With the regular season upon us, I went division-by-division, team-by-team around the MLB breaking down how each team will finish this season. Of course what’s an MLB season preview without a round-by-round playoff prediction? Find out who I have coming out on top as your 2016 World Series champions!
Toronto Blue Jays
2015 record & result: 93-69, won the division, lost to the Royals in the ALCS
Key losses: P David Price
Key additions: P J.A. Happ, P Drew Storen
Toronto is once again loaded offensively with the big bats of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki and reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson leading the charge. After scoring 891 runs in 2015 – the most of any team this decade – we can expect much of the same from this deadly group, especially with Bautista and Encarnacion playing for contracts in 2017. Now, where the questions can arise are in regards to the rotation, which lost it’s ace, David Price to division foe Boston this off-season. The burden of being the “ace” of the staff now falls on Marcus Stroman who returned from an ACL tear to post a 1.67 ERA through 4 games last season. To compare to his last full season of work he recorded a 3.65 ERA in 2014. Marco Estrada should fit in nicely behind Stroman and knuckleballer, R.A. Dickey offers a formidable, but shaky middle of the rotation option. No reason to think the Jays won’t win this division, but much like last year the AL East will be a grind.
Boston Red Sox
2015 record & result: 78-84, finished last in the division
Key losses: P Wade Miley, P Alexi Ogando
Key additions: P David Price, P Craig Kimbrel, P Carson Smith, OF Chris Young
After spending a ludicrous amount of money to try to bolster their offense last off-season, Boston quickly realized that they had neglected their rotation, and the wheels fell off pretty early on in 2015. Naturally, new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski focused on pitching this winter, snaring free agent crown jewel David Price. The Sox also made trades to acquire closer Craig Kimbrel and reliever Carson Smith to improve the bullpen. They have young talents in Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts to be excited about on top of it being the final season for Daivd Ortiz. The big concerns come in the form of a Panda and a future DH; Pablo Sandoval and Hanely Ramirez. Sandoval reported to camp overweight and has experienced some back issues that could see him start the season on the DL (which may not be a bad thing with Travis Shaw waiting in the wings). As for Ramirez, his move to first base could end up being a raving success or a total flop. The Red Sox offense shouldn’t be a problem, but there are those defensive concerns with Sandoval and Ramirez on top of a foggy rotation after Price. Still the Red Sox have the talent to pull themselves out of division’s basement and earn a wild card spot in 2016.
New York Yankees
2015 record & result: 87-75, finished second in the division, lost to the Astros in the AL Wild Card round
Key losses: Chris Young, Adam Warren
Key additions: 2B Starlin Castro, P Aroldis Chapman, OF Aaron Hicks
What’s scary is that the league’s best bullpen from a season ago got better with the addition of Aroldis Chapman. Together, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Chapman combined for a 1.70 ERA and 347 strikeouts in 2015. Now that they’re all ton one team, a potential Betances-Miller-Chapman final three innings is a deadly reality for opposing teams. Of course the Yankees will have to wait for Champman to serve his 30-game suspension before seeing the full effects of that trio. The biggest concerns in the Bronx this season will be with durability from some of their older players such as Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Jacoby Ellsbury, as well as Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Outside of their bullpen, the Yankees don’t seem so threatening on paper, but one thing Joe Girardi can do it’s get the most out of his players. He did it last season and he’ll do it again. This time it won’t be enough to make the playoffs, but they’ll hang around with their most hated rival above, to keep the wild card race enticing until late September.
Tampa Bay Rays:
2015 record & result: 80-82, finished fourth in the division
Key losses: Nate Karns
Key additions: SS Brad Miller, OF Corey Dickerson
With Chris Archer anchoring the rotation the Rays will certainly be competitive. Add in some other solid pitchers like Drew Smyly and Matt Moore, who had a great spring, and the Rays have some pretty steady starting pitching. Trading for Brad Miller was arguably the best off-season acquisition for Tampa Bay, as he’ll offer a nice upgrade at shortstop from Asdrubal Cabrera. Where they’ll have issues though is offensively. Evan Longoria needs a career resurgence after two down years where he posted the lowest OPS’s of his career (.724 in 2014 and .763 in 2015). Maybe the addition of Corey Dickerson can help add some spark to the offense, but that still won’t be enough. They’ll be the fourth team in this rugged division to reach 80 wins and they won’t finish with a losing record, however this team isn’t quite at the level it used to be.
