No team, regardless of how stacked it looks on paper, is immune to failure. All ten representatives in last year’s playoffs have reason to feel good about their chances of repeating in 2016. Yet there are reasons for and against each making a return trip to the postseason this October.
Toronto Blue Jays
Why they will: The offense that was so potent in 2015 (and led the league in most major categories) returns intact – and will have Troy Tulowitzki for a full year. Marcus Stroman appears poised for a breakout season while heading a rotation in need of stability.
Why they won’t: Losing David Price (to an AL East rival, no less) will prove to be fatal blow, as the Jays can’t hold down opposing offenses. Even as the starting pitching isn’t particularly stron, the relief pitching also remains quite weak. Drew Storen isn’t turning into Mariano Rivera.
Kansas City Royals
Why they will: The group that used contact, speed and fielding to win the World Series largely remains the same. Several projection systems, like this one, have the Royals winning 80 or fewer games. Not to worry, K.C. – many did the same thing prior to last season.
Why they won’t: Kansas City was victims of the free agency period when Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist – two key contributors during the October run – parted for greener pastures. In addition, like basically every team, it was bitten by the Tommy John bug as stout reliever Greg Holland is sidelined for the whole year.
Why they will: Even minus Yu Darvish, the Rangers (and first year skipper Jeff Banister) won the AL West. With their ace expected back in May, his presence can only improve the rotation — and the chances of his club.
Why they won’t: Beyond Darvish and Cole Hamels, who will step up on the mound? Derek Holland can occasionally provide a fine performance. But, too often, he is injury-prone and underwhelming. Colby Lewis, Martin Perez, and Nick Martinez are among the group trying to solidify the back end of the staff.
Why they will: Far too little attention has been given to them when it comes to title contenders. Carlos Correa has the capabilities of turning his second season into an MVP season, while spark plug Carlos Gomez will start ’16 with a fresh bill of health.
Why they won’t: Pitching is what cost the Astros in the ALDS…and what could bite them this regular season. The starting pitching after Dallas Keuchel isn’t worthy of a World Series. To boot, the middle relief cannot be trusted at this point. Houston should also worry about getting power at first base, as John Singleton (and his .174 career average) is set to start there Opening Day.
New York Yankees
Why they will: Aroldis Chapman (when not suspended), Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances: a trio of relief pitchers that no opponent wants to face. A late Yankee lead is just about impossible to overcome. If Masahiro Tanaka and the majority of the batting order remain healthy, New York competes for the AL East.
Why they won’t: That last “if” is a huge “if.” Tanaka has had trouble staying on the mound since partially tearing his UCL in July 2014, hampering the depth of the starting pitching. A good portion of the offense (specifically Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira) is aging, too.
New York Mets
Why they will: An entire year with the club’s vaunted young rotation should lead them to another division title. A full year of Yoenis Cespedes in the middle of the order can help them get back to the World Series.
Why they won’t: If Cespedes is more like the hitter of September and October, than New York could revert closer to an low-impact offense similar to the one witnessed through late July last year – when the Mets were struggling to stay over .500.
St Louis Cardinals
Why they will: Once again, it never seems to matter who’s on the roster. The loss of a star outfielder (Jason Heyward) and a veteran starting pitcher (John Lackey) would doom most teams. Not the Redbirds.
Why they won’t: It would mean one thing if Heyward and Lackey ventured outside the division. Instead, they both landed with the Cubs – making a formidable roster in the Windy City even stronger (not to mention more experienced). The health of team leader Yadier Molina is also going to be a concern going into the season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Why they will: Clayton Kershaw is certainly reason enough. It doesn’t hurt to have a great lineup for support. L.A’s outfield is one that most team’s envy, while shortstop Corey Seager (who was integral down the stretch in 2015) is set to break out for good.
Why they won’t: Missing Zack Greinke will undoubtedly hurt…especially if the starting pitchers not named Kershaw can’t collectively fill in the void. And there’s always a chance that Yasiel Puig can be a major distraction in the clubhouse – if Dodger management doesn’t trade him first.
Why they will: Any club with the talent and heart of Andrew McCutchen has a chance. Him, plus the Cy Young potential of Gerrit Cole gives the Bucs the balance needed to contend once again. Closer Mark Melancon has been nearly perfect since taking the role in 2013 – leading baseball with 51 saves (in 53 chances).
Why they won’t: If we were to do a power rankings on the NL Central alone, the Pirates would end up no higher than No. 3. The Cubs and Cardinals are set to once again be daunting opponents within the division. Should Gregory Polanco not develop into the prospect he’s been hyped as, the effort to get to a fourth straight postseason will be made more difficult.
Why they will: The most powerful lineup, the NL Cy Young Award winner, the game’s premiere manager. If championships were decided purely on predictions, the century-plus-long drought would be history.
Why they won’t: How can they not? Well, first of all, there’s that “curse” thing. But for something a bit more tangible, there’s always the possibility of young players not being able to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon them. For now, that’s the best we can come up with.