Teams to beat are revealed as MLB Spring Training, Opening Day close in

Now that the Super Bowl excitement has diminished, the MLB spring training season is coming up. The painfully slow offseason is coming to an end and all 30 clubs are looking forward to an exciting 2018 season. For many teams, there could still be some more acquisitions on the way. J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer finally signed with new teams, and with the free agent pool being rich, many talented players are still looking for new homes.

The defending champions The Houston Astros were not quiet this offseason, making a trade for former Pittsburgh Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, in an attempt to bolster the staff. Adding Cole to a rotation with Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr. gives them a great shot to have the best rotation in the American League, and possibly repeat as champs.

The Astros did not lose a beat offensively either, bringing back the reigning AL MVP José Altuve, along with the rest of their young core hitters in Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. The Astros are arguably better than they were in 2017 and will be tough to beat.

The team in the AL with the best shot of beating the Astros is the New York Yankees. The Yankees shook the hierarchy of the MLB with the biggest acquisition in the league. They completed a deal with the Miami Marlins to add 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton in exchange for second baseman Starlin Castro and other assets. Adding Stanton immediately gives the Yankees the most feared lineup in the MLB, with the potential for four hitters to have 30 plus HRs, and 100 plus RBIs. As all the teams sit now, the AL looks like a two-team race, with teams like the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox on the outside looking in. But as any MLB fan knows, what the result should be on paper is never a guarantee.

On the other side of the league, the National League is wide open for the taking, with a much more level playing field. The Los Angeles Dodgers lost Yu Darvish, who signed a big deal with the Chicago Cubs. The Milwaukee Brewers bolstered their lineup, signing Lorenzo Cain, and trading for Christian Yelich, looking to compete with the Cubs in the NL Central.

In the NL East, it is shaping up to be a two-horse race between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets. Both teams were injury-riddled last year, especially the Mets, who had seemingly their entire pitching staff and lineup on the disabled list for the majority of the year. In an attempt to change that, the Mets hired Mikey Callaway to manage the team, and fired incompetent trainer Ray Ramirez, who could possibly be the worst trainer in MLB history.

Seemingly everything Ramirez did, turned every MLB player into an injury-prone player as soon as the trainer touched them. Hopefully with all the changes, the Mets can stay healthy this upcoming season.

The Nationals are getting help from the disabled list in the form of Adam Eaton and Stephen Strasburg, both key contributors looking for a long campaign this year. With Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy in contract years, this might be the last shot for the Nationals to finally get past the first round.

The Mets were anything but quiet over the winter. They started off by taking a flyer on Adrián González, who might have something left in the tank. Gonzalez will be a key part of showing Dominic Smith the ropes, as the Mets hope Smith can eventually take over the first base role for the long term. The team then brought back Jay Bruce on a three-year deal and signed veterans Todd Frazier and Jason Vargas to bring experience and depth to the squad. The Mets are a dark horse to make the playoffs in 2018.

SportsRay MaurerComment