2016 MLB preview: Predicting division standings and postseason results

The 2016 Major League Baseball season is so close we can taste it. With a new season comes new hope for all 30 MLB teams, but as we preview the 2016 season it’s certainly fair to say that some teams and their fans should be more hopeful than others.

With that in mind, which teams will fall flat? Which will make the playoffs? Which team will win the whole thing once the postseason gets underway?

We answer all of those questions in our 2016 MLB preview, which includes predicted records and a look at how the postseason could play out.

American League East

  1. Boston Red Sox (88-74)
  2. Toronto Blue Jays (86-76)*
  3. New York Yankees (85-77)
  4. Baltimore Orioles (78-84)
  5. Tampa Bay Rays (76-86)

We’ll start the MLB’s most wide open division. This is the finishing order that we should be expecting, but with that said, nothing — not even a complete reversal — would be terribly surprising.

Here’s all that you need to know about this division. Our predicted champion — the Red Sox — has finished in last place in each of the last two seasons. Still, Boston enters 2016 as the American League East team with the fewest question marks.

David Price, 2016 MLB preview

The Red Sox should be the class of this division. While they spent a lot of money to get him, the signing of David Price makes their pitching rotation infinitely better. Additionally, with Craig Kimbrell closing games out in Boston, few teams will be better in the ninth inning. The Red Sox also finished last season strong, going 32-26 from August 1 on.

Veterans like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia and youngsters like Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. give Boston a great mix.

The Blue Jays are basically unmatched offensively, but their pitching staff will have a problem holding up through a 162-game season.

The Yankees can certainly compete for a division title, but have serious injury concerns up and down their roster.

The Orioles will need to have massive seasons from Chris Davis and Adam Jones to contend.

The Rays can pitch with anyone, but their offense is likely not good enough to score enough runs to make the playoffs.

The AL East should be fun to watch. But by the time we get to the final few weeks of the season, look for the Red Sox to be at the top with Toronto claiming a Wild Card spot and New York hot on their heels.

American League Central

  1. Detroit Tigers (89-73)
  2. Kansas City Royals (88-74)*
  3. Chicago White Sox (85-77)
  4. Minnesota Twins (84-78)
  5. Cleveland Indians (78-84)

While the American League East is MLB’s most open division, the American League Central is the top-to-bottom best.

Courtesy of USA Today Images

Still, expect the race to come down to the Tigers and Royals. Detroit improved a lot in the offseason, bolstering their lineup with Justin Upton, their starting staff with Jordan Zimmermann and their bullpen with Francisco Rodriguez.

Kansas City, on the other hand, lost a lot great deal from 2015’s World Series championship team, with Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto leaving town. The Royals’ bullpen sets them up well for a short playoff series, but their lack of top-tier starting pitching will lead to a regression in the regular season, though they should still be expected to earn a Wild Card spot.

The White Sox are similar to the Blue Jays in that they have a fantastic offense. While Chris Sale gives them an advantage at the front of the rotation, they have too many question marks after him.

Chicago also has a good closer in David Robertson, but a shaky bullpen before him. Minnesota is very young. They’ll be a fun team to watch, but are probably a year away from seriously competing in such a strong division.

The Indians pitching is potentially phenomenal, but they’ll need several better than expected performances from their hitters to make the playoffs.

Chicago is the swing teeam in this division. They have holes, but bullpen and starting rotation depth are usually some of the easiest things to acquire during the season. They should compete for a playoff spot but expect them to fall just short. Detroit and Kansas City, however, should earn a spot in the postseason.

American League West

  1. Houston Astros (91-71)
  2. Texas Rangers (85-77)
  3. Oakland Athletics (81-81)
  4. Los Angeles Angels (77-85)
  5. Seattle Mariners (71-91)

Dallas Keuchel

The Astros took a big step in 2015, making the playoffs and nearly upending the eventual World Series champs in the Division Series. This year, they’re the American League’s most complete team and will take the next step.

