MLB Preview


Carson Field, Sports Editor

The 2016 MLB Regular Season is set to begin on Sunday, as there are three matchups kicking off the season. While it was the Royals who won the 2015 World Series, there are a lot of teams that have the potential to contend for the Title this season.

American League

American League East:

Two playoff teams came out of the East last year, as the Blue Jays won the division and the Yankees secured a Wild Card spot. This division is looking to be very strong this year, as the Blue Jays and Yankees remain strong, and the Red Sox are heavily improved. The Blue Jays will likely repeat as division champs, as they ended last season as one of the hottest teams in baseball. However, the Blue Jays lost star pitcher David Price to division foe Boston. Despite finishing last place in 2015, Boston is significantly improved, adding Price and star closer Craig Kimbrel. The Yankees acquired star closer Aroldis Chapman in the offseason, but he is suspended for the first 30 games of the season, which could lead them to a rocky start. The other teams in the division, the Rays and Orioles, are not necessarily bad teams, but they each did not make enough moves in the offseason to compete with the top three in the East. While the Red Sox and Yankees will compete, it will ultimately be the Blue Jays who win the division in 2016.

Projected Champion: Toronto Blue Jays

American League Central:
The Central was dominated in 2015 by the World Series Champion Kansas City Royals, and it is likely that they will win the division again in 2016. There was not a team within 10 games of Kansas City last year, but the competition might increase this year. The Detroit Tigers made some strong offseason pickups including outfielder Justin Upton and starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, who will both likely increase the team’s win total this season. The White Sox also made some good pickups in the Winter, signing second baseman Brett Lawrie, third baseman Todd Frazier and shortstop Jimmy Rollins. The Twins are a deep sleeper to clinch a Wild Card spot this year. They were average last year, winning 83 games, but this is the first year in a while that they can legitimately compete. They did not have a loud offseason, keeping the starting lineup relatively similar, but they are led by young studs Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, who both have shown promise that they will become stars. While secondary teams have a chance to compete, the Central will once again be ruled by the Royals.

Projected Champion: Kansas City Royals

American League West

The race for the West was close until the end last year, when the Rangers won the division by two games. However, the Rangers could have a tough time repeating in 2016. The Astros, who finished second in the division and clinched a Wild Card spot last year, have arguably the best young talent in baseball with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel. While the Rangers and Astros both had rather quiet offseasons, the Astros probably have higher expectations for the season because of their surplus of young talent. The Astros had two smart signings this season, adding Ken Giles and Doug Fister to their pitching depth. Giles will be the help the Astros need to bolster their bullpen and Fister will be rotation help for Keuchel and Lance McCullers. If you’re looking for a deep sleeper in the division, look no further than the Seattle Mariners, who were fourth in the division last year. The M’s added veteran players Nori Aoki, Chris Iannetta and Leonys Martin, who all have the potential to make significant contributions this year. The Angels, who finished last in 2015, and the Athletics, the division bottom-feeders last year, will likely be the fourth and fifth-place teams this year, as both teams were quiet in the offseason and lack the depth of the other teams in the division. Texas and Seattle will compete, but it will ultimately be Houston winning the division.

Projected Champion: Houston Astros

National League

National League East:

Last year, the NL East was dominated by the Mets, despite the Nationals being the clear favorite to win the division, if not the entire National League. However, the race for the East will be interesting this year. Both teams enter the season with changes that can help both teams. The Mets had a good offseason, agreeing to deals with Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, who are both expected to make immediate contributions. The Nationals signed Mets World Series hero Daniel Murphy, which is noted as one of the best offseason moves. They also added relief pitcher Yusmeiro Petit and outfielder Ben Revere, who are both expected to see a good amount of playing time. While it should be a close chase for the division title, none of the other three teams in the division, the Marlins, Braves and Phillies, are going to compete for a Wild Card spot. All three teams finished under 75 wins in 2015, and the Braves and Phillies were voted two of the three least recognizable teams in a survey of MLB executives. While it was the Mets who won the division last year, defying all expectations, it will be the Nationals who win it this year, playing the role of an under the radar team.  

Projected Champion: Washington Nationals

National League Central:
Different from the NL West, the NL Central and NL West are much stronger from top to bottom. There are potentially three teams in the Central that might contend for a World Series, but there’s a chance they won’t all make the playoffs. St. Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh all made the playoffs last year, and they will all be looking to make it to October once again. The St. Louis Cardinals did not have a “loud” offseason, as their biggest moves were signing Ruben Tejada and Mike Leake, but they return most of their young, less-known stars Stephen Piscotty, Kolten Wong, Randal Grichuk and ace Carlos Martinez. On the other hand, the Cubs had an eventful offseason, agreeing to deals with Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler and John Lackey. Finally, the Pirates made a few small moves this offseason, signing Jon Niese, John Jaso and David Freese, veterans who have all had success in the league. The other two teams in the Central, the Brewers and Reds are expected not to compete for the division with their lack of talent and strong divisional foes. I expect the Cardinals to win the division with their young talent, but the Cubs will not be far behind, improving significantly with their offseason. Despite them being a dangerous team, I expect the Pirates not to make the playoffs with the surplus of contenders in the National League.

National League West:

The West was not a close race in 2015, as the Dodgers pulled away with the division title, finishing the season eight games ahead of the second place Giants. However, this division is very different this year, as the Giants and Diamondbacks had phenomenal offseasons. The Dodgers did not have a big offseason, as their only major signing was ace Scott Kazmir. The Giants, however, had a great offseason, adding outfielder Denard Span and aces Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, further bolstering one of the best rotations in baseball. Finally, the Diamondbacks also had a great offseason. They found a way to add Jean Segura to their young lineup, along with star pitchers Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller. This division is similar to the Central in the respect that it has three teams that are contenders for a World Series, but likely only one or two of them will reach October. While they are not a bad team, the San Diego Padres will not compete with San Francisco, Arizona or Los Angeles, as they simply don’t have the same talent as those three teams. The Giants will ultimately win the division, led ultimately by their incredible pitching staff.

Projected Champion: San Francisco Giants

Projected Final Standings:

AL East

x-Toronto Blue Jays: 98-64

y- Boston Red Sox: 91-71

New York Yankees: 83-79

Tampa Bay Rays: 78-84

Baltimore Orioles: 77-85

AL Central

x- Kansas City Royals: 101-61

Minnesota Twins: 85-77

Cleveland Indians: 83-79

Detroit Tigers: 81-81

Chicago White Sox: 72-90

AL West

x- Houston Astros: 90-72

y- Texas Rangers: 88-74

Seattle Mariners: 81-81

Los Angeles Angels: 77-85

Oakland Athletics: 75-87

NL East

x- Nationals: 92-70

y- Mets: 88-74

Marlins: 80-82

Phillies: 69-93

Braves: 65-97

NL Central

x- Cardinals: 99-63

y- Cubs: 97-65

Pirates: 87-75

Brewers: 74-88

Reds: 62-100

NL West

x- Giants: 102-60

Diamondbacks: 85-77

Dodgers: 83-79

Padres: 78-84

Rockies: 76-86

World Series: Giants defeat Astros in series 4-2