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24 storylines to know for 2024 MLB season: Dodgers' superteam status, Yankees home run hopefuls and more


Major League Baseball’s regular season officially got underway last week, when the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres played a two-game series in Seoul, South Korea. We can forgive anyone willing to overlook those games in favor of declaring March 28 as the one true Opening Day. There’s a certain logic to that thinking, after all, since it’ll mark the first time that the entire league is in action on a given day this year.

Wherever you fall on that argument, let us rejoice at two undebatable facts: the games once again count, and they’ll be played nearly every day from now until October. But, before MLB can push off from the shore and embark on another six-month trek, we here at CBS Sports figured it would be fruitful to touch upon the biggest storylines facing the 2024 season. 

With that in mind, below we’ve asked (and explained) 22 questions that will shape the coming year. Scroll slowly with us, won’t you, as we break down the 2024 MLB season. 

1. What happens with the Ohtani-Mizuhara investigation?

Let’s face it. The biggest storyline in MLB has become — and will remain until its conclusion — the league’s investigation into Shohei Ohtani and his former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. That’s going to be the case anytime the game’s top player is linked, even as a non-participant, to a gambling scandal.

For those unaware, the short version goes like this: Mizuhara is alleged to have placed illegal bets on non-diamond sports with an accused bookmaker. For reference, MLB personnel are allowed to gamble on non-diamond sports provided that sports betting is legal in that jurisdiction; sports betting is not legal in California. 

Mizuhara reportedly racked up a multi-million dollar gambling debt along the way, and has alleged that Ohtani paid it off for him. Mizuhara has changed his story since initially offering that explanation, however, muddying the waters on what Ohtani knew, when he knew it, and if he agreed to wire money to an accused illegal bookmaker. (Said bookmaker has denied ever meeting or talking to Ohtani.) 

While Ohtani has denied any involvement with the gambling aspect, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered by a thorough investigation given baseball’s sordid history with gambling.

2. Can the Dodgers make good on the hype?

No team was more active over the offseason than the Dodgers. Andrew Friedman’s forbearance allowed him to land his white whale, two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, along with starters Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow, and James Paxton, and slugging outfielder Teoscar Hernández. That doesn’t even take into account how the Dodgers re-signed Jason Heyward or reunited with utility player Enrique Hernández.

In so many words, these Dodgers are loaded — to the extent that we struggled to figure out just how they might miss the playoffs. So, can they deliver on their winter promise? And what exactly does that entail, anyway? We’ll tackle the second part first.

In our estimation, the Dodgers would have to win the World Series to avoid being accused of underachieving. Remember, this is not your normal team with generic, modest goals for any given season. The Dodgers have been a highly successful franchise for more than a decade. They’ve made the playoffs every year since 2013; they’ve won the National League West in all but one of those seasons; and they’ve won 100 or more games in five of their last six full-length seasons. Adding this much talent to the roster in short order necessitates us elevating the expectations. 

Can the Dodgers do that? Certainly, provided their rotation can stay reasonably healthy and productive. There’s no guarantee of that for any team — that’s why we play the games — but on paper the Dodgers are the favorite to host a championship parade come the fall. We’ll see if they make good on the promise.

3. Can Judge, Soto each hit 50 home runs?

In all of MLB history, only one pair of teammates has ever recorded 50-homer seasons in the same year. If it wasn’t obvious, that duo was Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle back in 1961. Maris homered 61 times (until recently the AL record) and Mantle launched 54 for the eventual World Series champion Yankees. More than 60 years later, could Aaron Judge and Juan Soto flirt with history?

The Yankees, of course, obtained Soto from the Padres in December as part of a larger deal that also netted them reserve outfielder Trent Grisham.

