With the season nearing and opening day rosters becoming clearer, now is the ideal time to evaluate which teams have the greatest chance at capturing the World Series during 2016. When inspecting the upper-tier portion of the league, one thing is clear: parity has never been greater in Major League Baseball. There are easily 15 teams that can make a case for being the World Series favorites, meaning some very good teams had to be omitted. However, here are the 10 very best teams in Major League Baseball with the greatest chance at winning it all.
10. St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals, a team known for developing their own homegrown talent, had a fairly quiet off-season this past winter. With a stacked lineup featuring very few holes, this wouldn’t be too big of an issue if it weren’t for the fact that they’re the third best team in the best division in baseball. Both the Pirates and Cubs are expected to make the postseason and there may not be room for all three of them. Due to their lack of depth, the Cardinals will need their veterans returning from injury to remain healthy this season. Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty need to continue developing, Yadier Molina needs to continue stealing called strikes and Brandon Moss needs a nice bounce-back season. Fortunately, these all seem likely outcomes and the Cardinals will once again be a very dangerous team.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates had a fairly underwhelming off-season and are at risk of wasting the peak of generational talent Andrew McCutchen. The biggest issue is at the back of the rotation, where they seem content to rely on pitching coach Ray Searage to make something out of nothing, which he often does. The problem is that the stock they left him with this time around has very little upside, and as magical as Searage has proven to be, this is asking too much. Jon Niese’s left arm isn’t a perfect specimen of health, while Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong are barely serviceable #4 and #5 starters. If prospects Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon aren’t ready to pitch in the Majors by midseason and aren’t immediately successful, this team could be in significant trouble. That said, this is a solid well-rounded team without any other major problems. If their prospects are able to make immediate impacts, they can soar up this list. Therefore, the Pirates still remain very competitive.
8. Toronto Blue Jays
This may seem low for 2015’s highest-scoring offense; however, there are still many questions surrounding the Jays , who play in the AL’s strongest division. GM Alex Anthopolous is gone after a tremendously successful 2015. Troy Tulowitzki needs to regain his plate discipline while staying healthy playing on turf. And the rotation is far from elite. That being said, this is still a team ready to compete. With star players in place, the Jays added necessary rotation depth in J.A. Happ and Jesse Chavez, while Drew Storen is a perfect way to extend the bullpen regardless of whether he pitches the 8th or 9th inning. The explosive offense will surely carry this team, but the pitching needs to be competent and luckily that seems to be the case. The bullpen is now fairly deep, making the Toronto Blue Jays a team nobody should want to face during the postseason.
7. Kansas City Royals
The defending champions arrive with a chip on their shoulder as the Royals are once again being disregarded as the threats they truly are. The re-signing of Alex Gordon may have been the off-season’s best value, and despite the overpayment for Ian Kennedy, he is a fair replacement for the departed Johnny Cueto. The core that has gone to the World Series the past two seasons is still here, and the Royals do not have any clear regressions forthcoming from any position players. With strong defense, great on-base skills, elite team speed and a deep bullpen, the Royals may not be as flashy as some squads but are as dangerous as any team around. The Royals have proven they can get the job done and are prepared to lay claim that they are a dynasty.
6. New York Mets
The Mets are a difficult team to rank because they don’t possess the general traits a World Series team generally has. They are very poor defensively and they have a shallow bullpen. Their offense is great but not good enough to make up for those deficiencies on paper. What they have going for them is the deepest set of starting pitching around. Their 1-to-5 starters are easily the best in baseball, and if Zack Wheeler can fulfill his pre-Tommy John promise, the gap between the Mets and second place isn’t even close. Unfortunately for the Mets, while five great starters are awesome during the regular season, during the playoffs teams can get away with only having three elite pitchers. Due to the days off between games, having five starters is not as beneficial as it is during the regular season. With that aside, the Mets’ pitching will get them into the playoffs where anything can happen. Getting into the playoffs is the initial struggle and the Mets are a safe choice to return, where they can certainly make some noise.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers
To the surprise of many, the Dodgers were relatively quiet this off-season despite their deep pockets and tendency to make big moves. Fortunately for Dodgers fans, a series of well-calculated small moves are generally more successful than one big move. They quietly made some splashes to improve their roster, which was already one of the best in baseball. Zack Greinke is elite and will be missed, but there is certainly a case to be made that signing Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda while re-signing Brett Anderson actually gains the team several wins throughout the season. A solid trio is often more valuable than one pitcher in getting through the rigorous grind of a season, plus they still saved significant money. Aside from that, they managed to retain Howie Kendrick on a value contract, are prepared to unleash rookie-of-the-year favorite Corey Seager and still have the league’s best pitcher: Clayton Kershaw.
