50 THINGS TO LOOK FOR THIS BASEBALL SEASON
It’s the most wonderful time of year...the NCAA Tourney, NFL Free agency and Draft, NHL teams jockeying for playoff position after mortgaging their futures, The Masters, and the advent of yet another Major League Baseball Season. With the labor strife in the rearview mirror (at least for the next several seasons) and the WBC being watched at an all-time high, here are some things that I am looking forward to (and not looking forward to) this upcoming baseball season.
1. Can Aaron Judge duplicate his historic home run chase like he did last year? A-A-ron was the first physical specimen that was able to captivate the fans (cleanly) in almost 61 years.
2. I look forward to seeing what UCLA prospect Corbin Carrol of the Arizona Diamondbacks brings the table. The highly touted rookie is coming into his first full Major League season fresh after signing an 8-year, $111 million contract. He is not big, but he brings an essence of power and speed that could make him a favorite in the Bigs for quite a while.
3. Can the Seattle Mariners finally put it together and make a deep playoff run? Julio Rodriguez is mired in relative obscurity in the “Emerald City,” however, I believe this season he is going to make it very difficult on the rest of the league not to notice him.
4. The Brewers have an exciting young team with a solid pitching staff. Can they break their Wild Card curse and win the National League Central Division?
5. I’m looking forward to Adley Rutschman building on his solid rookie campaign last year and continue to lead the once downtrodden Baltimore Orioles back to post season glory.
6. How will the Houston Astros rebound from the injury to ultra-cheater All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve? Putting all personal feelings aside (I hate the guy), I hope he is out for the season.
7. Can the newly acquired Jacob deGrom put it together for the Texas Rangers? Texas hasn’t had a decent pitcher since the “Ryan Express” blew through Texas in the early nineties.
8. Jazz Chisholm of the Miami Marlins will have a(nother) breakthrough season for the Miami Marlins. This cat is not only the best-dressed player in the game, but his upside was on display last year before a debilitating injury-shortened his season. Dude can play.
9. Will the Phillies addition of Trea Turner (Mr. America II) be the key ingredient to put them over the top in 2023? Dude has been unbelievable from the 9-hole for Team America (I so want to put a movie reference in right here) and basically carried the country on his back into the WBC Finals.
10. Can the Los Angeles/Anaheim/California Angels of Orange County finally put all the pieces together to challenge Houston and Seattle in the AL West? I believe the addition of Brandon Drury was the best pick-up of the off season and will be a much-needed complement to Ohtani and Trout (the original Captain America). Oh, let’s not forget about Anthony Rendon coming back healthy (only question is for how long?) either.
11. Can the Minnesota Twins, along with their “He loves Me, He Loves Me Not” returning superstar free agent Carlos Correa, become relevant again in the American League Central? I have another question I am going to ask later about this.
12. What is going on with the San Diego Padres, whose payroll rivals the GNP of a multitude of third-world Countries? They had better figure things out with Tatis, Jr., Machado, Cronenworth, et al.
13. Can the Cleveland Guardians (still doesn’t sound right) and the “Biebs” (Shane, not Justin) repeat their 2022 success built on solid defense and pitching? Jose Ramirez has the power and the resume; however, will the addition of Josh Bell be the key to help them advance further in the post season?
14. Will Toronto best their New York Nemesis in the American League East? Besides Vladdy Jr. and Bo Bichette, I believe that pitcher Alex Manoah is on the verge of a breakout season and will become one of the elite arms in the American League, if not all of baseball.
15. With eight players ranked in ESPN’s top 100 (actually 8 ranked in the top 74), The Atlanta Braves have no excuse on not only winning the National League East, but the National League pennant. This team is stacked with two of best outfielders (Ronald Acuna & Michael Harris II) and a great pitching staff led by Kyle Wright, Max Fried and Spencer Strider. Not to mention the recently optioned Vaughn Grissom to the minors. I’ll say it again: this team is stacked.
16. The San Francisco Giants (fresh off their swing and miss of Aaron Judge) could become relevant again in the NL West. To make up for Judge, the Giants retooled their outfield by acquiring Michael Conforto, Joc Pederson, and Mitch Haniger to join Mike Yastrzemski.
17. Bobby Witt Jr. will take the next leap for the Kansas City Royals. The team isn’t going anywhere this season, but the former 2019 second overall pick will be ready to light up pitching and the base paths this season and will become the biggest MLB product to come out of KC since George Brett (who I loved in Brockmire btw).
18. How will the Dodgers tank their post season efforts this year? Despite an exodus of star power (Trea Turner), the Blue Crew has the deepest minor league system in all of baseball which produces more bona fide stars than Nick Cannon does children.
19. Will Luis Robert of the Chicago White Sox finally have a breakout season? The kid is only 25 and has the five tools to become another star. The problem is he cannot stay healthy.
20. How will Tampa Bay and their $12 payroll (no I did not forget the “million”) make the playoffs this season? I swear that team is doing it by blackmail with pictures involving a clown, an orangutan, and a rhinoceros.
21. Will the New York Mets and their classy owner, Steve Cohen (who spent so much money that he is begging for quarters at the local soup kitchen) rebound from the terrible injury to their star closer Edwin Diaz during the WBC? Cohen, though, has since put Diaz up in an apartment with a personal trainer and personal chef to aid Diaz in his recovery.
22. Can Paul Goldschmidt and the St. Louis Cardinals throw their name in the ring for the National League pennant? This team is not only fun to watch, but they have some good, young talent making their way up to the Bigs this season.
23. How will the Detroit Tigers perform in Miguel Cabrera’s swan song of a season? This team has a lot of components (Spencer Torkelson, Javier Baez and Riley Greene) to become relevant again, however, have yet to put it together.
