Sports & Swag’s MLB Preview 2017: After 108 years, the Chicago Cubs finally won another World Series. The Cubbies were dominant in doing so, posting 103 wins in the regular season, and beating out the second-place St. Louis Cardinals by 17.5 games in the NL Central. But, can they do it again this season when everyone expects them to win it all again?
How about the Cleveland Indians, who added Edwin Encarnacion to give them more punch in the middle of their lineup. Can they hold off Terry Franconia’s old team, the Boston Red Sox? The Red Sox are loaded and will be a very tough out.
No matter who ends up in the Fall Classic, this season shapes up to be one of the most competitive ever.
Opening Day is upon us, and with that, so is the Sportsandswag.com MLB Preview 2017. We’ll start by taking a look at the National League and those World Series champion Cubs…..
NATIONAL LEAGUE PREVIEW
NL Central (In order of finish)
The CUBS are the definitive favorites to repeat as division champs, and to win it all again this season. The Cubs did lose centerfielder, Dexter Fowler. But, they’re hoping Albert Amora is ready to take over. Pitching should be fine with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta leading the way. They will need to identify a closer after renting and returning Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees………. If anyone can derail Chicago in the central it’s the CARDINALS. But, they have to prove they can win at home after going only 38-43 at home last season. Fowler, whom they received in free agency from the Cubs, should stabilize the top of the order. The big question is Adam Wainright. If, he’s ok the rotation should be solid with Carlos Martinez.
In Pittsburgh, the PIRATES could be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. How they start the season will determine that. Andrew McCutcheon could be the man out if they are indeed sellers……… For the REDS and BREWERS it’s all about finding bats to surround their big boppers in the middle of the lineup and trying to find a enough pitching. Joey Votto, and Ryan Braun had great seasons in 2016, but teams may pitch around them more this season. Cincy, could be a surprising contender for a wildcard spot if their young bats and arms come together quickly.
NL East (Order of finish)
To say, 2016 was a subpar season for Bryce Harper for the NATIONALS would be a massive understatement. It just doesn’t seem logical that he repeat batting .243 with only 24 homeruns. Look for much bigger numbers. Nats pitching rotation could be really good depending on the health of Stephen Strausburg………. The METS have all their arms back. Noah Syndergaard has a shot at the Cy Young, if healthy. Matt Harvey, and Jacob DeGrom back to the form we saw from them in 2015, the Mets could easily win this division and compete against anyone. Of course, the Mets will have to find a little more offense. That means David Wright has to be close to right, himself………. The Miami MARLINS can be quite dangerous also, if they stay healthy. Giancarlo Stanton, hopes his injury problems are a thing of the past.
The BRAVES open Suntrust Park, which will be highly anticipated. Ironically, they’ll have an infusion of older players in their lineup to go with that new park. Veterans, Brandon Phillips, and Matt Kemp join Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis in the middle of that Atlanta order. Bartolo Colon, and R.A. Dickey join the pitching staff. Should be interesting to see how all these old heads mix in with all the youth……… The Philadelphia PHILLIES are one of the youngest teams in the league and are still trying to find their way. They are talented, however and could surprise.
NL West (Order of finish)
It’s mighty hard to imagine this division coming down to anyone but the DODGERS and GIANTS. Both teams, of course, have Cy Young candidates in Clayton Kershaw for the L.A. and Madison Bumgarner for San Fran. Both teams also have potent enough offenses to supplement that pitching. The Dodgers might have a slight edge with a bit more rounded out everyday lineup. Nonetheless, both teams are serious World Series threats. The Dodgers fell just short last season against the Cubs.
The Colorado ROCKIES are a team that should be improved. It just may not show in their won/loss record. There are plenty of booming bats in that lineup, led by Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, and Trevor Story. The Rockies also picked up Ian Desmond. So, expect plenty of runs at Coors Field. Question is can they get anyone out……Any team that has Paul Goldschmidt and Zach Greinke on it’s roster can be dangerous. That is, if the DIAMONDBACKS can get help for them from complimentary players and the rest of their rotation……… The PADRES are in complete rebuild mode in San Diego. Chargers are gone, and outlook for Padres isn’t good. But, at least the weather is still great in San Diego.
