With a 92 mph four-seam fastball from Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer on Sunday, April 2, the 2017 MLB season officially began.
Last year was a season to remember for baseball fans across the country. In a nail-biting seven game series that ended in extra innings, the Chicago Cubs defeated the underdog Cleveland Indians to end a 108-year championship drought.
This year, both teams are favorites to win their respective leagues and face off in the World Series. The Indians have significantly bolstered their offense with the acquisition of power-hitting first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. By adding him to a team that already includes superstars Francisco Lindor and Corey Kluber, the Indians will be a force to be reckoned with, assuming they are able to stay healthy.
However, the Cubs still have one of the deepest lineups in baseball, led by 2016 NL MVP third-baseman Kris Bryant and first-baseman Anthony Rizzo, who won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger last season. Along with their dangerous lineup, the Cubs are also powered by their dominant pitching rotation with three serious Cy Young Award candidates: Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks.
Although the Indians and Cubs are expected by many to have a rematch in the World Series, neither team will have an easy time winning their respective pennants.
After a disappointing exit from the playoffs last year at the hands of the Indians, the Boston Red Sox revamped their pitching rotation by trading for ace pitcher Chris Sale, who went 17-10 with 233 strikeouts last season. His acquisition adds to a team with two former Cy Young winners, Rick Porcello and David Price, the best offense of 2016, led by AL MVP runner-up Mookie Betts, and potential Rookie of the Year Andrew Benintendi. Boston’s star-studded roster makes them the most likely challenger to Cleveland for the American League pennant.
In the National League, the Cubs will most likely be challenged by Los Angeles Dodgers or the Washington Nationals. According to FanGraphs, the Dodgers and Nationals have the top two rotations in all of baseball, each led by a dominant pitcher with multiple Cy Young awards. The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, who pitched so well in 2014 that he won both the Cy Young, and the National League MVP, while the Nationals have Max Scherzer, who last year led the MLB with 286 strikeouts, and tied the all-time record for most strikeouts in a single game with 20.
Given the passion and excitement that came out of last season, expect this one to be no different. Having tasted their first championship in a over a century, the Cubs are thirsty for more. At the same time, the Indians, Red Sox and Dodgers are stronger than before and looking for revenge.
Baseball has a long and gruelling season, so situations change very easily. Good teams will come out of nowhere. Baseball fans will just have to sit back and enjoy the six-month show.
Sports Editor Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
AL West: Houston Astros
Wildcards: Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays
Worst Record: Oakland Athletics
NL East: Washington Nationals
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
Wildcards: San Francisco Giants, New York Mets
Worst Record: Cincinnati Reds