With the arrival of spring every year comes the return of America’s favorite pastime. Sunday, April 3 will mark the debut of the 2016 Major League Baseball regular season.

In the American League East, the 2016 season will mark the end of an era. After 20 years of professional baseball, legendary Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz will retire. Ortiz announced in the off-season that the 2016 season will be his last. Ortiz was a major contributor on the ‘04, ‘07 and ‘13 World Series champion teams.

The Red Sox have done everything in their power to make sure the team is competitive in Ortiz’s last year. Last year, Boston’s pitching staff was a mess for most of the year.

However, after trading with the San Diego Padres for closer Craig Kimbrel and signing ace pitcher David Price in free agency, the Red Sox seem to have bolstered their pitching staff. The AL East, and the American League in general should prove to be very wide open, with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees both competing with the Red Sox for the division crown.

The AL Central is home to the defending champions in the Kansas City Royals. However, there’s no guarantee that the Royals will win their division again, let alone the World Series. The long suffering Cleveland Indians look to make a push to the postseason. Pitcher Carlos Carrasco is a dark horse candidate to win the Cy Young award.

In the AL West, expect the Houston Astros to repeat as division champions. Houston is home to the reigning Cy Young winner, Dallas Keuchel, and one of the league’s most exciting young players, shortstop Carlos Correa. With the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s in rebuilding mode, expect the Astros to be locked with the Texas Rangers for the division title.

The x factor in this division is the L.A. Angels. The Angels have arguably the best player in all of baseball with outfielder Mike Trout. However, the Angels have struggled to put a good team around him. If Trout can get more help from players such as first baseman Albert Pujols, the Angels could go on an unexpected playoff run.

In the National League East, the reigning conference champion, the New York Mets, are poised to field a historic pitching rotation. Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom all have ace pitcher potential. When you throw in the fact that they also have veteran Bartolo Colon as a back up and Zach Wheeler available when he returns from his injury, the pitching staff will become capable of mowing down any line up in the major league. On top of this, the Mets pulled off a miracle when they were able to resign Yoenis Cespedes to a team friendly contract in the off-season.

The Mets, on top of this, have a great chance of returning to the World Series and winning this time. With the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies rebuilding and the Miami Marlins offering very little after losing Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton, the only competition for the Mets in the division should come from the Washington Nationals.

Last year, the Nationals were favorites to win the World Series in the preseason. However, fighting kept the team from even qualifying for the playoffs. Led by a young star in Bryce Harper, it remains to be seen if an older, more mature Nationals team can achieve its potential.

The Chicago Cubs are the team that I ultimately believe will win the World Series this year. For the first time in a long time, the Cubs enter the season with expectations to dominate. After falling to the Mets in the National League Championship Series last year, the Cubs improved by adding outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist in free agency.

The Cubs contain arguably the best infield in the league, with Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant, all of whom are considered some of the premier basemen in the game. With Jake Arrieta on the mound, this is a Cubs team that oozes talent. The only obstacle to the cubs is that they play in the most competitive division in baseball, with the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates both proving to be tough competition.

The National League West should prove to be a three way race between the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. The reigning Dodgers suffered a major blow this off-season when one of their ace pitchers, Zack Greinke signed with the Diamondbacks in free agency.

It’s one thing to lose an arm of Greinke’s caliber, but to now have to go against it several times a year is a whole other issue. The Giants look to rebound after a down year in 2015. After creating a modern dynasty when they won three World Series from 2010-­2014, the Giants hope to once again light the spark for a championship.

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