2015 record & result: 81-81, finished third in the division
Key losses: P Wei-Yin Chen
Key additions: RF Mark Trumbo, DH Pedro Alvarez, P Yovani Gallardo
The Orioles were big spenders this off-season, particularly in trying to build a powerful lineup. Mark Trumbo swings a big bat, as does Pedro Alvarez. Together those two sluggers combined for 49 homers and 147 RBI last season. Conversely they also struck out a combined 263 times – often the flaw to power hitters. Baltimore also resigned a familiar smasher in Chris Davis with a seven-year, $161 million deal. The message is clear with this team; they want clobber the ball. They have a strong bullpen that features Mychal Givens, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day, who will help lead the charge for closer Zach Britton. Their rotation though is questionable. Last year they posted the American League’s second-worst ERA for a starting group at 4.53. Wei-Yin Chen was their most reliable starter and he’s gone. That tells you all you need to know.
Kansas City Royals
2015 record & result: 95-67, won the division, won the World Series over the Mets
Key losses: P Johnny Cueto, INF Ben Zobrist
Key additions: P Ian Kennedy, P Joakim Soria
What we saw from the Royals last year, is essentially what we’ll see this year, in terms of their style of play. Ned Yost’s club will be patient at the plate, opportunistic on the basepaths and rely heavily on the back end of their bullpen. The lineup from top to bottom has essentially stayed the same minus a very helpful utility player in Ben Zobrist, and the rotation finds themselves down Johhny Cueto. No sweat though, the addition of veteran, inning eater Ian Kennedy should work out well for KC. All things considered the Royals remain one of the league’s top teams heading into 2016, but I’m not ready to hand them the AL’s best record this year.
2015 record & result: 81-80, finished third in the division
Key losses: UT Mike Avilies, OF Ryan Rayburn
Key additions: 1B Mike Napoli, 3B Juan Uribe, OF Marlon Byrd
How it’ll all go down:
The Indians basically sat on their hands this off-season. They were linked to several highly sought after free agents, but never pulled the trigger, only to swoop in – in typical Indians’ fashion – and sign a few veterans nearing 40. Mike Napoli, Juan Uribe and Marlon Bird have all been considered sluggers throughout their career, but age is doing them no favors. Will those three bats be enough to boost an offense that finished 18th in runs scored (669) last season? Probably not, which is exactly why Michael Brantley needs to work though his nagging shoulder issue and provide this lineup with some pop along with Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana. Indians’ fans should be thrilled about the opportunity to watch youngster Francisco Lindor for an entire season, and their rotation is stellar. They’re essentially this year’s version of the 2015 Mets. If Cleveland reaches the All-Star break right in the thick of the playoff race, yet lacking the offensive production to support their dominant pitching, look for them to be buyers at the trade deadline. In the end they’re back to the postseason as the second wild card team.
Chicago White Sox
2015 record & result: 76-86, finished fourth in the division
Key losses: 1B Adam LaRoche, P Jeff Samardzija
Key additions: 3B Todd Frasier, CF Austin Jackson, C Alex Avila, SS Jimmy Rollins, 2B Brett Lawrie, P Mat Latos
There is a lot to be optimistic about on Chicago’s south side. Chris Sale is a bona fide ace and a lefty at that. Behind Sale is Jose Quintana, a true innings eater, coming off of his third straight 200-inning season. Then Mat Latos comes aboard to round out the backend of the rotation with a reliable veteran, depending on his health. Of course there is Jose Abreu, who clubbed 30 homers and 101 RBI last season. Now you add another big bat in Todd Frazier as well as second basemen Brett Lawrie and this lineup has the potential to put up some serious numbers. Still, they’re not quite up to par with other postseason bound teams. They’ll sneak by the Tigers to finish third in the division and above .500 for the first time since 2012.