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The odds of both going for 50 hom runs are admittedly slim — there’s a reason it’s only happened once. Judge has cleared the 50-homer mark twice, including two years ago, when he broke Maris’ record. Soto has never clobbered more than 35 in a season. But, to be fair, he’s never played in an offensive environment that’s as friendly to left-handed power hitters as Yankee Stadium. Stranger things have happened than a player taking full advantage of his surroundings, especially in a walk year.

At minimum, that we felt this hypothetical was even worth addressing shows how fun it should be to watch Soto and Judge in the same lineup.

4. Will Rangers repeat?

MLB hasn’t had a repeat World Series champion since the Yankees won the 1998-2000 World Series. Do the Rangers, fresh off the franchise’s first title, have a shot at changing that? You’d be justified to say no.

To our eyes, the Rangers appear to have a very good lineup in place. The trouble with predicting them to repeat lies with their rotation. They’re already down three notable starters, in Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Tyler Mahle (who was in the process of recovering from Tommy John surgery when they signed him over the offseason). Factor in how the Rangers’ winter was hamstrung by the uncertainty surrounding their local broadcasting deal, and they failed to add many reinforcements.

There’s also the reality of the expanded postseason making it more difficult to repeat. There’s a chance the Rangers would have to again win four series to throw a parade. Those Yankees teams only had to win three series to complete the feat.

That doesn’t mean the Rangers are sunk. It does mean they’re going to be relying heavily on Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, and Andrew Heaney to begin the year. Depending on how those aforementioned pitchers heal, the Rangers could enter the postseason with much improved odds of taking home a second consecutive trophy.

Beyond the Rangers, two of the biggest surprises last season on a team level were the Orioles and the Diamondbacks. Each squad arrived a year earlier than expected, with the Orioles taking home the American League East and the D-backs winning the National League pennant before losing in the World Series to those Rangers, and both appear primed to make another run at the postseason this season.

The Orioles made two notable veteran additions over the winter, signing closer Craig Kimbrel and trading for ace Corbin Burnes. Baltimore continues to boast an impressive young positional core, including catcher Adley Rutschman, shortstop Gunnar Henderson, and incoming infielder Jackson Holliday. 

What’s more is the Orioles still have a glut of positional prospects at the upper levels of their system. They’re also in the midst of being sold to billionaire David Rubenstein, suggesting that the Burnes trade might not be the last time Baltimore’s front office makes a splash if new ownership wants to get in the fans’ good graces.

The Diamondbacks, for their part, had a quality offseason, too. They signed veterans Eduardo Rodriguez and Jordan Montgomery to bolster their rotation, and added third baseman Eugenio Suárez and outfielders Joc Pederson and Randal Grichuk to pad the lineup. We happen to think this D-backs team features more talent than the one that ended last season. Now, it’s up to them to prove it on the field.

6. Might the Astros make ALCS again?

The Astros have accomplished an impressive feat over the past decade, making it to seven consecutive American League Championship Series. They’ve then advanced to (or won) the World Series four times, including two of the last three Fall Classics. (They’ve also encountered their share of controversy along the way.) Given the bloated state of the postseason bracket, that’s not a feat to take lightly or scoff at.

Other front offices have predicted that the end of the Astros’ reign atop the AL is in sight. It does feel like the end must be closer than not. Superstars Alex Bregman and Justin Verlander are slated to hit free agency come winter, and Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez aren’t too far behind. That’s just how it goes in professional sports; no team can stay ahead of the winds of change forever.

Still, these Astros have at least one big season left in the tank in our opinion. Can they make the most of it and return to the League Championship once again? There’s a real chance.

Most projection systems have the Astros winning the West, fending off the Rangers and Mariners in the process, and securing the top seed in the AL side of the bracket. Should that come to pass, basic probability suggests that would make it easier for them to return to the LCS, since it would require just one postseason series win rather than two. 

The Astros did make one big addition over the offseason that should also help their chances: signing free-agent reliever Josh Hader to a five-year deal and installing him as their closer. (Ryan Pressly, who had done a mighty fine job with the ninth inning over the last four seasons, will serve in a setup role.)

