Bold Predictions for the 2016 MLB Season
After a wild offseason for Major League Baseball, which saw many teams land big name players, spring training has officially begun. Opening day is only a month away, and teams are gearing up to establish themselves as championship contenders. With that in mind, here are my bold predictions for the 2016 MLB season.
Best Offensive Performer: Paul Goldschmidt (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Coming off an incredible offensive season—one that was unfortunately overshadowed by the dominance of Bryce Harper—Goldschmidt seems ready to make a splash in 2016. He batted .321 with 33 homeruns and 110 RBI’s last season on a team that made little noise as a potential playoff contender. With an upgraded pitching staff and strong protection in the lineup coming from teammate AJ Pollock, Goldschmidt is poised to produce his best offensive season to date. With the numbers that he could potentially put up, Goldschmidt is a legitimate threat to chase the Triple Crown this season.
Biggest Disappointment: Max Scherzer (RHP, Washington Nationals)
Although his ERA (2.79) and his WHIP (.918) were both stout during the 2015 campaign, Scherzer’s record (14-12) left a lot to be desired. Granted that he did not receive much run support from his offense throughout the course of the season, he did not perform like an ace down the stretch. In his outings late in the season, especially during crucial months of August and September, he blew some sizeable leads. He also clearly did not play up to his contract. His inability to win big games will hurt him during the 2016 season, and he might even finish the year with a losing record.
Biggest Comeback Player: Justin Verlander (RHP, Detroit Tigers)
The former Cy Young winner, who dominated baseball from 2009-2012, has reached a skid in his career. His 2014 ERA of 4.54 was his worst since 2008, and many seem to have already written him off. Last season, however, after returning from arm injuries, he showed flashes of his former self, fashioning a 3.38 ERA and a 1.088 WHIP. Also, his velocity began to pick up once again. With the Tigers back in the postseason hunt after a successful offseason, Verlander could be poised to reclaim his role as ace of the staff and re-establish himself as an elite pitcher in the league.
Surprise Playoff Contender: Cleveland Indians
If the New York Mets proved anything this past season, it was that a plethora of young starting pitchers could fuel a team’s playoff run. Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer provide youth within the Cleveland’s rotation, while veteran players like Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco provide experience and consistency. Also the talented bats of Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, and Juan Uribe provide the club with a solid lineup. The combination of youth and experience within the rotation and within the lineup could fuel an under-the-radar postseason run for the Indians in 2016.
Surprise Playoff Snub: Chicago Cubs
I might be the only one crazy enough to say it, but I believe the current odds-on favorite to win this year’s World Series will not even live to see October. Without question, they made a splash in the offseason as they attempted to build upon last season’s success. With additions such as Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist to complement big bats like Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant, their offensive play is almost sure to be productive. However, their rotation seems a bit suspect. Yes, they do have the reigning Cy Young winner in Jake Arrieta, but he is coming off of his only truly successful season to date. With aging hurlers Jon Lester and John Lackey to back him up, their rotation may not produce the same success they did a year ago. In such a stacked division as the NL Central, a potentially lackluster pitching staff could cause trouble, especially considering the Cubs will have to contend with teams like the Washington Nationals, LA Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, or the Arizona Diamondbacks for a potential wild card spot.