Final Win-Loss Predictions for Every MLB Team in 2017

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterMarch 22, 2017

Final Win-Loss Predictions for Every MLB Team in 2017

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Spring training is almost ready to give way to the regular season. Soon, it will be out with the fake games and in with the real ones.

    Want to know how those will pan out? You've come to the right place.

    The objective here is to scroll through all 30 teams in Major League Baseball and predict where their records will stand at the end of the 2017 season. This will require looking at:

    • 2016 Records: For reference.
    • 2017 PECOTA Projections: Also for reference, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus.
    • Everything Else: The past and the hypothetical future are good starting points, but only that. Other questions must be answered. How will teams be affected by their offseason gains and losses? Which players will rise and fall? Which players can even be counted on to stay on the field? How will teams be impacted by competition around them? Et cetera.

    Also, a quick disclaimer: I've already made bold predictions for some teams. Since the predictions ahead deal more in practicality than in boldness, they're not necessarily going to be the same.

    Going in alphabetical order by city, let's get cracking.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    2016: 69-93

    PECOTA 2017: 78-84

    The Arizona Diamondbacks could hit in 2016, ranking in the top five in the National League in runs and OPS.

    It should be deja vu all over again in 2017. The production of departed All-Star Jean Segura will be more than accounted for if Paul Goldschmidt rebounds from his "down" 2016 season and if A.J. Pollock and David Peralta stay healthy. 

    But after finishing last in the NL in runs allowed, run prevention is the top priority in Arizona. 

    For that, the returns of Pollock and Peralta will bolster a defense that finished last in efficiency in '16. With Welington Castillo out and Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta in, D-Backs pitchers should also get better framing.

    However, the idea that these things will completely heal a pitching staff coming off the NL's highest ERA is a big leap. The questions hanging over the heads of Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray don't make it any shorter.

    It all points to only a modest step forward.

    Prediction: 74-88, 4th NL West

Atlanta Braves

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    2016: 68-93

    PECOTA 2017: 76-86

    If nothing else, the Atlanta Braves are more interesting now than they were a year ago.

    A roster that had been full of no-names now includes established veterans like Matt Kemp, Brandon Phillips, Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Jaime Garcia and Kurt Suzuki. The Braves also welcomed their franchise shortstop last year, promoting Dansby Swanson to The Show in August.

    But if 2016 is any indication, Kemp and Phillips don't bring much more than name value. So it'll be mostly up to the incumbents to improve on last year's bad offense and mediocre defense. That's too much heavy lifting for Swanson, Freddie Freeman and Ender Inciarte alone.

    The Braves must also improve on last year's 4.51 ERA. Because Colon, Dickey and Garcia have been roughly league-average pitchers since 2014, their efforts aren't likely to make a major impact. 

    Make no mistake: The Braves raised their profile for 2017, but they're still playing the long game.

    Prediction: 70-92, 5th NL East

Baltimore Orioles

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    2016: 89-73

    PECOTA 2017: 74-88

    PECOTA is usually down on the Baltimore Orioles. Yet they've still won more games than any AL team since 2012, including 17 more than they were supposed to last year.

    Thus, it's a good look that the 2017 Orioles resemble the 2016 Orioles. Save for one twist: After suffering through bad starting pitching last year, this year's rotation has an upside element courtesy of Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy.

    Elsewhere, only Matt Wieters is missing from 2016's dinger-fueled lineup. Castillo's presence should make his absence go unnoticed. Guys like Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo will also keep the stands filled with souvenirs.

    Then there's the bullpen, which dominated with a 3.40 ERA last season. Most of the main contributors (including ERA record-setter Zach Britton) are back for 2017.

    So why worry? Because the Orioles had their luckiest season since 2012 last year. A regression similar to the one they experienced in 2013 is in the cards.

    Prediction: 86-76, 3rd AL East

Boston Red Sox

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    Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    2016: 93-69

    PECOTA 2017: 87-75

    A Boston Red Sox offense that led baseball in runs last year will be missing David Ortiz in 2017. But even more pressing now is the aching arm of David Price.

    But since the lefty doesn't need Tommy John surgery, some cautious optimism is warranted. Once he's back, it'll be like nothing ever happened for a vaunted rotation that also includes Chris Sale and Rick Porcello.

