It has been nearly three weeks into the MLB offseason, and big moves are already being made. There is likely to be a shift in the playoff picture.
It is late November, only three weeks removed from the World Series, and here I am already making MLB playoff predictions. These extremely early playoff predictions could shift with the way the offseason pans out, but it is already evident who are going to be buyers and who are going to be sellers. With these trends, I can formulate a very early playoff prediction and perhaps take a crack at the exact layout of the divisions at season’s end. If I’m right, I’ll look like a genius. If I’m wrong, then hey, it’s early.
Obviously, some teams will repeat and are easy picks (Cubs), while others are more dark horse choices. Regardless, some of these picks may surprise you, and others will be obvious. Trying to pick the rankings of the teams within the divisions poses difficult questions as well. There always seem to be clubs that are surprisingly bad, and decent teams that should have been horrible. It is always tricky to predict playoff teams, especially in November.
I am still going to take a crack at it, though. Granted, I can’t be too far off from what is actually going to happen. If big name free agents don’t go where I expect, these picks could be horribly wrong. Injuries, trades, and a plethora of other factors come into play on which clubs make October baseball. That is why these predictions can be a complete disaster. But if these predictions are correct, then you heard it here first! With all that being said, here are my very early playoff predictions for the 2017 MLB season.
Having the Houston Astros as my choice to win the AL West may surprise a lot of people. Personally, I am not a firm believer in the Texas Rangers. They led the league in one-run games last season and were barely over .500 in games decided by more than one run. This shows that the Rangers were barely winning ball games, and while they did have the most wins in the American League, their luck is due to run out.
Texas is potentially losing the bats of Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran, and Mitch Moreland to free agency. Also, despite them making a move by signing Andrew Cashner, their starting rotation may be a little too thin to make it to October. The Rangers will make moves and be a good team in 2017, just not a playoff team.
As for the division-winning Houston Astros, they seem to be going all-in. They brought in veteran presence Brian McCann, who still hits right-handed pitching pretty well, and signed Josh Reddick to a four-year contract. They also signed pitcher Charlie Morton and claimed outfielder Nori Aoki off waivers. Undoubtedly, the Astros look primed to make the postseason again this season, and with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa leading the way they might just make it there.
As for the rest of the division, the Mariners will likely float around .500 baseball. The Angels will improve from last season and may even see themselves jump into third or second place. The A’s? Well, the A’s will continue to rebuild to contend in future years.
A healthier Cleveland Indians team should have no problems repeating as AL Central champs. Cleveland could lose three impact players in Mike Napoli, Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis, but that likely won’t hinder their chances. This is because they could have the return of former MVP candidate Michael Brantley, and top prospect Bradley Zimmer is ready to play outfield in Cleveland. The Indians may not even have to replace Napoli, as Carlos Santana can play first. They just need to find someone to DH. Regardless, Cleveland’s pitching staff is lethal when healthy and should pick apart the AL Central.
The Royals may be a surprise to make the playoffs after their disappointing season last year. However, the Tigers seem to be in rebuild mode as there are constant rumors of them trading Ian Kinsler and Justin Verlander. Kansas City will have Mike Moustakas back from injury, and if all things go right, Lorenzo Cain should play more than 103 games. The Royals went 58-45 when Cain was healthy and 23-36 when he was out. With perhaps one or two moves this offseason, the Royals very well may find themselves as World Series dark horse contenders.
The Twins will have a better season than last and avoid another last-place finish. The Twins are young and as their stars develop they will begin to win more baseball games. The White Sox seem to be preparing for the future, not for 2017. Trading away Chris Sale has been the hottest discussion in baseball and with Jose Abreu opting into arbitration, the team may look to trade him as well to avoid the larger contract.
Arguably the best division in baseball, the AL East will see repeating champions since the Yankees did it in 2011-2012. The Boston Red Sox aren’t losing much this offseason outside of David Ortiz. Aaron Hill and Brad Ziegler are the biggest losses, but they can easily be replaced. Hanley Ramirez seems destined to take over the DH role in Boston, and the Red Sox could even experiment with Pablo Sandoval at first. If Sandoval can return to his Giants form, the Red Sox may challenge the Cubs as the most complete team in baseball. If not, the team is still in great shape. With a great pitching staff and an insane amount of young depth, the Red Sox will find success yet again.
