Every year during the sometimes tedious last few weeks of Spring Training, players and fans begin to get antsy. But we look towards the upcoming season with hope, wondering what stories the season will bring. So as we start looking towards the season, we preview 19 Storylines heading into the 2019 MLB season. (In no particular order.)
#1: How Will Signing Late Effect Free Agents?
We have seen over the last few offseasons that when players sign late and don’t have a full Spring Training regime under their belts, they tend to struggle out of the gate. This year the two biggest free agents of recent note have signed late into the offseason. So will the trend of early season struggles following these late signings continue? Or will Superstars like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado be immune to such falts?
#2: Can the Boston Red Sox Repeat in 2019?
There has not been a repeat champion since 1999-2000 (the New York Yankees, I might add.) But the Red Sox remain as formidable as they did last October. There are questions about their bullpen for sure. But the rest of the team still holds a serious threat for the reclamation of the Commissioner’s Trophy. Can they become the first repeat champs in nearly 20 years? We will have to wait and see.
#3: Will the Cleveland Indians Still Hold the Crown in the AL Central? Or Will they Regress?
Over the last few seasons, the Cleveland Indians have been the kings of the AL Central division. Built upon the backs of an incredible starting rotation and a lights out bullpen. This season, however, the Indians have lost two key pieces to that bullpen. And while they dropped off some payroll to give themselves room for trade acquisitions they did not find answers to the lost bullpen members or outfielders. The Minnesota Twins made quite a few moves and will be looking to reclaim the throne in the AL Central. Not to mention a young Chicago White Sox team looking to make their mark. The Indians will try to prove once again they are at the head of the class in the AL Central.
#4: What’s Next in San Diego?
After two seasons of huge free agent signings in Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado. And also having arguably the best farm system in Major League Baseball, the question now is what will the Padres do next? The NL West has been ruled by the LA Dodgers over the last several years. But with a top farm system and the club showing a willingness to spend money. The Padres may be on the rise. But we will have to see how their young players develop and the leadership capabilities of Manny Machado.
#5: How Well Will Danny Farquhar Pitch this Season?
The feel-good story of the year will be the story told of Danny Farquhar. Danny missed nearly all of last season with a brain aneurysm. And it was never a certain fact that Danny would ever be able to pitch again. Let alone be on the mound for the most recognizable team in the world. Following how Danny Farquhar does this season will be one of the best storylines across Major League Baseball
#6: Who Will be the Breakout Players of 2019?
Every season we see rookies and veterans that explode from seemingly out of nowhere. Players that were once not seen as impact players setting up in a big way. And it is one of the most intriguing factors of each season.
#7: Are We Going to see More Extensions This Season?
A trend that has seemed to become more apparent over this past offseason is players signing long-term deals with their current clubs. Many of the best players in MLB signed contracts that are easily considered “team-friendly” by most standards. But is this a sign of fear for free agency or the impending CBA discussions? Or are these players just looking to gain some stability for their futures? It very easily could be seen as a mix of both. But what other players are going to sign on with their teams? Jacob deGrom? Aaron Judge? Mookie Betts? Anthony Rendon? Time will tell which superstar is next.
#8: How Many WINS Will Mike Trout Add to his Resumé?
The best player that we’ve ever had the pleasure to witness, play Major League Baseball is Mike Trout. There is little doubt of his greatest year in and year out. And if there was any doubt a 12-year commitment for $430 million should put that argument to rest. The only question about Mike Trout every year is not is he the greatest. But by how much does he continue to separate himself from the rest. How much more does he climb the pantheon of legendary baseball historical icons and figures. Where in baseball’s mystic will Mike Trout fall when all is said and done? The easy way numerical count to judge that answer at season’s end is by the ranks he climbs and the names he passes on the WAR (Wins Above Replacement) depth chart.
#9: What Will the LA Angels do Around their $430 Million Man?
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made a huge splash and an even more significant commitment this offseason with Mike Trout and his extension deal. But the question isn’t about is Mike Trout worth it? Because he is worth $430 Million and arguably more. ($430 Million Bargain for Mike Trout.) The question now becomes how do the Angels go about assisting the Greatest of All Time?
