2017 Predictions and Useless Guesses

Last season was no different than seasons past. I, once again, wrote a prediction piece and I, once again, was wrong across the board. There’s nothing wrong with that, as someone has to be wrong – why not me? I’ll look at this again prior to Opening Day of 2018, realizing how silly I was, likely predicting another Manager of the Year who will be the first to lose his job, just like last year.  Anyway…here goes nothing!

American League


Courtesy: MLB.com

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Toronto Blue Jays
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. New York Yankees

 

AL Central

  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. Minnesota Twins
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Chicago White Sox

 

Courtesy: MLB.com

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Houston Astros
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Los Angeles Angels
  5. Oakland Athletics

AL Wild Cards

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Detroit Tigers

National League

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. New York Mets
  3. Miami Marlins
  4. Atlanta Braves
  5. Philadelphia Phillies

 

Courtesy: MLB.com

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Cincinnati Reds

 

Courtesy: rumorsandrants.com

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Diego Padres

NL Wild Cards

  1. New York Mets
  2. San Francisco Giants

World Series Prediction

Cleveland Indians over Chicago Cubs in seven – redemption.

AL Manager of the Year

Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians

So close last season, Tito has a roster that is improved with the addition of Edwin Encarnacion. In addition to that, you’ll see a healthy Michael Brantley. With a roster and lineup as loaded as the Tribe’s, why does he deserve this award, do you ask? Francona will maneuver all of those pieces in ways that make him look like a master, including the usage of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller as situational closers, changing the way that the league will use the bullpen for years to come.

NL Manager of the Year

Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers

Roberts, like Francona, has a lot of talent; however, Roberts doesn’t have the pitching depth that Cleveland has. He finds ways to win games, just like he found ways to be such a useful player during his career. He’ll find a way to help Yasiel Puig find success, and he rides Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias‘ breakout to a division title. Young players like Cody Bellinger and Urias are the difference in the Dodgers’ success, and Roberts plays a major role in their ascension to success.

Courtesy: teepublic.com

AL MVP

Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH, Cleveland Indians

The contract will look even more brilliant when “Edwing” lead Cleveland to a title. The right-handed pop in between Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and fellow Dominican masher, switch-hitting Carlos Santana, makes the Indians’ offense one for the ages, in a season for the ages from the 34-year-old slugger.

NL MVP

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs

Certainly, it may be challenging to find a Most Valuable Player on a team that wins over 100 games, especially one with reigning MVP Kris Bryant, but Rizzo has even more support around him in 2017. Another impressive season from Bryant will be enhanced by further gains from Addison Russell and Javier Baez, while Jason Heyward finds his groove again. In the midst of all of that mashing is Rizzo, who will reach career-highs in home runs, RBI, runs, and OPS, leading the Cubs back to the World Series.

AL Cy Young

Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Cleveland Indians

Perhaps he is a darkhorse with Corey Kluber still around, but this is the year that it all comes together for this guy.  Carrasco will reach 200 innings, eclipse 220 strikeouts, and continue to show overpowering stuff that he has mastered to control.  Counting on more than 30 starts from Carrasco may be the new version of counting on ten starts from Brett Anderson, but…he will be part of the Indians domination over the AL.

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Since 2009, Kershaw has a 2.24 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP over 1,652.1 innings. While he has to share the spotlight with the likes of Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, Jon Lester, and Johnny Cueto in the NL, a healthy Kershaw is by far the best pitcher in the world…and certainly the NL. Bank on his healthy back and another Cy Young award in 2017, his 4th prior to turning 30.

AL Rookie of the Year

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox

This seems like an easy one. Benintendi will be capable of spraying the ball all over the field, while his muscle growth over the winter seems to be the key in some of those balls flying out of the park in 2017. The 7th overall pick in the 2015 draft, he is already well-known, while his results and rapid arrival to the Red Sox have led to lofty expectations…expectations that he will reach in his first full season.

Courtesy: ATLallday.com

NL Rookie of the Year

Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves

Swanson was taken with the 1st pick overall in the 2015 draft, several picks before Benintendi. He, also, rose quickly, reaching the A-T-L and playing in 38 games last season. He just fell short of losing his rookie status, which will allow him to run away with the award in 2017. He is one of the fresh faces of the Braves’ youth movement as they open a new stadium this year, beginning a new foundation of talent for the former perennial powerhouse of the NL East. It won’t be long, thanks to players like Swanson, until the Braves are relevant again.

If you want to see a list of sleepers for 2017, check out these 12 players HERE!

Comment, Share, Like on social media! It will be a great season, no matter how terribly wrong we all may be in our predictions!

 

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Why the Cleveland Indians Need to Make a Deal

When the Cleveland Indians dealt Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves in August, with cash, they were able to dump quite a bit of salary in the process. Swisher is set to make $15 million and Bourn is set to make $14 million, and the Braves are desperately seeking a deal of Swisher in their rebuilding process, which seems to be taking on horrible contracts and dealing their existing talent for prospects, as they did with Shelby Miller in their recent deal with Arizona. Regardless of the deal, the Indians are now in a very interesting spot. Their current roster, after arbitration projections from MLBTradeRumors, will earn roughly $64.9 million in 2016. After acquiring Collin Cowgill from the Angels, the Indians CAN’T be finished, right?

Cleveland's pitching staff is deep and loaded. Can they survive a deal? Courtesy: Fox Sports
Cleveland’s pitching staff is deep and loaded. Can they survive a deal?
Courtesy: Fox Sports

After finishing 14 games back of the World Series championship-winning Kansas City Royals, the Indians should look to improve on their 669 runs, which ranked 18th in MLB. It would be easy to say that the Tribe should deal from their strength – their pitching, and it is certainly easy to agree with that saying, as the team has 2014 AL Cy Young winner RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Carlos Carrasco, RHP Danny Salazar, and RHP Trevor Bauer, while mixing in LHP T.J. House, RHP Josh Tomlin, and RHP Cody Anderson.

Of that group, Carrasco and Salazar seem to be longed for most by other clubs.

Carrasco, 29, is guaranteed $19,662,500 over the next three seasons, while the two club options for 2019 and 2020 ($9 million and $9.5 million) are well below market value. When you consider that RHP Jeff Samardzija just received a five-year, $90 million deal from the San Francisco Giants after posting a 4.96 ERA and leading the majors in hits and earned runs allowed, the five years and $38 million owed to Carrasco, who had a career-high 10.2 K:9 and a 2.84 FIP in 2015, seems like a very wise investment.

Salazar, 26, isn’t eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season, and he is under team control, thanks to the arbitration process, through the 2020 season. The young right-hander won 14 games and struck out 195 batters over 185 innings and 30 starts in 2015.

While Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi has stated that the momentum for a deal with the Chicago Cubs is pretty dead, it shouldn’t be.

The Cubs could really use some additional rotation depth in their pursuit of a title. With RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP John Lackey, and LHP Jon Lester at the top of the rotation, Carrasco or Salazar would slide right in as upgrades over RHP Adam Warren, RHP Jason Hammel, LHP Travis Wood, RHP Trevor Cahill, or RHP Kyle Hendricks. Not only that, but the Cubs, who recently signed OF Jason Heyward, could deal OF Jorge Soler, opening up a spot for INF Javier Baez, who could move to the outfield due to the recently signed 2B/OF Ben Zobrist, while postseason masher Kyle Schwarber takes over in the other corner.

Courtesy: Rant Sports
Soler would be a HUGE upgrade for the Indians Courtesy: Rant Sports

The deal makes perfect sense for the Indians, who ranked 22nd in home runs in 2015 and have Cowgill and Lonnie Chisenhall listed as their current starting corner outfielders. Soler, who is under team control through 2021, could be a massive haul for the club offensively. While the soon-to-be 24-year-old has struggled to stay healthy, he certainly has the potential to be an asset for Cleveland.

Soler shouldn’t be enough to acquire either Carrasco or Salazar, but the Cubs have a gluttony of talented young players. Could the Indians get Chicago to add in SS Gleyber Torres, OF Billy McKinney, OF Albert Almora, or OF Ian Happ with Soler? If so, this becomes as necessary for the Indians as laughing at the Browns has become for rest of us.

The Indians can survive this type of deal. They would still have Salazar or Carrasco, whoever isn’t traded, to pair with Kluber at the top of the rotation, while the club could see gains from Bauer and healthy seasons from House or Tomlin to smooth over the rest of the rotation. This is a deal that Cleveland can’t pass up, especially with the trade market that has been set by Arizona’s deal for Miller and the Houston Astros’ acquisition of RHP Ken Giles from Philadelphia.

Season Previews: Cleveland Indians

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Cleveland Indians

Indians
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 81-81 (2nd in the AL Central, 16th in MLB)

Manager: Terry Francona (177-147 in two seasons with Cleveland, 1,206-1,062 in 14 seasons overall)

Top Three Players: RHP Corey Kluber (4.2), C Yan Gomes (3.8), OF Michael Brantley (3.1)

Bounce-back Player: 2B Jason Kipnis

After having a breakout campaign in 2013, Kipnis crashed back to earth in 2014. Much of that can be attributed to an attrition in BABIP, which fell from .345 in 2013 to .288 in 2014, as well as his production against left-handed pitching, which fell from .308/.370/.480 in 2013 to .208/.256/.244 in 2014; though, he dealt with tendon damage to a finger in his left hand (which he had surgery on over the offseason), which can also take some blame. Kipnis, however, has a career .246/.313/.343 triple-slash in 688 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, so it is fair to wonder if his 2013 production was an outlier. Still, a healthy Kipnis was one of the top second basemen in MLB, and at just 28 in April, the Indians should have several more productive, 2013-like seasons left out of one of their stars.

Hold on Lindor fans! Ramirez is GOOD!  Courtesy: letsgotribe.com
Hold on Lindor fans! Ramirez is GOOD!
Courtesy: letsgotribe.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: SS Jose Ramirez

While Indians fans will beg and moan for super-prospect SS Francisco Lindor to get called up to Cleveland quickly, they may be surprised, with patience, at the type of production that the Tribe can get from this 5’9″ speedster. He was an upgrade over Asdrubal Cabrera at short over the second half of the season, and, perhaps, the second half explosion of the club’s pitching staff could be tied to his elevation to full-timer at the position. Still, the Indians and their fans shouldn’t be so quick to write Ramirez off as a space-holder for Lindor, as the 22-year-old (yes, he’s quite young) has a little pop and plenty of speed, providing defensive value and enough offensive production to be capable of an everyday role, for this year and down the road. His .262/.300/.346 line in 2014 may not look all that special, but he has shown a knack for making quality contact and a patient approach that wasn’t evident in his 266 plate appearances last season. Ramirez is a sneaky-good pick in fantasy leagues, as his speed and skills will play up in a very talented Indians lineup.

Offseason Overview: The Tribe added RHP Gavin Floyd on a one-year, $4 million deal. He promptly injured his elbow, needing season-ending surgery to repair a stress fracture in his elbow. The Indians also took a chance on RHP Shaun Marcum, who signed a minor league contract with a spring training invite, which seemed to be the route the Indians took to add depth to the roster, as they continued with minor league deals with LHP Scott Downs, OF Jerry Sands, C Adam Moore, RHP Anthony Swarzak, and LHP Bruce Chen. The biggest move of the offseason was the acquisition of 1B/OF Brandon Moss, who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics for minor league second baseman Joe Wendle. Moss brings a powerful, left-handed bat to a lineup that was quite productive in 2014, ranking 11th in MLB in runs scored (669). With 1B/DH/veteran leadership provider Jason Giambi, who missed most of the season due to being old, retiring, the core of the Indians’ 85-win team is still around, while the 25th spot on the roster seems much more capable of producing “actual value” to the club.

The Verdict: PECOTA was way, way off on the Indians projection, in my opinion. This is an 88-90-win team, at the minimum, and should be considered the favorite to take the American League Central, even with the Tigers still playing baseball and the White Sox vastly improved. You can doubt whether RHP Corey Kluber can possibly repeat his Cy Young 2014 season, but you’d also have to expect regression from Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, T.J. House, and Danny Santana, who combined to go 17-13 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and a 282:76 K:BB over 285.1 second half innings. The bullpen is very good, as LHP Nick Hagadone seems to have finally found himself, while RHP Cody Allen looked as dominant as Craig Kimbrel last season as the closer, but, as always with bullpens, you never know what to expect from year-to-year. With Zach McAllister, Marcum, and Josh Tomlin possibly landing outside of the rotation, a move to the bullpen adds further depth for the Tribe. The offense is solid and the Indians will likely get continued production from OF Michael Brantley, though it is unlikely to be at the MVP-levels that he showed last season, while 1B Carlos Santana finally has a position and his bat will continue to take off. They have an excellent catcher in Yan Gomes, whose arm and bat have insane power in them. If 3B Lonnie Chisenhall is as good as he was last season, and the Indians get healthy seasons out of Moss, OF Michael Bourn, and Kipnis, Cleveland is as good as any team in baseball.

