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2016 National League West Predictions

2016 National League West Predictions It was an odd-numbered year last year, so we knew that the Giants wouldn’t be in the race. The Dodgers finally gave up on skipper Don Mattingly and initial reports on new manager Dave Roberts are very positive. Arizona made the biggest splashes during the offseason and appear ready to contend, while the Padres and Rockies appear to be floundering yet again. San Francisco Giants San Francisco was doomed before the season began, as it wasn’t an even-numbered year.  They made some smart, albeit costly, costly moves to improve the brittle rotation behind Madison Bumgarner by adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.  Cueto struggled going to the AL last year, as most career-NL starters do, but his elbow checks out and he should see a nice return to form.  The same can be said for Samardzija, who was simply putrid for the White Sox last year. We think he’ll cut a good 1.5 runs off of his ERA in a much better pitcher’s stadium. The combination of the resilient Jake Peavy, Matt Cain, and Chris Heston will round it out. The bullpen is deep and has a nice back-end duo in Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla. The only change in the everyday lineup was signing CF Denard Span. While injury concerns are real, he brings speed an great on-base skills to the top of the lineup. Full seasons from Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt will be key; they are both so vital to how opposing pitchers handle Buster Posey.  We see a nice return to form for Pence (.275/25/85) and a breakout for Belt...

2016 National League Central Predictions

2016 National League Central Predictions To say that this division has been dominated by the Cardinals is an understatement; five division titles in seven years; four appearances in the NLCS in five years: four World Series titles in the past twelve seasons; sheer domination. The Pirates and Cubs, long the doormats of the division, might have something to say about it this year…and beyond. Chicago Cubs The young Cubs were the surprise of the NL last year, making it to the NLCS before getting swept by the Mets.  GM Theo Epstein has the organization about two years ahead of schedule. He rebuilt the roster and the farm system perfectly, as the Cubs possess the perfect blend of youth and experience, especially in the lineup. New RF Jason Heyward could experience a rebirth of sorts. He’s spent his career in pitcher’s parks; we expect a nice power bump and 100+ runs. 3B Kris Bryant is much-exalted for his power, but he needs to cut down on his K-rate and produce more on the road; only 5 of his 26 HRs were hit away from Wrigley. The Cubs are going to try to hide the brutal glove of slugger Kyle Schwarber in LF this year; Jorge Soler is ready and waiting as one of the best fourth OF’s in the game. 1B Anthony Rizzo is our MVP pick this year; we looking for a slash line of .290/.390/.550 with monster run production. The rotation is fantastic at the top, mediocre at best behind them. Jake Arietta and Jon Lester will be the best ½ in the division again, and John Lackey...

2016 National League East Predictions

2016 National League East Predictions As expected, the Senior Circuit’s World Series participant came from the East. Quite unexpectedly, though, it was the Mets representing and not the heavily favored Nationals. It appears that it’ll be a two-team race this season, as the Braves and Phillies are in rebuilding mode, while the Marlins teeter on the border between success and rebuild again. Washington Nationals Washington woefully under performed last year, despite the valiant efforts of Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer. Injuries had a lot to do with it, but former manager Matt Williams lost this squad early on and never got them back. Enter Dusty Baker, a notorious player’s manager who has some outstanding regular seasons under his belt.  The rotation will challenge that of the Mets, though they aren’t as talented at the back end. Scherzer and Steven Strasburg are dominant; a full season from the latter is a necessity, though, if he wishes to cash in during the next offseason.  Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross, and either Tanner Roark or Bronson Arroyo will back them up, and young buck Lucas Giolito isn’t far behind.  The bullpen is average at best, and the Nats couldn’t find any takers for closer Jonathan Papelbon’s attitude and contract. Losing Drew Storen stings, as there is no longer a clear back-up. The lineup is talented, but very brittle. Moving Ryan Zimmerman to 1B is just the latest effort to keep him in the lineup. Fear not, as he’s certain to find the DL again this year. LF Jayson Werth is certain to join him at some point. 3B Anthony Rendon missed half of...