24. Will the Colorado Rockies adopt their city connect jerseys full time? (They are the best in baseball). Just one other suggestion: Please make a road variety in purple. I would become a fan for life.
25. Waiting for the official announcement of the Oakland A’s following their football brethren Raiders to Las Vegas. I bet Billy Beane could finally build a pretty good team using more than $8.75 (again I didn’t forget the “million”) that ownership allows him to spend on improving the team.
26. Hunter Greene of the Cincinnati Reds will announce his arrival this season. The flame-throwing fireballer will strikeout around 250 this season if he remains healthy.
27. The Boston Red Sox to try and return to prominence with rookies like Jared Duran and Japanese sensation, Masataka Yoshida. However, they have two left-handed pitchers (Chris Sale and James Paxton) that will try and keep their respective arms from falling off.
28. The Chicago Cubs are the National League version of the Angels. A lot of bats (with the additions of Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger and Trey Mancini), but who is going to pitch for them? Might be seeing those classic 20-19 contests that they had with the Phillies in the early eighties.
29. When will the Pittsburgh Pirates will trade Bryan Reynolds? Reynolds is one of the top outfielders in baseball, however, the only time his name comes up is when he is involved in trade rumors. Are you listening O’Neil Cruz? You’re next. Cruz is a beast of a man whose enormous size does not hamper his fluidity at either the plate or in the field. Dude will be the next star that you hardly hear of.
30. Speaking of teams you hardly hear of these days, how about them Washington Nationals? It looks like another long, hot summer in our Nation’s capital. However, check out former San Diego prospect C.J Abrams at short and Carter Kieboom at third base. Where is Juan Soto when you needed him? Oh yeah, you traded one of the top five best players in baseball.
31. One thing I am not looking forward to is this stupid pitch clock. I don’t like being rushed and that is exactly what the sport is doing to my relaxation time.
32. Also please kill the stupid runner on second base to start extra innings. I am one of the purists who will stay up watching an Oakland versus Seattle game in the 19th inning at midnight.
33. Also, not a fan of limiting how many times a pitcher can throw over to first base on a pick-off. Imagine if they had that when Rickey Henderson played. Dude would have stolen 300 bases a season. Both second and third every opportunity he had.
34. They need to change the WBC to every two seasons. The players love it. Some even think that it is more relevant than World Series.
35. Speaking of the WBC, how about my Czech brethren who not only shocked the world by defeating Spain to get to the WBC, but their comeback victory over China was probably the second-best game of the tournament. Not bad for a bunch of teachers and firefighters who play only because they love the game.
36. I do not think the Angels bullpen will be as bad as the previous years. I mean, especially after last year, the only direction it can go is up.
37. I think Seattle will shock a lot of people this year. The improvement of an already very good team from last year combined with the maturity of Julio Rodriguez (who will join the likes of Judge, Acuna and Soto this year). Not to mention a top three of Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray and Logan Gilbert -- I would put them against almost anyone.
38. I am not sure if the team that wins the American League East is going to have much juice left when it comes to the playoffs. With the Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles and Rays all viable contenders, every division game is going to be a dogfight. Not to mention that the Red Sox are much improved over last season.
39. The same can be said for the National League East. With the Braves, Mets, Phillies and Marlins. I have a feeling that the Braves are a lock and the Marlins will sneak off with one of two National League Wild Card spots.
40. I am intrigued with Anthony Volpe’s breaking camp with the New York Yankees. Protecting a rookie in a lineup as stacked as the Bronx Bombers’ should do nothing but boost his confidence.
41. The American League West is now up for grabs with the significant injury to Jose Altuve. Look for the Angels to battle the Astros all the way down to the wire. I can see Anaheim/Los Angeles/Orange County walking away with at least a Wild Card bid.
42. The American League Central should be a dogfight, too. However, although I hate to admit it being a White Sox fan, the Twins will overcome both the Indians Guardians and the White Sox and win the division with 93 games to be the lone representative the division has to offer.
43. The Mets definitely have the best rotation that money can buy with both Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander on the bump. Also, a lineup with the likes of Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso, there should be no excuses for them not win the National League East this year.
44. Zach Wheeler is probably the best pitcher in baseball that we never hear of. Dude consistently puts together All-Star after All-Star quality seasons.
45. If you like small ball and defense (which I don’t), there is not a better team in the league at this than the Cleveland Guardians. They have a very realistic chance of repeating in the American League Central if they stay healthy.
46. I can’t think of a better young outfield duo than Ronald Acuna Jr. and Michael Harris II. I would hate to be Atlanta several years down the road when it is time to pay these guys.
47. Looking for a “Darkhorse” American League Cy Young candidate this season? Look no further than Kansas City’s 6’5,” 215 lb.-right hander, Brady Singer. Dude was 10-5 last season with a 3.23 ERA while averaging almost a strikeout an inning for a subpar Royals squad.
48. Besides Ramon Laureano and Jesus Aguilar, it is difficult for me to identify any type of Major League talent on the Oakland A’s 40-man roster. If this team wins 50 games this season, it might be Billy’s best act yet.
49. I think St. Louis Cardinals second base prospect Nolan Gorman rebounds from a subpar rookie season and breaks through this season by launching over 30 bombs for the Red Birds.
50. As much as I hate to say it, I think the Chicago Cubs will win National League Central this season and vie for the World Series in the National League Championship Series after knocking out a favored NL West wild card opponent. The Cubs’ lineup is stacked, and their once fragile rotation is coming around. As I said, I don’t like it, however all the arrows are pointing in the upward direction for the “North Siders.”