MLB Predictions 2017: Projecting the Final Standings

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2017

MLB Predictions 2017: Projecting the Final Standings

0 of 6

    Are the Cleveland Indians the team to beat in the American League?
    Are the Cleveland Indians the team to beat in the American League?Elsa/Getty Images

    The aftermath of Super Bowl Sunday and the conclusion of another NFL season doesn't just mean a mild Monday morning hangover and some lingering heartburn.

    It also means baseball is right around the corner.

    We're now less than two months removed from Opening Day, and the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training has reached single digits.

    As teams put the finishing touches on their respective offseasons and get set to soak up some sun in Arizona or Florida, now seems like as good a time as any to make some early predictions on how all 30 teams will fare in 2017.

    A lot can still change before Opening Day arrives, but for now, here's a division-by-division look at how each race will shake out, complete with win-loss record predictions for all 30 teams and full divisional analysis.

AL East

1 of 6

    Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts will lead a high-powered Boston offense.
    Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts will lead a high-powered Boston offense.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Projected Final Standings

    TeamRecordW Total +/-
    Boston Red Sox97-65+4
    Toronto Blue Jays86-76-3
    Baltimore Orioles83-79-6
    New York Yankees81-81-3
    Tampa Bay Rays70-92+2

     

    Overview

    Over the past five seasons, the Red Sox have two AL East titles and three last-place finishes to their credit.

    With an impressive young offensive core and a starting rotation that features a trio of aces in David Price, Rick Porcello and newcomer Chris Sale, that trend could continue with the franchise's first back-to-back division titles since 1915 and 1916.

    Replacing the presence that David Ortiz provided in the middle of the lineup and bridging the gap to setup man Tyler Thornburg and closer Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen appear to be the biggest areas of concern.

    Despite the clear downgrade from Edwin Encarnacion to Kendrys Morales, the Blue Jays still have a dangerous lineup that will be backing one of the best pitching staffs in the American League.

    The starting rotation that paced the AL in ERA a year ago (3.64) returns intact, aside from Francisco Liriano stepping into a regular starting role in place of departed veteran R.A. Dickey. The bullpen has finally been addressed as well with the late-offseason additions of J.P. Howell and Joe Smith, per Roster Resource.

    Can the Orioles sneak into the postseason once again with a starting rotation that features Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley at the back end and little in the way of organizational depth if those two falter?

    They'll hit plenty of home runs after bringing back Mark Trumbo for cheaper than expected, and the young duo of Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy is capable of another step forward. Other teams have undoubtedly done more to improve, though.

    It will be all about trusting the process for Yankees fans as the team could potentially miss the postseason for the fourth time in five years.

    It's hard to see them legitimately contending with a starting rotation that features Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and a ton of question marks. They'll be fun to watch, though.

    It's not out of the question to think the Rays starting rotation could actually improve, even with Matt Moore and Drew Smyly both traded since July.

    A bounce-back year from Chris Archer, a healthy season from Alex Cobb and a step forward from Blake Snell could give them a formidable staff. They still appear to be a notch or two below the rest of the division, though.

AL Central

2 of 6

    A full season of Andrew Miller will only make the Cleveland Indians that much scarier in 2017.
    A full season of Andrew Miller will only make the Cleveland Indians that much scarier in 2017.Elsa/Getty Images

    Projected Final Standings

    TeamRecordW Total +/-
    Cleveland Indians100-62+6
    Detroit Tigers84-78-2
    Kansas City Royals77-85-4
    Minnesota Twins69-93+10
    Chicago White Sox64-98-14

     

    Overview

    To be blunt, the AL Central looks like the thinnest division in baseball.

    The White Sox have finally kicked off a long-overdue rebuild, the Twins are only going to improve so much upon a 103-loss showing a year ago, and the Royals are on the downswing and potentially set to blow things up at the trade deadline.

    That leaves the Indians and Tigers as the two teams to really watch.

    The Indians won the division title by eight games last season, and that number could climb in 2017.

    Not only have they added Edwin Encarnacion to the middle of the lineup, but they'll welcome back Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes, who were all non-factors during the team's postseason push.

    The starting rotation stacks up to any in baseball, the bullpen will benefit from a full season of Andrew Miller and the addition of Boone Logan, and the offense could be special if Encarnacion makes a smooth transition and Brantley returns to All-Star form after playing just 11 games last year.

    As for the Tigers, they will need someone to fill the void behind Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer in the starting rotation to have a chance of making it to the postseason.

    Anibal Sanchez and Jordan Zimmermann will earn a combined $34.8 million this coming season, but young lefties Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd might be the better bets to emerge as reliable rotation options.

    The relief corps also looks shaky at best after no significant additions were made to a group that ranked 24th in bullpen ERA (4.22) and has a closer in Francisco Rodriguez who is past his prime. 

