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27 Up, 27 Down: Michael Schwarz's Perfectly Bold Predictions for 2016

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Bold Predictions Week here at ranks among the best weeks of the year. It's a time when we all venture onto the proverbial limb to offer our best and most eyebrow-raising projections for the 2016 season. We do this not for the sake of outrageousness but because our readers deserve original insight, because we all need to be reminded that not everything in baseball unfolds as we expect, and because--let's face it--it's an awful lot of fun.

To that end, here are my 27 most optimistic forecasts for 2016:

27 UP:

The Cleveland Indians will feature the game's most dominant starters (1), for fantasy purposes and otherwise. With a full season of improved defense from shortstop Francisco Lindor and new centerfielder Tyler Naquin, Cleveland's great triumvirate of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and 2016's #5 overall fantasy starter Danny Salazar (2), joined later in the season by ROY candidate Mike Clevinger (3), will smother right-handed heavy lineups in Chicago and Detroit as they lead the Tribe into the postseason (4).

The American League MVP and #1 overall fantasy player (5) will reside in the AL East, where, in his second full season, Boston's Mookie Betts will post a .314 average with 24 HR, 29 SB, and 130 runs scored (6).

With enviable rotation depth and improved offense sparked by young shortstop Ketel Marte and his 30+ steals (7), the post-hype Seattle Mariners will win the AL West (8).

Rightfielder David Peralta will finish among the National League's Top 5 in both batting average and RBIs (9), Patrick Corbin will rank among the Top 20 fantasy starters (10), and the Arizona Diamondbacks will edge the Giants to win the NL West (11).

For fantasy purposes and otherwise, the best rotation in the National League will reside in the NL East, not in New York but in Washington, where the Nationals' Top 4 starters--# 1 overall pitcher Max Scherzer (12), Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and the underrated Joe Ross--will lead a post-hype resurgence and carry Washington to a league-best 98 wins (13).

The NL Central race between Pittsburgh and St. Louis will feature MVP-caliber seasons from Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Matt Carpenter, all of whom will finish among the Top 25 fantasy hitters overall (14). Paced by NL Cy Young Award winner and #3 overall fantasy starter Michael Wacha (15), the Cardinals once again will edge the Pirates for the division title (16).

Speaking of the NL Central, Milwaukee's Keon Broxton will finish second in the NL with 44 steals (17).

Dustin Pedroia will remain healthy all season and will finish as a Top 5 second baseman (18).

Victor Martinez will enjoy a bounceback season, finishing 5th the AL with 102 RBIs (19) and leading the Tigers into the postseason (20).

Chris Archer will finish as the #4 overall fantasy starter (21) and lead the Rays into the playoffs (22).

If called to the Majors by June, Houston first baseman A.J. Reed will finish among the Top 10 fantasy players at his position (23).

Only one player will reach 40 home runs: Minnesota's Miguel Sano (24). Houston's Colby Rasmus will finish 2nd in the AL with 36 home runs (25).

Taijuan Walker will lead his team in wins and strikeouts (26) and, with teammate Felix Hernandez, will form part of a one-two punch that leads Seattle to the 2016 World Series Championship (27).

And here are 27 of my least optimistic forecasts:

27 DOWN:

All the Mets young starters besides Noah Syndergaard will post disappointing numbers as the team struggles to score runs (1).

After a fast start, the weight of expectations will bury the Cubs (2), whose best pitcher for fantasy purposes--#26 overall--will turn out to be Kyle Hendricks (3). Kris Bryant and Addison Russell will combine for 390-400 strikeouts (4). After Anthony Rizzo, Chicago's second-best offensive player will be Dexter Fowler (5).

Dodgers rookie shortstop Corey Seager will struggle out of the gate, endure a brief demotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City, and return to post pedestrian offensive numbers that leave him outside the Top 15 at his position (6).

The Mets, Cubs, and Dodgers will miss the playoffs (7).

Powerful right-handed lineups in Toronto, Baltimore, and elsewhere will batter free-agent bust David Price, whose final ERA in less than 30 starts will be north of 4.50 (8).

With diminished power and a characteristically weak batting average, Brian Dozier will be dropped to the bottom third of the Minnesota lineup (9) and finish outside the Top 12 at his position (10).

THE Trade Watch will begin in earnest, as Mike Trout, surrounded in Los Angeles by a majority of replacement-level talents, for the first time in his career fails to reach 100 runs, 100 RBI, or 30 HR (11).

The Red Sox, Twins, and Angels will miss the playoffs (12).

Toronto's Marco Estrada will take a big step back, finish in the Bottom 5 among AL qualifiers in ERA (13), and return to the bullpen by season's end (14).

The only Yankees hitters to finish in the Top 15 at their respective positions will be catcher Brian McCann and shortstop Didi Gregorius (15).

The two worst rotations in the AL West will reside in Houston and Texas (16), where only Dallas Keuchel will finish among the Top 50 fantasy starters (17).

The Blue Jays, Yankees, Astros, and Rangers will miss the playoffs (18).

Ryan Braun will finish outside the Top 40 outfielders (19).

Joey Votto will finish outside the Top 10 first basemen (20).

The playoff-bound Pirates will trade rightfielder Gregory Polanco (21).

The playoff-bound Rays will trade starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi (22).

Starting pitcher Sonny Gray will finish outside the Top 50 at his position (23) and will be traded by the non-playoff-bound Athletics (24).

In addition to Gray, starting pitchers who will finish outside the Top 50 at their position include Tyson Ross, Carlos Rodon, Scott Kazmir, and Jeff Samardzija (25).

Of all the players being drafted in the Top 20, Houston shortstop Carlos Correa will return the lowest value (26).

The Washington Nationals will lose the World Series in six games (27).

Enjoy the season!