Countdown To MLB Opening Day 2017: “2” Bold Predictions For Each Division
Mar 13, 2017; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Kevin Gausman (39) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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It is so close I can almost taste it. This Sunday, regular season baseball returns! That means we are only two days away from MLB baseball meaning something once again. We will be treated three games on Sunday, followed by 12 more on Monday.
With that, we continue our countdown here at INSC. All week we have been bringing you number themed pieces based on how many more days until Opening Day. So that means today’s lucky number is two. And with it, we will be doing two bold predictions per division.
So let’s not mess around. Let’s get right into it, shall we?
AL EastBoth Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman will emerge as true aces – When you think of the AL East, you usually think of hitting. But there are plenty of solid young arms in here, and two of them in particular will emerge from the shadows in 2017. Their names, Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman.
Both men will be 26 this season. And both men have some really solid stuff. As they enter their primes, this season will prove as the stepping stone for them into the discussion of AL elite. When the season is complete, both men will be in the discussion for the AL Cy Young Award. And one of them will get the All-Star game nod in Miami.
Rick Porcello goes back to being… well, Rick Porcello – Before last season, Rick Porcello was known as a bust. He was a big time prospect for the Detroit Tigers. And he simply never elevated himself above the mediocre line. Then in his second season in Boston, he emerged out of nowhere.
Granted, he did reach his prime, as he is now 28. But to make a jump as big as he did (22 wins, 3.15 ERA and 1.01 WHIP), a step-back is almost a lock. And I simply am not buying this as the real Rick Porcello until he shows me again. His poor Spring has done nothing to convince me. So I am expecting him to return to the world of an ERA in the upper threes or lower fours, as well as a WHIP in the 1.2’s.
AL CentralThe Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals will have Trade Deadline firesales – Talk about two teams that could literally go in either direction. They are both not too far removed from being in the postseason. But neither team has really done anything to take that next step. So I am expecting a slow start for both.
The Royals in particular have a ton of players in contract years. So if they are struggling come the Summer, it will be open season in Kansas City. As for the Tigers, a bunch of their bigger names were rumored to be available this Winter. The front office decided to stand pat. But not for long if the team doesn’t show up on the field. Which is the scenario I am expecting.
Yoan Moncada goes through his fair share of rookie struggles – The key player in the Chris Sale deal is set to join the Chicago White Sox roster sooner rather than later. With Tyler Saladino manning second base, things are set up perfectly for the big name rookie. Once we pass May 13, when the Sox can gain an extra year of control, he will be up.
But in a small taste last season, he showed he is still extremely raw. He is still extremely strikeout prone. I mean, he is still only 21 (soon to be 22). Therefore Major League pitchers will be able to exploit the holes in his swing. Sure he will have his big games. But overall, he will not emerge nearly as fast as some expect. He is one of the favorites for AL Rookie of the Year, but those dreams will fade quickly.
AL West Carlos Correa throws his name in the AL MVP discussion – When you hear the phrase “AL MVP”, there is one name that immediately jumps to mind: Mike Trout. But newsflash, the Angels are not going to be very good this season, which will ultimately hurt Trout. Therefore, there will be at least one person who emerges as a legit threat to Trout.
Manny Machado and Mookie Betts are two who immediately jump to mind. But what about Carlos Correa. Big things were expected from him a year ago. And while he had a nice season, it was nowhere near what everyone was expecting out of him. But this Winter, all that hype was shifted elsewhere. The talent is still very much there however. So with the spotlight now gone, Correa will re-emerge as one of the best in the AL.
The Texas Rangers have the best offense in baseball – Not too many teams you can go around the diamond and find a legit bat at every position. But that is certainly the case in Texas. We start with Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate, who was a big acquisition a season ago. Then on the right side of the infield, we have the power-hitting Mike Napoli and Rougned Odor. Then the left-side has the dynamic duo of Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus. All solid with the bat.
