Opening Day is near and that means the baseball experts everywhere, as well as the diehard fans, are predicting what will happen in the 2016 MLB season. The fun part about doing these projections is none of us really have a clue what will transpire. While it’s not easy to project other sports either, there’s some aspect of baseball that is just impossible to predict. Players improve or decline without any warning, injuries occur and the entire playoff format is a complete crapshoot. Still, the idea of guessing what will occur in the upcoming baseball season is always fun. Without further ado, here are my predictions for the 2016 MLB season in the National League.
National League East
New York: The NL East may very well be the weakest division entering 2016, just like it was in the 2015 season. The Mets, who feature a ridiculous top 4 in their rotation(Harvey, DeGrom, Syndergaard, Matz), are coming off a highly successful season where they lost in Game 5 of the World Series to the Royals. The club re-signed Yoenis Cespedes and acquired Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera to boost their infield. If they find themselves in the playoffs again with a healthy rotation, they could be back in the World Series.
Washington: The Nationals were the antithesis to the Mets last year, failing to meet expectations with the drool-worthy rotation they had. Recency bias may skew our thoughts on them but the team is still returning a pretty darn good team. Bryce Harper established himself as an elite superstar with a 10 WAR season and the Nationals still boast a top 5 rotation. They could very well win the division but they’ll need to stay healthy, something they weren’t able to do last year.
Miami: The Marlins had a perplexing offseason, inking LHP Wei-Yin Chen to a 5 year deal, which is a nice boost to the rotation. They didn’t do much else, however. Jose Fernandez, Giancarlos Stanton, Christian Yelich, Dee Gordon and Wei-Yin Chen is a pretty good core but it’s tough to see the team competing with very bad rotation depth, a mediocre bullpen and Jeffrey Loria running things. Don Mattingly‘s arrival as manager could create a better winning atmosphere but this team will struggle to reach the .500 mark.
Philadelphia: The Phillies, led by new general manager and former Angels assistant GM Matt Klentak, have finally straightened things out from the mess Ruben Amaro Jr. left behind. The team will definitely be one of the worst in baseball in 2016 but young players like Maikel Franco and Aaron Nola and uber prospect J.P. Crawford give fans hope for optimism. The team should start to progress in 2017.
Atlanta: The Braves received a lot of heat to start the offseason when they continued the teardown when Andrelton Simmons was sent packing to Anaheim for a group of prospects. The team, however, was widely praised for the Shelby Miller trade. Getting Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair was a move that drastically changed the future outlook for the franchise. With an impressive collection of young arms and a few fine position player prospects, the team could make some noise as soon as 2017.
National League Central
Chicago: The Cubs enter the season as the favorite to win the 2016 World Series, a feat they haven’t accomplished in over 100 years. There’s good reason for the hype they’ve received. They boast the most impressive collection of young talent in the big leagues with guys like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell. Add in a top 5 rotation headed by 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, a solid bullpen and skipper Joe Maddon along with MLB guru Theo Epstein and the Cubs look poised to be a huge threat for the foreseeable future.
St Louis: There’s no real debate to who the best run MLB team of the 21st century has been so far. The Cardinals won the most games in 2015 with 100 and continue to churn out talent from their farm system like it’s nothing. 2016 could be a down year, however. Jason Heyward is gone. Lance Lynn is out for the season. Jhonny Peralta will miss the first few months of the season. This is still a talented team and history tells us to not doubt this team too much but it’s reasonable to expect a Wild Card contender rather than an elite team.
Pittsburgh: The Pirates have really become a franchise that many teams try to mimic now, a thought that seemed laughable 5 years ago. The Buccos have become a paradise for pitchers trying to turn their careers around thanks to Ray Searage, arguably the most influential pitching coach in baseball now. The team was one of the first to start shifting, leading to a league wide epidemic now. While 3 straight years of little success in the playoffs hurts, the team has done an extraordinary job considering the payroll they work with. 2016 could prove to be a tough year to make the playoffs with Jung Ho Kang sidelined to start the year and a shaky rotation. Still, this team boasts a solid roster that should be in the mix for a playoff spot all year.
