2017 MLB Season Preview

Ben Wilson

The problem with the offseason, regardless or sport, is that there is just too much… darned… time.

There’s too much time to analyze the previous season. Too much time to analyze and work through the free agents that have re-signed, signed elsewhere or players that have been traded. There’s too much time to look ahead to the season that lays in wait. Media “experts”, talking heads and anyone with access to a computer and Wi-Fi, chime in with their thoughts and predictions in an attempt to say something that hasn’t already been said. With that the predictions become more insane, and downright unbelievable.  Articles pop-up on “how the next 50 years (in a given sport) will look”. Because fans care about that!

So how would one go about setting themselves apart from the general masses?!? The simple answer is… You don’t. Whenever someone decides to approach a preview article, the easiest thing to do is just speak the truth. Not every team will win. Not every team will even be halfway decent. To think otherwise, or attempt to find something good to say about every team, just isn’t prudent. Instead, I will look at each team, make a bold and unbold prediction (which may contradict one another), offer a “team MVP”, give a range in which I believe their win total might fall in, then give an outlook of what the postseason might look like.  In each division, I will analyze them in the order in which I feel that they will finish in the standings in 2017.

(Note: For anyone curious as to where my bias might lay, I am a die-hard Oakland A’s fans, and huge A’s baseball card collector, since 1986).

AL East

Boston Red Sox

This has to be the odds-on favorite to win the American League pennant in 2017. They have most of the pieces that they will need to run the table for the next six months. They have youth all over the field, with players such as Xander Boegarts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts in the running for league MVP. Add Chris Sale to a pitching staff that already included David Price and this team has a lot going for it. Now, Price is injured and might not play until May. Their bullpen could use another arm or two. No one knows what to expect from Drew Pomeranz. So there are questions, no doubt. Dave Dombrowski (GM) might need to add another high-profile arm at the deadline. Look for Sonny Gray of the A’s to be in play if he can show he is healthy and returns to a sub-3.50 ERA kind of guy.

Win Range Prediction: 90-94 wins

Bold Prediction: Dombrowski adds a major arm to the rotation in July. Could be Sonny Gray, as I mentioned. Maybe Justin Verlander (pending the Tigers ability to contend), Chris Archer or Zack Grienke (if the Diamondbacks eat half of the contract).

Unbold Prediction: David Price costs them a game or two in the postseason due to his inability to perform when it matters.

Team MVP: Mookie Betts

Toronto Blue Jays

The first thing is that Kendrys Morales will not be able to replace what Edwin Encarnacion gave this team over the past few years. The Blue Jays have a plethora of talent, but seem to be lacking a power hitter in their lineup (Hello, Encarnacion), one more starting pitcher and another innings eater out of the bullpen. If we put this team in another division, they might be the clear favorites, however I see them as a step below the Red Sox. It will be interesting to see what Aaron Sanchez will do over the course of the season. Fresh off of his MVP performance in the WBC Championship game, Marcus Stroman might be in for a Cy Young type year.

Win Range Prediction: 88-92 wins

Bold Prediction: The combo of Sanchez/Stroman take this team to the World Series, surpassing the Red Sox, Indians and Astros.

Unbold Prediction: This team will miss Edwin Encarnacion.

Team MVP: Josh Donaldson

Baltimore Orioles

If only this team could ever find a solid 5-man rotation, I believe they would be World Series contenders. I mean, of course they would given that statement. Chris Tillman’s health will be a key factor, leaving just Kevin Gausman as the only trustworthy member in the rotation, if he misses time. I don’t believe Zack Britton will be as lights out, as closer, as he was in 2016. The Orioles lucked out when Mark Trumbo couldn’t find a better FA offer during the offseason and re-signed at a discounted rate. I do believe that this team will strikeout too many times (Trumbo and Chris Davis) and lose a few close games as a result.

Win Range Prediction: 84-88 wins

Bold Prediction: If they fall out of contention, they will offer Manny Machado a mega-deal. If he declines, they might consider dangling him to see what type of offers they might get.

Unbold Prediction: Their starting pitching, once again, will be their Achilles heel.

