Five teams that missed the 2015 postseason crashed the October party last season, with the Indians coming within a run of winning the World Series. History proves that repeating is quite challenging, even when it comes to merely clinching a playoff berth.
Get excited: This could be the AL’s best lineup after the additions of Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Brian McCann, the left side of the infield (Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa) is ridiculously young and talented, and the bullpen features a strong 1-2 punch with Ken Giles and Luke Gregerson.
But not too excited: The rotation is loaded with bounce-back candidates — but they actually must rebound after a staff-wide slump in 2016 — and could use one more proven arm.
USA TODAY SportsJasen Vinlove
Get excited: Dexter Fowler solves the center field and leadoff issues, lefty Brett Cecil fills a big bullpen void and most of the sluggers return from the team that led the NL with 225 homers last season.
But not too excited: Prized prospect Alex Reyes will miss the season after Tommy John surgery (just as Lance Lynn returns from it), the bullpen still could use an arm or two (and needs Trevor Rosenthal to return to form) and Fowler can’t solve all the speed/athleticism deficiencies.
USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
Get excited: The rotation features the AL Rookie of the Year (Michael Fulmer) and a perennial Cy Young candidate (Justin Verlander), and the lineup includes a perennial MVP candidate (Miguel Cabrera) and several other big bats (Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez).
But not too excited: There’s a void in center field, as well as the same injury concerns and back-of-rotation woes that derailed Detroit’s chances last season.
USA TODAY SportsRick Osentoski
Get excited: The Gary Sanchez-led Baby Bombers made a serious wild-card push late last season, Matt Holliday can replace some of the missing pop in the lineup and Aroldis Chapman is back to hold down a potentially dominant bullpen.
But not too excited: The remaining veterans (Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Chase Headley) underwhelmed last season, the rotation is very shaky after Masahiro Tanaka, and the youth movement could experience some growing pains.
USA TODAY SportsReinhold Matay
Get excited: An offseason makeover added more athleticism (Jarrod Dyson) and a leadoff man (Jean Segura) to a lineup that already includes Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, and lefty Drew Smyly joins a rotation led by Felix Hernandez and featuring underrated James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma.
But not too excited: New fifth starter Yovani Gallardo was terrible last season with the Orioles, and the right side of the field has questions in first baseman Danny Valencia and outfielder Mitch Haniger.
USA TODAY SportsJoe Nicholson
Get excited: Much of the core (Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar) of the 2015 World Series team returns for at least one more season, Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss will add some much-needed pop, and Jason Hammel was an outstanding late-offseason get.
But not too excited: Yordano Ventura’s shocking death leaves a big hole in the Royals’ rotation and an even bigger one in their hearts, and Kelvin Herrera must prove capable of replacing closer Wade Davis in a bullpen that continues to thin.
USA TODAY SportsDenny Medley
Get excited: Andrew McCutchen still is part of a very talented outfield (in right, instead of center), righty Ivan Nova is back after a strong performance following his acquisition last summer and Daniel Hudson is a nice pickup in relief.
But not too excited: Top two starters Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon combined to make just 39 starts last season because of injuries — a thin rotation can’t afford that again – and third baseman Jung Ho Kang is fighting a couple serious legal battles.
USA TODAY SportsCharles LeClaire
Get excited: The outfield (Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton) is among the majors’ best, the A.J. Ramos-anchored bullpen added Brad Ziegler and speedy leadoff man Dee Gordon will be available all season.
But not too excited: The rotation — and clubhouse — suffered a huge loss with Jose Fernandez’s tragic death, and Stanton has played in 125 games only once in the past five seasons.
USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
Get excited: Manager Bud Black brings new energy, the rotation features several promising starters entering their prime, Mike Dunn and Greg Holland bolster the bullpen, and the loaded lineup (Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon) welcomes back Trevor Story and adds Ian Desmond.
But not too excited: The staff still pitches half of its games at Coors Field, and the Rockies still play in the same division as the Dodgers and Giants.