With opening day almost upon us, there are no shortage of things to ponder about the baseball season ahead. It’s that time of year where all the storylines are sitting in front of us, waiting for the games to start and the narratives to either get busted or come to fruition.
Every year brings new drama and new storylines — that’s why we watch sports.
This year in baseball, there’s a lot of drama in the National League, which is very much up for grabs. There’s also a lot of turmoil off the field with the players’ union and the league. We’re also seeing new strategies taking shape and exciting new players make their mark on the game.
We asked our crew of MLB watchers what storylines they’re most excited about and here’s what they had to say:
The Cubs vs. the computers
I love the Cubs vs. PECOTA storyline because I don’t think there’s any chance of a “tie.” Either the Chicago Cubs, who won 95 games in 2018 before their late collapse, will prevail. Or Baseball Prospectus’ computers will be victorious. And to be clear, for the Cubs to be right, they’ll have to win anywhere from, oh 88-92 games, something way outside the 79 the computers are currently projecting. - Kevin Kaduk
Grand opening ... grand closing?
The opener took over baseball in 2018, but will it go the way of the Dolphins' Wildcat formation? Based on the success of the opener, more teams are going to utilize the strategy in 2019. Will it work again? It's tough to know whether teams will adjust to the strategy at all. Maybe they'll try to be more patient in those games, pushing up pitch counts to tire out short-inning starters faster. It's also worth watching to see how all the pitchers used as openers hold up after having unusual workloads in 2018. No matter what happens, this will be a pivotal year for the strategy. If more teams have success, the starting pitcher is going to slowly go the way of the dinosaur. If teams adjust, you'll see a correction to the old ways pretty fast. - Chris Cwik
The wild, wild East
It’s the West that’s supposed to be wild, but have you looked at the NL East this year? Sheesh. Bryce Harper’s decision to join the Philadelphia Phillies swung the balance of power a bit, but not enough that the Phillies are the head-and-shoulders best team. Instead, we get to see Bryce against his old team. We get to see whether the Nats are better without him (they might be, after getting Patrick Corbin to bolster their pitching staff). Then there’s the New York Mets, who had a bold offseason by acquiring Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, plus bringing on an ex-agent as their GM in Brodie Van Wagenen. Heck, the Atlanta Braves won the division last year and have one of the most exciting young players in baseball in Ronald Acuña Jr. and I’m just now mentioning them. Only the Miami Marlins aren’t interesting. Otherwise, the NL East is just overflowing with drama. - Mike Oz
Vlad Jr. and the rookies
I'm excited to see if this year's crop of top prospects can meet or even surpass the hype. Some people feel it could be the best rookie class this decade, and it's difficult to argue against that knowing we'll see Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez. The class will also include Nick Senzel, Victor Robles and Forrest Whitley, which by itself figures to be an impact trio. And then there's two guys I'm especially excited about in Fernando Tatis Jr. and Bo Bichette. It's too bad the service time manipulation issue will delay most of their arrivals, but this class should be worth the wait. - Mark Townsend
The looming labor battle
Talk of labor unrest and cheap baseball teams dominated the offseason, when there was really nothing else to talk about. With the recent rash of extensions for top line stars, and the actual baseball season starting (finally), where does the conversation go from here? Free agency is essentially broken for all but the talented few, and handing out contract extensions doesn't solve that problem. The discussion typically dies down when the season begins, but with so many players obviously unhappy with the ownership and front offices of various teams, this issue isn't going away. I'm eager to see how the issue evolves this season, especially with the National League being so competitive and the American League being, well, the opposite of that. - Liz Roscher
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