Just like I did last year around this time, here are my predictions for the 2016 MLB season. Before we get to those, however, let's take a quick look at my 2015 predictions, for funsies. I whiffed badly on the AL playoffs, predicting exactly 0 of the five teams (I had the Angels, Tigers, Red Sox, Mariners, and Indians). Ouch.
I did better in the NL, where I predicted the Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Pirates would make the playoffs. I only missed on the Nationals beating out the Cubs for the playoffs. Count me among the fools that thought the Royals would fall back to earth in 2015. I was dumb to pick Dodgers over Angels in the World Series, betting way too much on a shallow team surrounding the Trout and on Kershaw and Greinke's dominance.
My NL MVP pick (Tulo) moved to the AL and didn't play all that well, while my AL pick of Trout came up just short. My Carrasco/Kershaw Cy Young picks weren't bad, but weren't right either. So, I didn't do well last year. But, these are just for fun and I write about fantasy, not the real world team performance, so take these with Jimmy Buffet's lost shaker of salt.
NL: Mets, Cubs, Diamondbacks
NL: Cardinals, Nationals
There are some controversial picks in there, but it wouldn't be fun if I just picked everyone's preseason favorites for every division. There are always surprises, teams that greatly exceed expectations. Everyone is a little too down on the Diamondbacks, for example. Yes, they will be without one of their best players, A.J. Pollock, for a while and yes, they have question marks at catcher and in the rotation, but they have sneaky upside. Socrates Brito could breakout, along with Jake Lamb. Maybe Yasmany Tomas puts it together and Segura has a bounce back year. There is real upside on this roster, including Rubby de la Rosa, Patrick Corbin, and Robbie Ray in the rotation behind the solid combo of Greinke and Miller.
My other NL picks are pretty standard, except for the Nats over Dodgers for the wild card. I just think the Dodgers are more vulnerable than it seems. They already have a bunch of injuries, and, while they have impressive depth, they will rely on some injury-prone guys this year. Justin Turner is their primary 3B, they have a rookie SS (a great one, but still a rookie), an unpredictable RF (Puig), no Andre Ethier, and injury-prone Scott Kazmir, Alex Wood, Hyun-Jun Ryu, and Brett Anderson in the rotation. It is easy to imagine a scenario where they under-perform. They could even finish third, behind the Giants, who are still good, but I think the #EvenYear ends this year.
Over in the junior circuit, I've got last year's division champs winning it again, except for the Astros. The Rangers simply move down to the wild card, even with the return of Yu Darvish. The Rays are a sleeper pick for me in the AL. They have elite team defense, a good rotation, and just enough offense to compete in a tough AL East. They have youth all over the field and could easily improve over last year's results. If they can get anything from Matt Moore or Alex Cobb, they could really surprise.
NL Wild Card: Cardinals over Nationals
AL Wild Card: Rays over Rangers
NLDS: Cubs over Cardinals, Diamondbacks over Mets
ALDS: Rays over Astros, Blue Jays over Royals
NLCS: Cubs over Diamondbacks
ALCS: Blue Jays over Rays
World Series: Blue Jays over Cubs
I know the Cubs are the favorites in Vegas, so it isn't going out on a limb to suggest they get to the Series, but I think the veteran Jays will be too much for the young Cubs to handle and the Curse of the Billy Goat continues, probably just for one more year.
NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt
AL MVP: Josh Donaldson
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
AL Cy Young: Chris Archer
I'm obviously all in on the Dbacks this year and Goldy deserves to win at least one MVP for his excellence. This might be his best chance to win one, with the young Cubs still developing, McCutchen slowing down, and Harper perhaps falling back to reality after an unbelievable season.
With my Jays World Series pick, I thought I should go with Donaldson to repeat as MVP. He's still in his prime and still in a great lineup. There isn't much to complain about with him. Kershaw is a boring Cy Young pick, but he is still the best pitcher on the planet, so what are you going to do? Scherzer, Arrieta, deGrom, Harvey, and Cole should be right behind him. Finally, Archer is a somewhat bold pick given the guys in front of him: Sale, Price, Keuchel, Kluber, but he could take another step forward and vault ahead of them, just like Keuchel did last year.
Those are my predictions, foolish though they may be, for 2016. Enjoy real, live baseball for the first time in over five months! Oh, and best of luck to all of you in your fantasy leagues this season. Everyone still has a shot at the title in April and don't lose heart if your draft didn't go as planned, there is plenty of time to make up for it! Tschus!