Apparently I only write sports predictions on my blog now. Oh well, such is life.
I did such a great job last year - and by "great job," I mean "piss awful" - that I'm keeping things going for another round. I suppose I'm just someone who enjoys setting himself up for failure later.
I have to say, over the last couple years I've grown to become more and more of a baseball guy over football. There are a lot of reasons for this, and probably too complicated for this post. Still, there are few things more exciting in the sports world than Opening Day for baseball. I got two new Orioles jerseys in the mail a couple weeks ago, and I absolutely cannot wait to wear them to OPACY.
With all that said, let's get down to business.
1. The Twins will win the AL Central. This is one of those head-scratching picks that don't make any real rational sense. The Twins finished near the bottom of the AL in hits, batting average and on-base percentage in 2015. Their pitching wasn't that much better either, considering they were very middle-of-the-road in team ERA, earned runs, and strikeouts. Somehow this team won 83 games, despite very mediocre (at best) performances across the board. We're going to finally see what Byron Buxton is like after what has felt like an eternity of him being one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He is the X factor in the AL Central this year, and could be what the Twins need to win a tight race over the defending World Series champion Royals.
2. Manny Machado will be baseball's first 30/30 player since 2012. Manny had his breakout season last year, showing a taste of the power and speed he's capable of. Since the Orioles lack a true leadoff hitter, he's likely to hit either first or second in the lineup again this season. He won't be able to knock in 100+ runs, but he'll still finish well over 30 HRs and be the Orioles' primary stolen base threat once he gets on base.
3. The Dodgers will miss the postseason entirely. The Dodgers' payroll is projected to be a hair under $230 million this season. Let's take a look at where that money is going, shall we?
Clayton Kershaw: $32 million
Adrian Gonzalez: $21 million
Andre Ethier: $18 million
(Okay, nothing too weird there)
Yasiel Sierra: $7 million
Kenta Maeda: $17.4 million
Chase Utley: $7 million
(Maeda is an unknown, but those other two seem overpriced)
Carl Crawford: $21 million
Brett Anderson: $15.8 million (QO)
Brandon McCarthy: $11 million
(WHAT ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH IS GOING ON HERE????)
See what I mean? Anderson is going to miss 3-5 months with back surgery, so that's a great way for a team to flush nearly $16 million down the toilet. If I'm a Dodgers fan, I'm going to be excited having the single best pitcher in the game take the mound every 5 days. But is there really that much to be excited about besides Kershaw? Corey Seager is an early candidate for Rookie of the Year, and it's always fun to watch young talent develop in front of fans' eyes. Aside from that though, this is a team that costs $230 million? At least when the Yankees were spending money like crazy circa 2005/2006, they had All Stars at every position on the field. The Dodgers don't have anything close to that kind of lineup.
Once you factor the Giants and Diamondbacks into the equation, the Dodgers look less and less like a playoff team. They are going to be one of the major disappointments of 2016.
4. The Nationals will sink even further in the NL East. Speaking of huge disappointments, the Nationals were arguably the biggest one last year with the fifth highest payroll, but they barely finished over .500 by season's end and didn't make the playoffs. The locker room was a circus between Matt Williams' incompetence running the team and the drama between Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper. Exit Williams and enter Dusty Baker, but the Nationals are looking weaker overall since they lost more than they had added in the offseason. Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond left via free agency, and they didn't do much at all to replace either of them (unless you want to count Bronson Arroyo and Daniel Murphy). Do the math, and the Nationals won't even finish in second place in the NL East this year.
5. Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta will be the first pair of teammates with 20+ wins since 2002. So much has been said and written elsewhere about how stacked the Cubs are this year that I won't bother directly repeating that jargon. What I will say is that Jake Arrieta will not flame out after winning the NL Cy Young last year, and Jon Lester won't get so much of the tough luck he got in his first year in Chicago. Lester's overall stats last year were pretty solid except for his win/loss record, but he'll win a lot more games this year than he did previously with a much stronger lineup putting runs on the board much more consistently for him this year.
6. Mike Trout will not finish in the top three voting for AL MVP for the first time in his career. This is not to say that Trout will have a down year, even by his standards. It's more about the kind of talent who will be competing against him, namely Manny Machado, reigning MVP Josh Donaldson, and my personal pick for league MVP (see below). Trout is still premiere talent and he won't slow down, but others will step up more.
7. The Red Sox will only be marginally better than they were in 2015. I couldn't believe the number of people who, this time last year, expected the Red Sox to bounce back after a terrible 2014 and compete for the division. My buddy and I agreed they'd be terrible in 2015, particularly because of how awful their starting rotation looked. This time, he and I disagree on what the Red Sox will be like in 2016. He thinks they'll be a whole lot better this time around, but I don't think they'll be that much better. Four of the five pitchers in the rotation are still the equivalent of batting practice, and the combination of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez playing the hot corners of the infield on defense has the potential to be the comedy event of the year. Don't expect much more from the Red Sox beyond what they did last year.
8. Chris Archer and Jacob de Grom will be this year's Cy Young Award winners. Tampa has successfully developed one quality starting pitcher after another for nearly a decade now, and Archer is one of their latest examples. He's finished near the top in the AL in categories such as strikeouts, ERA,and WHIP over the last couple years, and he will continue ascending to the top of premiere pitchers in all of baseball this year. There will be other guys in the mix, including Chris Sale, David Price, Sonny Gray, and Cole Hamels, but Archer will come out on top.
As for de Grom, the Mets will have to give him a hefty raise next year once he is eligible for arbitration. They might even have to find out his asking price for a long term contract extension, since he will be even more expensive after he wins the Cy Young this year. The Mets have the best kind of problem since their entire rotation consists of guys who would be either a #1 or #2 across the league. Still, it's in their best interest to keep de Grom if they can help it.
9. Carlos Correa and Paul Goldschmidt will be this year's MVPs. Correa is the most exciting player to enter the league since Mike Trout - which sounds like he's the most exciting player to enter the league since last week, but Trout is about to enter his fifth season, if you can believe it. His career will really take off this year, as he leads the Astros to an AL West title (and a lot more beyond that, if you cheated and read further down below already). It's very rare for a second-year player to win the MVP, but Dustin Pedtoia did it in 2008, and Trout nearly did it in 2013. Correa will be the latest prodigy to take over the league.
Meanwhile, Paul Goldschmidt has finished in second place in MVP voting in the NL in two of the last three seasons. It's worth noting a rather odd trend in his career so far where his stats dip in even-numbered years, while he blows up in odd-numbered ones. His offensive performance will be more consistent this year, and Goldschmidt will lead the Diamondbacks to the playoffs.
10. The Giants will defeat the Astros in the World Series. I'm honestly not sure if I'm taking chalk or not by picking the Giants to win the World Series this year. On one hand, the Giants have won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014, so the obvious trend would be to take them this year. However, most baseball talking heads and beat writers have been hyping up the Cubs this year, between all the young talent they've got and the big free agent signings of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist. The writers have largely acknowledged the Giants' trend, but then they promptly jump onto the Cubs' bandwagon. So is taking the Giants to win it all again going with chalk or not?
Meanwhile, the AL is more wide open than AT&T Stadium in Dallas with its retractable roof opened up. There are probably at least 10 teams who could reach the World Series, and I really wouldn't be all that surprised. I suppose I'm largely taking the Astros based on them having the reigning Cy Young winner in the AL and their young phenom will be the league MVP this year. It's still a fairly arbitrary pick, but in a fairly evenly matched league, why not the Astros?