7. Can anyone stop the Braves?

Here’s a dirty little secret about the National League: the Dodgers are, rightly, receiving most of the attention after their terrific offseason, but they’re not the NL team that most forecast models have winning the most games. Rather, that distinction goes to the Braves.

If that surprises you, it shouldn’t. These Braves have cleared the century mark in consecutive seasons, and they return from the winter with most of last year’s team in tact. They even made three noteworthy additions by adding starters Chris Sale and Reynaldo López as well as outfielder Jarred Kelenic.

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Sale, in particular, feels as though he’s something of an x-factor for this group. He’s been limited by health matters to 31 starts since the start of the 2020 campaign, but a number of underlying measures suggest he remains an above-average arm

It’s anyone’s guess as to whether Sale, Spencer Strider, and the rest of the Braves rotation can stay healthy — their postseason run last year was derailed by untimely injuries to Max Fried and Charlie Morton. If the Braves can stay mostly healthy heading into October, they stand a great chance of winning their second World Series in four years.

8. Does MLBPA make a leadership change?

The Ohtani-Mizuhara story overshadowed another that could have long lasting effects on the league: the potential that the MLB Players Association makes a leadership change.

The short version of this story is that players have grown discontent after a poor offseason with union leadership. They reportedly demanded that executive director Tony Clark fire No. 2 Bruce Meyer, a seasoned negotiator in pro sports labor matters whose critics accuse him of being too close with agent Scott Boras. Clark resisted firing Meyer, at least so far, leading to speculation that the players may instead choose to replace him, with one person of note being Harry Marino, a former pitcher who played a pivotal role in unionizing the minor-league players. 

It’s presently unclear if and/or when the players will vote on such matters, but it’s something to monitor given the potential ramifications it could have on labor relations.

9. Who are some top prospects to be aware of?

CBS Sports recently published our spring ranking of the top 50 prospects in the minors. That list was headed by Orioles infielder Jackson Holliday, Rays infielder Junior Caminero, Rangers outfielders Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford, and Nationals outfielder Dylan Crews.

A few other names who ranked highly and are worth monitoring: Brewers outfielder Jackson Chourio, converted Padres outfielder Jackson Merrill, and Pirates right-hander Paul Skenes.

You can click here to check out the entire top 50.

10. Can Padres, Mets, Cardinals atone for down years?

We touched upon the Rangers, Orioles, and Diamondbacks as three of last season’s biggest surprises. How about three of last year’s biggest disappointments in the Padres, Mets, and Cardinals? Despite each being popular picks to make the postseason last spring, none of the three were present in October. Only the Padres, who won 82 games, even authored a winning season.

The Padres were uncharacteristically quiet for much of the winter. They traded Juan Soto and Trent Grisham, then allowed Josh Hader and 60% of their rotation to leave through free agency. A.J. Preller, no stranger to making bold moves, waited until the final days of the exhibition season to make his big addition, snagging Dylan Cease from the White Sox as part of a five-player trade. 

The Mets installed a new head baseball operations executive in former Brewers general manager David Stearns. Stearns subsequently spent the winter adding upside plays, such Luis Severino, Sean Manaea, Harrison Bader, and Jorge López. The Mets’ ability to get the most from those players will dictate if they have a chance at making it to October.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, restocked their pitching staff following last year’s dreadful performance. They signed Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson, and Lance Lynn to bolster the rotation, and acquired veteran relievers Andrew Kittredge and Keynan Middleton to help out in the bullpen. 

11. Will late signings impact the Boras Four?

Jordan Montgomery was the final member of the so-called Boras Four left on the market until this week, when he agreed to a deal with the Diamondbacks. The others, left-hander Blake Snell, outfielder Cody Bellinger, and third baseman Matt Chapman, also signed deep into the offseason. Thanks to that, neither Snell nor Montgomery will be ready for their new teams (Giants and Diamondbacks, respectively) on Opening Day and will instead need time to ramp up to game speed.

