Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in less than a month. So as we’re getting closer to baseball, here are my quick, early predictions for 2017.
National League West Division
Division Winner: San Francisco Giants
They’re going to be tough to beat. A rotation of Mad Bum, Cueto, Matt Moore, Samardzija, and Matt Cain is one of the top in the NL. Their bullpen was the weakest link of the team in 2016, but a deadline move for Will Smith from Milwaukee gives a strong lefty for the full season, and a free agent signing for closer Mark Melancon will eliminate the back end woes.
Buster Posey, a healthy Hunter Pence, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt… 4 All Stars in the every day lineup. If they all stay healthy, the Dodgers will be looking up in the standings at their rival.
2nd Place: Los Angeles Dodgers
This team starts with the best pitcher in baseball. But Kershaw can only do so much every 5th day. Still, the Dodgers are loaded with starting pitching. Rich Hill resigned this off-season, Scott Kazmir, prized-prospect Julio Urias, Alex Wood, and Hyun-Jin Ryu will be back this year. Another highly praised prospect, Jose De Leon is in the wings ready to go.
The Dodgers paid up to keep Kenley Jansen closing games in Chavez Ravine. They still have a few offensive holes to fill, but resigning Justin Turner was a key step. The Dodgers are still in talks with the Twins to get Brian Dozier to play 2nd base. They’ll have to pay up, but Dozier brings a huge bat out west. The Dodgers will be in Wild Card contention if they don’t win the division.
3rd Place: Colorado Rockies
The Rockies finished 3rd in the West in 2016 and will probably remain there. They’re on the right track though. Bud Black will take over for Walt Weiss as Manager and they signed Ian Desmond to a big deal this off season. They didn’t trade Carlos Gonzalez even though they seemed to be rumored to trade him yearly, and still might be able to make another free agent splash with someone like Mark Trumbo.
The bats remaining in Colorado in addition to Desmond are great. Nolan Arenado is a stud and one of the top-5 third basemen in baseball, D.J. LeMahieu hit .348 last year, Charlie Blackmon hit 29 bombs, and Trevor Story hit 27 home runs as a rookie. Desmond will fit nicely in that batting order, and if they still signed Trumbo somehow, sheesh. Coors Field is a power hitter’s paradise.
Pitching brings them down. It’s tough to pitch at Coors Field with hitters being able to thrive there. Tyler Chatwood led the starters in ERA at 3.87. It’s a tough sell to get free agent pitchers to come to a ballpark where an infield pop-up can carry out to left center.
4th Place: Arizona Diamondbacks
Remember when the snakes went nuts in the off-season going into 2016 and everyone thought they were setting themselves up to dominate? They signed Zack Greinke to a huge deal and traded the number 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Dansby Swanson, to Atlanta for Shelby Miller. They had two young pitchers in Archie Bradley and Robbie Ray and were looking to shape up nicely.
Well, pitching killed them in 2016. Greinke struggled, Miller was horrible as Swanson tore through the minors in Atlanta’s system becoming a top prospect in baseball and Atlanta’s future at shortstop, and Bradley and Ray had ERA’s of 5.02 and 4.90. For 2017, the Diamondbacks acquired Taijuan Walker from Seattle for Jean Segura.
Segura had a huge 2016 and is signed through 2017, so the D-Backs made a great move flipping 2 year of him for multiple years of a young pitcher in Walker, as well as Ketel Marte who can play up the middle where they need help and some prospects.
Paul Goldschmidt is one of the best players in baseball and they have A.J. Pollock back for the full year after he was able to appear in 12 games coming back from injury. They’ll be the key guys this year, but I’m curious to see how Yasmany Tomas follows up his 31 home run, 83 RBI year. If Greinke finds his usual stride, they could surprise some teams.
5th Place: San Diego Padres
Remember when the Padres went nuts in the off-season going into 2015 and everyone though they were setting themselves up to dominate? Well that bit them in the ass hard. They’re currently paying players more money to play for other teams than they are paying guys who are on their roster. Rebuilding? Yes. But this isn’t the ideal way to do it.
Wil Myers still exists for this club. There just isn’t much talent in the field around him. I’m mostly interested to see how Travis Jankowski does in his second full year in the MLB. Austin Hedges should get full time behind the plate after they dealt Derek Norris to the Nats.
Their pitching is nothing special. The Padres non-tendered Tyson Ross which came as a huge shock to baseball fans. More than 20 teams are currently trying to sign Ross. I find it odd a team that needs a guy to eat innings let him walk. Luis Perdomo is a bright spot. The young right hander has good stuff, but still needs some work.
AL West Predictions will be next.