Illustration by Abigail LeForge.

2018 MLB season preview

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The wait is finally over as the 2018 Major League Baseball regular season kicked off on March 29 after one of the most busy off-seasons in recent memory.

Key Additions:

1. Shohei Ohtani – Starting Pitcher/Designated Hitter (Angels)

2. Giancarlo Stanton – Outfielder (Yankees)

3. Marcell Ozuna – Outfielder (Cardinals)

4. Christian Yelich – Outfielder (Brewers)

5. Jake Arrieta – Starting Pitcher (Phillies)

6. J.D. Martinez – Outfielder/Designated Hitter (Red Sox)

7. Andrew McCutchen – Outfielder (Giants)

8. Evan Longoria – Third Baseman (Giants)

9. Yu Darvish – Starting Pitcher (Cubs)

10. Eric Hosmer – First Baseman (Padres)

Most Improved Teams:

  1. Minnesota Twins – The Twins were considered about a year or two ahead of schedule when they snuck into the second wilcard spot in the American League last year and finished with an 85-77 record. Minnesota is flooded with young talent, which is led by centerfielder Byron Buxton (.253 16 hr 29 sb) and third baseman Miguel Sano (.264 28 hr 77 RBI). They also have some good veteran presence in Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer to help even the lineup out.In addition, they added pitchers Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi to a rotation that already included Ervin Santana and budding star Jose Berrios. A division title seems unrealistic this season due to the talent of the Cleveland Indians, but look for the Twins to fight for a wildcard spot once again.
  2. New York Yankees – The Yankees added National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton (59 hr), third baseman Brandon Drury and second baseman Neil Walker to a team that took the World Series champion Houston Astros to seven games in the ALCS.Their lineup was already dangerous, and adding Stanton to the middle of the lineup with the reigning American League rookie of the year Aaron Judge (52 hr 114 RBI) and catcher Gary Sanchez (33 hr 90 RBI) could be deadly. They will certainly be in the hunt for an American League East title and will likely battle it out with the Boston Red Sox for the entire season.
  3. Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies made a last second headline in March by signing Jake Arrieta to be the ace of an already talented rotation. Arrieta is one of the top right-handed pitchers in the league and will be accompanied by Aaron Nola (3.54 ERA, 184 strikeouts), Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez.Nola is obviously the headliner there, but don’t sleep on the other two. They are both in their mid-20’s, and have the stuff to be great complimentary pieces in a major league rotation. Their lineup is full of prospects that are either ready to burst onto the scene or already have: Rhys Hoskins (18 hr in 170 at-bats last year), J.P. Crawford, Scott Kingery. Newly-signed first baseman Carlos Santana, Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco will fill out the lineup, making Philly a dark-horse playoff contender this season.

Sleepers:

1. Jose Berrios – Starting Pitcher (Twins): The right-hander has a devastating combination of a running fastball that touches 100 mph and a slider that hitters cannot seem to touch when they are on. Berrios has the potential to be one of the top pitchers in the game and it is only a matter of time before he puts it all together for a full season.

2. Ronald Acuña – Outfielder (Braves): The only reason Acuña isn’t on the big league roster to begin the season is that the Braves are waiting 13 days in order to push his impending free agency back one season, just as the Cubs did with Kris Bryant during his rookie season. Acuña is considered a five-tool player and is expected to have the same impact that Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Bryant have had on their respective teams in recent years.

3. Gleyber Torres – Infielder (Yankees): The Yankees added a couple of infielders in the offseason in order to bridge the gap for the impending call up of Torres, but if he can continue to produce at a high level in the minor leagues, then he will definitely force the Yankees hand. Torres is another five-tool player that can do it all, and his bat is tremendous. Don’t be surprised if he is a key part of the Yankee’s playoff run by the end of this season.

The teams to beat this season are surely the Dodgers and the Astros in their respective leagues, as neither lost any key players this offseason (and the Astros actually added a potential all-star in Gerrit Cole).

In the NL, the Cubs and Nationals seem like the only other championship contenders as of now. They are both in win now mode and have the same cores in place as last season.

The AL playoff race should be more interesting, however, as the Yankees, Red Sox and Indians all have the talent to take down the Astros.

However, it is a 162-game season and a lot can happen. Don’t be surprised to see some of those sleeper teams sneak into the playoff race.

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