2016 MLB Preview Part I: The American League

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Arizona Diamondbacks
It’s been nearly half a year, but on Sunday meaningful baseball games will finally be played once again when the Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, Angels, Jays, Rays, Mets, and Royals kick off the MLB season. CAN YOU FEEL THE EXCITEMENT? There’s nothing quite like Opening Day, the only day (or, I guess two days now) where every team is 0-0 and, theoretically, has an equal shot at winning the World Series. It’s the most unpredictable point in the season for baseball fans. The good news is, I’ve taken the liberty of figuring out exactly what’s going to happen over the next seven months. You’re welcome America. Warning, heavy spoilers for the 2016 season to follow. Note: an asterisk (*) denotes a playoff team.

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Reactions from the Red Sox Grapefruit League Opener


The Red Sox’s first spring training game was more or less exactly what you’d expect from a team who had yet to play a game against a professional opponent in 2015. There was plenty to be excited about, plenty of sloppiness to go around, and ultimately plenty to mindlessly overreact over. Some quick thoughts about tonight’s 9-8 loss against the Twins:

  • Joe Kelly looked like the AL Cy Young candidate that he’s been touting himself as since January by striking out Twins’ lead-off hitter Danny Santana looking with a nasty 2-seam fastball. Kelly then proceeded to give up 6 hits to the next 8 batters, rendering all of the fuzzy feelings from that first batter moot. I’d attribute most of Kelly’s struggles to rust; he struggled to keep his fastball low in the zone and the Twins didn’t hesitate to jump all over his mistakes.
  • At the plate, Dustin Pedroia was locked in. He ripped a fastball between the shortstop and third baseman in his first at-bat, doubled in his second AB, and then hit a grand slam in the 4th inning over the left field fence. There’s been so much talk about Pedroia’s free-falling OPS and whether or not the Laser Show is a player in decline, so it was nice to see him come out and rip the ball like he did.
  • Speaking of Pedroia, Jackie Bradley Jr. changed his stance yet again and this time it bears a striking resemblance to Boston’s second baseman, as pointed out by SB Nation’s Joon Lee:
  • Bradley had a pair of hits including a double off of the wall in right center field, so if nothing else he’s had some good early returns on his change in approach.
  • A lot has been written about Xander Bogaerts’ improvement this offseason, and if last night’s action was any indication we could be in for a breakout season from the second year player. Bogaerts’ destroyed a Tim Stauffer offering in the 3rd inning over the wall in dead center field, and flashed some range with a diving stop of a grounder up the middle, though Mike Napoli was unable to scoop the low throw.
  • Alexi Ogando, whom the Red Sox bought low on this offseason, got a pair of quick outs before allowing an infield single and a home run. His fastball looked lively enough, but as is often the case in March, the location was suspect and the warm weather helped to carry Eduardo Escobar’s fly ball over the wall.
  • ProspectWatch: Catcher Blake Swihart (#1 prospect in the Sox system according to Baseball America) was 0-1 at the plate with a passed ball in the field, shortstop Devin Marrero (#9) also went 0-1, and Matt Barnes (#8) was the only Red Sox pitcher to not allow any runs, striking out 3 over 2 scoreless innings.
  • The loss puts the Red Sox a game back in the race for the all important Mayor’s Cup (a race that is not over, no matter how many times the Twins try to pull a Michael Scott during the office-warehouse basketball game and quit while they’re ahead). I’m one of those obnoxious people who takes that kind of stuff way too seriously, so naturally I already have Saturday’s split squad game against the Twins circled in red ink on my calendar because I care too much about baseball.
  • Last thing: I’m not 100% sure what’s going on with Napoli’s hair. It was long and greasy, a far cry from his usual buzz-cut. If it wasn’t for that tremendous Viking beard of his I’d say he’d be going full Buchholz.

The Sox play the Marlins tomorrow afternoon, but won’t be televised on NESN until Sunday’s matchup against the Mets, which is a major bummer. Regardless, I’m just happy that baseball is back.

What did everyone else think of tonight’s game?