Seven Battles to Watch This Spring

dicekSpring training is an exciting time for baseball nerds. We get to hear stories about how so many players are in the greatest shape of their lives, while we count down the days until meaningful games begin. The position battles are the most interesting things to watch over the next several weeks, and while it seems like there aren’t a lot of battles to grasp onto, here are a handful that I know that I am going to monitor.

The Cleveland Indians Rotation:

With the additions of Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka on minor league deals, the healing elbow of Carlos Carrasco, and the acquisition of Trevor Bauer from the Arizona Diamondbacks, the club has gone from having very little pitching depth to a possible abundance. It would be safe to assume that new manager Terry Francona has Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Brett Myers penciled into the first three spots, while youngster Zach McAllister has a leg up on the No.4 spot, though it isn’t guaranteed. The possible battle for one spot between four solid arms is definitely an intriguing battle.

The Detroit Tiger Left Field Job:

avisailWhen the Tigers signed Torii Hunter to a two-year deal, they created a logjam of corner outfielders. Andy Dirks seems to have the best shot at the every day job, but he still has Brennan Boesch, Quentin Berry, and youngster Avisail Garcia who could steal some at-bats over the course of the season, while prospect outfielder Nick Castellanos could also push for at-bats later in the season. With Victor Martinez returning from an ACL injury, the DH spot is on lockdown. The Tigers could look to make a deal for a veteran relief pitcher, as Bruce Rondon looks like the potential Opening Day closer after 52 appearances over three minor league levels in 2012. We’ll see if a club decides they could use some offensive help, especially if any PED suspensions come down from MLB from the Biogenesis case out of Florida.

The Toronto Blue Jays Second Base Job:

Gone is Kelly Johnson, who signed a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, and added were Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis. The Jays are absolutely loaded this season and the club will take advantage of a Alex Rodriguez injury and a re-tooling Boston Red Sox club to make a run at the AL East title. Bonifacio is a speedster that can play several positions. He posted a .360 OBP in 2011 and stole 30 bases in just 64 games in 2012 for the Miami Marlins. Izturis can’t really play short or third well anymore and he doesn’t do any one thing incredibly well, but he is 32 years old in 2013 and the Jays could expect about 30 doubles, 6 to 8 home runs, and 10 to 15 stolen bases over 450 to 500 at-bats. The club is in a great position with this “problem”.

The Atlanta Braves Third Base Job:

Well, Chipper Jones is gone and the Braves don’t have a third baseman for the first time since 1995. Atlanta added Chris Johnson as an extra part in their mega-deal with Arizona for Justin Upton and the right-handed hitting, 28-year-old brings a little bit of power with his career .746 OPS. He could be battling Juan Francisco, a powerful, left-handed hitting, soon-to-be 26-year old who has struggled to make consistent contact in his career, posting a 121:22 K:BB in 361 career at-bats. He has a lot of potential, but he is on the weak side of a platoon and doesn’t have a track record to rely on to this point. It will be a sad day in Atlanta without Larry Jones running out there, but the club should be prepared after dealing with all of Jones’ injuries over the years.

The Washington Nationals Catching Job:

RamosKurt Suzuki was once a very consistent performer, averaging 14 home runs and 67 RBI per season from 2009 to 2011 before totally crashing and burning in 2012, seeing his OPS drop all the way to .605 over 405 at-bats between Oakland and Washington. With Wilson Ramos coming back from an ACL injury, Suzuki could get the every day job for the first month or two of the season, and with solid producers around him in the lineup in Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, and Jayson Werth. Ramos was outstanding in 2011, hitting 15 home runs and posting a .779 OPS at the age of 23. Can he regain his form and confidence after a leg injury? How long until Ramos is a real factor in the position battle?

The Cincinnati Reds No.5 Starter Job:

Chapman2The sky is the limit for Aroldis Chapman if he is able to transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation. After posting a ridiculous 122:23 K:BB in just 71.2 innings in 2012, Chapman could, potentially, reach 200 strikeouts by averaging 13 K:9, which is still lower than his 14.1 K:9 career average. He could, legitimately, be the clubs best starter, even with Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos in front of him in the rotation. However, Mike Leake is still in the picture and the Reds could leave Chapman in the bullpen for part of the season to limit his innings before stretching him out. If that is the case, could Chapman then pull a Kris Medlen in 2013 and go on to post a 0.97 ERA while going 9-0 in 12 starts for the Braves after joining the rotation on July 31. Leake, who posted a 4.58 ERA over 30 starts in 2012 after posting a 3.86 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 2011, is very athletic and is a very good rotation filler, but with Chapman, Tony Cingrani, and Daniel Corcino coming up behind him, he could be a long-relief pitcher or trade bait as early as this spring.

