By: Chandler Ragsdale
The 2015 MLB season ended with the Kansas City Royals on top as World Series champs. The question is, who has the upper hand in 2016? Can the Royals repeat? Will the Dodgers, Padres, Astros, or Cubs finally break through and make a World Series? How will the Red Sox bounce back with David Price atop their rotation, and how will the Yankees handle Botances and Chapman in their bullpen? Another team in need of a bounce back season is the Detroit Tigers. Their big signing of another right-handed power bat in the form of Justin Upton makes this lineup more dangerous than perhaps ever before. Or how will new contenders such as the Arizona Diamondbacks or potentially the Chicago White Sox fare with all of their new pieces? There are many questions entering the 2016 season, but everyone really wants to know who’s number one in the advantage column starting out.
When contenders in 2016 are mentioned, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Boston Red Sox come to mind as the teams trying to make an immediate transition from the bottom of the pack to the top. The potential and talent are there, but can these teams follow through? The Red Sox have had hype before and fallen out, such as when they signed Adrian Gonzales and Victor Martinez a few seasons ago. However, they are known for being able to go from worst to first. They had a good second half last season when their pitching finally started to improve. With the addition of David Price, the Red Sox might be able to be consistent enough on the mound to make a run. The Diamondbacks also have upgraded their pitching staff tremendously this offseason. They shocked everyone with the signing of Zack Greinke, who had arguably the greatest single season of pitching that any starter has ever had. Not to mention they traded for Shelby Miller from Atlanta, who was quietly becoming one of the top 10 arms in the game. With this type of pitching, Arizona will only need to manufacture two to three runs a game to stay relevant in games, and to compete in the NL West.
Another team who has made a splash this offseason is the Detroit Tigers, with their biggest addition being outfielder Justin Upton. This Detroit lineup is already stout with the best hitter in the game hitting third (Miguel Cabrera). Also, Victor Martinez is still proving to be one of the best, clutch, switch-hitters in the game. If Detroit can get their pitching together and become more consistent, then they can give the defending champion Royals a run for their money in the AL Central.
My sleeper team to watch out for, however, is the Minnesota Twins. Their pitching staff is at best average, and they have a lineup that I’d say overall is in the middle to top half of the pack in the MLB. There is something that catches my attention about this team though, and that is their ability to know how to win ballgames. They have some great veteran leadership in Joe Mauer and Phil Hughes. They also have some bright and upcoming stars in Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. This team has been average for a few seasons, and I feel like they are on the brink of breaking out and reaching their full potential to be able to compete in the MLB this season.
The Chicago Cubs are obviously the team of the future and they have proven that they’re ready to take that next step from an average baseball team to a serious contender. How will they fare in the big games or series that they have to play come October? Overall, with some key additions such as John Lackey, I believe that the Cubs have the upper hand in all of the MLB entering the 2016 season, because they have the complete package. They have a great pitching rotation with some great veterans, along with an electric Jake Arrieta at the helm. Not to mention their star studded line up with the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. If they can stay healthy, the Cubs are my pick for early World Series champs. All over, however, the MLB should be very competitive and entertaining, this season.