The 2016 MLB season began this past Sunday, April 3. We may be a few games into the season, but it is never too late to make predictions.
It is very difficult to predict how an entire season will unfold, especially a baseball season. There is a lot of parity in MLB, and every season there are teams with high expectations that disappoint, and teams that no one expects to be good that prove everyone wrong.
But it is still very fun to try and predict where teams will finish come the end of the season, so without further ado, here are my predictions for the still very young 2016 MLB season.
NL East: New York Mets
I know, big shocker that the Mets fan picked the Mets to finish in first. But you can’t deny how good the defending National League Champions look for this season. A starting rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon, who is holding Zack Wheeler’s spot until he returns in July, is going to win you a lot of games. The bullpen isn’t perfect, but a back of the pen featuring Antonio Bastardo, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia can be very solid. The return of Yoenis Cespedes really makes the difference offensively. The Mets are not going to lead baseball in runs scored, but the offense is more than capable of scoring enough runs for the excellent starting pitching.
The Washington Nationals will compete all season long for the division. The Nats arguably have as good of a rotation as the Mets, and having reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper in your lineup doesn’t hurt. The team is very talented, but the organization has yet to pull it all together and live up to expectations the past few years. If this is the year the Nationals finally get their act together, they could very easily prove me wrong. The Miami Marlins are better than last year, but are not as good as either the Mets or Nationals. The Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves are in full rebuilding mode, and will finish at the bottom of the division.
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
Yes I know, the Chicago Cubs had a monster offseason after making it all the way to the National League Championship Series and everybody is picking the Cubs to win their first World Series since 1908. But amidst all of that, everybody seems to have written off the Cardinals. The team that won a major league-leading 100 games last year despite numerous injuries. The team that has made the postseason the past five years. The team that will have Adam Wainwright back for a full season. This team knows how to win, and I’m not quite ready to say that they will be dethroned this season.
Now the Cubs. I know they had some excellent rookie performances last year, but do you expect each and every one of those players to avoid a sophomore slump? Jake Arrieta won the Cy Young Award last season, do you really expect him to have a repeat performance? They signed John Lackey, are you positive he’s going to post a 2.77 ERA again at age 37? They also signed Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward, two very good players, but can you count on them to carry the team if things go wrong? Also, can you name me one move the Cubs made this offseason to improve their bullpen? Every year there is a team that everyone is getting rings fitted for early in the season, and they disappoint. But I do think the Cubs will still take a Wild Card spot.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a team that I’m not picking to make the playoffs, and I feel like they’re going to make me look dumb come October. Like the Cardinals, everyone is forgetting about them because of the Cubs. Their bullpen is excellent, their starting rotation is led by Gerrit Cole and the offense is anchored by Andrew McCutchen. They are a very fun, talented team. If they squeeze into the playoffs, I won’t be shocked. I just think the Cardinals organization is too good and the Cubs are too talented. The Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers are both disasters and may very well combine for 200 losses.
NL West: San Francisco Giants
No, not just because it’s an even year. The Giants added Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to a starting rotation that is already led by Madison Bumgarner and is expecting Matt Cain to come back and contribute. The Giants have had one of the strongest bullpens in baseball the past few years, and while their offense is not spectacular, they are able to get the job done. There is a good chance they’ll pick up a bat at some point.
The Los Angeles Dodgers had a rough offseason, and after losing Zack Greinke it looks like their three year run as division champs may very well end this season. I think it will, but I also think the Dodgers will still make the playoffs and face the Cubs in the Wild Card game. I know they have some injuries, but they still have the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw and new additions Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir can both have very solid seasons. The offense still has some fire power to it, and while their bullpen is far from perfect, having Kenley Jansen as your closer doesn’t hurt. I know a lot of people think the Diamondbacks will make a run after signing Greinke and acquiring Shelby Miller. I think they’ll be better than last year, but not better than the Giants or Dodgers. The San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies are both complete messes.
