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Every Team in Two Sentences 2017

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Everything you need to know about every team you need to know, all condensed down into easily digestible nuggets.

Atlanta Braves v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Opening Day is here at last.

Finally, after a maddeningly long and irritatingly fractious (on the discussion side, not on the actual team side), spring training, we are but mere hours away from real, actual, honest to god baseball that counts being played. And sure, the WBC was fun, but so is methadone.

Tonight our beloved boys in red will have the national stage all to themselves, showcasing one of baseball’s greatest rivalries (and the rivalry most likely to take off into the stratosphere, early-2000s Red Sox/Yankee style over the next three or four years), to kick off the 2017 season. I know baseball will claim Cubs/Cardinals to start the season is a complete — or at least mostly — random event, but, um, well, you know. Nuh-uh.

So as we wait the final handful of hours until baseball is really and truly back, it is time for my personal annual Opening Day tradition. The format is the same as it has been for several years now, and relatively self-explanatory, I would think. Teams are listed in the order they will finish, and every team gets two sentences, maximum.

Let’s start out with the NL West this year, shall we?

National League West

Los Angeles Dodgers — The current gold standard for how to turn overwhelming resource advantages into consistent on-field success, the Dodgers possess far and away the strongest roster in the division. They have a wave of youth coming, as well, which is both frightening and, honestly, feels more than a little unfair at times.

San Francisco Giants — Starting with the best catcher in baseball, a top five shortstop, and one of the more durable, consistent left-handed starters in the game gives the Giants an enviable core of talent around which to build. The outfield is a nightmare, though, and the pitching staff is surprisingly rickety in places, putting the Giants several clear steps below the Dodgers and in the middle of the wild card pack, no better.

Colorado Rockies — The Rockies are very much a team on the come, which is surprising to say after so many years of ineptitude and wandering in the wilderness. They’re young and talented, with an infield that might be the best in baseball, if only some team with a spare first baseman (a real one, not Ian Desmond), would call them up.

Arizona Diamondbacks -- The DBacks have a few big time talents; too many for the club to be as poor as they are, but here we sit all the same. Zack Greinke looks aged, Shelby Miller looks borked, and Arizona is going to be paying the bill for the LaRussa/Stewart shitshow for years to come.

San Diego Padres — The Padres are bad, and not at all likable. They’ll probably be good in a couple years, but how many showers will they need to wash off the A.J. Preller?

American League West

Seattle Mariners — A hyperactive offseason (always a near-given for a Jerry Dipoto club), saw the Mariners make a dozen Rube Goldberg-esque trades for maybe three trades’ worth of improvement. Still, I’m picking them to surprise in the AL West based on an amazing defense that should make them a run-prevention monster and an offense that should have one more good year in it before age starts to really bite, especially if some team with a spare first baseman would call them up.

Houston Astros — The Astros have the best core of any club in this division, and should keep them hitting near the top of baseball and standing near the top of the AL West for years to come. This particular year, though, the pitching looks shaky enough to me I could see some things going badly, relegating them to wild card status but also potentially making them one of the most likely destinations for Jose Quintana.

Texas Rangers — The Rangers of 2017 feel like an oddly bifurcated team; a club with star power and a great farm system, but a roster with more downside than most other teams viewed in a similar light to Texas. They have a great 1-2 rotation punch and a couple of star-level bats, but the overall pitching staff could fall apart completely, Adrian Beltre has to get old someday, and the offense feels a little light to me. (Which would be helped if a team with a spare first baseman to complement Mike Napoli would call them up.)

Los Angeles Angels — Proof that even the best player in baseball can’t win all on his own if the team surrounding him is bad enough, the Angels are paying something like $45 million this year to the ghosts of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, meaning they’re in really excellent position to win the 2011 World Series. Garrett Richards could give the rotation enough upside to make a wild card push if some things go really right, but overall the Angels just don’t have enough quality players to take advantage of the Trout head start again this year.

Oakland Athletics — Think about this: if the A’s had done absolutely nothing, they could currently have Josh Donaldson and Addison Russell starting as the left side of their infield. I understand there are limitations and challenges to Oakland’s situation beyond what most other franchises deal with, but the last few years have been dark enough even Billy Beane looks, frankly, terrible.

National League East

Washington Nationals — The Nationals have every reason to push their chips in to win right now, while Max Scherzer is still amazing, Daniel Murphy is still a tent-revival huckster level miracle, and Bryce Harper is still not a Yankee. Fortunately for the Nats, Trea Turner is the truth, and their window isn’t closing in the next two years.

New York Mets -- For a team that felt up and coming just a couple years ago, it’s somewhat strange to look at the Mets and realise this is kind of an old squad, and it happened in a hurry. There’s always the possibility the Met rotation could go crazy and push them ahead of pretty much everyone, but there’s too much downside risk and just not enough upside for me to believe the Mets are going to be anything more than a mid-80s win club.

Florida Marlins — Long a club that felt tragic for trapping superstar players on a bad roster within an insulting organisation, the Marlins now feel tragic for entirely different reasons. They still have two star-level players in the outfield in Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, but the rotation could be a disaster, and there’s a good argument the Marlins might need to blow it up and start over at this point.

Atlanta Braves -- Of the two rebuilding/tanking clubs in the NL East, the Phillies feel like the more promising long-term project, but the Braves made some moves toward being respectable this year in preparation for moving into a new stadium. They’re going to be bad but not awful, but probably pretty boring aside from watching Freddie Freeman and days when Bartolo Colon starts, which still isn’t enough to make the Braves not feel vaguely gross to talk about these days due to stadium financing shenanigans and the like.

