By: Andrew Nason
Opening day is right around the corner, and while I may come off as a football only nut case, baseball has always been my first, true love. Here are my bold predictions for the 2017 season.
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
AL West: Seattle Mariners
Wildcards: Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers
NL East: Washington Nationals
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
Wildcards: San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals
Wild Card Games: Blue Jays over Tigers, Giants over Cardinals
AL: Red Sox over Blue Jays, Indians over Mariners
NL: Cubs over Giants, Dodgers over Nationals
World Series Matchup: Chicago Cubs vs. Boston Red Sox
World Series Champion: Chicago Cubs
Rookies of the Year
AL: Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox
NL: Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves
These are easy picks, like picking Corey Seager last season. Benintendi is the number one prospect in all of baseball, showing flashes of All-Star level hitting in 34 games last season for the Sox, and Swanson was the number one pick just a few years ago out of Vanderbilt and has the looks of a franchise short stop. Both will get at bats, both will start and play the whole season (barring injuries), so both will have plenty of chances to put up great numbers, make defensive web gems, and help their teams win. Slam dunk picks.
Side note, prior to his injury which required Tommy John surgery, I had Cardinals young starting pitcher Alex Reyes as my pick for the NL.
Cy Young Awards
AL: Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
NL: Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
Sorry, but I refuse to take the easy road and pick Clayton Kershaw. Instead, I’ll take the hard throwing Thor. Syndergaard is coming off a 14-9 season which saw him strike out 208 while posting a 2.60 era. Matt Harvey has been to injury prone of late to be considered the Mets ace, and so now, in his 3rd full season, that honor falls to Syndergaard. I believe he is ready to step up for the Mets as the ace, and will have a breakout season.
The AL on the other hand is a tough call. There isn’t one, two or even 3 guys who are clear cut contenders. Chris Sale is an obvious contender, as he has been every year lately. Corey Kluber and Justin Verlander have both won the award before, and are coming off great seasons. Reigning winner Rick Porcello stunned a lot of people last year, although aside for his win total, his stats weren’t anything special. I don’t like any of them for this year, and so I’m down to two Blue Jays starters, Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman. Sanchez was spectacular last season, going 15-2 with a 3.00 era while Stroman, coming off a torn ACL in 2015, posted a 9-10 record with a 4.37 era, which was significantly lower in the final few months. I want to believe Stroman will return to his better form from 2014, and I think he will, but I will take the hot Sanchez for now, but I will likely want to change this pick very soon.
AL: Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
NL: Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
These guys are both young, face of the franchise corner infielders who hit for both average and power, and both will likely be looking for new contracts at the end of the season. If that doesn’t promise big numbers, then I don’t know what will. Arenado Hit .294 with 41 home runs and 133 RBI’s, while Machado posted a stat line of .294 with 37 dingers and 96 RBI’s, all while hitting 2nd in the lineup most of the season. Both finished outside the top 3 in MVP voting in their respective leagues, possibly leaving the both of them with a chip on their shoulder. Look for these two studs to combine for 80 homers minimum this year.
The Rockies will surprise people this season
The Rockies will get homerun slugging shortstop Trevor Story back from injury, and they also added Ian Desmond to play 1st base. Him, Story, my MVP pick Nolan Arenado, and 2nd basemen DJ LeMahieu form one of the top offensive infields in the majors. Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, and Gerado Parra form a powerful outfield with about 6 homeruns last season. This team will score runs no problem, taking pressure off of their pitching, which is their biggest weakness. Jon Gray looks like the number 1 for this squad, and should improve on his 10-10 2016 with a 4.61 era. If the pitching is average, the Rockies should scare a lot of people.
David Price will return from his spring training injury and return to his All-Star form
The Red Sox signed Price last offseason to be their ace for years to come. Fast forward one year and he might start the year as the number 3 starter, behind reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and newly acquired big fish Chris Sale. I expect this basic demotion to light a fire under Price’s feet, and he will pitch out of his mind to earn back the leagues respect.
Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton will combine to hit 75 homeruns
This prediction implies two things…
Jason Heyward will figure it out at the plate
I thought signing Jason Heyward to the giant contract that they did was a huge mistake for the Cubs last season. Now they won the World Series, so I can’t really knock the signing, but Heyward didn’t exactly do much for them. He hit .230 with 7 homers and 49 RBI’s, while stealing 11 bases. He hit .104 in the playoffs. That’s the guy who signed an 8 year, 184-million-dollar contract coming into the season. The good news for the Cubs was they had Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist, and Kyle Schwarber to play the outfield while Javy Baez took 2nd base for Zobrist. Fowler is gone, so Heyward and the Cubs don’t have a good backup to put out there instead of him, so he is going to have to produce, or be torn apart by the fans. He must hit to survive, and I believe he’ll do just well enough.
Happy Opening Day Everyone. Go Sox