MLB preview

With the 2011 MLB season set to begin Thursday, it’s time to think about 10 storylines heading into the season that deserve attention throughout the summer.

10. Can the Giants repeat?

A standard question approaching every season, can the previous World Series champions the San Francisco Giants repeat? My guess is no. They still have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball, highlighted by Tim Lincecum and closer Brian Wilson, but they still have to face questions about their bats.

9. What will happen with Albert Pujols?

Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball, and after this season, he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. He has announced he won’t negotiate a contract during the season, putting the St. Louis Cardinals in a difficult position. It is possible and some say likely that this will be Pujols’ last year in St. Louis.

8. Who will win the AL East?

The most competitive division in baseball features three legitimate contenders in the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees. While each team has their own holes, it is likely the second place team will earn the Wild Card. Every year, the winner of the east becomes an instant favorite in October, this year should be no different.

7. Canadian Pride?

Canadian Joey Votto made up for Justin Morneau’s injury filled campaign in 2010, winning the NL MVP award. Both slugging first basemen are contenders for MVP awards in their respective leagues this year, marking what could be the golden age for Canadian baseball something to truly remember.

6. Youngsters grow up?

The hometown Blue Jays are one of the youngest teams in the majors, especially after veterans Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, and Shawn Marcum left Toronto. While the future is bright, it is the time for young players to stop being prospects and become impact players, something necessary for the Jays to match or improve on last years impressive 85 wins.

5. Surprise!

Last year, the Reds and Giants came out of nowhere to make the playoffs, before that the Rockies. Every year, a team can shock the league and make the playoffs. This year, I look towards the Brewers to find themselves back in the playoffs.

4. New Faces, New Places

This offseason saw a great deal of activity with familiar faces leaving their teams to look for new success, and often contracts. Some of the players in new homes include Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez on the Red Sox, Zach Greinke on the Brewers, and of course, Cliff Lee on the Phillies.

3. Pitching Success

2010 is being labeled the year of the pitcher, after so many spectacular performances including 3 perfect games. It is very possible that his trend will continue as the steroid era has presumably come to an end, and pitching seems to be a focus point for every franchise, even more so than usual.

2. King Keeps his Throne

Jose Bautista won over every Blue Jay fan’s heart last season, hitting 54 homers, tops in the league. Fresh off his new 5-year $64 million contract, Bautista is looking to continue his success this season, a daunting task to say the least.

1. The Big 4

The Phillies feature one of the best rotations in recent memory. With Hallady leading the way, newly acquired Cliff Lee, veteran Roy Oswalt, and former World Series MVP Cole Hamels combining to give the Phillies a Phab 4, they look to be the World Series favorites approaching the season.