2016 was a fun year in the Major Leagues, and 2017 looks just as promising, with teams wiping the slate clean and battling again for the right to be World Series Champions. As we have seen recently, some teams will improve their play in 2017, while others will drop off for some reason or another, and with many player transactions late in 2016 and throughout the offseason, it seems as a wide open as ever.
Today however, we will discuss 8 teams who are looking better for the 2017 season and 7 that will unfortunately fall off, and have a worse record than they did a season ago. Can the Cubs and Indians make it back to the World Series? Can the Yankees get out of their funk? Read on to find out!
15 St. Louis Cardinals - Improve
It’s almost become inevitable to see the Cardinals in the playoffs come October, with them reaching the NLCS almost every year between 2009 and 2014, but it seems the magic just ran out in 2016. Not to worry though, as the young rotation should continue to develop and improve, and the amazing clutch hitting of the team will no doubt continue. Yes, they lost Matt Holiday to the Yankees, but he was hurt for much of the 2016 season anyway, and they added perhaps the most valuable member of the Chicago Cubs World Series push, Dexter Fowler. Now they have a great lead off hitter to get things going ahead of Matt Carpenter, Matt Adams and Jhonny Pheralta to go with the great bullpen and ever improving rotation. It will be a neck and neck battle with the Cubs until the end, but regardless, the Cardinals should begin another amazing streak of playoff appearances in 2017.
14 Chicago Cubs - Regress
This may come as a shock to some people, but let me start by saying that I do think the Cubs will get back to the World Series, but due to the improvements of the Cardinals and the rest of the top dogs in the National League, their record itself may drop by a few games. The pitching staff remains impressive, but the Cubs have gambled their success on young stars like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez, who are bound to experience some level of drop off soon, which will result in the Cubs not being as dominant as they were in 2016. The staff is also ageing, which may result in players needing to be rested late in the year or sustaining injuries.
13 Seattle Mariners – Improve
Ever since the Mariners inked Robinson Cano to a record deal a few years back, the organization and baseball fans around the world have been expecting them to compete not only for a division title, but for the World Series. For one reason or another, they have struggled year after year, and 2017 looks like the time these ambitions could finally be realized. They have filled their shortstop need and deepened their lineup, and with the pitching the team has, the Astros and Rangers should be very wary of forgetting about the Mariners in the AL West race. After these past few years of hype however, it seems that it’s now or never for Seattle to deliver, especially with the ageing superstars they have in their lineup.
12 Kansas City Royals – Regress
The Kansas City Royals looked primed to make the playoffs for a third straight year in 2016, but the defending World Series Champions struggled throughout the year, and despite a strong push in September, they fell much too short of a playoff berth. It’s hard to pinpoint the struggles of the Royals in 2016, as the team looked primed to play as well as they had the previous 2 years, but injuries and lackluster years seem to explain it. You might think that they can bounce back in 2017, but the AL Central is stronger at the top now with the Indians and Tigers, and the AL as a whole looks tougher than ever, and that will result in the Royals falling further down the totem pole.
11 Colorado Rockies - Improve
Colorado plays in a division which has recently been dominated by the Giants and the Dodgers, so don’t expect to see them contending for a World Championship anytime soon, but their young pitching staff is showing promise, and with the addition of Ian Desmond, I can see them competing late in the year for a Wild Card spot. Yes, their park may be impossible for pitchers to truly dominate in, but with stars like Desmond, the 2016 rookie sensation Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez, they should be able to win plenty of games on the back of this hitting prowess. The bullpen is improved too, and if they can successfully develop players and pull off key trades, it’s easy to see the Rockies finally competing for a playoff spot, if not this year, in the very near future.
10 Los Angeles Dodgers – Regress
Similar to the entry of the Cubs, this is less on the Dodgers themselves and more because of the improvements and competition in their division, which features a Giants and Rockies team who have both improved their personnel from 2016. The starting rotation may be a bit healthier in 2017, but their lineup is ageing, and it is hard to see the bullpen replicating the success they had in 2016, as they were one of the top 3 ‘pens in the entire league. I still see the Dodgers winning the NL West, but with this improved competition and ageing team, they will fall off in some fashion, but with a pitcher like Clayton Kershaw still on the team, they will always have a chance in the regular season and playoffs alike.
9 Atlanta Braves – Improve
There’s no argument that the Braves have been the worst team in baseball for a few years running, but with a few signings and a trade during the 2016 season, it looks like the Braves could be improving in a big way in 2017. After moving on from Andrelton Simmons a year ago, fans were expecting many more years of rebuilding, and while they won’t be competing for a division title anytime soon, they will definitely be improving this year. With the veteran presence of Bartolo Colon and Jaime Garcia, the young pitching staff should improve, and adding a bat like Matt Kemp will help production behind Freddie Freeman. Dansby Swanson is also looking like a star at the shortstop position, so maybe the Braves will ring their new stadium in with a bit more success.