Will that matter? Probably not. Maybe one missed start could be the difference in Cy Young voting but it’s unlikely. That said, all four are behind schedule compared to their teammates.

12. What’s next for Angels’ Trout?

Shohei Ohtani’s departure from the Angels means that Mike Trout is now the lone superstar standing for a franchise that hasn’t enjoyed much success in recent years. In fact, this October will mark a decade since Trout made his first (and to date only) trip to the postseason at the big-league level. Maybe the Angels can muster enough vigor from new skipper Ron Washington to make a surprise run to the playoffs? 

Eh, probably not.

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You might wonder if Trout will eventually force his own departure from the Angels. He’ll turn 33 in August and is signed through the 2030 season. What’s more is that his body has betrayed him in recent years, leaving him to average 72 appearances over the last four seasons. Trout’s 131 OPS+ last year, while still quite good, marked the worst full-season effort of his career. 

It’s reasonable to think prime Trout might never be again, either in terms of health or performance. Yet it doesn’t appear that he’s considering requesting a trade, or otherwise forcing his way to a more desirable situation.

“You know, there might be a time (when a trade makes sense for me),” Trout told reporters back in February. “I really haven’t thought about this. But you know, when I signed that contract, I’m loyal.”

The Angels are projected to suffer their ninth consecutive losing season.

13. Can Reds win a postseason series, end drought?

The Reds haven’t won a postseason series since 1995, giving them the longest drought in all of MLB. (The next longest streak is 18 years.) That may sound impossible, but here’s a breakdown of each Reds playoffs appearance in the time since:

  • 2010: Lost 3-2 in NL Division Series
  • 2012: Lost 3-2 in NL Division Series
  • 2013: Lost 1-0 in NL Wild Card Game
  • 2020: Lost 2-0 in NL Wild Card Series (expanded postseason)

Can the Reds end their drought with a few champagne showers this year? They would seem to have a fair chance at winning the National League Central following an improved 2023 season and a busy winter. 

Unfortunately, Cincinnati’s year is off to an inauspicious start. Starting third baseman Noelvi Marte was suspended for 80 games after failing a performance-enhancing drug test, and breakout center fielder TJ Friedl suffered a non-displaced fracture in his wrist late in spring training that will cost him at least the beginning of the schedule. 

If the Reds are to end their postseason series drought, they’ll have to do it after beginning the season shorthanded.

14. Who are some breakout candidates?

Back in February, CBS Sports chose one breakout candidate for all 30 teams. If you don’t know much about the likes of Ke’Bryan Hayes, Maikel García, and Thomas Saggese — well, you may want to go ahead and rectify that now.

15. Is this the A’s last stand in Oakland?

It’s too early to say. The Athletics are still attempting to relocate to Las Vegas, Nevada. Their new stadium would not be completed for several more seasons, however, leaving them without a real home after this season, when their Oakland lease expires. 

The A’s have reportedly engaged with the City of Oakland about extending the lease; they’ve also been rumored to have interest in playing at a temporary home, like in Sacramento. As such, there’s still a lot to be determined about where exactly the Athletics are going to be after this season. Stay tuned.

16. Will the pant remain the universal concern?

The talk of spring training was the new uniform produced by Fanatics and Nike — and not in a good way. Nike and Fanatics attempted to construct a kit that was more breathable and comfortable to wear during hot months. The players did not feel they had achieved the desired effect, with union head Tony Clark expressing concern about the apparent transparency of the pants. Our Kate Feldman talked to several fashion experts about what exactly went wrong and what could be done to fix the issues ahead of Opening Day.

17. Who will the Guardians take No. 1?

For the first time in franchise history, the Guardians will make the top selection in MLB’s first-year amateur draft. Cleveland won the right to No. 1 despite entering last winter’s draft lottery with just a 2% chance at coming out on top. 

