As we all know, Thanksgiving is the time of year where we reflect on what has happened throughout the previous year and take the time to appreciate the things we are most thankful for. That can be applied to Major League Baseball as well.
Although not as important in the grand scheme of things as being thankful for family, health, etc., there are many things each and every baseball team can be thankful for.
Whether they’re thankful for what has already happened in 2016 or of the things likely to come in 2017, every team has a lot to be thankful for.
With that in mind, I figured I’d come up with a list of one thing each of the 30 MLB teams should be thankful for this holiday (not necessarily the thing each is MOST thankful for, just something to be thankful for in general):
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Red Sox: As one superstar departs, another arrives
The career David Ortiz had for the Red Sox was truly remarkable, but Boston appears to have someone ready to fill his shoes following his retirement. Mookie Betts was good in 2015, but he was astounding in 2016, hitting 31 homers and finishing second to Mike Trout in American League MVP voting. As such, David Ortiz will certainly be missed at Fenway, but Boston fans should be thankful that they have a player like Mookie Betts set to keep the Red Sox in contention in the years to come.
Orioles: Zach Britton is the real deal
While there are a number of people who feel the Orioles would be best suited to trade away Zach Britton while his stock is high following the historically great season he had as a reliever in 2016 — recording the lowest ERA (0.54) ever for a relief pitcher — retaining him for 2017 is extremely important in my mind. The Orioles should be thankful that they have a closer like Britton who they can count on to slam the door in the ninth. Pitchers like him are very rare, and teams with a strong closer tend to fare better than those who don’t.
Blue Jays: Adding Kendrys Morales to their already powerful lineup
It remains to be seen whether the Blue Jays can keep Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista as part of their lineup heading into next season (it’s looking less and less likely as of late), but regardless, they did a lot for their club recently by signing veteran DH Kendrys Morales. Blasting 30 home runs for the Royals last season, Morales joins a roster that’s guaranteed to contain power bats Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson. If nothing else, Toronto should be very thankful they don’t have to pitch to their own ball club.
Yankees: Gary Sanchez’s historic season a sign of things to come
Gary Sanchez was virtually an unknown heading into the 2016 season, but by the end of the year he was a household name. Bursting onto the scene in August, Sanchez proceeded to set a number of rookie records, winding up with 20 home runs for the season. Although Sanchez didn’t win Rookie of the Year, the Yankees should be thankful that there’s more where he came from. With top prospects such as Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier looking to make impacts in 2017, Sanchez appears to be the tip of the iceberg for the Yankees’ resurgence.
Rays: Having multiple power threats
The Rays may have finished dead last in the American League East in 2016, but they still had some fantastic performances. Their pitching wasn’t that great throughout the year, but offensively they were actually fairly decent. Evan Longoria managed to hit 36 bombs, with Brad Miller and Corey Dickerson breaking out to have career highs in homers, at 30 and 24 (tying a career high), respectively. If the Rays happen to climb up the standings next season, the Rays fans will have players such as Longoria, Miller and Dickerson to be thankful to.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Nationals: Daniel Murphy’s and Tanner Roark’s breakout seasons
With Bryce Harper seeing a drastic drop off from his 2015 MVP-winning numbers, and Stephen Strasburg suffering through a series of injuries, the Nationals could have very easily fallen apart this year. But just the opposite, they won the division with ease. Although it was undoubtedly a collective effort, the breakout seasons of Daniel Murphy and Tanner Roark helped tremendously. With Murphy hitting .347 with 25 homers and Roark leading the team with a 2.83 ERA, the Nats have them to thank in large part for making the postseason in 2016.
Mets: Health should return to rotation in 2017
The Mets were expected to keep pace with the Nationals all season long, having things come right down until the very end for who would win the division. But that’s not close to what happen. Due to Jacob de Grom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey all struggling in 2016, only Noah Syndergaard lived up to the billing, and that wasn’t nearly enough to overtake the Nationals. But the Mets should be very thankful that all of those pitchers should be back to form in 2017. If all goes as planned, the Mets should be very good again next season.
