2016 is coming to an end and it was a wonderful year for Major League Baseball and its fans. The sport seemed to enjoy a resurgence in popularity, largely due to the fact that the lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs, finally ended their title drought. However, that wasn’t the only reason 2016 was exciting. We saw more young, bright stars break out across the league as the youth infusion continues. It’s looking like we’re set up for a fun next several seasons with all of the young blossoming talent in the league.
As we say farewell to another year, it’s time to make some fun, bold predictions for the 2017 season.
1) The Cubs Won’t Repeat As Champs
This may seem dumb to some of you. The Cubs are loaded with young talent in the field, have a stable rotation and a solid bullpen with a great manager. What’s to stop them from becoming the first back-to-back champs since the Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000. Playoff baseball today, particularly with the addition of the Wild Card play-in game has become exceedingly unpredictable. While the Cubs seem to have the winning formula figured out, all it takes is one hot team come October to end their hopes of continuing their reign. It’s just too hard in this era to repeat as champs.
As much as I’d love to watch a Cubs dynasty develop (if only to see at what point everyone turns on the Cubs like they did the Red Sox), I don’t think it’s going to happen this year. Cubs fans, save your hate mail. These are supposed to be bold predictions. What fun would it be to just hand you the trophy once again?
2) The Mets Will Trade Matt Harvey
Hot takes! Get your hot takes here! Here’s the thing with Harvey: He obviously became a fan favorite when he came up in 2012 and established his “Dark Knight” persona. Harvey’s starts became an unofficial holiday for Mets fans over the subsequent year and a half. Then, he tore his UCL, forcing him to have Tommy John. In his absence, two other young fireballers, Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard,took over the reins as the team’s aces. Harvey’s return in 2015 was very solid.
Then, last year, he fell apart before being injured and shut down for the season again. The Mets have a wealth of young arms, even outside of DeGrom and Syndergaard there’s still Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. Harvey’s set to be a free agent in a couple of seasons and, as long as he performs well in coming back from injury, his stock will be high. Perfect time to sell high and patch some other holes on the team with some can’t miss prospects.
3) The Red Sox Won’t Make The World Series
The Red Sox went all in on trying to get back to the Fall Classic after being swept out of the postseason by the Indians in the ALDS. GM Dave Dombrowski traded the team’s top prospect along with several others to the White Sox for ace Chris Sale, moved third baseman Travis Shaw and prospects for a top reliever in Tyler Thornburg from Milwaukee and got rid of Clay Bucholz in a trade with the Phillies. All of these moves seem to make the team better in 2017. They likely will. But, there’s still some questions.
The first is, can Rick Porcello repeat his Cy Young performance? My inclination is to say no based on what he’s done over the course of his career. He’s been more of an average three starter than a one, which is fine considering the Sox have Price and Sale. However, behind those three is a combination of Joe Kelly, Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez. Also, the trading of Shaw and Moncada leaves the Sox with Pablo Sandoval as the likely starter at third base. Plus, the team loses Big Papi who was a big part of the offense last year. The Sox will be good, I think they make the ALCS, but don’t think they make the World Series.
4) Kris Bryant Will Win MVP Once Again
See Cubs fans? I don’t hate you. Bryant was ridiculous in his second season in the bigs, slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers and 102 RBI in 155 games. Bryant is just 24, and will be in just his third season. Players generally continue to improve at the plate in terms of discipline as they continue to gain more experience and we’ve already seen evidence of that with Bryant, who cut his strikeouts from 199 in 650 plate appearances in 2015 to 154 in 699 plate appearances this past season. As long as his discipline at the plate continues to improve and he’s got a loaded Cubs line-up around him, Bryant should be in the MVP conversation for years to come. Next year, I’ll say he takes it home, becoming the first to go back-to-back since Miguel Cabrera in 2012-13.
5) The Blue Jays Will Miss The Playoffs
This offseason hasn’t gone well for the Jays so far. They lose two of their three biggest power hitters in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista and have replaced them with Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce. Their rotation still has questions. Can J.A. Happ repeat his performance? Will Marcus Stroman develop into an ace? Plus, the Yankees are on the rise within the division and the Astros, Mariners and likely the Orioles will all be in the mix once again for those wild card spots. I think Boston takes the division and the Blue Jays get pushed out in a crowded AL wild card race.
Now, let’s just wait until next year when you can harangue me for how awful I am at predicting things. Can’t wait.