In our preview of the upcoming MLB 2016 season, we highlight key roster changes and the outlook for all 30 teams, division-by-division and we conclude by giving out our exclusive free World Series betting tip and prediction.
During the MLB regular season and playoffs, visit our MLB picks page for our daily MLB double and accumulator tips, plus full previews for all games shown across the BT Sport channels.
World Series Pick
The Cardinals have great pitching, lots of experience and they are just slipping dangerously under the radar at the moment. This is a roster that knows what to do in the postseason and a franchise that has the manoeuvrability to add additional pieces during the course of the season. Looking at the current outright winner markets and considering the challenges of an extremely long MLB season, we think that the 16/1 value on St Louis is by far the best number to be betting on at this time.
Team By Team Guide
The additions of Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller to the pitching rotation could be a huge boost to a team that finished eighth in the MLB in 2015 with 720 runs scored. There are still concerns about a bullpen that doesn’t have much depth and the infield, still, the Diamondbacks are a genuine challenger in this division.
The Rockies have bolstered their bullpen and have an exciting young starting rotation, however, they figure to experience continuing growing pains and after trading away elite shortstop Troy Tulowitzki at least season’s trade deadline, they are unlikely to be an offensive powerhouse again in 2016.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Losing Greinke was expected, though one can’t help but wonder if the Dodgers missed an opportunity when they had both him and Clayton Kershaw on their roster. Upper management seemed to agree replacing manager Don Mattingly with Dave Roberts, a tough first career managerial assignment for Roberts. Scott Kazmir has been added to the rotation and the offense should be good enough to ensure that LA are a contender once again.
San Diego Padres
After going all out in 2015 and still missing the postseason for a ninth straight occasion, it was a far quieter offseason for the Padres. It looks like they’ll be rebuilding yet again in 2016, though their pitching should keep them relatively competitive.
San Francisco Giants
World Series champions in 2010, 2012 and 2014, can the Giants continue their run of winning championships during even years? Johnny Cueto is a big addition to the starting rotation, while the veteran team remains relatively intact from recent campaigns. We won’t be joining those backing them to win it all again in 2016, but they have a good shot at being triumphant in this division.
Manager Joe Madden and Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta make the Cubs a potent team, this past offseason saw valuable outfielder Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and veteran pitcher John Lackey join a roster that looks like a serious World Series contender. Don’t underestimate the losses of Starlin Castro and Fernando Rodney, but it’s hard to argue against a rotation that features Arrieta, Lackey and Jon Lester.
The Reds finished dead last in the NL Central last season and it’s hard to see them performing any differently in 2016, they are clearly a rebuilding team with several MLB roster players leaving during the past offseason. Fans can look forward to some promising young talent getting a good look this summer.
The Brewers are not a bad baseball team, it might be difficult to remember that, but they are playing in arguably the MLB’s toughest division. Players like Chris Carter, Will Middlebrooks, Eric Young and Franklin Morales, all added during the past offseason have a boom or bust feel about them, regardless, it’s tough to see them breaking into the NL Central’s upper echelon.
Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and J.A. Happ all departed during the offseason and nowhere near as much hitting consistency has been brought back in. The Pirates still have a strong starting rotation, they still have Mark Melancon closing and arguably the best bullpen in baseball, but they start 2016 looking like a little bit of a “third wheel” behind Chicago and St Louis in this division.
St Louis Cardinals
They lost outfielder Heyward and pitcher Lackey this offseason, both to the Cubs, but star pitcher Adam Wainwright is available for opening day after missing most of last season and Mike Leake should also be a big help for a veteran roster that almost always seems to somehow turn itself into a World Series contender by the time September/October rolls around.
They’ve got some interesting pieces, none more so than first baseman Freddie Freeman, but the Braves are still in rebuild mode, especially considering the offseason departures of valuable pitchers Edwin Jackson and Shelby Miller. This isn’t an easy division to contend in either.
If you’re looking for a dark horse pick, the Marlins might just be an interesting one. Wei-Yen Chen adds some consistency to an already solid starting rotation led by Jose Fernandez and we’re pretty confident that Don Mattingly will fit in well as this club’s manager. They’ve got some exciting young talent and we’ll back them to upset some teams this year.
New York Mets
The pitching rotation, featuring Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard, is one of the best in the MLB, but there are still some lingering questions for last season’s National League champions, who don’t have a lot of depth in their bullpen and lost a pretty important piece in their line-up in Daniel Murphy, Neil Walker joins the team to take his spot.
