The sounds of fans roaring, kids laughing and bats cracking fill the air as the 2014 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is just a few days in.
With the Boston Red Sox being the latest improbable team to ride a hot streak to a World Series victory last season, the MLB truly seems to be a league in which the team that is hot at the end of the year usually captures the championship.
Parity certainly seems to be a strength of baseball as any number of teams could conceivably end the season as champions. Here are the top four teams in baseball at the start of the season.
St. Louis Cardinals
Although the Cardinals fell in the World Series last season, they are back and hungry for another title with their always-consistent model of winning.
St. Louis’ biggest strength is its starting rotation, beginning with veteran ace Adam Wainwright and followed by promising youngsters in Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha.
As for the position players, the Cardinals possess arguably the best defensive catcher in the league with Yadier Molina.
Despite losing Carlos Beltran in free agency, St. Louis brings back a trio of Matts in Matt Holliday, Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter to provide a reliable and consistent batting order.
The Cardinals are an organization that consistently wins due to managerial and front office stability and this season should be another successful one for the organization.
Detroit possesses the best hitter in baseball with two-time defending AL MVP Miguel Cabrera.
The Tigers made some headlines this season, trading Prince Fielder for second baseman Ian Kinsler, who combined with Cabrera, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez, forms a dangerous top of the lineup.
The starting rotation is deadly with two Cy Young winners in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, while Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez are solid mid of the rotation guys.
The bullpen is still an area of concern for the Tigers, but the team addressed that in the off-season and might be the top team in the American League.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have the potential to be the most dangerous team in baseball.
Los Angeles has the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw to go along with Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu as all three had sub-3 ERAs last season. The bullpen is stacked with Kenley Jansen at closer and three former closers in Brian Wilson, J.P. Howell and Chris Perez.
The big area of concern is injuries. Hanley Ramirez was the hottest player in baseball for a month last season and Yasiel Puig wasn’t far behind. Both have had issues with nagging injuries in the past. If both can stay healthy and Matt Kemp can come back to his All-Star form, the Dodgers could take home their first World Series trophy since 1988.
Boston Red Sox
The defending World Series champions were expected to be in rebuilding mode last season after a disastrous 2012, but instead gelled and became the best team in baseball.
Boston brings back the ageless David Ortiz along with Dustin Pedroia.
The loss of Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees certainly hurts, but the Red Sox have a number of promising young position players in Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks to pick up the offensive production.
Pitching is still an area of concern for the Red Sox but if John Lackey can continue to be consistent along with Jon Lester, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz, Boston has the arsenal of arms to win again.
a version of this article appeared on page 13 of April 2nd’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.