America’s pastime is upon us. Major League Baseball returns in 2016 with eye-catching storylines. Will the Mets capitalize on their young pitching? Can the Cubs break the Curse of the Billy Goat? Is Carlos Correa capable of becoming the next superstar?
The season has barely begun but one team has already suffered a major hit to their World Series aspirations. The Arizona Diamondbacks lost All-Star center fielder A.J. Pollock, one of the best all-around players in the game, to a fractured elbow. Can the Diamondbacks, who made some of the biggest free agency splashes, rebound to compete for the division or wild card spot?
There are plenty of young teams out there that could make a run. The Houston Astros have a solid starting rotation led by reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel and should run away with the AL West, unless the Rangers rotation makes a jump from last year (a return of a healthy Yu Darvish will help). The Chicago Cubs, are the easy pick to come out of the National League. They boast a young, deep and talented rotation that is easily the best in the NL. Right behind them, the New York Mets have the rotation, but a so-so offense could hold them back in the long run.
Even with the Pollock injury, the NL West rotation should be interesting. While the San Francisco Giants are the favorites, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers have two of the greatest pitchers in the game (Zach Greinke and Clayton Kershaw). The Diamondbacks are especially interesting because of Paul Goldschmidt. If the firstbaseman has another MVP-type season, it will be a heated race for a final Wild Card spot.
In the American League, the obvious choices to win their divisions are the Blue Jays, Astros and Royals. With the Jays, the rotation is full of question marks, but with AL MVP Josh Donaldson leading the offense they pitching just needs to be serviceable to get to the playoffs.
The Jays might be a challenge from the Red Sox. An off-season signing of David Price combined with an insane amount of young talent has thrust the Red Sox back into the mix. Other teams to keep en eye on: the Mariners and Indians.
For what it’s worth…some meaningless predictions:
Wild Card: Diamondbacks & Cardinals
NLCS: Cubs vs Mets
East: Blue Jays
Wild Card: Red Sox & Tigers
ALCS: Astros vs Royals
Astros vs Cubs (Cubs in 6)
Now to the Opening Day MLB Power Rankings….
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