Getting Carlos Correa and Carlos Gomez for a full season will be a boon for Houston. Dallas Kuechel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Doug Fister, Scott Feldman, and Mike Fiers give the Astros the American League’s best pitching staff. One of those men will likely be relegated to the bullpen, which is already one of the better ones in the American League.

The Rangers will certainly compete for a playoff spot. But like the Yankees, Texas has serious injury concerns up and down their roster and as such, it’s hard to see them making the playoffs again. If Yu Darvish was set to return sooner, it’d be a different story. Unfortunately, Darvish will likely miss most of the first two months of the season. Also, coming back from Tommy John Surgery, he will likely be carefully eased back into his return.

The Athletics and Angels have opposite problems. The A’s can certainly pitch, but their offense will struggle. Los Angeles can score a lot, but they’ll allow their share of runs, as well.

Seattle is strong at the top of their roster, with Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano leading the offense and the Felix Hernandez/Hisashi Iwakuma 1-2 punch manning the top of the rotation. But the Mariners have far too many gaps over the rest of the roster to see them contending for a playoff spot.

mike troutThe interesting team to watch here is really the Angels. Any team with Mike Trout should have a good chance, as long as they can pitch. Unfortunately, that’s a big question for the Angels, and as a result, they’re sadly not giving the best player in baseball adequate support.

National League East

  1. New York Mets (92-70)
  2. Miami Marlins (84-78)
  3. Washington Nationals (83-79)
  4. Atlanta Braves (72-90)
  5. Philadelphia Phillies (68-94)

As far as the regular season in the National league East goes, the 2016 season should finish the same way that 2015 ended, with the Mets on top.

New York had a very nice offseason. Replacing Daniel Murphy at second base with Neil Walker is at worst a lateral move. Getting Yoenis Cespedes for a full season will help the Mets’ cause. The mid-season return of Zack Wheeler promises to make the already deep starting rotation even better, as will having Steven Matz for a full season. New York is far from a perfect team, but they are the best team in the division. If they don’t win it, it should be considered a major upset.

Yoenis Cespedes

The Marlins and Nationals will contend for most of the season. Miami has a lot of talent. They have a lot of questions, too, mainly surrounding their health. But with Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez leading the way, the Marlins have a roster that should compete for a playoff spot. That said, the National League is a little too strong at the top to think they’ll win the division.

The Nationals don’t have the deep pitching rotation that they’ve had over the last few years, something that will be a problem. With Lucas Giolito, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, and of course Bryce Harper, the Nats have a lot of promise for the future. Short term, though, their roster as presently constructed just doesn’t seem good enough to compete for the division.

What helps all three of those teams is that they’ll get 19 games against both the Braves and Phillies. Both teams are in complete rebuilding mode. And while they’re maybe set up well for future seasons, both will lose way more than they win in 2016.

If either the Marlins or Nationals significantly under-perform, then the other could reasonably be expected to compete for a Wild Card spot. The top spot should go to the Mets though, who are not only the National League East’s best team, but one of baseball’s best.

National League Central

  1. Chicago Cubs (94-68)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals (88-74)*
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates (81-81)
  4. Cincinnati Reds (67-95)
  5. Milwaukee Brewers (64-98)

The Cubs nearly won the NL Central in 2015. They’ve improved in 2016 while the rest of the division has taken a step back. The rest of the National League is better, so Chicago shouldn’t be expected to win 97 games again. They should be expected to win their first division title since 2008 and maybe break a significantly longer drought associated with the month of October, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

As far as the National League Central goes, the Cubs have the best offense and pitching rotation. With players like Jorge Soler and Javier Baez not even in starting spots, Chicago will be able to adequately rest their stars down the stretch to keep them fresh for the playoffs.

Courtesy of USA Today Sports

That depth will also help the Cubs make improvements via in-season trades if need be. With Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowler, Chicago has a loaded roster — probably the best in the game.

