Part 3 is the final part of my MLB preview blog. In here I will go over the final remaining teams, give my playoff teams, World Series winner and major award picks. The teams in part 3 is a mixture of hot picks to surprise, fake contenders and legit contenders. Some teams are good on paper, but lets see what happens when real games are played. Some of these teams have flaws that make them not legit contenders right now. These are teams that are gonna be in the mix that may make a trade or have an unknown guy step up that takes them to the next level. Legit contenders will be the final tier of teams. Pretty obvious there, that right now I think they are the best teams in baseball.
Teams That Are The Sexy Surprise Pick
These are the franchises that may have made a big splash in the off season or are expected to have their homegrown guys make a bring leap. These teams are expected to take the next step but still have a lot of question marks.
The Diamondbacks have one of the best youngish stars in the league in 1B Paul Goldschmidt. They are young, homegrown exciting team. This off-season they added two frontline starting pitchers in Zack Grienke and Shelby Miller. They also totally redid their uniforms. I know it's not the case but I feel like whenever a team totally re-hauls their unis they get good because the Rays did it in 2008.
Now that the D-Backs have added two top level starters to round out their team many think this team may take a big leap in the 2016, especially when they signed Grienke from the Dodgers which not only made them better but made LA worse. The NL West is going to be a 3 headed monster in 2016 with the Giants, Dodgers, and D-Backs. The Diamondbacks could make some serious noise in 2016 and find themselves playing in October.
The Seattle Mariners have the longest playoff drought in MLB. They haven't played a meaningful game in October since 2001 when they broke the single season win record.
The Mariners despite sucking for years have one thing that all legit contenders need...an Ace.
Felix Hernandez is one of the top pitchers in baseball. They have legit bats in Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, and Robinson Cano. While Cano has disappointed in Seattle this team on paper does have many guys in the lineup who could be dangerous.
Health is the biggest key for Seattle to be successful in 2016. I expect them to finish 3rd in the AL West but depending on how the rest of the league is, that may get them the 2nd wild card.
The Indians have one of the best starting rotations in baseball. Corey Kluber had an awful win-loss record last season, but don't let that fool you. He still pitched well in 2015. The Indians are the opposite of most teams I've listed so far, they have great pitching but a subpar offense. With a great veteran manager like Terry Francona and the pitching the have I expect the Indians to give the Royals a run for their money in the AL Central.
Boston Red Sox
I'm not only saying this because they are my favorite team, but the Red Sox are the most intriguing team in baseball. They could finish in last place for a 3rd straight year, they could win the AL East.
After trading away their entire 2013 World Series winning pitching staff in 2014 the Red Sox were left without an Ace. They didn't have one in 2015 and were awful.
Finally they addressed that by signing David Price this offseason to sure up the rotation. But behind him the rest of the staff is spotty at best. Clay Buchholz is sneeze away from a 4 month DL stint. Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello have shown flashes but are way too inconsistent and E-Rod is hurt. Their line-up has many guys who have underproduced that are trying to bounce back as well.
Not to mention it is David Ortiz's final season. Will it be a rallying call or the ultimate distraction? As a Red Sox fan I have no idea what to expect. Manager John Farrell is also on a very short lease so if this team comes out the gates cold he may be out of a job by Memorial Day. My heart says the Sox will be a good team in 2016 but my head sees mediocrity.
Teams Who Made The Playoffs That I Expect To Take A Step Back
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals won 100 games last year so I think it's pretty easy to assume they'll take a step back. The Cards are just the Rays or A's with deeper pockets. Every year they lose great players but somehow replace them and are just as good if not better. They lost Jason Hayward and John Lackey but it will somehow not hurt them.
Personally I am just Cardinal-ed out. They have been constantly been the best team in the National League since 2011. While the Giants have more rings, the Cardinals have won a World Series and haven't missed the playoffs any of those season which is something the Giants cannot say. They will probably win 95 games this year and be right in the thick of things but for this I'm putting them right here because at the end of the day I do not think this team will win the World Series.
New York Yankees
They probably have the best bullpen in baseball... but the main question is will they ever all be on the field at the same time? Andrew Miller is hurt and Chapman is suspended. They have a scary 7-8-9 inning combination and if they can all be healthy at once the Yankees are going to be playing 6 inning games.
However after Tanaka I don't love their rotation and they are way too old and questionable everywhere else. A-Rod had a nice bounce back last season but who knows what to expect this year. McCann has been a disappointment. Beltran is like 50 years old. Ellsbury isn't the same guy he was with the Red Sox. Tex is getting up there as well. Yankees were a wild card last season but lost the Wild Card game to the Astros, I don't think they'll be making the playoffs in 2016.
The Pirates won 98 games last year 2nd best in the entire MLB. Unfortunately for them they play in the NL Central where that was only good enough for second place in their division. They played the 97 win 3rd place Chicago Cubs in a one game playoff and faced Jake Arrieta who was on a historic run and they were done after one game. I feel bad for the Pirates because they struggled for 20 years and when they finally get good and are the top wild card team for 3 straight years they have to play in the one and done game. I personally don't like the way it is set up currently but thats how it is.