    Elsewhere, Big Papi will be replaced in the aggregate if Andrew Benintendi lives up to his billing and Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland hit to their track records. Led by Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia, the rest of Boston's lineup is stacked.

    The biggest gain from last year should be in the bullpen. Even if Craig Kimbrel doesn't bounce back from a rocky 2016, Joe Kelly and Tyler Thornburg should decrease the pressure on him.

    For the record, PECOTA's modest projection contains a strong reaction to Price's injury. But as long as he's not out for the season, their record shouldn't suffer that badly.

    Prediction: 91-71, AL East Champs

Chicago Cubs

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    2016: 103-58

    PECOTA 2017: 93-69

    You don't need to strain your eyes to see where the Chicago Cubs might regress in 2017.

    With Kyle Schwarber in left field and defensive wiz Albert Almora Jr. only set to play part-time in center field, they likely won't blow everyone else away in defensive efficiency again. Their rotation features one regression candidate (Kyle Hendricks) and three older guys (Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey) who could stumble following increased workloads in 2016.

    But Cubs are still going to be great at catching the ball, and maybe even better at hitting it. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist are what they are. Schwarber, Willson Contreras and Javier Baez have unexplored upside. With his new swing, even Jason Heyward might hit again.

    Despite the club's pitching concerns, they're still loaded with talented arms both in their rotation and in their bullpen. And if they need to get help at the deadline, they have the pieces to do it.

    Bottom line: This is still a great team.

    Prediction: 96-66, NL Central Champs

Chicago White Sox

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2016: 78-84

    PECOTA 2017: 76-86

    Despite their headlong dive into a rebuilding phase, could the Chicago White Sox actually get better in 2017?

    Hypothetically, sure. From Jose Abreu to Todd Frazier to Melky Cabrera to up-and-comer Tim Anderson, their lineup still has solid individual parts. With Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon leading the rotation and David Robertson heading the bullpen, the same is true of their mound staff.

    But let's not get too carried away.

    The White Sox will be hard-pressed to improve on last year's 11th-ranked offense without Adam Eaton. Likewise, not having Chris Sale will make it tough to repeat last year's sixth-ranked ERA.

    Then there's the matter of how many brand names will last the year in Chicago. Frazier, Cabrera, Quintana and Robertson could be dealt this summer. If they are, it's going to be an ugly finish for the South Siders.

    On the plus side, such deals would make Baseball America's No. 5 farm system even better.

    Prediction: 67-95, 4th AL Central

Cincinnati Reds

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    2016: 68-94

    PECOTA 2017: 74-88

    The Cincinnati Reds are out to improve on a 2016 season in which little went right.

    The effort starts in the bullpen, which often looked even worse than the 5.09 ERA it posted last year. Fortunately for them, Raisel Iglesias, Tony Cingrani and Michael Lorenzen are a trio with promise.

    Of course, a good bullpen is only worth so much if a team's lineup and rotation don't pull their weight.

    With Dan Straily in Miami and Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey nursing elbow injuries, others will need to step up. Brandon Finnegan is up to it, but the jury is out on talented-yet-unpolished youngsters Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson.

    On offense, Joey Votto, Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza will look to build on strong finishes to 2016. It's a shame there's an excess of mediocrity around them. A healthy Devin Mesoraco might change that, but that's a sizable "if."

    So if there's going to be any improvement in 2017, it'll be very minor.

    Prediction: 69-93, 5th NL Central

Cleveland Indians

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    2016: 94-67

    PECOTA 2017: 92-70

    After winning the AL pennant in 2016, the Cleveland Indians can be even better in 2017.

    Start with Edwin Encarnacion, who's an upgrade over Mike Napoli. Move on to a healthy Michael Brantley. And then to full seasons of Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Andrew Miller on the mound.

    "Everyone feels excited about this team right now," Carrasco told Anthony Castrovince for Sports on Earth in January. "Now, when people face the Cleveland Indians, they're going to be intimidated."

    And yet, it's wise to err on the side of caution here.

