Who doesn't love a good 7-furlong slugfest between topnotch horses? That's exactly what the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint provides in addition to returning some generous prices such as 2017 winner Bar of Gold's $135.40 payout for every $2 wagered. I'm not sure we can catch that kind of lightening in a bottle this year, but the future bets do look juicy.
Top 5 Most Thrilling MLB Storylines To Watch in 2018
#1 Offseason Free Agents
Baseball games are fun and all, but what keeps us invested in the season are the storylines. From record breaking journies to shocking moves, to massive upsets, we love the ups and downs that the MLB provides daily, including during the offseason.
There are tons of teams and players to watch for, like if some of the more worse off teams impress, like the White Sox, or if those who surprised us last season revert to mediocrity, like the Twins, but today we’ll be focusing on five of the most relevent storylines to keep up with up to and during 2018.
Our first storyline won’t be taking place during the season itself, but is the most important part. One of two good players on a team can change the entire dynamic. Despite training camps beginning in a mere three weeks, there are still a ton of superb free agents who remain unsigned.
The most prominent of these is Yu Darvish. Even though his World Series performance was lacking, the 31-year-old Japan native is still being looked at by the Brewers and Cubs. J.D. Martinez is also still unsigned and is still in what seems to be the slowest negotiations ever with the Boston Red Sox.
Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain are both unsigned as well and there are no reports of any potential signings. Look out for these players, because whoever signs them will be receiving a significant boost.
#2 Return Of The Evil Empire?
The New York Yankees surprised last season and made it far in the playoffs.
A number of their players stepped up and impressed. This year, Luis Severino should continue as the team ace, while Sonny Gray can grow more into his role in his first full year with the Bombers. Not only that, but Aaron Judge should continue to get better and Gary Sanchez should continue to improve also. The biggest addition though is Giancarlo Stanton.
With both Stanton and Judge and an impressive starting rotation, the Yankees are looking like the Evil Empire of times past, and are now favored to win the World Series at Sports Interaction. The only wild card is the departure of Joe Girardi, having been replaced with Aaron Boone.
#3 Two-Way Phenom
Arguably the most hyped player to come to the MLB from Japan’s NPB is Shohei Ohtani. Signed to the Angels, the pitcher has had a very successful career overseas, posting a 1.86 ERA as a starter in 2016. In total, in Ohtani’s five seasons in the NPB, he is 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA, striking out 624 in 543 innings. What makes him so fascinating is his ability to wield the bat as well. The Japan native is batting .286/.358/.500 in his 403 games, with 43 homers. His speed is also considerable. All eyes will be on this two-way player when he makes his debut for the Angels, and we’ll see if the hype is real.
#4 2018-19 Free Agency
There are a ton of superstars who will be entering free agency at the end of next season. Their imminent departures will decide a lot during the season. Bryce Harper’s name is at the forefront as he’s been an important part of the Washington Nationals since 2012. If they lose Harper, it’ll be a huge blow to the team’s slugging and run production.
Clayton Kershaw is also on this list, although it’s unlikely he’ll want to leave the Dodgers. Charlie Blackmon, Dallas Keuchel, Manny Machado, and Josh Donaldson fill more of the list, with the latter two most likely having to leave their respective teams, the Orioles and Blue Jays. Look for a Machado or Donaldson move before the trade deadline if it doesn’t happen during the offseason.
#5 Toronto Blue Jays To Fly Again?
Every Canadian will be keeping an eye out for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018 after their abysmal 2017 season. With the under performing Jose Bautista now a free agent and with Donaldson perhaps on his way out during the season, can the Blue Jays put up a fight in their division, or at least get out of the AL East basement? Their starting rotation is serviceable with Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, and Marco Estrada, and their bullpen is decent because of Osuna’s closing skills, but the Jays need to lead first before No Panic takes the mound.
It’s the offense that could shape up to be a huge boost from last season. Randal Grichuk joins the team along with Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz, and Curtis Granderson. They will replace Bautista, Darwin Barney, and Ryan Goins, looking to be a big improvement. Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis should contribute more as well if they stay healthy, unlike in 2017.
It hasn’t been that long since the Blue Jays were contenders, and with this new look, it’ll be interesting to see how Canada’s team fares this season.
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