The 2016 Major League Baseball season is upon us! Because every other sports entity on the planet is attempting to predict the season I’ll have some fun and go after it again.
This time, however, I am not going with emotion like I did a year ago. I am going to use sound logic (or as close as I’m capable of getting to it) to make these decisions on who will win each division, the Wild Card spots, the NL and AL pennants, and major post-season awards.
Let’s start with the National League West because we’re in San Diego, darnit!
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
1) San Francisco Giants
2) Arizona Diamondbacks
3) Los Angeles Dodgers
4) San Diego Padres
5) Colorado Rockies
The Giants don’t have the best roster in the division but they have the best manager and the deepest starting pitching and that will be enough to get them back to the post-season. Plus, you know, even-numbered year. The Diamondbacks added enough to sneak in to Wild Card contention but even with Zack Greinke as the ace of the staff I just don’t see them keeping pace with San Francisco. The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw but there is no Robin to join Batman. They have too many injuries in the rotation to compete early in the season. The Padres would do well to approach .500. I think they’ll start off playing fairly bad baseball but steadily improve to a point they’re not just respectable, but competitive. Manager Andy Green is re-conditioning his players to do things a different way and if he’s able to get that message through good things are waiting for the Friars. The Rockies are the typical Rockies: a few scary sluggers, not nearly enough arms.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) Chicago Cubs
2) Pittsburgh Pirates
3) St. Louis Cardinals
4) Cincinnati Reds
5) Milwaukee Brewers
The Cubs are legit. Like, really really legit. Chicago was good enough to reach the National League Championship Series a year ago and they were probably a year early. Now that guys like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber have a season of seasoning, along with the additions of Jason Heyward, John Lackey and Ben Zobrist, the Cubbies might be the favorites to win it all. Something tells me this is the season the Cardinals finally regress to the mean, and that means the Pirates will once again be in the market for a Wild Card spot. The Reds and Brewers are not going anywhere near the post-season in 2016.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1) New York Mets
2) Washington Nationals
3) Miami Marlins
4) Atlanta Braves
5) Philadelphia Phillies
It’s hard to go against the reigning NL Pennant winners. They didn’t need to hold on to Yoenis Cespedes but they were able to when the market for him never really materialized and their starting rotation is no joke. It’ll go right down to the wire with the Nationals, who also have a staff that can give hitting coaches the heebie jeebies. Both of those clubs will likely end up in the post-season, but don’t sleep on the Marlins. Miami gets a healthy Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, and they always seem to have a few youngsters who play well. I’m not entirely certain what the Braves are doing with all their moves the last two seasons and the Phillies are still in severe rebuild mode.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
1) Texas Rangers
2) Houston Astros
3) Seattle Mariners
4) Los Angeles Angels
5) Oakland Athletics
The Rangers and Astros will be neck-and-neck until the very end of the season and either one could win the division. I give the edge to Texas because they get Rancho Bernardo High alum Cole Hamels for a whole year and Yu Darvish should return (the team is targeting May) from elbow surgery. The Mariners will push the top two teams in the division and keep themselves in the playoff picture. Their lineup is better than a lot of people give them credit for. The Angels are not nearly as good as a team with Mike Trout on it should be. Once again pitching will be their downfall. I always feel goosey putting the A’s near the bottom of the standings since they have found ways to surprise so many times before and Sonny Gray is a stud but they just don’t have enough horses to run in the AL West.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) Kansas City Royals
2) Minnesota Twins
3) Detroit Tigers
4) Chicago White Sox
5) Cleveland Indians
This was the hardest division for me to look at because after the reigning World Series Champion Royals, who are still the class of the division, I see a way for any of the other four teams to earn a Wild Card spot. If I was to pick a team that will be the surprise of baseball it would be the Twins. They have a bumper crop of young players coming up and might end up with the top two finishers in the Rookie of the Year balloting (Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios) and a budding power source in Miguel Sano. The Tigers re-worked their roster with some interesting additions and if they all come together they might make a run. The White Sox have a possible Cy Young winner in Chris Sale and a possible home run champion in Jose Abreu. The Indians have a very good manager in Terry Francona, an ace in the rotation in Corey Kluber but I don’t see them generating enough offense to compete in this loaded group.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
1) Toronto Blue Jays
2) Boston Red Sox
3) New York Yankees
4) Tampa Bay Rays
5) Baltimore Orioles
The Blue Jays are loaded on offense. Their only problem is it’s so right-hand heavy, and historically that has shown a penchant for leading to problems. But Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki are the kinds of guys who hit pitchers that throw right-handed, left-handed, two-handed, whatever. Toronto is the favorite in the East. The Red Sox were smart to stick Pablo Sandoval on the bench in favor of Travis Shaw. It might get Sandoval to start taking thing seriously in Boston. The addition of David Price pushes the Sox ahead of the Yankees, but not by much. New York’s starting lineup can run with anybody but they’re not deep and a lot of the every-day players have proven to be injury-prone. The Rays have a budding star in right-hander Chris Archer and they might be another surprise team. The Orioles are going to regret giving all that money to Chris Davis. They need a lot more help than he’ll give them.
Wild Card Game: Nationals over Diamondbacks
NLDS: Cubs over Nationals, Giants over Mets
NLCS: Cubs over Giants
Wild Card Game: Astros over Twins
ALDS: Rangers over Blue Jays, Royals over Astros
ALCS: Rangers over Royals
Cubs over Rangers
I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime but yes, the Cubs are going to win the World Series. Theo Epstein will have engineered the end of championship droughts in both Boston and the north side of Chicago. Put him in the Hall of Fame right now.
Alright, let’s take a quick spin through the post-season awards and see who’s taking home hardware in 2016:
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton, MIA (If he stays healthy he’ll hit at least 50 homers for a winning team.)
AL MVP: Mike Trout, LAA (His team won’t contend but the numbers and impact are generational.)
NL CY YOUNG: Clayton Kershaw, LAD (He’s going to be the preseason favorite for years to come.)
AL CY YOUNG: David Price, BOS (The trendy pick for good reason.)
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Corey Seager, LAD (Special talent, already has October experience.)
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Byron Buxton, MIN (It’s been a long wait but it’ll be worth it.)
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Bruce Bochy, SF (One of the best in the game, period.)
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Paul Molitor, MIN (Minny will make the playoffs under his watch.)