2017 MLB Preview
The 2017 Major League Baseball season is set to open up Sunday with a triple header featuring the Yankees vs. the Rays at 1:10, the Giants at the Diamondbacks at 4:10, and the Cardinals vs. the defending Champion Cubs at Busch Stadium at 8:35 (all times Eastern). Last year was a great year for baseball as a number of young stars stepped forward and asserted their preeminence on the National Stage. Guys like Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Javier Baez, Manny Machado, Marcus Stroman and a number of others stepped up in big roles and put up astounding numbers for their ages. These guys are all 24 or younger and are cornerstones of their respective teams. Bryant and Baez helped the Cubs win the World Series for the first time in almost 100 years. Cleveland, with their star Francisco Lindor, came within one game of its first championship since 1945. Baseball is back and fans everywhere can’t wait until the Monday, the official Opening Day of the 2017 season.
A.L. East- This is probably the most wide open division in baseball in terms of picking a division winner. Most major publications have the Red Sox winning the division, but this is far from a unanimous pick, with most of those picking the Red Sox hedging their pick by mentioning the potential of a rebuilt Yankees roster which brought back Aroldis Chapman, last year’s wild card winner Blue Jays, who lost Edwin Encarnacion to free agency and the always competitive, Buck Showalter led, Baltimore Orioles, all right behind the Sox. The Orioles have what is widely regarded as the best bullpen in the league, a top defense full of Gold Glovers (Manny Machado, Adam Jones, JJ Hardy and future winners Jonathan Schoop and Chris Davis) and the same lineup that led the Majors in home runs last year. The Orioles added versatile outfielder Seth Smith from the Seattle Mariners to an already highly potent offensive juggernaut. The O’s issue once again will be starting pitching. If they get a decent contribution from their rotation this year, they will win the division. Throw in the young and pitching loaded Tampa Bay Rays, and you have the most competitive division in baseball. The consensus is probably right here, the Red-Sox will probably win the division as they are the most balanced team in the division, but don’t be surprised if the Blue Jays or Orioles sneak past them. If the Red Sox do win the division, the O’s and Jays will surely again be the two Wild Card winners out of the AL.
The Central right now is the Cleveland Indians’ to lose. They will not face a serious challenge from anyone except the Detroit Tigers who are coming off a disappointing 2016 season and will look to rebound. The tigers have Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler and Justin Verlander. Verlander had a down year last year and is planning on coming back strong to get back to his Cy Young status. With these guys, it would be foolish to count the Tigers out. Cleveland added Edwin Encarnacion via free agency, inserting him into a lineup that won 94 games last year. His big bat is going to add protection for exciting youngster Francisco Lindor and I would be shocked if Cleveland didn’t win the division again this year. Andrew Miller is unhittable and is the stopper a team needs to close out tight games in the 8th and/or 9th inning. Cleveland is good, really good. Minnesota, Kansas City and Chicago are all going to be looking up at the Tigers and Tribe this year. Cleveland takes it.
The AL West is now a 2-horse division. The Rangers won it last year and had the best record in the league, but the Houston Astros are looking at 2017 as their year and are a trendy pick to win it all this season. I still think their pitching is not strong enough to get them to the playoffs, but they have some very exciting young players whom they acquired through the draft after multiple years of finishing in last place and acquiring high draft picks. They are led by future MVP Carlos Correa, who is one of the toughest outs in the league behind Miguel Cabrera, and pint-sized hit leader Jose Altuve. The Astros need to be watched this year, but I don’t think they can match the Rangers’ starting pitching and the Rangers will again win the division. Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim all will be trolling the depths of the worst records in the league, however Seattle does have Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, who will help them win their share of games. Still, it’s the Rangers division because of the starting pitching.
This division looks like it might end up being one of the weakest in baseball this year. The Mets with their amazing stable of young stud starting pitching, should win the division, but watch out for the Marlins. They have a couple of great young guys in Christian Yelich, who starred for team USA in the WBC and Giancarlo Stanton, the NL homerun leader. In a sad, shocking turn of events, their young Cuban star pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boat crash this winter. Their pitching might not be there to win their division, but they will be competitive. The Nationals have a good team but lose in the playoffs every year. Max Sherzer is older, Bryce Harper can’t handle the clutch and Daniel Murphy is a flash in the pan. The Braves are rebuilding and hoping to cash in next year in free agency and a new ballpark. The Mets take the East.
Not much to say about this division. The Cubs win it. They are too good. The Cardinals will once again come up short to Chicago. The Pirates, Reds and Brewers will battle it out for last place. Look for Ryan Braun of the Brewers to be traded before the July 31st trading deadline. I feel like the Giants have the pitching depth to make a move with the Brewers to acquire the dynamic Braun.
This might be the most competitive division in the majors this year. The Giants and Dodgers are going to battle it out until the end for the division crown. The Giants and Dodgers rotations are so far and away better than Arizona’s and San Diego’s. San Diego will probably have the worst record in baseball this year. Arizona is in shambles after firing Dave Stewart and making some questionable trades. Tony La Russa is in charge here, but he has a lot of work to do to get Arizona back into contention. The Giants have a great team led by Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Brandon Crawford. They came up short against the Cubs last year as the wild card winner. They want revenge and they will have Matt Moore for the whole year this year. They need Jeff Smardzija to step up and if Matt Cain can regain his form, look out for Bruce Bochy and the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw and Kenta Maeda and Rookie of the Year Kyle Seager. They are tough and it will be very exciting watching the battle between the Dodgers and Giants this season.
World Series Champion-
Orioles. This is our year. With the top offense, top defense, and best bullpen, all the Orioles need this year is for Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Chris Tillman to give them quality starts. Wade Miley and Ublado Jiminez are past their primes but are solid Major League pitchers and simply need to keep the ball in the ball park. Buck Showalter is a master at managing a bullpen and a farm system and works with a 40-man roster, picking and plugging in holes to keep the team competitive. Since 2014, no team has won more games than Baltimore, but amazingly, the “experts” have picked them last every year. The Birds don’t pay attention to what anyone else says or predicts and have their minds set on revenge after losing a heartbreaker to the Jays in the one game wild card playoff last year. They are going for the division this year. With any kind of starting pitching, they should win the division and make the playoffs. Like Buck says, all you need is a ticket to the dance. Once the playoffs start, anything can happen.
I hope there are other baseball fans here in Buffalo who are excited for the upcoming season and want to join the conversation. Please join in in the comments with your thoughts on the upcoming season, your predictions and your picks. Please tell me I’m wrong; I would love to talk baseball with other fans here. Who do you think will win the AL East? Who will be the AL Wildcard? Who will lead the league in hitting? Who are your picks for AL and NL MVP? Let me know in the comments and hooray for baseball. A Bisons preview will be upcoming soon, keep an eye out for it in the coming days.
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