Tyler Helsabeck
Staff Writer

It’s that time of year again. The brisk, cold winter days are turning to milder spring days. The dead of winter is gradually changing into fresh green grass, blossoming trees, and gorgeous flowers. And best of all, baseball is back. Wait a second…
Depending on what day of the week it is, the preceding statements might actually be true. But in general, they’re not, at least not in Pennsylvania. Down in Florida and Arizona though, they are very true declarations. Spring training has commenced, and it won’t be long until spring training games begin as well.

With the exception of the Texas Rangers (who start their workouts Feb. 18) every team will have their full roster at their spring training location by Thursday Feb. 18th.The Diamondbacks play the first game of spring training Feb 22nd against the Grand Canyon Antelopes. MLB action officially kicks off April 2nd, so we are only 46 days away from the start of the season. There are still a lot of questions to answer, and a lot of invigorating storylines to follow in spring training and throughout the MLB season itself. The World Baseball Classic returns this year, featuring stars from all over the world. There is a lot going on in the MLB, but one particular topic stands out:

Who is the front-runner coming into the 2017 season?

It is never an easy task trying to guess World Series favorites. It’s even more difficult to do with the season so far in the distance. In the offseason, two teams stood out: the Indians, who signed Edwin Encarnacion; and the Red Sox, who traded for Chris Sale.

(Side note: The Cardinals, who signed Dexter Fowler, Brett Cecil, and resigned Carlos Martinez, are right up there when it comes to best off-seasons.)

Both the Indians and the Red Sox will be regarded as significant threats by the entire league.

The Indians were one game away from taking the crown in 2017. They did this without Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar. Not only did they sign Encarnacion, but Brantley, Carrasco and Salazar are all coming back in 2017. Add these three alongside Fransisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli, and the Indians could be poised for a 100-win season.
The Red Sox lost David Ortiz, but added Chris Sale.

The Indians made it to the World Series without their star outfielder, Michael Brantley, due to injury.
The Indians made it to the World Series without their star outfielder, Michael Brantley, due to injury. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia).

Their pitching staff boasts Rich Porcello, David Price, and Sale. Both Porcello and Price are Cy Young winners. Sale isn’t, but has a record of 70-47 in his past five seasons. The three’s combined record from 2016 is 56-23. Offensively, they have some of the biggest threats in the game such as Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Dustin Pedroia.

There are other front-runners in 2017, but there is still an obvious one that hasn’t been mentioned until now: defending champion Chicago Cubs. The Cubbies, for the first time in over a century, have a target on their back as a result of winning the 2017 World Series. The team hasn’t changed much; Aroldis Chapman was lost but the hole was filled with Wade Davis. Fowler was lost but Kyle Schwarber is healthy. The Cubs were able to win 103 games in 2017, but it won’t be as easy in 2017 with improved the Cardinals in the division. Still, Chicago will be one of the best teams in the league.

As of right now, the Indians should be considered the front-runner in my opinion. Bearing in mind the (deserved) hype in the media-crazed cities of Boston and Chicago, these two will join Cleveland as the three teams tossed around as World Series favorites in 2017.