The Red Sox have made changes, Mike Trout is still Mike Trout, and the Cubs are still looking to end their title drought. Our baseball writers predict the season

Hotly tipped team that will do badly

David Lengel: The Giants even-year assault began with a rotation refresh including Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. I dont trust the newbies, especially the latter. The NL West is now crowded house: the Giants could be the odd ones out.

DJ Gallo: Its always a safe bet to say the Nationals wont meet expectations, but lets go with a different team this year just to break it up: Boston. The Red Sox are getting World Series buzz, but even adding David Price and Craig Kimbrel isnt quite enough to fix one of baseballs worst pitching staffs.

Les Carpenter: The Blue Jays have an explosive lineup, but their great second half run last year came after the David Price trade and the stabilizing of their bullpen. Price is gone and aside from Marcus Stroman the rotation is filled with questions. They cant slug their way to another division title.

Jonathan Bernhardt: Lets go with Houston Astros. Not sold on them outside of Altuve and Keuchel; not ready to anoint Carlos Correa without seeing how the league adjusts.

Surprise package that will make the playoffs

DL: No number-crunching nerds running the show in Phoenix, just Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa selling jeans. This years Diamondbacks model is sexy, with Zack Greinke helping their pitching potentially measure up with their beastly bats. I like em.

DG: If the Dodgers or Giants fall short of expectations and the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs beat themselves up to the point of only one NL Central team making the playoffs, the Paul Goldschmidt and Zach Greinke-led Diamondbacks could slip into the postseason.

LC: Despite this springs clubhouse tension, the White Sox have a lot of intriguing parts. They improved their lineup with several low-level veteran signings and trades, have an excellent closer and might have one of the more promising rotations in the American League. If Carolos Rodon builds on his late-season growth, Jose Quintana finally breaks out and Mat Latos is healthy, Chicago might sneak into the postseason.

JB: Arizona Diamondbacks. Probably talking second Wild Card here, but the Wild Card game is the playoffs.

Should kids be allowed in the clubhouse?

DL: Whose kids? My kids? Definitely, theyd love it. Other big leaguers might wonder who they belong to and why theyre unsupervised. The players kids? Now and again, but not all the time, just like anywhere else.

DG: Not only should kids be allowed in the clubhouse, they must. Or baseball teams will fall into anarchy without the steady leadership provided by feral children.

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LC: Children have long been in big league clubhouses that wont change. Several players bring their kids to the ballpark, especially in the summer. Nobody minds. Everyone understands that baseball players spend an enormous amount of time away from their families maybe more than any professional athletes.

JB: Only if the adults in the clubhouse dont whine like kids themselves when their playmate has to go home.

MVP winner, American League

DL: Mike Trout had a spring OPS of close to 1.200: thats higher than Babe Ruths career mark. Now, we dont care a damn what people do in March, but after losing his MVP title last season, you do get the sense hes on a mission.

DG: The AL West doesnt look to have a runaway winner and if the Angels stay anywhere in striking distance, Mike Trout and whatever absurd video game numbers he puts up this year will get much of the credit.

LC: Undoubtedly many will complain that a player on a last-place team Trout isnt the most valuable player but his numbers will be too good to ignore.

JB: Mike Trout. Trouts the best player in MLB history through his age 23 season, and hell make that through 24.

MVP winner, National League

DL: If the Diamondbacks put it all together in 2016, it will almost definitely mean Paul Goldschmidt is your MVP, finally, after a pair of second place finishes over three seasons.

DG: Bryce Harper will be in contention for this award for the next 10 years. Well, not the NL MVP specifically. Hell be in contention for the AL version starting in 2019 when he signs a $500m deal with the Yankees.

LC: Anthony Rizzo sometimes gets lost in the Cubs loaded lineup but he might be their most consistent hitter.

JB: A Chicago Cub. There hasnt been a media darling like the 2016 Chicago Cubs in awhile, and theyll back it up.

Cy Young winner, American League

DL: Just two out of 14 AL Cy Young vote getters had WHIPS under 1.000. If Wade Davis (filthy 0.787) closes all season for KC, hes your Cy Young winner hands down. Apply that logic to 2016 and hand him the plaque.

