantastic on Opening Night! The bullpen will have Mark Melancon as the closer, with Neftali Feliz having the 7th or 8th. Keep your eye on young Floridian Jameson Taillon. Baseball America compared him to Stephen Strasburg. I think he will make the team this year as a late-season call-up. He’s got a 99-mph fastball and a plus change-up. The Pirates have a big boost with him.
2. St. Louis Cardinals
For the first time ever, I’m not picking the Cardinals in first in the NL Central. They still have a very skilled roster. Randal Grichuk will have a breakout season, and he’ll share the outfield with Stephen Piscotty and Matt Holliday. The infield is very, very good. Matt Carpenter always gets a ton of RBIs, and Kolten Wong can gets many extra base hits, too. The pitching staff takes the cake. Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Mike Leake, and Jaime Garcia make the pitching rotation, and Trevor Rosenthal is a lights out closer. Kevin Siegrist and Seung-Hwan Oh also will be in the bullpen for the Cardinals. The Cards’ quality player is Matt Adams. A first baseman picked in the 23rd round, Adams is known for his consistent ability to hit long home runs. His homers are so long, one is destined to hit the Gateway Arch!
1. Chicago Cubs
Yes, this is their year. A year after “Back To The Future Part II” took place, I think the Cubs have a chance at the World Series. The Cubs were able to land Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist this offseason, so they were “fixing what ain’t broke”. Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler will man the outfield with Heyward. The infield is as good. Kris Bryant is at 3rd, Addison Russell at short, Zobrist at 2nd, and Kyle Schwarber at 1st. Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, and Jake Arrieta are the starters for the Cubs, while Hector Rondon is shutting down Cubs wins. The player to keep an eye on is Miguel Montero. Montero always has a spark in his bat, and should slug for the Cubbies this year.
5. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers were so,so close to winning the World Series, but then their stock went down. Miguel Cabrera still leads the Tigers, after being acquired in the most lobsided trade in a long time (Miggy and Dontrelle Willis for 5 prospects). Victor Martinez is going to DH for the Tigers, and Ian Kinsler will play second base. The Tigers landed Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann this offseason, but I don’t think it’ll change the team. A bright spot is J.D. Martinez. Martinez has stepped up his game and turned into a secret slugger.
4. Chicago White Sox
The South Siders will have a harder time winning then their northern counterparts, but they’ve got their bright spots. Jose Abreu will be a beast for the Sox, getting about a hundred RBIs and 40 home runs. Todd Frazier will make a difference, hitting behind Abreu. That will also boost the White Sox defense. Adam Eaton headlines the outfield, with Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson following. Pitching-wise, Chris Sale should do the job for the Sox. Carlos Rodon and Mat Latos should also be in the rotation. Jake Petricka has a closer role with the Sox, and David Robertson will also be in the pen. Watch for Brett Lawrie this year. The Canadian 3rd baseman should have a good year, and may get some playing time at 3rd base.
3. Minnesota Twins
If you like young talent, move to Minnesota. The Twins have a lineup full of players who can make a difference now, and keep that difference later on. Byron Buxton, former #1 rated prospect, is in the outfield, as well as Oswaldo Arcia. Brian Dozier, former Bethesda Big Train, will play second, and Joe Mauer will play first or DH. Trevor Plouffe, a very skilled player, will play third, as well as Miguel Sano, Eduardo Nunez will play short, and Byung-Ho Park, newcomer from Korea, will play first if Mauer doesn’t. Ervin Santana starts on Opening Day, and Ricky Nolasco, Alex Meyer, and Trevor May will also get time in the rotation. My player to watch on this team is Miguel Sano. He has some raw power, and can absolutely clobber a baseball out of Target Field.
2. Cleveland Indians
The Indians, like most of the AL Central, have a lot of power hidden in their lineup. Mike Napoli, a newcomer to Progressive Field, is an example of that. Don’t go wrong with Zach Walters, either. Walters has some home run power, too. The outfield will include Michael Brantley, a very underrated player, Rajai Davis, and Joey Butler. Jason Kipnis leads the infield, which has Juan Uribe at 3rd, Francisco Lindor at short, Kipnis at 2nd, and Carlos Santana at 1st. The pitching staff has Corey Kluber at the top, followed by Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco. TJ House is one of many contenders for closer on the Indians, and would be my pick. But the rising star of the Indians is Francisco Lindor. Lindor, who made his debut last year, should turn into the next big thing in Cleveland.
1. Kansas City Royals
The reigning World Series champions are poised to get the title back, and they have a lineup to do so. Lorenzo Cain is very speedy, and is the center fielder for the Royals, along with Alex Gordon and Raymond Fuentes on Opening Night. Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, Alcides Escobar, and Mike Moustakas are the infielders for the Royals in 2016. Wade Davis is going to close, and Joakim Soria will also join the bullpen. Watch speedster Terrence Gore this season.
5. Colorado Rockies
If you throw back your best fish, you can’t expect another fish just like it to pop right back. Well, that’s the case with the Rockies and Troy Tulowitzki. The Rockies traded Tulo to the Blue Jays last Trade Deadline for Jose Reyes, and it hurt the Rox. Reyes is suspended for the season, as of now. Still, their team can win games. Carlos Gonzalez will hit many home runs again for the Rockies, and Charlie Blackmon will continue his success. Nolan Arenado will play stellar defense again at 3rd base, and DJ LeMahieu will have a nice season at 2nd. Pitching-wise, I think Jorge de la Rosa will get the Opening Day start. Jon Gray and Tyler Matzek will also get a chance at their big time in the rotation. Jake McGee will probably be the closer, and Boone Logan will provide 8th inning support. The breakout player this year for the Rockies will be Ben Paulsen. Paulsen will probably play 1st base, and he has a nice tendency to get on base. He also has an awesome ‘stache!
