MLB Opening Day: 18 burning questions for the 2018 season

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We’re so, so near actual baseball. We endured an extended, chilly winter of non-motion, then the standard lengthy tease of spring coaching, and now right here we’re — proper on the doorstep of Opening Day.

Each new season brings new questions and new storylines. Some issues will go as we anticipate, and a few issues will not. Different issues will come out of nowhere to seize our consideration and depart us questioning why we by no means noticed it coming. It is all a part of the enjoyable of an MLB season. 

With a brand new season upon us, listed here are 18 burning questions for the 2018 marketing campaign. These undoubtedly aren’t the solely 18 questions, however we’ve to start out someplace.

1. How will new tempo of play guidelines work out?

The complaining has principally subsided, and now we get to see these things in motion. Anticipate a couple of indignant managers and/or ejections over “mound go to” mishaps.

2. How will Shohei Ohtani carry out?

His spring coaching was dangerous, however spring coaching numbers actually should not be trusted. The Angels say they nonetheless have religion that he’ll be nice. They’re alleged to say that, in fact. It might simply be that he wants a month or two to regulate to MLB. Additionally, he is simply 23. He will get his first begin on the mound Sunday towards the A’s in Oakland. We’ll see.

three. What number of massive free brokers will probably be with no group after, say, the first month?

There are nonetheless some vital names with out houses — Greg Holland, Jose Bautista, John Lackey and Mark Reynolds amongst them — and it is anybody’s guess when/whether or not they will discover offers. One would assume that anybody who might assist a group is a candidate to get a job, however this offseason has tried its greatest to defy that logic.

four. How lengthy will it take them to signal?

It will stand to cause that as accidents accumulate and gamers underperform, at the least a few these guys might get signed earlier than too lengthy. However, once more, we have been saying that each one offseason. They might all get signed tomorrow or they might stay unemployed till July. Nothing would shock me at this level.

5. Talking of that stuff, will labor speak keep in the forefront?

The shortage of free-agent motion that outlined the 2017-18 offseason has generated a not insignificant quantity of sick will amongst gamers, to not point out amongst some media varieties and a number of followers. Although everybody performed by the collectively bargained guidelines, the gamers have realized that they did not actually assume issues by means of on their finish throughout the final negotiations. Some say the subsequent CBA talks in 2021 shall be tremendous ugly as gamers attempt to ensure nothing like this offseason ever occurs once more. The phrases “looming labor struggle” have been widespread in current months, which isn’t a great signal. 

6. Will Aaron Decide and Giancarlo Stanton actually be an all-time-nice 1-2 punch?

On paper, this looks like a positive factor. Each of New York’s Giant Grownup Sons can mash like no one’s enterprise. Assuming each can keep comparatively wholesome and never endure any prolonged slumps, there will probably be a lot worry amongst AL pitching staffs.

7. Will bullpen carts actually develop into a factor once more?

The Diamondbacks are the solely ones up to now to convey again this piece of nostalgia, however it’s unclear how fashionable/enjoyable it’s going to be in the trendy recreation. It’d save a couple of seconds on pitching modifications, and the company sponsorship will usher in a couple of bucks, however all eyes (OK, perhaps simply my eyes) shall be on Arizona to see how massive a deal this factor turns into.

eight. Ought to we anticipate massive “stroll years” from Bryce Harper and Manny Machado?

Sure. Subsequent query. However significantly, it is often protected to anticipate an enormous yr from Harper and Machado, regardless of their contract conditions. However each guys are virtually sure to be on new groups in 2019 — with HUGE, probably report-setting contracts — so each will in all probability be additional motivated this season go put up loopy numbers.

9. What is going to Rhys Hoskins do over a full season?

Hoskins was considered one of baseball’s greatest tales final season, coming seemingly out of nowhere to hit dinger after dinger. After debuting in August, he hit 18 homers in simply one hundred seventy at-bats, whereas additionally carrying a .396 on-base proportion. It’s going to be fascinating to observe him develop over 162 video games. Pitchers are sure to make changes, so Hoskins might want to regulate to these changes to construct on final season’s success.