Marlins: Marcell Ozuna looks to be headed for stardom
We have known about the stupendous power of Giancarlo Stanton for some time, but after the 2016 season Marcell Ozuna put together, people are beginning to take notice of his big bat as well. Though no one hits them quite like Stanton, Ozuna hit 23 homers for the second time in his career this past year and made his first All-Star team. Stanton will continue to be the top talent on the team as long as he continues to stay healthy, but the Marlins should be thankful they have a great co-power threat such as Ozuna in their lineup on an everyday basis.
Phillies: Tommy Joseph eases Phillies’ minds of losing Ryan Howard
There hasn’t been a lot for the fans of the Phillies to be thankful for over the past few seasons, especially after being so dominant for so many years not too long ago. But Tommy Joseph just might change that for them in the years to come. Losing long time Phillies star Ryan Howard is certainly a big blow to their offense, but Joseph proved in 2016 that he is talented enough to fill the big shoes left at first by the departing Howard. Hitting 21 homers this past season, Joseph should fit right in and continue to post solid numbers for Philadelphia.
Braves: Signing of R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon to help rotation
One of the worst teams in all of baseball in 2016, the Braves are all set to move across town to their new ballpark in 2017. But while that’s exciting for both the team and their fans, one of the things they should be thankful for is the additions of veteran pitchers R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon so far this offseason. Though they aren’t the type of pitchers who can turn a team around, they are still impactful pitchers who will give the Braves solid innings and give their rotation a bit of a boost as soon as the season begins in early April.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians: Made it to World Series without biggest pieces
The fans of the Indians have every right to be disappointed that they made it all the way to game seven of the World Series only to lose in extras, but there is a very big silver lining that should cause the Indians to feel thankful for what may come in 2017. The fact that Cleveland was able to make the World Series without Michael Brantley or other key figures from 2015 should give their fans hope for 2017. While the Indians didn’t break their 68-year Fall Classic Championship drought this year, they very well could attempt to secure a title yet again in 2017.
Tigers: Justin Verlander had another Cy-Young-caliber year
After making six straight All-Star teams from 2009 to 2013, Justin Verlander simply hadn’t been the same pitcher over the last two seasons. With a combined ERA of 4.08 over 52 starts made in the aforementioned seasons, Verlander was no longer a feared pitcher in the Tigers’ rotation, at least not on the same level he had once been. But 2016 saw Verlander breaking out again, which is something Tigers’ fans should be thankful for. Though 2016 saw the Tigers failing to make the postseason, 2017 looks promising if Verlander continues to thrive.
Royals: Danny Duffy showed signs of being an Ace
There aren’t many true Aces around baseball, merely a lot of really good pitchers. But Danny Duffy, who had shown signs of greatness over the last few seasons, showed even more such signs in 2016. With the best team ERA of the entire Royals’ rotation, Duffy truly made his presence known in August in one start against the Rays. In that game, Duffy struck out a whopping sixteen batters in his one-hit masterpiece. Even if the Royals fail to make the postseason again in 2017, they should be thankful to have a guy like Duffy ready to lead the staff.
White Sox: Todd Frazier held down the hot corner
Not too much went right for the White Sox this year, but one of the bright spots for them was undoubtedly Todd Frazier. Although Frazier has always been a great player, his career-high 40 home runs in 2016 truly cemented him as one of the best offensive third basemen in baseball as well as a player the White Sox should give thanks for possessing. His defense was also very solid, making him a valuable part of Chicago’s lineup heading into next season. If Frazier can continue to smack the ball, he should be a big contributor for the foreseeable future.
