Sports Illustrated's 2014 MLB season preview is here, led by the newest Japanese star, Masahiro Tanaka. The New York Yankees' $175 million investment and former star in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball is the national cover for SI's preview issue, which also features three additional regional covers. Angels superstar Mike Trout, new Mariners slugger Robinson Cano, and Cardinals stalwart Yadier Molina landed the other three covers.
Tanaka is the subject of a feature profile by Tom Verducci, who examines Tanaka's background and career in NPB, the process by which he came to the United States, and what to expect from the Japanese ace as he experiences the culture clash of coming to America and Major League Baseball. Verducci also talks to Yankees executives, scouts and other MLB personnel to get an idea of what to expect from Tanaka in his first year States-side.
In the preview issue's other features, Greg Bishop profiles Cano as he takes on the tall task of rejuvenating a moribund Seattle franchise; Ben Reiter makes the case for Yadier Molina as the game's best catcher and a darkhorse MVP candidate; and Verducci examines why it's so hard to find right-handed power in baseball nowadays and how teams are trying to fill the gap. In addition, the preview issue features a look at the new wave of Cuban baseball players by Eric Nusbaum; an examination of the art of pitch framing by Albert Chen; and a preview of the next class of top-flight shortstops by Cliff Corcoran.
On top of that, the preview issue has in-depth scouting reports on all 30 teams and predictions on who will capture the World Series this season, as well as what to watch for in the coming season. The team previews include stats and scout's takes, such as:
- If Derek Jeter plays 100 games, gets 110 hits and scores 60 runs in his final MLB season, he’ll be ranked second in games played at shortstop, seventh in hits, and tenth in runs.
- In one stretch of five starts in 2009, Tanaka threw 124, 137, 142, 125 and 137 pitches. Angels ace Jered Weaver hasn’t thrown 124 pitches in a game that many times in his entire eight-year career, covering 231 starts.
- One scout on Texas' Adrian Beltre: "I truly believe Adrian Beltre will be a Hall of Famer. Best third baseman in the game—not even close."
You can find those figures, scout opinions and more in the preview issue, which is available today.
Check out the other three regional covers below.