    What the Tigers do have is a pair of aces and a loaded offense that will be even better if Justin Upton can produce over a full season following a huge month of September (1.132 OPS, 13 HR). 

    Don't bet against the Royals making one more run before facing some tough decisions on who to re-sign next offseason, but they'll be quick to deal at the deadline if they're not shaping up to be a contender. 

AL West

3 of 6

    Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve will anchor a dangerous lineup for the Houston Astros.
    Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve will anchor a dangerous lineup for the Houston Astros.Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Projected Final Standings

    TeamRecordW Total +/-
    Houston Astros91-71+7
    Seattle Mariners88-74+2
    Texas Rangers85-77-10
    Los Angeles Angels78-84+4
    Oakland Athletics63-99-6

     

    Overview

    This one will no doubt ruffle a few feathers.

    The Rangers were the class of the AL West a year ago, winning the division by a nine-game margin that was bested only by the Chicago Cubs (17.5 games) among fellow division winners.

    There's still plenty of talent on the roster, but they've yet to address the departures of Mitch Moreland and Carlos Beltran and the starting rotation still looks unstable behind aces Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish.

    The team is putting a lot of faith in the likes of Joey Gallo, Jurickson Profar, Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, which is a risky strategy for a team that has invested a ton of money and prospect talent in assembling the current MLB core.

    Meanwhile, the Astros and Mariners have been as busy as anyone this offseason retooling their respective rosters after missing the postseason by five and three games, respectively.

    The Astros may not have found the front-line starter they were seeking this winter, but they did add Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Beltran to an offense that already featured the dynamic trio of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer.

    While a bounce-back season from Dallas Keuchel and a healthy year from Lance McCullers would make all the difference in the world in their pursuit of a division title, guys like Joe Musgrove, David Paulino and injury-flier Charlie Morton are also capable of providing the rotation with a boost.

    The Mariners project to have 10 newcomers on the Opening Day roster, per Roster Resource, including the new table-setting duo of Jean Segura and Jarrod Dyson and veteran starters Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo.

    The M's haven't reached the postseason since 2001, so props to general manager Jerry Dipoto for not resting on his laurels after coming up just short with 86 wins a year ago.

    Ace Felix Hernandez's return to elite form would trump any outside addition in terms of impact.

    The Angels improved this offseason by adding Danny Espinosa, Cameron Maybin, Ben Revere and Luis Valbuena, but after the Halos tallied just 74 wins a year ago, are those mid-level additions enough to consider them legitimate contenders?

    And while they've added some useful veteran pieces this offseason like Trevor Plouffe, Rajai Davis, Matt Joyce and Santiago Casilla, the Athletics still look like clear cellar-dwellers.

    For the good of the sport, here's hoping for a bounce-back season from Sonny Gray.

NL East

4 of 6

    Shawn Kelley will be a first-time closer anchoring the bullpen for a Washington Nationals team with lofty expectations.
    Shawn Kelley will be a first-time closer anchoring the bullpen for a Washington Nationals team with lofty expectations.Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Projected Final Standings

    TeamRecordW Total +/-
    Washington Nationals93-69-2
    New York Mets86-76-1
    Miami Marlins83-79+4
    Atlanta Braves76-86+8
    Philadelphia Phillies73-89+2

     

    Overview

    The Nationals whiffed in their pursuit of Chris Sale during the winter meetings, but they did walk away with outfielder Adam Eaton.

    He'll join budding superstar Trea Turner to form one of the best table-setting tandems in all of baseball, and they could both pile up runs scored if Bryce Harper returns to form and Daniel Murphy comes close to duplicating his 2016 numbers.

    Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg will front a rotation that's as talented as any in baseball, and standout setup man Shawn Kelley will slide into the closer's role to replace the departed Mark Melancon.

    After seemingly going all-in with the move to acquire Eaton, it's surprising the Nationals didn't do more to upgrade the relief corps. They still look like the team to beat in the division, though.

    While the Mets brought back an important trio of veterans in Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker and Jerry Blevins, they failed to make any significant additions to the roster.

    Instead, they'll be banking on healthy seasons from guys like Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Lucas Duda and David Wright to help bridge what was an eight-game gap in the standings a year ago.

    That's putting a lot of eggs in the pitching basket after the offense ranked 25th in the majors a year ago at 4.14 runs per game.

    The Marlins' strategy to focus on building a super bullpen rather than throwing money at mediocre starting pitching has given them a relief corps that can hold its own against any in baseball.

    The starting rotation of Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley, Dan Straily, Tom Koehler and Edinson Volquez might not have an ace, but all five of those guys are capable of eating innings at a league-average level and that's something.

    The health of Giancarlo Stanton could again be the determining factor in whether the Marlins can legitimately contend, though.