2016 American League West Predictions

2016 American League West Predictions Texas dominated the division last year; the STATE of Texas, as the Rangers and the Astros both made the playoffs in a shocker of a season for both squads.  The Rangers rode the backs of some crafty veterans while the ‘Stros relied on an outstanding youth movement to become the new face of what rebuilding can do. Houston Astros The Astros had one of the biggest turnarounds in league history, improving by a whopping 35 games over the past two seasons. Relying on an outstanding farm system rather than expensive free agents, second year manager AJ Hinch has the luxury of coaching a young, very talented squad who should only improve. The outfield of Colby Rasmus, Carlos Gomez, and George Springer is fast and will cover a ton of ground, while Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve will be two of the best middle infielders in the game; Correa could be an MVP candidate as soon as this year – this year’s version of Trout and Harper. Springer is ripe for a monster breakout season; expect .280/.370/.550 with a couple dozen steals and solid power tossed into the mix for the budding star. The corners of the infield are the team’s Achilles heel. Luis Valbuena and Jon Singleton possess nice power, but strike out far too much and could struggle to hit .225. The pitching staff is strong from top to bottom, especially in the bullpen where newly acquired closer Ken Giles will be an upgrade, as he allows Luke Gregerson to shift back to a set-up role. Will Harris and Tony Sipp will handle...

2016 American League Central Predictions

2016 American League Central Predictions The AL Central is enjoying a nice rebirth; they’ve represented the American League in three of the past four World Series and possess some of the brightest and more exciting young stars in the game. Don’t be surprised to see the trend continue, as the East & West don’t appear to have the same balance as some of the squads in the Central do. Kansas City Royals Kansas City was the first non-AL East team to win the Series in ten years, and it wasn’t a fluke.  Their success can be measured in three simple words; defense, speed, and bullpen.  Should be much of the same this year as the entire lineup is back and intact, and the bullpen remains deep and powerful.  They completely overpaid to keep leader Alex Gordon on the roster, but continuity on a team like this speaks volumes – especially with the rest of division improving behind them. The lineup is loaded with clutch hitters, though we wouldn’t be surprised to see slight declines from Mike Moustakas and Kendrys Morales though both should still be solid.  The rotation is questionable at best; it’s time for Yordano Ventura to become the ace that they sorely need. FA Ian Kennedy is in dire need of a career rebirth; he is just one of a slew of reclamation projects slated to start for KC.  If they can, however, simply make it through six innings, the #1 bullpen in the league will slam the door shut more often than not, though the trade-off of injured Greg Holland for the inconsistent Joakim Soria weakens...

2016 American League East Predictions

2016 American League East Predictions The former ‘Beast’ of Major League Baseball has quickly sunk into mediocrity.  Parity in the game, along with a substantial luxury tax, has handcuffed some of the elaborate spending habits that used to dominate the division.  That being said, it should be an interesting race that comes down to the final week or so of the season. Toronto Blue Jays Toronto should be the team to beat despite some concerns in the rotation. Marcus Stroman has the stuff to be an ace at the top, but the rest of the staff is old (R.A. Dickey), inconsistent (Marco Estrada & J.A. Happ), or unproven (any fifth-starter candidate).  The good thing? This team will be able to out-score just about anyone – and two of their top sluggers are playing for contracts.  Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will probably combine for 80-ish HRs and 220 RBIs as they set their sights on big bucks.  Toss in the defending MVP, Josh Donaldson, and perennial MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki and the Jays will should slug their way to the playoffs. Health will be key, however, as all but Donaldson have an injury history (as does 2B Devon Travis, a key cog to the infield and lineup).  There isn’t much quality depth, and any injury to one of the stars could prove extremely costly. Take the Blue Jays over 87 wins (-115) Boston Red Sox Boston made the biggest splash in division, bringing in perennial Cy Young contender David Price in to anchor a shaky rotation, and top closer Craig Kimbrel to finish games.  Price is fantastic for the...