Depending upon where you go for your bold predictions, you may see something to the effect of "The Cubs Win the World Series" but that isn't necessarily a bold statement. After spending as much as they did this offseason, the Cubs are almost expected to win it all in 2016, and it's hard to make a case as to why they shouldn't, especially when you consider that two of their top free agent signees were plucked straight from their most feared divisional opponent. Instead, we're going borderline crazy with some of our bold predictions.
I'll start with some of the more rational statements, and work my way into delusion. Let's get started!
Carlos Correa Wins AL MVP
Our first bold prediction comes from Taylor Blake Ward of the Angels site on the network, Halo Hangout. Taylor joined me on the Astros Turf podcast a couple of weeks back and talked in glowing terms of Correa as many have been prone to do this offseason. Already one of the best shortstops in baseball, the 21-year-old has a chance to show the world just how special he truly is in 2016.
After smashing 22 homers and driving in 68 in just 99 games last season, Correa gave the baseball world just a glimpse of what his future could be. If he continues to produce at that same rate, avoiding a sophmore slump, he's looking at 36 homers and 111 RBI over a 162 game span. Those numbers are slightly lower than the ones that helped Josh Donaldson capture the award in 2015 (41 homers, 123 RBI), but park factors could play a role in determining a winner if those are the same stat lines that are produced in 2016. With Houston expected to compete again this season, and Correa likely to be in the middle of a lot of team victories, the case can certainly be made that he could capture the AL MVP award at the age of 21.
Arizona Wins the NL West
I mean that's the expectation after the moves they made, right? After bringing in Zack Greinke to lead the rotation, and trading a large pool of talent to acquire Shelby Miller, the Diamondbacks are pushing their chips into the middle of the table. The reason this makes sense is that the D'Backs had the second-best offense in the National League last season behind Colorado, and they also sport one of the best defenses in the game. With the addition of some starting pitching they are starting to look like a true contender.
The Giants (along their even year devil magic) and Dodgers will certainly have something to say about this, but San Francisco's rotation still has some question marks, mainly its overall health. While the Dodgers sport one of the deepest rosters in baseball, they are banking on a lot of bounce back seasons throughout that roster in order to make the playoffs yet again. Each of these teams should finish above .500 for the simple fact that only half the league seems to be trying this year, and with Arizona's improved rotation and stout offense, they should be able to stay away from any prolonged losing streaks that could plague their division rivals.
Cleveland is Led to the Postseason By--Juan Uribe
This one is another guest prediction, this time from Kim Contreras of the A's page, Oakland Clubhouse. Uribe is said to be a great clubhouse guy and a great teammate, so the boost he provides may be more than on the field. Steamer has Uribe projected to play in just about half the season as a 1.1 WAR player, but in a tough American League, that one win could be all they need out of him to reach the playoffs.
Just one year ago Uribe was responsible for saving 17 runs while playing the hot corner with Los Angeles, so the defense he provides should be solid, while Cleveland.com compared his numbers over the last three years to Todd Frazier's. Sure, Frazier leads the WAR battle at 12.2 to 10.5, but he also had 700 more at-bats to work with. Think of Uribe like you would Johnny Gomes. A good clubhouse guy that picks his spots to be productive, while also finding himself in the postseason year after year.
Philadelphia Finishes 3rd in the NL East
While this may not seem like a bold prediction, instead teetering on the edges of insanity, a team that's projected to have no more than 65 wins according to prognosticators should have no business finishing third in any division. Some of the predictions that are out there include FanGraphs' at 63-99, PECOTA at 65-97 and USA Today at 61-101, so just about nobody is high on the Phillies to start the 2016 campaign. In trading Ken Giles, the Phils added some depth to the rotation with Vincent Velasquez and Brett Oberholtzer, both of whom should provide quality innings, while also adding Jeremy Hellickson to the stable for a potential bounce-back campaign. Add these three to Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff, and the team has the makings of a pretty decent rotation. At the very least, these five should present a sizeable upgrade over the 5.23 starter's ERA from a year ago. The bullpen will be a work in progress, but so are the Phillies.
