MLB’s best get their first taste of the 2018 season

By MATTHEW RITCHIE | April 5, 2018

KEITH ALLISON/CC BY-SA 2.0 Aaron Judge set the rookie home run record last year, and now has Giancarlo Stanton to help him.

The most important day in sports has come and gone. Opening Day, the de facto national holiday for millions of Americans, has once again allowed the MLB to explode back onto the sports scene, inserting itself into the daily news cycle once more. With the emergence of the opening weekend, we were afforded our first look at the predicted contenders and stars of 2018. 

While most believe that it is far too early to make any sort of predictions on the 162-game season, the first matchups can certainly give an important look into the makeup of most teams. The first chapters of a book can hold important information to the plot of the entire novel. The pilot of a TV show can give you a glimpse into whether or not the show will be atrocious or not. 

With that being said, here are the biggest takeaways from MLB’s Opening Weekend.

The meat grinder known as the American League (AL) East is stacked with talent at the top of the division. 

In the opening weekend, we saw the first appearance of the newly formed Bronx Bombers, as New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton made a loud entrance into the division, sending two bombs into the stands in the first game. His appearance, combined with regular power threats of fellow outfielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sánchez, will prove to be a formidable threat to other teams in the division.

The impressive part about the Yankees is that in the second game of the season, in which Judge and Stanton went a combined 0-8 with three strikeouts, the bottom of the Yankees’ lineup was able to step up and drive in the four runs needed to down the Toronto Blue Jays. If, in the absence of the star power that makes the Yankees so threatening, the bottom of the lineup is able to pick up the slack it will make the team hard to beat. 

In the rest of the AL East, starting pitching is going to be of the utmost importance if other teams want to be able to contend in the division. 

The Boston Red Sox is spearheaded by superstar starters Chris Sale and David Price, who will most likely be expected to carry their teams this season. They must be producing at their peak to combat the high-powered offenses of the best division in baseball.

The Baltimore Orioles’ season will have to rest on their unproven ability to have consistent starting pitching with new additions Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner being brought in to contribute with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. 

Their questionable pitching is the only thing holding them back, with consistent production guaranteed from infielders Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and centerfielder Adam Jones. They’ll need their pitching to allow them to keep up in the top-heavy AL East. 

In the AL West, the Houston Astros are slated to be the runaway favorites in the division. We all are aware of the insanely talented double-play tandem of shortstop Carlos Correa and second basemen José Altuve, but the potential MVP candidate that could lead the Astros back to the World Series is centerfielder George Springer. Springer, last year’s World Series MVP, led off the season with a home run for the second straight year. 

He has the ability to improve even more from last season and is more likely to hit more home runs and hit for a higher average than his current 0.283 batting average if he is able to stay healthy for the entire season.

With the trio of young stars bolstering the Astros lineup, the reigning World Series champs — with one of the best starting rotations in baseball — are primed and ready to make it to the World Series once again. 

The stacked Washington Nationals are going to once again run the National League (NL) East this year. Their offense is much more than just right fielder Bryce Harper and second basemen Daniel Murphy. They have a balanced offense that has high potential to hit for a high average, which should afford them a steady diet of runs to help provide insurance to a powerful starting rotation led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. 

The Mets have the potential to challenge for a wild card slot with their talented starting pitching, but they must stay healthy and buck their history of injuries to even have a chance.

The Chicago Cubs are really good at almost every position, plain and simple. They are more talented than the team they are facing on any given day. Their lineup from top to bottom is formidable with each player being a legitimate home run or RBI threat. They are the team to beat in the NL Central. 

There is no reason to believe that the Los Angeles Dodgers won’t repeat as NL West Champions. Even if they didn’t make the “splash” free agency pickup or trade, they are still more developed than their divisional foes in terms of starting pitching and offense. 

With the rest of the division, it is a question of which contenders will show up. The Arizona Diamondbacks seem to be the most ready to dethrone the reigning division champs, but it is really unlikely that any team will be of real threat to the Dodgers.

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