It’s currently eight degrees outside, snow is in the forecast, and I can no longer feel my fingers when I walk out to my car.
Good news, though.
Pitchers and catchers for most Major League teams will report to spring training within the next few days.
Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby described the offseason best when he said, “”People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
Baseball is right around the corner. And not one single minute too soon.
Heading into the 2016 season, here are my top storylines to watch.
Can they do it again?
This category deals with the likelihood of surprise teams like the New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs will rebound from surprise performances last season.
Expect the NL clubs, Mets and Cubs, to stay on their level. Both teams are loaded with young talents across the diamond, the Mets with their four aces and the Cubs with Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. These two will be battling each other for NL superiority for the rest of the decade.
I’d be more concerned with the AL teams. The Astros shocked the world for much of the regular season. Fans and pundits kept expecting them to flounder, but they hung around the top of the AL West into September before being run down by the Texas Rangers. The Astros were a year ahead of schedule with their young talent. It will be fascinating to see if reigning Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel and their Rookie of the Year Carlos Correra can replicate that same success.
The same holds true for the Blue Jays. They turned their fortunes around at the trade deadline with their acquisitions of David Price and Troy Tulowitzki. They rode them, plus their prodigiously powerful lineup, to the ALCS. Well, they lost Price to the Red Sox, Tulowitzki is a 50 game injury waiting to happen and Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are approaching ages where power seems to disappear. The Blue Jays were an electric story last year. The Rogers Centre was alive for the first time in a generation and no team had more fun. It’s too bad the party is over.
Last year, it was the White Sox. The New York Yankees have at least a dozen of these. What am I talking about?
An offseason championship. Winning the hot stove season.
The media falls for it every year. They look at the team that makes the biggest splash and instantly crowns them as the favorites for the season. It’s happening now with the Arizona Diamondbacks. By signing Zack Greinke to six-year, $206 million contract and trading Dansby Swanson, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft, and another top prospect for Shelby Miller, the D’Backs announced themselves as a win-now team. I can’t blame them. They have an MVP candidate in Paul Goldschmidt and now boast a formidable rotation. But it isn’t enough to bring a winner to the desert. Going against the Giants and the Dodgers in the west is a formidable task and they just don’t have enough pieces.
Too Early Predictions
AL East: New York Yankees
AL Central: Kansas City Royals
AL West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
AL Wildcards: Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers
MVP: Mike Trout
Cy Young: Chris Sale
NL East: New York Mets
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West: San Francisco Giants
NL Wildcards: Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals
MVP: Anthony Rizzo
Cy Young: Matt Harvey