The St. Louis Cardinals No.5 Starter Job:

MillerWith Chris Carpenter‘s continued neck issues, which could force him to miss the entire 2013 season, the Cardinals are suddenly lacking pitching depth, as they lost Kyle Lohse to free agency this winter, although he does remain unsigned. In their place, Lance Lynn, who was fantastic before hitting a wall last August, looks like the No.4 starter, but the Cardinals look to have an interesting battle between Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, and, postseason superstar, Trevor Rosenthal. Miller has top-of-the-rotation stuff and could be the team’s ace in the next couple of seasons, while Rosenthal’s triple-digit fastball could be dominating out of the starting rotation. If the club wants to continue to develop Miller and Rosenthal, though, Kelly was solid in 2012, posting a 3.74 ERA over 16 starts, and he doesn’t turn 25 years old until June, so it isn’t like he is a veteran option, either. With Carlos Martinez, another top-of-the-rotation type of prospect on the way, the Cardinals seem to have the depth to overcome their current “shortage” of pitching.

Certainly there are many other battles that will come about due to injuries, suspensions, or additional free agent signings, but these seven look like the biggest as spring training gets underway.

Are there any battles you’re interested in watching over the next couple of months?

Indians Stuff, 12/20/12

IndiansI write about the Indians over at www.wahoosonfirst.com and Bleacher Report when I’m not writing things here. You should check these out, just in case you need something to read while the sky is falling due to a lazy Mayan:

Who is going to DH for the Indians with the current roster? http://wahoosonfirst.com/2012/12/20/who-will-be-tribes-dh-in-2013/

Thoughts on the Indians’ acquisition of Mark Reynolds and Trevor Bauer:

http://wahoosonfirst.com/2012/12/13/on-mark-reynolds-trevor-bauer-and-the-indians-new-direction/

Should the Reds and Indians do a Chris Perez for Devin Mesoraco Trade?

http://wahoosonfirst.com/2012/12/03/could-indians-reds-trade-chris-perez-for-devin-mesoraco/

Three pretend trades that the Indians should try to make:

http://wahoosonfirst.com/2012/11/19/three-trades-the-cleveland-indians-should-make/

2013 Indians Batting Order:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1448795-mlb-indians-projecting-the-2013-batting-order

How many wins is Terry Francona worth?

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1443626-mlb-how-many-wins-can-new-cleveland-indians-manager-terry-francona-produce

Seven starting pitchers that the Indians should target:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1430156-mlb-7-available-starting-pitchers-to-complete-the-ideal-2013-indians-rotation

Why the Indians can win now with Terry Francona:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1429424-mlb-why-the-indians-can-win-now-with-terry-francona

Driving Your Carrasco

I loved Carlos Carrasco.  I wrote about him a few times on this blog (https://thebaseballhaven.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/guess-who-doesnt-suck-june-star-pitchers/, https://thebaseballhaven.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/chief-wa-oh/, https://thebaseballhaven.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/how-annoying-are-inconsistent-pitchers/), each time focusing on how he was inconsistent, but turning the page.  Well, those inconsistencies kicked in shortly after I was pimping him, as July was very, very unfriendly to him.  Carrasco went 0-5 with a 9.13 ERA in July, seeing his 8-4 record go to 8-9 and his ERA balloon from 3.54 to 4.67.

Luckily, it’s a new month.  Carrasco’s first August start was a no-decision against Boston tonight.  He went 7 innings allowing two earned runs while striking out five and walking three.  His nine hits allowed isn’t surprising given the Red Sox lineup, but a quality start has to be considered an improvement.

What should you expect of Carrasco going forward?  His career high for innings pitched in a season came in 2006, 159 1/3 innings, when he was pitching in LOW-A!!!  Expect some more inconsistencies and, possibly, some skipped starts, as Carrasco reaches his career high in innings pitched.  He has already accumulated 124 2/3 innings in 21 starts.  Oh, the joys of 24-year-old pitchers…