BY ALEX POLETTI
When Giancarlo Stanton hit two home runs in his new Yankee uniform March 29, it signified the onslaught of the 2018 Major League Baseball season. After a historically slow offseason, the regular season promises to be more exciting with a highly touted rookie class, tons of Opening Day homers and a vast number of All Stars playing in a contract year.
Shohei Ohtani. Ronald Acuna. Matt Davidson and his three-homer Opening Day. These three are expected to be breakout stars, but they don’t make up the entire class. 2018’s NL Rookie of the Year will be Phillies’ second baseman Scott Kingery. After an electric spring in which the 23-year-old hit four home runs in 45 at-bats and a recently-inked six-year contract, he looks poised to continue his excellence into the summer.
While people wait anxiously for Acuna, don’t sleep on the Braves’ current left fielder, Lane Adams. A 28-year-old with a career clip of .268 in 91 games doesn’t seem like anything special, but a look at Statcast metrics shows otherwise. Adams ranked in the top 50 in barrels, which measures how well the ball is hit; this places him well ahead of sluggers Jose Abreu, Marcell Ozuna and MVP runner-up Joey Votto. He could bat .270 with 15-20 home runs.
Four Marlins outfielders will be named to the All-Star team. No, not current Marlins players, but those traded away during the offseason for pennies on the dollar. Christian Yelich is hitting in a stacked Milwaukee lineup, Ozuna behind breakout star Tony Pham, Stanton behind Judge and converted-outfielder Dee Gordon in front of Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz. How the Marlins couldn’t build a playoff team behind these four superstars I’ll never know.
After injury-shortened seasons for Mike Trout and Freddie Freeman, 2018 looks the year for both of them. Despite playing in just 114 games, Trout still hit 33 home runs and silently led the league in OPS, (the best indicator of offensive excellence, in my opinion). Freeman, too, was fantastic, his .989 OPS showing how high his ceiling is. These players are already established superstars, but they seemed to get lost in the midst of last year’s amazing performances. Expect them both to be in the top three for MVP voting in their respective leagues.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Pittsburgh Pirates: Everyone’s favorite Steel City team parted with Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole after much speculation. Because of this, their team got…better? Pittsburgh scored an underrated left fielder via trade for All Star Corey Dickerson, and the return in the Cole trade—pitcher Joe Musgrove and grand slam-hitting third baseman Colin Moran—will contribute to a young, rejuvenated team that will compete in the upcoming years.
Philadelphia Phillies: I didn’t take the Phillies seriously whatsoever…until Justin Timberlake. That’s right, he of the square jawline—new manager Gabe Kapler—arranged for the NSYNC frontman to record a televised message to the Fightin’ Phils. Kingery joins fellow rookie shortstop JP Crawford to form one of the youngest double-play combos in the league, given veteran guidance by free agent signing 1B/OF Carlos Santana. This, along with a young rotation headed by Jake Arrieta, will make Philadelphia a baseball city once again.
World Series Winner: Astros defeat Diamondbacks in five.
AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Christian Yelich
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
AL Rookie of the Year: Nick Gordon
NL Rookie of the Year: Scott Kingery
Get ready for a fun year of baseball, folks.