I do think the Pirates take a step back, I just think the fact they've lost the Wild-Card game two straight years hurts them mentally somehow. I hope I'm wrong, I like this team a lot and hope they compete. They probably will, wouldn't be surprised at all if this team won 90+ again but I do think the NL is loaded and they will have a tough time making the playoffs for a 4th straight season in 2016.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays surprised many by winning the AL East last season and making it to the ALCS. They rented David Price who was major reason they went on a run in the 2nd half. However in the postseason he was shaky. The Blue Jays lost him in the off-season to a team in their division, The Boston Red Sox.
The Blue Jays have the scariest line-up in all of baseball but as we've seen in the playoffs, great pitcher beats great hitting and although the Blue Jays should have a full season of Marcus Stroman they don't have great pitching.
The Blue Jays could win the AL East again, however I think it is going to be a very tight race this year in the ultra-competitive division.
Personally I just think the Blue Jays don't have the pitching depth to be a serious World Series contender. They will be in the mix though in 2016.
After signing Max Scherzer in 2015, everybody had the Nats winning the NL East. However they underperformed greatly under 2nd year manager Matt Williams and only won 84 games. Williams lost his job and the Nats signed Dusty Baker to run the club.
Dusty imo is one of the most overrated managers in MLB history. He's prehistoric in his style and hasn't given saber metrics any respect. He gets teams to the playoffs but doesn't do much in them. However with all the talent on this team I think you cannot write them off. The Mets are the favorites to win the East and have amazing pitching but IMO still have some flaws that I'll get into later. The Nationals have Bryce Harper who is the 2nd best player in baseball and a pretty good pitching staff. I expect the Nats to be in the hunt all season long, they may not win the East but I expect this team to be much better than they were in 2015.
Los Angeles Dodgers
New skipper Dave Roberts will have a lot on his plate in 2016. The Dodgers have been one of the premiere NL teams for the last decade but have yet to make it back to the World Series. This offseason they lost stud pitcher Zack Grienke within the division and replaced him Scott Kazmir who has recently resurrected his career in the AL with stops in Cleveland, Oakland and Houston. The move to the NL should help Kazmir but with all due respect he's no Grienke.
The Dodgers still have one of the most talented rosters in baseball and as long as Clayton Kershaw is healthy you cannot count them out. As a baseball fan, I am very excited to see the 3 team race out west with the Dodgers, Giants and D-backs.
The Astros shocked baseball by leading AL West for most of last season. The stumbled down the stretch and ended up as the 2nd wild card but won the Wild Card game on the back of Cy Young winner Dallas Kuechel. The 'Stros had a 2-1 series lead in the divisional round against the defending AL champion Royals and looked like they were going to the ALCS. They blew a big lead in game 4 and ultimately lost the series.
The Astros are a very young, exciting team with promise. They have two great young pitchers leading their staff and a young SS in Carlos Correa who many are already calling the best SS in baseball despite half a season under his belt. The Astros are lucky the moved to the American League because the AL is much weaker than the NL and they have a great chance to win the AL pennant this year I truly believe that. The AL West winner will be a Texas team as they are the Rangers both look like tough teams that will have a year long race for the division crown.
The Rangers winning the AL East in 2015 shocked me. Yes this team had been a contender in 2010, 11, 12 and 13 but in 2014 everything changed as the Rangers were a last place team, winning only 67 games.
Under new manager Jeff Banister the Rangers in 2015 did not start hot, infact they were under .500 in early August. I remember wondering why did they trade for Cole Hamels when they seemed to be out of the race? But they got hot and ended up stealing the AL West crown from the instate rival Astros. In the playoffs the Rangers shocked again by winning the first two games of their division series on the road in Toronto. However they lost the next 3 games and their season was over.
In 2015 they did all of this without ace pitcher Yu Darvish. With him back in 2015 paired up with Cole Hamels the Rangers have one of the best one-two punches in the AL. With the renaissance of Prince Fielder in 2015 it seems like he is back to himself offensively. With other veterans like Adrian Beltre, Mitchmore and Shin-Soo Choo and promising young players such as Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo the Rangers have a solid lineup. In a weak American League the idea of the Rangers winning the Pennant isn't outlandish.
San Francisco Giants
Well it's an even year. After going without a championship since 1954 when they were the New York Giants, the San Francisco Giants have turned it around completely. Winning the World Series in every even year this decade, 2010, 2012 and 2014.
After a down year in 2015 the Giants signed pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to pair up with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Jeff Peavy. Now they have one of the best starting staffs in baseball. With many proven position players like Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Hunter Pence the Giants look to rebound in 2016 and be one of the best teams in the National League. Skipper Bruce Bochy is also one of the most underrated managers in baseball. 3 rings and I feel like nobody ever brings him up when taking about the best managers in baseball. It is going to be tough as I said previously in the NL West but I expect the Giants to be in the hunt all year long.
