That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary: 2017 Predictions How they will finish

March 28, 2017

MLB

Houston Astros outfielder Norichika Aoki singles during the first inning of the team’s 3-2 spring training game loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in West Palm Beach, Florida, on March 27, 2017. (Kyodo via AP Images)

By Amaury Pi-González

(Disclaimer: These predictions are done with the best of my intentions, it is only my opinion and it is only for the entertainment of the readers. It is baseball, and as we all know, it is not a perfect science.There are going to be surprises, like everything else in life)

For our Bay Area teams, season begins Sunday April 2 when the San Francisco Giants face the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.Then,Monday April 3, the Oakland Athletics host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at the Oakland Coliseum/Rickey Henderson Field in Oakland.

American League (West)

1-Houston Astros

2-Seattle Mariners(Wild Card)

3-Texas Rangers

4-Los Angeles Angels

5-Oakland Athletics

-There are going to be injuries, everyt team will suffer them,during a 162 game season. but to be a contender and not a pretender, you need to overcome injuries and have a lot of things go right. Here, many are selecting the Seattle Mariners to win this division. This will not be the only time that has happened in recent years, I am not totally sold on their pitching, unfortunately for them, the once great Felix (El Rey) Hernández, might not be King anymore, he has lost a lot on his pitchers, but still a very good pitcher. I remember seeing him pitching at AAA Tacoma just before the Mariners brought him up in 2005.. The M’S lineup has lots of power, and then some, with guys like Canó,Cruz,Seager in the middle of that lineup, they are dangerous.

They also picked up Jean Segura in the off season, from Arizona. He is a great lead off hitter, who led last season with 203 hits and hit over .300. An improvement as shortstop and can also play second. The Houston Astros should be ready to take first place and run with it, hard to find a team in this division with more talent and athleticism and a very good pitching staff, Carlos Correa is a super-star, José Altuve is one of the best hitters in the game, plus a supporting cast with few weaknesses.

Yiu Darvish (30) will make his first Opening Day start in his career, Adrián Beltré is still productive,he is 38 years old and starting this season just 58 hits from the magical 3,000 mark. Rougned Odor is one of the best players in the league, but Texas reign as divisional champion will end this season. As far as the Athletics and the Angels? you can flip a coin,(I broadcast for both teams, so I like to see them up in the division, but cannot see it this year) – The Angels have Mike Trout, the MVP(for the second time)just reaching 25 years of age, the best player here in the blue planet.

Pujols last year played in 152 games hit 31 home runs and drove in 119 runs,the future Hall of Famer is still a very good hitter(not to shabby at 37 years of age) with lots to offer, this winter he had another plantar fasciitis surgery and the Trout-Pujols duo still pack a punch. Angels pitching is the big unknown, lead by Garret Richards who last year opted for stem cell treatment in his right elbow and not Tommy John surgery, their hopes in great part rest with him, he hit 97mph on Spring Training. Matt Shoemaker will probablyopen their season April 3 vs A’s at Oakland, followed by Tyler Skaggs, Garrett Richards, Jesse Chávez and Ricky Nolasco. The Angels installed new lights at Angel Stadium, so we will “see” – and they have a lease to play there for a long time to come. The Athletics have an intriguing rotation, and with a healthy Sonny Gray, followed by guys like Kendall Graveman, who was named Opening Night pitcher for next Monday at the Oakland Coliseum, they could surprise lots of people.

