The 2017 MLB season has a lot to live up to after watching the Cubs finally win another World Series last year.
With a mix of young stars and exciting veterans ready to entertain fans, the transition to 2017 should be smooth.
Here are four key storylines entering the 2017 MLB season:
1. Can the Cubs repeat?
Joe Maddon led a young team all the way to the World Series last year, where they clawed their way back from down 3-1 to beat the Indians in seven games. Chicago went wild with excitement celebrating the Cubs' first World Series title since 1908, and most of that championship team returns this year.
Led by a quartet of young hitters — Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Addison Russell — the Cubs will strike fear in opposing pitching once again. As for their own rotation, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks are all National League Cy Young candidates while John Lackey and Mike Montgomery are no slouches themselves.
Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs' lights-out closer to finish the year, has returned to the Yankees. In his place, the Cubs acquired Wade Davis from the Royals to close out games. That move could present a steep drop off, but Chicago has enough bullpen support to get through any bumps in the road.
2. Who will emerge as World Series contenders in each league?
The American League is seemingly more open than the National League entering the season.
With the Nationals, Dodgers and Cubs leading the way in the NL, few teams will emerge as strong World Series contenders unless those three teams suffer unfortunate injuries.
Still, the Giants can never be discounted with their mix of electric pitching and timely hitting. The Rockies, Marlins and Cardinals all have intriguing pieces as well. But everything would need to fall into place a little conveniently for those teams to have a chance.
In the AL, Cleveland returns as the favorite especially after signing Edwin Encarnacion to bolster the lineup. The rotation, led by Corey Kluber, appears healthy again to start the season, which gives the Indians one of the deepest pitching staffs in MLB.
Teams such as the Tigers, with a powerful lineup and great young pitchers, the Red Sox, Rangers, Mariners and Astros could all contend for a World Series run as well.
3. Who will win the MVP, Cy Young awards in each league?
Angels outfielder Mike Trout, having won two of the last three AL MVP awards, seems like a virtual lock to take the crown again in 2017. After scoring a whopping 123 runs with 29 home runs, 100 RBIs and 30 stolen bases last season, Trout is entering legendary status at the tender age of 25 years old. Josh Donaldson, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve and Mookie Betts will likely be waiting should Trout have an off year.
It's possible the Red Sox will have a three-way competition for AL Cy Young with David Price, Rick Porcello and newly-acquired Chris Sale duking it out. However, Tigers ace Justin Verlander probably should have won last year, and should contend again.
Also, Kluber and Rays ace Chris Archer are expected to put up enough strikeouts to enter the competition, too.
The National League MVP is pretty wide open. Bryant won last year after proving to Cubs fans he's their future. He will certainly be in the running again, but his teammate Anthony Rizzo looks like a threat. Nationals stars Bryce Harper and Trea Turner could enter the competition, and Clayton Kershaw can never be counted out of a sweep. Rockies star Nolan Arenado is also dangerous after hitting 41 home runs with 133 RBIs last season.
Speaking of Kershaw, he should be healthy this season, ready to contend once again for a Cy Young crown. Many thought the southpaw should have won last year despite missing over two months with an injury. Madison Bumgarner, Max Scherzer and Noah Syndergaard present his greatest threats to win.
4. Who will be this year's Trea Turner?
Every year there seems to be a young prospect who comes in and makes a big impact for a contending team. The obvious answer this season would be Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is slated to start in left field for Boston. Benintendi raced through the minor leagues to earn a spot on the team last year before a season-ending injury. He possesses a unique blend of power, speed and elite defense that has Red Sox fans drooling.
Yet, Benintendi may not be the midseason phenom like Turner. Someone like Yoan Moncada has a chance to do that with the White Sox. Acquired by Chicago in the Chris Sale trade, Moncada has all the tools to play in MLB right now, but will start the season in the minors.
Watch out for Pirates outfielder Austin Meadows. After hitting 12 home runs with 17 stolen bases in the minors last season, Pittsburgh may be tempted to trade Andrew McCutchen before the July trade deadline to free up room for Meadows.