Let me check if I see my own shadow, one second…
Well, looks like baseball is back! We have teams reporting to Spring Training and ridiculous cars by star hitters (looking at you Cespedes!) and every team believes 2016 is the year to end that ever longing sadness. MLB is at a time with incredible optimism and young stars taking over as the face of the league. Teams are ending droughts all over the place these days. Since Boston won in 2004, the last 12 years have seen a lot of teams following suit.
Boston Red Sox (2004, 2007, 2013)
Chicago White Sox 2005
Philadelphia Phillies 2008
San Francisco Giants (2010, 2012, 2014)
Kansas City Royals (2015)
See people there is always hope if all these teams can win in the past 12 years then your team can win as well!! Long gone are the days of the Yankees purse just outweighing everybody and in are the days of smart management, advanced scouting and analytics.
Farm systems and homegrown players are the faces of MLB and the youth movement is in full force with players like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Carlos Correa.
At this time, teams will practice fielding and all sorts of fundamental things so there won’t be a lot of news coming out but as soon as the high of March Madness dies down, baseball will be there to pick us up!
I think teams that are strong contenders in 2016 are the Washington Nationals, The New York Mets, The Chicago Cubs, The San Francisco Giants, The Los Angeles Dodgers, The Toronto Blue Jays, The Baltimore Orioles, The Houston Astros, The Texas Rangers, The Detroit Tigers, and the Kansas City Royals.
San Francisco has added Johnny Cueto and their even year success is something they hope to continue in 2016. I think the Giants have a very good promising young player in Matt Duffy and still have studs in Hunter Pence and Buster Posey. The rotation still contains Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner so look for the Giants to rebound in 2016.
Their rivals, the Los Angeles Dodges have a new manager in town in Dave Roberts. The question will be whether he can get this talented team with Puig, Kershaw, Scott Kazmir, and Adrian Gonzalez to push the rest of their teammates towards the World Series.
Washington seems to have had a humbling 2016 by now looking at the Mets as the frontrunners in the NL East. The Mets overtook the Nationals easily in the middle of the season and did not look back. I think the Nationals-Mets rivalry will go to another level this season because both teams have fully stocked rotations and powerful hitters. The question is whether the Mets will have a letdown after losing the World Series and if the Nationals will instead be the hungry team in 2016. Cespedes returning just adds to the lineup for the Mets with Wright, Duda, Granderson and then the pitching staff continues to throw out Harvey, DeGrom, and Syndergaard. The Nationals will counter with Harper as their stud with Zimmerman, Murphy (ex-Met playoff hero), Jayson Werth, and Rendon to compliment that pitching staff of Strasberg, Scherzer, and Gio Gonzalez.
The Astros-Rangers rivalry won’t be for the bottom feeder anymore after 2015 showed a resurgence in both franchises. Now division rivals, these two Texas teams will battle it out over the season and the key will be which team makes the better trade-deadline move and stays the healthiest because I do not think either team will finish the season as constructed. Houston has used years of awful baseball to create a young team that can grow into a perennial contender thanks to Carlos Correa who is a stud. The Rangers have assembled one of the better pitching staffs simply by returning a healthy Darvish, and second year of Cole Hamels. Can the Rangers hitters replicate what was an unexpected outburst of offense from 2015?
Cubbies will be one of the most talked about teams if not the most talked about team in 2016. You will hear about the goat, and the longest drought out there known to man but things are looking up in the Windy City for this franchise and their fans. Thanks to Epstein, the Cubs are a strong contender with a lot of youth. The Cubs brought up a lot of youth in 2015 and made it all the way to the NLCS before falling to the Mets. The infield is set up for years in Chi-Town and the pitching is represented by Jake Arrieta to lock things down and that is very exciting to watch.
The AL Central is still the Royals division but if a Detroit team can regain health and that offensive explosion then they can make it a lengthy divisional race that goes down to the wire. Kansas City is deeper and younger with players like Cain and Hosmer but Detroit still has the greatest hitter in baseball on their roster in Miguel Cabrera.
In the AL East, I think Toronto made a lot of good moves last year and have set themselves up well for contending annually. The Blue Jays boast a powerful lineup but the key will be can that pitching staff bring it again without David Price on that team. The Red Sox, who currently have David Price, I still think have made some poor decisions in recent years with their salary and Sandoval so I am not sure if they can sustain any success over the length of 162 games but I would be surprised.
Really, nothing should surprise you in baseball, the season is very long and anything can happen.
Spring training is here, but the real action comes after the Madness ends.