Cincinnati: The Reds may have missed their chance on really speeding up their rebuild last summer. The team may not be openly admitting their rebuilding but the team is clearly not in a position to compete, even with Joey Votto producing like a monster. The return for the Todd Frazier trade was light and they’ve yet to trade Brandon Phillips or Jay Bruce, who have lost a huge part of their trade value in the past few years. The team could hit enough to not be awful and the rotation does feature some intriguing young arms but it’s tough to see this team being very good in 2016.
Milwaukee: The Brewers had a stellar last calendar year in regards to moving their rebuild forward. The Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers trade looks like a big hit and the smaller moves involving Jean Segura and Yovanni Gallardo could provide some solid big leaguers. David Stearns, the current youngest general manager in baseball(31 years old), is a very highly thought of baseball mind who could get the Brewers back into contention.
National League West
Los Angeles: The Dodgers are perhaps being underrated coming into the 2016 season due to the fact that Zack Greinke bolted in free agency for Arizona. However, it’s arguable that this team has the most depth of any team in baseball. The offense has proven veterans(Gonzalez, Turner, Kendrick) and high upside youngsters(Seager, Puig, Pederson, Grandal). The starting staff still features the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw and some solid depth behind him with Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood. Factor in Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson and Hyun-Jin Ryu returning from injury mid year plus uber prospects Julio Urias and Jose De Leon and it’s easy to like this team. The Dodgers haven’t won a title since 1988 but it feels like they’ll win in the not so distant future, possibly as soon as 2016.
San Francisco: It’s an even year, which means the San Francisco Giants are bound to win the World Series in 2016. That’s how it works now, right? Not exactly, but the Giants have a strong team entering the year. The position player crop is ridiculous and the Giants have done a remarkable job developing positing players the past 5 years. Headed by Buster Posey, this offense should be in the mix for one of the best in baseball. New acquisition Denard Span should be another solid bat to plug at the top of the order. Also new to the team, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija should bolster the Giants rotation and give them solid innings behind Madison Bumgarner. Look for the Giants to make a lot of noise this season.
Arizona: It’s arguable that the Arizona Diamondbacks had the loudest offseason of any team in baseball. Loudest doesn’t necessarily mean the best, however. Adding Shelby Miller, Zack Greinke, Jean Segura and Tyler Clippard in one offseason is a nice haul but the team paid a lot in prospects and money and lost a very good everyday regular in Ender Inciarte in the process. While many feel Arizona will make noise, the team is still lacking in many areas. It could get below average production at third base, shortstop, second base, catcher, left field, in the bullpen and in the back of the rotation. This team is very top heavy with mega-star Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, David Peralta and the aforementioned Greinke but the team will need several role players to step up to see the playoffs in 2016.
Colorado: The Rockies possibly had the strangest offseason of any team, trading solid regular Corey Dickerson to Tampa Bay for a package centered around Jake McGee. Add in signing Gerardo Parra and not trading either Charlie Blackmon or Carlos Gonzalez and the whole offseason seemed a little odd. The Rockies will hit in 2016, just like they always do with the Coors Field effect, but the pitching looks to be another tire fire entering the year. Youngsters Jonathan Gray and Jeff Hoffman could be frontline starters someday but they’ll most likely see some hiccups in 2016. Until the Rockies figure out how to groom successful pitchers in Colorado, it’s tough to fathom this team being in a playoff position anytime soon.
San Diego: San Diego’s attempt at going all in last year failed miserably, as they finished with a worse record in 2015 than in 2014. It’s hard to fault A.J. Preller for trying to create a change in San Diego but the team was flawed from the start and now the team is in a tough position. The once strong farm system is depleted now and the current major league club is not very good. It’s tough to see the Padres reaching 75 wins this year without some substantial luck. Good news Padres fans: The All Star game is heading to San Diego in July and that will in all likelihood be the best moment of the Padres season.
Most Valuable Player: Buster Posey
Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard
Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager