Opening Day is mercifully almost upon us. The World Baseball Classic has been a welcome treat in its presentation of relevant, meaningful baseball while spring training teases us with the prospect of what’s to come. But to make the anticipatory period a little more entertaining, positing some bold predictions for the upcoming season is in order. This is also a vehicle by which we fellow staff members at Pitcher List can later enjoy having dirt on each other: these predictions will serve as ammunition to our counterparts during sessions of mockery and belittlement when none of them turn out to be true. Today marks the final Bold Prediction article for us here at Pitcher List and let’s dive in.
1. Oakland’s bullpen is so mired in committee mediocrity that both closer candidates Ryan Madson and Santiago Casilla each blow seven saves and fail to amass 30 saves individually
With San Francisco acquiring Mark Melancon after his brief Washington stint last year, Santiago Casilla headed across the bay and will continue to be a liability in green and gold. I don’t mind Ryan Madson too much, but he is getting on in years and the days of him enjoying a season ERA below 3.00 are behind him. In the bat-heavy realm that is the AL West, I can see Texas, Houston and even a revamped Seattle making life a living hell for the Oakland relief staff. Even if one guy wins the job outright at some point, I’m sticking with the combined numbers listed above: neither guy impresses me enough to merit even considering having them as a backup fantasy RP option.
2. Trea Turner will win the MLB steals title this year and eclipse 100 runs scored
Turner’s speed is off the charts, and he has Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper helping his cause in the lineup for chances to amass runs—as far as being productive guys opposing pitchers will want to focus on efficiently dealing to rather than picking off Turner mid-at-bat. Billy Hamilton could have something to say about the SB-count contest when all is said and done, but these aren’t plain Jane predictions, they’re audacious and brash.
3. Both Francisco Lindor and Adrian Beltre will repeat as the AL Gold Glove award winners at their respective positions
I know for a fact that my colleagues would call hogwash if I were to eschew any predictions pertaining to my Cleveland Indians, so I decided to back Francisco Lindor’s scintillating title defense while also upping the ante with a parlay. Adrian Beltre has won the award five times with two repeats to his credit, so I think 2017 marks the season in which he completes the repeat hat trick.
4. The top three AL Cy Young vote-getters will be Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander and Chris Sale, in that order.
As the reigning Cy Young winner from the American League, Rick Porcello is going to be on the outside looking in as his teammate Chris Sale outhurls him for the Red Sox this year. More on other supposed Boston aces to come below, but I believe the award will make a return to the Central Division as Corey Kluber is poised for a dominant outing as Cleveland’s star pitcher with Tiger rival Justin Verlander close in tow. The specific 1-2-3 finish for finalists I’ve submitted here is what takes this prediction from credible and safe—they’re all obviously fantastic starters who should be in the hunt for hardware—to tricky and perilous.
5. David Price’s decline continues, but Zack Greinke rebounds
The news that Red Sox manager John Farrell admitted David Price could start 2017 on the DL is bad for Boston fans, fantasy drafters and Dave Dombrowski’s blood pressure. Depending on the length of said DL stint, the guy may not even make 30 healthy starts for Boston. So, having said that, I have to admit I’ve been continually becoming more wary of him fantasy-wise over the last three years and, in my opinion, he’s just not throwing elite-caliber stuff anymore even when he is healthy. Price’s K/9 continues to decrease to sub-8.0 levels; he will also post both an ERA and a FIP that are above 3.80. Meanwhile, I’m ready to believe in Zack Greinke again. He’ll finish the year with an ERA no higher than 3.25 and will return to form by posting a HR/9 ratio of less than 1.00.
6. No-hitters are due for a return to prominence and frequency after an underwhelming 2016, and we will see six of them this season
Jake Arrieta’s early-season domination of the woeful Cincinnati Reds was the only no-hitter we saw come to fruition last year. The two previous seasons featured five and seven, respectively. It’s really bothering me and my mild OCD tendencies that the number of no-nos is odd as of recently. Ultimately, because I believe pitching is going to be extremely rewarding to watch this year when the aces of the current era all remain healthy, I’m boldly going with six instead of four. At least one will happen by committee, and I like Chris Sale to throw one all by his lonesome.
7. The Baltimore Orioles win the AL East outright
I have to believe that the inexplicable failure to utilize the exceptional Zach Britton in the extra-innings Wild Card loss to Toronto haunts the clubhouse psychologically. The Os must be chomping at the bit to get out there and clinch a playoff spot with a dominant 2017, rather than having to rely on a one-off performance to get a shot at a meaningful October. I personally dig the addition of Welington Castillo, they hung on to Mark Trumbo, and Manny Machado’s a stud and always has been. Ultimately, though, I just think it’s nice for a Cleveland fan like me to balance things out by trying to foster some goodwill for a city whose football franchise I unwaveringly detest.
8. Colorado is still a year away from being a legitimate contender and will finish with the second-worst record in the NL
The Dodgers are still going to be filthy good, and San Francisco isn’t going anywhere. With the devastating injuries to Ian Desmond and Tom Murphy that happened during spring training, I just have to believe the odds are still stacked against Colorado to do anything but dream about a 2018 Wild Card spot. Trevor Story should be healthy again, which is exciting, and Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez will be doing grown-man things all over again. But the stars just aren’t aligning quite right just yet for the Rockies to be in the discussion for titles of any kind. The bold part of this prediction is that I believe they are bad enough to maybe finish fourth in the NL West—no better and certainly no worse, thanks to San Diego. Atlanta and Cincinnati are rebuilding and the D-backs could get back on track offensively, so Colorado finishes as the penultimate team in the National League ahead of the Padres.
9. Brad Ausmus will not be the manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2018 if they fail to make the postseason
Detroit exercised the club option to keep Ausmus at the helm for the final year of his contract. But with the Tigers having not won the division since his first outing in 2014, I’d imagine a wistful hearkening back to the early 2010s dominance that was spearheaded by Jim Leyland has to be happening. I think the seat is rather warm under his posterior, and procuring a playoff spot is how Ausmus also buys himself a little job security. I think Detroit is good enough to get there under his watch, but time will tell the route the team chooses to take while navigating through the season. If the Tigers win 90 games, the front office negotiates a new deal with him. If not, it’s back to the managerial drawing board.
10. We will see the new intentional walk rule cause enough confusion and drama at least once when a dugout signal is misinterpreted that a manager will be ejected
Baseball purists dislike the new rule allowing for apparently time-saving dugout signals to be utilized in lieu of literally throwing the four balls for an intentional walk. It will go into effect this season, and somebody is bound to screw it up in a way that leads to some peculiar goofiness, perhaps a balk here or there. Better yet, I believe a manager getting tossed because of frustration with miscommunication over the rule’s in-game implementation will happen. I know I personally enjoy both a) the show of respect for a batter’s skill or situational circumstance an old-fashioned IBB represents and b) the flukish instances of when said batter has still managed to get meaningful contact on the giveaway toss. So when this rule that’s designed to streamline things and speed up gameplay gets botched, it will definitely be in hilarious and ridiculous fashion.