Every baseball season has its ups and downs, every team has their surprises and disappointments, every year the unexpected happens, and the expected does not. Anything can happen in America's National Pastime, and it often does. From the Oakland Athletics 20 game winning streak in 2002, to the collapse of the Detroit Tigers in 2015, every season gives us so many reasons to watch. In fact, not only does every MLB season give us a reason, but every MLB team has reasons for us to watch as well. Here is one reason to watch each of the 30 Major League teams in the 2016 season.
Toronto Blue Jays* - When a casual fan goes out to the ballpark on a warm summer night, what does he want? Most would answer something along the lines of a ballpark hotdog and a homerun from their favorite player, right? Well if you're a Toronto Blue Jays fan, why not a homerun from four of your favorite players? Why not a once in a lifetime defensive play from speedy outfielder or Gold Glove Shortstop? These things are absolutely possible, due to the Blue Jays team that has Jose Bautista (40 2015 HR), Edwin Encarnacion (39 2015 HR), Josh Donaldson (41 2015 HR), and Troy Tulowitski (17 2015 HR) in the middle of the lineup, and Kevin Pillar (CF) and Troy Tulowitski on defense. Let's also not forget the impending emerge of staff ace Marcus Stroman. Whether you are a fan of Toronto or not, last year they had 232 reasons to watch (232 team homeruns led all of baseball), and this year they project to add to that total.
New York Yankees - No matter what the game throws at us, one thing is always sure: The New York Yankees will have plenty of money to spend coming from plenty of attending fans no matter what their record. This year, the Yankees have a number of veteran players looking to either bounceback or finish up with a nice swan song. The Bronx Bombers also have a few young players looking to breakout and show the league what they're capable of (Luis Severino, Michael Pineda), new faces looking to continue to make an impact (Starlin Castro, Aroldis Chapman), and an unbelievable back end of the 'pen looking to take them deep into the playoffs (Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances). But to me, the biggest story of the Yankees season will be the swan song of one of the great MLB outfielders of our generation, Carlos Beltran. While the 38 year old outfielder has not officially announced that he will retire after the 2016 season, he did say it is a likely option for him at this point in his career. The switch-hitter has accumulated a Rookie of the Year Award, 3 Gold Gloves, a Roberto Clemente Award, two Silver Sluggers, and eight All-Star selections, while hitting .280 with 392 homeruns, 503 doubles, 2,454 hits, 1,449 runs scored, 1,443 RBI, 311 stolen bases, a .355 on base percentage, .490 slugging, and .845 OPS. Beltran is also one of the greatest postseason players of all time, with a .332 lifetime playoff batting average, along with 16 HR and 40 RBI. Despite his postseason heroics, Beltran has never won the World Series. Whether you like the Yankees or not, we can all agree there are not very many more deserving players than Carlos Beltran.
Baltimore Orioles* - A team that is becoming desperate for pitching and hasn't been able to do much to add to their staff can only rely on two things, comebacks and luck. The Baltimore Orioles find themselves hoping for a big comeback from highly awaited, yet injury plagued, Dylan Bundy in 2016. Over the past three season, injuries have held Bundy to just 17 games (All in the minor leagues), but if he is healthy in 2016 he is still expected to make a big impact out of the rotation. This team can also thrill viewers with the long ball, and watch for a power breakout from Jonathon Schoop to up those homerun numbers even more.
Tampa Bay Rays* - The Tampa Bay Rays have the potential to be one of those low budget small market teams who takes the league by storm this season, and it is going to be very exciting to see what they do with that potential. While they may not have the power and offensive weapons most teams who would be viewed as "exciting" posses, they have one of the best pitching rotations in all of baseball. Some may disagree, but I love to watch a dominating pitching staff backed by great defense and an offense who just finds ways to get it done (Example: Kansas City Royals), and the Tampa Bay Rays have what it takes to do just that. Should the Rays have a great season, it will be even more proof that big money doesn't guarantee lots of wins, and small money can often get the job done even better.
