Once again, baseball season is upon us, which means I throw myself into the wood chipper in the name of making predictions. One of my best friends enjoys reading my predictions, and last year he loved bringing up my prediction of the Twins winning the AL Central as being one of the worst of all time (and it was well-deserved, too). I knew by late April last year I would wear egg on my face on that one.
So naturally, I'm heading back to the well for another round of predictions that will make me look silly in retrospect.
1. Five shortstops will have 20/20 seasons. Specifically, I mean Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Jonathan Villar, and Tim Anderson. The last time we even had one shortstop with a 20/20 season was Ian Desmond in 2014, so this kind of offensive performance from the position hasn't been seen in quite some time. The best part of this group is that they are all still very young with tons of upside, so they will only continue to get better in future years.
2. Cody Sedlock and/or Keegan Akin will make their ML-debuts with the Baltimore Orioles this season. Chris Tillman has me very worried as an Orioles fan for this season. As of this writing he is expected to miss the first month of the season, and the Orioles are crossing their fingers over him pitching effectively at all this season.
So even if Tillman were fully healthy, I would still expect at least one of Sedlock or Akin to make his debut this year (mostly because Kevin Gausman made his debut the year after he was drafted by the Orioles as well). However, given the huge question marks surrounding the back end of the Orioles' rotation for at least the start of the season, there is almost no question in my mind at least one of their top two pitching prospects will be called up by August.
3. The Chicago White Sox will be one of the most improved teams in baseball over last year. When a team finally pulls a trigger and trades away their premiere player in order to rebuild, it typically takes a couple years for the team to regroup with young talent. The White Sox traded Chris Sale to Boston back in December, and they may still trade Jose Quintana, too. Despite making deals with their top trade targets, their young talent - starting with the aforementioned Tim Anderson - will give White Sox fans plenty to be excited about this season. I don't expect them to quite make the playoffs, a la the 2012 Orioles or 2015 Astros, but they will show they are ahead of schedule in competing in the AL Central.
4. The New York Mets will be one of the biggest disappointing teams from last season. Just as there are teams who make surprise surges, there are teams who fall backwards. The Mets have arguably the best rotation in all of baseball, but their offense is soft and their defense is even softer (especially their outfield.....yuck). They just don't have enough pitching to keep themselves in contention with the Nationals in the NL East, and the Marlins will be on their heels because....
5. Christian Yelich will top 30 home runs for the first time in his career. Yelich broke out last year, and his power will really show off this year for the Marlins. Miami has collectively one of the better outfields in baseball, and Yelich will become one of the best overall young outfielders in baseball.
6. The Houston Astros will score the most runs in baseball this season. The Red Sox and Cubs both have incredibly potent offenses to name a couple examples, but the Astros will outscore them both this season. Additions to their lineup like Josh Reddick and ageless-wonder Carlos Beltran will add some serious pop, coupled with their young infield stars in Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. Their primary issue is their starting pitching, and Dallas Keuchel alone can't carry their rotation, even if he does return to his 2015 form.
7. Anthony Rizzo and Francisco Lindor will win the league MVPs. Rizzo has consistently been one of the most productive first basemen in baseball over the last few years. He was one of the leading MVP candidates last year if not for his teammate Kris Bryant winning it. Bryant will hav another amazing year this year, but it will be Rizzo's turn in the limelight.
Meanwhile, I already said Lindor will have a 20/20 year at shortstop, but his offensive output will be superior to the likes of Bogaerts and Correa in the AL. His Gold Glove-caliber defense will be the deciding factor, making him one of the most exciting players in all of baseball to watch.
8. Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman will win the Cy Young Awards. Maybe it's just me, but Bumgarner somehow flies under the radar among the list of great pitchers in the NL. Most names on that list include the likes of Kershaw, Syndergaard, Arrieta, Lester, and Scherzer, and yet Bumgarner is left as one of those "Oh yeah, I forgot about him" guys. He will have his year in 2017.
As for Stroman, I see the Blue Jays taking a fairly big step backward without Edgar Encarnacion in their lineup and Jose Bautista steadily declining. Regardless, Stroman will have a huge year of his own and keep Toronto in the hunt for the playoffs.
9. The Cleveland Indians will defeat the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. The Indians came oh so close to pulling off one of the greatest upsets in World Series history last year. Unfortunately, the Cubs would not be denied ending their drought of championships. Cleveland fans will finally get to celebrate after having to wait for another year. Adding Edgar Encarnacion will add major power in the middle of their lineup, and their starting pitching will be one of the best in the AL once again.