Jason C. Croft:
Who will win the World Series in 2015?
This is a tough question.
Last year I boldly picked the Kansas City Royals to win the baseball title, and fell short by one game.
This year, I will again stay bold and stick to my gut.
For the first time in over 100 years, in a newly renovated Wrigley Field, I believe the predication made by director Robert Zemeckis will hold (partially) true in his movie Back to the Future II.
The Chicago Cubs have a good chance to win the World Series.
This year, the Cubs picked up a manager in Joe Maddon who is known for making teams that statistically shouldn’t make the playoffs get to that point.
Maddon led the Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series in 2008, and back to the postseason three more times since.
Maddon is an amazing pick up by the organization looking to make a run at something special.
Although the Cubs do not have the top pitching staff in the league, they did pick up Jon Lester as the team’s No. 1 pitcher.
Lester is 116-67 in his career and his WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched) is at 1.276 in his career.
Lester is coming off a season in which he recorded a 2.46 ERA with the Red Sox and Athletics, pitching for both teams last year.
The Cubs also bring back Jake Arrieta who went 10-5 last year for a dismal Cubs team.
He also pitched a 2.53 ERA last year for the Chicago Cubs and teased with a no hitter a few times last season.
Arrieta had three different times last season brought a no hitter into at least the seventh inning.
Arrieta will likely be a solid number two pitcher for the Cubs.
The Cubs have a young, however hungry, team on the field again this year.
The Cubs have an infield led by Starlin Castro.
On top of Castro the Cubs added Tommy La Stella who will be competing for games with Javier Baez.
Anthony Rizzo had a great year for the Cubs last year knocking the ball out of the park 32 times and batting .286 for the Cubs.
The Cubs outfield is made up of newly acquired Dexter Fowler, Chris Coghlan, Jorge Soler, Matt Szczur, Chris Denorfia, and Ryan Sweeny.
Having a solid outfield and options helps the Cubs out greatly.
I’m not saying it is going to be easy for the Cubs to make a run for the title.
Especially in a division with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cincinnati Reds… (sorry Brewers).
What I am saying is that I think the Cubs can compete and stay in the race deep into the season to mid- September, and if the Cubs can do that, anything is possible from there.
I believe the Cubs might have to go through the Wild Card like the Royals did last year, but I do believe that the Chicago Cubs have the potential to win the 2015 Fall Classic.
It is that time of year again, 10 days until Opening Day of the 2015 baseball season.
Now it is time to look at which team I believe will be hoisting the World Series Championship this October.
I think that the team who has the best chance is the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates have all the tools needed to make a strong, deep playoff push this season.
The Pirates had their own fair share of moves this offseason beginning with their starting rotation by re-signing veteran starting pitcher Francisco Liriano and brought back former Pirate starting pitcher A.J. Burnett.
Gerrit Cole has a chance to break out and become the true ace the Pirates were expecting him to be when they drafted him first overall in 2011 out of UCLA.
The projected fourth starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates is Charlie Morton.
Morton has had an injury plagued career, and when he has been healthy he has been very inconsistent.
Morton has the most question marks surrounding him of the five starters.
Though Morton is a weak spot for the Pirates rotation, their projected fifth starter Vance Worley seems to be a very good under the radar player.
Worley pitches to contact and is effective at recording outs, well doing so allowing him to go deep into ballgames which allows the bullpen much need rest.
As for the bullpen, the Pirates acquired lefty specialist Antonio Bastardo from the Philadelphia Phillies and Arquimedes Caminero from the Miami Marlins, both of whom are believed to be making the opening day roster along with free agent acquisition Radhames Liz .
Also in the bullpen returning for the Pirates this year will be closer Mark Melancon, set up man Tony Watson, double play specialist Jared Hughes and long reliever Stolmy Pimentel.
After the departure of catcher Russell Martin, the Pirates went out and acquired catcher Francisco Cervelli.
Cervelli will hopefully do his best to lessen the blow of losing an all star like Martin.
The Pirates outfield is arguably the best in all of baseball, headed by former MVP center fielder Andrew McCutchen and two young impact players of left fielder Starling Marte and right fielder Gregory Polanco.
Marte really turned the corner in the second half last season and I fully expect him to sustain his success moving forward.
Polanco will begin his first full season with the club and hopefully taps into his tremendous potential.
In the infield, the Pirates have two all- star caliber players second baseman Neil Walker and third baseman Josh Harrison.
Walker is one of the best second baseman throughout all of baseball and he consistently produces in the clean up role.
Harrison had an incredible last season and will look to continue it in 2015.
Jordy Mercer has proven himself as an everyday shortstop and Pedro Alvarez has made the transition from third base to first base.
Alvarez is a huge wild card of how he will manage the transition and how much power he will produce.
The biggest surprise though is the signing of Korean infielder Jung Ho Kang.
Anything that Kang is able to provide is just a bonus for an already stacked Pittsburgh club and between their top tier stars and great amount of depth.