2015 record & result: 74-87, finished last in the division
Key losses: 2B Javier Betancourt
Key additions: P Jordan Zimmerman, LF Justin Upton, P Francisco Rodriguez, P Mark Lowe
The Tigers did a lot right this off-season bringing in Justin Upton to help bolster the offense, snagging Jordan Zimmerman to form a reliable 1-2 punch atop the rotation with Justin Verlander, while also adding Mark Lowe and Francisco Rodriguez to revamp the bullpen that has plagued them for years. They still have Miguel Cabrera in their lineup, however his age and health is a concern. That aforementioned slugger is 32 and coming off a season where he missed 43 total games – the most of his career. Victor Martinez is 37 and currently nursing a hamstring injury. Of course we can’t forget about the 33-year old Verlander who missed substantial time last season as well and is showing signs of breaking down, hitting between 90-94 on the gun this spring. The Tigers’ will be as successful as their aging stars allow them to be.
2015 record & result: 83-79, finished second in the division
Key losses: CF Aaron Hicks, OF Torri Hunter
Key additions: 1B Byung Ho Park
The Twins were quite the sneaky club last year, finishing just three games out of a potential wild card spot at 83-79 and while the future is certainly bright for this team, they’ll likely take a step backwards this season as guys adjust to the big leagues. Miguel Sano for example spent just half the season in the majors in 2015 and has the physique to become a perennial slugger. Byron Buxton is a five-tool star in the making, who – with Aaron Hicks out of the picture – can develop immensely holding down center field for an entire season. It’s also unclear how Byung Ho Park’s offense will translate to American ball. If all three of those guys find their footing immediately then the sky is the limit for Minnesota. Otherwise they seem destined for last place in this division.
2015 record & result: 86-76, finished second in the division, lost to the Blue Jays in the ALDS
Key losses: P Scott Kazmir, IF Jed Lowrie, P Mark Appel
Key additions: P Doug Fister, P Ken Giles
A year ago around this time we all thought the Astros were a year or two away from competing for World Series titles. They arrived a little early. After a wild card win over the Yankees and a valiant effort against the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals in the ALDS, Houston is the real deal. All those years of being basement dwellers and stockpiling prospects is a thing of the past. The Astros are anchored by tremendously talented stars like second basemen Jose Altuve (26), shortstop Carlos Correa (22), right fielder George Springer (26) and ace Dallas Keuchel (28), who happens to be the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. This team was already pretty loaded, then they went and added Doug Fister to strengthen the middle of their rotation and traded for potential closer Ken Giles, to bolster the latter half of the bullpen. They may have given up a bit too much for Giles, but this team knows they’re primed for a deep postseason run, so they felt this was a piece they needed and pulled the trigger. Everything about this team screams World Series.
2015 record & result: 88-74, won the division, lost to Kansas City in the ALDS
Key losses: 1B Mike Napoli, P Yovani Gallardo, OF Drew Stubbs
Key additions: LF Ian Desmond
Texas is a solid team. They have an ace in Cole Hamels and once Yu Darvish returns to the mound it’ll be a great one-two punch at the top of the rotation. They also have hitters in Shin Soo Choo, Prince Fielder and of course Adrian Beltre. You can throw Josh Hamilton into that group in spurts, but right now he’s nursing a knee injury and he’s clearly been a shell of his old self the last few seasons. The Rangers need their newest acquisition, Ian Desmond to contribute this season, after batting a career-low .233 in his final season with Washington. Maybe a change of scenery helps. Nonetheless, Texas has the personnel to get back to the postseason in 2016 likely as a wild card. I debated putting them in over Cleveland or Boston, but couldn’t do it.
2015 record & result: 76-86, finished fourth in the division
Key losses: 1B Mark Trumbo, SS Brad Miller, P Carson Smith
Key additions: P Nathan Karns, P Wade Miley, LF Nori Aoki, C Chris Iannetta, 1B Adam Lind
Seattle knew their offense was a problem last year – they wre 21st in the league in runs scored – so they worked to improve it, bringing in first basemen Adam Lind, leftfielder Nori Aoki and catcher Chris Ianetta to help the cause. In his second season in Seattle Robinson Cano hit more home runs (21) but drove in less runs (79) while hitting just .271 – his lowest batting average in seven years. He needs to start living up to his 10 year, $240 million contract. Pitching wise, well Felix Hernandez speaks for himself. He’s one of the best pitchers in the majors and an ace through and through. Wade Miley was arguably the most reliable starter for Boston in 2015 and even though they had to give up reliever Carson Smith, it’s a great addition. He’ll also benefit from pitching in a deep Safeco Field. Seattle is steadily on the up and up. They won’t end their 14-year playoff drought just yet, but they’re getting there.
