By: Mike Carter
It’s time for another edition of bold predictions, mist of which will not happen this year. Or any year. But let’s give it another shot with Spring Training ending this week, and the final positional battles playing themselves out.
First things first, if you disagree with me, please write in the comments. I would love to hear your bold predictions for this coming baseball season.
1.) My first bold prediction: the Atlanta Braves will return to the playoffs this year. Before you guffaw, think about it. They have a solid cornerstone player in Freddie Freeman, who took a jump into the elite first basemen in 2016. They have an up-and-coming star in shortstop Dansby Swanson, who stirs echoes of Derek Jeter with his cool-headed, smart play. He will be the NL Rookie of the Year. They added excellent pieces in Matt Kemp, who is aging yet still powerful, and the experienced Brandon Phillips at second base. Ender Inciarte takes a step forward this year, and the solid defense up the middle solidifies the team while the pitching staff gains more experience pitching in the tough NL East. I don’t think they will win the division, but they should contend for a Wild Card spot…especially with Julio Teheran winning the NY Cy Young Award this year. Look for the Braves to be in the mix all year. That’s a bold prediction with stalwarts like Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard in the National League.
2.) Looking for a surprise team in the American League? Kelly will like this one. It’s going to be the Seattle Mariners. This team looked prime for battle last season, but didn’t quite take the needed steps. This could be the year. With Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, they can slug with anyone. Where GM Jerry DiPoto made huge gains this year is in the starting pitching and outfield defense. Felix Hernandez is no longer the King; he’s a solid piece in the middle of their rotation. A healthy James Paxton and new acquired Drew Smyly are under-the-radar pieces who will be outstanding this year if they can harness their control. Adding them to Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma gives them a deep rotation. And add to that Mitch Haniger, who will be Rookie of the Year in the American League, and the speedy Jarrod Dyson and Jean Segura, and you have the pieces to win the AL West over the favored Houston Astros. Watch and see; these guys are really good.
3.) Speaking of the Astros, they will acquire Jose Quintana and Chris Archer at great cost to go for it all this year. They will give up a king’s ransom to get both, with my beloved White Sox getting OF prospect Kyle Tucker and a package of others. I hope the White Sox hold out for Alex Bregman, who is a future star blocked at his best positions by Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. Please…
4.) AL West will be tough. I believe three team will make the playoffs with the Rangers hosting the Wild Card game against the Astros. Yu Darvish will pitch the Rangers to the victory. During the season I’m picking Darvish to win the AL Cy Young and will strike out at least 300 batters while doing so.
5.) The surprise hitter this year is going to be Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier. While known for his peerless defense in center field, this is the year his bat catches up. I expect upwards of 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases for him. He’s a sleeper for those of you in fantasy baseball circles looking for high upside at the end of your drafts this week.
6.) And who will win the biggest prize, this year’s World Series? I know they will not be fashionable, but I think the Cleveland Indians end their drought this year. They were very close to beating another team that ended a 108 year dry run of their own last year, the Chicago Cubs. If the Indians starting pitching gets healthy, and the bats keep up, they should be the best team in the AL. Remember, they got to extra innings in Game Seven last year using a patchwork staff that faltered in the last week. The health of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, backed by a stalwart bullpen of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, gives them the depth needed for a lengthy playoff run. They upgraded their offense with Edwin Encarnacion. They will do so again when they acquire Charlie Blackmon or Carlos Gonzalez from the Colorado Rockies and add to their solid core. The pundits are saying they are tired, but remember, their core guys were hurt at the end last year. Jason Kipnis played on one leg and besides Corey Kluber, they were missing their best starting pitchers. Who knows? Anything can happen in this greatest game in the world.
7.) Who will represent the National League? It’s wide open over there. The Cubs should be outstanding again, but do they have the rotation depth if someone goes down or is ineffective? Their lineup can mash with anyone. For the sake of making a prediction, I will pick the San Francisco Giants to again be in the World Series. So that’s it. The Indians versus the Giants. I most certainly will be wrong. But let’s revisit in November!
8.) A bold prediction for a team that be will be disappointing is the Boston Red Sox. Losing David Ortiz to retirement will hurt as he had one of his best seasons last year. David Price is hurt and is going to miss at least a month. Rick Porcello will come back to earth and Chris Sale is going to struggle in his 1st year at Fenway. I can see him giving up a ton of doubles off the Green Monster. Their bullpen is weaker, Tyler Thornburg is also hurt and Craig Kimbrel is starting to look human. After saying all that I think Mookie Betts will be in the MVP conversation again. That guy is a stud.
9). And one final bold prediction: the Angels of Anaheim will entertain trade offers for the best player in baseball, Mike Trout…who will end up playing for…wait for it…the New York Yankees.
Enjoy this last week of Spring Training. And good luck to your team this year! Happy days are here again as the marathon baseball season is set to begin anew!