    Brantley's health is no sure thing. Neither Carrasco nor Salazar is known for durability either, and Carrasco is already dealing with a sore elbow. And after wearing them out last October, the Indians must proceed carefully with Miller, Corey Kluber and Cody Allen.

    Granted, this is still a strong roster amid a weak AL Central. But it's easy to imagine Cleveland using the latter as an excuse not to push their luck with the former.

    Prediction: 92-70, AL Central Champs

Colorado Rockies

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    2016: 75-87

    PECOTA 2017: 76-86

    Not too long ago, you could look at the Colorado Rockies and see a dark-horse contender.

    After leading the NL in runs and OPS in 2016, they figured to hit even more in 2017. They would have Ian Desmond at first base and full seasons from Trevor Story and David Dahl. As well as usual suspects Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu, of course.

    The Rockies were also set to build on quietly solid pitching from last season. Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson would carry their rotation, and Adam Ottavino, Jake McGee and Greg Holland would clean up.

    Alas, the spring has sidelined Desmond and Dahl from the lineup and Chad Bettis and Chris Rusin from the mound. If Bettis is able to pitch this year after finishing chemotherapy treatments for testicular cancer, Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports it won't be until the All-Star break.

    All this knocks a handful of wins off Colorado's best-case scenario for 2017.

    Prediction: 78-84, 3rd NL West

Detroit Tigers

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    2016: 86-75

    PECOTA 2017: 79-83

    After overachieving relative to their expected record in 2016, are the Detroit Tigers pushing their luck in bringing back basically the same team for 2017?

    Not to one extent. With the second-best OPS in the AL, last year's Tigers deserved better than a sixth-place finish in runs. If they get a consistent Justin Upton, healthy versions of J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos and more of the same from Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler, they'll make up for that in 2017.

    But while the same lineup should provide more runs, it likely won't play more efficient defense. That's no help to a pitching staff looking to do better than an 11th-ranked 4.24 ERA.

    To boot, said staff remains iffy after Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer. The veteran trio of Jordan Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey isn't inspiring much confidence this spring. And while there are good arms in Detroit's pen, it's not a super-pen that will clean up every mess.

    In short, don't expect any improvement.

    Prediction: 82-80, 2nd AL Central

Houston Astros

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    2016: 84-78

    PECOTA 2017: 93-69

    According to a 2014 issue of Sports Illustrated, this is the year the Houston Astros are supposed to be World Series champs. What was funny three years ago now sounds entirely possible.

    After ranking eighth in the AL in runs last year, the Astros won't have to rely so heavily on Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer in 2017. Alex Bregman is ready for his close-up. Newly acquired veterans Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Brian McCann will also help.

    The big questions are in Houston's rotation, where Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers are looking to put tough 2016 seasons behind them. That's a tall order that could necessitate a trade.

    However, the Astros bullpen will help keep the club afloat. It might have been the best in the league last year. And apart from Pat Neshek, the gang's all back for 2017.

    Mind you, the Astros' passage does cut through a tough AL West race. But they're most likely to come out on top.

    Prediction: 92-70, AL West Champs

Kansas City Royals

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2016: 81-81

    PECOTA 2017: 71-91

    Is the Kansas City Royals' effort for one last hurrah in 2017 that hopeless?

    Put it this way: They're going to need a few surprises.

    The Royals ranked 13th in the AL in runs last year, and one of their two good hitters (Kendrys Morales) is gone and has been replaced by a lesser hitter (Brandon Moss). That puts pressure on Eric Hosmer to be better and for Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas to bounce back. Cain and Gordon are on the wrong side of 30. Moustakas was inconsistent even before a torn ACL.

    On the mound, the Royals do have a budding ace in Danny Duffy. But they'll miss having Yordano Ventura (RIP) on the hill every fifth day. It's otherwise a motley crew of starters, which puts the diminished depth of the club's once-great bullpen into sharp focus.

    On balance, the Royals shouldn't be any worse than they were last year. But they won't be better either.

    Prediction: 81-81, 3rd AL Central

Los Angeles Angels

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    2016: 74-88

    PECOTA 2017: 78-84

    The Los Angeles Angels were one of the AL's unluckiest teams in 2016. This is the lens through which their improvements should be viewed.