Los Angeles Angels:
2015 record & result: 85-77, finished third in the division
Key losses: SS Erick Aybar, OF David DeJesus, 3B David Freese, P Mat Latos
Key additions: P Al Alburquerque, 3B Yunel Escobar, UT Daniel Nava, LF Craig Gentry
Mike Trout is obviously a face of this league. Unfortunately for the Angels, he’s also the only consistent bat they can depend on in 2016. Okay so there are bound to be some other guys who step up, Yunel Escobar for example could produce. However, it’s hard to look down this lineup and find much of a supporting cast for Trout. Albert Pujols isn’t getting any younger, although he did clobber 40 homers in 2015. Still, Los Angeles finished 20th in runs scored (661). That offense won’t be much better this year and when you don’t have a lot of offense you need good pitching. Well, there are questions there for the Angels as well. Garrett Richards can hit his spots perfectly one night, then be all over the place the next. Jared Weaver – once an ace of this staff – has lost some velocity, so he has to rely on moving the ball around the zone. Those two could be great or they could completely flop. Making matters worse, Andrew Heaney, Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker all have questions to answer. We’ll see what happens with this squad, but the playoffs are likely out of the question.
2015 record & result: 68-94, finished last in the division
Key losses: 3B Brett Lawrie, P Fernando Abad, P Dan Otero
Key additions: 1B Yonder Alonso, 2B Jed Lowrie, P Ryan Madson, P John Axford
Crazy to think that in 2014 this team cruised through most of the season in first place, before shipping Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Jon Lester and sending themselves spiraling to an early postseason exit. Their roster has basically spiraled since. Sonny Gray headlines an otherwise weak starting rotation in Oakland. He’s thrown over 200 innings the last two seasons, piling up 352 strikeouts. Unfortunately, the arms of Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman, Rich Hill and Chris Bassitt behind him, make up a bit of a makeshift group. On a positive note their bullpen will be much better with Sean Doolittle back in commission, on top of the adding Ryan Madson and John Axford as well. Regardless, it’s a good thing Oakland’s got the Warriors, cause the Athletics won’t offer much to celebrate in 2016.
2015 record & result: 83-79, finished second in the division
Key losses: P Jordan Zimmerman
Key additions: CF Ben Revere, 2B Daniel Murphy, Manager Dusty Baker
The Nationals were supposed to be the real deal last year, and well, they looked it for a while then fizzled in the summer, eventually opening the door for New York to win the division. Law of averages says that can’t possibly happen again right? Things have to get better. With a new skipper in Dusty Baker, who always seems to get the most out of his players, they will. They lost a guy in Jordan Zimmerman that has the ability to win anywhere from 10-20 games in any single season. But they maintain a steady rotation regardless, headlined by Max Scherzer. Obviously they have the reigning NL MVP at their disposal in Bryce Harper and the additions of Daniel Murphy and leadoff man Ben Revere add some flare to an offense that already ranked in the top 10 in runs scored. Washington would certainly like to see Ryan Zimmerman bounce back, after he clubbed career lows in batting average (.249), OBP (.308) and OPS (.773) last season. This team will live up to the hype this year, winning the division and making a deep postseason run.
New York Mets:
2015 record & result: 90-72, won the division, lost to the Royals in the World Series
Key losses: 2B Daniel Murphy
Key additions: 2B Neil Walker
A year removed from a surprising run at the World Series, the Mets stayed largely the same (rightfully so). Why change what’s working? The potential is there for their pitching staff to be the best in the majors from top to bottom. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon. Nasty. Can’t forget about Zach Wheeler, who will at some point join the rotation upon returning from Tommy John surgery. The big concern for New York is the same one from a season ago: offense. Last year they finished 17th in runs scored at a clip of 683. Of course Yoenis Cespedes drove in 44 of those himself after joining the team at the trade deadline. Retaining Cespedes’ services was huge for the Mets, but as they’ll find out over the course of an entire season, the slugger can be streaky. He can’t do it all on his own, which begs the question will they miss David Murphy’s offense? Perhaps even more importantly, will they miss his postseason heroics? Maybe, maybe not, Neil Walker certainly provides a nice replacement at second, especially defensively. All things considered the Mets should make the playoffs, at the very least as a wild card team. It’s so hard to pick against that rotation.
