1. Will the Cubs repeat?
The Cubs were nothing short of amazing in 2016.
They will look a little different this year, especially in the batting order. Dexter Fowler, 2016’s star leadoff batter, is in St. Louis. Kyle Scharber will be taking on that responsibility and there is good reason to believe he’ll be just fine.
On the other side, Aroldis Chapman has signed with the Yankees, but they picked up one of the great closers in the game, Wade Davis from Kansas City.
The Cubs will face a lot of tests from teams like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington and whoever comes out of the American League, but in the end, the Cubs will repeat.
The scary thing is, the Cubs have an average age of 25.8. They could be around a long time.
2. Who has the best chance to knock off the Cubs in the NL?
The Nationals are probably the next best team in the NL and they added Adam Eaton from the White Sox. The downside to that deal is that they lost starting pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. They still have Max Scherzer but there will be new blood pitching for the Nationals in 2017.
Washington has an even deadlier lineup with Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Adam Lind and Daniel Murphy leading the way.
The Dodgers kept Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen and their lineup is still very formidable. They’ll need Clayton Kershaw to be healthy and their biggest question right now is, how long will Corey Seager’s back injury keep him sidelined?
3. Will it be the Indians or another team winning the AL?
The American League, at this point, is between Cleveland and Boston. The Indians are almost as much of a lock in the minds of most as the Cubs are.
Getting Edwin Encarnacion from Toronto has to be the biggest story of the offseason. Cleveland has such a great all around team and it will be very difficult for anyone, even the Cubs, to prevent them from winning it all.
Their biggest threat in the AL is Boston. Their offense is still projected to be as strong as anyone’s and the Chris Sale pickup will make their rotation better than in 2016.
The Rangers and Astros are also really strong teams that will make a lot of noise in 2017. Houston added Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Brian McCann to their batting order, but the question will be directed more at their rotation.
The Rangers won a ton of games last year by just one run. In order to take the next step, they need more offense. Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy will now be Rangers for the entire season and should add a lot to the batting order.
4. Which disappointing 2016 team will take a step forward in 2017?
Seattle could have been a tough team in the postseason last year, but they were not able to be consistent down the stretch. They made several trades and landed Jean Segura and Jarrod Dyson to the batting order as well as Marc Rqzepczynski, Dan Altavilla and Yovani Gallardo to the pitching crew.
Dyson and Segura should give the Mariners more added speed and set up runs for Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz.
The real question is, will all of Seattle’s moves translate into more wins, or will they find themselves stuck behind Texas and Houston again in the West?
I’m predicting they pass Houston and challenge Texas for the division crown.
5. Will there be a surprise team in 2017?
The short answer is, of course. I’m going with Colorado. They put up numbers that were worthy of a playoff team in the second half of the season, but found ways to lose nearly every big game they needed to win in that same span.
They brought in Ian Desmond from Washington and their lineup, once healthy should be real good with Desmond, Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, DJ LeMahieu, and Nolan Arenado.
Their lineup is very underrated and has a lot of firepower that could win them a lot of unexpected games in 2017.
They have some pitching, but not a lot of depth. Jon Cray, Tyler Anderson, and Tyler Chatwood are set for the first three spots, but then they have inexperience.
The bullpen is where they need to play better and if the additions of Greg Holland and Mike Dunn help as much as the Rockies’ brass think they will, Colorado should be able to win more games with their bullpen than last year.
Will they win the NL West? No. But if the pitching improves and they don’t collapse in September, they could be the second Wild Card team.