The 2017 Major League Baseball season is nearly upon us, and around the sports world there is only one question on the minds of fans: who will win it all?
To help answer that question, we’ll be offering our predictions for which teams will make the playoffs in 2017, and which players will help them as they strive to get to the promised land.
1 Chicago Cubs
2016 Record 103-58
Key Additions: Wade Davis, Brian Duensing, Jon Jay, Koji Uehara
Key Losses: Aroldis Chapman, Dexter Fowler, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood
It is really REALLY difficult for teams to repeat as World Series champions, but the Cubs’ path to the playoffs is pretty straight-forward. If they can avoid the injury bug, they should be ready to roll to another division title. They are an incredibly deep team, with great starting pitching, an all-world defense, and one of the absolute best lineups ever constructed. When you’re having to search for places to put Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber in the mix, you’ve got a great problem that any manager would love to have, and that’s what Joe Maddon has in Chicago this season.
2 Pittsburgh Pirates
2016 Record: 78-83
Key Additions: Daniel Hudson
Key Losses: Sean Rodriguez, Ryan Vogelsong
The Pirates had a down year last season, but there are reasons for optimism going into the new year in Pittsburgh. They’ve got a solid bullpen, led by Tony Watson, they’ve made some smart changes defensively as they’ve moved Andrew McCutchen to right field, and they’ve got plenty of bats in their lineup, including Josh Harrison and Starling Marte. They may not have enough to overtake the Cubs, but they have enough to at least compete for a wild card berth.
3 St. Louis Cardinals
2016 Record: 86-76
Key Additions: Brett Cecil, Dexter Fowler, John Gant
Key Losses: Jaime Garcia, Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss
The Cardinals are a team that has plenty of talented players like Matt Carpenter, Stephen Piscotty, and Yadier Molina, but the team has some serious question marks too. Their starting rotation took a huge hut when Alex Reyes went down with an injury, and injury concerns continue to dog this team as they look to catch back up to the juggernaut Cubs.
4 Milwaukee Brewers
2016 Record: 73-89
Key Additions: Tommy Milone, Travis Shaw
Key Losses: Chris Carter, Martin Maldonado, Tyler Thornburg
The two bottom teams in the Central are heading in completely different directions, or at least it feels that way. The Brewers are loaded with prospects in their minor league system, and some of those guys will start to make the jump this season. Players like Eric Thames will be fascinating to watch, and others that are already in the majors like Keon Broxton and Travis Shaw will be worth keeping an eye on at Miller Park this season.
5 Cincinnati Reds
2016 Record: 68-94
Key Additions: Arismendy Alcantara
Key Losses: Brandon Phillips
The Reds are an interesting group, but it still seems like they’re treading water even though they have talented players like Joey Votto, Devin Mesoraco, and Zack Cozart on their roster. Their starting rotation is a gigantic question mark, and they give up a lot of runs thanks to bad pitching and bad game management, and those things both have to improve dramatically if they’re going to be at all competitive this season.