Team MVP: Manny Machado

New York Yankees

Everything I am about to say will contradict my predictions below. I am not yet sold on Gary Sanchez as the next one in the great long legacy line of Yankees heroes (Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Ford, Mantle, R.Jackson, Mattingly, Petitte, Rivera, Jeter). I think Sanchez will have a wonderful career, but I don’t know if 2017 will be the crowning jewel, as much as just the next stepping stone. The amount of talent that Brian Cashman (GM) has acquired over the past few years has been amazing. This may not be the year we see Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, James Kaprielian, et al make significant contributions at the major league level, but they are coming. Are they as good as advertised? Who knows! However, this team will be fun to watch over the next few seasons. Especially if they make a run at Manny Machado or Bryce Harper in free agency (in 2018).

Win Range Prediction: 80-84 wins

Bold Prediction: Gary Sanchez surprises the pundits and puts up MVP-caliber numbers. The youth movement gets here a lot quicker than we thought.

Unbold Prediction: After Masahiro Tanaka, the starting pitching isn’t strong enough to keep this team in contention.

Team MVP: Gary Sanchez

Tampa Bay Rays

There has been a lot of talk this offseason that Chris Archer will be traded. The sexy rumors have him ending up in Chicago (Cubs) or Boston. If he is dealt, watch out for the Dodgers as a sleeper team to make a run at him. He has a team-friendly contract with a few years left on the deal, so he is awfully attractive. Kevin Kiermaier supplants Evan Longoria as the new face of the franchise. The Rays look like a team that will play strong over stretches, but won’t have enough to compete over 162 games.

Win Range Prediction: 75-79 wins

Bold Prediction: They finally pull the trigger on the unthinkable… Someone makes a can’t-pass-it-up offer for Evan Longoria and he finds a new home in July.

Unbold Prediction: Chris Archer’s 2nd half numbers carry over to 2017. His 2016, first half numbers, were an aberration.

Team MVP: Kevin Kiermaier

AL Central

Cleveland Indians

They pick up right where they left off in 2016. Could this be the year that they finally break their own curse? If their rotation can stay healthy, then they have an excellent chance. I believe that if Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar had been healthy during the playoffs last year, then they would have won the Series. They are battling a few injuries coming out of spring training, but their division overall is weak, so it shouldn’t hurt them much. THe addition of Edwin Encarnacion makes an already dangerous lineup that much tougher.

Win Range Prediction: 88-92 wins

Bold Prediction: A mid-season trade happens and they bring in a monster name to make a run at ending their version of a Cubs-like streak of not winning the World Series.

Unbold Prediction: This team picks up where it left off in 2016.

Team MVP: Francisco Lindor

Detroit Tigers

Well they couldn’t have had a worse offseason. All of the questions that they entered with are still there. They still have done little to nothing to solve their bullpen problems. They have aging players all over the place that are handicapping their payroll. Their owner, Mike Ilitch passed away this offseason and he was always trying to make one-last run at the World Series every year. Maybe they should now consider moving Justin Verlander, JD Martinez, Ian Kinsler and every other veteran that they can get a decent return on.

Win Range Prediction: 84-88 wins

Bold Prediction: The Tigers fall from contention and trade Justin Verlander for an under-market deal due to the financial obligations of his contract.

Unbold Prediction: The Tigers stay in contention just long enough to not be able to trade anyone in July.

Team MVP: Miguel Cabrera

Kansas City Royals

Well they got their ring a couple of seasons ago. Good thing too because 2017 will be a season of transition. They have major free agents at season’s end with the contracts of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain all set to expire. This is a team that if they contend, they will look to add and if they don’t, they will have a fire sale. I can’t see them keeping more than 2 of these players past 2017, with Eric Hosmer the most likely to resign. However Hosmer is rumored to want 100+ million in his next contract, and he just isn’t worth that type of investment… Especially for a small payroll team.

Win Range Prediction: 82-86 wins

Bold Prediction: They fall from contention in July and trade some of their pending FA’s

Unbold Prediction: They try to sign Eric Hosmer to a long-term contract extension. The death of Yordano Ventura devastates this team, on and off of the field.

