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- Boston Red Sox – Benching Pablo Sandoval might be the best move for the Sox with the emergence of Travis Shaw last season. If Hanley Ramirez can play a full season and young studs like Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts can continue to grow and get better (scary, right?) the Red Sox pitching staff led by perennial Cy Young candidate, David Price, and stud closer Craig Kimbrel, should be just good enough to get them 90 wins and a division crown.
- Tampa Bay Rays – No, this isn’t a homer prediction. The Rays are healthy heading into Opening Day – something they weren’t in 2015 and still contended in September with a rookie manager calling the shots in Kevin Cash. They’re rotation led by Chris Archer is among the tops in baseball and they may have added the right offensive pieces in Corey Dickerson, Brad Miller, and Logan Morrison to give them just enough run support to win 85 games and compete for their first post-season appearance since 2013.
- Toronto Blue Jays – Call me crazy. Go ahead. The Blue Jays offense will absolutely be a threat again in 2016. However their rotation isn’t scaring anyone after losing Price to the Red Sox and the only real threat in their bullpen lies at the back end with Brett Cecil and 21-year old Roberto Osuna closing out games. The Jays could still make a push for the post-season, but I don’t see them winning more than 80-85 games in 2016.
- New York Yankees – Mark Teixeira had a freak season in 2015 and only played in 111 games, still managing 31 HRs and 79 RBI while hitting .255, his highest average since 2010. A-Rod had a shocking return last season and will still produce in ’16 and Brian McCann will still crush 95% of his long balls into the short porch in right field. The pitching staff will be what kills New York this season. Sabathia led the team in starts in ’15 and he’s now in the bullpen. If Tanaka and Pineda can’t stay healthy – it will be a struggle to win 80 games this year for the Yanks.
- Baltimore Orioles – There’s so much offense in the East and the Orioles will once again be in the thick of that. However they didn’t do much to help themselves from a pitching perspective and with a rotation that was among the worst in the AL in 2015 and that’s a problem in a division so deadly offensively. Buck and Co might manage 75-80 wins in 2016 and the “hot seat” talks will begin.
- Kansas City Royals – The champs aren’t going anywhere for a long time. KC has as solid and balanced a roster top to bottom as any in baseball and a bullpen that is nearly untouchable. Throw in an offense that gets on base better than anyone in the game and you have a championship-caliber team year in and year out. Look for the Royals to push 100 wins in 2016.
- Cleveland Indians – Finished just 4.5 games out of a playoff spot in ’15 and I truly believe their pitching staff could carry them in 2016 to a Wild Card spot in the post-season. Mike Napoli and Juan Uribe are solid additions to an offense that needed some help and they’ll score just enough runs to win 85-90 games this year.
- Minnesota Twins – Finished just 3 games out of a playoff spot last year mainly because they just couldn’t score enough. Not sure they did enough in the off-season to fix that problem and their mediocre pitching staff from 2015 hasn’t gotten much better, either. Twins take a step back this season and maybe win 80-83 games.
- Detroit Tigers – JD Martinez and Miguel Cabrera can’t carry this team by themselves. Barring a resurgence from once dominate Justin Verlander, the rotation doesn’t have a real ace, either. The Tigers won’t finish last again thanks to the White Sox, but they are still a ways out from contending in a division that’s improving above them. Detroit struggles to win 80 games in 2016.
- Chicago White Sox – Jose Abreu and Chris Sale are huge bright spots for the future of this Chicago team. Carlos Rodon had a very solid rookie campaign in 2015 and looks to follow that up this year as one of the most promising young lefties in the AL. However once you get passed those three – it’s not great in Chi-Town. A 75-win season is probably the best they’re looking at this year.
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The NL Central was the most competitive division in baseball in 2015. There are five teams in this division, but really there are only three. The St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Chicago Cubs all had unprecedented seasons in 2015; the Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers didn’t have a chance. In 2016 I see much of the same.
The Cardinals finished the 2015 season with 100 wins and not to say that they aren’t going to be a contender, but they can’t possibly keep up that pace. The Pirates are once again poised to be at or near the top of the division despite the loss of their first baseman Pedro Alvarez and trading second baseman Neil Walker to the Mets. No doubt that a rotation led by Francisco Liriano and offence that includes Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco will do just fine. I see the Cubs winning the division. They were already solid in their first season with Joe Maddon being the skipper, and adding Jason Heyward to the outfield and ultra utility man Ben Zobrist will only make them better. The NL Wild Card is once again coming from this division.
Prediction: Cubs (94-68), Pirates (92-70), Cardinals (89-73), Reds (81-81), Brewers (75-87).