It is an even numbered year after all.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals are the defending World Series champs. Can't count out the Royals. I still don't understand how they do it because their team is just a bunch of solid guys no legit superstars IMO and they don't have a great starting rotation but they get it done. Royals bullpen is lights out, even when they lost Holland last year. With two straight World Series appearances this team knows how to win and showed last post season that they aren't dead until the 27th out is made. I'm sick of the Royals and hope they don't make the playoffs but they probably will. In a weak American League they are probably the favorite right now even if Vegas doesn't think so. This team has defied logic for two years in a row.
New York Mets
In 2015 the Mets won the National League Pennant. Most expected their division rival, the Washington Nationals to be in their shoes. In 2015 the Mets starting staff was lights out but they had a historically bad offense. Most Met fans didn't expect a move to made as this team has notoriously bad ownership. However the Mets traded for OF Yoenis Cespedes and it helped fix a lot of their offensive struggles. They ended up winning 90 games and went to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
In the playoffs the Mets beat the Dodgers in the divisional series then swept the Cubs in the NLCS. In the World Series the Mets struggled to close out games. It felt like they blew a late inning lead in every single game. Personally, I think that this Mets team is flawed offensively and in the bullpen. But with hands down the best starting rotation in baseball many think that will hide a lot of this teams bruises. It's weird I hate NY sports but couldn't help but like this team with the young long haired stud pitchers and personalities they have on the roster. Mets are a hot World Series pick this season. I'd say anything less than a division title in 2016 would be a failure.
Under new manager Joe Maddon many thought the Cubs would improve in 2015 from a last place 2014 finish. I don't think anybody expected this team to win 97 games. The Cubs broke onto the scene a year earlier than expected. Led by breaking season from pitcher Jake Arrieta the Cubs were one best teams in the NL in 2015. In the playoffs the Cubs beat divisional foe Pittsburgh in the Wild Card game, then archival Cardinals in the NLDS before getting swept by the Mets in the NLCS.
Last year they were the cute cinderella team, this year they are expected to win the whole damn thing. Everybody knows the Cubs haven't won the World Series in over over 100 years. 1908 was the last time the Cubbies were World Champs. Pre World War I.
Many believe that 2016 is the Cubs year to change that. This team is young and exciting with a fantastic offense with young players like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber leading the charge. Their starting staff features Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta and 40% of the 2013 World Series Champion Red Sox rotation in Jon Lester and John Lackey. The Cubs also added super utility man Ben Zobrist from the World Champion Royals.
Nobody expected the Cubs to be in the NLCS in 2015, this year everybody does. Will the added pressure be too much to handle for this extremely talent but young team?
My DOZONLIFE Regular Season Standings Predictions
I'm gonna include how many games I expect the teams to win. It may not add up correctly, idc, I'm blogging for free.
East: Central: West: Wild Card Teams:
1. Red Sox 90-72 1. Royals 93-69 1. Astros 95-67 Rangers and Indians
2. Blue Jays 85-77 2. Indians 89-73 2. Rangers 92-70
3. Yankees 79-83 3. Tigers 81-81 3. Mariners 86-76
4. Rays 78-84 4. White Sox 79-83 4. Angels 70-92
5. Orioles 71-91 5. Twins 78-84 5. Athletics 67-95
East: Central: West: Wild Card Teams:
1. Mets 94-68 1. Cubs 96-66 1. Giants 95-67 Nationals and Diamondbacks
2. Nationals 92-70 2. Cardinals 90-72 2. Diamondbacks 91-71
3. Marlins 78-84 3. Pirates 88-74 3. Dodgers 89-73
4. Braves 67- 95 4. Brewers 72-90 4. Padres 74-88
5. Phillies 63-99 5. Reds 69-93 5. Rockies 72-90
Wild Card Game: (4) Rangers beat (5) Indians
ALDS: (4) Rangers beat (1) Astros
(2) Royals beat (3) Red Sox
ALCS: (4) Rangers beat (2) Royals
Wild Card Game: (4) Nationals beat (5) Diamondbacks
NLDS: (1) Cubs beat (4) Nationals
(3) Mets beat (2) Giants
NLCS: (1) Cubs beat (3) Mets
National Champion Chicago Cubs beat American League Champion Texas Rangers
Cy Young Winners: MVP:
AL: Chris Archer (Tampa Bay Rays) AL: Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox)
NL: Noah Syndergaard (New York Mets) NL: Anthony Rizzo (Chicago Cubs)
Rookie of the Year: Manager of the Year:
AL: Joey Gallo (Texas Rangers) AL: Terry Francona (Cleveland Indians)
NL: Corey Seager (Los Angeles Dodgers) NL: Chip Hale (Arizona Diamondbacks)
These are my predictions for the 2016 MLB Season. I hope I'm wrong with the World Series, I'd love to see the Red Sox win it in David Ortiz's final season but I didn't wanna be a homer. If it isn't gonna be the Sox I'd love to see the Cubs or Mets win it all. Anybody other than the Yankees, Royals, Cardinals or Dodgers and I'm good. I was gonna list the Rays and Orioles too but I don't think that I have to worry about that.
I can't wait for baseball to start. Thanks for reading!