I believe the Bucs will keep the streak of losing seasons to one, and I think they'll be a WC contender for most of the season. Unfortunately, I think they're one Quintana short of a home playoff game this year. Here's some of my predictions and comments:
1. I think the OF realignment will go well, but I don't see it leading to a monster rebound season for Cutch at the plate. I think he'll improve his numbers overall, but just modestly.
2. How the rotation goes is how the Bucs will go. More DL stints for Cole can spell doom. He needs to be healthy and back to '15 form for the entire season (I think odds are against that). Be wary of sophomore slumps from Taillon and Kuhl. Not predicting it will happen, but it wouldn't shock me. I still think both will be solid. Nova is destined to regress from his '16 performance with us, how much so will be key. I think the #5 spot will be a revolving door all year with no one really stepping up and claiming a spot.
3. As many have suggested, I think either Rivero and/or Hudson will be closing at some point. I think Watson will be traded at the deadline.
4. I think Kang's situation will be a bigger issue than some might think, and he'll miss more time than last year. Freese will have a worse BA than last year as the regular 3B for much of the year.
5. Bell's D at 1B will be better than most expect and he will have a better year at the plate than Cutch.
6. A MI (mainly someone who can play SS) will be acquired at some point before OD. He will serve as Mercer's backup (and JHay's), and Hanson won't make the OD roster one way or another. Frazier will be the main backup at corner OF, not so much at IF.
7. Cervelli will have a better season at the plate but will see time on DL again, ditto Stewie. Diaz will win a big game againSt either the Cubs or Cards with a walkoff hit.
8. Mercer has an even better year at the plate than '16, JHay will continue to frustrate fans with his first pitch swinging, but he'll hit more HR than last year.
9. The bullpen will be up and down all season which will piss us off time and time again. Just when we think they're in a groove, someone will throw a meatball and cost us a game or blow a lead.
10. Here's the biggie...ready for it? OK...Cutch gets traded at the deadline. Bucs will be on the fringe about 3.5-4 games out of 2ND WC come deadline. NH finds a buyer who gives a nice package for Cutch (including a nice SP prospect). Frazier takes over RF for remainder of season and Bucs battle back to within a game of WC before succumbing in final two weeks.