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
The D-Backs have some good players that can turn them into a winning franchise in the near future. Paul Goldschmidt is projected by many to be the MVP this season, and Yasmany Tomas can provide some offense in Arizona. They lost big with a late Spring Training injury to outfielder A.J. Pollock. Zack Greinke gets the ball on Opening Day, but Shelby Miller should help on the bump ths season too. Keep an eye out for David Peralta. He has the ability to drive in runs and hit some dingers, too.
3. San Diego Padres
The Padres have what it takes to be a good team. They are led by Wil Myers, an outfielder acquired from Tampa. Their outfield is pretty good, consisting of Myers, Matt Kemp, and Melvin (formerly B.J.) Upton. In the infield, the loss of Jedd Gyorko really hurt the team. Yangervis Solarte will play 3rd, and Alexei Ramirez at shortstop. That means Alexi Amarista will play 2nd, and Cory Spangenberg will play 1st. The bullpen should be led by Fernando Rodney, who is a good closer. Another big name in the ‘pen is my quality pick, Kevin Quackenbush. Quackenbush, who is projected for some big stats this year. I’m excited to see what comes out of him.
2. San Francisco Giants
The Giants have a team that can win a championship, but I think they’ll have to settle for a Wild Card this season. Buster Posey will have another great offensive year and he’ll be great at defense, too. In the outfield, Hunter Pence leads the crowd in right. Denard Span will get the Opening Day center fielder slot, and Gregor Blanco in left. The Giants’ infield is very good, with Brandon Belt at 1st base, Joe Panik at 2nd base, Brandon Crawford at shortstop, and Matt Duffy at 3rd base. The starters would be headlined by Madison Bumgarner, and then Johnny Cueto and Jake Peavy following him. The bullpen would have Santiago Castilla closing, but Hunter Strickland in the 7th or 8th. Strickland is my quality pick. He has a 95+ mph fastball, and has an amazing changeup to strike out hitters. Back to what I said at the beginning. It’s an even year, and the Giants have won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers always seem to be the top of the NL West, and I project the same from them this year. The Dodgers are led by Clayton Kershaw, and he will provide stellar pitching for another year. Joc Pederson is a center fielder who has some serious pop in his bat, and is looking to add more homers to his career numbers. Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier finish off this awesome outfield. Adrian Gonzalez will play 1st base for the Dodgers, and he will slug more for the Dodgers. Chase Utley will be at 2nd, Corey Seager at SS, and Justin Turner playing 3rd. Clayton Kershaw will lead the rotation, and he’ll be followed by Hyun-Jin Ryu and Scott Kazmir. The bullpen will be anchored by Kenley Jansen at closer, and J.P. Howell will help seal the deal in the 8th. My value pick will be Corey Seager, who has high expectations at short for the Dodgers. I think he will live up to them, and have a great year.
5. Seattle Mariners
Wow, this is a hard one. The AL West is stacked with talent and the M’s don’t lack that. The Mariners are led by Robinson Cano. Cano was signed to a mega-deal, but so far it hasn’t worked out. Firstly, the outfield. Seattle has Nelson Cruz, Norichika Aoki, and Seth Smith. Robinson Cano will play 2nd, and Kyle Seager is a offensive threat at 3rd. The bullpen has Joaquin Benoit closing. My power pick is starting pitcher Wade Miley. He should get some support behind him, and will continue to impress with his high strikeouts.
4. Oakland Athletics
Another tough call here. The Athletics have loads of talent, especially in the outfield. GM Billy Beane has done a great job. Big names on the team that I like include Billy Burns, Coco Crisp, Khris Davis, and Josh Reddick. Starter Sonny Gray should have another lights-out year, with Jarrod Parker and Henderson Alvarez following him. Sean Doolittle is going to be the A’s closer, and John Axford will also be a force in the bullpen. Stephen Vogt is my player to watch. He has tons of pop and is a nice catcher/1st base utility man.
3. Texas Rangers
The AL West is such a tough division! The Rangers are a great team and they deserve to be higher. But unfortunately, the Rangers play with all of the other great AL West teams. The Rangers’ outfield consists of Shin-Soo Choo, Delino DeShields, and, for the first time, Ian Desmond. Desi signed with the Rangers over the offseason, but Elvis Andrus mans short. Luckily for Nats fans, the Nats play the Rangers next year. Hopefully they come here! In the infield, Prince Fielder plays first base. Shawn Tolleson will be closing again this year. My quality player prediction is going to be Joey Gallo. He has raw power in his bat, and he should tally for many home runs this year.
2. Houston Astros
The Astros are almost there. Carlos Correa’s is going to be there real soon, but still need 1 more year. The outfield is headlined by Carlos Gomez and George Springer. Don’t forget speedy 2B Jose Altuve! Dallas Keuchel is a definite for Opening Day, backed up in the rotation by Doug Fister and Collin McHugh . My power pick will be Colby Rasmus, who is an underrated outfielder who can hit some home runs.
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels should have the edge in a really tough division. I heard they have a pretty good player, his name is something like Mike Trout? Trout will lead his Angels to a division title this year. In the outfield, Trout, Kole Calhoun, and Daniel Nava should all see plenty of play this year. In the infield, Albert Pujols should play 1st base, Johnny Giavotella at 2nd base, Andrelton Simmons at shortstop, and Yunel Escobar at 3rd base. The bullpen has Huston Street as a great closer. Kole Calhoun is who you should watch, with his good OBP, and he also can hit home runs pretty frequently.
There you have it. Enjoy the return of baseball!