Baseball is a funny game. A game with no time restriction, built on nuance, and forever romanticized. One of the best quirks about baseball is that anything can happen over the course of nine innings.
Every season, pardon the quasi-Yogi-ism, but “anything does happen.” Every summer something happens in baseball that drops our jaws and totally catches us off guard.
So with that said, here are five outrageous predictions for the National League in 2016.
The Colorado Rockies will win the NL West
Hey, these are outrageous for a reason. The National League West improved as a whole over the winter. The Giants got deeper, the Dodgers got younger, and the Diamondbacks spent a lot of money.
One team that didn’t do much of anything in the offseason is the Rockies. That’s okay. Improve by doing nothing. It could work.
The Mountains still have Carlos Gonzalez, the free-swinging outfielder, and the best player you don’t know that well in third baseman Nolan Arenado, setting up a great 1-2 punch that can carry an offense. The Rockies have a very, very deep farm system that could attract another team to trade an arm or two.
If the chips fall perfectly — I mean, really, really perfectly, the Rockies can win the NL West.
Jose Fernandez will be traded in a massive blockbuster
It was the worst kept secret at the MLB Winter Meetings – Fernandez was on the block. Heck, I knew he was being shopped, and I was at the Winter Meetings just to find Joe Maddon for that shot and a beer he promised two winters ago.
The MLB rumor mill was telling us that while Fernandez was on the block, the asking price Marlins’ owner Jeffrey Loria was seeking was too astronomical. I’m sure several team presidents and general managers had several phone conversations with Loria that ended with, “Ha! Yeah, right, man!”
The Marlins claim they are getting better with a group of young talent featuring Giancarlo Stanton. That might be true if they could keep any of those young guys healthy. As the summer creeps toward the July trade deadline, I could see Loria getting antsy about pulling the trigger on trading Fernandez — if the price is right.
The Mets will trade one of their young, starting pitchers
Sorry, Mets fans, Yoenis Cespedes is not going to be the answer over the course of 162 games. Yeah, he was great for you in the second half of the season last year, but there is no way he can put it all together for a full slate of games. The Mets have five, young, fire-balling starting pitchers that could be an ace for another club by summer’s end.
Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler could all be shopped throughout the first part of the season in favor for offensive firepower. Last season, the Mets struggled with injuries to offensive cornerstones and were only jumpstarted by the trade for Cespedes. A repeat in 2016 doesn’t seem too far out of the realm of possibilities.
The only question is — who goes?
The Cardinals won’t make the postseason
All good things must come to an end and it’s time for the Cardinals’ reign in the NL Central to cease.
Foundation cornerstones Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Matt Holiday are all in their mid-30s and have had trouble staying healthy, putting pressure on a lot of young core guys to produce every day.
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Can the Cards do it? Maybe. But in the loaded NL Central, that is asking a lot from a bunch of guys who are used to platooning. If the Cards are to make a run at October, pitching will be the key. The starting rotation was the reason behind St. Louis’ best record in baseball last year. Even then, Wainwright is returning from a ruptured Achilles, Lance Lynn will miss the season after elbow surgery, John Lackey is now a Cub.
And how could I forget the home run derby the Cubs put on display against the Cardinals’ pitching staff in last season’s the NLDS?
Matt Kemp will win NL MVP
Hey, we warned you — outrageous.
Okay, this is me relishing in the glory days of Kemp as a Dodger, and still disgruntled about him losing out on the NL MVP to Ryan Braun back in 2011. Kemp used to be the best everyday player in the game both at the plate and in the field, and is still one of the best ambassadors that baseball has to offer. But baseball isn’t fair, and injuries have put his career on a different, less stellar path.
Kemp, 31, now moves to right field full-time for the Padres where he can hopefully be a plus-defender again — well, at least close to one.
I realize I’m especially reaching on this one, but hey, a guy can hope. In reality, the likeliness that Kemp gets traded before the deadline is likely and he probably belongs in the AL as a designated hitter.
Kemp believes that he has something left to prove as he distances himself from his injuries that have plagues him for seasons. Here’s to hoping that he’s right, and Kemp has a lot left in the tank.