Team MVP: Eric Hosmer

Minnesota Twins

They’re young, they’re up and coming, but 2017 will still be a challenging season. They spent the offseason exploring trade options for their veteran 2B, Brian Dozier. They’re rotation isn’t good enough to compete over the course of 162 games, so look for them to sell off veterans during the trade deadline. This might be the year that Joe Mauer becomes a situational player. I believe they would trade him in a heartbeat if they could find a willing partner that would take 70%+ of his remaining contract. They might have an exciting future, but it isn’t here yet.

Win Range Prediction: 78-82 wins

Bold Prediction: Byron Buxton is not as good as advertised. He will be good, but won’t live up to his #1 pick/prospect billing.

Unbold Prediction: 2017 is used as another stepping stone to get back into contention. They deal Brian Dozier in July (to the Dodgers).

Team MVP: Miguel Sano

Chicago White Sox

There isn’t much to be said about this team. They are in full rebuild mode. They traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for a ton of promising prospects. The sell of should continue as the season progresses. It might not, but look for all of their valuable veterans to be “on the table” in the upcoming months. If they get half of the return they did this time around, then the White Sox might be scary good in 2-3 seasons.

Win Range Prediction: 70-74 wins

Bold Prediction: They aren’t as bad as everything thinks they will be, considering they are rebuilding.

Unbold Prediction: Jose Abreu numbers continue to decline. Jose Quintana, David Robertson and Todd Frazier all get dealt in July.

Team MVP: Jose Quintana (even if he is dealt)

AL West

Houston Astros

They believe this is their year. A lot of people are on board, but the other side of the argument will look to their rotation and the back half of their bullpen. I don’t have a ton of confidence in Ken Giles closing game 7 of the World Series. The additions of Brain McCann, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran are nice, but are they enough? If they add Chris Archer or a healthy Sonny Gray to their rotation, look out! I think they need 1-2 starting pitchers before I would put them above the Red Sox as the #1 team in the American League.

Win Range Prediction: 92-96 wins

Bold Prediction: This is the year they make the World Series!

Unbold Prediction: The veterans that they brought in aren’t enough to offset the back half of their 5-man rotation.

Team MVP: Carlos Correa

Texas Rangers

The Rangers always seem to have a big hole in their rotation. Another writer said that if Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels could start every other game, they’d win the World Series, but they can’t, so. I couldn’t have said it any better. They brought in Andrew Cashman and Tyson Ross to aid the back half of the rotation. The problem is those guys are coming off of poor years. The Rangers could surprise and their offense should be strong enough to win them a few “either way” games. They also lost Carlos Beltran, so that could be a huge void.

Win Range Prediction: 84-88 wins

Bold Prediction: They fall from contention and trade Yu Darvish and/or Cole Hamels.

Unbold Prediction: They just don’t have enough pitching to be considered contenders on the level of the Red Sox, Mets and Cubs.

Team MVP: Rougned Odor

Seattle Mariners

I love the hire of Jerry DiPoto as GM. I think he will eventually make this team a contender. Unfortunately he spent this offseason making patch work additions to the lineup and rotation. I look at their roster and say to myself, “okay they got some solid pieces, but I just don’t see it”. I think we will continue to see a gradual decline in the brilliance of King Felix and his flame will burn out before the Mariners get the secondary pieces in place. They have Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, but they too are aging. I just don’t see them finishing beyond 3rd place.

Win Range Prediction: 80-84 wins

Bold Prediction: Felix Hernandez finally starts to look old(er).

Unbold Prediction: They have rebuilt their bullpen every which way from Sunday this offseason. They are still signing relievers. This is their downfall that prevents them from contending.

Team MVP: Kyle Seager

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Quick… Name a member of their starting rotation? Other than die-hard baseball fans, or Angels fans, most would be hard pressed to name more than 1 of them. This is Mike Trout’s team and then there is little else. 2005 Albert Pujols isn’t walking through the door anytime soon, so this team will be be stuck in the mud for the foreseeable future. I know this has been said before, and it’s not a popular opinion, but their best bet is to trade Mike Trout… to the Yankees… for 4-6 of those prospects in that young stable of goodies.

