Following a historic 2016 season, the start to the 2017 MLB season has begun. Capped off by a thrilling game seven extra innings victory by the Cubs, the franchise’s first World Series Championship since 1908, the hype of 2016 has carried over as excitement into the start of the 2017 season. While free agency was pretty weak compared to most years, the trade market saw several stars change teams.
While it will take a while to get used of seeing the Cubs as elite, they have a legitimate chance to begin building a dynasty in Wrigleyville.
Chicago White Sox – 2016 record: 78-84. 2017 prediction: 68-94. Following another disappointing season, the White Sox decided to trade off some assets, launching Chicago’s farm system from one of the worst to a top-5 unit. Look to see some of these young prospects rise to the majors throughout the season, as well as the possible trades of Jose Quintana and others.
Cleveland Indians – 2016 record: 94-67. 2017 prediction: 96-66. After coming within a couple runs of a World Series Championship, the Indians brought in slugger Edwin Encarnacion. Combined with healthy returners Carlos Carrasco and Michael Brantley as well as stars Francisco Lindor and Corey Kluber, this team has a strong chance to repeat as AL Champions.
Detroit Tigers – 2016 record: 86-75. 2017 prediction: 79-83.In spite of their aging core and disappointing results, the Tigers decided to give this group one more shot. Their success depends, as usual, on the performance of aging stars Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera.
Kansas City Royals – 2016 record: 81-81. 2017 prediction: 75-87. With several stars in the last year of their deals and an inability to re-sign all of them, the Royals are hoping this core has a bit more magic left from their two AL pennant runs. The tragic death of star pitcher Yordano Ventura over the offseason leaves a gaping hole in their starting rotation.
Minnesota Twins – 2016 record: 59-103. 2017 prediction: 68-94. The Twins followed up their surprisingly-strong 2015 season with an absolute thud. With the most losses of any team by nine games, the Twins have a lot of work to do if they wish to rise back into the top half of the league.
Baltimore Orioles – 2016 record: 89-73. 2017 prediction: 82-80. Once again fielding a weak starting rotation, the Orioles will depend more heavily than ever on their star trio of Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Adam Jones. Competing in a strong division, Baltimore will struggle to keep pace with the division leaders.
Boston Red Sox – 2016 record: 93-69. 2017 prediction: 98-64. Though they will be playing without legend David Ortiz for the first time in 15 years, Boston has an incredible amount of talent on their roster. Adding Chris Sale to an already-strong rotation and the continued growth of young stars Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. will help vault this team to the top of the AL.
New York Yankees – 2016 record: 84-78. 2017 prediction: 85-77. Last season, the Yankees sent two star relievers elsewhere in return for some of the top prospects in all of baseball. Though they were expected to tank the rest of the season, the Yankees were carried by the strong play by some young talent who will be joined by more prospects this year.
Tampa Bay Rays – 2016 record: 68-94. 2017 prediction: 71-91. Though the Rays struggled last season, they decided not to trade away longtime cornerstone Evan Longoria, instead adding some buy-low candidates to their roster. New young prospect Jose De Leon could develop into the next young pitching star for this squad.
Toronto Blue Jays – 2016 record: 89-73. 2017 prediction: 88-74. The departure of star slugger Edwin Encarnacion leaves a large hole in the middle of their batting order. With strong seasons from young pitchers Marco Estrada, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, however, this team could be in the ALCS once again.
Houston Astros – 2016 record: 84-78. 2017 prediction: 89-73. Following up his Cy Young season, Dallas Keuchel struggled last season, as the whole rotation failed to live up to early expectations. With the addition of veterans Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick, this team could live up to the 2014 prediction by Sports Illustrated of winning the 2017 World Series.
Los Angeles Angels – 2016 record: 74-88. 2017 prediction: 80-82. In spite of the fact that they have one of the greatest young players of all time, the Angels have failed to surround Mike Trout with enough talent to bring him to his second playoff appearance. The Angels hope that they have added enough to give Trout the help he needs to lead the team back to the playoffs.
Oakland Athletics – 2016 record: 69-93. 2017 prediction: 64-98. Oakland has suffered from a dearth of talent over the past couple of seasons and this year seems to be no different. Though they have some talented pieces in the minor leagues, it is hard to see any way for Oakland to contend for a playoff spot this season.
Seattle Mariners – 2016 record: 86-76. 2017 prediction: 86-76. The Mariners were just short of reaching the playoffs for the first time in over 15 years. A slumping season from star Felix Hernandez hurt, though they should expect him to come back stronger this season. Featuring a strong offensive unit, the Mariners have a chance at clinching a long-awaited playoff berth.
