The 2016 Major League Baseball is less than a week away. There were many happenings in the offseason where a bunch of money was spent on coveted free agents. Which free agent signings will prove to be the most valuable? Time will tell on that question, but until then, I will give you my five bold predictions for the American League for 2016.
The Houston Astros will win the AL West
Last season the Houston Astros went from literally the worst team in baseball over the past five years to making the playoffs. The Astros defeated the New York Yankees in the wild card game before ultimately falling to the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals in the ALDS. Before making the playoffs in 2015, Houston was 232-416, including three-straight 100-loss seasons. Now that the period of terrible is over, the Astros have a bright future, both in the lineup and the starting pitching staff. Dallas Keuchel (20) and Collin McHugh (19) led the way last year on the rubber, combining for 39 wins. Offensively, the team is led by youngsters in short stop Carlos Correa (20) and second baseman Jose Altuve (25). Add this to the likes of Chris Carter, Carlos Gomez and George Springer and that makes for a team that will win their division. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will be better than most expect, but ultimately not good enough to win the division or make the playoffs.
Albert Pujols will hit 30+ home runs, if healthy
Speaking of the Angels. Their marriage with first baseman Albert Pujols hasn’t gone according to plan since Pujols left the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012. His time with the Halos has been lackluster at best, with just two seasons hitting .300 or better and two seasons with 100+ RBIs. Now this might seem odd to predict that a player will hit 30 or more home runs after coming off a season in which they 40 home run, but there is a big question mark regarding Pujols heading into 2016; his health. In November, Pujols underwent plantar fasciitis surgery in his right foot. This isn’t an easy injury to bounce back from, especially at Pujols’ age of 36. But if anyone can do it, it’s him. After all, he’s a machine.
The Toronto Blue Jays will make a second-consecutive trip to the postseason
Last season the Toronto Blue Jays made the postseason for the first time since winning back-to-back World Series championships in 1992-1993. This season they will look to return to the playoffs, where they fell short in the ALCS to the World Series champion Royals. The team is an offensive juggernaut, led by 2015 AL MVP third baseman Josh Donaldson who smacked a team-best 41 home runs and 123 RBIs, right fielder Jose Bautista (40 HR, 114 RBIs) and DH Edwin Encarnarcion (39 HR, 111 RBIs.) The team belted long balls as a team. Marcus Stroman, who is 24-years old, will look to take over as the ace of the staff after David Price left for the divisional rival Boston Red Sox in the offseason. Last season Stroman, who came on late in the season, was 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA. He will be joined by Marco Estrada, R.A. Dickey, J.A Happ and 23-year old Aaron Sanchez. This team might not win the division, but will still qualify for the playoffs.
Miguel Cabrera will win his 3rd AL MVP
Miguel Cabrera did something he hasn’t done in his 13-year career last season; landed on the disabled list due to a Grade 3 calf strain, that caused him to miss a month of the season. Before he was sidelined, he led the MLB in batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.456) and OPS (1.034). He won back-to-back AL MVPs in 2012-2013, and in 2013 he won the first AL Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski did so in 1967. Before the 2015 season, Cabrera had 11-straight seasons with 100-plus RBIs and 25 home runs. He belted 44 in each of his two MVP seasons. Despite missing time last season, he still won the AL batting title for a fourth time and won a Silver Slugger Award for the sixth time. The 32-year old will benefit from the Tigers having a pretty solid lineup. Expect Cabrera to be back and essentially win the AL MVP, going against the “sexy” pick of Mike Trout of the Angels.
The Boston Red Sox will go from worst to first and win the World Series
A team that finished in last place of the AL East in three of the last four seasons isn’t normally picked to win the World Series, but the Boston Red Sox aren’t just any team. The Sox are coming off consecutive last place AL East finishes after capturing the World Series in 2013, but they made some big-time offseason moves to try and make up for it. Boston signed David Price to a massive seven-year contract on top of acquiring one of the top closers in the game in flame thrower Craig Kimbrel, from the San Diego Padres. New President of Baseball Operations for the Red Sox, Dave Dombrowski, didn’t go on a huge spending spree this offseason, instead is going with quantity over quality. Aside from the moves for that brought Price and Kimbrel to Bean Town, the Sox were quiet this offseason. David Ortiz will be on his retirement tour this season and you know he’s going to do everything in his power to bring one more World Series title back to Boston. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who has been nagged with injuries the past few seasons is still very productive when healthy. The Red Sox have three young guys who are ready to break out in 2016 in right fielder Mookie Betts (23), center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (25) and shortstop Xander Bogarts (22). Boston is also hoping to get great contributions from Rusney Castillo, a Cuban defector. The biggest question the Sox face in the upcoming season is the back end of the pitching rotation, especially oft-injured Clay Buchholz. If the bullpen can overcome some early injuries and bridge the gap between the starters and Kimbrel, this team will be a 90-plus win team yet again on their way to winning the World Series.
Agree, disagree or have your own predictions? Hit me up on Twitter @KingEdward15.