AL East: Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox pitching last year was a disaster. To fix this, the team brought in ace starting pitcher David Price and star closer Craig Kimbrel. I also don’t expect their additions from last year, both pitchers and hitters, to struggle as much this year. It’s not like the guys they brought in last year have always been bad players, I just think they all had a tough first season in Boston and are now capable of turning it around. The Red Sox also saw quite a few of their young guys help the offense last year, and I think they can only get better this year. That’s why I think the Red Sox will shock a few people and bring David Ortiz home one more division crown.
I know the Toronto Blue Jays are the popular pick in the division, and I still think they’re going to take a Wild Card spot. They just have so much offensive fire power. The New York Yankees are a strange team. I could see them winning or losing 90 games. They got very lucky last year that many of their older guys in the lineup stayed healthy, and I don’t see them being that fortunate this year. Their bullpen is phenomenal and their starting pitching has the potential to be very good. If they pick up a few bats or everyone somehow stays healthy again, they can be very good. The Bronx Bombers need a lot of things to go their way, and I just don’t see it happening. The Tampa Bay Rays have some young talent and some very strong pitching, but I don’t think they have the offense to keep up with Boston and Toronto. I think the Baltimore Orioles are going to take a step back this season and finish at the bottom of the division.
AL Central: Kansas City Royals
The defending champions enter this season with a weaker roster than the one they had last October, but I still think they will win this division. The Royals lost Cueto and Zobrist this offseason to the Giants and Cubs, respectively. To replace them, Kansas City signed Ian Kenndey and will have Omar Infante return at second base. There’s no questioning that’s a downgrade, but neither are terrible players. The rest of their offensive core remains, as does their insanely good bullpen.
However I don’t think the Royals are going to run away with the division, in fact I think it’s going to be very close. The Cleveland Indians have an excess of young, talented pitchers in both their starting rotation and their bullpen. But they have a very weak offense. If the Indians manage to improve their lineup, they could prove me wrong and sneak into the playoffs. The Detroit Tigers are another strange team. On paper, they don’t look so bad. But a lot of things would have to go right for them to make a run, and I don’t see things clicking for them. The Minnesota Twins have some very good young offensive players, but their pitching is just not good. The Chicago White Sox do have some nice pieces, but I think they are still loaded with guys who have underperformed in recent years.
AL West: Houston Astros
The Astros are a very scary team. After being terrible for years and building up their farm system, the Astros shocked everyone and made the playoffs last year. I think they’re going to be even better this year. Their young offense can only get better and their bullpen is still very good. I don’t expect Dallas Keuchel to win the Cy Young Award again, and there’s no denying Houston could use another starting pitcher. But with an excess of resources, I think they’ll make a trade for a starting pitcher somewhere down the line.
The other team in the state, the Texas Rangers, has a similar problem. They have a very good offense and bullpen, but outside of Cole Hamels, their starting rotation is very shaky. But again like the Astros, the Rangers have quite a few resources and I also think they’ll pick up a starting pitcher down the line, so I see them taking the other Wild Card spot. Outside of Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have some issues. I think they enter 2016 with a weaker roster than last year, when they missed the playoffs. They failed to make a big move this offseason that they desperately had to do. The Oakland Athletics are always an interesting team that can surprise everyone, but I don’t see them doing it this year. I think the Mariners are really going to have a rough year, despite another stellar season by Felix Hernandez.
Now I know how insane it is to predict how the playoffs will unfold, but no predictions are complete without picking the team to win it all. I’m going to say that the Blue Jays will defeat the Giants in the World Series. I know I don’t have them winning the division, but in a short playoff series I think Toronto’s offense is lethal and their starting pitching, while not spectacular, is good enough to push them to victory. Not to mention they are very likely to pick up another starter along the way. That organization knows that this is their last year to win a title with their current team, as many of their stars will become free agents after the season. I think they will do everything they can do to make that happen. Sorry, Cubs.