The Chicago Cubs are the Las Vegas favorites to win the World Series, but several teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays, may have something to say about that.
Granted, the Diamondbacks went 79-83 last year and have finished above .500 just once in the last seven years, but after acquiring Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, among others, Arizona is a popular pick to win the NL West.
“I was skeptical at first, just because everyone was jumping on the D-Backs’ bandwagon as soon as Zack Greinke went over there,” ESPN reporter Jessica Mendoza said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “(It was) just, ‘Okay, this is the team. They’re going to be the contending (team), at least from the NL West.’ At first, I’m like, one pitcher isn’t going to do that. Now being at their camp – and granted, (in) spring training, you take it with a grain of salt – but I think this team was like 20-6, and watching them play, things are clicking. This is an offense that really didn’t get talked about with Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and David Peralta and they now have some pieces.”
That trio hit between .312 and .321 last season and combined for 70 home runs and 264 RBIs.
“Even speaking with Shelby Miller, you got to think about his time with the Braves and the run of bad luck that he had in not getting a lot of wins but having the talent,” Mendoza said. “Now it’s the opposite. His eyes just lit up. He was like, ‘This team is special.’ And that’s the stuff you don’t fake. You’re around the clubhouse, you’re around the team, you’re watching, and I’d put my money on the Diamondbacks right now from the NL West.”
In the AL East, meanwhile, the Blue Jays are favored to repeat as division champions.
“Obviously they’re not going to replace David Price, but I’m a big fan of Marcus Stroman,” Mendoza said. “This guy is 5-9 at best, okay? He’s a smaller guy and he owns that. It’s this chip on his shoulder that’s almost a positive. It’s not like he’s walking around with this huge ego. He just works his tail off, and he has this mindset that I think is perfect for the ace to have to come into this role now where there’s expectations.”
Stroman, 24, went 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and 18 strikeouts in 27.0 innings in four September starts last season. The Blue Jays finished 93-69 – their best mark since 1993 (95-67).
“They are the team to beat in the AL East,” Mendoza said. “They still have the offense, but they don’t have David Price. But this guy, Marcus Stroman, I feel like it’s going to be huge for him to come in and really lead this team, at least on the pitching standpoint.”