MLB season preview: storylines and what to watch

The+2022+Major+League+Baseball+season+will+begin+on+Thursday%2C+April+7.+Many+teams+are+looking+to+get+into+the+swing+of+things+following+the+lockout+over+the+offseason.+

The 2022 Major League Baseball season will begin on Thursday, April 7. Many teams are looking to get into the swing of things following the lockout over the offseason.

DAVID WARRINGTON

Another MLB Opening Day is upon us, and with it comes 30 teams who all have clear visions of a deep postseason run this fall. After an extended labor stoppage that had people wondering if we would get a 2022 Opening Day at all, it is refreshing for fans and players alike for regular-season games to be getting underway.

The Atlanta Braves, the reigning champions of baseball after winning the World Series a season ago, expect to compete among the league’s best once again. They did lose long-time first baseman Freddie Freeman when he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but with that, they did gain first baseman Matt Olson from the Oakland Athletics to try and cut their losses at first base, as well as picking up closer Kenley Jansen and reliever Collin McHugh, who had a 1.55 ERA a season ago. They were also without star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. for their postseason run last year. His return should give Atlanta a big boost as they vie for back-to-back championships.

The reigning American League Champions are the Houston Astros, who were just a couple of games shy of a championship last year. Many expect the Astros to compete deep into the postseason again this year, despite the offseason departure of All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa. Kyle Tucker had a breakout season for Houston last year, and rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena has the potential to be a respectable replacement for Correa. A lot of Houston’s fortunes will be on the shoulders of starting pitcher Justin Verlander. Verlander, who turned 39 in February, has been a dominant pitcher in the MLB for well over a decade. Whether or not he can continue that dominance as he pushes 40 will go a long way towards determining what kind of season the Astros will have.

A team that came one series short of the World Series last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers, is seen by many as the favorite to go all the way to a championship this season. The aforementioned Freeman is now wearing the Dodger blue, and they also picked up closer Craig Kimbrel this offseason to add to what was an already stacked lineup last year. If the Dodgers can stay healthy and get production from their starting rotation, they should be in good shape when October rolls around.

An interesting storyline to follow this season will be that of the St. Louis Cardinals. After winning 17 games in a row late in the year, the Cardinals barely squeaked into last year’s playoffs before falling to the Dodgers in the Wild Card Game on a walk-off. This season will be something of a last dance for the Cardinals. Yadier Molina, who has been the catcher for the Cardinals since 2004, signed a one-year contract extension with St. Louis this offseason and confirmed that he plans to retire once this season concludes. Adam Wainwright, a starting pitcher for the Cardinals since 2005, hasn’t officially said one way or the other about retirement, but the 40-year-old did say this is likely his last season. Add in the return of Cardinals legend Albert Pujols, who is also retiring after the year, and the three players who won World Series for St. Louis in 2006 and 2011 will have one more chance in 2022.

Heading into the 2022 MLB season, there are countless storylines to watch and 30 teams vying for a World Series championship. 18 of those teams will get their journey started on Thursday, with the other 12 starting their season on Friday.