2015 record & result: 71-91, finished third in the division
Key losses: P Hernandez Alvarez
Key additions: P Wei-Yin Chen, Manager Don Mattingly
New manager Don Mattingly needed a change of scenery and he got it, leaving that L.A. limelight behind for some Miami sunlight. This seems to be a good fit already as the players respect what he’s done as both a player and a skipper in this game. Still, there is only so much Mattingly can do from a managerial standpoint. Bottom line for Miami is that they need their young stars Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez healthy. Stanton has had wrist issues, while Fernandez has battled some always-worrisome elbow injuries. If each stays off the DL the sky is the limit for the Marlins. On a side note, Barry Bonds working with Stanton is a terrifying thought for baseballs everywhere. Got a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more moonshots in 2016. Adding Wei-Yin Chen was a big move, as it puts a strong lefty in the rotation behind Fernandez. Otherwise, this team didn’t change much from a season ago when they won just 71 games. They’re an up and coming group in a competitive division. They’ll battle, but come up just shy of .500 for the season.
2015 record & result: 67-95, finished fourth in the division
Key losses: P Shelby Miller
Key additions: CF Ender Inciarte, SS Erick Aybar, P Bud Norris,
The Braves and Phillies are worlds below their division-mates ahead of them. Between those two squads it’s really a race for fifth. The Braves traded away Shelby Miller this off-season to acquire their new budding center fielder Ender Inciarte and two farm guys in Aaron Blair – likely a year away from being a big league force – and the 2015 draft’s top selection, Dansby Swanson. There focus is clearly on rebuilding for the future, so while they have some talents like Inciarte, veteran Erick Aybar and the familiar Freddie Freeman, they probably won’t be winning a lot of games this season.
2015 record & result: 63-99, finished last in the division
Key losses: P Clff Lee, RF Dominic Brown, P Ken Giles
Key additions: P Jeremy Hellickson, OF Tyler Goeddel
A winning season in Philadelphia would mean that their young prospects mastered the big leagues at an accelerated pace. Sure, it could happen, but it’s not likely. There are certainly brighter days ahead for the Phillies, who have slowly dumped some of their hefty investments of the past like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, and turned their attention instead towards their farm system. Ryan Howard is likely the next to go. Aaron Nola could win the Cy Young down the line, but in 2016 he’ll be continuing to develop. The same goes for Vincent Velasquez – another strong young pitcher in the Phillies’ rotation this year. Guys like Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez and J.P. Crawford are the future of this team. They’ll progress this season, but the Phillies are quite a ways away from competing for World Series again.
2015 record & result: 97-65, finished third in the division, lost to the Mets in the NLCS
Key losses: 2B Starlin Castro, P Dan Haren, INF Jonathan Herrera
Key additions: P John Lackey, 2B Ben Zobrist, RF Jason Heyward, P Adam Warren
Almost everyone expects the Cubs to win 100 games or more and end the curse of the Billy goat. They’re as close to a shoo-in as you’ll find this year, but as we saw last season with the Nationals, “on paper” means very little. We have to play the games. That said it’s understandable why expectations are so high for Chicago’s north side team. The additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist improve an offense that could already mash thanks to youngsters Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber. Although they gave up Starlin Castro to snare Adam Warren away from the Yankees they won’t necessarily miss him too much with Zobrist stepping in, not to mention the fact that Warren will be helpful to have out of the bullpen. They also brought in John Lackey to file in behind Jon Lester as a solid third starter. The lineup is there, the pitching is there, the expectations are there, which is maybe the scariest part for Cubs fans. Can they live up to the hype? That pressure combined with the fact that baseball is just such a hard sport to predict makes me hesitant to write their name in stone as World Series champions.
