The annual MLB.com predictions are in, but before anybody starts planning a parade down Michigan Ave. or starts printing World Series tickets for Rogers Centre, there's the matter of the 162-game slate and 30 teams battling their way to October.All the preseason conjecture will become replaced by reality once Major
The annual MLB.com predictions are in, but before anybody starts planning a parade down Michigan Ave. or starts printing World Series tickets for Rogers Centre, there's the matter of the 162-game slate and 30 teams battling their way to October.
All the preseason conjecture will become replaced by reality once Major League Baseball's season begins with a Sunday tripleheader. The Cardinals-Pirates rivalry (1:05 p.m. ET on ESPN, MLB.TV), an American League East matchup of Blue Jays-Rays (4:05 p.m. on ESPN2, MLB.TV) and a World Series rematch of Royals-Mets (8:37 p.m. on ESPN) will bring the Opening Day pageantry all day and into the night, as baseball's beautiful marathon begins in earnest.
With that triple-opening still out on the horizon, MLB.com's editorial staff has made its collective call. The consensus is the Chicago Cubs finally will win their first World Series title since 1908, and they'll have to get past the Toronto Blue Jays to do it. That's just the headline for the list of winners our panel of 50-plus participants combined to compile.
Here's a look at how this group of reporters and analysts sees the 2016 season playing out, with victors for each division, Wild Cards for each league and pennant winners battling it out for the title:
AL East: Blue Jays
The defending champs are the choice in the rough-and-tumble division, with the Red Sox a distant second. With MVP Josh Donaldson and Co. still a very viable contender, winning the AL East would be a first step toward bigger things in Toronto.
AL Central: Royals
Now that they wear the crown heading into 2016, these Royals are getting some love in their division, which they won by a comfortable 12-game margin a year ago. Their support was overwhelming, with only the Indians and Tigers getting more than a single tally.
AL West: Astros
This year, our panel suggests, the Astros will take the division all the way after slipping behind their in-state rivals, the Rangers, a year ago. Fueled by star talent like Carlos Correa, the Astros were surprises last year, but they hold a solid edge over the Rangers in our poll.
AL Wild Cards: Rangers and Red Sox
The Rangers get the nod as the home team for the AL Wild Card game, and it's the Red Sox who earned the second spot, with the poll predicting a return to the postseason after a two-year absence.
AL Champion: Blue Jays
Toronto will reach the World Series for the first time since back-to-back visits in 1992-93 -- at least if our poll holds true. The Jays had a relatively slim advantage over the defending pennant winners, the Royals, with the Astros finishing third.
NL East: Mets
It's a close call, but the Mets get the edge over the Nationals to repeat as division champions. Those two teams gained all the votes in that division race.
NL Central: Cubs
An overwhelming choice, even though it was the 100-win Cardinals who took the division title last year. The Cubs are the clear winner in this year's poll, with the Cards and Pirates tied for second.
NL West: Giants
The closest call of any division, the Giants -- with their revamped rotation and upgraded offense -- drew a couple of more votes than the rival Dodgers, the three-time defending division champions. The D-backs received some decent support as well.
NL Wild Cards: Nationals and Cardinals
The Nats won't be shut out of the postseason a second straight year, according to our survey, and the Cards will make the October party for a sixth consecutive season. The Pirates finished just barely behind the Cardinals.
NL Champion: Cubs
Wrigley Field will fly its first NL pennant since 1945, survey says -- and it wasn't even close. The Cubs got more than half the votes, with the Nationals, Giants and Cardinals leading the pack of seven other contenders receiving votes.
World Series Champion: Cubs
Yes, this is the year -- according to our survey. For the first time since 1908, the Cubs will win the World Series, and again, it wasn't really close in our poll. The Nationals received the second-most votes, and the Blue Jays led the AL teams, but the Cubs were the overwhelming favorite to win it all.
Will this really be the year for the Cubs? Can the Blue Jays find their way back to the Fall Classic? Sunday, the story will begin to unfold, and reality will replace conjecture as we head to October.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB.