The 2017 MLB regular season is near and that means prediction season is in full force. Some teams had splashy winters but for the most part, it was a quiet offseason relative to past years, thanks to a weak crop of free agents. Many of the best teams in baseball from 2016 project to be good again in 2017 but there are a few teams who have boosted their stock while some fell off. Here are my 2017 predictions for the National League.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers: 93-69
The Dodgers look like a complete juggernaut for the short term and long term. Thanks to a savvy front office, led by Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers have built an impressive collection of young players surrounded by a sound veteran cast. Corey Seager leads a very good group of position players while Clayton Kershaw heads a very deep, albeit risky, rotation and Kenley Jansen heads a quality bullpen. Bringing back Justin Turner, Rich Hill and the aforementioned Jansen was a huge coup for the team. The Dodgers don’t have any rings to show for their recent success but that could change in the next few years.
San Francisco Giants: 87-75
A complete and utter bullpen implosion ruined what was a pretty darn good 2016 Giants team. New closer Mark Melancon will try to head a unit that should be better in 2017 but the rest of the team is pretty solid. Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford help form a very nice group of position players and Madison Bumgarner and Johhny Cueto form a dynamic 1-2 punch in the rotation. This isn’t a high upside group and the bullpen as well as the outfield could cause some issues but there’s a plenty high floor for this team to be playing October baseball in 2017.
Arizona Diamondbacks: 81-81
A year ago, Arizona was being questionably hyped after having a big, yet very risky offseason. Not surprisingly, the team faltered and key injuries and under performances sank a team that was talented but had holes. Fast forward to now and it seems like the team is now underrated. The rotation is as volatile as any in baseball but a bounce back from Zack Greinke and some improvements from youngsters Robbie Ray, Pat Corbin or Taijuan Walker could form a good unit. A healthy A.J. Pollock forms a dynamic duo with Paul Goldschmidt and a solid, if not unspectacular position player unit. The bullpen doesn’t look good and there is a ton of risk across this roster but some good luck could keep the team as a sleeper in the National League. I’m buying them as a fringe contender for a Wild Card spot.
Colorado Rockies: 80-82
Every year, there is one team who makes headlines during the offseason and convinces people to go all in on them. The Rockies appear to be that team entering 2017. To make it clear, there is talent here. Nolan Arenado heads a very strong position player unit. Jon Gray is as good as any pitcher the Rockies have had and the rotation might not be terrible. Even the bullpen has some semblance of upside. However, Coors Field has shown us time and time again that it’s tough to trust any Rockies staff until they’ve proven themselves. I worry that the rotation doesn’t support the offense and the bullpen can’t hold leads. The questionable signings of Ian Desmond and Mike Dunn do improve the team but not as much as the money would indicate. I still view this team as a fringe contender but I’m pumping the brakes on them being a bonafide Wild Card contender.
San Diego Padres: 64-98
Has there been a worse rotation in recent memory than the Padres will roll out this year? Jered Weaver, owner of a 5.62 FIP in 2016, might be the Opening Day starter. A.J. Preller’s crazy and irresponsible offseason years back is now showing its’ true colors as this could be the worst team in baseball by a wide margin. The bullpen offers some intriguing arms and players such as Wil Myers, Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margo will create some excitement. This team doesn’t boast enough talent in the upper minors to be competitive soon but the collection of low-mid minors talent will have the Padres very interesting in 3-4 years.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: 93-69
The Cubs are a bonafide juggernaut, ending their 108 year World Series title drought in 2016 and look every bit as strong entering 2017. Kris Bryant leads a downright nasty group of position players and the rotation and bullpen still offers plenty of upside. My biggest concern with this unit is the depth in the rotation, as their 3 veteran arms(Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey) have logged a crazy amount of innings in recent years. If 1 or 2 of those arms are hurt/regress, the Cubs are a bit more vulnerable, albeit still very good. The Cubs should be an absolute force again in 2017, vying for a 2nd straight World Series title.
St. Louis Cardinals: 87-75
Ho-Hum, the Cardinals keep chugging along. While not as strong as they have been in recent years, this is a plenty talented group. Newcomer Dexter Fowler will help move some guys back into their natural positions, which should improve what was a very poor defensive unit last year. Alex Reyes’ torn UCL hurts as he was a potential huge upside arm for the 2017 team but there is still plenty of pitching depth to make up for it. The Cardinals won’t be a sexy pick in 2017 but the overall balance and depth of this team makes them a Wild Card contender.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 83-79
The Buccos dropped off a ton last year, thanks to under performances from Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. A bounce back is expected for both, which should put the Pirates in Wild Card contention again. There is inherent risk with this team as Jung-Ho Kang has dealt with off the field issues and the rotation looks sketchy. The 3 headed monster in the outfield and the upside arms they possess make it likely that the Pirates will compete but a poor start to the season could make them sellers at the trade deadline, and in part sink their win total this year.
Milwaukee Brewers: 74-88
Is there such thing as a fun and watchable yet bad baseball team? If so, the Brewers are my pick. They boast arguably the best farm system in baseball, with much of that talent knocking on the door of the majors, and offer some intriguing young MLB players. Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana are Statcast darlings who could completely breakout this season and Zach Davies is a breakout candidate with a boring yet effective 3 pitch mix with plus command. This team won’t be good but some late season call ups adding to an interesting cast of players makes the Brewers a team to monitor this year and definitely in 2018.
Cincinnati Reds: 68-94
The Reds failed to take advantage to sell off some premier names a few years back and the unwillingness to do so is hurting them now. This team doesn’t offer a very inspiring offensive, defensive or pitching unit and the minor league system isn’t good enough to support the MLB team yet. Joey Votto is still elite and on a Hall of Fame track but he may be the only player on this team to clear the 3 WAR threshold in 2017. There are at least some intriguing rotation arms but there is a ton of risk. The Reds will most likely be competing for the top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft in what looks like a rough season incoming.
National League East
Washington Nationals: 92-70
The Nationals return most of what was a loaded roster that was pretty darn close to making it to the NLCS in 2016. Gone is Mark Melancon but newcomer Adam Eaton, who was acquired in a controversial deal costing the Nationals Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Mike Dunn, will be a very big add. The Nationals boast a superb rotation, albeit one with some iffy depth beyond the MLB level, and an offense that should rank near the top of offensive leader boards. If Bryce Harper rebounds, Trea Turner proves he wasn’t a fluke and Daniel Murphy continues to rake, this team is going to score a boatload of runs. The bullpen is a bit worrisome but the trio of Shawn Kelley, Blake Treinen and Joe Blanton isn’t terribly bad at the backend. This is a very good team that should compete for a division title and deep playoff run.
New York Mets: 86-77
The Mets may be the toughest team to rank, in part due to the incredible volatility and risk involved with their rotation. All 5 projected starters have dealt with recent arm injuries or scares and it’s anybody’s guess to how each individual will perform and how many innings each will pitch. Noah Syndergaard is one of the aforementioned starters, who dealt with a bit of a midseason elbow scare, who is also an unbelievable beat who slings 101 mph fastballs and 94 mph sliders. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo offer nice depth if things go wrong but there’s still plenty of risk here. The position players and bullpen are good enough to support a competitive team but this team solely lasts on how healthy the rotation is in 2017.
Miami Marlins: 77-85
The devastating death of ace and cultural icon Jose Fernandez affected the Marlins organization in more way than one but him being gone gutted an already mediocre roster. Christian Yelich and Giancarlos Stanton are 2 bright stars in their prime and the rest of the position player group is a solid unit. The issues lie in the rotation now, however. A collection of #4/5 starters will struggle to keep the team in games in 2017, even with a potentially strong bullpen. Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa are new adds who add to a very deep bullpen so the team could hypothetically compete by winning a lot of close games. The Marlins are and always have been a tease and I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up looking like a poor ranking. With some general luck and health, the Marlins could find themselves fighting for a Wild Card spot.
Atlanta Braves: 73-89
Atlanta had a semi-splashy offseason, bringing veterans Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia on board to fill innings in a very young rotation. Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson is a solid trio of young, controlled talent but the rest of the roster is lacking in that regard. Optimism is up in Atlanta though with a new stadium ready for 2017 and a farm system that is close to unleashing some talent into the majors in the next few years. There is a ton of risk with the Braves future as they’re relying on a arm heavy farm system but some good fortune and savvy moves could bring Atlanta to relevance again as soon as 2018.
Philadelphia Phillies: 70-92
The Phillies started hot in 2016, prompting premature talk of them being close to competing. The fact remains that this is a team that will struggle to score runs and has durability concerns in a fun, young but unproven rotation. Aaron Nola, Jared Eickhoff and Vincent Velasquez is a fun trio but they all 3 need to prove themselves with bigger workloads along with results in 2017. While 2017 won’t be pretty, their time is coming soon. J.P. Crawford leads an exciting farm system and the Phillies are ready to explode on the free agent market in a few years, when some of the game’s elite talents hit the market. The Phillies seem like the most likely bad team to be good again in 2-3 years.
MVP: Trea Turner WAS
Cy Young: Carlos Martinez STL
Rookie of the Year: Dansby Swanson ATL
Manager of the Year: Dave Roberts LAD