The rest of the rotation to begin the season: Sean Manaea Jharel Cotton, Andrew Triggs and Raúl Alcántara. A better stronger bullpen than last season, now with Santiago Casilla, who returned to the east bay. Manager Bob Melvin told me about his bullpen: “Yes, we have a lot of options this year in our bullpen”. A lineup headed by Khris Davis powerful Ryan Healy, newcomers veteransTrevor Plouffe and Matt Joyce, and Rajai Davis on top of the lineup. But like the Angels a lot of things have to go right for them.The Oakland Athletics have a new and dynamic President in Dave Kaval, he is bringing a new attitude to the A’s. The biggest win for the Oakland Athletics in 2017 might not be on Rickey Henderson Field, but when they announce the location in Oakland for the construction of their new and much needed ballpark. With the Raiders packing in a couple of years for Las Vegas and the Warriors for San Francisco, they Athletics have now more leverage with the city of Oakland than ever before. The current location of the Oakland Coliseum is one of the best as far as accessibility, they have highway 880 to the west and BART to the east. But just a reminder, if you are bay area person, like me, you know how hard is to built a sports facility in this part of the country.

American League(Central)

1-Cleveland Indians

2-Detroit Tigers

3-Kansas City Royals

4-White Sox

5-Minnesota Twins

-The defending American League Champions Cleveland Indians will be even better. They signed free agent Edwin Encarnación, which it is an improvement since they lost the bat of veteran Mike Napoli. They are hoping to have Michael Brantley healthy this year, he is a very underrated player. In Kansas City they lost of starter Jordano Ventura, (automobile accident in the Dominican Republic) a young and very talented arm which is truly irreplaceable at this time. I picked them for third place with the Detroit Tigers making a run at the Indians at some time. Miguel Cabrera still one of elite hitters, but he gets hurt often now. The White Sox, who a couple of years ago where considered contenders have taken a huge fall. They lost their ace Chris Sale who packed and left for Boston and we might even see him in action in the World Series. José Abreu(1B) won’t be with the White Sox, much longer. same with pitcher José Quintana.Those are two All-Star players and they are excellent trade bait for the Sox.

The Twins have a few name players like second-baseman Brian Dozier, the quietest 42 home runs in baseball last season, also drove 99. Another great hitting attraction is young Dominican Miguel Sanó, who when he hits them, they need a flight attendant, however he hit only .236 with 25 home runs and 66 batted in. The great Tony Oliva, working in the Twins front office in Minnesota said of Sanó: “todavía es jóven” translation: “he still young”:, and he is right Miguel Sanó is 23.

American League(East)

1-Boston Red Sox

2-Toronto Blue Jays(Wild Card)

3-Baltimore Orioles

4-New York Yankees

5-Tampa Bay Rays

-The Boston Red Sox could find themselves in the World Series. Their big three in their rotation: David Price, Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, and Joe Kelly, with a strong bullpen closer Craig Kimbrel and a killer line-up with guys like Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia,Xander Bogaerts. No Big Papi? no problem, a very slender Pablo(El Panda) Sandoval is healthy and in good shape this Spring Training trying to have a 2017 worthy of his $95 million dollar contract. The Toronto Blue Jays could be the team that gives the Red Sox a run for their money. They signed José Bautista to a one-year contract(he was hoping for 2 to 3 years, specially after they lost Edwin Encarnación)and they still have a perennial MVP candidate with Josh Donalson.

They should be in the hunt. The Birds of Baltimore are loaded with power: Adam Jones,Manny Machado,Chris Davis,Mark Trumbo, a team that since 2012 have won the most games in the American League, Their pitching is not that good, their best pitcher is Zach Britton a record-setting closer that was running for the Cy Young Award last season, he saved 47 games of the 89 games his team won.

If you like the long ball, please visit Orioles Park/Camden Yard and you will see a home run derby almost every game, but that is not enough for them to contend.The O’S also have Buck Showalter, one of the most intense managers I know, he doesn’t miss much. The Yankees are a good story, and specially the guy to watch is their dynamic catcher Gaby Sánchez, they are good for fourth place, no 28th World Series title this year for Joe Girardi’s boys. Girardi doesn’t get enough credit, because to be a manager in the Bronx and to get credit you really have to win the World Series every year, but I always liked Girardi, and how he handles everything there(following the great Joe Torre) and at 52 the ex-catcher is a very good manager. Remember, the word “rebuilding”is not in the New York Yankees dictionary. Tampa Bay, like the Oakland Athletics have been looking for a new place to play for a long time. Tropicana Field, is one of the worst places to watch a game of baseball. Their pitching always shines and they will survive. And yes, Evan Longoria still their star player and third baseman.The Rays are good for last.