Boston Red Sox* - One could go a number of ways with reasons to watch the 2016 Boston Red Sox. However, while you could chose their potential to go worst to first, Hanley Ramirez moving to first, hopeful rebounds of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, what kind of boost David Price will give the rotation, or if young players (Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley JR, Rusney Catillo) can breakout/build on their 2015 breakouts, the answer always has to be the final year of "Big Papi". David Ortiz is not only a Red Sox legend, he has become a baseball legend. Ortiz has had a Hall of Fame career, chock-full of unbelievable homeruns and clutch moment after clutch moment. The game will greatly miss the looming stance of #34, and his final MLB tour will be an emotional, must see 162 game farewell to one of baseball's favorite players. Not only is Ortiz the reason to watch the Red Sox, but he is the biggest reason to watch baseball period in 2016.
Kansas City Royals* - The defending World Series champions continue to get underrated, and under-appreciated, but they still remain the single most fun team to watch in all of baseball. For the casual fan? Maybe not so much, considering they do not have big sluggers like a Jose Bautista or Bryce Harper, but for an avid fan? The Royals could not be anymore entertaining. They fight and scratch for every win using speed, unbelievable defense, clutch hits, incredible moments, and an unstoppable bullpen. Their old school style of play is what makes them so incredible to watch, and so impossible to beat. After making it to the World Series two straight seasons, what more do they have to prove? Well since the supposed baseball geniuses keep counting them out (Fangraphs projected them to finish 79-83 in both 2015 and 2016) they still have a whole lot to prove. But to me, the biggest story for the Royals this year will be what kind of steps forward Yordano Ventura can make throughout the season. After a great 2014 campaign, Ventura struggled in 2015 after being named the Opening Day starter. In a year in which he saw a demotion to AAA, Ventura finished with a record of 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA, and struggled immensely in the Postseason (0-2 6.43). However, there are still multiple reasons to believe in the 24 year old hurler, not limited to but including his second half of 2015 (9-2 3.56 in the second half, including a 4-0 3.41 August). The keys will be how well he can control his fiery temper, and if he can finally settle into the Major Leagues as a consistent every fifth day starter.
Minnesota Twins* - The Twins made an unexpected leap forward in 2015, and they have made the baseball world aware of what their future holds. The biggest things to watch in Minnesota this year will be how well Miguel Sano transitions to the outfield, and what kind of effect Byron Buxton will have on this team. Buxton was ruled the number one prospect in all of baseball in 2015 (Currently sits at number two), but the 22 year old center fielder struggled in his debut season last year (.209 two homeruns). Buxton has an incredible skill-set, and has the ability to contribute to a team in every way imaginable. Early in his career, he has drawn several comparisons to Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, and while he may not have as much power, it just goes to show you the potential he has. While there is some concern about it being too early for him to be in the big leagues, you can still expect great things from him that you won't want to miss in 2016.
Cleveland Indians - Over the past few seasons, the Cleveland Indians have become one of the most frustrating teams to be a fan of. However, last season they showed great promise for the future with the debut of Francisco Lindor, and the long awaited emergence of their pitching rotation. It is very hard to chose between which of those two things will be more exciting to watch this season, but in the end you go with the pitching. How the young rotation performs will make or break this team, they do not have the offense to get by with mediocre pitching. As the rotation goes so will this team; If their five starters continue to build on their careers this season, it could be a very fun season to watch.
Chicago White Sox* - The White Sox were a bit of a disappointment last season, but they could turn it around in 2016. With a young, underrated, quality rotation backing a superb offense, this team is poised to do something special. I think the biggest reason to watch this team is how exciting the combo of Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Adam LaRoche, and Brett Lawrie will be batting back-to-back. The biggest two out of that group to watch, will be the newcomers Frazier and Lawrie. Frazier left a good hitters ballpark and came to perhaps and even better one that comes with a better lineup around him, and could surpass his 35 homrun season of 2015. Lawrie had a career year for Oakland last season, in a terrible hitters park, surrounded by a struggling lineup, and now comes to Chicago while just entering his prime (26). Lawrie may face a challenge with the move to second base, but he, along with Abreu and Frazier, could be in for some career years.
