This season of Major League Baseball (MLB) isn’t set to begin until the first weekend of April, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get excited about what’s to come. Here are the biggest storylines to watch for this season:
Can Kansas City royally repeat?
Last season, the small-market Royals pulled off a stunning feat, defeating the New York Mets in the World Series, exactly 30 years after they won their first championship. This was amazing, especially considering that they had the best record in the American League and a loaded-up bullpen to carry them. This year, KC will be without Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist, two stars on both ends of the ball who helped propel them to the finish last year. Having Alex Gordon back on an offense, anchored by sluggers Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez, will be huge, as the main concern is the lack of a clear ace.
The Cubbies are the favorites
Oh, the lovable losers. Analysts typically count out the Chicago Cubs every year, but this time, they are a clear favorite for at least making it to the National League Championship Series in 2015. The Championship Series was rough for them, after getting swept by the Mets. This team has a killer offense, led by an under-30 club in Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and Kris Bryant, who won 2015 Rookie of the Year. Somehow this team got even better with the addition of another young star, Jason Heyward, who signed a monster eight-year, $184-million deal this offseason. Say what you will, but this team has clear number-one aces in Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Jon Lester, a top-flight offense, and a phenomenal bullpen flanked in the backend by Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop. Just so you know, Rodon had a sparkling 1.67 ERA last year with 30 saves in 2015.
Fountain of Youth found?…and the Youth Movement
Last season included the summer of Al. Alex Rodriguez dominated at age 40, hitting 30 homers along with 86 RBI’s. At the same time, Red Sox designated hitter, David Ortiz announced that this will be his last season, so expect him to exit Fenway Park with a bang. Despite the clouds of steroids over both players, there are some exciting highlight reels that both have been a part of throughout their careers. The teams of these sluggers should be seeing some improvements this year. The Yankees have a new youth movement, with the acquisitions of Starlin Castro, Aroldis Chapman, and Aaron Hicks, while the Boston Red Sox acquired number-one ace David Price and a lockdown closer in Craig Kimbrel.
Right now, Mike Trout, 24, and Bryce Harper, 23, are the faces of MLB. Harper had an MVP year, hitting an absurd .330 with 42 home runs and 99 RBI’s. Trout, on the other hand, might not have won the MVP, but he still managed to hit 41 home runs with a superb .299 batting average. The problem is that Trout and Harper’s teams, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Washington Nationals, will need some help to get into and excel in the postseason this year.
The Detroit Tigers were improved by acquiring outfielder Justin Upton and starting pitcher Jordan Zimmerman. The Arizona Diamondbacks added a superstar ace in Zack Greinke for the next six years at a whopping $206 million. Greinke had a 1.66 ERA (how is that even possible?). Even San Francisco made moves, bolstering their starting rotation with the additions of Jeff Samardzija, and Johnny Cueto.
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Houston Astros
AL Wild Card: Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees
NL East: New York Mets
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West: San Francisco Giants
NL Wild Card: St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers
AL Wild Card: Yankees over Royals
NL Wild Card: Cardinals over Dodgers
ALDS: Yankees over Blue Jays, Astros over Tigers
NLDS: Cubs over Cardinals, Mets over Giants
ALCS: Astros over Yankees
NLCS: Cubs over Mets
World Series: Cubs over Astros