The 2016 MLB season is over, and 29 other teams will try to find a way to win the World Series after seeing the Chicago Cubs won their first in 108 years.
As free agency begins, we MLB fans have to wait another 11.5 months to see who wins it all. Even though only one team will win the 2017 World Series, there can be up to five teams who win the next five World Series Championships. We have a good idea of which teams will dominate from 2017-2021. The Chicago Cubs have a great core of young players as well as an elite farm system. Ditto for the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, among others.
This is certainly no easy task, but I took it upon myself to take a look at which teams are built to win now, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Here are my predictions for who'll face off and win the next five World Series Championships.
15 2017 AL Champion: Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays may not have Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista in 2017, but their pitching staff is more than enough to take them to the ALCS, as we saw in 2016.
The Jays owned the best ERA in the American League last year at 3.78. Their starters did their jobs against the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS, but when the offence can't score runs, the pitching goes to waste. The Jays will simply not face a pitching staff that dominant again. It was a once-in-a-lifetime performance from Cleveland.
For the Jays, you figure their bats will show up more like we saw in 2015. Kendrys Morales hits better for average than Encarnacion. Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin are due for bounce-back seasons. Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson also hit extremely well for contact.
And their bullpen won't lose 30-plus games like they did last season. Jason Grilli's back for a full season in Toronto. They'll ride a consistent rotation, bullpen and improved lineup to the World Series. All of the waiting will finally be worth it.
14 2017 NL Champion: Chicago Cubs
Sorry if you were hoping for something more bold here.
But the 2017 Cubs, who won the World Series (by the way) are only entering the early years of what shall be a dynasty. Kris Bryant should be an MVP candidate for years to come, and he's only going to get better. Ditto for Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and others. It's also the Cubs' rotation that'll make them dangerous next season.
The Cubs led the majors with a 3.15 ERA last season. Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks could all be NL Cy Young candidates for next season. Jason Heyward is also due for a bounce-back season after a forgetful 2016 campaign. The Cubs are fortunate to be playing in a weak NL Central (for once) as well as a fairly weak NL. They'll defend their NL pennant.
13 2017 World Series Champion: Toronto Blue Jays
As dominant as the Cubs' rotation was last year, it's natural to expect a bit of a step back. Arrieta looked more like an average no. two starter after his 2015 NL Cy Young season. The Jays rotation may not be as dominant as the Cubs, but both of them will put on clinics in the Fall Classic. Thing is, Cubs will come into this matchup with nothing to lose. The Jays will have everything to gain. The bats have been a mess over the last two playoffs, and they're simply due to come around in October when it matters most.
This Jays squad will almost be a team of destiny. Their core players are on the wrong side of 30 and will have every bit of motivation to finally win a World Series. Though this series matchup would be tough to call, the Jays will win a seven-game series. That'll be thanks to the AL winning the All-Star Game, giving the Jays home advantage.
12 2018 AL Champion: Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have easily been one baseball's most dominant teams of the past decade-and-a-half, winning three World Series championships and making the playoffs more consistently than most teams. The days of buying all the star free agents are long gone, and their farm system and young players will ensure they'll compete for a lot of championships.
The offence carried them last year. Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez provided veteran bats, but Mookie Betts is going to make a run at the AL MVP for a long time. Also, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are among their young stars that'll keep giving pitchers problems. The rotation isn't necessarily elite, but Rick Porcello and David Price are a solid one-two tandem. Craig Kimbrel is one of the league's top closers, too.
Boston will return to their fourth World Series in 15 seasons.
11 2018 NL Champion: San Francisco Giants
If it weren't for the Cubs, there's a strong chance the Giants would have found yet another way to win the World Series in an even year. This prognosticator is already assuming they'll win their fourth NL pennant in the last five even years. But it's not because of history only, but also the talent on this roster.
The Giants rotation can stack up against any other in baseball. Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija form one of the scariest rotations in baseball. Also, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence (the guy who looks like Marv from Home Alone), Denard Span, and Buster Posey form one of baseball's top lineups. These guys have three championships since 2010 for a reason.
And so, when all is said and done, hand the G-Men this NL pennant.
10 2018 World Series Champion: San Francisco Giants
Out with the old, in with the new.
The Red Sox will try to put a crown on top of their dynasty, but the Giants are here to be the big boys of the majors. It's time for the Giants to take back what has usually been their's in recent years: A World Series in an even year.
You have to like their rotation much more in this matchup. They have the arms to deal with Boston's scary lineup. Rick Porcello and David Price haven't exactly been great in the playoffs, either. The Giants have a very experienced lineup that has shown its ability to get the big hits in crunch time.
We'd also like to point out that Aroldis Chapman will be with the Giants by this point, meaning they can't blow all the leads that cost them the title chances in 2016.
9 2019 AL Champion: Cleveland Indians
The Indians were one swing of the bat away from winning the World Series in Game 7. They allowed a 3-1 series lead to slip away to the Chicago Cubs and now have the longest World Series drought, having last won it all in 1948.
Luckily for Cleveland, this entire team has such a promising future, thanks to the work done by former front office men Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins.
It starts with ultra star Francisco Lindor, who is just 23 years of age. Jason Kipnis is turning 30 in the new year, Jose Ramirez is only 24, Michael Brantley 29, Carlos Santana 30, and Lonnie Chisenhall 28. When it comes to the pitching staff, Corey Kluber is only 30, Trevor Bauer 25, and Danny Salazar 26. Andrew Miller is 31, which isn't old for a reliever. Cody Allen, their star closer (28), figures to get better over time. This is a stacked team that's built to win for years to come, and they will get back to the World Series.
8 2019 NL Champion: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are built to win today, tomorrow and for at least a full decade. By the time these two teams meet in another World Series in three year's time (at least according to my own calculations) the Cubbies won't be so young any more.
Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Kyle Hendricks will either be in their 30s or at least pushing it. But that's fine, these guys are only going to get better than what you saw from them in 2016. The Cubs are playing in a fairly weak NL Central that's no longer as scary as it once was.
We've talked about how great the Cubs will be for years to come. Don't believe us? How about our projections that give them three NL Pennants in just four years. Now, if they can just win another World Series...
7 2019 World Series Champion: Chicago Cubs
Here is how the World Series will play out.
The Cubs lead the World Series three games to one, but the Indians crush Chicago in the next two games to force a Game 7. Rajai Davis, who'll be 39 by the time this game's played, steps up to the plate in the top of the ninth. With the Indians trailing 4-2, he launches a three-run homer to give Cleveland a lead. Now, they're just three outs away from winning their first World Series in 71 years.
But Kris Bryant takes Cody Allen deep in center field to tie the game up. Anthony Rizzo completes a comeback for the ages by taking Allen deep into right field. Ball game. Cubs win their second World Series in four seasons.
And yet again, a late-game meltdown by the Indians (third time in 22 years) cost them a shot at the World Series.
6 2020 AL Champion: Houston Astros
Some may forget that an epic meltdown in Game 4 of the 2015 ALDS against the Kansas City Royals prevented the Astros from reaching their first championship series in 15 years. Nonetheless, they've got a great roster in place and are set to be a juggernaut for years to come. Their big chance will come in 2020.
MLB.com gives the Astros baseball's third-ranked farm system. Though you're familiar with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Dallas Kuechel, and other big names, you should also try to learn more about their stars that aren't in the big leagues yet.
Alex Bregman is one of baseball's hottest commodities and will be the face of this franchise when he comes in. Francis Martes and Joe Musgrove also figure to be big parts of the Astros' future.
Their current core is already loaded, but Houston's only going to get better when their prospects make it to the big leagues. They'll be your 2020 AL Champions.
5 2020 NL Champion: St. Louis Cardinals
After missing the playoffs altogether in 2016, the Cardinals figure to be back in the MLB's elite in the next few seasons. Their current core probably isn't enough to take them to a World Series championship, but luckily they have the model organization when it comes to home-growing their own talent.
Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, and Jack Flaherty are their top-three prospects according to Joel Reuter from Bleacher Report. If those guys become the dominant arms they're projected to be, then the Cardinals may have baseball's top rotation in the long run.
The Cardinals farm system doesn't look all that scary now, but they're adding in new big names every year. Those will be the guys that carry this team in the future. Look for the Cardinals to get back to the World Series in 2020 after a seven-year absence.
4 2020 World Series Champion: Houston Astros
How history can change so fast.
The Astros and Cardinals met in the 2004 and 2005 NLDS. St. Louis went on to be swept in the 2004 World Series while Houston was swept by the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 Fall Classic. The main difference between these teams?
St. Louis avenged their loss by winning the 2006 and 2011 World Series', while the Astros have just one playoff appearance since their loss. But after the Astros moved to the AL to begin the 2013 season, it meant that these two former NL Central rivals could meet in the World Series. How cool would that be?
We have it happening by 2020. We simply love the young cores both teams have to go along with loaded farm systems. But we're taking Houston here, because they currently have more young talent CURRENTLY in the big leagues than the Cardinals.
Experience usually trumps youth in baseball. Houston wins their first World Series.
3 2021 AL Champion: New York Yankees
It really doesn't seem like the Yankees are baseball's most hated team anymore. It's a new era with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, and Andy Pettite long gone. The Yankees are moving on from their old veterans and are trying to rebuild through the farm system. Not spending one hundred billion dollars every winter (Dr. Evil pose).
Well, the Yankees plans to rebuild have worked out great. MLB.com gives them baseball's second-ranked farm system. They earned huge pieces from Cleveland in the Andrew Miller trade and got huge assets from the Cubs after trading Aroldis Chapman.
Gleyber Torres, Justun Sheffield, and Clint Frazier will be bonafide stars for years to come. Also, Gary Sanchez did so much in so little during 2016. He's the new face of a Yankees franchise.
So with all this young talent, the Yankees will be competing for titles in the long run. But don't forget, they also have the resources to spend money and add stars.
2 2021 NL Champion: Atlanta Braves
In a 1999 World Series rematch, the Braves and Yankees will meet up again.
They were baseball's two most dominant franchises in the '90s and 2000s. The Yankees would win five World Series championships from 1996 to 2009, while the Braves would constantly reach the playoffs but only have one ring (1995) to show for it.
With both of these teams now rebuilding, we can tell you they'll be forces once again in 2021. You know how great the Yankees are, but what about the Braves? Well...
The ninth-ranked farm system by MLB.com has a lot to be excited about. Dansby Swanson is a once-in-a-generation player to build around. Jim Callis from MLB.com notes that Kevin Maitan is being compared to Miguel Cabrera and Chipper Jones, only the two best third basemen baseball has seen in the past two decades. Freddie Freeman will be a seasoned veteran by 2021, and hopefully part of a stacked Braves team. Starting pitcher Julio Teheran will be a Cy Young candidate for years to come as well.
1 2021 World Series Champion: Atlanta Braves
So the Braves will end 22 years of pain when they take down the Yankees, sending most of America into its glory. Let's be honest, people will always hate the Yankees. Their 27 World Series Championships and all of the hearts they broke throughout the years will always put them among the most despised teams.
The Braves have just a little more big league talent right now that I like. Their rebuild figures to take another two or three seasons, meaning they'll only add more and more talent to an already stacked pool of great prospects. Teheran gives the Braves an ace, something the Yankees are still looking for.
And when the Braves start winning, they'll start adding veteran players. For now, we'll take them as the 2021 World Series champions.