Cardinals over Giants
Cubs over Cardinals
Dodgers over Nationals
Cubs over Dodgers
MVP: Bryce Harper (Nationals)
Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
Most Improved Player: Randal Grichuk (Cardinals)
AMERICAN LEAGUE PREVIEW
AL Central (Order of Finish)
4. WHITE SOX
The Cleveland INDIANS and Chicago Cubs played one of the best World Series ever. The Tribe was so close, yet so far in that seven game series, that needed extra innings in Game 7 to decide the champion. Don’t look for the Indians to fade away. Corey Kluber is a big time Cy Young candidate, and proved to be dominant in the 2016 playoffs. Adding Edwin Encarnacion from Toronto to the middle of the lineup should be huge, and fills a need from last season……….. It’s hard to ever count out Miguel Cabrera and the TIGERS. But, Miggy isn’t quite the player he used to be. Still, with Justin Verlander and some decent arms throughout the staff, Detroit should contend for at least the wildcard.
The ROYALS are in much the same boat as the Pirates. They could be sellers at the trade deadline, namely of Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer, whom they could lose in free agency. A bad start will make things interesting in Kansas City………. On the south side of Chicago, there is no Chris Sale, or Adam Eaton in the rotation. Just a lot of new prospects to strengthen the WHITE SOX organization. The future is bright for the Sox……….The TWINS can’t be much worse (59-103) than they were last season….can they? Probably not, but don’t expect a huge improvement.
AL East (Order of finish)
1. RED SOX
3. BLUE JAYS
With Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello at the top of their pitching rotation, the RED SOX look like the team to beat. Maybe, not just in the AL East, but maybe in the American League period. They still have an MVP caliber outfielder in Mookie Betts, and they have plenty of bats around him. Hanley Ramirez, and Jackie Bradley Jr. just to name a few. The ORIOLES are once again one of the more intriguing teams in baseball. Manny Machado is back for another MVP run. The O’s have plenty of punch around him as well, with Chris Davis and Adam Jones. The question is can any of their starters get anyone out? Their saving grace could be that bulllpen that was the best in the majors last season.
The BLUE JAYS lost Edwin Encarnacion in the middle of their lineup to Cleveland. But, Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson can still hit the ball a long way. Replacing R.A. Dickey in their rotation will be interesting, but J.A. Happ and company are certainly capable. Lookout for Marcus Stroman as the fourth starter. In New York, pitching seems to still be a major issue. Especially, starting pitching. Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia are decent, but that’s about it. Offensively, the YANKEES will rely on new first baseman Greg Bird to replace Mark Texeira. Also, Matt Holliday will split time between outfield and DH duties. The Tampa Bay RAYS are hoping for better fortunes in 2017, but with little around third baseman Evan Longoria, their outlook isn’t very good.
AL West (Order of finish)
Arguing that the AL West is the best division in baseball isn’t very hard. The possibility is definitely there that the RANGERS, ASTROS, and MARINERS could all make the playoffs. Texas is still pretty loaded offensively. However, the pitching rotation is a bit of a question mark behind Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. Houston is loaded offensively top to bottom. But, can Dallas Keuchel return to the all-star form we saw from him a couple of seasons ago. Seattle, probably has the best ace in the division, in ‘King’ Felix Hernandez. The bats aren’t bad with Robinson Cano and company. Don’t be surprised if Seattle breaks their long playoff drought..
Can Mike Trout win AL MVP on a team that finishes 4th in it’s division. Probably not. But, look for Trout to Luke what he is…… The best player in baseball. The ANGELS just don’t have quite enough around. The A’s look to struggle as well. Looking at the lineup it’s hard to find where they score many runs. And, a the pitching staff which had a 4.84 ERA last season isn’t much better either. Get ready for a long summer by the bay.
Astros over Orioles
Indians over Astros
Red Sox over Rangers
Indians over Red Sox
MVP: Jose Altuve (Astros)
Cy Young: Corey Kluber (Indians)
Most Improved Player: Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays)
WORLD SERIES PREDICTION
INDIANS over Cubs
After, a great regular season and beating the team he managed several years back, the Boston Red Sox, in the American League Championship Series, Terry Francona leads Cleveland back to the World Series. This time around, the Indians finish the job and beat the Cubs in another classic series.