By Tony DeMarco – Tony is a long time baseball writer and offers more 2016 MLB Baseball Predictions here at Vegas Pro Insiders Daily, where he will be one of our baseball experts.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
2015 record/finish: 93-69, 1st place
Recent history: They broke the no-playoffs run at 21 years in 2015, but couldn’t get past the Royals in the ALCS. They remain in a win-now mode, so look for them to be around in October again.
Front office/manager recap: It’s unusual to say the least when a GM (Alex Anthopoulos) walks away after a division-title-winning season. But that’s what happened in the wake of Mark Shapiro taking over as president and CEO. John Gibbons has two more guaranteed seasons in his second go-round as the Blue Jays’ skipper.
Payroll change: From $126 million in 2015 to $136 million
Key arrivals: RHP Drew Storen, RHP Jesse Chavez, RHP Gavin Floyd
Key departures: OF Ben Revere, C Dioner Navarro, LHP Mark Buehrle, RHP Liam Hendriks, RHP Mark Lowe
Rotation: RHP Marcus Stroman, RHP RA Dickey, LHP JA Happ, RHP Aaron Sanchez, RHP Marco Estrada
Relievers: Closer: RHP Roberto Osuna; Setup men: RHP Drew Storen, LHP Brett Cecil; Middle relievers: RHP Jesse Chavez, RHP Ryan Tepera, RHP Joe Biagini, RHP Arnold Leon, RHP Gavin Floyd // RHP Aaron Loup (DL)
Role players: C Josh Thole, 1B/OF Chris Colabello, IF Darwin Barney, OF Ezequiel Carrera // 2B Devon Travis (DL)
Rookies of impact: None, but young OF Dalton Pompey will return to the big leagues at some point this season.
2015 run differential: +221 (891 scored; 670 allowed). This should have translated into a 102-60 record — or a nine-game jump from their actual mark.
Run production: How about that run total and differential from 2015? Amazing. That’s winning by an average 1.4 runs per game. With Bautista and Encarnacion in contract years, expect both to remain focused. The drawback is that it’s unlikely both will remain in Toronto after this season, so there’s a window here. The other thing is, the first six hitters in the projected lineup are right-handed — but granted, can mash anybody. But it does place some importance to the seasons of Smoak and Saunders as key left-handed bats.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 12th BA, 1st OPS, 1st Runs, 2nd HR, 25th SB)
Run prevention: WIth Dickey at age 41 and Estrada a regression candidate, Stroman’s emergence is needed. Sanchez’s move from the pen also is key. They could need a mid-season boost here, as Drew Hutchison has pitched his way out of the rotation. Osuna keeps the closer role, over Storen, who’s better-suited to set up. The middle-relief crew is almost all new, although it includes veterans in Chavez and Floyd.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 11th W, 13th ERA, 18th QS, 11th BB, 18th K)
Risers: Sanchez, Pillar, Smoak, Saunders
Regressers: Dickey, Estrada
Contract years: Bautista, Encarnacion
Vegas says: OU 90 wins
Predicted record/finish: 91-71, 1st place. The East isn’t as tough as some think. The Jays are going back to the playoffs.
NEW YORK YANKEES
2015 record/finish: 87-75, 2nd place
Recent history: They snuck into a wildcard spot (only to lose to the upstart Astros) last season, following two middle-of-the-road, non-playoff seasons of 84 and 85 wins. This is a franchise stuck in a holding pattern until aging payroll clears over the next two years.
Front office/manager recap: Making up for the reign of terror that marked George Steinbrenner’s days, the Yankees have kept Brian Cashman around as GM since 1998. He’s signed through 2017, as is Joe Girardi, who is one of the game’s better managers.
Payroll change: From $218 million in 2015 to $221 million in 2016
Key arrivals: LHP Aroldis Chapman, IF Starlin Castro, OF Aaron Hicks
Key departures: LHP Justin Wilson, RHP Adam Warren, OF Chris Young, C John Ryan Murphy
Rotation: RHP Masahiro Tanaka, RHP Michael Pineda, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, RHP Luis Severino, LHP CC Sabathia
Relievers: Closer: LHP Andrew Miller; Setup men: RHP Dellin Betances, LHP Chasen Shreve; Middle relievers: RHP Johnny Barbato, RHP Kirby Yates, RHP Luis Cessa, RHP Ivan Nova // LHP Aroldis Chapman (30-game suspension), RHP Bryan Mitchell (DL)
Regulars: CF Jacoby Ellsbury, LF Brett Gardner, 1B Mark Teixeira, DH Alex Rodriguez, RF Carlos Beltran, C Brian McCann, 2B Starlin Castro, 3B Chase Headley, SS Didi Gregorius
Role players: C Austin Romine, IF Ronald Torreyes, IF/OF Dustin Ackley, OF Aaron Hicks // 1B Greg BIrd (DL – out for season)
Rookies of impact: IF Rob Refsnyder, OF Aaron Judge and C Gary Sanchez are an injury away from contributing at the big-league level.