Then we get to the outfield. Former top prospect Jurickson Profar will likely be roaming left field. Former Milwaukee Brewer star Carlos Gomez will look to put up solid numbers in his first full season in center field for Texas, much like Ian Desmond a year ago. And in right we have Nomar Mazara, who proved early last season how dangerous he can be. Finally at DH is Shin-Soo Choo, who is on the downslope of his career, but is still capable of being a decent bat when healthy. Talk about a loaded lineup.
NL East Jacob DeGrom joins Noah Syndergaard in the NL Cy Young discussion – When it comes to the NL Cy Young Award, it is a very crowded picture. We have Clayton Kershaw. Then there’s Madison Bumgarner. Add in the two big names from the Cubbies. Of course you need to mention Thor from the Big Apple. But Syndergaard is not the only Mets’ arm who will be in the talks. Enter Jacob DeGrom.
Two seasons ago, DeGrom was one of the most entertaining pitchers to watch in baseball. Then in 2016, he struggled through injuries. As a result, his results suffered. Now entering his age 28-29 season, DeGrom looks to regain his groove. I was in Florida for his first Spring Training start this year. His fastball was humming. And he looked sharp. Watch out National League, DeGrom is coming to mow you down.
The Philadelphia Phillies finish over .500 – The Phillies have some solid young pieces. Maikel Franco has the potential to be one of the best third baseman in baseball. Tommy Joseph is no joke over at first. Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders provide a veteran presence that will only help the younger guys. And of course, Odubel Herrera is still the face of the offense.
Their arms are not the greatest, but they are not terrible either. Aaron Nola has the skills to be the ace. Vincent Velazquez showed some promise a season ago. Clay Buchholz is a veteran who is moving from the AL to the NL. The change a scenario should also do him good. Jeremy Hellickson should prove to be an innings eater. When all is said and done, this is a team that has the potential to finish with more wins than loses. And third in the NL East.
NL CentralMichael Wacha gets back to his old ways – Sometimes players go through a tough season with no fault of their own. It is usually thanks to being riddled with injuries. These injuries plague the player, resulting in a serious drop in production. And that is exactly what happened to Michael Wacha a season ago.
But now Wacha is back to his old self. He has looked extremely strong this Spring. Over the course of 26 innings, he struck out 22. He had a 2.42 ERA. And he not only showed off an impressive curveball, but also hit the upper 90’s with his fastball. He will be your NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2017. And he will be one of two dominant arms in the Cards’ rotation.
The Cincinnati Reds finish with the worst record in baseball – There are a handful of really bad teams in the Big Leagues. But to me, the Reds stand out as being really bad. Scott Feldman is their number one starter. That’s just bad. Outside of Brandon Finnegan, their rotation is filled with names no one outside of Cincinnati will know. And their bullpen. Yeah, that’s not much better.
As for their lineup, fans will recognize the name Joey Votto. Adam Duvall showed some promise a season ago. So they will have a few good offensive games here and there. But it simply won’t be enough to overcome the brutality of their pitching. This team is just downright bad, and it will show with their final record. They will finish with a win total in the low 60’s.
NL WestNeither the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies won’t have the worst rotation in baseball – The Padres and Rockies will both have pretty bad rotations. For the Rockies, Jon Gray will be their leader. He is at least a young arm with some talent. The Padres are being led by Jhoulys Chacin. He is not a number one by any means. But he is at least on an equal level as a Scott Feldman.
So when you compare the Padres and Reds rotations, the Pads are a little better. Not by much. The margin is extremely thin. But at the end of the day, the Reds rotation is just really really bad. So as bad as the Padres’ unit is, they simply won’t be the worst in the Majors.
The puts three teams into the playoffs – There are two prominent teams in the NL West. Those two are the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. One of those teams is a pretty good bet to win the division. The other one, will be in the thick of it for the Wild Card. But they won’t be alone though. The New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals will also be in the hunt.
But then you cannot count out the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies either. Both teams have some promise this year. In particular, the Diamondbacks rotation could be a big time surrpise. The Rockies have some offensive weapons that could do some real damage. So when all is said and done, I see the Giants and DBacks taking the Wild Card.
So there you have it. It is always fun to make bold predictions before a season begins. So what are some of yours? Tell us in the comments!