Detroit Tigers* - It seemed as if everything imaginable went south for the Detroit Tigers in 2015, leading to the end of their 4 year AL Central titles. But the problems in 2015 were mainly caused by injuries, and not only will they be healthier in 2016 but they added two of the biggest free agents on the market this Winter (Jordan Zimmerman, Justin Upton). To me, the biggest story for them this year won't be their big roar back into the playoffs, which is highly likely to happen, but how newcomer Justin Upton performs. Upton has been an incredible overrated and inconsistent player throughout his career, but in Detroit has potential to really shine big. On all three of his former teams (Arizona, Atlanta, San Diego) he had the responsibility of being the bulk of their offense, but things will change a bit in Detroit. He is now surrounded by the best hitter on the planet, Miguel Cabrera, along with Victor Martinez, JD Martinez, and Ian Kinsler. Not only can you expect this to have a massive effect on his production, it will have a nice effect on the stars already in place. You will most likely have all five of them batting back-to-back, and in that scenario you have to pitch to all five, you can't chose even one guy to be careful with because if you walk him he's got a bunch more guys behind him that can make you pay. The lineup depth and protection Upton will bring to the table could very well exceed far beyond how many homeruns he personally hits; although at the same time it will also greatly benefit him, and hopefully help him to become a much more consistent player.
Texas Rangers* - Texas returned to the top of the division in 2015, and seemed to be doing great in the playoffs till Toronto took advantages of some key mistakes and mounted a great comeback in the ALDS. This year, Texas looks to return to the playoffs and finish business, but they have some key things that need to happen to get there. The two biggest keys for this team also happen to be the two biggest reasons to watch them this year, health and Rougned Odor. Texas has not been able to keep its rotation healthy (Darvish, Holland, Perez, etc), but if they keep it healthy all year this season it could be one of the very best in baseball. On the offensive side, it will be very exciting to see how Rougned Odor builds off of his great 2015 season. Odor struggled early last year, and even was hit with a demotion to AAA; but when he came back he came back with a purpose and became a huge part of why they won the division. Odor is expected to develop even more in 2016, and it will be very exciting to watch it happen.
Houston Astros* - The Astros ended their playoff drought in 2015, and almost advanced to the ALCS but where unable to stop the fierce Royal comeback in the ALDS. However, the youth an potential of this team give it a great chance to do something great in 2016. While there are multiple exciting things about this team including Carlos Correa's sophomore season, Carlos Gomez returning to his full strength, or the rotation and George Springer continuing to get better, the biggest thing to watch this year is at first base. Jon Singleton could be the biggest breakout of 2016, and if he does breakout it will be very long overdue. Singleton still has potential to be one of the most exciting power hitters in the game, and he could be a huge factor in the Astros season. However, if Singleton struggles they could see a mid-season call-up of the #40 prospect in all of baseball, AJ Reed. Reed has sky high potential and should Singleton not finally have that big year Reed could be the biggest call-up of 2016. No matter who makes the impact, the Astros first base spot will be a very exciting area to watch this year.
Los Angeles Angels - The Angels now have only a skeleton remaining of the team they were two years ago, and they are now an overpaid team with a serious hole where their future is concerned. Their weak farm system, lack of depth, and monstrous payroll could all be pieces of the tumbling tower they project to become in the next few years. However, while their future is not good, they still do have the ability to do something special this year, and they also still have Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. The two big things that stick out to me are one, what will Andrelton Simmons be able to do offensively, and two, will Tyler Skaggs finally have his big year? Andrelton Simmons is always somebody you do not want to miss on the defensive side, but his bat has been inconsistent and not as good as his glove. Some hope that the scenery change will help him to bounce-back at the plate, and the Angels will hope that turns out to be the case. Simmons is one of the best contact hitters you'll find (Only 184 strikeouts in 1,847 career AB, compared to Mike Trout who struck out 158 times last season alone), but his contact has not been able to result in a whole lot. Skaggs was once one of the higher regarded prospects in baseball, but has been seriously delayed by injuries. If Skaggs can remain healthy, he may be one of the most exciting arms in baseball this season.
Seattle Mariners* - The Mariners have been on the verge of something great for the past few seasons, but have not been able to take that final step. In 2016, the Mariners look as if they could finally attain their goals and get into the postseason, but they certainly do face a lot of uncertainties. I believe this team will be very extremely exciting to watch for many reasons, but the biggest one(s) are James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Both young pitchers could evolve into top of the rotation guys, and they are set up to take a huge step towards that in 2016. If those two guys get hot, the league better look out, and it will be very exciting for the game of baseball.
