Opening Day Story Lines

I’m not sure about all of you, but Opening Day is coming, and I couldn’t be more excited. This is what we live for. Baseball is back.

Your team has a chance to win it all this year, or at least that’s something most fans believe at the start of the season.

And hey, Tim Kurkjian of ESPN once predicted the Angels to finished first and the Twins to finish last. It turned out to be the opposite.

If ESPN’s best baseball minds can have it backwards, why doesn’t your team have a chance to do outplay expectations?

This is what we’ve been waiting for! Spring is the season for grown men to have child-like anticipation, when we remember what it’s like for a young child on Christmas morning.

Opening Day Story Lines - MLB

It’s the time when you get back out to the park and enjoy the smell of the grass, that first ballpark hotdog. At least for a few weeks, your team has a chance of winning it all.

It’s a beautiful time of year where every fan believes they could see the next great MVP on their team, or the next record breaking streak.

And they’ll be able to say “I was there when…”

Amidst all this hope, and excitement, what are the big stories for this 2016? Well, you’ve got the Cubs. They may actually win a World Series title. That would be the first time in 108 years.

It would be the first time the Cubs even play in a World Series since 1945. But, they’ve got the most talented roster in baseball, right?

Sadly for some, the Yankees have shown us that having the most talent doesn’t guarantee a ring. It’s tough to argue with how the Cubs have done it though.

They’ve got young players like Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, and Kris Bryant who mix well with the seasoned veterans like Ben Zobrist, Jon Lester and John Lackey.

What’s more, they’ve got one of the best managers in baseball. I’m convinced Joe Maddon could take the Phillies to the playoffs if given the chance.

I mean, he didn’t exactly have the best of the best in Tampa and he made them competitive. Imagine what he’ll be able to do with a roster this stacked!

If you’re looking for drama rather than excitement, look no further than last year’s World Series champions.

Kansas City looks to fight with people. If you don’t believe me, look at their stats last year. Not the wins, runs, or home runs. Everyone knows about those stats.

I mean the stats that resulted from their fighting. They had four players suspended for a total of 21 games as a result of 3 fights in 3 weeks.

One player also got fined. That sounds a lot like they’re training for a boxing match rather than the World Series.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Royals are going to do anything during the opening series. That wouldn’t be very smart.

My thought, is that they’ll play the game like they always do, probably talk a little trash, but, largely let it all go, for now.

This would let them tell the world that they’ve calmed down, that there is no bad blood, and that it was all blown of proportion.

Then, in June, when the Royals visit New York, they’ll go head hunting. For what it’s worth, right now, Ventura would likely be the starter in the second game of that series.

I know, that seems a bit far-fetched, but it seems like the best way for them to retaliate, but still have a chance to avoid getting in too much trouble.

For what it’s worth, I really like Alex Gordon’s response – “Our retaliation was winning the World Series”.

That should be enough, but for an emotional 23-year old who starts fights because someone hits the ball back at him, I’m not sure that Ventura can go along with that theory.

Another great story is the Mets. World Series predictions aside, I’m excited about their rotation, and you should be too.

The names to know as the season plays on are Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and Wheeler. Some of them are already big names that you know, others, you need to learn, and fast.

Let’s start with the names that everyone knows. Harvey is the elder statesman of this list. He’s a whopping 27 years old.

Now, he’s pitching to improve his arbitration numbers, and I think he’ll compete for the Cy Young. Jacob deGrom is becoming a New York legend in his own right.

In his second year as a starter, deGrom went 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA (better numbers than Harvey by the way). Syndergaard is the cream of the crop in the RA Dickey trade.

Syndergaard threw the hardest fastball of any starter in the bigs last year. As a rookie, he went 9-7 with a 3.24 ERA. Not quite what deGrom did, but still great.

Next, we’ll look at the “other guys”. You’ve got some guy name Steven Matz who went 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 6 starts as a rookie. The kid also tallied 3 hits and 4 RBI in his major league debut.

That’s right, in his major league debut, he knocked in two more runs than he allowed. He also went 7 2/3 IP with 6 K’s to go with it.

The last guy on the list is the forgotten of the future. Zach Wheeler is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and has posted an underwhelming 18-16 record in his first two seasons.

In 2014 he was one of four pitchers to average more than 9 K/9 and have a groundball percentage above 50%. The other guys on that list: Kershaw, Hernandez, Liriano.

You’re looking at what may be a dynastic rotation in New York. They’ve got 5 guys who have the upside of number two starters or better. Shockingly, deGrom is the oldest pitcher of that list.

That being said, having 5 guys with their potential, and the ability to throw mid-90s fastballs, tells me that the Mets are going to be the team to beat for a while.

The Mets might not win the World Series, but they’re going to be something special to watch. Harvey is the first of the group that has the chance to hit free agency in 2019.

By then, this team could be the first rotation with 4 20-game winners since the 1971 Orioles. Grab your popcorn and enjoy the show that is the Mets rotation.

Speaking of great young players, there’s an incredible crop of young talent ready to take the league by storm.

I believe that Carlos Correa has a legitimate shot at becoming the youngest MVP in league history. He’ll turn 22 in September.

The current record is held by Vida Blue who turned 22 in July of the season he won MVP. He just finished with one of the best rookie seasons for a shortstop in the free agent era (1976-now).

As for who still qualify as rookies this season, Corey Seager should be a stud. He’s a huge contact hitter who offers some power as well.

Seager has already been guaranteed the starting job at SS for the Dodgers this season. In 27 games last year, Seager hit .337 with 4 HR, 17 RBI, and 17 Runs.

That means that he could break the 100 mark for R/RBI as a rookie. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him hit 20-25 HR either.

Lucas Giolito is supposed to be the next big thing for the Nationals. Gio flirts with 100 mph on his fastball.

He’s also got a plus curveball that has a lot of bite.He’s made progress on his changeup, but still needs to work on that.

He probably won’t make the rotation at the start of the season, but you’ll see him at some point in the season.

Blake Snell is another great young pitching prospect. He’s a left handed pitcher who looks like he could be a superstar by the end of the season.

In High-A and AA ball he threw 46 IP without giving up a run. By the time he reached AAA in 2015, Snell continued dominating to the tune of 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 11.57 K/9.

Snell finished 2015 with a 15-4 record across three levels. He ended with a 1.41 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 134 IP.

My favorite young player to watch is AJ Reed. He dominated AA pitching last year with a .332 average and .405 OBP.

Some experts expect the Astros to wait until next year to bring him up, but I see Reed coming up as someone the Astros need seeing as their current starter isn’t quite determined yet.

The ‘stros aren’t afraid to use young talent- Correa came up last year as a 20 year-old. Reed is a big contact guy with even better power. At 6’4, 240, he can send the ball a long way.

I see Reed with the potential to have Chris Davis-like power but with a better average.

What may be more interesting than these young players is the oldest players who are nearing retirement.

Alex Rodriguez has 3,070 hits and 687 HR. Rodriguez needs 115 hits to pass Cal Ripken for 15th all time. He needs 27 HR to pass Babe Ruth for number 3 all time.

In the same sentiment, David Ortiz will be retiring at the end of the year. He won’t be climbing very high on the all-time hits list, but Ortiz should break the top 20 in HR this year.

He sits at 503 and needs to hit 18 HR to pass McCovey, Thomas and Williams for 19th. The last time Ortiz didn’t break 18 HR was 2000. It’s a good bet that he’ll reach that mark again this year.

Whether you like the youngsters establishing themselves, or the veterans finalizing a legacy, 2016 won’t disappoint.

This year’s season is going to be a treat, and I’d do everything in my power to catch as much of it as I can.