The AL West is comprised of the Texas Rangers, the Los Angeles of Anaheim, the Seattle Mariners, the Oakland Athletics, and the Houston Astros. This division is the more starved for a championship than any other AL division. They have not captured one since the Angels won the World Series in 2002 and have not been since 2011 when the Rangers lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. This year maybe the year that changes.
2015 was the year of the Astros. Even before switching from National League to American, the Astros had not finished over .500 since 2008 and last year that all changed. Although the Rangers won the division, the Astros went to the wild card game and played well despite losing to the Kansas City Royals. The Rangers are once again looking good with consistent pitching that will only get better when Yu Darvish returns and a strong offence including Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder. The Angels added a few new players to the infield in hopes of supporting the efforts of runner up MVP Mike Trout in the outfield. The Athletics rotation looks questionable, but the offence seems promising.
Prediction: Astros (91-71), Rangers (88-74), Angels (87-75), Athletics (82-80), Mariners (75-87)
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- New York Mets – The reining NL champions look poised to win the division again this year. They improved their infield defense by acquiring Neil Walker to play second base from the Pirates, and signing Asdrubal Cabrera in free agency to play shortstop. They re-signed Yoenis Cespedes to be their main power threat. Their bullpen can compete with the best of them, and let’s not forget they also support the best young starting staff in the game.
- Washington Nationals – The team that was supposed to run away with the NL East last season had an up and down offseason. They lost Ian Desmond, Yunel Escobar, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, Denard Span, and Drew Storen. The Zimmerman loss is going to hurt them more than people give credit for. They signed last year’s post season hero away from the division rival Mets, took a chance on Steven Drew, and received Ben Revere in the Drew Storen trade. They do however have one of the best young talents in the game in Bryce Harper. The back end of their rotation is suspect, and will prevent them from taking the NL East crown.
- Miami Marlins – The Marlins improved this offseason without making any huge moves. They did sign Wei-Yen Chen away from the Orioles and he will hold down the number two rotation spot quite well. They need healthy seasons out of Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton, who could potentially put out the best numbers in the league at their respective positions. Problem is there isn’t to talk about behind Fernandez and Chen. Keep an eye on centerfielder Marcell Ozunawho is a promising prospect at the position.
- Atlanta Braves – The Braves are in the middle of a rebuild, and it shows. It was difficult to choose who would finish 4th and 5th in the NL East since both teams are just not that good. There are some veterans with some skill on this Braves team in Nick Markakis, Jeff Francouer, and Freddy Freeman, but not enough to keep them competitive.
- Philadelphia Phillies – The bottom of the NL East I actually the bottom of baseball. There is a chance the Phillies and Braves become the first two teams to lose 100 or more games in a season in the same division. The Phillies number one starter Jeremy Hellickson is an end of the rotation guy at best. The only player left on the team from when the team was successful is Ryan Howard, and that’s only because no one else wants to take on his contract.
- Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers lost a huge part of their rotation this offseason when Zack Grienke left town and headed to Arizona. They tried to trade for Shelby Miller and Hisashi Iwakuuma and both of those deals fell through. The wound up acquiring Scott Kazmir who may or may not work out depending on what version of Kazmir arrives in LA. They still have pleanty of offense and an enormous amount of outfield depth, and although their pitching depth leaves something to be desired, look for them to edge out the Giants for the division.
- San Francisco Giants – The Giants spent a ton of money on pitching this offseason, and with good merit, as pitching was a weak point of last year’s club. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija join the starting rotation this year, and if Jake Peavy and Matt Cain can revert to any sort of form, the Giants rotation will be scary. Adding Denard Span to the outfield will help bolster the offense. It is an even year; the Giants seem to always win the past few world series on even years so you never know….
- Arizona Diamondbacks – Another team that made a huge splash in the offseason. They acquired Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller completely changing the beginning part of their rotation. Great moves although they gave up some big time prospects for Miller. If it wasn’t for broken elbow injury to A.J. Pollock, the Diamondbacks would have had a solid chance to finish in the mix of the Dodgers and Giants.
- Colorado Rockies – Offense has never been an issue for the Rockies who looked poised to put up some runs this year due in large part to a talented outfield. The problem with the Rockies this year is the same problem they have had for years, no pitching. Also the Jose Reyes situation is a mess and could result in rookie Trevor Story being their starting shortstop for the season.
- San Diego Padres – The Padres are still feeling the effects of their failed spending spree from last offseason. Another team that is rotation starved, their number one starter is 20 games under .500 for his career. If their players could play up to their potential, they could possibly climb out of the cellar, but they are a far way away from contention.
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