The Royals and New York Mets, who battled in last year's Fall
Classic, meet to launch the season on Sunday and could well return
to glory, but it is Chicago and their drive to end a 107-year
drought who are the darlings heading into the campaign.
The young, slugging Cubs made Cinderella hearts beat fast last year
as they reached the National League Championship Series before being
swept away by the Mets.
Bolstered by moves from an aggressive management team, the Cubs are
favorites to win the World Series.
Outfielders Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowler have been added to the
mix, a big boost both offensively and defensively, along with
versatile Ben Zobrist.
The Cubs' one-two starting pitching punch of Cy Young winner Jake
Arrieta and Jon Lester is now a terrific trio with the addition of
With emerging young hitters Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison
Russell and Kyle Schwarber back for another run-fest at Wrigley
Field, optimism is high in Chicago's North Side that they can fend
off their NL Central rivals.
Yet the old baseball adage that good pitching stops good hitting
might ultimately trump the Cubs.
The Mets return what could be an unbeatable hand of four aces should
lefty Steven Matz blossom alongside young starters Matt Harvey,
Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
Out west, the Los Angeles Dodgers lost Zack Greinke in free agency
to the NL West rival Arizona Diamondbacks but the Dodgers are still
Three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw is joined in the rotation
by Kenta Maeda of Japan and Scott Kazmir, with Korean lefty Ryu
Hyun-jin working his way back after missing 2015 to injury.
The San Francisco Giants hope to carry on an odd streak, by adding
the 2016 title to World Series crowns won in each of the last three
even-numbered years - 2010, 2012, 2014.
San Francisco added Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to a rotation
topped by 2014 World Series hero Madison Bumgarner.
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The American League could be a wide-open race that produces another
fairytale ending should the Royals yield their throne.
Kansas City returns with their speedy lineup intact and a formidable
bullpen. But a less than stellar starting rotation could leave them
vulnerable in the AL Central to another potential Cinderella.
The league's best rotation may reside in Cleveland - a city that is
looking to snap a 51-year major pro sports title drought - where the
Indians have Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.
The Toronto Blue Jays, featuring MVP Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista,
Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki, came close last year in their
bid for a first title since 1993, before falling in the AL
championship series to the Royals.
But Toronto might take a step back since ace David Price joined the
AL East rival Boston Red Sox, leaving their rotation with question
The Yankees, meanwhile, added three-time All-Star Starlin Castro,
26, to their infield as they juggle youth and advanced age with Alex
Rodriguez, 40, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, who turn 36 and 39,
respectively, in April.
The league's top team could be yet another Cinderella - the Houston
Astros, who last year made the playoffs after averaging 104 losses a
season over the previous four years.
The signing of closer Ken Giles could be the final piece for a first
World Series title for the franchise that was born as the Houston
Colt .45s in 1962.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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