MLB: Storylines Heading into the Season

PC: Alan English

The frigid off-season is coming to an end and the countdown toOpening Day is just beginning to heat up. Spring training is in full swing andthe 2018 season is in the rearview mirror. All 30 organizations are coming intothe season with hope, optimism and a new mission for the next 162 games.

While teams and fans alike are happily waving goodbye to theoff-season, there is no denying that it provided its fair share of headlines.From big names finding new teams to young talent gaining praise and one coastloading up on talent, there are more than a fair share of storylines headinginto the 2019 season.

Spring training is up to bat, but Opening Day, you are on deck.

Free-Agent signing pay off

The biggest takeaways from the off-season were the notable free-agentsignings or lack thereof. A free-agent group market that was headlined by BryceHarper and Manny Machado was stagnant, to say the least.

The superstar duo, to everyone’s surprise, didn’t join theirrespective clubs, until well into spring training. Machado became a Padre onFebruary 20 after signing a 10-year $300 million deal with the club. He wouldbe followed nearly a week later by Harper, who signed a record-breaking 13-year$330 million deal to and the second-most lucrative for a North American athlete.

While those deals are all well and good, they severely hinderedthe free-agent market. Players such as Marwin Gonzalez and Mike Moustakas wereamong those that were forced to wait for the market to develop. They bothsigned short term, team friendly deals as a result. Not to mention there arethose players who have yet to sign a deal and may be without a team comeopening day. This roster includes all-stars, World Series champions, and former Cy Young winners.

While the market was slow to develop and stirred debate and mayultimately end in negotiations on the collective bargaining agreement, it stillresulted in deals that are left to be scrutinized. Teams from coast to coastloaded up and restocked from the talent of the free-agent market.

Rookie Talent

If the 2018 season showed anything it revealed that baseball isbursting at the seams with young talent. That’s a trend that looks to continuein 2019.

Led by sons of former big leaguers, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. andFernando Tatis Jr., the duo are the first and second overall prospects in theMLB heading into the season. Don’t expect them to sit long in the minors, asthey will be stepping up to the plate in the big leagues in the not-so-distantfuture.

Just how good are these two? Well for starters, Machado’stransition back to third base is due in part to Tatis Jr.’s expected arrival inthe big leagues. As for Guerrero Jr., he has a ceiling of being a perennial MVPwhile holding the potential to bring baseball relevancy back to our neighborsup north.

Those two are just the beginning of the conversation of young talent as others such as Eloy Jimenez, Victor Robles, and Bo Bichette are all expected to make their debutthis season. Young talent can make a difference, just look at the 2018 New YorkYankees and Atlanta Braves. The contributions of Shoehei Ohtani, Juan Soto andWalker Buehler are not to be forgotten. These players are heading into theirsophomore seasons looking to build on the success of their rookie campaigns.

It’s safe to say that the MLB product on the field is in goodhands for the foreseeable future.

The East is a Beast

The league has exceptional talent from coast to coast, there isno denying that. Now, this isn’t another coast war like Tupac and Biggie, thisbattle is clear cut. The East Coast is a beast heading into the season withboth the AL and NL looking like they will have multiple contenders from eachdivision.

According to Las Vegas odds, seven of the top 15 teams most likely to win the World Series are in the east. The top two teams are the Yankees and the reigning champion Boston Red Sox.

Boston is coming off of a season where they won 108 games inroute to winning it all. Despite a quiet off-season, there is no reason tothink that this team can’t compete let alone repeat. The Yankees won 100 gamesa season ago are reloaded with the additions of James Paxton, Adam Ottavino,Troy Tulowitzki, and D.J. LeMahieu. With another year of young talent cominginto its own, it’s no surprise that this team is favorited to win the division.

Then there is the NL East. With four teams with a competentargument for their case taking home the division, it may be the best inbaseball. It was an off-season that saw the Phillies bring in some divisiontalent (Harper and J.T. Reultamelo). The Nationals added to their alreadyimpressive rotation with Patrick Corbin and the Braves add valuable veterans inJosh Donaldson and Brian McCann. Not to be forgotten is the Mets revampingtheir offense to complement their Cy Young capable pitching staff.

Yeah, the odds for all these teams are good, and the matchups promise to be even better.

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