With the Major League Baseball season rapidly approaching, everyone is looking to unseat the defending champion Kansas City Royals. There are multiple teams in the hunt for a World Series title, looking to solidify their status as contenders on Opening Day. As everyone knows baseball season is a marathon, with the cream of the crop separating themselves from the pack during the long and grueling year. Here are a few teams that are looking to get over the hump, poised to potentially make a pennant run .
The Cubs are looking to ride their momentum as they finished with the third best record in the majors last season, advancing to the divisional round of the playoffs. Chicago’s solid pitching staff is led by the reigning 2015 NL Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta. The stellar ace is followed in the rotation by former all-stars Jon Lester and John Lackey, making for a top heavy starting unit that brings veteran leadership and experience. Manager Joe Maddon is known for his wacky strategies, and has plenty of talented positional players to form a solid lineup. The lineup with rising star and reigning NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant, slugger Jason Heyward and jack of all trades Ben Zobrist should posses the firepower to create run support on a nightly basis. The Cubs will have their hands full in the tough NL Central, as they are looking to clinch their first World Series title since 1908!
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have been a team on the cusp for the last few years. With a record breaking payroll and all-star caliber players, the time is now. The Dodgers will bring back former Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw along with all-star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez as the franchise cornerstones. The problem in Los Angeles has not been a lack of talent, but consistency. LA has made the playoffs the last three years, failing to make a World Series appearance in each try. The team is also experiencing a change in leadership, as new manager and former Dodger, Dave Roberts will have to adapt to his new role rather quickly replacing Don Mattingly. With very young and transcendent stars like Joc Pederson and wildcard Yaisel Puig, team chemistry will play major a factor in overall success. The Dodgers will also have to account for the recent departure of free agent pitcher Zack Greinke, who signed a massive deal with the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks. Is this the year the Dodgers finally get out of their own way and perform in the post season?
The Detroit Tigers have two of the best players in the world in Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. Both players are perennial contenders for the yearly MVP awards. With the vaunted bat of Cabrera and lethal arm of Verlander, the Tigers are instant contenders. The problem is that they play in the same division as the Kansas City Royals who have been the darlings of the league, making the World Series each the last two seasons consecutively. The Tigers finished dead last in the division with various injuries, and are looking to return to relevancy with an influx of new talent. The free agency additions of Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann could prove to be vastly underrated. Upton hit 26 home runs and stole 19 bases last season, serving as the workhorse for the bottom dwelling San Diego Padres in 2015. The change of scenery could help to bolster Detroit’s lineup, with Upton potentially hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler. The Tigers will need to play sound baseball all season in order to dethrone the Royals as kings of the AL Central, and their roster talent will gives them a chance to beat anybody.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays came within one game of the World Series last season, losing to the eventual champion Kansas City Royals during the ALCS. The loaded roster returns in their quest to build on what they accomplished in 2015. The lineup will be highly respected with reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, Gold Glover Troy Tulowitzki, and masher Jose Bautista looking to tear the cover off of the baseball. Last season the Jays showed great team chemistry, clicking on all cylinders to capture the AL East crown. The veteran leadership and timely hitting of catcher Russel Martin puts the team over the top, as he serves as the team quarterback from behind the plate. The biggest test for the Jays will be their pitching staff. The rotation does not boast any top notch starters and will be tested often in the AL East, regularly facing the Yankees and Red Sox.
These franchises are knocking on the door of success as 2016 hopefuls. As usual, the MLB season will most likely need all 162 regular season games to determine the World Series contenders. Although each listed team contains roster talent and quality coaching, health will play a pivotal part in any future plans as we will be watching the whole way.