The Call to the Pen: Opening Day 2016

Welcome to The Call to the Pen! For this season, I’m changing up our baseball coverage to a template like the Hockey Roundup. This new format may change in the early weeks of the season so please let me know what you think in the comments. The Call to the Pen will normally be posted on Sundays (and will include a shorten-version of my power rankings), but I wanted to celebrate my favorite unofficial holiday properly.

Predictions

National League:

NL East:

  1. New York Mets
  2. Washington Nationals
  3. Miami Marlins
  4. Philadelphia Phillies
  5. Atlanta Braves

The Mets are going to a force in 2016, absolutely one of the better teams heading into Opening Day. Their record as well as the Nationals will be inflated due to the rest of the NL East being pretty weak. Because of that, many are picking the Nats as a wild card team. This was, in theory, the case last season but we know how that turned out; no playoffs for Washington then and no playoffs this October either. The Marlins are a step ahead of the Braves and Phillies, but Miami won’t compete in a strong National League. Maikel Franco puts the Phils ahead of the Braves. Franco and Aaron Nola will be the bright spots for the Phils until the young guns rise up in a few years and win the World Series in 2020.

NL Central:

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. St. Louis Cardinals (WC)
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Cincinnati Reds

The Cubbies were great last year and will be even better this year. They made great offseason moves snagging both Jason Heyward and John Lackey from the Cardinals. St. Louis will be solid this season and Adam Wainwright has return for them. The Pirates will be good, but I just don’t believe they’ll make it to the Wild Card round in this very top heavy National League. Like the Marlins, the Brewers are a step ahead of the bottom-dwelling Reds.

NL West:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. San Francisco Giants (WC)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. Colorado Rockies

Probably the most intriguing division in the NL, the West is going to be fun to watch down the stretch. I went with the Dodgers even though injuries will have them off to a slow start; however, the Giants should return to form this year (it is an even year after all) and the Diamondbacks will be electric once their new acquisitions mesh together. On the other side, the Padres and Rockies will be jockeying for 4th amongst the other bottom feeders in the majors.

NL Wildcard: Giants over Cardinals
NLDS: Cubs over Dodgers and Mets over Giants
NLCS: Cubs over Mets

Mets/Cubs might be the NLCS for the next few seasons, and barring serious injuries, the 2016 version will outshine last year’s sweep by New York. The Mets upped their defense and got Cespedes to return to drive cool cars and support to that incredible rotation while the Cubs bulked up their roster. Going with the Cubs here partly on bias, but I believe the defense Heyward adds and the additions in pitching will just edge the Mets for the NL Pennant.

American League:

AL East:

  1. Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Boston Red Sox
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

People think this division is wide open, but it is Toronto’s again. The rotation has been a doubt for everyone but Marcus Stroman had a great Opening Day yesterday. The Red Sox and Yankees will both be solid teams and will probably battle for 2nd in the division, but they’re both just a step behind the Blue Jays; and one step further down are the Rays and Orioles. One note to mention is that the American League’s worst will be ahead of the National League’s. The AL will feature more parity in 2016 and each division could come down to the final week of September to determine its champion.

AL Central:

  1. Kansas City Royals
  2. Cleveland Indians (WC)
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Minnesota Twins
  5. Chicago White Sox

The Defending Champs finally have the Opening Day respect they deserve as last year pretty much everybody had them as a mid-tier team. KC has the experience and drive to win the Central for the third-straight year. As much as I’d love to see the Cleveland Indians win the division, I don’t think they’re bats can match the effectiveness of KC’s. However, the Indians rotation is the best in the American League. The jury is out on the Tigers for me, much of their lineup comes down to what-if scenarios, particularly involving Justin Verlander. Minnesota and the White Sox will both be talented teams, but not enough to be in the chase.

AL West:

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Texas Rangers (WC)
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Oakland Athletics
  5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

I love the Houston Astros. Once Evan Gattis returns from the DL, the duo of him and Carlos Correa will be one of the best in the pros. My one bit of doubt in them comes in their age, but we’ll get to that. The Rangers were one of the hottest teams entering October and should be great once again. The Mariners will probably be the Pirates of the AL: the first team on the outside looking in. Seattle has a great lineup once again, but once again they’ll fall just short of having everything together. The A’s and Angels have fallen, hard. Two years ago, the teams were far ahead of the West and both are now mere shadows of their 2014 teams. Slow starts from either could cause fire sales in July.

AL Wildcard: Indians over Rangers
ALDS: Blue Jays over Indians and Astros over Royals
ALCS: Blue Jays over Astros

I was so close to picking the Astros to win the American League. Houston’s lineup is fantastic and I am a huge fan of Dallas Keuchel. However, in a seven game series the Blue Jays roster can break though the rest of the Astros rotation. Just like last year, if the Blue Jays freeze out, the series could turn around quickly, but I like Toronto to ironically win the American League.

World Series: Cubs over Blue Jays – Two of the high powered offenses in Major League Baseball will be playing in the Fall Classic. What edges Chicago over Toronto? Pitching. I like the pitching staff the Cubs can put on the mound game after game. The final Curse will be lifted and Kyle Schwarber will break every windshield in Illinois by the time the season ends.

Other Predictions:

NL MVP: Bryce Harper – unless Harper’s cocky attitude causes a pitcher to break his skull with a fastball, the slugger will run away with this for the second-straight year. (Runner-up: Kris Bryant, Paul Goldschimdt)
AL MVP: Carlos Correa – while I’d love to see Josh Donaldson take back-to-back MVPs, Correa will make his debut into superstardom in a big way in 2015. (Runner-up: Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson)
NL Cy Young: Jake Arrietta – easy, well not actually. MadBum should have another great year, especially with a deeper rotation. Jacob deGrom is in a same scenario. 2016 will have many 20 game winners. (Runner-up: Madison Bumgarner, Jacob deGrom)
AL Cy Young: Dallas Keuchel – this one is actually easy. David Price shouldn’t have as good of a year considering he’s going from the offensive juggernaut to the Red Sox. (Runner-up: David Price, Felix Hernandez)
NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager (Dodgers)
AL Rookie of the Year: Bryon Buxton (Twins)
All Star Game: AL over NL

Disagree? What do you think of the new format? Let me know in the comments

(cover photo via)

 

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