Wake up, it's baseball season!
It's been 156 days since the Braves' improbable World Series run. At long last, baseball returns.
State of play: A lot has changed since last year. Here are three key changes to keep in mind as the season gets underway this afternoon with a seven-game Opening Day slate:
- Universal DH: Max Scherzer's probably happy pitchers no longer have to hit after going 0-for-59 last season, but former teammate Bryce Harper isn't a fan: "I'm really going to miss the NL style of play."
- Electronic signs: Catchers can now relay signs to pitchers (and select fielders) using an electronic device developed by a company called PitchCom. This was tested last year in the minors.
- Expanded playoffs: 12 teams make the playoffs with the addition of two wild cards per league. The two best division winners in each league earn byes, while the other eight teams play best-of-three series.
- Same faces, new places: A record 11 free agents signed nine-figure deals, all with new teams: Corey Seager and Marcus Semien (TEX); Kris Bryant (COL); Freddie Freeman (LAD); Trevor Story (BOS); Javier Báez (DET); Max Scherzer (NYM); Carlos Correa (MIN); Nick Castellanos (PHI); Kevin Gausman (TOR); and Robbie Ray (SEA).
- Young studs: In 2021, players under 25 collectively had their best offensive season ever thanks to stars like Vlad Guerrero Jr., Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ronald Acuña Jr. They're ready for their encore.
- Prospects in the show: Speaking of young talent, the new CBA incentivizes teams to bring their best prospects up early, and four of MLB's top five prospects made the Opening Day roster.
- Injury concerns: Shortened spring training has at least one executive "terrified" by the number of April injuries he expects. "We're not close to being ready to play," he told The Athletic (subscription).
Go deeper: 22 bold predictions (CBS)
Each team in five words or less ...
- Dodgers (projected record: 99-63): An unfair amount of talent.
- Braves (93-69): Freddie's gone, champs still loaded.
- Yankees: Judge + Stanton + Gallo + Donaldson = homers
- Blue Jays (92-70): Time to make the leap.
- Astros (92-70): Going for sixth straight ALCS.
- White Sox (91-71): Preparing for Luis Robert's breakout.
- Brewers (91-71): This pitching staff is nuts.
- Padres (87-75): No more bikes for Tatis.
- Rays (87-75): What magic will they conjure?
- Red Sox (86-76): That infield! Story, Devers, Bogaerts.
- Phillies (85-77): Lotta pop, not much leather.
- Mets (84-78): Will money equal success?
- Angels (84-78): Trout-Ohtani-Rendon, pitchers' nightmare.
- Giants (84-78): Another surprise run coming?
- Twins (83-79): Correa's swagger comes to Minny.
- Cardinals (81-81): Three HOFers go out together?
- Mariners (80-82): The J-Rod show is here.
- Reds (80-82): At least Votto's still there.
- Guardians (78-84): New name, who dis?
- Marlins (76-86): Still not quite there. Probably.
- Cubs (75-87): Friendly confines welcome Japanese superstar.
- Tigers (73-89): Lotta moves. Will they work?
- Royals (73-89): Greinke came home.
- Nationals (72-90): Soto might walk 150 times.
- Rangers (72-90): $500m infield to kickstart future.
- Rockies (71-91): Pumped for Bryant moonshots.
- Diamondbacks (69-93): At least they extended Marte.
- Athletics (69-93): Perennial contender no more.
- Pirates (67-95): Call up Oneil Cruz!
- Orioles (62-100): That farm system though!
Go deeper: Power rankings (The Ringer)