#10: Was the Opener an Aberration or a New Legitimate Strategy?
Last season we saw the debut of the “Opener.” And we saw quite a few teams employ the strategy, some more than others. But it became a widely debated topic. Now with the 2019 season upon us, the question now becomes was it just a blip in the radar? Or will teams begin to use this strategy on a more full-time basis?
#11: Two-Way Players All the Rage?
When Shohei Ohtani came over from Japan last season, the world was buzzing about the unique premise. And because Ohtani had some success in the stranger feat, other clubs are beginning to look at their own players with the idea in mind. We have covered some players that have been pegged for that very role. In our piece, The Growing Trend of 2-Way Players. So we will see how these players (and potentially more) can handle this incredibly difficult task.
#12: Where Will the Twilight Legends End Up?
We have already seen the final games of Ichiro’s career play out. But how will other legendary superstars like Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera’s 2019 season play out? They both have been two of the most feared hitters of the past generation. But how will they be viewed in 2019?
#13: How Long Will Craig Kimbrel & Dallas Keuchel Sit Out?
We are only a couple of days from the full start to the regular season. And two of the four big free agents remain on the market. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel are still free agents. This is a fascinating and yet sad development from the offseason crawl. Both players are of high Major League caliber, yet neither man received the type of offers they expected for their perceived value. So how long they sit on the outside looking in as an MLB type player will be a story to watch unfold. And if their services are finally called upon with those final dollar figures will look like at the end of it all.
#14: How Many Homeruns will Aaron Judge & Giancarlo Stanton Combine to Hit?
We asked this question last season. And it will be a question asked just about every year. But seeing two of the biggest sluggers in the game on the same team will always inspire retrospective. Especially when thinking back on the rich history of the New York Yankees. A healthy Judge and Stanton combination can make their way north of triple digits. Thinking back to 2017, the two men hit over 50 home runs apiece (all be it on separate teams.) But it was done and this season could see both men surpass that 50 home run plateau once again. But this time together on the same team, on the same field, rocking the Yankee Stadium faithful.
#15: How Many Home Runs Will the New York Yankees Hit as a Team?
Last season the New York Yankees set a Major League record 267 home runs. Surpassing the previous record of 264 held by the Seattle Mariners. And following the first few games of Spring Training, Aaron Judge would claim that the home run record they set last season would not be safe this year. So with every “Bomb” from the Bronx, the tally rises. And if the team can remain healthy, they have an easy path to the record. Remember, last season Gary Sanchez struggled mightily, Aaron Judge missed six weeks from an injury. Yankee fans also saw Giancarlo Stanton have a “down” season with “only” 38 home runs. So the record may not be safe, but we will just have to wait and see how high the total gets.
#17: A Shift Coming?
So the MLB partnered with the Independent Atlantic League to test out some potential rule changes. Many of the changes are small changes, but there are some that are quite radical. It will be interesting to watch how those changes play out this season. And how many could be implemented in Major League Baseball?
#18: Will Tension Between the MLBPA & MLB Grow?
Over the last few offseasons, we have seen a lot of tension brewing between the MLB Owner & Commissioner’s Office and the MLB Players Association. The MLBPA faltered during the last CBA negotiations and are going to be looking to right those wrongs. While the MLB Owners are going to want to continue pulling in the reigns with certain financial issues. But with talks over some smaller pace of play issues and the experimentation being done in the Independent Atlantic League there may be resolutions on the horizon. But for this situation to work, it will take a compromise between both sides to be resolved.
#19: Who Will Win the World Series?
It’s a simple question with (in theory) thirty possible outcomes. But in reality, there are only about a third of the clubs actually capable of competing at a Championship caliber level. The defending champs have a really strong case for renewal of the crown as most of the club remained intact. But the same could be said of the champ of two seasons ago regaining some lost ground. There also could be new contenders stepping up into the fray. And worth challengers that just fell short adding their names to the mix. When you ask the question who wins the World Series? The answer now depends on who you’re asking. But we can only speculate for the next six months. And it’s the most intriguing and frustrating question until the answer is validated at the end of the season.