National League West

1-Los Angeles Dodgers

2-San Francisco Giants(Wild Card)

3-Colorado Rockies

4-Arizona Diamondbacks

5-San Diego Padres

-The Los Angeles Dodgers have a lot of talent on hand. Number one starter Clayton Kershaw is the leader and 2016 Manager of the Year Dave Roberts. The Bums will go for their fifth consecutive Western Division title. Rotation after Kershaw, including, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias; the strongman from Curacao, Kenley Jansen, their closer..Do they have enough to go for a seventh World Series title since they moved to Los Angeles? La La Land winning most of the Oscars, this Dodger’s team can win a few.

Corey Seager was their starting shortstop(as a rookie)the youngest for the Dodgers since Gene Mauch in 1944. He hit .308 with 26 home runs and 72 runs batted in, playing in 157 games. Seager was unanimously named the Rookie of the Year 2016 in the National League. If the Boys in Blue blow a piston, the San Francisco Giants will win this division, although I pick the Giants to at least make it to the post season as a Wild Card.

The Giants didn’t make many deals in the off season, but they did not have to. Acquiring closer Mark Melancon was key for them, and much needed for what was a crazy bullpen, specially during the second half of the 2016 season. Solid rotation with Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore, Jeff Samardzija(of his nine years in the majors his best was 2016 when he finished 12-11 and 3.81) plus Matt Cain trying to hang on for dear life.. Their bullpen now much more settled with Melancon turning the lights off at ATt, and guys like Derek Law and others making the bridge to the ninth.

They lost Santiago Casilla(A’S), Sergio Romo(Dodgers) and Javy López(Giants broadcast booth). Giants need Hunter Pence healthy, Brandon Belt productive as well as Buster Posey, although I do not consider them a great offensive team, they basically won their three World Series with pitching, good defense and timely hitting. They brought Barry Bonds back as special advisor, so if they go into a deep hitting slump in June, maybe they can re-activate Bonds. Bruce Bochy is a future Hall of Fame manager, and he knows this team better than anybody.

The Colorado Rockies have enough power to survive a blackout, plus they play in a park where they can show it, plenty. One of the best players in the game plays there, Nolan Arenado,(263 RBI last two seasons, more than anybody in baseball) just imagine if he was in New York or Boston, he would be God. Arenado won his fourth consecutive Gold Glove at the third base position, becoming the first third baseman in MLB history to win four Gold Gloves in his first four seasons, as well as his second Silver Slugger. He finished fifth in the MVP voting. Carlos González, always a ‘jonrón’ threat with a beautiful swing. And how about Charlie Blackmon in the outfield, his 2016 stats: .324 with 29 home runs and 82 runs batted in. Look for starter Jon Gray to have a good year, and they will need it. The problem with the Rockies was, and still is, pitching, their best pitcher last year was Chad Bettis 14-8 with a 4.79 ERA, enough said. I know Arizona has more name players like Paul Goldschmidt, Zack Greinke, Fernando Rodney, Jake Lamb, but for some reason I like Colorado better this year. The San Diego Padres have the best weather in the country, average of 75F year’round, but aside from the weather and Coronado Beach not much when it comes to baseball.

National League(Central)

1-Chicago Cubs

2-St Louis Cardinals(Wild Card)

3-Pittsburgh Pirates

4-Milwaukee Brewers

5-Cincinnati Red

-Nothing changes much here. The Chicago Cubs fans for generations endured 108 years drought without a World Series trophy.The Cubs still the class of the bunch. Led by MVP Kris Bryant(who recorded the historical last out against Cleveland in the World Series)is at the top of his game, with a great young-talented cast: Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr, all-around veteran Ben Zobrist. Their rotation with Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, John Lackey are all winners. They lost flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman, who went back to the Yankees but still have a solid bullpen with Wade Davis closing the door in the ninth. Don’t know if they’ll win 100 games again, but it will be no surprise if they did. Led by the Maestro Jon Maddon at the helm.

