The sun beats down on the hard, numbered seats. Peanuts and popcorn are everywhere. The smell of the fresh cut grass makes me smile. Spring is here! Baseball is here! My hat is right where it is meant to be, on my head. The large, red P is perfectly centered and my freshly polished leather glove is causing my hand to sweat. I cannot wait for the first white ball, kept together by the red and blue stitching, to fly across the beautifully gleaming plate. I feel like I am 5-years old all over again. Baseball season is finally here and I just cannot sit still...
Ah, we just can't wait for that feeling!
April 4th came and went in a flash, just like the entire 2016 baseball season. Opening day, the All-Star break, the World Series. The exhilaration, the ecstasy of the walk-off homer, the depression of number 13 sliding in safely, just beating the throw from right field. All of the 162 amazing games came and went like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Opening day feels like it was just yesterday, but in reality, we are already two weeks removed from one of the greatest World Series in the 177-year history of America's pastime.
Now that we have had a while to get over how amazing the Cubs and Indians' World Series Game 7 was, it is time to look ahead to the 2017 Major League Baseball season. There are so many possibilities! Every team is now 0-0 and anything can happen. One trade or one free agent signing could shake up the entire league. We will now look at 15 Way-Too-Early 2017 Major League Baseball predictions.
15 Yankees Sign Aroldis Chapman
Winning the World Series must be thrilling. So many players live to play and play to win. Now that Aroldis Chapman has won though, he is going back to the New York Yankees. Sure, the league has changed a lot since the Yankees were THE team and ruled Major League Baseball, but at the end of the day, the New York Yankees are still the New York Yankees. They are effectively what the Dallas Cowboys are to the NFL. They are America's Team. Millions love them, millions hate them, but undeniably, everyone watches them.
Aroldis Chapman is a closer. Closers are a different breed of baseball player. They live for the moment. They want nothing less than the most stressful situation and where better to get that than in the New York spotlight? Chicago is a great city with great fans, but this is New York! Yankee Stadium! The New York Yankees! They are the winningest team in the history of sports and let's not forget that they are the Bankees. The Chicago Cubs have already paid a lot of players and have a ton of young talent waiting to get paid. Giving Aroldis Chapman a huge, long-term contract is not something the Cubs are going to be willing to do. New York, here we come.
14 The Rockies Win the NL West
Maybe a bold prediction, but if you look at the Colorado Rockies, you start to understand where I am coming from. A young star in Trevor Story, a perennial all-star and MVP candidate in Nolan Arenado, and a still extremely effective Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies have the pieces to compete. Charlie Blackmon will always be a solid outfielder with a consistent bat and the pitching staff has begun to improve.
With great hitting, the Rockies will always have a chance while playing in the high altitude. Baseballs fly out of their park like nobody's business and it just seems that with legit hitters, an improving pitching staff, and aging Dodgers and Giants teams, the Colorado Rockies are set to win the West. Just watch them.
13 The Twins win 100 games
Is it likely to happen? No, but it is definitely possible. They play in a very tough division, but the promising youth on this team is just undeniable. The Minnesota Twins look like the Chicago Cubs of a few years ago. They have a still extremely promising Byron Buxton who is bound to come around. Ervin Santana, Trevor Plouffe, and Phil Hughes are true Major League starters and in a good year could all be legit number 1's. The Twins are an extremely young team that have another number 1 draft pick coming this year.
Maybe 2017 is just a little bit too early, but I just see the Minnesota Twins surprising everyone this year like the Indians did this past season. The Indians may have trouble repeating as AL Central champs.
12 The Mets Have Three 15 Game Winners
The New York Mets have a legitimately scary pitching staff. For the first time ever, the Mets will (presumably) begin 2017 with a healthy starting staff of: Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, and Zack Wheeler. Matt Harvey is coming off of a tough year, but I am confident he will bounce back. DeGrom and Syndergaard are serious Cy Young Award candidates every year, and Matz and Wheeler are extremely young, rising stars. If all of these starters can stay healthy this year, there is a very good chance that all of them break 10 wins and that at least three of them break 15 wins. Watch out for these Mets this year. Sure, 2016 was a down year, but their pitching is just something the MLB has not seen in a long time.
11 Yoenis Céspedes to the Nationals
The Washington Nationals will sign Yoenis Céspedes. Crazy, I know, but possible. The Nationals do have Jayson Werth, Trea Turner, and Bryce Harper, but could you imagine a 1-2 punch of Bryce Harper and Yoenis Céspedes? The Washington Nationals would be scary good. They already have the pitching with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. If the Nationals sign Céspedes, they will be even more of a World Series contender than they already are.
Maybe it is wishful thinking, but the Nationals seem poised to do whatever it takes to win and signing the likes of Yoenis Céspedes would be a huge step in the right direction.
After another frustrating year which saw them fail to win a playoff series yet again, they'll want to load up for a serious run at the World Series.
10 Chris Sale to the Nationals
Okay okay. Maybe the bold predictions for the Washington Nationals are getting old, but it is hard to argue that Mike Rizzo, the Nationals' GM, does not love a bold move. Remember when he surprised the baseball world and signed Max Scherzer to a seven-year $210 million deal? Yea, this prediction is legitimate. The Nationals already have a great pitching staff, but they only have 1 lefty (Gio Gonzalez), leaving the door open for Chris Sale. With Yoenis Céspedes and Chris Sale, the Washington Nationals would most likely become the favorite to win the 2017 World Series, and remember (see above), the Nationals are looking to win and win now.
They have the offensive weapons in place, especially if Céspedes comes to town, and Sale would sure up any lingering questions about their pitching staff. Look out for Mr. Mike Rizzo to be Mr. Bold again over the next few months.
