Welcome to Part I of SI.com's 2017 MLB picks and predictions. Before the coming season, we asked our group of MLB experts to choose their playoff teams and World Series winner for this year. In Part II, we'll get them to name their winners for the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards in each league. On to the picks!
Verducci's pick: Chicago is the best team in baseball and should be expected to score more runs than last year and still be an elite run prevention team. The only reason not to pick the Cubs is that they won last year; only four NL teams have ever won a second straight World Series (the 1908 Cubs, '22 Giants and '76 Reds).
Reiter’s pick: Many seem to be underrating the Mets, a club that made the playoffs last year even though it was ultimately bereft of most of the young rotation with which it was supposed to live or die. Normal health will lead the Mets to a rematch of the 1986 National League Championship Series in the Fall Classic, but this time, they’ll fall to Houston’s athletic, power-packed team of destiny.
Chen’s pick: The window is closing fast in D.C., but with a full season of sleeper NL MVP candidate Trea Turner, a healthy Bryce Harper back to his 2015 form, the best 1–2 starting duo in baseball in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and breakouts from starter Joe Ross and reliever Koda Glover, the Nats will overtake NL titans Chicago and Los Angeles and emerge as the best team in baseball.
Jaffe's pick: With Chris Sale joining Boston, the Sox have a formidable rotation to go with their increasingly youth-centric lineup (which now includes top prospect Andrew Benintendi alongside Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts). The Cubs are even better situated as far as depth and youth, and now that they're free of all the chatter about 1908 and billy goats, it should be easier to focus on the task of winning, which would make them the first repeat champions since the 1999–2000 Yankees.
Keith’s pick: The Cubs are allowed to have a dynasty every 100 years—it’s a little-known rule—and like the glory days of Three Finger Brown and Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance, the current edition of Jake and Jon and Russell-to-Baez-to-Rizzo is stacked with talent all over the field. The health of the starting pitching will be the major determining factor, but if Arrieta, Lester and Kyle Hendricks continue to be the NL’s best starting trio, there’s more than enough offense from the team that scored more runs than any team that doesn’t use a humidor in its clubhouse to compensate. That, plus the majors’ best defense, will help Chicago finish with the best record for the second straight year, which this time means the Cubs will get home field advantage in the World Series. That will come in handy when they beat the Red Sox in another epic Game 7, this time at Wrigley Field.
Tayler’s pick: The safe bet here would be to pick the Cubs to repeat; after all, the team that won 103 games last year en route to its first title in 108 years returns more or less intact. But the bet here is that the Dodgers, who nearly pushed Chicago to the brink in last year’s NLCS, finally get over their own hump, bringing a championship to Los Angeles for the first time since 1988 and, in the process, extending Cleveland’s drought to 69 seasons.
Span’s pick: The Dodgers set a major league record last year for trips to the disabled list with 28, yet they still won their division and made it to the NLCS (while the Cubs, though clearly the best team in baseball in 2016, were for the most part very lucky, especially with their pitching). L.A. is the deepest team in the league, and with a healthy Kershaw, I give the Dodgers a tiny edge over the Red Sox, who are the deepest team in the AL.
Dickey's pick: Two of baseball’s most star-crossed franchises—and two of its best rotations—match up in a showcase for righthanded pitching. The series goes the distance again, but for Cleveland, in this Game 7, the third time is the charm.