Win Range Prediction: 78-82 wins

Bold Prediction: Mike Trout’s numbers slip (from carrying the team) and he finally looks human. However, he bounces back in 2018 (and beyond!)

Unbold Prediction: Mike Trout is Mike Trout.

Team MVP: Mike Trout

Oakland A’s

2017, once again, finds the A’s as the “farm team” of the league. If you need a veteran at midseason, look at the A’s and see if they have what you need. They are almost like the goodwill of baseball teams. They sign everyone else’s “junk” and sell it off at a discounted rate. Due to the lack of ROI over the past few years, specifically their return for Josh Donaldson and then the Jeff Samardzija trade with the Cubs that sent All-Star 2B Addison Russell away, the A’s farm system lacks top-end talent. At what point do A’s fans stop standing beside the “In Billy We Trust” slogan and realize it might be time to move on to new leadership?

Win Range Prediction: 70-74 wins

Bold Prediction: Sonny Gray bounces back, gets traded and A’s fans question whether the return was enough.

Unbold Prediction: The A’s are 15+ games out in June and start to deal off everything not nailed down (Stephen Vogt, Khris Davis, Sonny Gray, Trevor Plouffe, Matt Joyce, Rajai Davis and the entire bullpen!).

Team MVP: Khris Davis

NL East

New York Mets

There is always an asterisk with this team. Their success will always be contingent on the healthy of their starting rotation. If they can make 100-120+ starts, then the Mets should cruise to a playoff spot and possibly a division win. They do have a lot of questions in the lineup, so they may need to make a trade or two to augment that. Their health plus depth almost led to me put the Nationals in the top spot, but if that rotation is healthy, then they get a decided advantage.

Win Range Prediction: 92-96 wins

Bold Prediction: Their starting pitching staff stays healthy and combined make more than 115 starts.

Unbold Prediction: Their pitching staff is too dominant and the Nationals can’t keep up.

Team MVP: Noah Syndergaard

Washington Nationals

Everyone keeps asking who will close? If the bullpen works itself out, then they should make the postseason with ease. They really should have made the White Sox throw in David Robertson in the Adam Eaton trade. He wouldn’t have been the answer necessarily, but would have taken a lot of pressure off of the younger relievers. Personally I think their biggest question is which Bryce Harper will we see. He had a great spring training. If we see the 2015 version, then they might be able to beat the Cubs and go to the World Series. If he is 2016 Harper, then the glut of playoff contenders might force the Nationals to the outside looking in.

Win Range Prediction: 92-96 wins

Bold Prediction: Bryce Harper has a bounce back season, playing in 130+ games.

Unbold Prediction: The Nationals cruise to a wildcard spot, win the one-game playoff, but get swept out of the postseason.

Team MVP: Bryce Harper

Atlanta Braves

This will be an interesting team to watch. They are still a team in transition and signed veteran players (Bartolo Colon and RA Dickey) to augment a few of the holes in their rotation. Dansby Swanson will be a star. Freddie Freeman already is one. They have a lot to get excited about, but are probably still 1-2 years away from being a serious contender. If someone said that they would make the playoffs this year and “here’s why”, I would listen. If they end up in the postseason in 2017, it shouldn’t surprise anyone, it’s just not probable.

Win Range Prediction: 82-86 wins

Bold Prediction: Dansby Swanson is as good as advertised and has an All-Star year.

Unbold Prediction: We are still 1-2 years away from seeing what this team will ultimately become.

Team MVP: Freddie Freeman

Miami Marlins

This team has had a rough calendar year. There are no words for the loss Jose Fernandez that will make things right again. Much like with Ventura and the Royals, this is devastating on multiple levels. They did a patchwork job on the rotation to supplement what was already missing, plus trying to cover for the on the field loss of Fernandez. They could surprise a few teams due to the talent they have in Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich, but that won’t be enough.