DG: Cole Hamels won seven games in 12 starts for the Rangers last year and is a solid bet to win 20 this year. Right or wrong (its wrong), that number still resonates with many Cy Young voters.

LC: Felix Hernandez is aging but he might be a better pitcher than ever. He can still dominate and plays in a pitchers park.

JB: David Price. He could have won it last year, and this year hell have a full season on one team with a good bullpen behind him.

Cy Young winner, National League

DL: Since Jake Arrieta will have a 5.46 ERA this season, and Zack Greinke will suffer slightly from performing in a tiny ballpark, that leaves the usual NL suspect, LAs lefty innings machine Clayton Kershaw.

DG: Clayton Kershaw supposedly got off to a slow start last year and still finished with 301 strikeouts, a 2.13 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP. Its terrifying to think he can be better than that.

Clayton
Clayton Kershaw: terrifying. Photograph: Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports

LC: Clayton Kershaw is still in the prime of a remarkable career, the Dodgers will need him to be great again if they hope to win the NL West.

JB: Noah Syndergaard. Hard to bet against Kershaw, Greinke, or Arrieta, but Syndergaards something special.

Rob Manfred is

DL: …being tested while negotiating the next Collective Bargaining Agreement with the MLB Players Union. After 21 years of peace there are more hurdles in front of 22, 23 and beyond than usual.

DG: … a thoughtful, energetic commissioner who understands that baseball needs to make some changes in order to bring in a younger fanbase. In short, he is very much not Bud Selig.

LC: a commissioner on his honeymoon. Unlike some of his counterparts, Manfred inherits a game somewhat at peace. Everybody is making money. What will happen if the cable TV bubble bursts? This will probably be his great test but thats a few years down the road.

JB: …a fool if he presides over the implementation of the DH in the National League.

Which is more likely: the Cubs win the World Series or Trump presidency?

DL: Trump, but deep down inside both are scared to death of winning, not that theyd ever admit it. Both will have their moments before folding.

DG: Trump is close to 50/50 at this point while all of recorded history makes the Cubs still feel like their odds are 1 in 1908.

LC: Hell will have a speed skating track before either happens, but youd have to think the Cubs might win one in the next two centuries.

JB: A Trump presidency, though with every day that passes that becomes less and less a commentary on the Cubs.

AL East champion

DL: David Price is in Boston, but now the Jays have a healthy Marcus Stroman. They also have power, pen, and, now, real dirt base paths! So it seems like Toronto, but this division is a basket case. Can I switch in July?

DG: The Blue Jays went for it all last year and came up short, but they still have a potent lineup in place that could be the difference in a competitive division.

LC: Picking up David Price was huge. Craig Kimbrell is an overpowering closer who will thrive in Boston. The lineup remains strong, Mookie Betts will finally break out and the Red Sox will benefit from seeing the Good Hanley Ramirez.

JB: The Boston Red Sox. Turns out hiring a GM who understands youre a big market team and acts like it turns a roster around quick.

AL Central champion

DL: You can get away with predicting that the Kansas City Royals will fail to repeat as champs. Failing to pick them as AL Central winners is straight up rude, and shame on you.

DG: The Royals won the AL Central last year by 12 games. Even the biggest World Series hangover isnt going to allow the Twins, Indians, White Sox or Tigers to bridge that gap.

LC: This could be a tough division with great starting staffs in Cleveland and Chicago and a Minnesota team loaded with promising young players, but the Royals have a lineup that works. As long as they keep their regulars healthy, can squeeze enough good innings from their starters and shut down teams in the late innings, Kansas City will win.

JB: My heart says Chicago White Sox, even with the LaRoche embarrassment. My head says Kansas City Royals.

AL West champion

DL: The Rangers emerged as the best of a horrid division last year and still made the playoffs. Now that Yu Darvish and their pitching rotation are getting healthy, theyve got to be at least five games better than the 88 they won last year. Itll be enough.

DG: The Astros finished in second place last year and didnt make any major offseason moves. Thats fine. The continued maturation of Carlos Correa and George Springer beats most any free agent acquisition.

LC: Houston is loaded with talent but the Astros still build home runs around piles of strikeouts. Texas has a less exciting line-up but it has enough players who can get on base and produce runs. The key will be if either Derek Holland or Martin Perez can recapture prior brilliance until Yu Darvish returns in the early summer.

