The Chicago Cubs winning the 2016 MLB World Series was so cinematic, so other-worldly and dramatic, it felt like a kind of series finale for the 114 year old league. If that’s true, then 2017 is the premier of a spin-off series, featuring many of the same main characters and storylines.
And just like any good TV series, we enter each season with a new set of questions. I also happen to have the answers—well not actually, but I’m going to act as if I do and tell you my best guesses anyway.
Who wins the Cy Young?
My pick for the National League is Kyle Hendricks, of the Chicago Cubs.
While the spotlight glistened over Jake Arrieta, it was Arrieta’s teammate who really dominated the mound for last year’s World Series winners. Hendricks finished with an ERA of 2.13 and a WHIP of 0.98 last year. At 27 years old, he will be looking to push himself even further up the ladder of MLB starting pitchers.
In the American League, I’m going with the lefty.
Chris Sale has been terrorizing AL Central opponents since the start of the decade, but he has never finished at the top of the Cy Young voting. In fact, in recent years, Sale has had a bit of a decline in production. However, he has just been thrown into the mix of a championship contending team with a city that satisfies its soul with baseball the way New Orleans does with jazz music. I look for Sale to embrace his chance for a title and stumble upon a Cy Young in the process.
Who wins the MVP?
A lot of guys have the reigning champion Mike Trout pinned down as a shoe-in for AL MVP, but I’m going a different route, if nothing else for the sake of putting out a dissenting opinion.
At 24 years young, Mookie Betts is a new kind of Boston hero. If David Ortiz was their Superman, the guy who was always able to come through for them, then Mookie Betts is like Harry Potter—the young kid they hope will save them for years to come.
Betts batted .318 last year but he batted .338 in the second half (.376 in the month of August). He has shown the rare ability to hit for an absurdly high average and still manage to pop homeruns on a frequent basis, and—perhaps even more special—he did it all while earning a gold glove in the outfield.
There’s no doubt about his skill—Betts’ game is basically what would happen if Ken Griffey Jr. had been tiny. The real question is whether MLB pitchers will find a way to put a dent in his production, and if he can do enough to overcome the inevitable explosion from Mike Trout. I think he will.
In the National League, my pick for MVP is another young guy. Trea Turner.
Trea Turner hasn’t even played a full season of baseball yet, but the former NC State standout racked up 40 RBIs and stole 33 bases in just 73 games last year. He did all of that while batting .342.
For Turner, a guy who probably doesn’t even have his eyes on the MVP award yet, there’s unlimited growing room.
Who will win the World Series?
Even though both my Cy Young and MVP come from the Boston Red Sox, my World Series pick has to be the Chicago Cubs. What makes it so difficult to pick against the Cubs is that, as successful as they were last season, they are in position to be even better now. For one, most of their key players are young. But also, they’re about to have Kyle Schwarber back for a full season, and they have added a top prospect to the roster in Albert Almora Jr.
With such a youthful roster and lots of trade weapons in their arsenal, the scariest part about the Cubs is that while they may be better than last year now, they are also likely to keep getting better.
The Chicago Cubs are an absolute nightmare for the rest of the league. It’s as simple as that.