Five MLB storylines to follow ahead of Opening Day tomorrow

by mcardinal

Major League Baseball is set to return Thursday, nearly five months after the Houston Astros secured the team’s second championship. There have been many changes in the offseason as players have switched teams and some big rule changes have shifted the game. Here are five storylines to track as you gear up for the 2023 season.


Japanese two-way standout Shohei Ohtani will be a free agent after the 2023 MLB season and his future could very well be tied to the fortunes of his Los Angeles Angels team that have endured seven consecutive losing seasons.

The former American League MVP, who despite his struggling team has excelled as both a hitter and pitcher, agreed last October to a one-year, $30 million deal with the Angels that avoided arbitration.

Ohtani, who was a runner-up in last year’s AL MVP vote, has previously said that winning will be an important factor when it comes to choosing his team beyond the upcoming season.


New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge took MLB by storm last year as he hit 62 home runs to break the AL single-season record set by Roger Maris in 1961, and fans will be flocking to see if an encore is in store.

Judge also led MLB in RBIs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and total bases in what was one of the best offensive seasons of all time.

For his efforts, Judge was named the AL Most Valuable Player in runaway fashion and signed the largest free-agent deal in MLB history by signing a nine-year, $360 million deal with New York.


The New York Mets signed reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander to fill a hole in their starting rotation after right-handed pitcher Jacob deGrom left the club and signed with the Texas Rangers in free agency.

The 40-year-old Verlander missed almost all of the 2020 and 2021 MLB seasons after having Tommy John surgery but has defied time and proven still to be effective on the mound.

Verlander is coming off a World Series championship season with the Houston Astros in 2022 during which he led the AL in several pitching categories, including wins and ERA, and won the third Cy Young Award of his career.


The World Series champion Houston Astros will open the season without All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve who is out until at least late May while he recovers from a broken thumb suffered at the World Baseball Classic.

Another question for Houston will be their starting rotation as Verlander, one of the game’s top pitchers, left for the Mets. Yet despite the loss, they still have an elite group that should cause fits for opposing batters.

Despite the hurdles, the Astros still have plenty of talent at the plate and they added to that with the offseason signing of first baseman Jose Abreu, a three-time All-Star and former AL MVP who remains a solid hitter.


The season will see the introduction of three new rule changes — a pitch timer, limits on defensive shifts, and bigger bases — as part of a plan to improve the pace of play, action, and safety.

To reduce dead time during games, there will now be a 30-second timer between batters. Between pitches, there will be a 15-second timer with the bases empty and a 20-second timer with runners on base.

In a bid to give players more opportunities to showcase their talents and offset the growing trend of alignments that feature four outfielders, two infielders must now be positioned on each side of second base when the pitch is released.

The idea behind bigger bases — which will increase to 18 inches square from 15 inches square — is to give players more room to operate and to avoid collisions. Home plate is unchanged.

Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters. Additions and edits for FISM News by Michael Cardinal.