JB: Texas Rangers. A full season of Cole Hamels and an early season return by Yu Darvish will complement a lineup thats a lot better than #5 hitter Mitch Moreland implies.

NL East champion

DL: The Mets and Nationals will each enjoy 57 games against the Phillies, Marlins and Braves. Only one of those teams is big league, so theyll both make the playoffs. The underdog role suits Washington, who dine on Daniel Murphys state secrets all season long.

DG: The Mets actually have the pitching the Nationals thought theyd get from Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Yoenis Cespedes will quickly become known again more for driving in runners than driving in cars.

Bryce
Bryce Harper can help the Nats win the NL East. Photograph: Logan Bowles/USA Today Sports

LC: Much of the Nats collapse last year can be blamed on leadership. Dusty Baker will stabilize the clubhouse. Bryce Harper should have another great season. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez lead a rotation that could add the highly-anticipated Lucas Giolito by late summer.

JB: New York Mets. Washingtons gotten worse on paper and is a mess internally, while the Mets made the complementary moves they needed to make this offseason.

NL Central champion

DL: Look, St Louis have missed the playoffs four times since 2000 and won nine division titles during that span. I dont care if the Cubs trot out Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and Ron Santo: Im done betting against the Cards.

DG: The Cardinals run of divisional dominance had to end sometime and Jason Heyward jilting them for the Cubs feels like the turning point. Of course, if Heyward is consumed by bees, all bets are off.

LC: This should finally be the year when everything goes right for the Cubs so, of course, that means something wont. But the additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist give them a lineup without holes. The biggest questions will be can the Cubs cut down on their strikeouts and will their starting pitchers be consistent enough?

JB: St Louis Cardinals, just so Chicago Cubs doesnt sweep. St Louis is perhaps the best-run organization in baseball top to bottom, so hard to count them out.

NL West champion

DL: Theyre deep and youthful and yet somewhat of a work in progress. Theyre also antsy: LAs 26-year title drought is by far the longest since 1955. Winning the division hasnt been the problem.

DG: The Giants win biennial World Series. And considering theyve added Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Denard Span, their chances in the division seem better than just the continuation of some weird trend.

LC: Its not the players the Dodgers start the season with who will make a difference, its who they will add mid-season. No farm system is deeper and no team is better poised to make a deadline trade for a star or call up a pitcher who can go on a August and September tear. Any number of their home-grown pitchers or Cuban signings could be difference-makers in the pennant race.

JB: Even year San Francisco Giants, baby.

AL wildcard teams

DL: Some AL ifs: if the Red Sox rotation can back Price, if the Orioles starters are servicable, if the Yankees fragile roster sticks together, if the Angels bats recover, if the Indians hit, if the Mariners recover from an abysmal 2015. No idea: Ill take the Boston and Cleveland, because they both do at least one thing well.

DG: The Rangers and Yankees. We are running out of opportunities to see Alex Rodriguez play in the postseason. Cherish them all and the mean tabloid headlines they bring.

LC: Pitching matters and these could be the two-best rotations in baseball. At some point a Carlos Carrasco or Jose Quintana is going to blow up into a star. Carlos Rodon of the Chicago White Sox and Danny Salazar in Cleveland could be the difference-makers.

JB: I have not been a fan of the new regime in Toronto so far, and the rotation is questionable, but that lineup? Yeah. And this is the year the Angels actually win something for Trout, I know it. Please ignore starting 1B CJ Cron.

NL wildcard teams

DL: The Cubs bomb and while Pittsburghs ascent is slowed. The D-Backs and Mets emerge from a wild September for a winner-take-all game in Queens, leaving the locals demoralized.

DG: Even without Zack Greinke, the Dodgers have $248m worth other somewhat talented players that should be enough to at least nab them a wildcard. And what would the NLs annual play-in game be without the Pirates participating?

LC: The Cardinals always find a player you never heard of to do something big in a key moment. They have their usual pesky lineup and will throw out a high-quality starting pitcher every night. The Mets will have some regression in their young pitchers and will again struggle to score runs as they did for much of last year but they have enough pitching to get to the playoffs.

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