AL West – Houston Astros
The Astros have arguably the brightest future of any franchise. It’s a squad littered with young, big-time talents (Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman) to go along with veterans in Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Josh Reddick. Oh yeah… there’s also that Jose Altuve guy (who’s pretty good if you’ve never seen him play). The lineup also features eight hitters projected to hit more than 10 home runs. With a very deep farm system, expect the Astros to target a front-line starting pitcher as the trade deadline creeps up in July.
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AL Central – Cleveland Indians
Cleveland is hoping to have another magical run in the postseason. Last year’s World Series appearance showcased a special talent in Francisco Lindor – in addition to a deep Andrew Miller-led bullpen. The addition of Edwin Encarnacion and the return of All-Star Michael Brantley give the Indians a big jolt of power in the heart of their lineup.
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AL East – Boston Red Sox
Boston’s lineup is absolutely ridiculous. Even without David Ortiz, this is an exceptionally deep and loaded collection of hitters. While youngsters Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts garner much of the headlines, watch out for Andrew Benintendi. The outfielder is considered by many to be the best prospect in all of baseball. The Red Sox also improved their pitching staff immensely – adding Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale. While there are injury concerns surrounding David Price, a trio of Sale, Price, and last year’s Cy Young winner Rick Porcello is as good as you’ll find in the sport.
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AL Wild Card #1 – Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto’s ability to score runs makes them a very dangerous club – especially with the home-field advantage it enjoys in the Rogers Centre. If the Blue Jays are to challenge the Red Sox for the AL East crown, the duo of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez will have to be excellent. Both are amongst the best young pitchers in the game. Stroman’s competitiveness on the mound was on full display during the World Baseball Classic – as he led Team USA to its first-ever title. Sanchez has the stuff of a true ace. Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, and Francisco Liriano help to make up the rest of this quality staff.
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AL Wild Card #2 – Seattle Mariners
There’s been a ton of turnover within the Mariners’ roster. The front office added Kansas City speedster Jarrod Dyson at the top of the order – as well as stud shortstop Jean Segura and promising outfielder Mitch Haniger from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yovani Gallardo and Drew Smyly joined the rotation, and Seattle is hoping flamethrower James Paxton can take the next step in becoming a dominant force. Seattle improved its ability to steal bases considerably with Dyson and Segura, and the rotation is certainly deeper than division rival Texas Rangers.
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NL West – Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers broke a Major League record last season with members on the disabled list… and still won the division. Andrew Friedman has retooled the roster – opting to go younger and focus on situational players as opposed to the “big name.” The addition of second baseman Logan Forsythe was sneaky good. He’s a plus defender, and hits for average. Plus, the Dodgers retained Chase Utley – who’ll be a valuable piece off the bench in a leadership capacity. The entire lineup from a year ago returns, and the collection of bench players remains the best in baseball. Yasiel Puig is a huge wildcard. If he fails to produce this year, look for the Dodgers to jettison him elsewhere. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy are back healthy, and Julio Urias enters this year expected to be a key cog in the lefty-heavy rotation.
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NL Central – Chicago Cubs
The Cubbies are coming off a euphoric season – when the franchise broke the curse and won its first World Series since 1908. While Aroldis Chapman got a hefty pay-day from the Yankees, hard-throwing Wade Davis was brought in to close games. The addition of Jon Jay in the outfield will give the team a defensive boost, and the return of Kyle Schwarber should make up for the loss of Dexter Fowler to the rival Cardinals. While St. Louis will be improved, the Cubs remain as the top dog in this division.
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NL East – Washington Nationals
The Nationals appear to be a more well-rounded ballclub heading into the 2017 season. Adam Eaton was brought over from the White Sox as a galvanizing force at the top of the lineup. Catcher Matt Wieters signed with Washington after a long career with the Baltimore Orioles. Wieters is a 4-time All-Star and a 2-time Gold Glove winner. Perhaps the biggest addition is pitcher Stephen Strasburg. We preface by saying IF he’s healthy, the Nationals are a bona fide World Series contender. But that’s a big “if” – considering he hasn’t shown the ability to stay healthy. Watch out for Trea Turner as a darkhorse MVP candidate. He’s one of the burgeoning stars in the game, and is on the cusp of becoming a household name.
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NL Wild Card #1 – San Francisco Giants
The Giants cannot be counted out in any circumstance. This franchise has a Championship pedigree – and one with immense team chemistry. The lineup will not have changed from a season ago – though the Giants are hoping to have a bounce-back year from Joe Panik. The rotation gets even stronger with the return of Matt Cain, and a full season’s worth of work from midseason acquisition Matt Moore. With Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto leading the charge, the Giants will once again find themselves in the postseason.
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NL Wild Card #2 – New York Mets
It’s very feasible to see the St. Louis Cardinals in this spot. There are many pundits thinking the Colorado Rockies will also make a push for a playoff position this season. However, don’t sleep on the Mets. Noah “Thor” Syndergaard is the premier power pitcher in today’s game. Jacob deGrom is no slouch either, and Matt Harvey has looked very good in spring training. The team will get a full year out of masher Jay Bruce, and the heart of the lineup should be able to hit a fair amount of home runs (although hitting for average may be a question).
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AL Pennant Winner: Boston Red Sox
This is the year in which Boston puts it all together. It possesses the unquestioned best lineup of any team in the league, and the top of its pitching staff is experienced and downright nasty. The one caveat is the health of Price. If he’s out for an extended period of time, look for the Indians or the Astros to make a push for the top spot in the American League.
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NL Pennant Winner: Washington Nationals
Like the Red Sox, this prediction hinges on the health of Strasburg. When he’s functioning at a high clip, he’s one of baseball’s best pitchers. The addition of Eaton gives Washington an added dimension at the top of its order. The expected improvement of Turner will also contribute to the offensive output. The Nationals have yet to break through to the World Series… but this will be the year.
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World Series: Boston Red Sox vs. Washington Nationals
Boston has the most complete team. It has speed at the top of its order, power from top to bottom, a deep and experienced bullpen, and a very good rotation. The Red Sox will be winning their first World Series ring since 2013.
Champion: Boston Red Sox
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