Win Range Prediction: 78-82 wins

Bold Prediction: Their pitching staff is better than expected, despite the tragic lose of Jose Fernandez last year.

Unbold Prediction: Giancarlo Stanton misses 2+ months of the year… Again.

Team MVP: Christian Yelich

Philadelphia Phillies

If someone said the Phillies will win 70 games this year, I’d listen. If someone said they’d win 84 games, I’d listen. We all know they aren’t ready to play real baseball with the Cubs and Mets yet, but they are getting there. The success and age of the Cubs should allow the Phillies to be a bit more methodical in their approach to rebuilding. With talent like JP Crawford on the way, the Phillies have a bright future. It just isn’t here quite yet.

Win Range Prediction: 76-80 wins

Bold Prediction: The Phillies make strides in 2017 and finish ahead of the Braves and Marlins in the East.

Unbold Prediction: The Phillies aren’t ready to contend, but give their fans hope that they next “Utley/Howard/Rollins/Hamels era” is on the way.

Team MVP: Odubel Herrera

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

Here comes the moment of truth. They got the century’s old monkey off of their back. They’re talented, they’re young, they are returning most of their players. They get a full year from Kyle Schwarber. But they are not without flaws. Can Wade Davis replace Aroldis Chapman? Where does Schwarber play? Can Jason Heyward bounce back? Jake Arrieta’s contract is running out. Are they hungry, coming off of a dramatic come-from-behind win? If they win another World Series, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. If the hangover effect is in place, it shouldn’t surprise anyone either.

Win Range Prediction: 94-98 wins

Bold Prediction: The Cubs offer Jake Arrieta a mega-deal. They offer him a 3 yr, 90-100 million deal. They overpay each year, but get him to agree to a shorter deal.

Unbold Prediction: The Cubs cruise back to the World Series. Although I don’t think they repeat.

Team MVP: Jake Arrieta

St Louis Cardinals

Does this feel like a World Series team to you? Yeah. Me neither. Like so many teams, their success is dependent on the outcome of the rotation. They aren’t very deep outside of the top 2 guys (Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez). Their lineup has a few holes, but nothing that can’t be overcome. This team is like the cockroach of baseball. You want to get rid of them, but they never die. I am sure if the Cardinals are struggling in 2nd or 3rd place, they will do something to figure it out. They should be a playoff team, just not good enough to win it all.

Win Range Prediction: 85-89 wins

Bold Prediction: The Cardinals surprise and make a run at the Central division and not just a wild card spot.

Unbold Prediction: There are just too many questions surrounding the back half of the rotation to keep up with the Cubs.

Team MVP: Carlos Martinez

Pittsburgh Pirates

This will be the season of will-they-trade-Cutch? In my estimation, they need to trade him. They should have pulled the trigger with the Nationals, before they got Eaton. This is a team, much like the Royals, who are too good to give up and write off the season, but not good enough to win a World Series. At least the Royals got theirs. They need to readdress whether or not he is going to be there long-term. If not, they need to do what’s right by him and their team and trade him for the best possible package. Maybe to the Giants? His presence could be a dark cloud all year after an offseason of uncertainty.

Win Range Prediction: 80-84 wins

Bold Prediction: Andrew McCutchen gets traded in July.

Unbold Prediction: They finish 3rd in the division. They aren’t good enough to compete with the Cardinals/Cubs, but are far better than the Reds/Brewers

Team MVP: Gregory Pollanco

Cincinnati Reds

There isn’t much to say about the Reds this year. Honestly. The best thing that you can say… They share a division with the Brewers… So they have that going for them.

Win Range Prediction: 72-76 wins

Bold Prediction: They get a trade package that gets them to move Joey Votto. The prospects aren’t as good as the White Sox return for Sale, but the other team assumes most of Votto’s contract.

Unbold Prediction: The Reds just exist in 2017.

Team MVP: Joey Votto

Milwaukee Brewers

Has anyone checked to see who the Brewers might be drafting with the top pick in the 2018 draft?

Win Range Prediction: 68-72 wins

Bold Prediction: This is the year they finally move Ryan Braun.

