This article is essentially the follow up to my 10 bold predictions of 2016. In this article, I'm specifically looking at which MLB teams I project to win in 2016. While this doesn't necessarily have the 'fantasy' spin to it, it's just fun to do and an exercise I look forward to every year as a true baseball fan.
American League: Overall, I think the American league is very tough to predict this year. There is a ton of evenly spread out talent with very few elite / poor teams. I could probably make an argument for 10 of the 15 teams to make the playoffs, and out of those 10 a good 5 that have a shot to go to the World Series. That said, here are my 5 projected playoff teams:
AL East - Boston Red Sox: Some may call this a homer pick (I'm a big Sox fan), but there is logic behind this as well. Their off-season addressed a few issues and the Kimbrel and Price additions were big. The recent decisions to play Shaw and Holt over Sandoval and Castillo indicate that they value winning over justifying bad contracts. They are also usually aggressive at the trade deadline, and with talks already between them and the Padres to get Shields, I'm confident they would make a move for another SP (which they need) if they are in the race.
AL Central - Chicago White Sox: This is probably my biggest 'surprise’ pick, and this division was by far the toughest to choose. To me, they are the most well rounded team in the division. The Royals lost too much pitching, and while their bats are still strong, I don't see them repeating again. Similarly, I love the Tiger’s offence, but think their pitching isn't going to be able to keep them afloat. I love the Indians pitching, but their offense if terrible. The twins just stink. I see this everyone in division beating each other up and the winner being the team with the least wins of all 6 division winners.
AL West - Houston Astros: I like the Astros a lot this year. I expect them to pick up where they left off last year, but with more experience and hungry to win. Most of the pieces of last year's team are back with a nice addition of Ken Giles. If McCullers comes back and is healthy, I think they win this division easily.
AL Wild Cards: Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners: I think the Blue Jays could win the east bumping the Red Sox here, but I'm reasonable confident they will both make the playoffs. Seattle was another gamble for me, but I think this is the year a lot of things come together for them. Their pitching is 5 deep and Karns (Seattle's #5) could be a #3 of a number of other clubs. Their offense is solid as well and they remind me of the White Sox; well rounded.
National League: The national league was also tough but for very different reasons. In the NL, there are 6 - 7 really good teams and another 5 - 6 really bad teams. The tough part is figuring which of the good teams survive the regular season.
NL East - Washington Nationals: This was a tough pick, and I think the Mets could just as easily win. Both teams have a similar construct, with elite starters and a solid lineup. I'd rather have the Natonals Ace (Scherzer) and slugger (Harper) over anyone the Mets has, and that gives them the slight edge for me.
NL Central - Chicago Cubs: I think they are just the strongest team in the division. The front office has done a great job building their roster with big bats as well as stud pitching. They may end up being the only 100 win team in baseball this year.
NL West - San Francisco Giants: Every other year right? Seriously though, I love the additions they made to their pitching staff with Cueto and Shark. Madbum is still the team's ace and they have a perennial MVP candidate in Posey. Couple that with the young talent like Duffy and Panik who I expect to both play big roles this year, and it's recipe for success.
NL Wild Cards: New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals: It was so tough to choose who to leave out. I think the Dodgers and Pirates could both end up with 86-90 wins and conceivably miss the playoffs. There are just so make terrible teams in the NL, all of the good teams will feast off of them. The I just feel the Mets and Cards are stronger and more well-rounded than their competition and sneak in.
World Series: Now that we have out 10 teams, who makes it??? More importantly, who wins it? To me, this was easier than selecting the 10 playoff teams. While there are a lot of good teams this year, I think two are a cut above the rest. I've played out a number of scenarios but I keep coming up with the same winners: Cubs over the Astros in 7
The Cubs and Astros respectively are really built to win. Neither has a glaring weakness (other than a curse) and with the taste of playoff failure fresh from 2015, should have even more motivation to win now.
Now that I've put the hex on all of these teams, the Twins and Rockies fans can thank me for all of their victories.