Oakland Athletics* - After a terrible 2015 campaign (68-94), one would think things aren't looking too good for the Oakland Athletics. But if you have been a baseball fan for very long you should know by now that Oakland has a mastermind in the front office in Billy Beane, it just sometimes takes a little while for his moves to show their value. In 2016, Oakland has the potential to sneak into the playoffs and take baseball by surprise, and what is more exciting than that? While they will have to rely on health, bounce-back campaigns, and young players, they still have a very legitimate shot at a postseason berth. It will be exciting to watch this pitching staff, as they have very sneakily built a solid back end of the bullpen, and they still have young Sonny Gray at the top of the rotation. Even though they may not look like the most exciting team to watch when you look at their roster, just remember they are the Oakland Athletics, and crazy things happen in Oakland.
New York Mets* - The defending National League champions will have a lot of pressure in 2016, but you can expect them to take that pressure and run with it. Whether you love or hate this team, you have to admit they will be a very exciting team to watch. Their pitching rotation could very well evolve into the best in baseball in 2016, and of course you want to see Yoenis Cespedes show off his incredible skill-set. On top of all that? Let's not forget a kid name Michael Conforto, who could have a serious breakout and take the league by storm this year. Personally? I hate the Mets and the majority of their players, but there is absolutely no denying this could be the most exciting team to watch this Summer.
Washington Nationals* - You can give the Nationals all the hate you want over last season, but in the end lets not forget all the injuries they fought through. The Nationals finished with a record of 83-79 with the most beat up team in baseball, and oh the NL MVP was also on their team. The Nationals are going to be right back in the thick of things this Summer, and as always, their season will be full of incredible moments and performances. But not only will their current roster be fun to watch, but they have some of baseball's best young prospects just waiting for their opportunity to make a push to October with this team. If you disagree and think this team isn't exciting, do you not realize that the definition of exciting is basically Bryce Harper? Do you not forget what happened between him and Jonathan Papelbon last year? The Washington Nationals live and breathe exciting baseball.
Miami Marlins* - The Miami Marlins may not have the best record at the end of the season, but they still have some of the most exciting players to watch in all of baseball. If you follow baseball at all, I think we all know why to watch the Marlins this season, a full season from behemoth Giancarlo Stanton. Just about the only thing Stanton has not done on a baseball field is stay healthy for a whole year, but the Marlins hope to get that from him in 2016. The effect Stanton could have on this team in all reality could give them the extra push they need to surprise people and make a push into the playoffs. With Stanton mashing at a better rate than anybody in baseball, Dee Gordon doing unbelievable things on both sides of the ball, Adeiny Hechavarria wowing on defense, a handful of young players developing into un-heard of stars, and Jose Fernandez making the best of the best look stupid with his wicked curveball, what's not to like about this team?
Atlanta Braves - While the Braves organization is not going to go the way we are accustomed to for the next few years, there are still several reasons to keep your eye on them. The Atalanta front office has made some moves that have been highly criticized, but really set them up perfectly for when they move into their new stadium. The key thing to watch is something we saw a lot of in 2015, young shortstops making a huge splash in the Major Leagues. Atlanta traded away their ace, Shelby Miller, but got an amazing overhaul in return, including phenom Dansby Swanson. While Swanson is not likely to reach the Major Leagues in 2016, it is not totally out of the question. On top of that, Atlanta has several of the games top prospects on the brink of becoming great every day players, and 2016 could give us some serious glimpses into their bright future.
Philadelphia Phillies - A team that was once one of the great dynasties in baseball has fallen apart and burnt to the ground the last few seasons, and even though they will still be a terrible team in 2016, there are still some reasons to be excited about this team. A new core is quietly rising in Philadelphia, and although it still may take several years for this team to be great again, we can still catch some glimpses of it now. The biggest thing to watch is up-and-coming shortstop J.P. Crawford, who is already drawing comparisons to Phillie great Jimmy Rollins. Crawford, cousin of Los Angeles Dodger outfielder Carl Crawford, is expected to reach the big leagues at some point in 2016, and will more than likely captivate crowds with his play in every area of the game.
St. Louis Cardinals* - The St. Louis Cardinals have a very similar story that the Washington Nationals have for 2015, injuries held them back. However, the huge difference between the Red Birds and the Nats, is that the Cardinals were still the best team in all of baseball in the best division in all of baseball. Not only will the Cardinals get Adam Wainwright, Matt Adams, Matt Holliday, and others back from big injuries, but they will be playing with a big chip on their shoulder. Losing John Lackey and Jason Heyward to the division rival Chicago Cubs will only intensify their will to win, and they will be able to replace both losses. Winning has just been the tradition in St. Louis, as they have made the playoffs for the past five seasons, as well as 12 times since the start of the 2000's.
