Last week I went over five bold predictions for the upcoming baseball season, and today I'll take a look at where I think each team ends the 2016 campaign. The Cubs are being picked by many publications to not only win the division, but also be very much in play for their first World Series title since 1908. Fun fact: both of the Cubs World Series titles came against the Detroit Tigers, but they have also lost twice to Detroit, in 1935 and 1945, giving them a 2-2 record against the Motor City. Unfortunately, Chicago is 0-6 against their other Series opponents. I have them winning the NL Central, but I'm not quite sure that I'm ready to project them to win it all. Without further ado, here are the projected standings for the 2016 season with a little reasoning for why I hate your favorite team.
I'm buying the Yankee bullpen heading into 2016, even with Aroldis Chapman set to miss 30 games with his recent suspension. The one problem that could hold them back this year is the season-ending injury to Greg Bird. If Mark Teixeria misses any extended time, the Yankees will certainly have an uphill climb, but if they can stay healthy I like their chances. The Red Sox are counting on bounce-back years from Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and I'm not conviced they're up to the task. Couple that with the Sox rotation being relatively thin after David Price, perhaps with the exception of Eduardo Rodriguez, and Beanetown still has some improvements to make. The Jays rotation isn't great, and neither is their bullpen. Their offense can only carry them so far, and they used a lot of top-level talent to go for it all last season. 2016 may be a bit tougher for the blue birds in an improved American League.
The Cleveland rotation is bound to click, so why not this year? One of the bold predictions I made last week was that Oakland would finish with more victories than Kansas City, so I had to keep with that theme here. For more details as to why, check out that post. I like the Twins (and for that matter, prospects) and think that Buxton and Berrios should provide a nice jolt to keep them out of the cellar. The Tigers are aging and a bit of an unknown, so I stuck them in last with their weak farm system giving them little to draw from for reinforcements.
The Astros underperformed with their projected win total last year, and a large part of that was due to their lack of timely hitting. If that improves just a touch, or they see some good production out of first base between any combination of Jon Singelton, A.J. Reed, Tyler White, Preston Tucker or Matt Duffy, then they have enough talent with Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and George Springer to ignite the offense. Their pitching staff is arguably one of the best in the AL, and if Houston can stay healthy they should be a major contender late in the season. The Mariners have been projected to be bad in the past, and they've been bad. They've been projected to win the division in recent years, and they've been bad. Until they inspire confidence, I'll err on the side of history. The Angels in last place is not where one would expect to see them, but with their left field situation still unresolved and Albert Pujols already ailing, this team doesn't have a lot of known quantities outside of Mike Trout at the moment.
If the Nationals can stay healthy they could potentially make this race even closer, but New York's starting pitching is what sets them apart. The Cespedes signing was a must, but he could end up being a distraction if his current antics keep up. The Marlins, like the Mariners, tend to disappoint and the Braves are in complete rebuild mode. You're welcome Phillies fans.
The reason I have the Cardinals so far back in this race is because of the suspension minor league pitcher Alex Reyes received during the Arizona Fall League--50 games for recreational drug use. All reports have him being a top-tier prospect, but that suspension will slow down his journey to the big leauges enough that he could just be a September call up. The Cubs have too much talent in their daily lineup and on the bench to not win the division unless a plethora of injuries occur. The Reds and Brewers should be a bit more competitive in the coming years, but for now this remains a three team race.
While I am beginning to have reservations about the Diamondbacks pick, it has been something I was saying all offseason, so I'm sticking with my guns here. Their bullpen is worrisome, but the starting rotation is much improved and they have the bats and gloves to offer a good deal of support. The Giants' rotation has the makings of a strong collection of arms, but there are question marks everywhere. Will Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto return to form? Can Matt Cain stay healthy? It's an even year, so the answer is most likely yes. The Dodgers had a quiet offseason by their terms, but they certainly have the guys in place to make another run, even with Zack Greinke headed to the desert.
That leaves us with the Astros, Indians and Yankees as the division winners in the AL, with the Rays and Rangers as the wild cards. In the NL we have Arizona, Chicago and New York as the division winners, setting up a wild card rematch from 2014 between the Giants and Pirates.
Rays over Rangers
Pirates over Giants
(3) Indians over (2) Yankees
(1) Astros over (4) Rays
(2) Mets over (3) Diamondbacks
(4) Pirates over (1) Cubs
Astros over Indians
Pirates over Mets
Astros over Pirates in seven