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MLB Spring Training Looms as Pitchers and Catchers Report

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is one of the many players to watch as the season begins, as his team has big expectations going into the 2018 season. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is one of the many players to watch as the season begins, as his team has big expectations going into the 2018 season. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons

By Ivan Morrobel

Published: February 21st, 2018

With less than a month left until the first day of spring, all 30 MLB teams have started to prepare for what the next nine months will bring. Pitchers and catchers reporting to their respective camps is an indication to fans that the tedious offseason is officially over.

Spring Training is a time for players to get back into the groove, but also to play alongside new talent that their team has recently acquired. Players such as Eric Hosmer, Giancarlo Stanton, Evan Longoria, and Andrew McCutchen are among some of the household names that have found themselves in a new situation after playing for one organization for several years.

First: the reigning World Series champion, Houston Astros.

The ‘Stros are coming off of a season in which they achieved the ultimate goal, obtained the third-best record (101-61), and produced the American League (AL) MVP, Jose Altuve. Their chances of being one of the best teams once again are extremely high, as their roster consists of Carlos Correa, George Springer, Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, and the team’s newest acquisition, Gerrit Cole.

The only negative aspect for Houston last season was relief pitcher Ken Giles, who didn’t seem to have his best stuff during the latter part of the season. Despite Giles’ struggles, the Astros were fine when it was all said and done. This year should be no different for this team; the AL West has gotten slightly better with the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners making moves of their own, but they still aren’t a threat to the champs.

The second team to look out for in the upcoming season is strongly disliked and loved because of its ability to “buy” players whenever it wants. Yes, the New York Yankees will be one of the top teams this season. Heading into last season it was clear that last year’s Yankees weren’t good enough to compete in the long run, but they silenced every single critic that didn’t expect much from them. New York finished with the second most runs scored (858) behind the Astros, who they eventually met in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) for a thrilling seven-game series.

Rumors started to swirl once the offseason began, and the Yankees were constantly mentioned due to their history of always being in on top-tier free agents. However, they did what most didn’t think they’d do and caught one of the biggest fish on the market: former Miami Marlin Giancarlo Stanton. The addition of last season’s home run leader to a lineup that already ranked first overall in homers (241) with AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius is something that teams don’t want to mess with. Add one of the game’s best pitchers in Luis Severino, a full season of Sonny Gray, the best bullpen any team has to offer, and you’re looking at a legitimate contender for the 2018 season.

Now, the third and final spot might surprise many fans, but the San Francisco Giants are a team that can make some serious noise this season. After Madison Bumgarner’s dirt bike accident last year, the Giants’ season was done. San Francisco finished with the worst record (64-98) in the MLB, and some of their core players in Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Hunter Pence mightily struggled. The Giants’ front office responded by acquiring veteran third baseman Evan Longoria and outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players carried the offensive load on their previous teams for years, but the two of them together on a team that has a recent history of contending should provide an extra jolt of motivation.

San Francisco’s pitching is a worrisome problem heading into the season because they finished 16th overall in earned run average (ERA) during 2017, but a bounce-back season from Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Mark Melancon could have the Giants as one of the top teams in the National League. And although they didn’t compete, let’s not forget that 2018 is an even year.

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