Say what you will about the World Baseball Classic, but I have quite enjoyed it as an appetizer to the sirloin steak that’s on its way. Do not fear, I am not here to praise the house dressing on the salad we have been eating for the last two-and-a-half weeks. Instead, I want to prepare those taste buds for the big piece of meat (tofu for the vegetarians) we are about to bite into on April 3rd.
With less than two weeks to wait, why not take a look at some of the projected win totals for the 2017 MLB season? If you shouted “no” after reading that, I recommend you save yourself some time and close this window now. Otherwise, you’re about to be subjected to the best win-total bet from each division.
Coming off an 89-win campaign, which saw them reach the ALCS for a second straight season, the Blue Jays lost their prized DH Edwin Encarnacion in free agency. The departure of their 127 RBI man is the main cause for their lowered win total. Toronto did bring in Kendrys Morales to help fill the void, but I don’t foresee him filling Edwin’s big shoes.
But do the Jays need Morales to be Edwin’s equal? No. Toronto has former MVP Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, and a now healthy Jose Bautista to help out. This is still a very powerful lineup. As strange as it sounds, though, the bats are not Toronto’s strength anymore.
The Jays possess arguably a top-five rotation in the majors, and maybe the second-best in the AL. Aaron Sanchez is growing into one of the most dominant starters in baseball; Marco Estrada has become lethal over the past two seasons with his change-up; JA Happ has become a reliable lefty; Francisco Liriano looked similar to his 2013-self after being reunited with Russell Martin; and Marcus Stroman has shown flashes of brilliance. The only concern is Toronto’s lack of bullpen depth. But I foresee John Gibbons finding a way to make it work.
Last year, the Twins won 59 games. Can someone give me a logical explanation as to why they will be 27 games better this year? Sure, they have a promising young core, a reliable 2B in Brian Dozier, and an aging Ervin Santana. But they had all that last year, too. Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, and the youngsters in the outfield project to be good players one day, but it’ll take some time and growing pains in the bigs before they get there.
I understand that other teams in the Central are starting to rebuild, but the Twins are still in a rebuild themselves. It’s likely Minnesota will trade Dozier at some point this season, and their pitchers will suffer for at least one more year.
Last season, the Angels suffered through their worst season since 1999, only recording 74 wins. In spite of the terrible season for the team, Mike Trout (.315 BA; 29 HRs; 100 RBIs) still won AL MVP. Trout wasn’t the only player who had a nice individual season, as Albert Pujols continues to slug into his late-30s. The 37-year-old drove in 119 runs last year and had 31 home runs. So how did the Angels lose 88 games with that kind of offensive production? Glad you asked. Only two other players batted in 45-plus runs, while Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs combined to start just 16 games.
Richards and Skaggs are both expected to be healthy come opening day. They will join Matt Shoemaker and Ricky Nolasco, whom LA acquired from the Twins last season, to form a decent one-through-four in the Angel rotation. The additions of Danny Espinosa and Luis Valbuena will also boost the defense. As for the offense, if newly acquired LF Cameron Maybin can stay healthy, Trout and Pujols will have more opportunities at the plate with runners on.
I’m not pumping the Angels to get into the playoffs, but with this many talented players, they will at least be back in the hunt.
This one will be pretty quick. I understand the concerns over the Mets not making any major additions in the offseason, but they didn’t need to. This is a team that won 87 games with Jacob deGrom missing a month and Matt Harvey only pitching about half the season. The loss of Bartolo Colon will hurt the back-end of New York’s rotation, but that becomes less significant when the front-end is this dominant.
The Mets added Jay Bruce at the trade deadline last season, hoping to bolster their offense. The former Red was rather ineffective at the plate. Don’t expect that to be the case this season. NY’s offense will also receive a boost from having Jose Reyes at 3B. While he may not be a .300 hitter anymore, he will still hit a reasonable .270. More base runners will result in more RBIs for Yoenis Cespedes.
After a 78-83-1 season (yep, that’s a tie), the Pirates are stuck in a horrible limbo; they’re not going for it, but also not selling off their trade chips. Pittsburgh spent all offseason mulling whether they should trade 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen and fold their 2017 hand, or acquire White Sox lefty Jose Quintana and push their chips all-in. In the end, they did neither, instead opting to pay the ante and see what the flop shows.
Here’s the cold, hard truth the Pirates are about to learn: McCutchen isn’t good enough to carry an offense anymore, and their pitching staff is mediocre at best. When things don’t start well for Pittsburgh, look for them to make a move quick.
Yes, Zack Greinke struggled last season. But even if he recorded Cy Young numbers, the Diamondbacks still would not have been a competitive team when Greinke was not on the mound. Outside of Paul Goldschmidt and the blossoming trio of Yasmany Tomas, Brandon Drury, and Jake Lamb, the rest of the D-Back roster is lacking.
Arizona added to their rotation this offseason by signing former Mariner Taijuan Walker. A front-end featuring Greinke and Walker is very respectable. I can’t say the same about the back-end, though. Robbie Ray, Shelby Miller, and Patrick Corbin don’t inspire a lot of confidence in anyone but the guy at the plate.
I won’t dispute that the Diamondbacks got better this offseason. They will continue to improve each offseason as their promising young players gain experience. But Arizona did not get ten games better than last year.
Photo Credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].
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