4. Houston Astros
No longer the Houston “Lastros” or the “Disastros,” the Astros have arrived as a legitimate World Series contender. With youth on their side, the Astros are only getting better and present a very dangerous roster, from top to bottom. Yes, they overpaid for Ken Giles, but he is an elite reliever and helps their team improve today. Bullpen depth was a major reason this team was bounced from last season’s playoffs so it needed to be addressed. While they still need to add one or two more bullpen pieces during the season to be as competitive as the high-end bullpens currently in the league, they now have a very solid trio to get them through the 7th, 8th and 9th innings in Giles, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek. Doug Fister was a tremendous value, giving the Astros five well above-average starting pitchers once again. The glaring hole is at first base, but with A.J. Reed likely arriving by midseason, there are no major weaknesses for this team and they possess upside at nearly every position.
3. San Francisco Giants
This ranking has nothing to do with the Giants’ “even-year” success (they’ve won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014) and all to do with the Giants quietly having one of the best overall rosters in the league. The Denard Span purchase was a fantastic addition to fill their clear need for a centerfielder and leadoff hitter, while Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto round out their rotation into one of the deepest units in the league. Like many teams, the Giants could use further bullpen help, but with the outrageous prices that relievers were going for this off-season, the Giants can’t be faulted for not overpaying for one. The plan is to develop their homegrown talent, which has worked well for them in the past. Bullpen help can usually be found in-season, and since that can be addressed, the Giants are extremely well-rounded and built for a deep playoff run.
2. Boston Red Sox
The gross overpayment for Craig Kimbrel stands out, but there’s no doubt that acquiring Kimbrel improves their chances during 2016. This is an article outlining the teams with the best ability to win this year’s World Series, not an evaluation of off-season transactions. That aside, the Red Sox had a busy off-season and now sport one of the finest rosters in the Majors. While they will likely regret trading away all those assets in the near future, for 2016, things appear rosy. Manuel Margot (one of the many players traded for Kimbrel) will likely be a great player, but the signing of Chris Young can likely replace his value for this season. Carson Smith was the most underrated transaction of the off-season as the bullpen is now an amazing strength; an incredible feat considering how shallow it was in 2015 after Koji Uehara suffered a season-ending injury. David Price, the finest pitcher on the market, was signed to anchor this staff, and the best defensive outfield in the Majors returns intact. The Red Sox are incredibly dangerous overall and should not be underestimated this season.
1. Chicago Cubs
On paper, the Chicago Cubs are the best team in baseball by a significant margin and are in a tier of their own. Of course, things rarely work out as expected, so rather than focus on the historic offense they are set to possess and the dominant 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation with Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, we can focus on their small weaknesses. The Cubs will be fairly weak defensively despite the signing of Jason Heyward. Up the middle will be of particular issue with Dexter Fowler roaming center field and Ben Zobrist losing range yet being asked to man second base. John Lackey is set to regress from his excellent 2015 season, while Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks are merely serviceable starters. That said, no team is perfect and the Cubs’ weaknesses are far less pronounced than anybody else’s. This is an offense without any weak lineup spots, something not even the Blue Jays can say. They have an excellent bullpen with upside and the necessary talent in the minor leagues to acquire any missing pieces they require along the way. This is 2016’s finest team and they will continue to be good for a very long time.