Unbold Prediction: They “earn” the #1 pick in the 2018 draft.

Team MVP: Jonathan Villar

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

This is a flawed team, with a very hefty payroll. This is a team with a lot of holes, but still good enough to compete. I’d love to see them call the Diamondbacks and finish that trade to bring back Zack Grienke. However, it’s not my money so it’s easy for me to say. I think they will regret trading for Logan Forsythe instead of Brian Dozier and they revisit that in July. If both Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill stay healthy, then they will be a tough team again, but that roster only runs 15-18 deep before the question marks start coming. And they do come fast.

Win Range Prediction: 85-89 wins

Bold Prediction: This is the year that we see the dominant Clayton Kershaw puts up ridiculous numbers in the postseason. The Dodgers trade for Brian Dozier in midseason and move Logan Forsythe to a super-sub.

Unbold Prediction: Yasiel Puig gets traded.

Team MVP: Clayton Kershaw

San Francisco Giants

Their biggest problem in 2016 was the fall of their bullpen in the 2nd half of the season. They brought in Mark Melancon and Will Smith (now injured) and this unit is still a question mark. However, their biggest issue will be their aging outfield. Look at Denard Span and Hunter Pence’s spring training numbers and tell me that you’re confident in that group. This team just has too many holes for me to say they will contend for another World Series title.

Win Range Prediction: 85-89 wins

Bold Prediction: The Giants fall to 3rd place behind a sub-par bullpen and an outfield that is full of holes and questions.

Unbold Prediction: Brandon Crawford gets into the MVP discussion.

Team MVP: Brandon Crawford

Colorado Rockies

Look at that lineup and tell me it isn’t scary. Ian Desmond is now injured. Their home/road splits will always be an issue. If this rotation can compete then look out for this team. A lot hinges on their arms and the continued development of players such as Jon Gray. I am really excited about this team, at least their offense, and I think they will put up huge offensive numbers. I think they will fall just short in the end though.

Win Range Prediction: 82-86 wins

Bold Prediction: Carlos Gonzalez gets traded in July.

Unbold Prediction: Their lineup puts up A.L. type numbers. The Ian Desmond contract comes back to bite them.

Team MVP: Nolan Arenado

Arizona Diamondbacks

A few short years ago this team was on the cusp of contending. Then Dave Stewart happened. We can pick apart the Dansby Swanson trade and pick on Shelby Miller. In the end, it won’t matter much. They should trade Pollock and get prospects as the White Sox did with Adam Eaton. And they should call the Dodgers and beg them to take as much of Zack Grienke’s contract off of their hands as they are willing to.

Win Range Prediction: 74-78 wins

Bold Prediction: The Dodgers trade for Zack Grienke and split the rest of the contract with the Diamondbacks.

Unbold Prediction: They use this season as a way to replenish their farm system that Dave Stewart decimated.

Team MVP: AJ Pollock

San Diego Padres

Ugh. See the Reds or the Brewers. This just isn’t a good, or competitive, team. They might not be for a few years either.

Win Range Prediction: 72-76 wins

Bold Prediction: The score a run in their first two games this year!

Unbold Prediction: Their is a midseason fire sale.

Team MVP: No one


Boston                   NY Mets

Toronto                 Washington

Cleveland              Chicago (Cubs)

Houston                Los Angeles

Texas                     San Francisco

World Series

Boston over Chicago (Cubs) in 6 games

AL Awards

MVP: Carlos Correa, Astros (barely edging Mike Trout, Angels)

Cy Young: Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays (over Chris Sale, Red Sox and Corey Kluber, Indians)

Rookie of the Year: Yoan Moncada, White Sox (over Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox)

NL Awards

MVP: Nolan Arenado, Rockies (Over Yoenis Cespedes, Mets, Bryce Harper, Nationals and Kris Bryant/Anthony Rizzo, Cubs)

Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (over the entire Cubs pitching staff)

Rookie of the Year: Dansby Swanson, Braves (over Tyler Glasnow, Pirates)

Ben Wilson

Die hard Spurs, A's and Raiders fan. Finance major looking to publish my first fiction novel.

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