As for the lineup, the trio of Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco represent an intriguing bunch. Altherr posted a 1.7 WAR in just 39 games, which over the course of a full 162 is a 7.0 and would land him in the MVP discussions. While that may be a bit of a stretch, the talent certainly appears to be there for Altherr. Franco hit 14 homers and drove in 50 in just under half a season (80 games) and could be ready to break out in 2016. Herrera posted a wRC+ of 110 which is solid, cosidering that FanGraphs just did an entire write-up on how special he is defensively.
These are all reasons to be excited about the Phillies in 2016, but even without an enormous win increase they are still in the same division as the rebuilding Atlanta Braves and the generally underperforming Miami Marlins. Atlanta isn't going to rush some of their top players to the majors, because that would accelerate their arbitration clock. The Phillies on the other hand are looking for the first seeds of the rebuild to bear fruit, and we could see the likes of Mark Appel, Jake Thompson and J.P. Crawford, among others, with the team when they're deemed ready. The Marlins added Barry Bonds to their coaching staff, but it's their rotation that could use a lift. Add in that Dee Gordon had a BABIP of .383, and one of the team's lone bright spots in 2015 could be looking at a tougher 2016 campaign.
The Marlins could certainly be a 75 to 80 win team in 2016, but I'm buying the upside that Philadelphia is selling.
Oakland Finishes with More Wins Than Kansas City
Ok, before you chase me out of town with pitchforks, hear me out. We're not talking about a complete reversal of fortunes, but rather two teams that total somewhere in the lower 80s in the win column.
The reigning World Series champions are built around their bullpen, right? And one of the key cogs in that bullpen for the last few years has been Greg Holland, who will miss all of the 2016 season. That leaves the team with two of their big three, and while Wade Davis is one of the best relievers in the game, a two-headed monster is much more managable than the previous three-headed beast that the opposition has had to deal with. The addition of Joakim Soria should help fill in some of that gap, but even his impressive 2.53 ERA in 2015 was a full run higher than Holland's 1.44 mark in 2014, before he was injured. Take away one of the team's biggest weapons over the course of a full season and put them in a tougher division, and wins will be harder to come by.
This prediction is more about Oakland, however. After finishing the 2015 season with the worst record in the American League at 68-94, Oakland has spent their offseason addressing their biggest area of need: the bullpen. Sean Doolittle is still the closer, even after pitching in just 13.2 innings a year ago. Brought in to support him are former closer, John Axford, lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski and Ryan Madson, who held a 2.13 ERA in 63.1 innings with the Royals last year. With this boost, it will be difficult for the A's to reproduce their dreadful record in one-run games from a year ago, 19-35, which was a combination of a poor bullpen and some rotten luck. If the A's were just .500 in those games last year, you're looking at another eight wins, which would put them at 76. A hop, skip, or a jump would push them over the 80-win plateau in 2016.
A lot has been made over the glove of Marcus Semien at shortstop, but under the tutelage of Ron Washington he began to turn things around late last season defensively while putting up decent numbers at the plate, including 15 home runs. He is considered a sleeper candidate in fantasy baseball leagues and Washington previously mentored Eric Chavez, who won six straight Gold Glove awards with the A's. He gave so much credit to Wash that he presented his coach with his first award. Semien won't win the Gold Glove this year, but with a better defensive season he could provide more of a boost at the plate without the mental strain of his glovework.
The offense will be hit and miss and times, but the rotation has the makings to come together nicely, potentially giving them one distinct advantage over the Roayls. Cy Young contender Sonny Gray will be atop the rotation yet again, and behind him are a number of question marks at this point in camp. The A's have plenty of depth in their rotation, and once Henderson Alvarez (2.65 ERA in 2014 with Miami, before injury in 2015) and Jesse Hahn (3.35 ERA in the first half last year; missed second half with elbow soreness) are cleared to play, their top three is very formidable. Kendall Graveman was wildly inconsistent last season, but showed flashes that he could be effective in the big leagues, especially as a fourth starter. Rich Hill will likely start the season in the rotation, but what the A's end up getting out of the 35-year-old is up in the air. Instead, look for Chris Bassitt (3.56 ERA in 86 innings last year) to make an impact. With a revamped bullpen and a rotation that can rival many around the league, the offense doesn't necessarily have to obliterate the ball on a nightly basis. With the addition of Khris Davis they may just do that on occassion anyway.