Pitchers and catchers have finally reported. That it means we are getting closer to beaches barbeques and baseball (at least for us in the cold, you guys in Florida and California have that year round). We can finally stop figuring out who's going to go where (can someone grab Ian Desmond already) and figure out who are the teams that we have to watch for during the 2016 MLB season.
It's a time of year where everyone has hope (that includes the Philadelphia Phillies). It's a time of year where the possibilities are endless and you're looking forward to watching your team over the summer. Until your 10 games below .500 in June and want to see how your team's top prospect in AAA is doing.
Last year, the Kansas City Royals played like a team on a mission and went from being 90 feet away from tying the World Series in Game 7 the previous year to winning the crown for the first time since 1985.
We saw the emergence of the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Houston Astros as contending teams after years of rebuilding and prospect hauling.
We saw the Toronto Blue Jays make the playoffs and have Canada party like it's 1992.
We saw the San Francisco Giants miss the playoffs after winning the title again and the Washington Nationals go from a paper juggernaut to a dysfunctional clubhouse.
So who will rise in 2016? Which five teams who could win the 2016 World Series? Let's take a look.
5. Kansas City Royals
First off, we have the champs of last year, the Kansas City Royals. Why? They are still the champs until someone manages to knock them out in the postseason and the only person who did that in the past two years is Madison Bumgarner.
It's not Armageddon for them quite yet. The core of the team won't be free agents until after 2017 (Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez should have their options picked up after this coming season) so the Royals and their fans should enjoy another couple of successful seasons.
The strength of their team is the bullpen and it still should be strong. Greg Holland is still unsigned and Ryan Madson left via free agency, but the team brought back Joakim Soria to combine with Kelvim Herrera and Wade Davis to lock down the end of games.
They may not have an ace in the rotation, but it still should be solid. Edinson Volquez is probably the guy at this point and they have to hope Yordano Ventura can take another step forward this year.
Ian Kennedy was added in free agency, and the Royals hope is that his old pitching coach with the New York Yankees, Dave Eiland, can help him regain 20 win type of form.
The club managed to keep Alex Gordon another few seasons after re-signing him, but there are questions. Ben Zobrist replaced Omar Infante at the trade deadline last year. Can Infante rebound or will former first round pick Christian Colon take the reigns? Is Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando enough in right field?
Projection systems may not love the club, but they've been wrong about them the past few seasons and could be again this year.
4. New York Mets
For the first time since the late 1980s, the New York Mets are the toast of the town in New York City. The Mets lost the World Series last season, but if they had made few more plays, they may have won in five games instead of the Royals.
When you have starting pitching like the Mets do, you're going to be there among contenders.
Matt Harvey may get all the headlines, but Jacob deGrom may be their best pitcher. Noah Syndergaard is a flame thrower and looks to continue his success. If Steven Matz can stay healthy, that gives them four quality starters. Add in Zack Wheeler when he comes back from Tommy John surgery in May or June and that's a scary staff.
They lost Daniel Murphy in free agency, but because of those young pitchers, they were able to flip Jon Niese to the Pirates for Neil Walker to replace Murphy. They signed Asdrubal Cabrera to play short and make Wilmer Flores more of a super utility infielder to give them more depth. David Wright is the leader of the club, but how much will they get out of him with his spinal stenosis condition?
After saying they weren't bringing back Yoenis Cespedes, they brought him back anyway for either a one-year deal, or a three-year deal if he opts in. Cespedes can mash, but how much will his centerfield defense hurt the club? They'll have Michael Conforto all year with the big club to go along with Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson in the outfield.
The Mets fell short last season, but they have a shot of getting back their this season.
3. Chicago Cubs
Cubs fans have been saying it's their year since 1908. This year, it might finally be their time. The Cubs have a revamped Wrigley Field and revamped club after making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
The Cubs have a position player core that may be the best in the game. Anthony Rizzo may be an MVP candidate at first base. They brought up Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell last season. They also have Jorge Soler in the outfield.
Oh yeah, they added Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist in free agency this past off-season.
Their pitching is pretty good too. They stole Jake Arrieta in a deal with Baltimore and he emerged as the Cy Young Award winner last season. They added Jon Lester before 2015 and added another John this past off-season in John Lackey to their rotation.
In adding Lackey and Heyward, they made their club stronger and the rival St. Louis Cardinals weaker. It's a win-win.
If the Cubs need to add at the trade deadline, they have prospects that they can deal in order to get that final piece to the puzzle.
If Theo Epstein manages to not only break the curse in Boston, but Chicago too, he may as well just quit and go run the Philadelphia 76ers to give himself a real challenge.
2. San Francisco Giants
It's an even year, so I have to bring up the San Francisco Giants. They won it every even year of this decade so why couldn't they in 2016?
Last year, the issue was the starting rotation. Behind Madison Bumgarner, they had Matt Cain and Jake Peavy who aren't what they used to be. This off-season they added Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija behind Bumgarner to boost their rotation and drop Cain and Peavy and Chris Heston in more of a back end role where they should be.
They still have the killer P's on offense in Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Joe Panik. Brandon Crawford emerged as one of the top shortstops in the game this year and was rewarded with a nice extension this off-season.
They added Denard Span to ignite the top of the order and play the outfield for them, but can he stay healthy?Can Matt Duffy repeat his successful rookie campaign?
Their bullpen should still be solid with Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez. Don't sleep on prospect Ray Black being a part of it either. He had 51 strikeouts in 25 innings last season and throws 102 MPH.
If the Giants make the playoffs, look out.
1. Texas Rangers
The Rangers managed to win the AL West on the last day of the season and should be right there again this season. They are my sleeper team to make the Fall Classic this season.
The Rangers should benefit from having Cole Hamels for a full season and some health from Derek Holland and Martin Perez. Yu Darvish is the ace and should be back in May from Tommy John surgery.
Texas had one of the best offenses in the game last season. Prince Fielder had a bounce back season and looked the best he's looked in years after neck surgery. Adrian Beltre doesn't seem to age at third base. Rougned Odor emerged as one of the best young second baseman in the game.
Delino Deshields emerged from Rule V draftee to a catalyst at the top of the lineup. Shin-Soo Choo rebounded from a rough first season with Texas.
If they don't get a lot from Josh Hamilton in left it's okay. They have three top prospects to turn to in Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson.
The Rangers bullpen should be better with full seasons from Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman along with the addition of Tom Wilhelmsen in front of closer Shawn Tolleson.
These five teams could make a run to the crown this season. Who do you have winning the World Series in 2016?