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May 27, 2012 - Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America

Max Rosenfeld

100 Things You Need to Know Before Opening Day

Baseball is officially back. Let’s ring in the 2018 season with 100 things you need to know before Opening Day.

It’s been a long time since the end of the 2017 baseball season, and a lot has happened in that time. With Opening Day approaching this week, it’s time to turn our attention back to America’s Pastime. This is the second annual edition of “100 Things You Need to Know Before Opening Day”, recapping Major League Baseball’s offseason and giving you a basic primer on things to look for during the 2018 season.

Here’s what you need to know in the meantime:

(1) With all the attention other teams have gotten, it seems that many need to be reminded that the Houston Astros are the defending champions. After acquiring Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates, they’ll be even better.

(2) The Astros will begin experimenting with a 4 man outfield, which could have a massive impact on the game moving forward.

(3) Shohei Ohtani, the Japenese phenom, is now an Angel. He’ll attempt to pitch and hit.

(4) But Ohtani struggled in Spring Training, causing some concern. It’ll be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

(5) The Angels also acquired Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart in the offseason, putting them into position to finally contend with Mike Trout on the roster.

(6) This may be the best version of Trout we have ever seen. If he continues his incredible play of year’s past, he’ll begin to warrant some G.O.A.T. conversation.

(7) And if the Angels stumble out of the gates, there will certainly be some discussion about whether they should trade Trout and recoup the greatest haul in the modern baseball era.

(8) The A’s won’t be very good, but they’ll be interesting. Look for youngsters Matt Olson and Matt Chapman to emerge as stars.

(9) Seattle is gambling on successfully moving Gold Glove second baseman Dee Gordon to center field in order to break what is now the longest postseason drought in major North American sports.

(10) And let’s hope they do for Felix Hernandez. It would be a shame to never be able to witness him throw in the postseason.

(11) Kyle Seager is the most boring superstar in baseball, but he’ll be vital to the Mariners hopes this season.

(12) Of course, as 2016 was the Year of the Cubs, 2018 looks like the Year of the Yankees.

(13) As I’m sure you’ve heard, the Bronx Bombers traded for reigning NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton.

(14) Stanton and defending AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge will present the most physically imposing 1-2 punch of any lineup in baseball, and perhaps of any lineup in recent memory.

(15) The Yankees also have the best catcher in baseball. His name is Gary Sanchez.

(16) But the backbone of the Yanks is still their bullpen, arguably also the best in all of baseball.

(17) To all the Yankee haters — baseball is better when they’re good, and you know it.

(18) And interestingly enough, the Yankees only have the seventh highest payroll in baseball.

(19) Still, the Boston Red Sox have won this division two years in a row and will not go down without a fight.

(20) The Sox recently added J.D. Martinez, who they believe to be every bit as good as Stanton. Time will tell.

(21) Boston’s success as a team will largely hinge on the performance of starting pitchers David Price and Rick Porcello, who both underachieved in 2017.

(22) Rafael Devers. Remember the name.

(23) The Baltimore Orioles look to be in rebuild mode, which could mean selling at the trade deadline.

(24) That would mean moving Zach Britton and Manny Machado. Both players are capable of altering a pennant race.

(25) The Tampa Bay Rays are among the teams racing toward the bottom of the standings.

(26) Chris Archer will be the best starting pitcher available at the trade deadline.

(27) In case you couldn’t tell yet — tanking in baseball is officially IN.

(28) There are really only 10-12 teams even giving themselves a chance to compete this year. It’s hard to remember a time when the discrepancy between the best teams and the middle of the pack was so great.

(29) This is what you get when the Cubs and Astros, who both got good by having high draft selections, win championships.

(30) This is a contract year for Josh Donaldson and will serve as a measuring bar for the Toronto Blue Jays who hope to keep up with the Yankees and Red Sox.

(31) If Toronto struggles early, Donaldson could be traded too.

(32) Jose Bautista is still a free agent because he bet on himself and lost.

(33) If you’re beginning to sense a pattern, you’re not crazy — player movement will be a major storyline in 2018.

(34) The Winter 2018 free agent class is most likely the greatest of all time, which has teams positioning themselves to make impact additions after this season.

(35) But if clubs decide to deal some of these guys before they hit free agency, it could force teams like the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers to jump into the hot stove this summer.

(36) Next year’s free agent class is one of the main factors of this winter’s market crash.

(37) Another factor is that teams are simply getting smarter. This is the Information Era of baseball.

(38) Look for the trend of three true outcomes to continue: at-bats that end in either a strikeout, walk, or home run. Aaron Judge is the poster child for this kind of player, and after having so much success last year his style will likely be mimicked by many around the league.

(39) We are also in the midst of the fly ball revolution. Shout out to Justin Turner.

(40) Turner will be sidelined with a wrist injury for the first month of the season, but his LA Dodgers are still the most talented team in the National League.

(41) Clayton Kershaw is still the best pitcher in baseball. And probably of the last 20 years. Don’t forget it.

(42) He finished Spring Training with a 0.00 ERA, so I’d say he’s probably ready for the season to start.

(43) Yet the Dodgers are on the verge of going down in baseball infamy if they haven’t already. This group of players must win a World Series to validate their run.

(44) The Dodgers are the undisputed favorites of the NL West, with no clear number two threat behind them.

(45) The last two NL Rookies of the Year have come from the Dodgers, and RHP Walker Buehler could become the third.

(46) Eric Hosmer is now a San Diego Padre.

(47) Hosmer is on a mission to prove that sabermetrics cannot paint the entire picture of a player.

(48) There are six teams with new managers in 2018.

(49) Five of them are first time Major League managers.