2015 run differential: +66 (764 scored; 698 allowed)
Run production: A lot went right health-wise last season with Rodriguez and Beltran. That’s not likely to repeat at age 40 and 39 respectively, so the run total projection below seems a bit ambitious. Seven of the nine regulars are 31 and older, with Castro and Gregorius (both 26) bucking the age demographic.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 20th BA, 9th OPS, 5th Runs, 6th HR, 17th SB)
Run prevention: Chapman’s suspension will hurt for awhile, and Mitchell was going to get some leverage innings before he got hurt. But at least the chip fracture in Miller’s right (non-throwing) hand isn’t serious. Other than Nova, who likely will get his fair share of starts this season, the middle-relief core is very inexperienced. There are many ifs with this rotation, but it also could turn out to be very solid.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 15th W, 15th ERA, 19th QS, 12th BB, 3rd K)
Risers: Castro, Eovaldi, Severino
Regressers: Rodriguez, Teixeira, Beltran, Miller
Contract years: Chapman, Teixeira, Beltran, Nova, Sabathia (2017 vesting option),
Vegas says: OU 85.5 wins
Predicted record/finish: 82-80, 3rd place. This team really can go either way — playoffs or 4th place. No need to force an OU pick here.
BOSTON RED SOX
2015 record/finish: 78-84, 5th place in AL East
Recent history: Three last-place finishes with 78, 71 and 69 wins, and a 2013 World Series title. Which one doesn’t belong here?
Front office/manager recap: David Dombrowski has replaced Ben Cherington at the top. Dombrowski has had a long career marked by successes in Montreal, Miami and Detroit, but not without flaws (see bullpen, Tigers). Not hired by Dombrowski, manager John Farrell is on the hot seat. He’s signed through 2017.
Payroll change: From $184 million in 2015 to $198 million in 2016.
Key arrivals: LHP David Price, RHP Craig Kimbrel, RHP Carson Smith
Key departures: LHP Wade Miley, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Alexi Ogando
Rotation: LHP David Price, RHP Clay Buchholz, RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Rick Porcello, RHP Stephen Wright // LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
Relievers: Closer: RHP Craig Kimbrel; Setup men: RHP Koji Uehara, RHP Junichi Tazawa; Middle relievers: RHP Matt Barnes, LHP Tommy Layne, RHP Noe Ramirez, LHP Robbie Ross Jr
Regulars: RF Mookie Betts, 2B Dustin Pedroia, SS Xander Bogaerts, DH David Ortiz, 1B Hanley Ramirez, 3B Travis Shaw, LF Brock Holt, C Blake Swihart, CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
Role players: C Ryan Hanigan, 3B Pablo Sandoval, OF Rusney Castillo, OF Chris Young // C Christian Vasquez (DL)
Rookies of impact: RHP Brian Johnson. IF Deven Marrero. But the Sox’ best prospects are a ways off, led by 2B Yoan Moncada.
2015 run differential: -5 (748 scored; 753 allowed)
Run production: Their home park always pushes the Sox to near the top in runs scored. Bogaerts and Betts are budding stars/maybe superstars. Big Papi could go out with a bang, but he is 40. Sandoval temporarily has lost his lineup spot, and Castillo may be nothing more than a $72-million platoon OF vs. LHP. These projections seem a bit ambitious.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 1st BA, 3rd OPS, 2nd Runs, 14th BB, 23rd K)
Run prevention: It’s hard to like anybody in this rotation after Price — at least until Rodriguez returns. Buchholz’s inconsistency is maddening; no way he’s a No. 2 starter. And we’re still waiting for Kelly to put it together for more than a few starts. He’s a No. 4-5, until he does so. Uehara is 41, and the Carson Smith injury is a bad break, considering he cost them Miley. Dombrowski may have flashbacks to his ill-fated Tigers pen with this middle-relief corps. Ramirez couldn’t play shortstop or left field, so first base is his last shot before DH in 2017.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 13th Wins, 11th ERA, 6th QS, 10th BB, 10K)
Risers: Betts, Bogaerts, Swihart
Regressers: Sandoval, Ramirez, Uehara, Ortiz
Contract years: Uehara, Tazawa, Buchholz (2017 club option), Hanigan (2017 club option)
Vegas says: OU 86 wins
Predicted record/finish: 82-80, 3rd place tie. Another last-to-first just ain’t happenin’ here. Lean UNDER.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
2015 record/finish: 80-82, 4th place
Recent history: The Rays actually won three more games last season under Kevin Cobb than they did in Joe Maddon’s final campaign. But the streak of losing seasons reached two following four consecutive win totals in the 90s.
Front office/manager recap: Matt Silverman and Kevin Cash enter their second seasons with plenty of security — but another bottom-tier payroll that leaves little margin for error and forces reliance on developing from within.
