Here are some things to watch for the upcoming season:
The Revamped Padres
The biggest news the San Diego Padres had in the last five years was the unfortunate passing of hitting legend Tony Gwynn. However, this offseason the Padres made the biggest changes to their roster out of any team in the MLB. PetCo Park will see a completely new Padres outfield, led by new acquisitions Justin Upton, Will Myers and Matt Kemp. Not to mention a new number one starter in signing free agent James Shields. No one expected the Padres to be a contender this quickly, but after making such a splash in the offseason it is time for San Diego to see some drastic improvement this upcoming season.
The Mets…Seriously, The Mets
Unlike the Padres, the Mets had a relatively quiet offseason. While they signed veteran Michael Cuddyer, their roster remained mostly the same. However, this young Mets team is a year older and a year more talented and could very well contend for a playoff spot. The biggest news is getting Matt Harvey back in a rotation that includes other young guns Jake DeGrom and Zack Wheeler, along with veteran Bartolo Colon. Harvey seems to be on his way to be ready for opening day, and it has the Met’s coaches excited. New York’s rotation should keep them in most games, but the question remains if they will be able to score enough runs to make a run at the playoffs.
The AL East
This division has always been entertaining for baseball fans since the Red Sox and Yankees have battled for decades. After last season the Orioles showed they are for real, even after playing without young stars Manny Machado and Chris Davis towards the end of the season, making this division even that more interesting. Baltimore will most likely take a step back on offense with Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis leaving for free agency, so it may be too much to ask for the O’s to be big winners again this year, especially with the competition within the division.
Unfortunately the biggest news coming out of New York these days is related to Alex Rodriguez’s PED usage. This isn’t good news for the Yankees who haven’t added any firepower at all on offense and are hoping to get through the season with essentially the same lineup they ran out last year (plus or minus Rodriguez, which is undetermined at this point). The rotation has talent, but CC Sabathia needs to bounce back from a disappointing year, and Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda need to show they can be healthy for the Yankees to have any shot at a playoff run.
The Red Sox did the most improvement to their lineup adding World Series Champion Pablo Sandoval from the Giants and Hanley Ramirez from the Dodgers. The Sox will certainly score runs, but after missing out on John Lester this offseason, they are left without a true ace at the top of their rotation. Interestingly, Ramirez is slated to play left field in Boston, a brand new position for him. Last time a Ramirez was playing in front of the Green Monster at Fenway was Manny, and that made for an interesting blooper reel.
The young guns in Houston
The Astros have been in rebuild mode for the past few years, where GM Jeff Luhnow has had to endure some terrible seasons on the field. This year could be the first in a great turnaround for the franchise, with young players starting to come in to their own. The Astros $45 million payroll in 2014 was comically low, but that doesn’t mean the team does not have young talent. First baseman Jonathan Singleton and outfielder George Springer were thrown in to the fire of the big leagues last season and expect to be much improved in their first full year. More prospects like shortstop Carlos Correa are expected to be with the big league club this year, giving the Astros even more hope for the future. Starting pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh give the team a solid front end of the rotation to build off of. With their ridiculously low payroll the Astros also have room to operate and could be a landing spot for ace Cole Hamels who is on the market. Don’t expect there to be a World Series parade this year in Houston, but the Astros could very well catch some teams off guard, making them an interesting team to watch.