Getting ready for the new baseball season

Baseball followers – with the possible exception of LA Dodgers fans – enjoyed a thrilling end to the 2017 season with one of the most exciting World Series of all time. Can 2018 possibly top that? As fans of MLB gear up for Opening Day on March 29th, we look ahead at what the 2018 season could have in store for us.

If betting is part of your build-up to the season, then you can bet online with Stakers, and most online sportsbooks have the Astros and the Yankees neck and neck in the betting to win the World Series in 2018. If the Astros were to pull it off, they would become the first team since the Yankees to win titles back to back, but both of those teams will face stiff competition this season from the Dodgers, the Cubs, the Indians, and the Nationals.

The Astros have kept their core of José Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Alex Bregman; their offensive depth is second to none; and they have added Gerrit Cole to a starting rotation that was already pretty impressive. They are a young team, packed with talent and potential, and in the position to become perpetual World Series contenders. If they have a weakness, it is the lack of a true defensive catcher, but that didn’t hold them back last year!

Their main challengers are likely to be the Yankees. Another young team that is probably improving ahead of schedule, they have a thoroughly dependable bull pen and one of baseball’s best farm systems to call on. The departure of Joe Girardi had the potential to be disruptive, but the offseason appears to have gone to plan with the signing of Aroldis Chapman. A key figure in the Cubs’ success in the World Series, Chapman joins hot prospect Gleyber Torres, another former Cubs player, and ranks as one of the best deals of the winter. The Yankees fell one game short of the World Series last year, but they have obvious potential to improve on that performance this time around.

What about the Dodgers? After the disappointment of Game Seven, are they ready for another tilt at the World Series? There isn’t too much wrong with their line-up. They have a good blend of youth and experience, a farm system that can match the Yankees, and they will have learned a lot from the journey to the World Series last year. They haven’t made any big trades in the offseason, settling for minor tweaks of the roster, but it has to be remembered that they finished last year with the best regular season record before taking part in that classic final series. We can expect them to dominate in the West again.

The Indians exited the play-offs earlier than anticipated, but the memory of their 22-game winning run has kept fans warm all winter. They appear to have lined up the experienced Mike Napoli – who was with the Tribe in 2016 – to fill the first base and designated hitter role following the departure of Carlos Santana, and with a competitive starting rotation and a roster that has earned valuable post-season experience, they will be serious contenders again this year.

Speaking of good business, the Cubs pulled off some intelligent trades in the winter, bringing in high-profile starting pitchers in Tyler Chatwood and Yu Darvish. Add those two to the dazzling trio of Kyle Hendricks, José Quintana, and Jon Lester, and the Cubs can boast arguably the best starting rotation in MLB. If their bullpen can hold up a little better this time around and the younger stars, such as Willson Contreras and Albert Almora Jr, are able to continue their development to back up the likes of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, then the Cubs can also make a strong post-season charge in 2018.

Fans of MLB should also look out for a strong challenge from Washington. The Nationals have a roster that is as talented as any in MLB, and they enjoyed an excellent season in 2017. They are likely to dominate the NL East once again, and that dominance will surely be translated into post-season success at some point sooner rather than later.

With the Astros looking to establish a dynasty, the Yankees striving to get back to the World Series, and a host of lively challengers, including the Indians, the Dodgers, the Nationals, and the Cubs, 2018 promises to be another classic MLB season. We can’t wait!

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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