9 The Braves Earn a Wild-Card Spot
The Atlanta Braves have arguably the best farm system in the game. They drafted well and traded Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamondbacks for some great prospects featuring Dansby Swanson, the 2015 1st overall pick. This prediction may be a year too early, but the Braves feel like they could be a surprise contender this year out of the National League East. They just signed Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey, who are both old pitchers, but who have shown they can be effective. Pair them with an already proven starter in Julio Teheran and you have yourself a fairly decent pitching staff.
The Atlanta Braves have the pieces to be good and I think with their new stadium coming soon, John Coppolella (GM) is going to do all he can to get them winning because there is nothing worse than an empty brand new stadium.
8 The Astros Win the AL West
The Houston Astros underachieved. No, that is an understatement. The Houston Astros were awful. Sure, they won 84 games, but these are the Astros who everyone thought would be perennial World Series contenders. Carlos Correa, George Springer, Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve. They have the players! The Houston Astros will be back in 2017 and they will be back angry. It would not surprise me if the Astros win 100 games and run away with the American League West. Yes, the Texas Rangers are no pushover, but the Astros are young, hungry, and built to win. With a few signings to sure up their lineup, the Astros will be back to the team we thought they were supposed to be. This Houston team is a sleeper pick for 2017 World Series champions.
7 The Red Sox Will Win the AL East
The Red Sox won the American League East in 2016 and they will win by an even larger margin in 2017. The Red Sox are good, period. They will be good for a long time, given their newfound youth. Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Xander Bogaerts are all future all-stars and future MVP candidates. They still have David Price who should come back with a vengeance after a very mediocre year by his standards. Besides Price, the Red Sox also found a gem in Rick Porcello and if they can get even close to the same production that they did from him in 2016, they will be for sure contenders in 2017.
Sure, they have a gaping hole at designated hitter left by David Ortiz, but there are a ton of very good replacements currently on the free agent market. Watch out for this young Red Sox team. Remember, they did win it all just three years ago.
6 The Blue Jays Will Lose 90 Games
The Toronto Blue Jays have gotten so close to great success. The force that is the Blue Jays offense had another great 2016, but it is undeniable that they are getting old. Five of their nine starters are now over 30 years old and have seen their production decline. It is unfortunate, but true. While I could be wrong if Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are both back for 2017, the fact is that both would have to continue putting up monster numbers, which both are not poised to do. Bautista is 36 and coming off a down year, while Encarnacion looks to be leaving Toronto.
It was a good run for Toronto, but trading what is left of the Blue Jays would seem to be the best move, so they can get back to being good as quick as possible.
5 Giancarlo Stanton Wins the NL MVP
Giancarlo Stanton had a down year. Coming off a gruesome injury and playing under a new manager, Stanton struggled. With 2017 being a new year though, Stanton is young enough and contains all of the tools to produce huge numbers. Stanton almost missed 50 games this season and still hit 27 home runs. I see a 40+ home run season for Stanton in 2017, knocking in somewhere north of 120 RBIs. It is time for Giancarlo to start playing like his 13-year $325 million contract says he can. The Marlins have a huge investment in him and I think he will prove his worth this upcoming year. The Marlins could be good this year, but the only way that happens is if Stanton produces like the baseball world knows he can.
4 Francisco Lindor Wins the AL MVP
Did anyone see Francisco Lindor in the playoffs this past year? Yea, he is legit and he is going to be good for a long, long time. At only 23 years old, Lindor put up a .310 batting average in the postseason, and was not too far off in the regular season, putting up a .301 average. Lindor can field, he can hit, and he can run. Lindor has the looks of a Mike Trout, but has already done more in terms of team success.
While Trout has only been to the postseason once with the Angels, Lindor has already been to the World Series with the Indians. Lindor will put up huge numbers this year and if he does not win the MVP, he will for sure be a finalist.
3 Gerrit Cole Wins the NL Cy Young
Does anyone remember the numbers that Gerrit Cole put up in 2015? Well, they were: 202 strikeouts, 19 wins, 2.60 ERA? Gerrit Cole is a legitimate starter in this league and he is going to pitch like he did in 2015, leading the Pirates to a playoff push. Cole struggled a little bit this year, like the Pirates, but he was also injured for a large part of the season. I am confident that Cole will be back to his old self and will drive this Pittsburgh team once again. It is no easy task winning the NL Cy Young with the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer in the same league, but I think Gerrit Cole will prove himself to be another force to be reckoned with in the National League.
2 Chris Archer Will Win the AL Cy Young
Chris Archer will bounce back from a terrible 2016 and win the 2017 Cy Young award. This is not a bold statement by any measure. Before 2016, he was a very good pitcher. While he has yet to be great, I see Chris Archer taking the next step this year. I believe he will be traded before the season begins to a contender, and I believe he will lead that contender to the playoffs. Some have said he will go to the Nationals, but I do not see the Nationals going after another right-handed starter. Watch out for Chris Archer. He has the stuff and he is still young at 28 years of age. I feel he will be the biggest pitching surprise of 2017 and whichever team gets him will be very lucky.
1 The Cubs Will Repeat
Woah. Bold right? The last team to win back-to-back World Series was the 1998-2000 New York Yankees. The MLB has become a tough league for teams to have continued success. Every year there is a new player and a new team that surprises everyone (take this year's Indians as a great example). Unfortunately for the rest of the MLB, these Chicago Cubs look like an old Yankees team. They have the looks of a dynasty team that could win 3-plus championships.
Not only did the Cubs just win the World Series, but they just won it with a bunch of young players., who haven't even hit their prime yet. These guys are not just perennial all-stars in the making, but they are soon to be perennial MVP candidates. They have the pitching, they have the hitting, and they have the youth. The Cubbies are going to win and going to win for a long time. The suffering of Wrigley Field is over and now it's time for the Cubs to make up for a century of woes.