    Joining the club's lineup are a pair of solid hitters (Cameron Maybin and Luis Valbuena) and another who has power and speed (Danny Espinosa). They'll add to the depth underneath Mike Trout, which should result in the Angels offense doing better than 10th in the AL in runs.

    Those players will also improve a defense that ranked 21st in efficiency last season. The club's run prevention will be further helped by Martin Maldonado, who's a solid strike framer.

    Elsewhere, much depends on the health of the Angels' key arms. For now, Matt Shoemaker, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs are looking good. And after what he did in 2016, the injury to Huston Street could be addition by subtraction.

    It's not a great staff, truth be told, but it can be good enough to make the club's new additions worthwhile. 

    Prediction: 84-78, 3rd AL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    2016: 91-71

    PECOTA 2017: 97-65

    The PECOTA projection for the Los Angeles Dodgers is notable for two reasons: It's the best projection of any team, and out of character for a generally conservative system.

    The Dodgers lineup is easy to have faith in. Corey Seager is an emerging superstar, and Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal and Logan Forsythe are an excellent supporting cast. Don't count out a seemingly new-and-improved Yasiel Puig either.

    On the mound, the Dodgers are led by the best pitcher in the world (Clayton Kershaw) and maybe the best closer in the league (Kenley Jansen). Rich Hill tops an intriguing list of additional arms.

    However, it will be a challenge to mold that list of arms into coherent rotation and bullpen units. While neither area figures to be a problem, neither the back-end of the Dodgers rotation nor the underbelly of their bullpen figures to be anything special.

    That may not show on paper, but it will show on the field.

    Prediction: 94-68, NL West Champs

Miami Marlins

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    2016: 79-82

    PECOTA 2017: 77-85

    Skipping to the big question: How will the Miami Marlins account for the loss of Jose Fernandez?

    They didn't seek an ace to fill his shoes, instead grabbing a couple innings-eaters in Edinson Volquez and Dan Straily. They did load up their bullpen, though. With Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa joining what was already a talented set of arms, Miami's pen now features depth and talent.

    That should steal them a few wins here and there. However, they'll need an effective rotation and offense for it to make a major difference.

    To those ends, their rotation is painfully short on top-end talent and their lineup is coming off a year in which it ranked 13th in the NL in runs. For a better fate in 2017, Giancarlo Stanton, Martin Prado and Justin Bour must stay healthy and Dee Gordon must rebound. That's a lot that must go right.

    It all adds up to a team with a decent floor but a low ceiling.

    Prediction: 80-82, 3rd NL East

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    2016: 73-89

    PECOTA 2017: 78-84

    One possible future has the Milwaukee Brewers emerging as a surprise contender in 2017. Even if they don't, they're still going to be worth watching.

    Ryan Braun has proved over the last two seasons that he can still hit. Keon Broxton and Jonathan Villar are two emerging stars. Orlando Arcia could be another. And the Brewers are making worthwhile upside plays on Eric Thames, Travis Shaw and Jett Bandy.

    The Brewers also unearthed two discoveries on the mound last year. Junior Guerra had a 2.81 ERA in 20 starts. Zach Davies had a 3.97 ERA in 28 starts. That's a solid duo to build on.

    For the Brewers to contend, however, they'll need more pitching. They may not squeeze it out of Jimmy Nelson, Wily Peralta or Matt Garza, each of whom was below average in 2016.

    The Brewers will fix that problem when the time is right. For now, they'll have to be content with baby steps.

    Prediction: 76-86, 4th NL Central

Minnesota Twins

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    2016: 59-103

    PECOTA 2017: 78-84

    Well, the Minnesota Twins did lose seven more games than they should have in 2016. So, obviously they can be 19 wins better in 2017.

    In all seriousness, there are things in Minnesota to like. Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Max Kepler could break out and add depth alongside Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer. Elsewhere, framing maestro Jason Castro should help a long-struggling pitching staff.

    Trouble is, said pitching staff remains short on impact arms. Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson are just OK, and few names beneath them inspire confidence.

    As for those breakouts, let's be real. Buxton had a huge September last season, but it's suspicious that he didn't fix a swing-and-miss problem he'd had previously. Sano can hit, but he may be a liability in the field. Kepler got a rude awakening after a hot stretch out of the gate last season.

