Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
Another year of baseball is upon us and that provides us with yet another opportunity to change the fact that ‘bold predictions’ are ultimately synonymous with ‘wrong predictions’ 99 percent of the time. After looking back at my predictions piece from the 2015 MLB season, while I’m reluctant to call those predictions an abject failure, I have to admit that some were plain awful. (Sorry again, Royals fans.)
But let’s not get into that here (you can always click the link above if you’d like to look back and laugh), let’s get on with the 2016 season and make some wildly outlandish claims rooted in a little bit of fact, a dash of speculation and a smattering of complete senselessness.
Here are my 7 bold predictions for 2016.
The New York Mets Will Win The 2016 World Series
I know, I know, this isn’t that bold. Relax, we’ll get there. Anyway, the Mets are destined to take a page directly from the Kansas City Royals’ book. First, you reach the precipice of a World Series championship and lose. Then, you get back the following season having learned from your mistakes and improved your roster and you win. Simple.
The Mets’ great young pitchers are now postseason ready, their lineup is deeper and stronger than last year’s and as a result they’ll be hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy in a few short months.
Alex Rodriguez Will Hit 30-plus Home Runs… AGAIN!
I’m doubling down baby! Last year one of my now-former colleagues called me ‘insane’ for projecting A-Rod would belt over 30 dingers, but who’s insane now?!?. A-Rod may be 40 years old (he’ll turn 41 in July as well) but he’s still a major home run threat, especially at Yankee Stadium, which was the fourth-friendliest park for home run hitters in 2015.
So let’s let it ride… what could possibly go wrong?
Pablo Sandoval Will Key A Late/Postseason Red Sox Run
Pablo Sandoval’s current predicament is not an enigma wrapped in a riddle to anyone who remembers his time with the Giants and ‘Operation: Panda’ parts I and II. Those aren’t awful action movie titles, by the way. Those are the code names that were given to the arduous task of getting the hefty Sandoval to shed some pounds.
Sandoval has showed up to numerous spring trainings overweight and has even suffered through season-long slumps that had many counting out the Kung Fu Panda. For example, Sandoval’s entire 2010 season from beginning to end was one injury-plagued, overweight disaster for the third baseman even though the Giants won the World Series.
But ‘Operation: Panda’ Part I got Sandoval back into shape and spurred him onto a great 2011 season and a 2012 season in which he played an integral role in securing the Giants another championship.
Red Sox fans are right to despise Sandoval at the moment after their team sunk $95 million into the Panda, but he’ll redeem himself as he has consistently throughout his career and will play a key role in getting the Red Sox back to the playoffs and helping them win some big postseason games.
Kris Bryant Will Have A Better Year Than Bryce Harper
The two young National League phenoms are going to be a blast to watch for years to come. Bryce Harper’s 2015 season was incredible – .330 average, an absurd 1.109 OPS and 42 home runs – and he and Max Scherzer almost single-handedly led the Nats to the playoffs. However, this year will be Kris Bryant’s breakout season and my gut tells me teams are going to give Harper the Barry Bonds treatment and avoid pitching to him at all costs.
Meanwhile, Bryant sits right in the middle of a stacked Cubs team and is poised for his breakout season after an impressive rookie campaign. I think both Harper and Bryant flirt with 40 home runs but Bryant edges out Harper in average, RBIs and even OPS in a slight down year for Harper.
Matt Harvey Will Win NL Cy Young Award
Harvey had a tremendous bounce back season for the Mets last year and even though he took the loss on opening night, he appeared ready to lead the stacked Mets rotation this season as well. While Harvey has a ton of competition from other National League pitchers – Kershaw, Arrieta, Scherzer, just to name a few outside of deGrom, Synergaard and Matz from inside his own organization – he’s got a deadly four-pitch arsenal and a squad behind him that should provide the defense and run support to get him close to a 20-win season.
The Detroit Tigers Will Win The AL Central
Royals fans reading this must be thinking ‘Bryan, you just don’t learn,’ and they’re right for thinking that. But they’re also naive if they think their team is going to run roughshod over the AL Central like they did last year. In addition to the Indians and White Sox both making improvements, the Detroit Tigers are almost certain to bounce back from a season that wasn’t early 2000s Tigers bad, but was pretty bad overall.
The Tigers’ one-through-nine lineup is still among the most dangerous in baseball – especially if Jose Iglesias and Anthony Gose can contribute at the bottom of their lineup – and Jordan Zimmermann will help fill the David Price-sized void in the Tigers’ rotation. Additionally, the Tigers’ bullpen will be stronger thanks to Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Lowe who signed with the team this offseason.
Don’t be surprised when the year ends and the Tigers are on top.
The St. Louis Cardinals Will Miss The Playoffs
For the first time in five years and just the fifth time this millennium, the St. Louis Cardinals will be sitting at home when the MLB Playoffs begin in October. While the Cards and October baseball go together like spaghetti and meatballs it’s just not meant to be for the birds this postseason. Part of the reason is because the Cards’ aging core of Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina can’t handle the load anymore and young players like Randall Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Kolten Wong aren’t 100 percent ready to fill their massive voids.
The other side of the equation is the stacked National League in which I have the Cardinals tabbed as being the odd men out this year. If you figure the Mets, Cubs and Giants/Dodgers win their respective divisions, that leaves two Wild Card spots for the Pirates, Dodgers/Giants and the Cardinals. The Cardinals get squeezed out here and miss the postseason.
So there you have it. 7 predictions bold enough that, if they all were to come true, would rock the foundation of the great game of baseball. We’ll check in at the All-Star break and see how these predictions are faring and offer some new ones up, so until then, happy baseball season to you and yours.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for any of his other three teams.
Questions or comments? Feel free to follow Bryan on Twitter or send him an email.