8 Chicago White Sox - Regress
The Chicago White Sox had high hopes for their team heading into the 2016 season, but after an injury plagued year, they have decided to go into selling mode for the near future, parting ways with Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, with rumors that Jose Quintana, David Robertson and more still on the trading block. While they got back many impressive prospects that will help them succeed down the line, it means that their 2017 will be rough for their fans, who will have to sit through more and more rebuilding. The teams around them in the division are improving too, which means that the fans in Chicago not supporting the Cubs will be quite jealous for a few years to come.
7 Houston Astros - Improve
Much like the Cubs in 2015, the Astros shocked everyone by making a run with their young core all the way to the playoffs, and despite losing in the Wild Card round, it was some much needed motivation for an organization who have been dying for success in the last decade. 2016 was definitely back to a struggle, but with key off-season acquisitions and a young impressive core that includes Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer, it’s hard to see them failing again in 2017. They added much needed veteran presence in the form of Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick, and if the pitching staff can regain the form they had in 2015, they will be able to successfully compete in the tough playoff race between them and their interstate rivals.
6 Pittsburgh Pirates - Regress
The Pirates are looking to move on from Andrew McCutchen in 2017, with many trade rumors surrounding him, and they don’t look to be a contender with a struggling lineup and a rotation that hasn’t hit on all cylinders since their 2 straight wild card game appearances. They battled hard throughout 2016, but with Gerrit Cole’s struggles and the lack of star power in the lineup, they fell short of the wild card for another year, and they seem to be in a state of limbo during the 2016 offseason. They resigned Ivan Nova to sure up the rotation, but with the question marks surrounding much of their lineup, it’s hard to see them replicating the success they have had over the past number of seasons.
5 Detroit Tigers - Improve
Despite major struggles back in 2015 which saw them trade away David Price and Yoenis Cespedes, the Tigers came back strong in 2016, and fell just short of a playoff berth. This came on the back of a revitalized Justin Verlander and stellar performances from rookie Michael Fulmer and Jordan Zimmerman. Don’t forget the team also has power from Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez too, and if the young stars they have can improve on impressive 2016 campaigns, this team might surprise some people in the upcoming season. There is a major weakness in the bullpen and lineup depth, but the team will no doubt improve on their record from a season ago, and although this may not result in a playoff berth, they will be in the race again.
4 Baltimore Orioles - Regress
The Baltimore Orioles have looked on the verge of something special for the past few years, but they simply can’t get it done when it matters most, and it has left them wondering what’s next for their organization. With a pedestrian starting rotation and an ageing lineup that has failed to get it done late in the year, it’s hard to see them making the playoffs again in the 2017 season. It’s been said in other entries, but the competition around them has improved immensely too, and having to battle a reinvigorated Yankees team and a stronger Red Sox team will test Baltimore, and unfortunately their record will falter and they won’t reach the playoffs again.
3 New York Mets - Improve
It’s amazing that the Mets were even able to make a brief appearance in the 2016 playoffs, because their pitching staff was completely ravaged with injuries throughout the season, and there were very strong pushes from the Marlins, Pirates and Cardinals late in the year. This year though, if the rotation can stay healthy with young studs Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, they will be a force to be reckoned with in the NL East. Obviously they will have to contend with the Nationals who added Adam Eaton in the offseason, but whether they win the division or a wild card spot, their record will no doubt improve. They also resigned their star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, which will help a young offense that struggled at times throughout 2016.
2 Toronto Blue Jays - Regress
The Toronto Blue Jays have used their power hitting to propel them into the ALCS for two years running, and with the loss of Edwin Encarnacion and the inconsistencies of the remaining players, it’s hard to see them making the playoffs again. The AL East looks to be stronger with the Yankees and the Red Sox both improving in the off season, so while the Jays wait for some of their younger stars to develop, they may miss the playoffs for a year. By saying this however, I don’t think that the Blue Jays will be that bad that they want to sell at the trade deadline, they will still be battling for a playoff spot, but they won’t cruise into the Wild Card slot like they did in 2016.
1 New York Yankees – Improve
There’s no other team in the majors right now who have the superstar potential in the minors that compare to the Yankees, and we saw that in 2016 with Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin and most of all, Gary Sanchez. This might not lead to World Series success in the immediate future, but with the return of Aroldis Chapman and the rise of some of these prospects, we will no doubt see the Yankees competing for a playoff spot again in 2017. They might not be done with moves before the 2017 season either, as they have been linked to a trade that will bring them Jose Quintana and David Robertson. Whether this happens or not, the Yankees are on a definite upswing, and that will begin with the 2017 season.
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