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 National League for 2016.
Bryce Harper will win the NL MVP for the second year in a row
Last season Bryce Harper had a slash line of .330/.460/.649 to go with 42 home runs, 99 RBIs, 172 hits (8 of which were doubles) and 124 walks. He was an All-Star and won the Silver Slugger Award. Now he might not put up quite those numbers, but he will be in the ballpark, if he can stay off the disabled list. That is a question surrounding Harper, but if healthy, Washington will benefit. He says baseball is “tired” and he is the breath of fresh air the sport desperately needs. For those that have criticized the flair he possesses when playing the game of baseball, he will just use that as motivation to do better. Additionally, he will make sure the Nationals can avenge their late-season play of last year and get back to the postseason.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will not qualify for the playoffs
For two decades, the Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the bottom feeders of the league, failing to post a .500 or better record in that time frame. The past three seasons, excitement has returned to the Steel City for their beloved Buccos as the team has made the postseason in each of those three years. The playoffs haven’t been kind to Pittsburgh, however, as they lost in the NLDS followed by consecutive wild card game losses. This offseason, the Pirates did little to improve their team as they lost starters A.J Burnett, J.A. Happ, and Joe Blanton to free agency as well as first baseman Pedro Alvarez. The team traded hometown hero Neil Walker to the New York Mets. They did sign third baseman David Freese and starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong as well as re-signing Sean Rodriguez after he declared for free agency. That, to me, is not enough to compete in the loaded National League. Most of the other contenders went out and made a move that will increase their chances of winning a World Series, but the Pirates failed to do that. Sure, their outfield trio led by center fielder Andrew McCutchen will lead the way offensively, but the starting pitching is a giant question mark. They will not make the playoffs, but will finish with a winning record for a fourth-straight season.
The NL West will have three 90+ win teams
The National League West has been a two-team race for the past few seasons, but this year a new contender for the division crown emerges in the Arizona Diamondbacks. Last season they had the second best offense in baseball, but lacked in the pitching department. They solved that issue this offseason, singing Zack Greinke away from divisional foe Los Angeles, in addition to making a blockbuster deal for fellow starter Shelby Miller. The San Francisco Giants also bolstered their pitching staff by replacing Tim Hudson (retirement) and Tim Lincecum (free agency) with Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Add in the addition of center fielder Denard Span and that makes this club a 90-win team. AS for the Dodgers, they are attempting to replace Greinke with Japanese superstar Kenta Maeda and veteran Scott Kazmir. The offense is still solid and oh yeah, they still have arguably the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw.
Giancarlo Stanton will hit 50+ home runs, if healthy
The Miami Marlins are hoping Giancarlo Stanton can bounce back after missing half the season in 2015 with a broken hamate bone in his left hand. In just 74 games, Stanton blasted 27 long balls and was on pace to go over the 50 home run plateau. If he is able to come back fully healthy and avoid any other injuries this season he will surpass 50. He will benefit greatly from having Barry Bonds, the home run king, as his hitting coach and Don Mattingly as his manager. If healthy, not only could he hit 50 home runs, but he could help lead the Marlins to a potential playoff berth. The latter might be a little out there, but you just never know in baseball.
The Arizona Diamondbacks will represent the NL in the World Series
See the reasons I previously stated above. This team had a potent offense last season and now have the pitching staff to compliment it. Greinke is one of the top-five pitchers in baseball and Miller is an innings eater, who lacked run support with the Braves last season. MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt will lead the offense again, which should be just as, if not more potent than last year. Don’t think I forgot about the Chicago Cubs, who spend a boatload of money this past offseason. While their team is stacked and I think they will win the NL Central, I don’t see this as the year of the Cubs. Maybe next year, but in my eyes, I don’t see it happening in 2016.
Agree, disagree or want to make your own bold predictions? Hit me up on Twitter @KingEdward15.