Opening Day is less than a week away. The next chapter of America’s pastime will continue the stories of today’s brightest stars, along with the beginning of new players. Like seasons before, some match-ups seem more lopsided in just the first few days of the season. Yes, some teams will have steeper hills to climb than others: much steeper. But they also have players that may go unnoticed but can become the newest star attractions of the game.
Here are some of the secret weapons for Opening Day.
Secret Weapons: Yankees vs Orioles
New York and Baltimore are the first teams set to battle on March 28. The Yankees are looking to avenge their ALDS defeat against Boston. Meanwhile, the Orioles are coming off of the worst outing of last season, finishing 47-115.
As the series hits Yankee Stadium, both teams have a few tricks up their sleeves. For New York, it’s actually the first starting pitcher of their season, Masahiro Tanaka. For all the fans revel in Luis Severino and CC Sabathia, Tanaka had a solid outing last season as well. He finished 2018 with a 12-6 record and a 3.75 ERA. Number 19 can set a high note early for the Yankees season with a shutdown performance against Baltimore.
For the Orioles, Austin Hays can be the next star they’re looking for. The 23-year old has blown up in Spring Training, hitting five home runs, 13 RBI, and an above .350 batting average. If he replicates this success under brighter lights, he may have a breakout season in 2019. As for Baltimore, the road will get tougher from here on out.
Secret Weapons: Rockies vs Marlins
The second matchup of March 28 heads south to Miami where the Marlins will host the Colorado Rockies. While the Marlins are clawing their way out of the rebuilding process, the Rockies seek to build on the success from last season.
The Marlins have shown a surprising amount of potential in Spring Training, sitting 15-11 (third in Grapefruit League). Two secret weapons, Brian Anderson and Pablo Lopez, can set the tone for the Marlins. Anderson is rocking an above .400 batting average in the preseason. Meanwhile, Lopez stands undefeated from the mound, along with a below 1.00 ERA. It will take more than these two to lift Miami up from a rebuilding 2018. But they can potentially stand as cornerstones for a comeback.
For the Rockies, however, it’s a little tough to call their weapons “secret” since many of them were All-Stars last season, especially their infielders. Many people overlook 24-year old Ryan McMahon in the midst of Daniel Murphy, Trevor Story, and Nolan Arenado. But this Spring session has shown that McMahon can make you look bad if you don’t prepare for him.
Secret Weapons: Braves vs Phillies
Many experts have either Atlanta or Philadelphia taking the NL East pennant. Atlanta holds the crown, but Philadelphia has been loading up this off-season. Both teams look to make it big in 2019, and their clash in Philadelphia could be a tight one. As far as secret weapons are concerned, both teams have a few on board.
In Atlanta’s corner are two formidable relief pitchers, Jesse Biddle and Dan Winkler. In 2018, Biddle went 6-1 with an ERA of 3.11, while Winkler went 4-0 with an ERA of 3.43. The Phillies will be packing a lot more firepower than before. But if Biddle or Winkler (whoever get called in) can pitch lights out against the likes of Bryce Harper and Jean Segura, the Braves will have a better chance of defending their division title.
Meanwhile of Jean Segura, one of Philly’s newest members can become a force to be reckoned with in his new home. Segura is no stranger to being on a roster with multiple All-Stars on board. With all the buzz Harper has been gaining since his mega deal, the 29-year old short-stop can deal damage from the batter’s box as well. Hopefully, the new 40-man roster can learn to gel and return to the playoff conversation.