On this opening week of Spring Training, all 30 Major League teams have one thing in common: optimism. You’ve read a lot about teams being all-in for 2019 and also about some teams rebuilding. Here’s what’s also true: When players and coaches get to work in Florida and Arizona, optimism is infectious.
That’s the very nature of the sport. Every single team is excited about something. Some teams want to get a look at the new acquisitions. Others want to see prospects or returning veterans or unheralded players hoping for a new start.
Some of it is the warmer weather of Spring Training. Some of it is the guys seeing one another again. And some of it is simply putting the uniform on and getting back out on the field and doing the thing they love more than anything.
Here’s an optimism cheat sheet for all 30 teams:
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Josh Donaldson
To a young team that won the NL East and has a deep farm system comes a 33-year-old former American League Most Valuable Player ready to prove he’s still one of the best players in the game.
Manager Don Mattingly’s Opening Day lineup probably will have at least six players in their 20s, and it’s going to be fun watching those young guys grow and begin to prove themselves.
The Mets finally have some after an offseason in which they’ve been upgraded all over the place while holding onto a rotation that might be baseball’s best.
Nationals: Max Scherzer
His every start is a must-see event, and now he’s the biggest name on a team that has had a tremendous offseason and might just be the NL’s best team whether Bryce Harper returns or not.
The Phillies made a string of solid acquisitions and remain in the middle of the race for Harper and/or Manny Machado. Regardless of how that plays out, the additions of J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and David Robertson have moved them closer to a postseason berth.
Brewers: NL’s best record
The Brewers were one win from going to the World Series and are bringing back the core of that 2018 team, in addition to upgrades behind the plate (signing Yasmani Grandal) and in the rotation (the return of injured ace Jimmy Nelson).
Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt
He’s on the short list of baseball’s best offensive players and could transform the lineup, if not the entire team. With the signing of lefty reliever Andrew Miller and a slew of young arms, the Cardinals probably could not feel better about 2019.
Cubs: Yu Darvish
He’s ready to be the ace the Cubs projected he would be in 2018, when he was limited to just eight starts in his first year with the club due to injury. If the Cubs can keep Darvish and their other core guys on the field, there may not be a better NL team.
Don’t sleep on this team. The starting rotation could be very good. If third base prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes makes his debut in the first half of the season, he’ll join first baseman Josh Bell to give the Pirates a solid pair of corner infielders to go with a potentially very good outfield.
The Reds could turn a big corner with the addition of Alex Wood, Sonny Gray and Tanner Roark to the rotation. Watching new right fielder Yasiel Puig hit in Great American Ball Park could be one of the best shows in baseball.
There are legitimate reasons to be excited about this club, thanks to a rotation that could be as good as any in the NL with Taijuan Walker back from Tommy John surgery and Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and Zack Godley all returning.
Dodgers: Corey Seager
With six straight division championships and back-to-back NL pennants in their pocket, the Dodgers are getting potentially their best player back from Tommy John surgery.
Giants: Madison Bumgarner
He’s healthy again after injuries limited him to 38 starts the last two seasons. Last time he pitched a full season was 2016 when he threw 226 2/3 innings, and the Giants made the playoffs. Go ahead and connect the dots.
The Padres have 10 of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects, a record. Even better is that at least four of them, including shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (No. 2 overall), are projected to play in the big leagues this season.
Rockies: Nolan Arenado
Both sides are publicly optimistic he’ll be signed to an extension before reaching free agency after the season. Meanwhile, his team is positioned for a third straight postseason appearance, thanks to what should be the best rotation in franchise history.
Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
He’s the top prospect in the sport and one of the best hitting prospects ever, according to MLB Pipeline, and will be playing third base for the Blue Jays at some point this season. He’s the face of a wave of kids that will usher in a new chapter of baseball in Toronto.
Orioles: The future
The Orioles are being rebuilt by two of the men — Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal — who helped make the Astros a powerhouse. This season will be devoted to throwing young kids on the field and giving them a chance to show they belong, much the way Houston did a few years before winning a World Series.
Rays: Front office
Smartest in baseball? It’s in the conversation. Same thing with manager Kevin Cash. Last season’s 90-win team reinforced both those notions. They’ve gotten better this offseason with depth and flexibility up and down the roster.
Red Sox: Trophy case
Why would the Red Sox be optimistic? Other than winning the World Series four times in 15 seasons. Other than having the reigning AL MVP (Mookie Betts) and an offense and rotation that could be baseball’s best.
General manager Brian Cashman upgraded his team all over the place, especially in the bullpen, which has a chance to be one of the best ever. No division has three teams as good as the top three in the AL East.
There may not be one better, and that’s why the front office resisted the temptation to trade a starter for a hitter. The Indians are solid favorites to win the AL Central again, and that rotation could make them a formidable October opponent.
Royals: Kyle Zimmer
What a story. He is a former top pitching prospect whose career appeared to be over after four surgeries. He was sent to the Driveline Baseball program in Seattle as sort of a last-chance saloon. Now at 27, he’s throwing hard and without pain and should make his Major League debut in 2019.
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera
His 2018 season ended after 38 games when he underwent biceps surgery. Now 35 years old, he’s ready to continue building on a Hall of Fame resume.
Twins: Byron Buxton
He has added 21 pounds of muscle and seems confident he’ll get his career back on track after a tough 2018 season that was mostly spent in the Minor Leagues. He’s still only 25, and the Twins are hopeful he can be the electrifying presence he was once projected to be.
White Sox: Eloy Jimenez
He’s the crown jewel of a very good farm system and ranked No. 3 overall by MLB Pipeline. Injuries delayed his debut last summer, and now that he’s healthy again, he’ll be the most-watched player at Sox camp.
Angels: Mike Trout
OK, this is stating the obvious. We could be watching one of baseball’s 10 greatest players ever at his peak, and the Angels may have constructed a team that’ll help put Trout on display in October.
Astros: Alex Bregman
He did more than emerge as a great player in 2018. He also became a huge presence in his community, giving of his time and money and making himself a role model for every other professional athlete.
Athletics: Matt Chapman
If you’re not completely familiar with his game, you soon will be. He’s a generational defensive player at third and on his way to becoming one of the players every other is compared to.
Mariners: Yusei Kikuchi
He was the most interesting addition in an offseason of change for The Mariners and will slot between Marco Gonzales and Mike Leake in a rotation that will give Seattle a chance to be competitive.
Rangers: Joey Gallo
There’s a buzz the moment he steps into the batter’s box. His 81 home runs the last two seasons are the fourth most in the Majors. His 93.9 mph average exit velocity is third highest.