Happy Opening Day! To get you ready for the start of another season, let’s go team by team and identify reasons for optimism and pessimism. Play ball!
Reason for optimism: The Braves’ position-player core (Ronald Acuña Jr., Michael Harris II, Matt Olson, Ozzie Albies, Sean Murphy and Austin Riley) is made up of players who are all under long-term contracts. They know they’re going to play together for years to come, and they know how to win. More importantly, they are healthy and talented. An abundance of All-Star caliber players.
Reason for pessimism: Vaughn Grissom, 22, wasn’t ready to take over at shortstop after Dansby Swanson’s departure, leaving the position to Orlando Arcia, who is more of a back-up infielder. Left field will be a below-average defensive position for the Braves regardless of who is out there. The back of the rotation will include lefties Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd, who are young and unproven.
Reason for optimism: The Marlins have a strong rotation that includes the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Sandy Alcantara, lefties Jesús Luzardo and Trevor Rogers, and righty Edward Cabrera. They are all 24 to 27 years old with high ceilings. The Marlins also have veteran Johnny Cueto, who will help teach the younger starters how to pitch, and 19-year-old top prospect Eury Pérez, who is not far behind their group in the majors.
Reason for pessimism: The bottom half of their lineup is filled with second division or bench type hitters, which once again will mean their offense struggles on most nights. Up the middle, they’ll be below average defensively.
New York Mets
Reason for optimism: Their top three starters are arguably the best trio in the sport: three-time Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer lead the way, followed by newly acquired right-hander Kodai Senga, who has the ability to be a difference-maker this year.
Reason for pessimism: Edwin Díaz’s injury leaves the closer role to David Robertson, who turns 38 next week, and/or 37-year-old Adam Ottavino. That might not be enough over a 162-game schedule, and it also makes the Mets susceptible to further injuries due to their lack of bullpen depth. They may have to trade for another closer between now and the deadline.
Reason for optimism: The Trea Turner signing (11-year, $300 million deal) gives the Phillies more ways to score runs and makes them more athletic. The infield shift ban should significantly help Kyle Schwarber and eventually Bryce Harper once he recovers from Tommy John surgery. But the biggest reason for optimism is their bullpen, which is the best and deepest unit in the division at this point.
Reason for pessimism: Harper will miss at least the first couple of months of the season while he rehabs. First baseman Rhys Hoskins is out for the season because of a torn ACL. Andrew Painter, their top prospect, is out with a UCL sprain, and who knows when he’ll be able to pitch again.
Reason for optimism: Their farm system has quickly become one of the best in baseball thanks to a trio of outfielders — James Wood, Robert Hassell III and Elijah Green — who bring back memories of when the Marlins had a similar threesome of outfield prospects (Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna) in their system.
Reason for pessimism: Their top pitching prospect, Cade Cavalli, recently underwent Tommy John surgery and is out for the year. Cavalli was having a great spring, and it appeared his control and command were improving enough to enhance his 100 mph fastball.