As in previous years, I’ve laid out my predictions for the standings for the full 2017 regular season, along with playoff picks. That means actual won-lost records for every team -- yes, everything adds up, I used a spreadsheet -- before I get to the playoff stuff and picks for the six major postseason awards. Last year, I had five of the six division winners correct and eight of the 10 playoff teams.
I do this every year. It’s for fun. I am not running any sophisticated models, I’m not doing player projections, and nothing here expresses any personal wish or desire for some team to do well or poorly. Enjoy it in the spirit in which it’s offered.
American League East
The Red Sox are better, marginally, than last year, assuming that David Price’s injury costs him eight to 10 starts in total over the year, but giving them Chris Sale and Tyler Thornburg, and figuring a full season of Andrew Benintendi and something more than zero from Pablo Sandoval blunts the loss of David Ortiz. The division remains the AL’s most competitive top to bottom, but they’re still the best team on paper right now, especially with the division’s best rotation.
The Blue Jays got a little worse when they lost Edwin Encarnacion, but got Jose Bautista back and may get the healthy version this year. Their rotation is weak after the top two, and I could see them getting below-average offense from three or four spots on the field in a pessimistic scenario. The optimistic scenario has Bautista performing more like 2015 than 2016 and the back three rotation spots outperforming their peripherals for the second year in a row.
The Yankees might be serious wild-card threats if they had a real rotation, but they might have two good starters for 2017, one of whom, Masahiro Tanaka, was supposed to have a novelty elbow that would explode when Joe Girardi tried to light it.
The Orioles’ rotation is similarly scary, with Chris Tillman still hurt, Dylan Bundy coming off a year of heavy work where he wore down visibly at the end, and three guys who wouldn’t make any contenders’ rotations (Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez, Tyler Wilson) penciled in as their Nos. 3 through 5. They’ll score plenty of runs and they’ll catch everything, but I don’t think they can pull off the 2016 trick of sneaking into the playoffs with a terrible rotation again. They need to either repeat their huge 2016 offensive outburst or get more and better production than I anticipate from Bundy or Tillman. (I’m all-in on Kevin Gausman to have an All-Star season, though.)
Tampa Bay showing up last here doesn’t reflect my opinion of its playoff odds -- I think there’s more than a 10 percent chance the Rays steal a wild-card spot -- but the number of things that have to go right for that to happen, plus the chance that they choose to deal one or more starters in July, Alex Cobb for sure and maybe Jake Odorizzi, combined to put them last in my predictions.