    If things don't come together early, the Twins will thwart any possible improvement by selling at the deadline. A rough landing would follow.

    Prediction: 62-100, 5th AL Central

New York Mets

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    2016: 87-75

    PECOTA 2017: 89-73

    It's not hard to see the upside of the 2017 New York Mets. 

    They hit enough home runs to get by last year, but their offense was still weighed down by holes at third base, first base and catcher. Full seasons of Jose Reyes, Lucas Duda and Travis d'Arnaud could fix that. Either Jay Bruce or Michael Conforto could emerge as an additional power source.

    The Mets also have a dynamite rotation on paper. Noah Syndergaard is one of the best there is. Jacob deGrom isn't far behind. Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and Robert Gsellman are an enviable supporting cast.

    But for everything that could go right, there's something that could go wrong.

    Like in 2016, the effectiveness of the Mets pitching will be watered down by bad defense. They're also loaded with age and injury questions on both sides of the ball, and have Jeurys Familia's likely suspension to worry about.

    The Mets are going to be good, but there are plenty of pitfalls that could keep them from being their best.

    Prediction: 87-75, 2nd NL East

New York Yankees

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    2016: 84-78

    PECOTA 2017: 80-82

    The supposedly rebuilding New York Yankees are following a strong finish to 2016 with an 18-7 record in spring training. What gives?

    Well, there is real talent on this team. Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge look ready to be a young lineup core. Masahiro Tanaka is a legit ace atop the rotation. In the bullpen is the three-headed monster of Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and Tyler Clippard.

    But then there's the big sea of nothingness around these players.

    Sanchez, Bird and Judge are good, but they'll be flanked by average or worse hitters at three infield spots and two outfield spots. A major improvement from last year's 12th-ranked offense isn't in the cards.

    In between Tanaka and the big three in the bullpen is an extremely mixed bag of arms. Michael Pineda and Luis Severino have real ability, but the challenge for them will be translating it into results. 

    Despite evidence to the contrary, the reality is that 2017 is a bridge year for the Yankees.

    Prediction: 79-83, 4th AL East

Oakland Athletics

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    2016: 69-93

    PECOTA 2017: 76-86

    In no time at all, the Oakland A's have gone from a contender to an amorphous blob of a team with mysterious intentions.

    They do have some intriguing hitters. Khris Davis has tons of power. Ryon Healy is another keeper. Rajai Davis, Matt Joyce and Trevor Plouffe make for some intriguing additions. Nonetheless, the A's will have to mix and match simply to avoid finishing last in the AL in runs again.

    And in all likelihood, any offensive improvement won't come with a defensive improvement. That would keep the A's in the bottom half in efficiency, which wouldn't help a pitching staff that ranked 14th in ERA in 2016. 

    To boot, staff ace Sonny Gray is already hurt again. That puts pressure on a collection of starters and relievers with limited upside. Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton are worth watching, but the other guys are all just sort of there.

    Add in a tough AL West environment, and it's easy to imagine the A's barely budging in 2017.

    Prediction: 70-92, 5th AL West

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

    2016: 71-91

    PECOTA 2017: 73-89

    Remember the strong start the Philadelphia Phillies got off to in 2016? That was a total fluke that accounts for why they were the NL's luckiest team last year.

    And yet, things are looking up.

    Per FanGraphs, only the Mets got more wins above replacement out of 25-and-under starters in 2016. Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez led the charge, and should take the next step in 2017. Throw in Jeremy Hellickson and Clay Buchholz, and you get a solid rotation.

    The Phillies also have some talent in their pen. Hector Neris and new additions Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit, in particular, can be a solid trio.

    Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez were the only two regulars in Philly's lineup who were worth a darn last year. Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders are two veterans who can change that. And if nothing else, Tommy Joseph and Maikel Franco have power to offer.

    Is the overall product good? No. But better.

    Prediction: 72-90, 4th NL East

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    2016: 78-83

    PECOTA 2017: 81-81

    Considering that Andrew McCutchen had his worst year ever and their typically strong pitching crumbled, 2016 could have gone worse for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Health permitting, Pittsburgh's rotation will have a strong front three in Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Ivan Nova this season. The shortage of depth behind them is an issue, but all Pirates pitchers will benefit from improved defense now that Starling Marte is in center field.