Payroll change: From $77 million in 2015 to $67 in 2016
Key arrivals: OF Corey Dickerson, 1B Logan Morrison, IF-OF Brad Miller, RP Danny Farquhar, C Hank Conger
Key departures: RP Jake McGee, SP Nate Karns, IF Asdrubal Cabrera, C/1B John Jaso, 1B James Loney
Rotation: RHP Chris Archer, LHP Drew Smyly, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Matt Moore, RHP Erasmo Ramirez // RHP Alex Cobb (DL)
Relievers: Closer: RHP Alex Colome; Setup men: RHP Danny Farquhar, RHP Steve Geltz; Middle relievers: LHP Xavier Cedeno, RHP Ryan Webb, LHP Enny Romero, RHP Andrew Bellatti // RHP Brad Boxberger (DL)
Regulars: 2B Logan Forsythe, CF Kevin Kiermaier, 3B Evan Longoria, DH Corey Dickerson, LF Desmond Jennings, 1B Logan Morrison, RF Steven Souza, SS Brad Miller, C Hank Conger
Role players: C Curt Casali, 1B/OF Steve Pearce, IF Tim Beckham, OF Brandon Guyer
Rookies of impact: SP Blake Snell, 1B/3B Richie Shaffer, SS Daniel Robertson, OF Mikie Mahtook
2015 run differential: +2 (644 scored, 642 allowed)
Run production: With the acquisition of Dickerson and the return of Jennings from injury, the outfield and offense has been upgraded. Cash has the pieces to do position-shares at up to four spots, and this group is better from the left side than last season. They finally pulled to plug on James Loney’s lack of pop at first base, and will go with a Morrison/Pearce time share. Is Casali ready for more-regular duty behind the plate?
(Roster Resource projections: 26th BA, 22nd OPS, 25th Runs, 8th HR, 11th SB)
Run prevention: Archer could be a Cy Young Award candidate and a Smyly breakout shouldn’t come as a surprise. Moore also had a great spring. McGee will be missed in the late innings, especially with the Boxberger injury. But Colome may be a good fit there. Alex Cobb is recovering from May 2015 Tommy John surgery, and isn’t expected back until the second half. Watch for top prospect Blake Snell.
(Roster Resource projections: 23rd W, 14th ERA, 23th QS, 23rd BB, 7th K)
Fantasy risers: Smyly, Moore, Casali, Souza, Colome
Fantasy regressers: Ramirez
Contract years: Pearce, Morrison
Vegas says: OU 78 wins
Predicted record/finish: 83-79, 2nd place. With an expected increase in offense, this team could be sneaky-good. But injuries to Cobb and Boxberger limit expectations. Lean OVER the total.
2015 record/finish: 81-81, 3rd place
Recent history: The O’s won 96 games two years ago, and 93 games in 2012, another playoff-appearance season. But the 2014 team had an overachieving pitching staff, and the 2012 squad barely had a positive run differential.
Front office/manager recap: Veterans Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter both are signed through 2018.
Payroll change: From $119 million in 2015 to $147 million in 2016.
Key arrivals: RHP Yovani Gallardo, 1B/OF Mark Trumbo
Key departures: LHP Wei-Yin Chen, OF Gerardo Parra, 1B/OF Steve Pearce, RHP Miguel Gonzalez
Rotation: RHP Chris Tillman, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP Yovani Gallardo, RHP Mike Wright, RHP Tyler Wilson // RHP Kevin Gausman (DL)
Relievers: Closer: LHP Zach Britton; Setup men: RHP Darren O’Day, RHP Brad Brach; Middle relievers: RHP Mychal Givens, LHP Zach Phillips, RHP Dylan Bundy, RHP Vance Worley // LHP Brian Matusz (DL)
Regulars: 3B Manny Machado, CF Adam Jones, 1B Chris Davis, RF Mark Trumbo, C Matt Wieters, DH Pedro Alvarez, 2B Jonathan Schoop, SS JJ Hardy, LF Joey Rickard
Role players: C Caleb Joseph, IF Paul Janish, IF/OF Ryan Flaherty, OF Nolan Reimold // IF/OF Jimmy Paredes (DL)
2015 run differential: +20 (713 scored; 693 allowed)
Run production: The best hope for the O’s is to outslug people. There is serious thunder in this lineup — if nothing else, as speed is non-existent outside of Machado. Alvarez has his issues, but this is nice home park switch for him. Schoop was poised to break out last year, but got hurt.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 21st BA, 5th OPS, 15th Runs, 1st HR, 29th SB)
Run prevention: This is a mediocre-at-best rotation, pitching in a tough home ballpark for pitchers. Maybe they finally get something from Gausman, and even Bundy. Otherwise, there isn’t much depth. You can admire the O’s stance of not giving deals of more than four years to free-agent pitchers, but fact is, it’s costing them in the win column. At least the back of the bullpen appears to be very good.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 17th W, 21st ERA, 29th QS, 19th BB, 21st K)
Regressers: Jimenez, Gallardo, Hardy
Predicted record/finish: 73-89, 5th place. Showalter has his work cut out for him here.