It’s hard to believe, but the 2018 MLB season begins on Thursday, March 29. Unlike year’s past, this year’s Opening Day will see all 30 teams in action and features a couple of rivalries – Houston at Texas and San Francisco at the Los Angeles Dodgers – to start it all off. How will the new season pan out? Will offseason free agent acquisitions pay off? Here’s a preview of what is to come in 2018.
It hasn’t happened since the 2000 season when the New York Yankees capped off a three-peat with a World Series win over city rival, the New York Mets. Last year’s World Series champion Houston has as good a chance as there has been in the 18 years since to repeat as MLB champ. The roster remains most intact and includes reigning MVP Jose Altuve as well as three or four others who could win the award this year. Shortstop Carlos Correa and CF George Springer are MVP-worthy players as are pitchers Justin Verlander, who has an MVP to his name, and Dallas Keuchel. The Astros added former Pittsburgh ace Gerrit Cole to the rotation and Lance McCullers Jr. just might have the best curveball in baseball.
Yankees Will Not Win AL East…Again
The New York Yankees finished second in the AL East last season and earned a wild card berth in the postseason. The franchise added slugger Giancarlo Stanton who hit 59 homers last year in Miami. Pairing Stanton with Aaron Judge, who hit 52 homers in his rookie season last year, gives the Yankees one of the most powerful lineups in baseball. The problem for the Yanks will be their pitching rotation. Luis Severino is a solid No. 1 starter, but both Sonny Gray and C.C. Sabathia are aging and Masahiro Tanaka went just 13-12 last year. Without an elite rotation, New York will suffer the same fate this season – they will not win the AL East division title.
Mike Trout is back and healthy and the six-time All-Star is certainly well known around MLB circles. The Angels, who finished second to Houston in the AL West in 2017, have a lineup that can rival any in the majors. Designated hitter Albert Pujols (614 career home runs) is a future Hall of Famer. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons hit .278 last year, LF Justin Upton hit .273 with 35 homers and 109 RBIs, and 3B Zack Cozart batted .294 with 24 homers. Los Angeles also has the most intriguing MLB prospect in some time in Shohei Ohtani who is listed on the roster as both a pitcher and designated hitter. Ohtani, a star in Japan, is just 23 and has struggled some during spring training with the Angels. Still, he could be the guy who makes the difference between another mediocre second-place finish to the Astros and a postseason berth.
The Phillies finished in last place in the National League East in 2017. That will change in 2018. Philadelphia spent some serious money to obtain 1B Carlos Santana and pitching ace Jake Arrieta. The Phillies also have two of the best young prospects in baseball in Rhys Hoskins (18 HR, 48 RBIs in 50 games) and 2B Scott Kingery. The club just signed Kingery to a six-year deal that will likely keep him in Philadelphia for nine years. At 23, Kingery has a minor league OBP of .341 and will start the year in the majors. The combination of free agent signings and young prospects could very well result in a wild card season in Philadelphia.
New Giants on Streets of San Francisco
Like the Phillies, the Giants struggled in 2017 finishing with the worst record in the NL. San Francisco dipped into the free agent market to nab former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen formerly of Pittsburgh. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy now has the makings of a club that can challenge the Dodgers for supremacy in the NL West. The Giants added veteran Evan Longoria at third base and with Brandon Crawford at short, Joe Panik at second base, and Brandon Belt at first, San Francisco has one of the best infields in baseball. Like last year though, the Giants will start the season with pitching ace Madison Bumgarner injured. The big left-hander went just 4-9 last year and suffered a broken pinky finger in spring training. Jeff Samardzija is also injured leaving the pitching rotation in question to start the season. Still, the Giants have what it takes to win the NL West or at least gain a wild card.