    The Pirates offense was one thing that remained strong in 2016, finishing sixth in the NL in runs. There are enough good pieces coming back to ensure another strong offensive season, but McCutchen can push things to another level if he gets back to his 2012-2015 form.

    Although I filed it under "bold" predictions, I have serious reservations about that. The former MVP isn't young anymore, so his increasing strikeout rate and softening contact are red flags.

    In the scheme of things, that's a big road block in the Pirates' way.

    Prediction: 82-80, 3rd NL Central

San Diego Padres

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    2016: 68-94

    PECOTA 2017: 70-92

    There actually are reasons to be interested in the San Diego Padres.

    They have an established star in Wil Myers and intriguing up-and-comers in glovemen Manuel Margot and Austin Hedges and sluggers Hunter Renfroe and Ryan Schimpf. They're also on the cutting edge with their extreme baserunning and their transformation of Christian Bethancourt into utility man/pitcher.

    Otherwise...yeah, it's not pretty.

    The Padres only finished 10th in the NL in runs last year, and that was likely an overachievement in light of their 14th-ranked OPS. And Myers is the only guy the Padres can trust to hit.

    Then there's their pitching staff. It contains some decent arms in the bullpen, but is utterly devoid of talent in the rotation. There's a clear way down from last year's 10th-ranked 4.43 ERA.

    The Padres are still in the early stages of their rebuild. It will show on the field in 2017.

    Prediction: 65-97, 5th NL West

San Francisco Giants

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    2016: 87-75

    PECOTA 2017: 88-74

    The San Francisco Giants have their bullpen to thank for the bad luck they ran into last year.

    Their pen blew a league-high 30 saves and was all but useless through most of the second half. In to solve that problem is Mark Melancon, who owns a sparkling 1.80 ERA since 2013.

    "I think [having Melancon] is going to give us a lot of needed confidence in the ninth inning," catcher Trevor Brown told me last month. "I think we started to lack that a little bit towards the end of last season."

    The rest of the Giants pen isn't great, so they'll need their starters to eat innings. The front four of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore should have no problem with that.

    The only question is whether the offense will improve on last year's mediocre showing. If Buster Posey hits more to his career levels and Hunter Pence and Joe Panik stay healthy, that's doable.

    In all, these Giants should be a few wins better.

    Prediction: 90-72, 2nd NL West (WC)

Seattle Mariners

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    Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

    2016: 86-76

    PECOTA 2017: 85-78

    My bold prediction for the AL West involves the Seattle Mariners winning it, in part because of things they're definitely going to do well in 2017.

    For starters, they're going to hit. Despite leaning heavily on Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager last year, they still finished third in the AL in runs. Now they have Jean Segura at short, a platoon of Dan Vogelbach and Danny Valencia at first and sneaky upside play Mitch Haniger in right.

    Alongside Jarrod Dyson and Leonys Martin, Haniger will also be part of another strength. Per defensive runs saved, the Mariners' outfield cost them 27 runs last year. Now they have three center fielders.

    What will raise or lower the Mariners' ceiling is their pitching. Everything comes down to Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma bouncing back and James Paxton and Drew Smyly staying healthy and living up to their talent. The Mariners will go far if that happens.

    But since that's an iffy proposition, best to be conservative in this space.

    Prediction: 87-75, 2nd AL West (WC)

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    2016: 86-76

    PECOTA 2017: 78-84

    The St. Louis Cardinals missed the postseason in 2016 in part because their pitching took a big step back. As such, losing Alex Reyes right off the bat this year seems like a bad omen.

    And yet, not quite a crushing blow.

    The Cardinals still have their ace (Carlos Martinez) and a supporting cast (Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha) worthy of some optimism. Seung Hwan Oh anchors things in the bullpen, and there's a decent bridge to him.

    And now that the team actually has a true center fielder in Dexter Fowler, all Cardinals pitchers shouldn't have to pitch to a bad defense again.

