MLB Opening Day is Sunday! Baseball is back! There is still a ridiculous amount of snow on the ground in my neck of the woods, but it will all seem more manageable with a ball game on. With the season so near, it is time for some annual fun: predicting the playoff teams and major award winners.
As I say every year when I go through this exercise, making predictions in advance of a baseball season is great fun, but largely foolish. There are so many things that can happen between now and the end of the season to affect the standings. And yet, last year, things shook out pretty closely to how I anticipated. Ideally I can repeat my 2016 performance with my predictions for the 2017 season.
Here are the teams I think will be playing meaningful baseball in October.
|East||Central||West||Wild Card 1||Wild Card 2||League Champions||World Series Champion|
Of all these picks I am least confident in the Rays. I continue to be one of the few people who buy that the Rays’ pitching and defense is enough to carry them through a competitive, playoff-spot-earning season. They will struggle to score, but hopefully not enough to squander another season of excellent run prevention. When a team is projected to be the best (or one of the three best) in either run scoring or run prevention, they have a chance to compete for the playoffs. With that said, I could be talked into the Blue Jays or Rangers for that other Wild Card. In any case, I expect the Wild Cards to come from the East and/or West divisions, which I recognize is a fairly ridiculous hedge on my prediction.
Picking winners of the major awards is inherently more difficult than picking the playoff teams. First, it involves drawing from a much larger pool (there are more players than teams), so even getting it right by dumb luck is less likely. Second, picking an award winner is not just an attempt to predict how the season will go for a player, but rather an attempt to predict how the season will go for a player and how award voters will view how the season went for that player.
|Most Valuable Player||Mike Trout (OF, Angels)|
|Cy Young||Corey Kluber (SP, Cleveland)|
|Rookie of the Year||Andrew Benintendi (OF, Red Sox)|
|Manager of the Year||A.J. Hinch (Astros)|
Mike Trout is the best player in baseball. Unless the writers get sick of voting for him every year, he should continue to win the MVP award for the foreseeable future. Corey Kluber heads a really strong rotation in Cleveland. He won the award in 2014 and has been in the mix for it in each of the last two seasons. I love Andrew Benintendi and expect big things from him as he fills the Red Sox’s left field void. I am pretty sure he is considered the favourite to win the award, what with his #1-prospect in baseball status. Oddly enough that could actually work against him with voters at the end of the season, but if he helps the Red Sox replace some of the offense they are losing with David Ortiz retiring, and handles the pressures of playing in Boston, he should win it. Even though the Astros are pre-season favourites and A.J. Hinch is not new to managing them – two things that run against winning the silly Manager of the Year award – I think his guiding the young Astros squad to their first division crown in over a decade will earn him the award.
|Most Valuable Player||Corey Seager (SS, Dodgers)|
|Cy Young||Clayton Kershaw (SP, Dodgers)|
|Rookie of the Year||Dansby Swanson (SS, Braves)|
|Manager of the Year||Dusty Baker (Nationals)|
Corey Seager won the Rookie of the Year award in 2016, and finished third in MVP voting. He is a tremendous ballplayer. Even though he has been dealing with an injury this Spring, I think he posts another huge year and helps the Dodgers run away with the division. Picking anyone other than Seager’s teammate, Clayton Kershaw, for the Cy Young just seems odd. Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game. Dansby Swanson has the name of someone likely to be seen on Downton Abbey and will be the face of the Atlanta franchise for (at least) the next six years. He is the type of player you build around and that is exactly what the Braves are doing. I picked Dusty Baker to win Manager of the Year last year. He was a finalist but lost out to Dave Roberts of the Dodgers. This year, after he leads the Nationals to another division crown by piecing together a bullpen from spare parts and getting the most out of Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and newcomer Adam Eaton, he will win the award.
As always, I will revisit these predictions after the season to check my accuracy.
Note: At BP Boston, the staff provided predictions on many of these same items. Interestingly, there was almost no variability in our picks. Check them out here.