As for the Blue Jays, it seems as if the losses of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will hit them hard. However, that won’t be the case for Toronto, as their ball club is still extremely talented. Led by a young pitching staff, the Blue Jays may see themselves win baseball games differently in 2017. No longer are the Blue Jays winning slug-fests. Instead they will become an even better pitching team, already ranked sixth. With the signing of another outfielder, maybe Yoenis Cespedes or Dexter Fowler, the Blue Jays might even challenge the Red Sox.
However, nobody should rule out the New York Yankees. The Yankees are extremely young, and still have the cash to haul in a big name. Also, It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Yankees sign Mark Trumbo or re-sign Aroldis Chapman. Their young talent will blend with a potentially big offseason to create a playoff contender.
The Orioles are losing too many bats and will find themselves falling behind the rest of the pack. Likely still a .500 team, the loss of power and the lack of depth in the rotation will hurt the Orioles as the season progresses. As for the Rays, they may be a better team if they didn’t have to play in the AL East.
For the fifth consecutive year, the Los Angeles Dodgers will be crowned NL West champs. Los Angeles is the only team with an active streak over two and are likely to continue their dominance. As for October, well, that is not being discussed. But the Dodgers seem to make some sort of move every offseason to ensure their playoff inclusion. Expect that trend to continue, as they have been rumored to get nearly every second baseman on the trade market. With the best pitcher on the planet, the Dodgers should find themselves NL West champions yet again.
The San Francisco Giants will fail to reach the postseason, continuing their drought of missing out of odd-year Octobers. The Giants bullpen is a disaster and it seems like the big three closers all have different agendas. San Francisco will be good, don’t get me wrong, but their second half collapse last season only shows the lack of consistency they have. I just see other teams edging out the Giants for the Wild Card spots.
As for the rest of the division, the standings likely will remain the same. The Dodgers and Giants continue to get better while the bottom three remain neutral. San Diego and Arizona have attempted big offseasons, but both attempts were busts. However, the Colorado Rockies have one of the best hitting quartets in baseball. Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez, and Trevor Story combine for insane numbers. Those bats in that ballpark may see them as dark horses for playoff contention.
The Chicago Cubs shall find no difficulty in being baseball’s best team yet again. From their bats, to their pitching, the Cubs are the most well-rounded team in baseball. The two biggest potential losses, Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman, may not even be that bad. First, the Cubs were doing just fine before Chapman’s arrival in July. As for Fowler, the Cubs have a returning Kyle Schwarber to add to the mix. Sure, they are a little thin and will need to sign another outfielder, a fifth starter, and bullpen arms, but with the talent already implemented, it will be extremely unlikely to see Chicago struggle.
The Cardinals will likely return to the postseason in 2017. With pitching prospects Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver, their pitching depth will only improve. Also, the Cardinals are already making moves in the offseason, and it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see them snag Fowler from the Cubs. With Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss being the only significant free agents, the Cardinals should be in good shape next season after they put together a good offseason.
The Brewers are a team under everyone’s radar that I think will improve greatly in 2017. With one of the best farms in baseball, the Brewers may be similar to last season’s Yankees. Milwaukee has several prospects that seem big league ready, and could find themselves flirting with being over 80 wins.
As for the Pirates, after a disappointing year they may find themselves in worse shape. Trading Andrew McCutchen has been talked about, and their pitching is too thin. If anyone goes down with an injury, they are short on talent outside of their starting nine.
Thor, deGrom, Matz, Harvey – need I say more? I know, the staff has been plagued with injuries that have affected their production, but this staff, when healthy, is in the running for the best staff in baseball with Boston, Cleveland, and Chicago. They may take a hit with Yoenis Cespedes’ eventual departure, but trading for Jay Bruce last season softens that blow. New York still has Michael Conforto to play left field, and as he develops he will shine under the bright lights.
Potentially losing Wilson Ramos will hurt the Nationals pretty bad. Losing Ramos’ bat, especially when the catching market is thin, is a huge blow to their offensive production. However, the Washington Nationals are still a very good team. With Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Daniel Murphy just to name a few, the Nationals will be firing on all cylinders. Add in NL Cy YoungMax Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and the Nationals are in good shape. Therefore, I don’t think they will be worse than last season, but the Mets will be better. Nevertheless, this race is destined to be the closest, perhaps coming down to game 162.
Yes, the Braves will place third in front of the Marlins and Phillies. After such a strong finish and a good start to a promising offseason, it’s hard not to like the Braves. The Marlins have great bats, but their pitching and lack of bullpen depth may get them in trouble. As for the Phillies, well, they play in a division with the Mets and Nationals, so they might be hard-pressed to win games.