Twins: Brian Dozier keeps getting better and better
The Twins should be very thankful to have Brian Dozier as the best offensive second baseman in baseball. Following an amazing 2015 campaign, very few thought Dozier could possibly get any better. But he proved them all wrong this season, hitting an MLB-record 42 homers at second. With that kind of pop, Dozier easily led the Twins, who had a good amount of struggles offensively throughout their poor season. Nothing is guaranteed from one season to the next, but Dozier being great again in 2017 is pretty much a given.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Cubs: 108-Year World Series drought was ended
It’s a safe bet to assume that every Cubs fan will list their team finally winning a World Series title as something they’re thankful for from 2016, and understandably so. After over a century of disappointment, the Cubs were able to break through and win their first championship against the Indians early this month. Although getting to the World Series is very difficult, regardless of if the Cubs ever make it back again the fans of their club will assuredly remember how they felt upon the final out of game seven for the rest of their lives.
Cardinals: One-two punch of Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes setting up
Adam Wainwright proved in 2016 that he can still compete at the major league level, but when it comes to absolutely dominating the opposing squad, it falls to Carlos Martinez and the youngster Alex Reyes for the Cardinals next year. They each have a blazing fastball in their arsenal, and the Cardinals should be thankful that they have each of them ready to man the top of St. Louis’s rotation moving forward. Their lineup will likely be good again in 2017, but what will ultimately help the Cards succeed next season falls on their rotation.
Pirates: Pitching should improve from within in 2017
Gerrit Cole was good in 2016, and Ivan Nova surprised many with his performance, but what will truly enable the Pirates to become contenders once again is their young pitching stars set to make big impacts. While both Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow got some big league experience last year, they should each be watched very closely for their potential to have breakout seasons in 2017. Though the Pirates didn’t make the postseason this year, they have a great potential to return next season, as well as the many seasons to come after that.
Brewers: Chris Carter’s 2014 season wasn’t a fluke
It isn’t all that rare to see a player have a breakout season and excite people with their future potential, only to fall apart and never have a year close to their pinnacle year ever again. There were some thoughts to that being the case with Chris Carter, who hit 37 homers in 2014, only to launch a mere 24 the very next year. Thus, heading into this season, how he would perform in 2016 was very much up in the air, but he came through and blasted 41 big flies. Despite 2017 not looking too good for the Brewers, they should be thankful to have a proven slugger like Carter.
Reds: Adam Duval breaks out, with reinforcements not too far away
Finishing dead last in your division is never fun for any team, but the Reds have too good of a fan base and too rich of a history to land at the bottom of the pack. Their bright spot from 2016 was truly Adam Duvall going on a tear to hit 33 home runs, being one of their biggest power threats besides Jay Bruce, who went to the Mets midseason. But in addition to being thankful to have Duvall on their team, Reds fans should be thankful to have a deep farm system. With players such as Amir Garrett and Jesse Winker nearly ready, things should look up fairly soon in Cincy.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Rangers: 95 wins was simply the start of greatness
For a team that had multiple injuries throughout the season, many of which were with their pitching staff, the Rangers obviously fared very well in 2016. With 95 wins, the Rangers won their division and should be setup nicely to do so again in 2017. Their division isn’t a powerhouse by any means, but with the Mariners nearly making the postseason in 2016 and the Astros looking to bounce back next season, things could get interesting in the AL Central. For that reason, the Rangers should be thankful to have the great team they do, assuming they all stay healthy.
Mariners: Made first strong run at playoffs since 2001
A couple of 20+ season postseason droughts have been broken over the past few seasons, including the Pirates and Blue Jays, but to say Mariners fans have been waiting awhile for a playoff appearance would be an understatement. To put things in perspective, Ichiro Suzuki had just 242 career MLB hits the last time Seattle was playing deep into October. However, Mariners fans should be thankful to finally see a playoff-caliber team put on display in 2016, with the likes of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager ready to lead the charge next year.
Astros: Signings of Brian McCann and Josh Reddick should energize young Astros
Trades or signings can always bring great talent to a given team, and the pickups of Brian McCann via trade and Josh Reddick by way of a large contract should help give the Astros an extra boost in 2017. After making the playoffs in 2015, many things kept Houston on the outside looking in for 2016. But even so, the Astros should be thankful to have picked up two solid veterans who, when combined with the talent already on the Astros’ roster, should put Houston back in a nice spot.
