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Joe Soccoa

Soccoa: 2017 Baseball Predictions

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Spring is here and with it comes baseball once again. The smell of the fresh cut grass, hot dogs, popcorn and the sound of the crowds as they cheer on their favorite team. We saw a lot of excitement last year including a historic World Series win for the Chicago Cubs who broke their 108-year drought. Could they possibly do it again? Only time will tell. I present to you on behalf of NY Sports Day, my 2017 baseball predictions. I’ll dive into each division and how many wins I believe we could see from the teams for this upcoming season. Enjoy!

AL EAST

Last season, we saw three teams out of this division make a run for the playoffs and the Yankees also making it interesting with a late but short push. The Red Sox won the east while the Blue Jays and Orioles played one another in the one-game Wild Card game to go into the division championship. The Jays certainly have a chip on their shoulder as they made trips to the ALCS two years in a row and were not able to win. They let Edwin Encarnacion walk away via free agency to the Cleveland Indians. They landed Kendrys Morales who can still be a big bat in that line up if healthy. The Blue Jays are a team that can still compete and expect them to do so once again this season.

The Red Sox, the reigning division champs added to their stellar rotation by acquiring Chris Sale in the off-season to join the likes of Rick Porcello and David Price (who by the way will start the season on the DL with an elbow injury). They lose a veteran leader inside and out of the clubhouse with David Ortiz but have some good young kids ready to make their move along with Mookie Betts as the Red Sox look to secure another championship. On paper and in Vegas are the second favorite team to win the World Series this season.

The Yankees are going to be an exciting team to watch this year. We saw on September 1st with the call-ups of some young talent that we’ve all heard so much about, came in with a bang. Gary Sanchez pounded 20 home runs in the short month he was up with the club. All odds makers are predicting Sanchez to have yet another break out year and a possible MVP year. Greg Bird will be back this season after missing all last year with a shoulder injury. The Yanks were also able to reestablish their bullpen by signing Aroldis Chapman after they traded him at the deadline. The only question mark for the Yankees will be their rotation, anchored by Masihiro Tanaka who has looked stellar this spring. The year certainly looks promising for the Yankees who can very well make a run to the playoffs.

The Orioles, on the back of Buck Showalter have been consistent when it comes to playing okay baseball and managing to squeak into the playoffs but, it may eventually catch up. A wild card game exit, on a controversial decision, by not having one of the games better closers not go into the game. Zack Britton who was untouchable all last season posting an 0.54 ERA and saved 47 games did not throw one pitch in the game. The Orioles didn’t do much in the offseason but were able to keep Mark Trumbo. This team still has power hitters but the pitching staff is a major question mark for the O’s.

The Rays are hoping for a bounce back after having some guys hurt last season, most notably their pitching. It still seems to be a transition for the Rays as they continue to build on youth. Maybe a new stadium at some point will attract more fans and players.

So how do I think the AL East will stack up this year?

1. Red Sox – 91 wins
2. Blue Jays – 88 wins
3. Yankees – 86 wins
4. Orioles – 80 wins
5. Rays – 75 wins

(Don’t be shocked if we see two wild card teams come out of this division for a second straight year).

AL CENTRAL

Terry Francona’s bunch had a terrific run last season to the World Series and almost won it. Everything about this team was lights out and much of the same is to be expected this season. They have added a major bat to their line-up with the addition of Encarnacion that could put this team over the top. They still have the lights out Andrew Miller and some good youth to go for it all again this season.

The Tigers I feel, are a team that the window is closing. Age is becoming a factor with their hitters yet still produce. You still have one of the fearful hitters in Miguel Cabrera. The pitching staff was led by Michael Fulmer who had a great year and he’ll look to continue that again. Justin Verlander is a question mark for sure after a bad year in 2015 followed up by a better year in 2016 but he isn’t the same shut pitcher he once was.

Since winning the World Series, the Royals have taken steps backwards. Granted they were snake-bitten with injuries last season and they finished .500 on the year, but they still have a decently young team and have added Jason Hammel from the Cubs to help bolster their rotation.

For a team to have decent players on paper the White Sox flat out stunk. They did move Chris Sale to the Red Sox and restocked with some kids. It looks like this will be yet another transition period for the White Sox and wouldn’t be surprised if they sell off a few other assets so they can rebuild.

Another team in a massive transition are the Twins who lost 103 games last season. They have some seasoned vets on the team but are getting younger and there isn’t too much to expect again this season as they try and figure it out.