St. Louis Cardinals:
2015 record & result: 100-62, won the division, lost to the Cubs in the NLDS
Key losses: P John Lackey, CF Jon Jay, RF Jason Heyward
Key additions: P Mike Leake, SS Ruben Tejada
The Cardinals faced some adversity last season in losing ace Adam Wainwright to a torn Achilles early on, yet somehow overcame it to win 100 games. They’re the epitome of “next man up” in baseball. With their ace inserted back into the rotation we should expect them to be as consistent as usual. They lost a little bit of offense when Jason Heyward signed with their division rival Cubs, but as they proved last year when they finished 24th in runs scored, they don’t need to score a ton to win. You can just never count out the Cardinals. They won’t quite reach 100 wins, but a wild card berth is certainly in the cards. (see what I did there)
2015 record & result: 98-64, finished second in the division, lost to the Cubs in the NL Wild Card round
Key losses: 3B Aramis Ramirez, 1B Pedro Alvarez, P A.J. Burnett, P Joakim Soria
Key additions: INF David Freese, 1B John Jaso, P Kon Niese
Last year the Pirates were part of that trio of NL Central teams that had better records than the rest of league, along with the Cardinals and Pirates. 98 wins was impressive, but they lost more than they gained this off-season so I think they’ll take a bit of a step back. Pittsburgh’s future rests on some young guns who haven’t quite made it to the majors yet. Tyler Glasnow probably would have been there last year but suffered an ankle sprain that derailed his season. This year he should make it all the way to Pittsburgh, bringing some great stuff with him. The other is Jameson Taillon who was drafted second overall in 2010. Those two are the future of this franchise’s rotation. In the mean time Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano have to carry the work load. Jon Niese could be a reliable middle of the rotation arm for he Pirates, after that though the back end is underwhelming with Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong. They’ll be in the mix but there are so many talented teams in the NL and only 6 can get in.
2015 record & result: 68-94, finished fourth in the division
Key losses: 1B Adam Lind, P Francisco Rodriguez
Key additions: OF Keon Broxton, 1B Chris Carter, 3B Aaron Hill
Milwaukee is a franchise in rebuild. They’ve stripped their roster down to nearly nothing and will build it back up over time like the Astros did. Every team goes through rebuilds over time, the Brewers just happen to be in the middle of theirs, meaning: they won’t be very competitive. The offense will have to be carried by Ryan Braun and Aaron Hill. Chirs Carter could contribute but he struggles with top-flight fastballs. Wily Peralta is a quality starter; he’ll be dominant. Matt Garza is hurt all too often these days and the rest of the group is one big question mark. It’ll e a rough year for the brew crew.
2015 record & result: 64-99, finished last in the division
Key losses: 3B Todd Frazier, P Arolids Chapman, P Burke Badenhop
Key additions: P Scott Schebler
If trading Aroldis Chapman and Todd Fraizer wasn’t enough of an indication, the Reds, like the Brewers, are in rebuild. What’s left? Billy Hamilton, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. Some notable names no doubt, but Cincinnati has a lot of holes. Anthony Desclafani was fantastic in the second half of last season, so he’s got some upside. Raisell Iglesias showed a lot of potential striking out 104 batters over just 18 games last season, but he still has some room for growth. Homer Bailey is another young pitcher waiting to blossom too. The puzzle is taking shape, it’s just not completely put together yet.
San Francisco Giants:
2015 record & result: 84-78, finished second in the division
Key losses: P Mike Leake, P Tim Lincecum, OF Nori Aoki
Key additions: CF Denard Span, P Johnny Cueto, P Jeff Samardzija
A fringe wild card team in 2015, San Francisco looks primed for another World Series run in 2016 (go figure, it’s an even numbered year). The addition of Johnny Cueto gives the Giants a steady arm behind workhorse Madison Bumgarner. Cueto is a little overrated, but he can be extremely dominant at times. In game two of the World Series for example he was lights out, going a full nine innings, while surrendering just two hits and one run. That’s the Cueto San Francisco hopes they get for most of the regular season and of course the playoffs. It looks like Jeff Samardzija finally has a place to get comfortable after bouncing around from the Cubs to the A’s to the White Sox over the last two seasons. He helps sure up an experienced group of starters that includes Jake Peavy and Matt Cain as well. Their lineup has some power in Brandon Belt and Buster Posey and new center fielder Denard Span will be a the key that drives the car. That was a great addition for them. All this mixed with one of the strongest bullpens in the league should culminate in a division title for San Francisco.
