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Sunday, September 19, 2021

18 MLB Questions to Start the New Year

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18. Is Andrew McCutchen elite?
The face of the Pittsburgh Pirates rescued his 2017 season with a stellar second half, but he’s two years removed from his last all star appearance and hasn’t batted over .300 since 2014. He’s still a valuable bat in the middle of the order, but there’s a reason the Pirates haven’t been able to get a return worthy of dealing their franchise player.

17. What happens to the Royals now?
The 2015 season is seeming more and more like a distant memory with each passing day. The core of their improbable World Series winning team remains on the FA market and may not end up drawing the price tags they thought they were worth, that being said after struggling for two years in the middle of the pack- will the Royals front office be content to bring back their old crew?

16. Can the A’s take the next step and become relevant?
The Oakland Athletics could be sneaky good in the 2018 season. First baseman Matt Olsen and third baseman Matt Chapman had breakout seasons, and pitcher Jharel Cotton has shown flashes of ace potential. Also, with the haul the A’s received from the Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson trade to the Nationals and the Sonny Gray trade to the Yankees, Oakland’s future looks bright.

15. Which new managers shine and struggle in their debut seasons?
Six new managers are stepping onto the scene in dramatically different situations. Aaron Boone takes over a loaded New York Yankees, while Ron Gardenhire has been given the keys to a slightly less enticing situation with the Detroit Tigers. 2018 will prove a pivotal determiner to how these managerial careers ultimately go.

14. Will the St. Louis Cardinals be good?
The short answer is, yes probably so. The club went 87-75 last season and added a stellar player by acquiring Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins. Ozuna steps out of former teammate Giancarlo Stanton’s giant shadow and lands in a situation where he’s primed to make a difference. It’s worth noting that Stanton and Ozuna had the exact same WAR in 2017.

13. Where will Manny Machado finish the season?
This could just as easily be phrased as “What the *%#! Are the Orioles doing?!” Machado is as good as gone and has been for some time. Baltimore’s lack of a pitching staff never allowed them to take advantage of their star third baseman and build a true contender. The time to trade him and get prospects for the future was yesterday. It’ll be interesting to see which team finally makes an offer the Orioles can’t refuse.

12. Can the Nationals make a compelling case to bring back their star?
What has two legs, great hair and is set to make half a billion dollars over the next decade? The Nationals bring back one of the most complete teams in baseball in 2018 and are loaded with All-Stars. Simply, the time is now to make a run. New manager David Martinez will have one year to convince the Harper to make Washington his home for the future.

11. Do the Cubs get back to World Series form?
I know, I know. They went to the NLCS which is pretty good by any standard, but all last season they struggled to hit their stride. World Series hangovers are real and perhaps this is the year they establish themselves at the top.

10. Is this the end for Albert Pujols?
Pujols has had his game and ability slowly taken away from him over the course of the past few years. He’s an inconsistent bat and such a poor defender, he no longer warrants the term “position player.” The 26 million dollars he’s owed this next year will be even more painful, being that he’ll now have some competition for the Angels DH spot.

9. Which upcoming prospects will deliver on the hype?
Every season we wonder and every season delivers on surprises. Prospect rich teams are always looking to improve and by season’s end, we’ll have the answer to many questions surrounding the ever mysterious potential of the game’s top prospects.

8. Who pulls away in a crowded NL West?
The Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies all look to be top 10 MLB teams this year, but whether the Dodgers will cement themselves at the top or take a step back remains to be seen. Out of any division in baseball, this is the one where you can’t afford to have any weakness exposed.

7. Will The Freeze be back??
This may be the most important question on this entire list…

6. What happens with Shohei Ohtani?
The two-way Japanese sensation will be faced with sky high expectations as he starts his MLB career this April. The questions around his potential and usage will continue to swirl until opening day, but the intrigue surrounding the Angels this year is enough to rival their cross-town rivals, and that’s not something that happens often.

5. Are The Astros a (don’t say it) dynasty?
Whenever a team wins a championship this loaded, the question is unavoidable the following year. Can they do it again? The pitching staff is loaded and their hitters all have multiple remaining years of team control. I’m not saying they will be, but I’m also not- not saying they will be.

4. Will home run numbers continue to go up?
The home run numbers last year were the highest of all time.  It Sparked incredible individual numbers, endless juiced ball rumors, and a lot of high scoring games. More than likely they will, but hey, the good news is the number of “home runs are ruining baseball” articles will ALSO go up!!!

3. Are the Marlins the worst team in years, decades, recent memory, ever?!
The Marlins are going to be bad. But how bad remains a mystery. All I’m saying is it’s going to be one for the record books and not the good kind of records but, hey I mean, why get technical? Which leads me to another important question-

2. Will Marlins Man renew his season tickets?!
Once again, we have to ask the important questions.

1. Do the Yankees have the best lineup of all time?
The fact that you can ask a question like this without people looking at you like you’re crazy is a miracle in itself. There’s no guarantees that Stanton transitions flawlessly, Judge avoids regression, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius continue to improve, or Greg Bird keeps up his hot streak from the end of the year, but the fact that this is a conversation we can have, is a thrill in itself. Opening day hurry up!

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