Spring isn’t even in the air yet, but as the Major League Baseball (MLB) pre-season kicks into full swing, you get the feeling Opening Day in the first week of April will be here in no time at all. A lot could happen between now and then in terms of both injuries and roster changes, but now seems like a good point to make some MLB predictions ahead of the upcoming season:
1. The Cubs will challenge again
The Chicago Cubs stole the show in Major League Baseball last season, ending their fans’ 108-year record wait for a World Series win. After losing kingpin pitcher Dexter Fowler to rivals St Louis Cardinals, some might have been tempted to write off the Cubs, but a good core of talented players at the peak of their careers, still riding high from the 2016 victory, could be a force to be reckoned with once more.
2. Francisco Lindor and the Indians to get even better
One of 2016’s post-season stars was Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians, who made it to the World Series only to lose out to the Cubs. Lindor is a young short-stop who has also sparkled with the bat in his hand, as his impressive stats of .306/.356/454 alongside 52 doubles, 27 home runs and 31 steals, show. Lindor is a player who looks as if he is born for the big stage, and with him in their ranks, alongside the likes of Michael Brantley and Corey Kluber, don’t rule out the Indians from going one better this term. Also note their status as first for strikeouts in the American League during 2016.
3. Puig and the Dodgers will finally shine
It is a familiar scenario in many sports – a bright young talent who seemingly has all the raw tools needed to succeed, but who falls victim to the unpredictable nature of injuries and struggles to build up a head of steam. That is certainly the case with Cuban right fielder Yasiel Puig, who has been made to wait for the chance to turn his massive potential into an impact on the ballpark. With the pressure seemingly off his shoulders this year as the likes of Corey Seager have stepped up to become influential men for the Dodgers, 2017 could be the season in which Puig comes off, and allows the Dodgers to improve on an impressive 2016 in which they reached the League Championship Series.
4. Heavy investment will see Houston flourish
For the second consecutive year, USA Today has published its projected win total in Major League Baseball for the forthcoming season – and they make for some interesting reading. Houston Astros have been predicted as the eventual winners of the American League West, with a commanding win total of 90-72. By the newspaper’s own admission, the predictions are ‘semi-scientific’, but the highlighting of Houston as a team to watch could be reflective of the franchise’s recent acquisitions. The captures of catcher Brian McCann, outfielder Josh Reddick, starting pitcher Charlie Morton and nine-time All Star outfielder Carlos Beltran signal their intent.
5. Powerful Mets to make it out of NL East
A ‘dinger’ is baseball parlance for a home run and you can expect them to be raining at the New York Mets’ Citi Field this coming term. That’s because of a powerful batting order that features the likes of Curtis Granderson and Yoenis Cespedes, who both made it to the 30 mark last season. But that’s not all the ball striking ability the Mets have in their locker. They can call upon David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud after the trio recover from injury, so look for the Mets to wrap up their division in 2017.
6. Washington Nationals to flatter to deceive (again)
If there is one team capable of trumping the Mets with a run to the post-season, it could be the Washington Nationals, who USA Today have leading the way in the National League’s East division. But the Nationals nearly always flatter to deceive, and their bullpen is full of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ – right fielder Bryce Harper hasn’t hit his best form since 2016 and they also lack strength in depth in the pitching department.
7. AL CY Young Award winner to come from the Red Sox
The CY Young Award is handed out each season in each league to the best pitcher and it seems almost a given that the identity of the 2017 winner will be one of the formidable rotation boasted by the Boston Red Sox. They have an extraordinary wealth of pitching talent to choose from, including Rick Porcello and David Price, both past winners of the award, alongside a regular contender in Chris Sale, and two all stars for backup – Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright.
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