The Toronto Blue Jays went a spectacular 48-23 after the All-Star break last season, going from a team just below .500 to one that topped the American League East by season's end and came close to the World Series. Much of that success was due to midseason acquisition and star pitcher David Price, who recently signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox. But despite the loss of Price, the Blue Jays still have the league's best offense and a relatively easy path to the World Series.
For Toronto, it's all about their offense. Third baseman Josh Donaldson, right fielder and third baseman José Bautista and first baseman Edwin Encarnación combined for 120 home runs last season—a number unheard of in an era of baseball routinely dominated by pitchers. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was added at the All-Star break and although he was not spectacular in his two months with Toronto, he remains a top-five shortstop in baseball.
The only thing that could halt the Jays' momentum is their starting pitching. Price is now with Boston and pitcher Mark Buehrle—who went 15-8 with a 3.81 ERA—may retire. An injury-free season from 24-year-old pitcher Marcus Stroman could help fill that hole, however, and the team also retained reliable pitchers such as 32-year-old Marco Estrada and 41-year-old R.A. Dickey. They also took a flier on J.A. Happ—who pitched for Toronto from 2012-2014 with limited success—and traded for pitcher Drew Storen to bolster the bullpen. But overall, there are far too many question marks in the Jays' rotation to ensure a successful 2016 campaign.
The Jays' league-best offense should be enough to carry them to the playoffs. If they get there, not having to deal with National League powerhouses such as the San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets and Chicago Cubs could give them an easy path to the World Series.
At this point in the year, it’s a little impractical to try and predict who will be in the playoffs come October, let alone predict who will win the World Series. A popular opinion among sports fans, however, is that the Chicago Cubs are primed to win their first title in over a century.
The Cubs had a big year at the plate in 2015, with a good chunk of their players hovering around a .250 batting average. This year, fans can look for the team to lean on big performances from third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Starlin Castro. In order for the Cubs to have a good year offensively, they need to have another great season.
Defense is another thing that is essential to winning and the Cubs certainly have it. Led by pitcher Jake Arrieta, the Cubs have a lot of depth in their bullpen. Arrieta had a great season last year with a 1.77 earned run average and winning 22 games. Other than their pitching, the Cubs outfield—consisting of leftfielder Chris Coghlan, centerfielder Dexter Fowler and rightfielder Jorge Soler—needs to consistently make big plays.
I think that with this combination of great pitching and defense—as well as all around very consistent hitting by the Cubs—Chicago has a very good chance of winning it all this year.