Parity appears to a running theme ahead of Monday's slate of Opening Day games, but while many mid-tier MLB clubs made strides in the offseason, most of last year's division winners are expected to repeat in 2016.
The New York Mets and Houston Astros were the biggest surprises of 2015. New York’s young core of starting pitchers were as good as advertised, leading the Mets to their first trip to the World Series in 15 years. Houston had a 16-game improvement behind one of baseball’s top lineups and the American League Cy Young winner, and came within one win of reaching the ALCS. With another year of experience under their belts, the two burgeoning teams could be set to meet in October.
Yet, neither the Mets nor the Astros are the favorites to win the World Series. After winning 97 games a year ago, the Chicago Cubs could be even better. Their biggest challenge will be making it out of the National League Central, which featured three playoff teams in 2015. Chicago was swept by New York in the 2015 NLDS, but improved their roster with some expensive signings.
If recent history means anything, 2016 could be the San Francisco Giants’ year. The team has won the World Series every other year since 2010, and they’re on pace for another title this season. The Los Angeles Dodgers lost Zack Greinke to the Arizona Diamondbacks, potentially shifting the balance of power in the NL West.
There is no clear favorite in the AL, and the Oakland Athletics are considered the one big longshot to make the postseason. The Toronto Blue Jays lost David Price to the Boston Red Sox, and four of the AL East teams have a chance to win 90 games if they can stay healthy. The Kansas City Royals remain the class of the AL Central, but the rest of the division should be improved. The Astros, behind ace Dallas Keuchel, are the team to beat in the AL West, and the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners can all compete for a wild-card spot.
The St. Louis Cardinals have the longest streak in baseball with five straight playoff appearances. St. Louis and the Dodgers have won three consecutive division titles, and the Royals are the only other team to win their division two years in a row.
Below are predictions for the 2016 MLB season, including the final standings and the World Series winner.
AL East NL East
Toronto Blue Jays New York Mets
New York Yankees Washington Nationals
Boston Red Sox Miami Marlins
Tampa Bay Rays Atlanta Braves
Baltimore Orioles Philadelphia Phillies
AL Central NL Central
Kansas City Royals Chicago Cubs
Cleveland Indians St. Louis Cardinals
Detroit Tigers Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago White Sox Cincinnati Reds
Minnesota Twins Milwaukee Brewers
AL West NL West
Houston Astros San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Angels Los Angeles Dodgers
Texas Rangers Arizona Diamondbacks
Seattle Mariners San Diego Padres
Oakland Athletics Colorado Rockies
AL Wild Card NL Wild Card
New York, Boston St. Louis, Washington
Houston over Toronto New York over St. Louis
New York Mets over Houston Astros