This past week marked the beginning of the 2018 MLB season, or the 115th season of the league. After a dramatic end to the season last year, with the Houston Astros taking down the Los Angeles Dodgers, this season was much anticipated. Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs properly started the year with a bomb to deep right field, which meant the 2018 season was started off with a home run. This followed suit of last year as the MLB clubbed a record of 6,105 home runs.
Here are five teams you should pay attention to this MLB season:
- The Houston Astros
After finishing off the Dodgers in the World Series, the best team in baseball strengthened an already strong roster over the winter break. They traded for starter Gerrit Cole to solidify an already strong pitching staff. These pitchers will have a lot of help from the hitters in the lineup as well. The Astros are littered with talent all over the field, being led by Jose Altuve, the second basemen who won the 2017 American League MVP and led the league in batting average; Carlos Corrrea, the starting short stop and former number one draft pick with tantalizing talent; George Springer, the right fielder who hit the cover off the ball during the post season and won the World Series MVP as well as Alex Bregman, the third basemen who hit .315 after the all-star break. How will this team answer the so-called World Series hangover that has kept a team from repeating since the Yankees won three in a row beginning in ’98?
- The Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers came one game away from taking the World Series themselves. For the Dodgers, everything begins and ends with pitching. Clayton Kershaw continues to be one of the best pitchers the game has ever seen. While he was limited by back injuries this past summer, he looks to start off this season strong. Not only do the Dodgers have arguably the best pitcher in the game at the moment, but they also have one of the best relievers in Kenley Jansen, who finished with 41 saves on the year. The pitching prowess is backed up by young hitters who burst onto the scene. Shortstop Corey Seager, first basemen/outfielder Cody Bellinger, outfielder Yasiel Puig and third basemen Justin Turner highlight the batters for the Dodgers. With their championship aspirations coming so close last year, the Dodgers have to be hungrier than ever for a World Series ring.
- The Cleveland Indians
While the Indians did lose some firepower this season after being bounced out of the American League Division Series by the Yankees and having veteran Carlos Santana leave the organization after spending eight years with the organization, the team did sign Yonder Alonso to replace Santana at first base. However after an inconsistent season, Alonso has to prove himself. The rest of the field remains the same for Cleveland as the headliners are third basemen Jose Ramirez, who finished third in AL MVP voting, and Francisco Lindor, who finished fifth. While the Indians are great at getting on base, their greatest talent lies on the mound. Led by Cy Young Award winner for best pitcher in the AL, Corey Kluber, the Indians led the league last year in ERAs at 3.30. With pitcher Carlos Carrasco and outfielder Michael Brantley Jr. coming back from injuries, the Indians look to improve off a successful 2017 season.
- The Chicago Cubs
The 2016 World Series champions fell to the World Series hangover and lost in the NLCS. However, this team is still extremely talented after almost getting back to the Series last year. This team is filled with young talent on the verge of finally filling their potential with seven starters under 27. This group is led by 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs also have talent ready to break out as Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Wilson Contreras offer young talent with great potential. The club addressed a declining pitching staff this offseason adding Tyler Chatwood, a former pitcher for the Colorado Rockies who excelled away from the mile-high city, and Yu Darvish to bolster their starting rotation. While the Cubs are filled with talent, they do have a question mark at reliever at the moment, but with a mid-season trade, that issue can be fixed. The Cubs offer unique potential entering the 2018 season.
- The New York Yankees
The league leaders in home runs this past year got a whole lot more powerful. By offering Starlin Castro and two low-level prospects, the Yankees cashed in on NL MVP right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton led the MLB with 59 home runs last year. He was followed closely by Yankees now center fielder Aaron Judge who hit 52 bombs of his own. The team also addressed dealing Castro by signing Neil Walker to replace him at short stop. This team is not all about power though as the team has formidable pitching. Louis Severino, Jordan Montgomery and Sonny Gray have strengthened the starting lineup as the group finished with the second lowest ERA in the AL. However, the true dominance lies in the bullpen, which is led by Aroldis Chapman, as the Yankees have an assortment of arms ready. This group of relievers was the most dominant in baseball and figure to continue that into this year. Will the Yankees continue their growth after a breakout 2017 season?