The St Louis Cardinals have not had a losing season during the past 17 consecutive years, and 2017 will not break that chain. They have enough, with the leadership of their great veteran catcher Yadier Molina to make it again to the postseason with one of the best organizations in baseball. For the Pirates life has not been very good recently, and hopefully Andrew McCutchen can regain his MVP credentials of the past, he is in his last year of his contract and will be playing right field not center field this season. For the first time Gerrit Cole will open the season for them, he was hurt last season with right triceps issues(7-10 and 3.88)hoping to be healthy and regain his form of 2015(19-8 2.60)a Cy Youncg contender. It has been 38 years since the Pirates won their last World Series, with Willie Stargell, Dave(Cobra)Parker,Rennie Stennet, Bill Madlock,Omar Moreno,Kent Tekulve. Sister Sledge’s hit anthem “We are Family”, was their team song, those were the days in steel town for baseball.

Milwaukee Brewers have the best beer at the park in baseball and then they have a bevy of very young players and veteran Ryan Braun and that’s about it.So in Milwaukee just “have a cold one”and relax. Joey Votto’s Cincinnati Reds are destined for the cellar, but maybe they can rise to the occasion and pass the Brewers to capture penultimate place. That is all the redlegs can hope for this year.

National League(East)

1-Washington Nationals

2-New York Mets (They could rival St Louis for a Wild Card spot)

3-Miami Marlins

4-Philadelphia Phillies

5-Atlanta Braves

-Dusty Baker’s team looks good, in a competitive division, they should win it. Look at their pitching in 2016(they were #2 in the NL) Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark and possible Joe Ross on that rotation. The Nats finished #4 in runs in the league last season. Bryce Harper, which many believe might become the first $400 million man in baseball, didn’t have a season for his standards. Harper hit .243 with 24 home runs and 86 runs batted-in, and scored 84 runs. He usually gets more publicity(east coast bias)than Mike Trout in Anaheim, but I will take Trout hands down over Harper in a New York minute. At 23 years of age Trea Turner played in 73 games last season and 2017 could be his year. They lost their closer Mark Melancon(SF)but have a trio of young arms, one of which should be able to take that position in Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley and Blake Trener.

The New York Mets are a very good team and I (for one)would not be surprised if they even win this division. A rotation they have: Noah Syndergard, Jacob DeGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Robert Gsellman, even Seth Lugo, who started the championship game of the WBC for Puerto Rico against USA, has very good stuff. They have to worry about the suspension of their fine closer Jeurys Familia, but Manager Terry Collins told the setup man Addison Reed to prepare to begin the season in Familia’s role as the closer.

Defense is not the best and this could hurt their very good pitching. However,Yoenis Céspedes is one of the most exciting players in the game will lead their offense. The Miami Marlins cannot replace the lost of starting ace José Fernández, and their rotation is short. They went after pitchers that can “eat innings”like Dan Straily and Edinson Volquez. Last season they finished #13 in runs scored in the National League. With Miami is the very impressive power of Giancarlo Stanton, a good player in Martin Prado, but he will be on the DL Opening Day with a right hamstring strain. I believe the Mets will finish in third place. Everybody will let the Phillies and the Braves fight among themselves to stay out of last place. But watch out, the Atlanta Braves this year,have the ageless Bartolo Colón(who turns 44 in May) a master of control, and R.A. Dickey a dominant pitcher, when his knuckle ball is working, one of the few knuckle ball specialist that has won a Cy Young, in 2012 with the Mets.

Playoffs

As far as the postseason. I’ll let you fill the ______ .

Amaury Pi Gonzalez is the Spanish TV talent for the Angels, the Spanish radio talent for the A’s and does That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary each week at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

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