1. Indians – 94 wins
2. Tigers – 85 wins
3. Royals – 84 wins
4. White Sox – 74 wins
5. Twins – 60 wins

AL WEST

Texas was the best team in the American league last season winning 95 games. They couldn’t however get a win in the division series against the Blue Jays. The Rangers have been a nice surprise over the last few years after a couple of down years following trips to the World Series two times under Ron Washington and couldn’t win. Behind Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels there isn’t much to be excited about with their rotation. They do have a decent line-up so it will be interesting to see how they do this year but it seems another Texas team may take the reins back.

This division might come down to a three-team race with a slightly revamped Seattle Mariners team as they look to build off an 86-win campaign last year. They have Drew Smyly in the rotation who has looked solid in the World Baseball Classic along with King Felix. This team will be good and fun to watch.

The Astros did some adding this off-season. Veteran moves but still can be dangerous. They acquired Brain McCann from the Yankees as well as signing back Carlos Beltran who can still hit the ball. Their bullpen is solid, they have one of the better hitters in the game in Altuve and a young talented shortstop in Correa. This team is going to be sneaky good this year.

This is going to be Mike Scioscia’s 18th year at the helm of the Angels. It was a difficult year last year posting just 74 wins. There is work cut out for this team because their rotation doesn’t have the flash you’d expect to see and with the teams above them getting better the Angels seem to be stuck and it’s a shame when they have one of the best players in the game not playing meaningful baseball aka Mike Trout.

The money ball Athletics posted 69 wins last season. It’s been three years since the A’s last saw the playoffs and they always seem to be in sell mode. It’s now the second year for GM David Forst as he will try and put a rebuilding team together and see some glory soon.

1. Astros – 88 wins
2. Rangers – 84 wins
3. Mariners – 84 wins
4. Angels – 80 wins
5. Athletics – 72 wins

NL EAST

On to the National league and the division that will be exciting to watch. The Nationals ran away with the division and the Mets squeaked into a Wild card spot last season. The Marlins had to deal with a tragedy losing Jose Fernandez in a boating accident, while the Phillies and Braves continued their rebuild. The future is looking promising for the two teams that once were at the top of this division (Phillies and Braves) while the Mets and Nationals continue to battle it out on top. This should be a good division to watch because this division could turn into a three-team race. The Marlins will enter their second season under manager Don Mattingly and will do so with the heavy heart not having their ace.

The Nationals come in with high expectations as they did last year and hope they can coast off a very good starting rotation. The window for the Nat’s maybe closing as slugger Bryce Harper gets closer to free agency. A first round exit last season at the hands of the Dodgers was certainly not the plan for first year manager Dusty Baker so they have a gripe for sure. A possible deadline deal to get them over the top could be expected if they feel they can beat anyone in the National League.

The New York Mets come into the season with the hopes of having everyone healthy. The pitching staff was depleted last season due to injuries and Noah Syndergaard was the only man left standing and rightfully so, will get the opening day nod. With the Mets, you should hold your breath because you don’t know what you are going to get. The pieces are there for another World Series run if everyone stays healthy. They have some questions as far as their crowded outfield as they were able to retain Yoenis Cespedes and were unsuccessful in trying to trade Jay Bruce this off-season. Michael Conforto deserves to make this team and be in the outfield but then who is the odd man out? Granderson? Bruce? And I haven’t even mentioned Juan Lagares. The Mets find themselves with a good problem but it can become a nuisance. The other question is the bullpen; Jeurys Familia will most likely be suspended the first month on domestic charges so it will be up to Addison Reed to man the closer spot until then. As mentioned the Mets have the pieces, it’s just a matter of health and production.

The Braves will open a new ballpark with a team mixed with youngsters and veterans, none better than Bartolo Colon who signed via free agency. There aren’t much expectations for the Braves but they are rebuilding and could be ready in a couple of years but don’t be surprised to see a decent stretch during the season for them. As for the Phillies, they too have gotten younger and their rebuilding has gotten better, they like the Braves are still possibly two to three years away.

1. Mets – 93 wins
2. Nationals – 90 wins
3. Marlins – 84 wins
4. Braves – 74 wins
5. Phillies – 70 wins

NL CENTRAL

What can you say about this division other than you have the defending champs and huge favorites to win it all again. The Cubs did lose their closer in Chapman who went back to the Yankees and lost Hammel to the Royals but other than that it won’t be a major loss to them. They had production up and down their line-up except for Jason Hayward who, if he does come back to form it would be a bonus for Joe Maddon.