10. What number of video games will the Marlins lose?

The Marlins are gonna be dangerous, y’all. After dropping almost each good participant of their newest teardown, there’s actually no purpose to anticipate something good this season. It appears affordable to anticipate one hundred-plus losses. The one query is how far previous one hundred the “L” column will climb.

eleven. Will one other group lose greater than the Marlins?

Baseball is bizarre, so that you by no means know, however it’ll be a shock to see anybody aside from the Marlins lay declare to MLB’s worst document in 2018. 

12. When will the Braves name up Ronald Acuña?

April thirteen is the first day the Braves can name him up and keep that additional yr of contractual management, so I anticipate that’ll be the day. Anytime later than that might possible be due to an damage, excessive poor play on his half (unlikely) or simply the Braves eager to make it appear to be beginning him in the minors was about baseball stuff moderately than service-time manipulation.  

thirteen. Will the Astros be even higher than in 2017?

Houston is bringing again almost all of its roster from the World Collection championship group, so I would not anticipate the Astros to lose a lot, if something, in the method of on-area success. That does not essentially imply they will match or exceed final season’s common-season win complete (a hundred and one), however it’s definitely potential. Both approach, they need to be simply as formidable. For what it is value, I decide them to return to the World Collection.

14. Will the Dodgers return to the World Collection?

Like the Astros, the Dodgers return a big chunk of the staff that took them to Recreation 7 of the World Collection. Their beginning rotation, led by the superhuman Clayton Kershaw, is a monster (assuming all of them keep wholesome) and their lineup is robust, regardless of having to be with out Justin Turner for some time whereas he heals from a damaged wrist. However as soon as the Dodgers hit their stride, do not be stunned in the event that they once more have their method with the remainder of the Nationwide League. However in the curiosity of full disclosure, I do not assume they will characterize the senior circuit in the World Collection.

15. Will this lastly be the yr the Nationals win a playoff collection?

But once more, the Nationals — this time with a brand new supervisor — have the expertise to win the World Collection. Barring a serious rash of accidents, they need to haven’t any drawback profitable the NL East once more. However they’re previous the level the place simply making the playoffs may be thought-about an accomplishment, as a slew of first-spherical exits — infused with a wholesome quantity of heartbreak — have lowered them to a postseason punchline. In fact, there’s just one method to shake that popularity. For now, although, the franchise’s solely postseason glory belongs to the Expos.

sixteen. Has Mike Trout even reached his peak?

You’ve got heard all of it earlier than: Trout is the greatest participant on the planet. Trout is already a Corridor of Famer. Trout might find yourself as the greatest participant of all time. To cite Han Solo: It is true. All of it. However the actual query is whether or not he nonetheless has room to enhance. That is his Age 26 season, which, based on typical knowledge, says he is early in his prime — however perhaps not fairly at his peak. To assume Trout might put up even higher numbers than we have seen in his first six full seasons is a cool and scary thought. 

17. Will Jake Arrieta actually push the Phillies into the playoffs?

The Phillies have been already a classy sleeper decide for a wild-card berth this season even earlier than they signed Jake Arrieta in spring coaching. That addition would appear to spice up their probabilities of October baseball, nevertheless it’s nonetheless removed from a positive factor. They will want Arrieta to strategy his 2015-2016 self to make that postseason path lifelike. However, in fact, Arrieta cannot do all of it by himself, and a whole lot of different issues might want to go proper in Philly to succeed in the playoffs. However the Phillies will certainly be an intriguing group to observe. 

18. Who will probably be the first supervisor fired?

Sorry to finish this column on a downer, however likelihood is good that a number of managers will get the boot this season. Some Vegas odds say the main candidates are Kevin Money of the Rays and Don Mattingly of the Marlins. Both one would make sense, as each groups appear to be in a demise spiral (not that both is the fault of Money or Mattingly, however that is not the level with this stuff). One other identify we might see get the heave-ho is Mike Matheny in St. Louis — if the Cardinals stumble out of the gate or hit the skids round midseason. Clint Hurdle might additionally discover himself on the scorching seat in Pittsburgh as the Pirates proceed their new rebuild, as might Bryan Worth in Cincinnati with the seemingly-all the time-rebuilding Reds.