By: Mike Carter
I was asked to make nine bold predictions for the upcoming 2016 season. I’ve thought long and hard and hope to have you scratching your head or turning your eyes going, “what is this guy thinking? The Chicago winter rotted his brain!”
So here goes nothing:
1.) The Cubs will not make and therefore not win the World Series. It says here that the pitching will let them down and that Kyle Schwarber, whom fans here in the Windy City seem to think is Babe Ruth. Addison Russell and Kris Bryant will struggle to adjust in their second year. By the time they adjust it will be too late. Don’t forget the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates are very strong contenders as well in the NL Central. The Cubs will make the playoffs but they will not get to the World Series.
2.) The Arizona Diamondbacks will win the NL West, behind their new pitchers in Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller and strong 1-2 punch of AJ Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt. They will beat out the Dodgers, who will be sorting out pitching troubles all year, and the San Francisco Giants….
3.) Speaking of the Giants, they will win the World Series on the strength of their starting pitching, with the additions of Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, and return to form by Matt Cain. Key free agent acquisition Denard Span will set the table for a formidable lineup. Expect a healthy Hunter Pence to join Buster Posey and grinders Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford to gel together into a formidable team that catches the ball and has solid pitching.
4.) The AL Central will be the tightest division in baseball this year. And the White Sox are going to win this division, winning 88 games and coming from under the radar. Brett Lawrie finds his power stroke, Todd Frazier solidifies the leadership hole and hits 30 home runs, and Mat Latos returns to solid form. Carlos Rodon storms out of the gate and the emergence of the bullpen makes the Sox contenders. The entire division will be within ten games of each other all year.
5.) The Seattle Mariners will fall out of contention in July and reacquire Ichiro Suzuki at the trade deadline as he nears 3,000 hits. Ichiro will get number 3,000 in a Mariner uniform in late September. Taijuan Walker wins more games than Felix Hernandez and the team struggles to hit all year.
6.) Neither the Kansas City Royals nor the New York Mets, last year’s World Series combatants, will even make the playoffs this year. Why? The Royals will be weak at the middle infield positions and have no right fielder. And they will be unable to get improvements there due to being strapped for cash this year with the re-signing of Alex Gordon. They also have lost their bullpen depth, even though Wade Davis will prove a capable closer. The Royals have some holes. And the Mets have starting pitching to die for, but Yoenis Cespedes proves a flop and David Wright is never healthy enough to lead the team again. They will be fun to watch but will not make the playoffs, as a strong Washington Nationals squad wins the division behind Bryce Harper and resurgent Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman.
7.) Justin Verlander returns to ace status, winning 18 games for the Detroit Tigers before they miss the playoffs due to an injury bug that takes their core hitters down. Aging hitters Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera, while still formidable, will have nagging injuries all year. The additions of Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmerman will not be enough to cover the back end of the rotation and the bullpen will be a mess again.
8.) The Oakland A’s surprise the world and contend in the AL West before fading down the stretch. Josh Reddick surprises everyone and hits for high average and shows some pop, and the revived Rich Hill forms a good 1-2 with Sonny Gray. And they get a boost from Sean Manaea, who shows up in June and takes MLB by storm.
9.) Giancarlo Stanton has a full return to health and not only hits 50 home runs, but also steals 20 bases for an up-and-coming Marlins team.
Hey, don’t like my bold predictions? Make a few of your own in the comments section.