Angels: Albert Pujols is still a power threat
Most Angels fans would likely say they are most thankful to have two-time MVP Mike Trout — and generally agreed upon best player in baseball — on their team, but they shouldn’t overlook Albert Pujols. Though he gets his share of the spotlight, Pujols somewhat silently hit a team-best 31 blasts last season while recording his most RBI’s since 2009, and is now just nine homers away from 600 for his career. With those kind of numbers, the Angels should be thrilled to have Pujols producing big time at the plate alongside superstar Mike Trout.
Athletics: Khris Davis improved tremendously
On a team that was 21st in baseball in terms of home runs hit, Kris Davis was one of the few bright spots for the Athletics last year. Hitting a career-high 42 home runs — good enough for third most in baseball — Davis exceeded the expectations many placed on him by a huge margin, and Oakland should be thankful to have a player of his caliber on their team. Though things aren’t looking up by anyone’s calculations for the A’s to be in contention much at all next season, Davis will likely be a huger power threat for yet another year.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Dodgers: Julio Urias and Jose de Leon ready to join Clayton Kershaw
Let me get this out of the way: There is currently no pitcher in all of baseball on the same level as Clayton Kershaw. Though there are a few pitchers who dominate just as much as he does, there’s something special about Kershaw that makes him a once-in-a-generation talent. With that said, the Dodgers, as well as Kershaw himself, should be thankful to have top-notch pitching talent ready to go for 2017. Julio Urias and Jose de Leon have been the Dodgers’ top prospects for several years, but they should become among their top pitching options for years to come.
Giants: They made the postseason, despite having a horrific second half
After the Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014, people joked (to a serious extent) that they would once again win a title in 2016. They got off to such a great start, that by the time the All-Star game rolled around, more and more people began to get on board with the idea. But San Francisco proceeded to have one of the worst collapses in MLB history, barely making the postseason. But the Giants should be thankful that they make the postseason, especially given the fact that if they can improve even the slightest in 2017, they should easily be back again.
Rockies: Jeff Hoffman and Jon Gray giving Rockies talent on pitching side
The hitting is already in place for the Rockies. While playing at Coors Field in Denver helps pad their numbers a bit, they currently have several impact hitters such as Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, D.J. LeMahieu and Trevor Story. But while their pitching has been somewhat subpar recently, former first rounders Jeff Hoffman and Jon Gray showed signs of major improvement, for which the Rockies should be thankful. If they can get any sort of momentum going in their rotation, anything is truly possible for Colorado.
Diamondbacks: Their pitching staff can’t be any worse in 2017
While anything is always possible, a scenario where the Diamondbacks have a worse rotation in 2017 than the one they produced in 2016 is hard to imagine. For that alone, the D-back’s and their fan base should be very, very thankful. From top to bottom, their starting rotation was atrocious, seeing them finish dead last in terms of team ERA with a collective 5.09 earned run average. With even their bright spots Zack Greinke (4.37 ERA) and Shelby Miller (6.15 ERA) doing poorly in 2016, look for a major turnaround from them in 2017.
Padres: Wil Myers had a breakout season, with Hunter Renfroe to follow
The Padres haven’t had all that much success in the recent history of their ball club. That was true once again in 2016. But they should be thankful to have players such as Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe ready to lead their team in the coming years. After winning the Rookie of the Year in 2013 with the Rays, Wil Myers finally had the star year people have been waiting for, blasting 28 homers this season. Soon to join Myers in stardom appears to be Renfroe, who hit .371 with 4 homers and 14 RBI’s in just eleven games played last season.
*Keep in mind, this list was (obviously) made far before the 2017 season was even close to commencing. Any listed player could sign with a team other than their current club, or get traded away, completely throwing off everything I said for that particular team.