MLB 2017: The East
If the Red Sox don't win the AL East, Manager John Farrell will be looking for work. Price starts the season on the DL, but even without him they have two Cy Young winners, Porcello and Sale, plus Wright as a # 4. Not bad. The lineup looks solid top to bottom: Pedroia, Betts, Ramirez, Bogaerts, Benitendi…. The only things that can derail the Sox would be self-destruction or massive injuries. Red Flag: There's not much left in the farm system, which makes the shallowness of the roster suspect.
The Blue Jays are a serious challenge only if you think Happ will win 20 games again. I don't. Stroman, Estrada, Sanchez, and Liriano make up a deep staff, but they look like five # 3s to me. Morales won't make up for the loss of Encarnacion and the Jays had better hope that Tulowitzki, Bautista, and Donaldson had off years in 2016. I suspect, though, the first two are on the decline. The rest of the lineup is meh! material until they prove otherwise.
The Orioles have guys approaching free agency and need to win now, but I don't see how that's possible with a staff with stiffs like Miley and Jimenez. Gausman needs to figure out life in the Bigs and Tilman and Bundy need to be better than okay. Machado is a stud who will soon be in greener pastures, Trumbo will add power to a lineup that includes Chris Davis, though I'm not impressed by his poor OBP or the fact that a guy who hit 38 homers only drove in 84 runs. Jones and Hardy are professionals, but losing Wieters will hurt.
The Yankees? Who knows? Second is possible, but last is more likely. Much has been made of the youth movement—Sanchez, Bird, Judge— but weak pitching is more likely to bring them down. It's not a good thing when 38-year-old Sabathia and his rebuilt knee is your # 2, that you're depending upon a big year from the enigmatic Pineda, and you're not sure who comes after them. The Yankees will score runs, but they'll also give up a lot. Their bullpen, though, is probably the best in MLB.
Same old, same old re: the Rays: young pitchers with promise and a lineup that, other than Longoria and Miller, couldn't hit Trump's ego. Think I'm kidding? No one on the team hit higher than .273 last year and his (Longoria) average was only one of two above .250. The starting catcher hit .186 in 2016. Archer, in my view, is overrated, but the staff is very good. Can they spin shutouts every time out? Of course not.
National League East:
The Mets have the best top to bottom staff in baseball, even if Harvey can't make it back from injury. Syndergaard and deGrom sound like a Dutch law firm, but they're excellent. The Mets have the same problem as the Rays: not enough bats. They will go as far as Granderson and Cespedes take them and neither is someone you'd want to have in the same foxhole. Walker is solid, though, and Bruce has good power numbers, but I don't see enough bats here.
The Nationals are the main competition to the Mets, which is a good thing for Mets fans as no team chronically underachieves as badly as the Nats. Scherzer is the Real Deal, but would anybody bet the farm on Strasburg staying off the DL? Roark had a great 2016. Can he repeat? Gio Gonzalez and Ross need to pitch better, and Harper, Zimmerman, and Werth need to hit like 2015, not last year's doldrums. Murphy will hit and Wieters will help. I like the underrated Rendon, but there is no closer and this team's chemistry stinks.
The Marlins could contend—if they could pitch. That doesn't look likely after the tragic death of Jose Fernandez. Who's the ace? Volquez? Straily? Doubtful. Great lineup, though: Gordon, Prado, Yelich, Stanton, Ozuna…. But there still aren't any arms and the Fish have the worst minor league system in baseball.
The Braves are showcasing a new stadium and have added a few new/old parts to appear more respectable. Freeman is the Big Bopper and Kemp had a very good 2016. Are they, Markakis, Garcia, and Phillips enough? They'll need to score some runs as the pitching spotlights underachieving Teheran and when-will-they-finally-be-too-old Dickey and Colon.
The Phillies continue their rebuild. They will expect more from prized prospect Galvis and are excited by third base prospect Franco. It's simply impossible to know how a lineup whose veteran presence is Howie Kendrick will respond. They picked up Buchholz from Boston, a head case capable of winning to spite the Red Sox or of just collecting a paycheck. Helickson and Eickhoff will win more if they get run support. The rest? I'll just say that the current bottom of the staff might spend as much time in Allentown as in the City of Brotherly Love.
AL East: Red Sox, Orioles, Jays, Rays, Yankees
NL East: Mets, Marlins, Nationals, Phillies, Braves (you can flip the last two)