Optimism abounds as teams set to open 2015 MLB season

Thu Apr 2, 2015 5:04pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Optimism among baseball's longshots abounds at the start of the new season, spread by last year's rousing run by the small market Kansas City Royals, and the long-suffering Chicago Cubs have caught the spring fever.

The Cubbies, who have gone 107 years without a World Series title, head a list of Cinderellas hungering for a taste of postseason success and open the season on Sunday against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.

All the other clubs begin their 162-game season on Monday.

The Royals ended a 29-year playoff drought with an inspiring battle all the way to a thrilling Game Seven of the World Series before falling to the San Francisco Giants.

Their level of past frustration pales in comparison to the Cubs, who last appeared in the Fall Classic in 1945 and lost six other times in the Series since their last MLB title in 1908.

After years of floundering, the Cubbies have collected the best group of prospects in baseball and added to their promising core in the offseason with the signing of ace pitcher Jon Lester and a new manager in Joe Maddon.

Third baseman Kris Bryant, rated number one prospect by Baseball America, led the minor leagues in home runs last year and paced spring training hitters with nine roundtrippers.

Shortstop Addison Russell is ranked the third best prospect and Cuban slugging outfielder Jorge Soler is 12th for the Cubs.   Continued...

A cyclist rides past the fence behind which workers continue the renovation of Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, April 1, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young