(50) Three — Aaron Boone, Alex Cora, and Dave Martinez — will face World Series or bust expectations.

(51) The new wave of managers is extremely analytically driven.

(52) It’s why the Yankees fired Joe Girardi despite finishing one win short of a World Series appearance.

(53) Martinez will guide a Nationals team that has never advanced past the NLDS despite their regular season success.

(54) He must excel immediately, as this could be the final season in D.C. for Bryce Harper

(55) Harper is playing for a $400 million contract. It’ll be incredibly difficult to get, but if anyone can do it Harper is the guy.

(56) Victor Robles, who the Nats acquired in the Lucas Giolito trade, could emerge as the NL Rookie of the Year.

(57) But that’s if Ronald Acuna of the Atlanta Braves doesn’t win it.

(58) Acuna will begin the season in the minor leagues because of baseball’s archaic service time rules, but he’ll be up to the big leagues in no time.

(59) The Braves and Phillies are both building powerhouses for the future, but might not be ready to seriously compete in 2018.

(60) However, Philadelphia did add Jake Arrieta, who is looking to serve the same role that Jon Lester has with the Cubs as a veteran presence in a young, talented locker room.

(61) Maikel Franco forgot how to hit in 2017. If he doesn’t remember this season he’ll be replaced.

(62) Perhaps by Manny Machado (I know, you’re going to hear that name a lot this year).

(63) The Miami Marlins won’t break the Major League record of 120 losses, but they won’t be that far off either.

(64) Starlin Castro deserves to be traded off that team. If he plays well, he probably will be June.

(65) So does J.T. Realmuto, who could shine in a pennant race as one of the best catchers in baseball.

(66) It’ll be tough to take it easy on Derek Jeter, but we have to remember that this is only year one of his rebuild. Still, it’s strange to see The Captain involved with such a poor product.

(67) The New York Mets need to be taken seriously.

(68) No, really. I know it’s easy to be pessimistic about this bunch but they are very talented.

(69) The Mets have two of the 10-15 best starting pitchers in baseball, an All-Star closer, three All-Star outfielders, veterans at third base and second base, and the most franchise’s exciting infield prospect since David Wright at shortstop.

(70) Mickey Callaway is their new skipper, and he’ll try to implement a more rigid program than the team had prior to his arrival.

(71) The Chicago Cubs are still the class of the NL Central.

(72) Anthony Rizzo is a Marjory Stoneman High School alum and delivered some poignant remarks on the tragic mass shooting that recently occurred at the school.

(73) The lines between sports and politics have begun to blend in other sports and we are about to discover whether that trend continues in the 2018 baseball season.

(74) The Milwaukee Brewers arrived in 2017. They won’t go away this year, either.

(75) Milwaukee acquired Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain to bolster the outfield.

(76) This means Ryan Braun will spend some time at first base against left-handed pitching.

(77) They also delivered a pretty impressive adaptation of The Sandlot

(78) But we still can’t talk about the Central without the St. Louis Cardinals

(79) Marcell Ozuna, another All-Star outfielder from Miami, is now on the Cardinals.

(80) I’m just going to use this line to reflect (again) on how much talent the Marlins lost. Sorry guys.

(81) Back to the Birds — RHP Alex Reyes is set to return from Tommy John surgery.

(82) It’s not exactly clear on whether Reyes will appear as a starter or reliever just yet, but he should flourish in either role given how highly regarded he is as a prospect.

(83) Expect the Cardinals to compete for the NL Central crown.

(84) The Pittsburgh Pirates will begin the season without Andrew McCutchen, which feels strange. McCutchen is now a member of the San Francisco Giants.

(85) And unfortunately for the Giants, Madison Bumgarner suffered a broken hand in Spring Training play.

(86) The Giants also traded for third baseman Evan Longoria. Can this group of vets bring them back to contention?

(87) The Cincinnati Reds may not be very good, but they have some really fun players. Billy Hamilton among them.

(88) Joey Votto may go down as one of the most underappreciated stars of all time. To the casual fan, he’s an All-Star. To the more observant fan, he is nearly a deity.

(89) As for the AL Central? That division runs through Cleveland, Ohio.

(90) Francisco Lindor is arguably the game’s best shortstop. Corey Kluber is arguably the game’s best starter. Andrew Miller is arguably the game’s best reliever.

(91) The Indians are currently riding a 69 year World Series drought, the longest in baseball.

(92) But because of the lack of competition within their division, Cleveland may be the Major League favorite to win the most regular season games.

(93) Miguel Cabrera‘s career is hanging on for dear life. He also calls everyone “Bro” because he doesn’t know anyone’s name.

(94) Victor Martinez is also at the tail end of his career. It looks to be a long season in Detroit.

(95) Michael Kopech might not be with the White Sox on Opening Day, but he should join the club at some point this season. Keep an eye on him — he’s the next Noah Syndergaard.

(96) And Yoan Moncada could be the next Robinson Cano. If the White Sox are ahead of schedule, they could be a dark horse Wild Card team in 2018.

(97) Mike Moustakas is back on the Royals because he bet on himself and lost. He’ll probably be traded before the deadline, though.

(98) Major League Baseball implemented new pace of play rules for this season, though it’s tough to see how drastically they’ll shift the game.

(99) There’s no electronic strike zone. Yet.

(100) On March 29th, all 30 Major League teams will begin their campaign. Baseball is back.

Main Photo: May 27, 2012 – Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America

Max is a student at Saint Joseph's University where he is a Communication Studies major. He is a contributing writer for Baseknock MLB and the host of the Payoff Pitch Podcast, which airs every Tuesday morning.

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