We’re just hours away from real actual meaningful baseball being played in 2018. If you’ve paid attention to every day of the MLB offseason, then you’re probably filled to your capacity with stats and storylines and projections.
But if you need a catch-up — if you’ve been off monitoring the NBA or binging Netflix shows, and aren’t 100 percent up to date on every single thing that happened between Game 7 of the World Series and this very moment — you’ve come to the right place.
Below are 10 big things you need to know before opening day. If you’re excited and would like to keep reading, you’ll find our collected MLB previews for 2018 after that. Happy baseball season!
1. Giancarlo Stanton is on the Yankees now
In case you hadn’t heard. Or had been living under a rock. Or had been sleeping since the day after the World Series. (If so, you might want to check your privacy settings on Facebook too, friends). And, yes, that sound you hear is American League East pitchers sitting in the corner and sobbing at the prospect of having to face Stanton and Aaron Judge in the same lineup.
2. New faces in new places
The free-agent market was what you’d call Bartolo Colon-running-the-bases slow. Most of the big names are now playing in new places. There are a few people still looking for jobs (more on them in a sec) but you can ace your opening day trivia contest by memorizing this list:
Yu Darvish = Chicago Cubs
Eric Hosmer = San Diego Padres
J.D. Martinez = Boston Red Sox
Jake Arrieta = Philadelphia Phillies
Lorenzo Cain = Milwaukee Brewers
Alex Cobb = Baltimore Orioles
Wade Davis = Colorado Rockies
Jay Bruce = New York Mets
Lance Lynn = Minnesota Twins
Carlos Santana = Phillies
3. The unemployment line is pretty talented
The remaining free agents can certainly help some teams out there. As injuries occur or teams get off to bad starts, we might see them get signed. Until then, the list of players looking for jobs includes: Greg Holland, Jose Bautista, Matt Holliday, Brandon Phillips, J.J. Hardy, John Lackey, Melky Cabrera. Who gets snatched up first? We’ll see.
4. The Shohei Ohtani Show is here
By far, the most fascinating new player in MLB this season is Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese import who is trying to play two ways as a pitcher and DH for the Los Angeles Angels. He’s 23 and had the tools to throw 100+ mph and launch big homers in Japan, the question is whether that will carry over to MLB. So far, the spring training results aren’t encouraging. He’s been a better pitcher than hitter, but neither has been excellent. But it seems like the Angels are going to give him every chance to succeed.
5. The Houston Astros are favorites to win the World Series — again
Can the Astros become back-to-back champs? The gambling industry seems to think so. According to the most recent odds from online sportsbook Bovada, the Astros are favorites to repeat (17/4), followed by the Dodgers (5/1), the Yankees (13/2) then the Cubs and Indians (both 15/2).
6. There’s a limit on mound visits now
As part of MLB’s new pace-of-play rules for 2018, there’s a limit of six mound visits per game now. It counts for managers, pitching coaches, catchers and other players. It’s caused a bit of a hubbub around baseball, especially between pitchers and catchers in an era where signs are getting more complex. Teams have plenty of questions about how this will be applied in real time. It seems like another of those things that will get fine-tuned as the games go on. The application of the rules will be something to watch.
7. Every MLB stadium has extended its netting.
Some fans will, inevitably, be upset that their views are a little more constricted. But everyone will be safer.
8. We’ve got a few new managers this year
Aaron Boone jumped out of the ESPN broadcast booth and now is the skipper of the Yankees and he’s not the only new manager in MLB. Alex Cora left the Houston Astros staff and is the Boston Red Sox manager. Dave Martinez is hoping to get the Washington Nationals over the hump. Mickey Callaway, who oversaw the Cleveland Indians’ pitchers, is now hoping to get the most out of the New York Mets pitching staff. Gabe Kapler is leading the rebuild of the Philadelphia Phillies and Ron Gardenhire is back with the Detroit Tigers.
9. A-Rod has a new job
Speaking of the ESPN booth, Alex Rodriguez is headed there now that Aaron Boone is managing the Yankees. Think about that: A-Rod, now holding down one of the biggest broadcast seats in baseball. What a turnaround it’s been.
10. Free agency will be the undercurrent of this season
Yes, we have 162 games ahead for each team, a postseason still to play and a World Series winner to crown — but you’re probably going to hear about next year’s free-agent class every day. It’s loaded, and many of its entrants play a big part in the season ahead. We’re talking Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon and potentially even Clayton Kershaw. The storylines abound: Can Harper and the Nats get over the hump before he possibly jets? Will Machado or Donaldson get dealt if their teams can’t keep up with the Yankees and Red Sox?
How about a little more?
If you’ve read this far and want to keep going, here’s a full rundown of all the Yahoo Sports MLB preview coverage for 2018. Come back on opening day for a full-day, second-screen experience with Yahoo Sports writers talking baseball from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.
• AL West: Shohei Ohtani and the Angels are looking to dethrone the Astros
• AL Central: Cleveland looks strong again, but the Twins are rising quickly
• AL East: The Yankees and Red Sox will be baseball’s best heavyweight fight
• NL West: Did anybody do enough to challenge the Dodgers?
• NL Central: The Brewers made a big splash, but is it enough to catch the Cubs?
• NL East: Is this finally the year for the Washington Nationals?
THE STORYLINES OF 2018
• The breakout teams of 2018
• The teams that could disappoint in 2018
• Which teams didn’t do enough this offseason?
• Will baseball’s new pace-of-play rules actually work?
• The impact rookies of 2018
OTHER FUN STUFF TO READ OR WATCH BEFORE OPENING DAY
• The Dodgers will win the World Series, according to ‘MLB: The Show 18’
• Ranking every starting pitcher scheduled for MLB’s historic opening day
• The five best bets of the 2018 MLB season
• One former GM tries to make sense of a puzzling MLB offseason
• Which top MLB prospects will make their team’s opening day roster?
• Video: We quizzed the people: Is this an MLB relief pitcher or a dude in a band?
• Video: Take our test: Is this a real or fake Minor League Baseball team?
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