Texas Rangers – 2016 record: 95-67. 2017 prediction: 87-75. Last season, the Rangers exceeded expectations en route to a 95 win season. This season, they should fall back to earth a bit, struggling to find consistency behind Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish in the starting rotation. Adrian Beltre is a year older and the prospects that were meant to step up for Texas have disappointed to date.
Chicago Cubs – 2016 record: 103-58. 2017 prediction: 99-63.Though they are slated for a slight regression in the win column, the Cubs should be even better than last year’s curse breakers. Manager Joe Maddon understands that some of his stars, particularly his pitchers, will need to be rested more often this year in order to ensure that they are ready for another deep playoff run.
Cincinnati Reds – 2016 record: 68-94. 2017 prediction: 66-96. The Reds are in the midst of a rebuilding process, though they have refused to deal cornerstone Joey Votto or star Billy Hamilton for prospects yet. This season will have them waiting for the development of their top prospects in the minors while suffering through another tough year at the top level.
Milwaukee Brewers – 2016 record: 73-89. 2017 prediction: 69-93. Another team in the middle of rebuilding, the Brewers have several intriguing pieces promising to break through into the majors sometime this year. Another interesting storyline for this team will be when they decide to deal star Ryan Braun to a contender.
Pittsburgh Pirates – 2016 record: 78-83. 2017 prediction: 83-79. Following a disappointing 2016 season, the Pirates are hoping that a bounceback season from Andrew McCutchen will lead to a full turnaround. Another reason for optimism is the group of young prospects that will be stepping into bigger roles this season.
St. Louis Cardinals – 2016 record: 86-76. 2017 prediction: 88-74. Adding Dexter Fowler from the rival Cubs will help the Cardinals improve this season, but losing young star Alex Reyes for the season hurts their chances of keeping up with the defending champs. St. Louis will depend on their homegrown contributors as usual to carry them back into the playoffs after missing last season.
Atlanta Braves – 2016 record: 68-93. 2017 prediction: 76-86. The rebuilding process will take another step forward this season, as Dansby Swanson is the favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. Several notable prospects will get their first shots in the big leagues, as the Braves hope to make this the last year below .500 for a while.
Miami Marlins – 2016 record: 79-82. 2017 prediction: 71-91. After the tragic death of star Jose Fernandez at the end of last season, the Marlins are a directionless team devoid of the talent to make a playoff run. Star Giancarlo Stanton will look to stay healthy and smash all season, hoping to spark a run to the playoffs.
New York Mets – 2016 record: 87-75. 2017 prediction: 85-77. Marred by injuries to stars in their rotation a year ago, the Mets were still able to put up a strong record. Hoping to return to the World Series as they did two years ago, the Mets will again be heavily dependent on their rotation and Yoenis Cespedes.
Philadelphia Phillies – 2016 record: 71-91. 2017 prediction: 74-88. Another team in the midst of a rebuild, the Phillies are still a couple years away from contention. This season, however, could be an audition for many of their young players looking to solidify their roles on the team for the future.
Washington Nationals – 2016 record: 95-67. 2017 prediction: 96-66. After a disappointing exit from the playoffs, the Nationals acquired Adam Eaton for a massive package of prospects, hoping he can help spark the top of the batting order. If Bryce Harper returns to his MVP form of 2015 this team will be very hard to beat.
Arizona Diamondbacks – 2016 record: 69-93. 2017 prediction: 73-89. After selling the farm for Shelby Miller and signing Zack Greinke to a record-breaking deal, Arizona imploded last season Hoping for bounceback seasons from the two of them as well as a strong return by star A.J. Pollock, the Diamondbacks still face a difficult road to the playoffs.
Colorado Rockies – 2016 record: 75-87. 2017 prediction: 80-82. 2016 was the same old story for the Rockies, as their powerful offense had to carry a weak starting rotation. Though they added Ian Desmond, the Rockies have not helped out their starting rotation enough to make a push for the playoffs in a strong division.
Los Angeles Dodgers – 2016 record: 91-71. 2017 prediction: 89-73. Though they dealt with many injuries last year, the Dodgers made it to the NLCS and nearly toppled the eventual champion Cubs. With the rise of Julio Urias into the rotation and the return of Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers hope to have enough to finish off the Cubs this season.
San Diego Padres – 2016 record: 68-94. 2017 prediction: 64-98. With a few intriguing prospects expected to spend the year at the big league level, the Padres are hoping this year provides a glimpse into a brighter future. Outfielders Manny Margot and Hunter Renfroe will look to lead the Padres into the future with strong rookie seasons.
San Francisco Giants – 2016 record: 87-75. 2017 prediction: 91-71. After returning to the playoffs last season, the Giants hope their strong rotation will carry them once again this year. Stars Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto will need help from Buster Posey and Hunter Pence in order for the Giants to make up for not winning the World Series in an even year for the first time since 2008.