TWO MLB TEAMS TO FOLLOW THIS SEASON

Baseball season is back! As the teams play in the Spring Training and players give their best to cause a good impression and start the year on the 25-man roster, it’s a nice opportunity to check which teams can be the most surprising by the end of September. Who will improve? Which rookies and newly acquired players will cause an impact? Let’s find out!

American League – Los Angeles Angels

The obvious choice would be the New York Yankees. After all, a combination of NYC, 27 titles and their new Judge/Stanton combo is very attractive. But the Yankees are coming from a 91-win season and seeing them in the playoffs again in 2018 wouldn’t surprise anyone. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Angels were basically a .500 team in 2017 (80-82 record) in a West Division that was easily dominated by the Astros. But there are reasons to think the team will improve this year and fight for a spot to play in October.  First of all: Mike Trout. Well, we don’t really have to say a lot here. Even if you’re not an Angels fan, you should appreciate the guy and watch him play. If you’re already doing it, congratulations! You’re seeing history being made! But as we’ve seen in recent years, having the best player in the league doesn’t guarantee your team a playoff spot.

That’s why the Angels went to the market and traded for Justin Upton and his dynamic bat last Trade Deadline. And while Upton is poised to be an important player in Los Angeles lineup, an addition made this winter is the biggest reason to believe the franchise can become more competitive: Shohei Ohtani. The Japanese superstar came over from NPB to be the Angels ace – and occasional designated hitter. Ohtani’s numbers in 2016 were so impressive he was named MVP, best hitting pitcher, and best-designated hitter. Yes, he won two awards in the same category!

Against Ohtani is the fact he spent most of 2017 season battling an ankle injury, which ultimately led him to a surgery last October. Also, there are some questions about his ability to make the transition to a different league and how he will adapt to MLB hitters. But the talent is sure there! If Ohtani does what the Angels expect from him, he’ll become the ace the franchise has been missing. And if Garrett Richards stays health – and that’s a big if – most of the season, they’ll be a good 1-2 rotation punch.  So keep an eye on the Angels, even if the results don’t come. At least you will see two of the most exciting players in the world!

National League – Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers surprisingly missed the postseason last year by just one game, finishing with an 86-76 record. And while the team exceeded performance expectations in 2017, we think there’s a nice chance of Milwaukee posting a similar, if not better, campaign this year. The team’s new acquisitions are the main reasons for such optimism. Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain are dynamic outfielders, who can contribute with their bats, gloves, and legs. Combine them with slugger Domingo Santana and you get a pretty good outfield. And let’s not forget about Travis Shaw and Ryan Braun and their potential 60 home runs combined. Power is definitely not a problem in Brewers’ lineup! The biggest question mark is the pitching staff. Jimmy Nelson had a breakout season in 2017, but he will start 2018 injured and there’s no official timetable for his return. Besides Nelson, right-hander Zach Davies has been a solid arm in Brewers’ rotation, while Chase Anderson, who will lead the staff in 2018, posted the best ERA on the team and showed some nice stuff, highlighted by increased velocity in his fastball and a good changeup. But if Milwaukee really expects to go to the postseason this year, another pitcher will need to emerge and help this rotation.