The Cardinals no matter what somehow always seem to quietly win a lot of games and find themselves in a playoff spot. Last year was the first time since 2010 they didn’t make the playoffs and they fell by one game. They did make a splash this off-season by picking up Dexter Fowler who played a vital part in the World Series victory for the Cubs. It’s going to be tough again for the Cardinals but with some added pop in their line-up they could make a run for a wild card spot.

The Pirates fall into the same category as the Cardinals. They are two years removed from a 98-win season that only gave them a wild card game and lost. They crashed last year and only won 78 games. They will look for a resurgence this year but again playing in a division with the Cubs and Cardinals it will be tough. They would need to have some serious luck to get back on top.

You almost forget about the other two teams in this division because of the three teams ahead but the Reds and Brewers are like many other bottom teams – rebuilding. It seems though, the Reds are stuck in cement and poor Joey Votto is stuck there too. It took forever to get Jay Bruce out of there and it seems Votto might be the last one to go. It’s been known he is upset with the direction of the team so he could be a candidate this deadline to be a valuable pick up and a total rebuild for the Reds. There isn’t much of a difference from the Reds and the Brewers, again another talented player in Ryan Braun stuck in a place that doesn’t seem to have October baseball on its horizon. Both teams can throw in the towel at the deadline and unload these stars to really give themselves a chance to replenish the farm system.

1. Cubs – 103 wins
2. Cardinals – 87 wins
3. Pirates – 82 wins
4. Reds – 72 wins
5. Brewers – 68 wins

NL WEST

Two teams each year – the Giants and Dodgers. Last year was an even year so we were counting on the Giants to keep the trend going but after winning the wild card against the Mets they had to play the Cubs. Although Madison Bumgarner is superhuman, even he couldn’t carry the entire team against the Cubs. They did however add to their bullpen and picked up closer Mark Melancon who has been effective the last few years. The Giants have the pitching staff and line-up to take back the division from the Dodgers.

The Dodgers have much of the same team coming off a 91 season a year ago. They are hoping Rich Hill can have a duplicate year as last and when you have Clayton Kershaw starting you are bound to win (for the most part). The Giants obviously will be the bigger problem for them but again no doubt it would be the Cubs standing in their way. Depending on where they finish, don’t be surprised if they only last a wild card game and then it’s golfing for the winter.

The Diamondbacks made big splashes a few years ago when they landed Zack Grienke and yet they didn’t make the playoffs in each of the years he has been there. They had dealt with injuries but are a young team. Don’t anticipate much of a movement in the standings.

Remember when the Padres got a new general manager named AJ Preller and he started making waves right off the bat (pun intended)? It didn’t work and then he got handed a suspension over medical records that were unreported in a trade with the Red Sox last season. It has been a disaster since he has been there yet the ownership still backs him and hopes his latest rebuild is a success.

Finally, you have the Rockies who have very good hitters in the line-up including Nolan Arenado who, in my mind is one of the best sluggers in the game. Sure, he plays in a park that you can bunt and it flies out but he still puts up consistent numbers each year. The pitching is the issue, until they get decent pitcher in the rotation it will be season after season of disappointment.

1. Giants – 87 wins
2. Dodgers – 86 wins
3. Rockies – 75 wins
4. Diamondbacks – 72 wins
5. Padres – 68 wins

So, there you have the predictions and a little background on the teams and where they stand going into this season. Given the predictions let’s see what match-ups based on my predictions we would see.

AL Wild Card Game – Blue Jays vs. Tigers (Jays win)
NL Wild Card Game – Dodgers vs. Nationals (Nat’s win)

ALDS – Red Sox vs. Astros (Sox win)
ALDS – Indians vs. Jays (Indians win)

NLDS – Mets vs. Giants (Giants win)
NLDS – Cubs vs. Nat’s (Cubs win)

ALCS – Red Sox vs. Indians (Sox win)
NLCS – Cubs vs. Giants (Cubs win)

World Series – Cubs vs. Red Sox (Cubs win)

Another World Series win for the Cubs, but it is certainly fun when you make the predictions and see what happens and that’s all we can do because you can’t predict baseball. Feel free to share your predictions and enjoy the 2017 baseball season.


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