2015 record & result: 79-83, finished third in the division
Key losses: C Jared Saltalamacchia, OF Ender Inciarte
Key additions: P Zack Greinke, P Shelby Miller, P Tyler Clippard
What an off-season for Arizona. They snuck in as a dark horse to snatch up Zack Greinke with a six year, $206 million deal, then gave up a kings ransom for Shalby These moves will have immediate impacts, so much so that they have a chance to squeak by the Dodgers for second place in the division. The rotation is pretty solid with those two at the top and guys like lefty Patrick Corbin and the powerful arm of Rubby De La Rosa in the middle. Obviously the first name you think of when you hear “The Arizona Diamondbacks” is last year’s NL MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt, but there are some other bats that can produce. A.J. Pollack for example hit .315 last season with an OPS of .865. As a lefty, Jake Lamb needs to contribute as well. Believe it or not Arizona actually scored 720 runs in 2015, which was the eight highest mark in the league. That offense with a much improved rotation means the D-backs have a chance to compete for a playoff spot.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
2015 record & result: 92-70, won the division, lost to the Mets in the NLDS
Key losses: P Zack Greinke, P Joel Peralta, SS Jimmy Rollins
Key additions: P Scott Kazmir, P Kenta Maeda
Understandably, many people are picking the Dodgers to still win this division despite losing Zack Greinke this off-season. I happen to think that’s a bigger blow than is being accounted for. Sure, Scott Kazmir is a steady veteran replacement, but he’s no Zack Greinke. Honestly, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Hin Ryu are the most dependable starters in this rotation, as Kazmir, rookie Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood are each a little iffy in their own way. The Dodgers strength is clearly their lineup, which will feature rookie Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzales Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson in 2016. Barring injury Seager should become the newest star of Major League Baseball. After missing a good chunk of the season with hamstring issues there are some concerns with Puig staying healthy, but he obviously has the ability to be a Yoenis Cespedes type player when he is. We may get a chance to see another up-and-coming Dodgers’ prospect in Julio Urias later on this season, if the back end of the rotation struggles. Mostly it’s the loss of Greinke that leaves me down on Los Angeles overall. He won 19 games for this team last season. Obviously that doesn’t mean they’ll have 19 less wins this year, but there will be some sort of drop off. They won 92 games last year so at least eight less wins seems fair.
San Diego Padres:
2015 record & result: 74-88, finished last in the division
Key losses: 1B Yonder Alonso, P Ian Kennedy, P Craig Kimbrel, P Bud Norris, LF Justin Upton
Key additions: OF Jon Jay, SS Alexei Ramirez, P Drew Pomeranz, P Fernando Rodney
Like several other basement dwelling teams this year the Padres have overhauled their roster. Newly acquired shortstop Alexei Ramirez is a veteran they can count on, but their lineup lacks pop. Will Meyers is often hurt otherwise he could bring some of that to the plate and Jon Jay is just a decent hitter. Pitching wise Tyson Ross will be a force and they know what they’re getting in veteran James Shields; that is unless they ship him to Boston to get some kind of package that includes Pablo Sandoval. Either way there just isn’t enough talent on this roster to compete with three better teams ahead of them in the division.
2015 record & result: 68-94, finished last in the division
Key losses: P John Axford, P Kyle Kendrick, 1B Justin Morneau
Key additions: LF Gerardo Parra, OF Ryan Rayburn, 1B Mark Reynolds
The Rockies just aren’t there yet. They have some decent pitchers like Jorge De La Rosa and Chad Bettis, although De La Rosa has lost some velocity on his fastball, and Bettis is still progressing through some things. Overall though, the rotation is just average. Carlos Gonzalez has looked great at the plate this spring. Third baseman Nolan Arenado is growing as a player and is great defensively. Charlie Blackmon will be a streaky, but an overall reliable hitter for the Rockies. Still, it’s unlikely that enough things come together for Colorado this season to really compete in this division.
AL: Indians over Red Sox
NL: Mets over Cardinals
Astros over Indians
Royals over Blue Jays
Cubs over Mets
Nationals over Giants
Astros over Royals
Nationals over Cubs