We are just a few days away from the 2017 MLB Opening Day. And going into this season, every team has a clean slate and high hopes. The Chicago Cubs are coming off of their first World Series victory in 108 years, and with a strong team coming back, they like their chances of repeating. However, there are many promising teams in the league this year, and with a long 162-game season, anything is possible.
While the Cubs are World Series favorites going into the season (according to Vegas odds), the losses of Dexter Fowler, Jason Hammel, and Aroldis Chapman will hit them harder than expected. A healthy Kyle Schwarber should be a big help to the lineup, but overall this team did not get much better in the offseason.
In the meantime, there are a few other teams that were contenders last year, who found a way to improve with some offseason additions.
The Nationals added strong pieces in Adam Eaton and Matt Wieters, but the loss of Mark Melancon does leave them without a viable closer.
The Dodgers added a strong second baseman in Logan Forsythe, and received a little more bullpen help, which might be able to get them over the hump this year.
Last year’s ALCS Champions, the Cleveland Indians, will return their strong starting rotation and incredible bullpen. And since their lineup will benefit with the additions of Edwin Encarnacion, and a healthy Michael Brantley, they can absolutely make another World Series push in 2017.
However, the team to beat, that we believe will be the 2017 World Series Champions, is the newly improved Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox may have lost “Big Papi,” David Ortiz, to retirement, but the team has found a way to get even better. Chris Sale will join an already strong starting rotation that features 2016 Cy-Young winner, Rick Porcello, and a great-when-healthy David Price. When rotations shrink to a three-man approach for the playoffs, this trio is going to be dominant. But before that happens, the Sox are going to get big contributions from the bottom of their rotation as well.
Eduardo Rodriguez is going to put it all together this season. He may be young, but he is only going to get better, and his strong finish last season points to a bright future. Steven Wright had a strong season in 2016, and he could follow in Tim Wakefield’s footsteps as a Boston knuckleballer with some staying power. And although Drew Pomeranz is going to be starting the season on the DL, it should only be a short stint. The Sox are hopeful that when he returns, he will also bring back the talent he showed last year as a member of the Padres.
Health is a concern for this rotation, but if they can avoid injuries, these pitchers can find themselves on the hill in some World Series games.
Let’s also not forget about the Red Sox’ lineup. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are the big name 24-year olds, who will hit for power and steal bases. Jackie Bradley and Hanley Ramirez also contribute their fair share of home runs. Former MVP, Dustin Pedroia, can still play with the very best. And is there a more highly anticipated prospect in the league than Andrew Benintendi? And dare we say the resurrection of “Kung Fu Panda”? Pablo Sandoval has been on a tear in spring training, and Boston could see some production from him in 2017.
The Red Sox may very well have the best lineup in the league, and combined with their strong pitching, they can absolutely play their way into the World Series. With their well-balanced approach, and the advantages they’ll receive with a three-man playoff rotation, this team will be celebrating the 2017 season atop a float in a Boston championship parade.
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