By Carter Hunt, Staff Writer
At the onset, the Chicago Cubs look to be the favorites entering 2016. All eyes will be on these heavy favorites as the blooming dogwoods can only mean one thing: Opening Day is upon us. But do not forget that the Cubs play in arguably the toughest division in baseball.
St. Louis lost Heyward to the Cubs, but they will bring back two starters who were hurt most of last season in Adam Wainwright and Matt Adams. Just as well, the Pittsburgh Pirates still have Andrew McCutchen and host of other players who, had they had beat the Cubs in the coin flip one-game playoff last postseason, would more than likely have held the off season spotlight in place of the Windy City’s team.
The Cubs will face every team’s best in each series they play, as they are currently seen as the league’s best. They have undoubtedly great players, and are a very young team but the pressure could easily take ahold of their season. There are several teams across Major League Baseball with the talent and hunger to challenge the Cubs’ favored status between now and October.
Outside the Central but still in the National League (the one without the designated hitter), we have the New York Mets, who, you may have forgotten, beat the Cubs in a four-game sweep. It should be impossible to talk about World Series favorites without mentioning Gotham City and the Dark Knight, Matt Harvey. Between Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, the Mets have three Cy Young candidates. And they have the scariest asset a young team can have: experience in the postseason.
Then there are the Washington Nationals, last season’s favorites and current warning to the Cubs. Many had the Nationals as their World Series favorite last season, and they did not even make the playoffs. That may make them even more dangerous with the 2016 National League MVP Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. Do not count out the revenge factor for this team either.
As for the West division, it will be wild but there is one important thing to remember: it is an even year, so expect San Francisco to be hot. The Dodgers lost Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks, meaning it will be a tight three-team race, but expect Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner to have great seasons.
The American League is a much more open race in every division. The lone favorite will be Kansas City, as they have won the AL Pennant the past two seasons and will be the favorite to do it again this season as the leaders of a weak Central division.
The East offers a much less clear picture. The Toronto Blue Jays won fairly easily after leading the majors in scoring by a landslide, and entering the playoffs they were the favorite to come out on top of the AL. After losing David Price to the Red Sox, who knows who will come out on top, especially with the Yankees an always present competitor. The AL West is almost as unclear. Houston will be the favorite with its young talent, but the Angels still have their 2014 MVP in Trout.
With 162 games, the baseball season is a long and treacherous road. The Cubs may have the deepest roster in the MLB, but I would caution not to fall in the trap of thinking they should be a hands down favorite.
They will be playing in what is debatably the best division in baseball, and all eyes will be on the young team, making it even more difficult. In April, hope springs eternal, but this is not the first time we have heard the Cubs say “this year is the year” in the past 108 years. Maybe Vegas knows something I do not, but come October the safest bet will be chaos.
2016 Playoff Predictions:
In the NL, the Mets will take the East, Cubs will win the Central, as will the Giants in the West. The Cardinals and Nationals will win the two Wild Card spots.
The AL will see the Red Sox coming out of the East, the Royals winning the Central and the Angels taking the West. The Astors and Blue Jays will take the two wild card spots.
World Series: New York Mets defeat Boston Red Sox. Pitching, pitching, pitching. The New York Mets have the best rotation in baseball, and they have three pitchers who can go up against anyone in baseball. In the postseason, this is what count, so they are the safest best come October.