The Twins’ moderate success in 2015 was a big surprise. I thought they’d be awful, and instead they stayed in the Wild Card race until the final weekend of the season. Yes, 83-79 was a big improvement, and no doubt new manager Paul Molitor had something to do with that, but I give a huge amount of credit to Torii Hunter being in the fold. Not so much what he did on the field, but I am a big advocate of teams having a great clubhouse guy and veteran presence like Torii on the team. With Hunter’s retirement, I am afraid the team could fall back to its’ 2011-2014 days where a few losses could spiral out of control and doom the team for the season. Or perhaps Hunter’s words of wisdom had a lasting impression on this young team—a team in which all of its players in the entire organization are younger than me. That’s really quite astounding that there’s not even one middling veteran in the minors over the age of 33… and a bit depressing.
However, I think if the Twins can replace or improve upon Hunter’s production in the lineup, they can make up for his lack of vocal presence. A full season of Miguel Sano will be huge, and I’m liking what I’ve seen from Byung-ho Park in the first few weeks of spring training. Maybe that will make up the difference, or maybe I’m overselling what Hunter’s presence brought to the team.
In the difficult AL Central, I just don’t see this group of guys emerging as the division champs. The Tigers are once again all-in, the Royals are obviously the defending champions, and the Indians boast the best rotation in the AL. The White Sox look improved, but that’s what I said about them last year too. I could see the Twins sneaking into third place ahead of Cleveland, but more than likely I think they finish fourth ahead of only Chicago.
Next year, however, they could finally be the favorites. The Tigers will begin to have a very old, overpaid team that could hamper their efforts for years. If the Indians young rotation does break out, they may not be able to afford to keep them together, much like the Royals will undoubtedly be going through as early as next year with their core. The Twins have the best farm system in the division, if not the league, and 2017 could be the year they push for the division, and 2018 could be the year they challenge for a World Series appearance.
A hot start to the season could change the outlook though. The Twins have buried themselves in the standings in the opening week every year since 2010. They haven’t won on Opening Day since 2008. I think if they can come home from their opening road trip 4-2 and maybe start out 7-3 or so, they could build some confidence and have another surprising year.
In the end, I’d be happy with a .500 mark again, but I think it’s a long shot. My official prediction: 77-85, fourth place in the division.
As for the rest of the majors, things never seem to go the way I expect. Last year I was only able to predict 4 of the 10 playoff teams correctly. There are five teams this year that everyone expects to be absolutely terrible—the Braves, Phillies, Reds, Brewers, and Rockies. One of those teams will probably overachieve and be in the mix for a playoff spot. And there are five teams everyone is certain will be contenders—the Royals, Dodgers, Cubs, Pirates, and Cardinals. Chance are one of those teams has a losing record.
Rarely have things gone my way in baseball. I have been cheering for the Twins for a quarter-century now and have one playoff series win to show for my dedication. So I am left to believe that the very things I want to happen least are the things that will happen. That is why I’m picking the San Francisco Giants to win the World Series this year. It’s an even-numbered year after all. They won it all in 2010, 2012, and 2014, so of course they’ll do it again in 2016.
The AL is a bit tougher to predict because not one team is a punching bag this year, just like last. I could make a case for all 15 teams making the playoffs. The Royals seem like a good bet to make it back to the World Series for a third straight year, but the Red Sox, Rangers, and Tigers are all in the mix for me as well. Not coincidentally, those are the 4 AL teams to appear in a World Series this decade.
With that, here are my official predictions at the standings.
|AL East||W||L||GB||NL East||W||L||GB|
|AL Central||W||L||GB||NL Central||W||L||GB|
|Kansas City*||92||70||1||Chicago Cubs*||95||67||2|
|AL West||W||L||GB||NL West||W||L||GB|
AL Wild Card: Kansas City def. Boston
NL Wild Card: Chicago Cubs def. St Louis
ALDS: Texas def. Toronto, Kansas City def. Detroit
NLDS: San Francisco def. NY Mets, Pittsburgh def. Chicago Cubs
ALCS: Kansas City def. Texas
NLCS: San Francisco def. Pittsburgh
World Series: San Francisco def. Kansas City
AL MVP: J.D. Martinez, DET
NL MVP: Kris Bryant, CHC
AL CY: David Price, BOS
NL CY: Gerrit Cole, PIT
AL MGR: Brad Ausmus, DET
NL MGR: Clint Hurdle, PIT
AL ROY: Byung-ho Park, MIN
NL ROY: Kenta Maeda, LAD
AL HR Leader: Chris Davis, BAL, 50
NL HR Leader: Nolan Arenado, COL, 48
AL Batting Champion: Manny Machado, BAL, .341
NL Batting Champion: Bryce Harper, WAS, .338