The Cardinals aren’t as strong as they have been in years past. But they are still one of the National League’s best. Starting rotations don’t get much better than Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, Mike Leake, and Carlos Martinez. The offense doesn’t stack up to the Cubs, but St. Louis should have a spot reserved for them in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh is an interesting team. With Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco on the corners and the great Andrew McCutchen in center, the Pirates have the game’s best outfield. Unfortunately, their infield leaves a lot to be desired and their pitching rotation doesn’t figure to be as deep as it’s been. Like the East, the National League Central has two rebuilding teams. So the Pirates can certainly post a good record, but they’d do very well to make it to the playoffs for a fourth straight year.

The Reds and Pirates are sort of in different stages of a rebuilding project. Cincinnati seems to have more of its future core group in place, while Milwaukee is still figuring things out. As far as 2016 goes, both teams should be near the bottom of the MLB.

Expect both the Cubs and Cardinals to make the playoffs, but the National League Central crown will end up in the Second City.

National League West

  1. San Francisco Giants (89-73)
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers (88-74)*
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks (85-77)
  4. San Diego Padres (72-90)
  5. Colorado Rockies (61-101)

The Giants and Dodgers have been the class of this division for a while. While the Diamondbacks did improve, expect the California teams to reign supreme again. As you can see, this is expected to be a strong race for the division. Barring injury, though, both teams are postseason bound.

San Francisco gets an edge right now because they seem to be a bit more complete up and down the roster. Jeff Samardzija will bolster the the pitching rotation, led by Madison Bumgarner. Aside from left field, their offense is pretty solid in most spots.

madison-bumgarner

Los Angeles will take a hit with the loss of Zack Greinke, but they’re still a tough team. Newcomers Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir will help deepen the rotation. Even with Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, starting pitching depth has been a problem in recent years.

Joc Pederson will be important for the Dodgers’ offense. He has immense power but grew more one-dimensional as 2015 progressed. Fortunately, he’s only in his second year and is more than talented enough to grow as a hitter.

Because of their wild offseason, the Diamondbacks will be MLB’s most intriguing team in 2016. Can Arizona get enough offense that’s not generated by Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock? Can the pitching rotation thrive after Greinke and Shelby Miller? Can the bullpen gel?

If the answer to those question is yes, then the Diamondbacks should make the playoffs and compete for a division title. For now, that’s a few too many questions. Arizona should compete for the postseason, but expect them to fall just short.

All three teams will be aided by an abundance of games against the Padres and Rockies. San Diego has a potentially strong pitching rotation, but their offense is one of the worst in the game. Colorado is in full-fledged rebuild mode. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Carlos Gonzalez traded before this season’s end.

This will be a fun race but the overall depth of San Francisco and Los Angeles should get them to the playoffs. Now, what will they do once the postseason begins?

Postseason

  • AL Wild Card Game: Royals over Blue Jays
  • NL Wild Card Game: Dodgers over Cardinals
  • AL Division Series: Astros over Royals (4 games), Red Sox over Tigers (5 games)
  • NL Division Series: Giants over Mets (4 games), Cubs over Dodgers (4 games)
  • AL Championship Series: Astros over Red Sox (6 games)
  • NL Championship Series: Cubs over Giants (6 games)
  • World Series: Cubs over Astros (5 games)

The Cubs and the Astros are the best, most complete teams in their respective leagues.

Chicago’s depth is just a cut above the rest. They’re a better team than they were in 2015 when they made the National League Championship Series. The additions of John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward are huge. Some of their 2015 stalwarts, notably Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, should only get better as they get more MLB experience.

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Oh, and they have a pretty darn good head coach. The National League Central is strong and the playoffs will be no picnic. But the Cubs are the best team in baseball.

When the dust has settled on the 2016 MLB season, expect a party more than a century in the making in Chicago.