From the time the World Series ends until the start of January, the only things we usually think about when it comes to baseball are the trades and free agent signings that seem to happen over the course of a week. Now that the new year is among is, the focus has turned to the 2017 regular season as Spring Training is just around the corner. You can feel the snow melting and the sun shining already, can’t you?
As you probably know already, the Cubs won the 2016 World Series to break their 108 year drought as they got past the Giants, Dodgers and Indians in the playoffs. You can expect all four of those teams to be in contention once again, hoping to prevent the Cubs from repeating. They aren’t the only teams that have a shot at taking home the World Series title, though.
Of the 15 teams that Las Vegas has given the best odds to win it all in 2017, there are some interesting scenarios that could play out through the season. Let’s take a look at those top 15 teams and see what could go right, and what could go horribly long as we break down the best and worst case scenarios.
15 Baltimore Orioles
Best Case Scenario: Chris Davis shows that he was well worth the big contract that he received from the Orioles by cutting down on his strikeouts and blasting more than 40 home runs. Meanwhile, Manny Machado puts up an MVP type performance with Adam Jones leading the way at the top of the lineup, while Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman improve upon their numbers, which should be good enough to get the Orioles back into the Wild Card slot.
14 Toronto Blue Jays
Best Case Scenario: Troy Tulowitzki is able to play more than 130 games yet again as he rebounds his batting average and keeps up his power numbers. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista aren’t missed as Kendrys Morales becomes a solid clean-up hitter with nearly 30 home runs and a .275 batting average. The rotation also sees J.A. Happ continue to be productive with a huge step forward from Marcus Stroman.
13 Detroit Tigers
Best Case Scenario: Despite wanting to cut payroll, the Tigers get off to a hot start that fills the stands, allowing the Tigers to get some more capital to keep their stars. Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera end up having seasons where they could be considered for the Cy Young and MVP Awards, respectively. In a relatively weak division, the Tigers feast on the bottom feeders to win the AL Central.
12 New York Yankees
Best Case Scenario: Development of the abundance of young talent goes ahead of schedule like it did for the Chicago Cubs in 2015 as the Yankees make the playoffs thanks to steps back by the Blue Jays and Orioles. Gary Sanchez takes another big leap forward and Aroldis Chapman shows that he was well worth the money, continuing to be the shutdown closer that won a World Series in 2016.
11 Texas Rangers
Best Case Scenario: The Rangers prove that they were just as good as their record from 2016 and end up putting up a margin in which they outscore their opponents handily. Five players in the lineup hit at least 20 home runs with Rougned Odor leading the way with 30. The solid lineup is supported by a pitching staff that is anchored at the end by a rejuvenated Andrew Cashner who finally has his breakout year, leading the Rangers to another AL West title.
10 Seattle Mariners
Best Case Scenario: Felix Hernandez carries the rotation as an AL Cy Young candidate, putting together 17 wins and an ERA around 3.00, taking the pressure off of guys like Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton who also put up solid years. Nelson Cruz defies the age of time and crushes 40 home runs and 100 runs batted in with the protection of Kyle Seager behind him, who adds another 30 home runs of his own as the Mariners win the AL West.
9 St. Louis Cardinals
Best Case Scenario: The Cardinals make up some of the room between them and the Cubs thanks to the addition of Dexter Fowler, who continues to be a playmaker that develops a lot of runs. The outstanding defense is able to make up for the big names in the rotation, but they get great production out of Carlos Martinez at the top while Adam Wainwright gets back to his top form and the Cardinals comfortably get a Wild Card spot.
8 New York Mets
Best Case Scenario: The Mets get out to a huge lead early in the season as the Braves and Phillies are in rebuilding mode, Bryce Harper struggles and the Marlins take a step back. This allows the Mets to rest their rotation that suffered some injury problems the year before as they coast easily to an NL East title, and their fresh rotation dominates in the playoffs to reach the World Series with some help from Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson.
7 San Francisco Giants
Best Case Scenario: The two stars at the top of the rotation (Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto) continue to pitch like stars while Buster Posey puts together an MVP campaign with 20 home runs and 90 runs batted in. Even guys at the bottom of the lineup like Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford provide some timely hitting as the Giants put together one of the most efficient lineups in baseball.
6 Houston Astros
Best Case Scenario: The Astros can cruise in the AL West if their lineup hits for the power that they have the potential for. From George Springer down to Josh Reddick, there are seven guys that are capable of at least 20 home runs with George Springer, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa leading the way. If Dallas Keuchel can return to ace form, Lance McCullers, Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers only need to be above average for the Astros to push 100 wins.
5 Los Angeles Dodgers
Best Case Scenario: Clayton Kershaw continues to be the best pitcher in baseball as he goes through the entire season without injury problems, winning 20 games and the Cy Young Award in the process. Meanwhile, Rich Hill turns out to not be a flash in the pan as he adds another 15 wins with Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias rounding out a rotation that will be even better than 2015’s as the Dodgers are able to advance to the World Series.
4 Washington Nationals
Best Case Scenario: Bryce Harper shows that 2016 was just a fluke as he gets back to MVP type numbers. With a batting average near .290, 35 home runs and 100 runs batted in. Daniel Murphy also continues to provide some solid protection for the young Harper while Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman put up big numbers at the bottom of the lineup. As for the rotation, Max Scherzer has a repeat performance and Stephen Strasburg stays healthy.
3 Cleveland Indians
Best Case Scenario: The rare foray into high priced free agency ends up paying dividends for the Indians as Edwin Encarnacion becomes a huge bat in the lineup that hits 40 home runs and 110 runs batted in. Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis get a lot of pitches to hit as they are finally protected in the lineup, having huge seasons as Corey Kluber makes a case for the Cy Young Award as the Indians repeat as American League Champions.
2 Boston Red Sox
Best Case Scenario: The addition of Chris Sale to the top of the lineup takes some of the pressure off of David Price and Rick Porcello as the Red Sox boast three potential Cy Young Award winners. The pitching staff alone should get them deep into the playoffs while Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts all post big years, and even Pablo Sandoval has a career revival.
1 Chicago Cubs
Best Case Scenario: Kyle Schwarber either improves his fielding in the outfield or becomes an option at catcher, allowing Joe Maddon to tinker with the lineup for just about any situation while Jason Heyward returns to form. The Cubs sign Jake Arrieta to a long term deal and he looks worthy in the 2017 season with a rebound to 2015 form as the Cubs cruise through the National League en route to their second straight World Series win.
Worst Case Scenario: Arrieta continues his downward trend from the second half of the 2016 season, Jon Lester continues to allow stolen bases and the lack of a true lead off man doesn’t set the table for boppers like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Still, worst case scenario still looks like it’s going to equal a winning season with the amount of talent that the Cubs have.
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