The good news? The worst has almost definitely passed for Phillies’ fans. The bad news? They start 2016 with several injuries in their outfield and questions at just about every position, including in their pitching rotation and it’s hard to see good enough improvement to make a playoff berth possible.
The Nationals were arguably the most disappointing team in 2015, but they’ve once again made significant offseason changes, including the additions of Murphy and Ben Revere, and it’s tough to discount a team that includes explosive hitter Bryce Harper and pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasbourg.
The Astros were among baseball’s toughest teams to work out in 2015, but we’ll back them to at least replicate some of that success with a pitching line-up led by Dallas Keuchel and a roster that has stayed relatively intact but grown a year older and more experienced, including an important return to the postseason.
For a long time, the Angels were one of those ruthless franchises that just seemed to win their division season after season. It isn’t quite like that anymore, but their line-up still looks potentially dominant led by Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons also represents a nice addition, particularly for the team’s defense.
Sonny Gray is an elite pitcher, this team can hit and Jed Lowrie adds another useful bat to the infield, while the bullpen, which was poor in 2015, has been improved with the additions of several useful arms. The Athletics are outsiders, but they should be more competitive this season.
The Mariners have the MLB’s longest postseason drought, they haven’t appeared in the playoffs since 2001. They’ve added depth to their rotation and the bullpen, and they’ve still got Felix Hernandez, but their line-up still looks fragile and leaping over the Angels, Astros and Rangers feels unlikely.
Apparently veteran Ian Desmond is being converted to outfield with Josh Hamilton sidelined to start the year. The Rangers look a little thin overall, starting pitcher Yu Darvish will not be back until sometime in May, while there are rumblings that Cole Hamels isn’t 100% healthy either. Texas should score runs, but they might struggle to stay competitive in this division.
Chicago White Sox
Adam LaRoche’s controversial retirement marred what was a pretty positive offseason for the White Sox overall. Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Jimmy Rollins, Austin Jackson, Matt Latos, Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila should help Chicago end a run of three consecutive losing seasons, at the very least, though they’ll need this pitching staff to band together and they’ll hope that this clubhouse hasn’t become fractured.
The Indians have made gradual progress under manager Terry Francona, the additions of several good bats, most notably Mike Napoli, should help to back up a potentially dominant starting pitching rotation featuring Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Cleveland looks like a club that should be improved, but they’ve got to find a way to score runs.
The pitching will be much better after faltering in 2015 and there’s plenty of exciting hitting in this line-up led by Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler. The Tigers plummeted to last place in the division after winning it in four years straight, but returning to the top won’t be easy in an AL Central that looks tougher than it has been for a long time.
Kansas City Royals
The World Series champions have lost some starting pitching in Johnny Cueto and Jeremy Guthrie, but they’ve still got a deep batting line-up that hits just about all the way down and an elite bullpen that can play a huge role for the Royals in the later part of games. Winning the World Series two years in a row is a tall order, but Kansas City are unquestionably a legitimate contender once again.
The Twins finished four games over .500 last season even with star player Joe Mauer having a mediocre campaign. Ervin Santana heads up an excellent rotation, Byung Ho Park could seriously boost this line-up and Minnesota have always been one of the best small ball teams in the MLB.
The loss of Chen is a big deal to a rotation that has some consistency question marks. There is no doubt that the Orioles will find ways to score runs, led by one of the best hitters in the American League, first baseman Chris Davis. When the Orioles won this division two years ago, they snuck up on a few teams, they won’t be able to do that again this year.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox now have a legitimate closer in Craig Kimbrel and a true ace in David Price, there’s less pressure on their supporting pitching arms and an exciting young hitting line-up that includes Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr, Rusney Castillo and Travis Shaw among others should return Boston to AL East contender status.
New York Yankees
They paid big to add Castro to their line-up, while Aroldis Chapman could help to make what was already a decent bullpen close to elite. Still, it’s amazing how many times we find ourselves questioning the rotation for a franchise that spends so much money. Can Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino hold it together? What will CC Sabathia be able to provide in 2016?
Tampa Bay Rays
Strong pitching, both in terms of the starters and the bullpen, combined with elite defensive baseball, should once again characterise the Rays. They enter the 2016 season a little bit under the radar, which is just the way this team likes it. During the offseason, they’ve added a pair of versatile players in Steve Pearce and Logan Morrison, and important infielder shortstop Brad Miller.
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto’s offense is incredible. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson are joined by a full season of Troy Tulowitzki. This is a team that scored 891 runs in 2015, more than 100 runs better than the second highest scoring team, the New York Yankees. However, there’s no question that losing David Price and Mark Buehrle, while adding only J.A. Happ leaves the pitching rotation as a big question mark.