These are the teams I am predicting will just miss the playoffs in 2018. See who gets left out.
Most Important Hitter: David Peralta
Most Important Pitcher: Robbie Ray
Prospect to Watch: Taylor Clarke
2018 Prediction: 4th in NL West
Bold Prediction: This will be Zack Greinke's last season in Arizona.
The Diamondbacks were a surprise playoff team in 2017, but they were propelled there by an other-worldly finish by J.D. Martinez. Their biggest mistake was not adequately replacing him. Steven Souza, Jr. is good, but not as good as J.D. They will need increased production out of guys like David Peralta, A.J. Pollock, and Yasmany Tomas (who is currently in AAA) to pick up the slack. Robbie Ray needs to repeat his All Star performance in 2018 to solidify a rotation headed by an aging Zack Greinke. I could see the D-Backs moving on from him after this season to take the next step forward.
Most Important Hitter: Mike Zunino
Most Important Pitcher: James Paxton
Prospect to Watch: Max Povse
2018 Prediction: 3rd in AL West
Bold Prediction: Ichiro will be released by Memorial Day.
The Mariners have the longest playoff drought in professional sports, having last made the playoffs in 2001 when Ichiro was a rookie. They have a shot at making it this year, but it all comes down to health. James Paxton can be one of the best aces in the league if he can stay on the field. King Felix can still be the King if he can stay healthy. Mike Zunino finally showed off his bat in 2017, but needs to repeat the performance (instead, he is currently on the DL). If healthy, they can compete with almost any team in the league. Staying healthy will be a challenge though. Ichiro was brought in because of their injuries (and a great story), but I don't see him lasting long at 44 years old.
San Francisco Giants
Most Important Hitter: Andrew McCutchen
Most Important Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner
Prospect to Watch: Steven Duggar
2018 Prediction: 3rd in NL West
Bold Prediction: Half of the Giants' Opening Day roster will not be on the roster Opening Day 2019.
The Giants decided to take their aging roster and double down by adding more veterans (Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria) to try and make another run at the playoffs. They are very interesting because of this. If these two are able to rekindle some of their glory day magic, then the Giants will be a formidable foe this year. If not, they will once again be disappointing. Their farm system is terrible, and I could easily see them blowing up the roster at the end of the season if 2018 doesn't result in a postseason run.
St. Louis Cardinals
Most Important Hitter: Tommy Pham
Most Important Pitcher: Michael Wacha
Prospect to Watch: Alex Reyes
2018 Prediction: 3rd in NL Central
Bold Prediction: The Cardinals will make at least one blockbuster trade at the Trade Deadline.
The Cardinals are not used to missing the playoffs, yet they have now missed the postseason two years in a row. I am predicting this season will make it three. They remade their outfield with Tommy Pham as the centerpiece, but he has fluke written all over him. They have an ace in Carlos Martinez, but a guy like Michael Wacha needs to step up to give the rotation depth. They lucked out by signing Greg Holland on Opening Day to anchor their bullpen, but it is still thin. There are just too many questions. One thing they do have is a lot of major league ready talent in the minors. This is why they will be making a trade or two this year to try and turn around what could be a disappointing season for the Cardinals fans with such high standards.
Most Important Hitter: Byron Buxton
Most Important Pitcher: Fernando Rodney
Prospect to Watch: Nick Gordon
2018 Prediction: 2nd in AL Central
Bold Prediction: Byron Buxton will start in centerfield in the All Star Game.
The best team to miss the playoffs in 2018 will be the Twins. They made a miraculous turnaround from worst team in the league to the Wild Card last season. Now they will try and stay there. A lot of offseason moves have really improved this roster. Relying on Rodney to anchor your bullpen is stressful. Buxton will be a superstar by the end of the season. They will just come up a little short.
Stay tuned for the playoff teams!