This is a little bit late, I know, but trust me that all of these predictions were made before this baseball season started.
1. The Toronto Blue Jays will miss the playoffs
This team has bust written all over it. The Blue Jays’ biggest acquisitions (Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes) were part of a Marlins team that underachieved last year. All of them are moving to a much tougher league, and thus a decline in numbers should be expected. Melky Cabrera’s last season is suspicious due to his PED use, so fans can expect a big drop from him as well. Also, the supposedly superb rotation took a hit when ex-ace and projected fifth starter Ricky Romero lost it in spring training, and as a result will start the year in Class A. Add that to the lack of players who can catch RA Dickey (who himself is due for a decline) and a suspect bullpen, and you have yourself a formula for a big bust.
2. The Reds will be the best team in the NL
After listening for years to two relatives of mine who are huge Reds fans about how good the Reds would be, their predictions are finally coming true. A strong lineup featuring Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Shin Soo Choo will be deadly. But the pitching is the real strength. Johnny Cueto an Mat Latos are both legitimate aces, Mike Leake is solid, Homer Bailey looks to finally be realizing his immense potential, and Bronson Arroyo is a good workhorse. A strong bullpen is headlined by Aroldis Chapman, who has some of the nastiest stuff in the big leagues. Overall, the Reds are strong in every area; this team is one to watch come playoff time.
Numbers 3 and 4 go hand in hand:
3. The Tampa Bay Rays will win the AL East
4. The AL East will NOT be baseball’s strongest division.
As crazy as this sounds, just hear me out for a moment. I’ve already gone over why the Blue Jays won’t be good. The Yankees will be done in by age and a lack of pitching. As much as I think that the Orioles’ young players will take major steps forward, the O’s lack the overall lineup and pitching depth to go anywhere this year. As for the Red Sox: they will be good this year, but without starting pitching, they will (narrowly) miss out on the playoffs. That leaves the Rays, who are as always stacked in the pitching department. Many have claimed that the Rays lack the hitting to go far, but I imagine that at some point in the next month, this conversation will take place and end the team’s hitting woes:
Joe Madden (to GM Andrew Freidman): When will Wil Myers recover from his injury?
Friedman: He’s not injured.
Madden: Then why isn’t he in the majors?
Madden: Well call him up, goddammit!
Friedman: He needs more seasoning.
At this point Madden punches Friedman in the face, Wil Myers is called up, and he wins Rookie of the Year.
As for other divisions that will be stronger than the AL East, my money is on either the AL West of the NL Central. The West has two realistic playoff conteders in the Rangers and Angels, while the A’s are a dark horse candidate. I have nothing positive to say about the Mariners, other than that they have Felix Hernandez and that they absolutely fleeced the Yankees in the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda swap. The NL Central (which was greatly improved by the departure of the Astros) will have two contenders of its own in the Reds (see above) and the Cardinals. The Brewers and the Pirates will both be solid, and the Cubs may surprise some people if Anthony Rizzo steps up.
5. Bud Selig has another major move up his sleeve
Adding another playoff team? Check. Moving the Astros to a new division? Check. It seems like Bud Selig is on a roll in terms of major changes, And I think he’s not done quite yet. This year, he will announce a new change that will shock the world. The extension of the DH to the NL? Don’t rule it out. Eliminating the ability to draft high schoolers? Not out of the question. A salary cap? Don’t be surprised. I won’t say for certain what exactly Selig will do, but rest assured it will be big.