    Fowler also adds to a Cardinals offense that finished third in the NL in runs last year. Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss are gone, but there's nonetheless the potential for a solid bat at every position. The best belong to Fowler, Matt Carpenter and Aledmys Diaz.

    Though far from the best Cardinals team in recent memory, this is a good one.

    Prediction: 88-74, 2nd NL Central (WC)

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    2016: 68-94

    PECOTA 2017: 84-78

    The Tampa Bay Rays were projected by PECOTA to win the AL East last year. That, uh, didn't pan out.

    What should be better in 2017 is the club's pitching. Chris Archer is an ace. Jake Odorizzi is solid. Alex Cobb is healthy again. Blake Snell is a breakout candidate in his first full season.

    Where the Rays really need to improve, however, is on offense. 

    They ranked 14th in the AL in runs last year, with only Evan Longoria really standing out. If they get more of that plus the second-half version of Brad Miller plus the 2015 versions of Matt Duffy and Colby Rasmus plus matured versions of Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson plus the 2016 version of Wilson Ramos when he returns, they'll be on their way.

    That's a long checklist, and it's hard to check any box with confidence.

    Here's what's more likely to happen: The Rays will get left behind early, sell in July and skid to the finish.

    Prediction: 72-90, 5th AL East

Texas Rangers

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    2016: 95-67

    PECOTA 2017: 84-78

    The Texas Rangers racked up more lucky wins than anyone in 2016. That points to a 36-11 record in one-run games that screams "Regression!" for 2017.

    The question is how much regression they can avoid. Their lineup can help in that regard.

    The Rangers ranked fourth in the AL in runs last year, and can now look forward to upgrades at first base (Mike Napoli), catcher (Jonathan Lucroy) and at least one in the outfield if Nomar Mazara takes the next step. Further, more good defense is in store.

    The Rangers also still have an underrated bullpen. Sam Dyson and Matt Bush bring nasty stuff, and Jeremy Jeffress showed elite contact management skill last year.

    Ah, but that rotation. Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish make for a terrific one-two punch. But after them, there's no one there. A blockbuster trade could fix that, but the Rangers are short on prospect talent.

    Factor in the tough AL West environment, and the Rangers are in for a rougher ride in 2017.

    Prediction: 83-79, 4th AL West

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    2016: 89-73

    PECOTA 2017: 81-81

    The most visible absence in Toronto is that of Edwin Encarnacion, who took 42 homers with him when he left for Cleveland. But that's not quite the killer it's being made out to be.

    The Blue Jays will replace Encarnacion's production if Kendrys Morales gets a power boost from moving to Rogers Centre from Kauffman Stadium and if Jose Bautista repeats and cashes in on his career-high hard-hit rate from last season.

    Elsewhere, the Blue Jays offense still has 2015 MVP Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin. They're also bringing back most of a defense that ranked behind only the Cubs in efficiency last year.

    That will mainly benefit a starting rotation that's excellent in its own right. Last year was Aaron Sanchez's turn to break out. This year should be Marcus Stroman's turn. Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ and a rejuvenated Francisco Liriano round things out.

    If the Blue Jays do take a step back in 2017, it won't be a big one.

    Prediction: 87-75, 2nd AL East (WC)

Washington Nationals

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    2016: 95-67

    PECOTA 2017: 88-74

    So begins another year of the Washington Nationals pursuing an elusive World Series title.

    They certainly have the offense to finish the job this year. They ranked fourth in the NL in runs in 2016 with a shell of Bryce Harper, half a season of Trea Turner and no Adam Eaton. These are three good reasons to believe their offense will hang with anyone's in 2017.

    But after finishing second in the NL in ERA, will the Nats pitch as well in 2017?

    It's a fair question in light of the club's lack of brand-name bullpen arms and top-heavy rotation. Either of these things could spell trouble.

    Could, but won't. Tanner Roark doesn't deserve to get lost underneath Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and Joe Ross has the upside to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter. In the bullpen, Shawn Kelley, Blake Treinen and Koda Glover are three strong candidates to emerge as a "proven closer."

    The Nats could feel a bump from a slightly stronger NL East. Otherwise, they're looking good.

    Prediction: 94-68, NL East Champs

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