For more from our 2017 MLB preview section, click here.
Teams are listed in order of predicted finish. We’ve also included either the team’s best trade pickup or bait. Here is our AL team by team preview.
1. New York
The Mets’ pitching seems back on track. The jury is still out on Matt Harvey, but Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman, and Seth Lugo all look pretty solid and drew wows from scouts. There’s also concern whether closer Jeurys Familia will be suspended for a domestic violence incident. The Mets’ lineup, with Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, and Michael Conforto, should score enough runs. We don’t know how much the injured David Wright can offer.
Best trade pickup: Syndergaard.
Mets schedule, roster, and stats.
We keep waiting for the Nationals to advance past the NLDS, but it may again be tough for them. They still don’t have an experienced closer, having failed to pull off a deal with the White Sox for Dave Robertson. The Nats have an All-Star rotation led by Max Scherzer, but he battled a knuckle injury in spring training.
Best trade pickup: Trea Turner.
Nationals schedule, roster, and stats.
They have enough firepower in their lineup to be competitive, but the death of Jose Fernandez has made this a challenging situation for the pitching staff. The Marlins tried to fill Fernandez’s void with low-cost starters, but they’re likely not good enough to unseat the talented rotations of the Mets and Nats.
Best trade pickup: Dee Gordon.
Marlins schedule, roster, and stats.
The Braves have the best farm system in the business and we’re going to see some of them with the big club this season. John Hart brought in Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey on one-year deals to augment a rotation led by Julio Teheran as the Braves continue their rebuild.
Best trade bait: Nick Markakis.
Braves schedule, roster, and stats.
Like the Braves, the Phillies are building for a couple of years down the road when they can augment their young talent with some prize free agents given their large pool of resources. For now, the Phillies can show off third baseman Maikel Franco and hope young pitchers Jerad Eickhoff and Aaron Nola continue to rise.
Best trade bait: Clay Buchholz.
Phillies schedule, roster, and stats.
The defending World Series champions should again be the class of the NL. Sure, the lack of offense from Jason Heyward, who could be relegated to a platoon player with his eight-year, $184 million contract, is troublesome. The Cubs will go with Wade Davis at closer and Brett Anderson is the No. 5 starter (instead of Chicago resigning Jason Hammel, who won 15 games in that spot last season). Otherwise, barring disaster, the Cubs should coast again.
Best trade pickup: Jake Arrieta.
Cubs schedule, roster, and stats.
This team is all about Andrew McCutchen getting back to what he was before his down season and Gerrit Cole becoming an elite pitcher again. The reconfiguration of the outfield — moving McCutchen from center to right — could be beneficial defensively. The Pirates could use Jose Quintana but have been unwilling to part with young pitchers to get him. But they could compete for a wild-card spot.
Best trade pickup: Francisco Cervelli.
Pirates schedule, roster, and stats.
3. St. Louis
Yadier Molina’s future hangs in the balance as the Cardinals start the season. The catcher can exercise a mutual option to leave if there’s no progress on an extension. The rotation is pretty solid if Adam Wainwright holds up and if Lance Lynn’s upper-back issue isn’t serious. The Cardinals expect a lineup jolt from Dexter Fowler and the bullpen could be stronger if Trevor Rosenthal is healthy and adapts to a setup role.
Best trade bait: Matt Adams.
Cardinals schedule, roster, and stats.
Second baseman Jonathan Villar lead the majors in steals last year (62) and had an .826 OPS, and he’s still just 25. Shortstop Orlando Arcia and outfielder Domingo Santana have shown potential. Center fielder Keon Broxton could be really good. Zach Davies and reliever Corey Knebel are worth keeping an eye on. And of course the star is Ryan Braun, who is coming off a huge year.
Best trade bait: Braun.
Brewers schedule, roster, and stats.
The Reds have some nice young players in second baseman Jose Peraza and third baseman Eugenio Suarez, and some name players in Joey Votto, Adam Duvall, and speedy Billy Hamilton. But when your No. 1 pitcher is Scott Feldman, you’ve got problems. Things should be better for the Reds within the next two years.
Best trade pickup: Duvall.
Reds schedule, roster, and stats.
1. Los Angeles
Everyone loves the Dodgers, and with good reason. Manager Dave Roberts has created a winning culture and the infield is one of the best in baseball. The outfield has issues, however, as we don’t know whether Yasiel Puig will ever reach the potential the Dodgers had in mind. LA could use another front-line starter like Jose Quintana, but Rich Hill could be a dynamic complement to Clayton Kershaw if Hill can stay healthy. The bullpen besides closer Kenley Jansen has some issues. Overall, this is the team to beat.
Best trade pickup: Adrian Gonzalez.
Dodgers schedule, roster, and stats.
2. San Francisco
The Giants can contend for the division if LA slips a little. An excellent rotation is four deep with Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Matt Moore. The Giants really improved the back end of the bullpen with free agent Mark Melancon. A strong veteran lineup, led by Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Crawford, and Joe Panik, is a little vulnerable in left field.
Best trade pickup: Moore.
Giants schedule, roster, and stats.
The Rockies could be a sleeper if their pitching holds up at Coors Field. They have a terrific lineup led by Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado — one of the best players in baseball — and second baseman and reigning NL batting champion DJ LeMahieu. There’s also Carlos Gonzalez, Trevor Story, and Charlie Blackmon to contend with. But Colorado’s success comes down to its young pitchers, primarily starters Tyler Chatwood, Jon Gray, lefty Tyler Anderson, and German Marquez. Can closer Greg Holland return to form after Tommy John surgery?
Best trade pickup: Gonzalez.
Rockies schedule, roster, and stats.
The Torey Lovullo/Mike Hazen-led Diamondbacks should improve, particularly if Zack Greinke has a dominating season. Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray, Shelby Miller, and Patrick Corbin round out the rotation. Miller, a complete bust last season, pitched well in spring training, as did Walker, who was obtained from Seattle. The D-Backs have some thunder in their lineup with perennial All-Star Paul Goldschmidt, third baseman Jake Lamb, and center fielder A.J. Pollock.
Best trade pickup: Walker.
Diamondbacks schedule, roster, and stats.
5. San Diego
The feeling is the Padres may be good again in three years. But for now it’s Struggle City. Broadcaster Don Orsillo may be their biggest star.
Best trade pickup: Wil Myers.
Padres schedule, roster, and stats.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.