Philadelphia Phillies — It feels like this could be the turning point season for the Phillies, who found a couple interesting pieces last year and have a couple more in 2017 who could seemingly go either way. (See: Velasquez, Vincent.) But while the Phils will probably still be rotten this year, their rebuilding process feels like it could be approaching that Cubs-second-half-of-2014 point, when the quality really starts to change the direction of things by the end of the season.

American League East

Boston Red Sox — The Red Sox are the kings of this division, and it doesn’t feel especially close, and Ben Cherington deserves a fucking parade past Fenway for the club he built and Dave Dombrowski is now trying to hot shot right into the ground. Luckily for the Fenway faithful, this club might be both too young and too good to ruin anytime soon, no matter how short-sighted the tactics employed.

Toronto Blue Jays -- Don’t look now, but it looks like the window for Toronto to be major contenders could be closing, as this roster is starting to look mighty old. Marcus Stroman is a certifiably awesome talent, Aaron Sanchez put together a fairly remarkable season in 2016, and it won’t kill Toronto to lose either Brett Cecil or Edwin Encarnacion, but both Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ look like serious fall-off candidates this season, and there isn’t much future upside here to offset a roster unlikely to produce the kind of quality performances the Blue Jays received last year.

Baltimore Orioles — The Orioles have one of the best infields in baseball, full stop, and one of the most intimidating weapons in all baseball at the back of their bullpen. The outfield could be borderline terrible, though, and the rotation might not need the borderline qualifier if things go even a little wrong.

New York Yankees — It feels strange to see the Yankees still down in the division, but this year is probably the year things start to turn. The Yankees in the second half will not be the same team as in the first half, and there are only brighter days ahead for the sleeping giant that is the New York Yankees.

Tampa Bay Rays -- Between the pitching talent the Rays can field and the defense they can put behind that pitching talent, Tampa Bay in 2017 should be a run-prevention behemoth that might not allow 700 runs all year. The only problem is they almost certainly won’t score even as many as they allow, regardless of how low a bar that is.

National League Central

Chicago Cubs — The Cubs hit the jackpot in their tank and rebuild, and are now really, really good both in the present but likely for the foreseeable future as well. There are some dark clouds hovering around an aging and unlikely-to-reproduce-last-year’s-numbers pitching staff, but their everyday players are so good that for 2017 at least Chicago is still very much the class of the NL Central, and probably the National League as a whole.

St. Louis Cardinals — The Cardinals are still a team in transition, and still feel like a club one star player away from a return to true prominence. The pitching should be a plus this year, and the offense has a chance to on-base its way to a big season, but looking ahead I feel like if the infield on the 3rd of August looks the same as it does tonight, it will be a definite disappointment.

Pittsburgh Pirates — Speaking of teams trying to transition while remaining in contention, the Pirates are moving out of the McCutchen era, and are going to need their other two outfielders to pick up the slack left by their aging star. The pitching is really where the concerns lay for this club, despite Ray Searage still doing his best to spin straw into gold; unless Tyler Glasnow takes a huge step forward this season (which I don’t really expect), it’s going to be mostly straw all the way through, I think.

Milwaukee Brewers — The Brewers are rebuilding in a very smart way, and I think in a few years they’re going to be a really good team again. This year is not that year, and while they may be interesting in 2017, they’re also going to be pretty bad.

Cincinnati Reds — Cincinnati, on the other hand, half-assed the beginning of their rebuild, the result of a wishy-washy owner and equally wishy-washy GM, and haven’t really made a ton of progress yet. They haven’t really gotten much of a return for the players they’ve dealt away, and Joey Votto apparently doesn’t want to be dealt away, so it’s looking like a longer and longer rebuild all the time for the Redlegs, and not all that promising a horizon to boot.

American League Central

Cleveland Indians — The Indians were great last year, and in signing Edwin Encarnacion this offseason they upgraded their offense even more. The rotation has injury breakdown potential, but if Cleveland can keep their full team healthy and on the field it should be a Red Sox-Indians ALCS this year.

Detroit Tigers — Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, and Miguel Cabrera are all still great, but there seriously has to be an expiration date on this core, doesn’t there? The Tigers do have a couple exciting young starting pitchers in Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer, but while the Tigers could potentially still be very good this year, they are almost certainly the most fragile team in contention.

Kansas City Royals — This was always going to be the last ride for this group of Royals players; the season when the Kansas City heroes that brought baseball back in Royaltown came to the end of their road. Unfortunately, Dayton Moore seems caught between a preemptive reboot and one last all-in push, and the tragic loss of Yordano Ventura shrank the possibility space of this club down just a little too much.

Minnesota Twins — The Twins’ rebuilding effort has been a tougher road than many expected, I think, a couple years ago when Byron Buxton was tearing up the low minors and garnering (admittedly hyperbolic), Mike Trout comps and Miguel Sano was blasting balls into the stratosphere. It’s been a slow and painful slog since that time, a reminder that tank jobs don’t always pay off immediately, but things are starting to really turn around in Minnesota, and they have one last big piece in Brian Dozier to deal away for a future core player, hopefully.

Chicago White Sox — The White Sox, after years of being stuck in neutral, finally got serious about their future this past offseason and blew their club up, netting an ungodly prospect return in the process. They’ll probably be terrible this year, but Yoan Moncada will be up at some point, which should be fun, and he’s just the leading edge of a talent wave that should start coming in by the end of 2018.

The Predictions Section

Division Winners, NL: Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals

Wild Cards, NL: Cardinals (1), Giants (2)

Division Winners, AL: Mariners, Indians, Red Sox

Wild Cards, AL: Astros (1), Tigers (2)

Pennant Winners: Dodgers, Indians

World Series Winner: Cleveland Indians, ending the now-longest drought in baseball.

Happy Opening Day, everyone. It’s been a long time coming, but baseball is here again.