2017 MLB Preview

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2017 MLB Preview

Carson Field, Sports Editor

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The MLB regular season kicks off Sunday with a tripleheader of games. The Cubs look to have a hot start to their title defense, as they play in one of the three games on Sunday against their rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. They may be the favorite to win the 2017 World Series, but there will likely be tough competition in their way.

AL East

The American League East was stacked (except the Rays) in 2016, as three teams from the division made the playoffs. The Red Sox were division champs last year, and it is likely that they will repeat as AL East Champions in 2017. The Red Sox’s starting lineup is stacked and loaded with star players such as Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Dustin Pedroia. They also have other players in their starting lineup, such as Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon, who are expected to be the next big stars for the Sox. They also have a strong rotation loaded by the addition of Chris Sale, plus Drew Pomeranz and Rick Porcello, who were great last year. While I expect the Sox to win the division, I also see the Blue Jays contending for a wild card berth. They are once again led by the deadly trio of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki, who were a big part of their playoff run last year. The Orioles may also compete for a wild card spot with their solid lineup, but they don’t have the rotation to compete with the Red Sox. I expect the Yankees and Rays to be relatively far from the pack this season.

Projected Champion: Boston Red Sox

AL Central

The Indians won both the AL Central and AL Pennant in 2016, and they have a chance to do both of those things again this year. Despite falling to the Cubs in the World Series, the Indians return nearly all of their key players and added star designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who knocked 42 out of the park last year. With the Tribe’s star-studded rotation, led by Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar, could help lead the Indians to possibly the best record in the MLB. While I predict that the Tribe will be one of the best teams in baseball this year, I expect the Royals and Tigers to at least hang in the division race. The Royals were disappointing last year, after winning the 2015 World Series, but they should bounce back this season and compete for a wild card spot and possibly for the division. The Royals are still young and they increased their bats this offseason by trading for right fielder Jorge Soler, who should be strong at the plate and in the field. The Tigers were second in the division last season, but could never make a run at the division title. Their combination of veteran fielders, a strong rotation and young prospects could help put them in the hunt for a playoff spot again. The other two teams in the division, the White Sox and Twins, will struggle and finish fourth and fifth in the division.

Projected Champion: Cleveland Indians

AL West

Despite being preseason favorites to win the division, the Astros struggled last season, finishing third in the AL West and allowing the Rangers to win the division for the second year in a row. However, the Astros made plenty of interesting offseason additions, including Josh Reddick, Brian McCann, Nori Aoki and others. The Astros already have several young stars, including Jose Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel, who will help lead them over other teams in the division. The Rangers, who have won the division the past two seasons, will have a down season compared to their recent success. The Rangers lost three of their key players, Mitch Moreland, Ian Desmond and Prince Fielder, who were all valuable bats in their lineup the last few seasons. While they still may compete for a wild card spot, I don’t see them as division champs. The division is relatively deep, as the Mariners and Angels also have chances to make the playoffs. The Mariners added key pieces in Jean Segura, Jarrod Dyson and Yovani Gallardo, who will help increase the chances of the M’s making the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The Angels also had a solid offseason, as they added minor veteran pieces such as Cameron Maybin and Ben Revere to help go along with some of the team’s youngsters. The Angels will be one of four teams from the AL West who will compete for playoff berths (sorry A’s fans).

Projected Champion: Houston Astros

NL East

The NL East was dominated by the Nationals in 2016, and they will look to once again be division champs this season, but don’t look past the Mets to give them some trouble this year. The Nationals have a lot of star power this year at pitcher with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and they also retained plenty of batting power in Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth and more. The Mets also have a strong team with Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda in the lineup, but it is their pitching that makes them an above average team. Often regarded as the best in the MLB, the Mets’ rotation features Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob DeGrom, who are all some of the best young pitchers in baseball. While the NL East may feature two of the best teams in baseball at the top, the bottom of the division may be weaker than any other. The Phillies will likely finish third in the East because of their solid pitching and young, fresh lineup. The Marlins, devastated by the loss of star pitcher Jose Fernandez (rest in peace),will struggle with their rotation, but will win around 80 games because of their sluggers in Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon. The Braves have no hope for this season.

Projected Champion: New York Mets

NL Central

The world champion Cubs dominated the NL Central in 2016, and they will do so again this season. The Cubs do not have Dexter Fowler anymore, but they still have arguably the most stacked roster in baseball and added a star closer in the offseason in Wade Davis. If the Cubs win less than 100 games, they should be ashamed of themselves. The Cardinals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010 last year, but this should be a good bounce back year for them, assuming they stay healthy. Unfortunately for them, they are in the best division in baseball, so their chances to win the division title are slim. Pittsburgh was also irrelevant last year, and with this strong of a division, I don’t see them returning to relevance. They have a chance at a wild card spot with their veteran depth, but it is not likely with how good the NL is. The Brewers and Reds will likely be the cellar-dwellars of division again. The Brewers are too young to have a chance at the playoffs this season, but two or three seasons down the road, they could be serious contenders. The Reds, on the other hand, are downright awful.

Projected Champion: Chicago Cubs

NL West

The Dodgers, thanks to a late season collapse by the Giants, won the NL West last season. The Dodgers will once again have a good chance to win the division because of their stacked rotation and lineup, but they likely won’t win the division with ease. The Giants are serious contenders this year, as they return one of the most loaded rosters in the MLB. Their rotation includes Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore and Matt Cain, who are all well above average pitchers. While the Giants and Dodgers are the teams most likely to make playoff runs, the Diamondbacks and Rockies both have chances to surprise fans this year. Last season was a dumpster fire for the D-Backs, as Shelby Miller was awful and A.J. Pollock was out for the year. However, Miller can’t get much worse than last year and Pollock will be healthy for opening day, showing signs of life for this young Arizona team. Not to mention, they also have players named Zack Greinke and Paul Goldschmidt, who aren’t bad, you could say. The Rockies had a good start to 2016, as they were in the hunt for a playoff spot most of the year. Their season derailed with an injury to rookie sensation Trevor Story, who will be thirsty for redemption in 2017. The other team in the NL West, the San Diego Padres, is rebuilding, and they are well aware of it.

Projected Champion: San Francisco Giants

Projected Standings (bold means playoff team)

AL East

Boston Red Sox

Toronto Blue Jays

Baltimore Orioles

Tampa Bay Rays

New York Yankees

AL Central

Cleveland Indians

Kansas City Royals

Detroit Tigers

Chicago White Sox

Minnesota Twins

AL West

Houston Astros

Seattle Mariners

Los Angeles Angels

Texas Rangers

Oakland Athletics

NL East

New York Mets

Washington Nationals

Philadelphia Phillies

Miami Marlins

Atlanta Braves

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

St. Louis Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates

Milwaukee Brewers

Cincinnati Reds

NL West

San Francisco Giants

Los Angeles Dodgers

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

San Diego Padres

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