We’re roughly halfway through the 2016 season. The Chicago Cubs could be a team for the ages, while the New York Yankees are more a team for the aged. Trevor Story came out of nowhere, Ichiro Suzuki and David Ortiz are defying Father Time, and Atlanta Braves fans are watching an awful team in an about-to-die ballpark. There have been some surprises in the season’s technical first half. What are some baseball predictions? Which teams are we most likely to see playing in October?
Eric Kabakoff and Jeremy Bourque discuss:
We dissected the Yankees situation (HERE) and it looks like Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller could be on the move. What about the teams out west? The San Francisco Giants are on pace for more than 100 wins despite injuries and a patchwork lineup. Can they keep it up? And what about Clayton Kershaw and the Kershawettes in Los Angeles?
The Los Angeles Dodgers are in far worse shape than the Giants. They have some really bad contracts and are low on pitching to compete with their arch rivals. They do have a decent offense but the old adage states that pitching wins games right? Who would you trust after Kershaw? The Giants, on the other hand, are set to go deep into the playoffs should they stay healthy. They are a little light on offense but they will get a player to fill that void come the trade deadline. The Pittsburgh Pirates, for example, could offer a few good players should they keep on sliding out of contention (their front office really missed their chance!!). Don’t hand the World Series trophy to the Chicago Cubs just yet, though. The Giants have Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto atop their rotation and they can hang with any number 1 and 2 in baseball in my opinion.
What are your thoughts on the Washington Nationals and New York Mets? Who do you see winning that division?
I’ll believe in Johnny Cueto when he makes it through the rest of the season not playing like he did in Kansas City. The Pirates are a huge disappointment, though. Why and how is Andrew McCutchen batting .240 at the end of June? Gerrit Cole‘s injury exposed the weakness of their starters. I never thought I’d say this, but they probably could have used another year of A.J. Burnett.
Anyway, to answer the question you actually asked: I predicted in the preseason that the Mets and Miami Marlins would fight it out. I discounted the Nationals entirely after their debacle last season. Now it looks like the Marlins and Nationals could well fight it out. Thor’s possible elbow injury and a reported setback for Zack Wheeler, plus many injuries to their offensive players muck up their outlook. And it’s hard to believe that Jose Reyes would be a positive addition in the clubhouse or on the field.
Don Mattingly has the Marlins in real good shape, and they are reportedly looking to add pitching to boost their chances. The Nationals have surprised me, though it helps that Daniel Murphy is doing a decent Joe DiMaggio impression and that Stephen Strasburg finally had his much-promised breakthrough year (before his current injury). Dusty Baker was laughed at as a retread when they hired him, but he’s done good work there. Man knows how to manage. They are supposedly in on Aroldis Chapman, and getting him could open the door to Jonathan Papelbon blowing up the team again once he’s back on the field. I think in the end, though, the Nationals outlast the Marlins while the Mets fade away.
In the AL, the Texas Rangers are running away in the West. What about the East? You think the Baltimore Orioles have the pitching, the Boston Red Sox have the depth, or the Toronto Blue Jays can stabilize their pitching and get Tulo and Bautista cranking enough to get over the top?
The AL East at this point is about who can have the better trade deadline. If Boston gets a solid arm or two they will be tough to beat. David Price hasn’t given up more than three runs in his last eight starts and looks to be more of what they expected when they signed him. The Blue Jays have a great offense but really need a true proven ace. They’re in a similar boat as Boston, in need of quality starters. The Orioles are right there with both Toronto and Boston but they have a wild card in Buck Showalter. He is the best manager in that division and always seems to get the best out of his players. John Farrell seems to freeze up in games when it comes to tough decisions and John Gibbons has really only made the playoffs once. Let’s see by the All-Star game who improves the most. Right now, the most consistent team is Baltimore.
What are your thoughts on the AL Central?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment on this since I thought the Minnesota Twins would have a great year. I’ve learned not to bet against the Kansas City Royals, but they have looked shockingly ordinary this year and have twice as many road losses as wins. They likely miss Mike Moustakas and his consistent bat, and what’s the deal with Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez? Ian Kennedy‘s been decent, but otherwise the Royals could well hang on a sign on the entrance to Kauffman Stadium that reads “Starting Pitcher Wanted.” The Chicago White Sox have Chris Sale and Jose Quintana leading their rotation, but Carlos Rodon, Miguel Gonzalez and especially James Shields are iffy at best and it’s those latter three who are starting 60% of their games. The Detroit Tigers are kind of running in place. Justin Upton has given them nothing with that huge contract they bestowed on him, and while I’m sure Mike Pelfrey is a decent guy and all, I just can’t see a team getting very far when he is their #3 starter. Who does that leave? Oh, the Cleveland Indians, who are the hottest team in the league while also in first place. They have a pitcher in Corey Kluber who is clearly capable of winning the Cy Young Award, and the emergence of Danny Salazar this season is a boon for them. The problem is, their outfield is a mess. They lost Abraham Almonte to a PED suspension (also Marlon Byrd but whatever), while Michael Brantley is hurt. They could have a gem in Tyler Naquin, but we’ll need a larger sample size on that one. His minor league numbers don’t indicate that his current offensive outburst will last.
Basically, it looks good for the Indians to win this division when the season’s done, but I wouldn’t bet against the Royals or White Sox. If they Royals can flip their switch back on and one or of the two back-end White Sox starters become dependable, either could make a run as well.
Is there any sleeper team, in any division, that you think could catch fire and make some noise in the second half of the year?
I think the Pirates are better than people think, even though their window is closing fast. Are they better than the Cubs? No, but they can make a run at a wild card spot yet again. If the Arizona Diamondbacks straighten things out, they could also make a run in that division. Other than that, I don’t see much else out there that I would be worried about.
I agree with you on the Pirates. They could use a reliable starting pitcher, or maybe they can still trade for a 2015 Pirates version of J.A. Happ. The Houston Astros have had their problems, but they’re a solid team also and if the Rangers stumble at all they might be able to put some pressure on them. It’s all good, unless you’re in Cincinnati, San Diego, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Tampa, Oakland, Minneapolis or Orange County. Or Denver, but at this point that’s sadly a given for the Colorado Rockies.
What do you think? Comment below or hit us up on Twitter: @fpraven4 or @erickabakoff!