Pittsburgh Pirates* - The Pirates have really turned their organization around in recent years, but will have an incredibly tough time continuing that trend in 2016. The Pirates are in the best division in all of baseball, and are also beginning to catch some serious shadows from the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. The main reason to watch this team, is an outfield that may emerge as the game's best all around outfield in 2016. Among Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Gregory Polanco, McCutchen is the only one viewed as a superstar, yet all of them are stars who are still getting even better. There is nothing on the diamond these three guys can't do, and they will be the key to the Pirates success.
Chicago Cubs - The Cubs were the big story of 2015, and after a great offseason they will be the big story of 2016. Just about everybody loves watching a team of young players belt 400ft. homeruns, which is exactly what this team can give you every day. The Cubs should, however, be concerned with making sure these kids don't hit a big sophomore slump as the league adjusts to them. The success of this team rests on the young core, and should they struggle this time around, the Cubs could be in some deep trouble. Now what are the chances of that happening especially now with Anthony Rizzo, John Lackey, Jon Lester, and Jason Heyward around? Next to nothing.
Milwaukee Brewers - While they are one of the teams in baseball that are pretty far away from doing anything big, there are still lots of exciting things that Milwaukee can do on a baseball diamond. The big thing to catch your eye this year from the Brewers, will be the league finally recognizing Kris Davis out in left field. You may have heard of the Orioles slugger Chris Davis, but what about this 28 year old outfielder Kris Davis? The Kris Davis who hit 37 doubles in 2014 and you never heard a word about him? The Kris Davis who hit 27 homeruns last season and still, you never heard a word about him? That's right, this kid (Who was hindered by a torn meniscus and only played 121 games), hit .247 with 27 homeruns and 66 RBI last year and still, nobody knows who he is. Unfortunately, it may take a deadline trade for this guy to finally get the attention he deserves, but until then he provides a quietly great reason to watch Milwaukee.
Cincinnati Reds - Another team that is in a painful rebuild process is the Cincinnati Reds, but there is still plenty of reason to watch them play. The biggest story-line for them will be can Billy Hamilton finally develop his bat? If Hamilton can find a way to hit better he could be such a crucial part of this team and help speed up the rebuild process in a very literal way.
Los Angeles Dodgers* - One of the biggest story-lines from 2015 returns in 2016, can Yasiel Puig get his act together? Puig has all the assets to be an MVP, but his antics on and off the field have prevented him from obtaining the elite status he is capable of reaching. If Puig can just get his head out of the sand, he could not only push the Dodgers up another notch, but he could attract some much needed attention for Major League Baseball.
San Francisco Giants* - The Giants have had one of the best offseasons we have seen by any team in recent memory, and it will all contribute to the reason to watch them in 2016. What is that reason? It's an even year! The last three even years the Giants have won the World Series, while missing the playoffs all together in the three odd years. The Giants have accumulated some great depth in their rotation, and in fact now have one of the deepest rotations in all of baseball. Between Pence coming back, and having a two-headed monster of Bumgarner and Cueto, backed by Peavy, Samardjiza, Cain, and Heston, the Giants have a very realistic shot at continuing their even year trend.
Arizona Diamondbacks* - Arizona has also given their team a great facelift this offseason, and it is about to translate into their team finally getting the attention it deserves. With their quietly deep lineup, the one-two punch of Greinkie and Miller, and the upcoming breakouts of Patrick Corbin and Archie Bradley, the Diamondbacks will be an incredibly fun team to watch every day in 2016.
San Diego Padres - The Padres fell way short of their goals in 2015, after their huge overhaul last Winter. After losing some key pieces this Winter, the rebuild is now in full swing. However, one guy snuck under the radar with a comeback campaign in 2015, and the story of 2016 could be the continuation of a comeback. Melvin Upton, a guy we thought had fallen to the curb for good, had a very good second half in 2015 (.278 average in 60 games), and we could see his comeback continue to gain steam if he can stay healthy (87 games last year).
Colorado Rockies - A not so under the radar comeback in Denver could once again be the story for this team in 2016, and by that I mean Carlos Gonzalez. Cargo hit a career high 40 homeruns in 2015, while driving in more runs than he has since 2010. The question about Cargo is, will the thing to watch be his production in Colorado? Or perhaps a blockbuster trade that puts him on a team in contention?
*Check out my previews for these teams under 2016 previews