CBS Sports has already ranked the top 30 prospects in this year’s class. As we noted then, other front offices believed the Guardians were enamored with Oregon State second baseman Travis Bazzana. Here’s part of what we wrote about him at the time:

With the caveat that a lot can and will change over the ensuing five months, multiple sources identified Bazzana as the preseason favorite to go No. 1. The Guardians are believed to be particularly enamored with his makeup — one source said, in the parlance of today’s young and cool, that they think he’s “built different.” Be that as it may be, a scouting director noted that these things are dictated by 11th-hour bonus demands, not springtime deliberations. But enough about the process stuff. What about Bazzana’s game? He’s another polished left-handed hitter who boasts a double major in Swing Decisions and Barrel Feel. 

With that established, there are still months to go before the Guardians will have to submit their pick, meaning there’s ample time for them to go a different route. 

18. Which managers are on the hot seat?

The Cardinals recently took manager Oliver Marmol off the chopping block by signing him to a two-year extension. There are still a number of skippers who will be glancing over their shoulders during the course of the season. Our Dayn Perry recently analyzed which skippers are, in his opinion, the closest to be handed their pink slips.

19. Can Padres’ Salas make history?

Padres catcher Ethan Salas is already considered one of the best prospects in the game thanks to his advanced defensive skills and promising lefty bat. He could soon place his name in the history books by becoming the first teenage catcher to appear in a big-league game in more than three decades.

Salas, who won’t celebrate his 18th birthday until June 1, blazed to the Double-A level in his first professional season. Take his rapid ascent, combine it with how the Padres like to challenge their best young players, and it seems wholly within reason to think that he could debut at the big-league level at some point during the 2024 season. 

Even if Salas doesn’t, he has until June 1, 2026 to become the first teenager to catch in an MLB game since Iván Rodríguez did it in 1991. We like his odds.

20. Which stars are entering walk years?

It’s not just Juan Soto who is nearing a foray into the open market, you know. Alex Bregman, Corbin Burnes, Max Fried, Pete Alonso, and Ha-Seong Kim are some of the other stars who have winter dates with free agency on their agenda. You can check out CBS Sports’ too-early ranking of the winter’s best free agents here.

21. How will new rules impact games?

Although MLB’s rulebook didn’t change as much this offseason as it did last, there are still some developments that will require adjustments from players, umpires, and fans. Those include tweaks to the pitch clock and the runner’s lane, as well as an increased emphasis on calling the obstruction rules already on the books.

22. Might Giants’ Melvin join a select club?

It’s understandable if you’ve forgotten about veteran skipper Bob Melvin leaving the Padres after a disappointing season to relocate to another NL West team in the Giants. 

A lot has happened since, including countless roster moves that would seem to have a greater impact on paper, but Melvin now has a chance to do something that few others have done throughout the sport’s history: guide a fourth different franchise to the postseason.

Melvin, regarded as one of the best skippers in the game, has been to the dance with the Diamondbacks, Athletics, and Padres. The odds would seem against him, albeit not in an insurmountable fashion, with these Giants. If Melvin can get the job done, however, he’ll join Dusty Baker (five teams), Billy Martin, and Davey Johnson as managers who have taken as many as four teams to the tournament. 

23. Any other milestone pursuits worth tracking?

Of course. Our Dayn Perry broke down some of the most notable, including Clayton Kershaw’s pursuit of 3,000 strikeouts; Max Scherzer’s attempt to move into the top 10 in strikeouts; and both Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel’s journey to the top five in saves. You can read about all of those nuggets and more by clicking here.

24. Who wins the World Series?

What better way to wrap this up than to point you toward CBS Sports’ preseason picks. We cannot assure you that they will be 100% accurate. (If anything, we can assure the opposite.) But that’s part of the beauty and the agony of any given MLB season: no matter how well you know (or think you know) the game, it can and will humble you. The best approach, then, is just to enjoy the ride.





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