Some picks, a few comments, the usual drill:
AL WEST: 1. HOU 2. TEX (*) 3. SEA 4. LAAOA 5. OAK I like the young Astros to win this solid division, although the Rangers should also be good if Darvish can remain in the rotation all year. The Mariners have the core that could win the division (Cano, Seager, Cruz, Hernandez, Diaz) but in a Seattle tradition dating back to when they pissed away multiple Hall of Famers in their prime the supporting cast is mostly a half-assed collection of scrubs that is neither accomplished nor promising. The Angels seem to be applying similar principles to build around the best player in baseball, and while Scioscia was a good manager for his first decade or so it’s probably time to move on. The A’s aren’t terrible but don’t figure to be competitive.
AL CENTRAL: 1. CLE 2. DET 3. KC 4. MIN 5. CHI I can’t see any reason to depart from chalk here. Cleveland is the class of the division; they’re likely to have the best offense and pitching. The Tigers have spent more money than the Yankees to produce the Central’s version of the Mariners — their offense is good enough but I think their defense and the back end of their rotation will keep them out of the wildcard, and if the 34-yeard-old Cabrera gets hurt or starts to decline further than the 5 WAR plateau he’s established look out. The Royals have had a good run, but I think their window had closed even before tragedy struck — as Jonah says they weren’t as good as their record last year and their roster has thinned out further. The Twins are headed in the right direction but are at least a year away. The White Sox are in such obvious rebuild mode Hawk Harrelson probably has their over/under at only 81 (and Denverite 83.)
AL EAST: 1. BOS 2. TOR(*) 3. BAL 4. NYY 5. TB The Red Sox aren’t invulnerable — the rotation has a lot of question marks — but I’m certainly not going to bet against the best young talent core outside of Chicago. Losing Encarnacion doesn’t help Toronto, but they retain enough offensive talent to content at least once more. The Orioles are what they are — they won’t challenge Boston if the Sox play to their potential but they’ll be in the playoff mix. I guess my annual Planned Parenthood bet with Howard can’t really involve playoffs since nobody expects it. They will at least be an interesting rebuilding team to watch — Sanchez and Bird are both very interesting prospects, but also remember that Sanchez slashed 282/339/468 in AAA before looking like the rich man’s Johnny Bench for two months in the show and that Bird missed a full year. Combine that with a bad rotation and the year figures to be more interesting than good, although the bullpen is outstanding and like Baltimore they benefit from superb field management. It’s the latter two factors that I think will keep them out of the cellar, although Tampa should win more than 68 games this year.
NL WEST: 1. LA 2. SF (*) 3. ARI 4. COL 5. SD I was tempted to say that the class stratification of this division is appropriate for a division led by teams from LA and San Fransisco, but there’s a little too much middle class: I expect their sides to be in the playoffs, San Diego to be last by a significant margin, and Arizona and Colorado neither here nor there.
NL CENTRAL: 1. CHI 2. STL 3. PIT 4. MIL 5. CIN I don’t like it, but it’s hard to not to see the Cubs pushing 100 wins again. Plenty of formidable talent bases have underachieved historically, of course, but rarely under management as astute as Epstein and Maddon. I’d love for the Pirates to come back to contention but it’s hard to see anyone but the Cards mounting even a token challenge. The Reds could certainly have a better record than the Padres if things break right.
NL EAST: 1. WSH 2. NYM (*) 3. MIA 4. PHIL 5. ATL The East comes close to the class stratification appropriate to one led by D.C. and New York. The key questions: 1)is Harper the NL answer to Mike Trout he was in 2015, or the merely very good player he’s been otherwise, and 2)how many innings the Mets can get out of their very talented but fragile starters. The Marlins and Phillies aren’t awful but even .500 is probably a stretch. The actual fire near the Braves’ new
grift stadium is certainly richly symbolic.