    While the Braves and Phillies are still in the process of rebuilding, it would be surprising if they didn't both improve on their win totals a year ago. They might not be ready to contend just yet, but both could push for a winning record if a few things break in their favor.

NL Central

5 of 6

    The Chicago Cubs are looking to become the fourth team in the past 30 years to repeat as World Series champs.
    The Chicago Cubs are looking to become the fourth team in the past 30 years to repeat as World Series champs.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Projected Final Standings

    TeamRecordW Total +/-
    Chicago Cubs101-61-2
    St. Louis Cardinals90-72+4
    Pittsburgh Pirates82-80+4
    Cincinnati Reds67-95-1
    Milwaukee Brewers62-100-11

     

    Overview

    That's right, Cubs fans, a two-win decline from last year's record.

    It's the beginning of the end.

    In all seriousness, it's not earth-shattering analysis to call the Cubs the team to beat. They have the most talented roster in baseball on paper and absolutely steamrolled the rest of the NL Central en route to winning the division by 17.5 games a year ago.

    Losing Dexter Fowler hurts and the back of the starting rotation is still somewhat up in the air. A full season of Kyle Schwarber and a healthy Brett Anderson could quickly erase what appear to be the two biggest uncertainties surrounding the team, though.

    There's a reason the Cardinals have reached the postseason 12 times in the past 17 years, and after missing the playoffs by a single game last season, they'll have a chip on their shoulder heading into 2017.

    The return of Lance Lynn and arrival of Alex Reyes give the team an abundance of starting pitching options, while snatching Fowler away from the rival Cubs gives them an upgrade in center field and allows Matt Carpenter to slide into the No. 3 spot in the lineup.

    Outside of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who fell miles short of lofty expectations, the Pirates were probably the most disappointing team in baseball last year.

    After three straight postseason appearances and a 98-win performance in 2015, they dipped below .500 and finished 8.5 games back of a wild-card spot.

    Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen will need to return to star-level production and Ivan Nova will need to prove his standout two months with the team were the real deal if they're going to quickly right the ship.

    Otherwise, it could be a busy trade deadline as the team looks to shed some payroll and add some controllable talent.

    The starting rotation of Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Scott Feldman and Robert Stephenson will make the Reds a tougher draw than some might expect.

    They should be able to overtake the Brewers for fourth place in the standings, though contention is still not in the cards.

    That being said, the Brewers have the far superior farm system, so they could have the last laugh among the two rebuilding clubs.

NL West

6 of 6

    Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey are eyeing a fourth World Series title.
    Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey are eyeing a fourth World Series title.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Projected Final Standings

    TeamRecordW Total +/-
    San Francisco Giants92-70+5
    Los Angeles Dodgers87-75-4
    Colorado Rockies84-78+9
    Arizona Diamondbacks81-81+12
    San Diego Padres57-105-11

     

    Overview

    The NL West could be this year's version of the AL East in 2016, when four teams contended for the playoffs deep into the second half of the season.

    The Giants and Dodgers again represent the cream of the crop, and both will be eyeing a return to the postseason and some revenge on the Chicago Cubs for ending their seasons in October.

    With the addition of Mark Melancon to the back of the bullpen and full seasons of Will Smith and Derek Law setting him up, what was the biggest weakness on the Giants' roster has a chance to now become a strength.

    Though no significant additions were made to the lineup, healthy seasons from Joe Panik (127 G) and Hunter Pence (106 G) could also make a difference.

    As for the Dodgers, a healthy Clayton Kershaw will be joined by Rich Hill for a full season after he was re-signed to a well-earned three-year deal.

    Sorting out the rest of the starting rotation now that Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Scott Kazmir are healthy and Julio Urias is ready for a larger workload will be interesting.

    Figuring out how to distribute at-bats at the corner outfield spots and determining bullpen roles following the addition of Sergio Romo are also on the to-do list for manager Dave Roberts.

    Then we have the two teams that could surprise in the Rockies and Diamondbacks.

    The Rockies offense has never been the question, and it should be among the best in baseball once again.

    However, with Jon Gray looking like a legitimate ace and Tyler Anderson, Chad Bettis and Tyler Chatwood also stringing together some quality starts last season, the rotation has a chance to be the best in franchise history.

    That's not saying much, but the pitching should be good enough for them to make some noise.

    Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks will benefit greatly from the returns of A.J. Pollock and David Peralta, and the rotation could be formidable with Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker—and a Shelby Miller bounce-back season would be icing on the cake. 

    With a starting rotation that is rivaled by more than a few Triple-A staffs and Yangervis Solarte currently penciled in as the cleanup hitter, the Padres have to be considered the early favorites to be picking No. 1 overall in 2018.

     

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, unless otherwise noted.