- As the new season approaches, every club has something to offer its fans that will keep them turning in throughout the six-month season. Here's what to keep an eye out for with the Angels, Astros, Athletics, Mariners and Rangers.
As Opening Day approaches, the one thing every team can count on for the long season ahead is hope, whether to make the postseason this year or to build toward a brighter future in days ahead. Yet no matter how competitive they are, all 30 teams will have at least one reason for their fans to stay interested for the next six months. Before the season kicks off, SI.com will explore the best reason to watch each team in 2017, starting with the AL East clubs on Thursday, March 23 and continuing with the AL Central (March 24), AL West (March 27), NL West (March 28), NL Central (March 29) and NL East (March 30).
In retrospect, too much may have been expected of Carlos Correa in 2016, but he set a high bar in '15, when he won the AL Rookie of the Year award after batting .279/.345/.512 and bashed 22 home runs in just 99 games; not bad for a 21-year-old. By comparison, last year’s .274/.361/.451 line and 20 homers in 153 games can’t help but look like a disappointment. But keep in mind that he doesn’t turn 23 until September and that his power at the plate, speed on the bases and defense at shortstop help make him one of the most complete players in baseball already. He'll start this season looking to prove everyone who doubts him wrong; that’s worth the price of admission.
Here is why you buy an MLB.tv subscription and stay up later than you probably should to watch a team that won 72 games last year and isn't likely to crack .500 this year: Michael Nelson Trout, the American League's reigning MVP and the closest this game has seen to Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays since both were in their prime more than half a century ago. Trout's game lacks the panache of Bryce Harper, or even Ken Griffey Jr., and his personality is muted to the point of silence; his biggest hobby is talking about the weather, for crying out loud. But when you watch him play, you see someone who does everything—from hitting to fielding to running the bases—as close to perfect as a player can. Don’t pass up your chance to watch him, even if it means getting a little less sleep.
If you squint just so, it’s possible to look at the latest collection of little known names that the Athletics have on their roster and imagine them flirting with contention. More likely, however, is a sub-.500 team of moving parts, many of which will be discarded or dealt as Billy Beane continues to defy convention in hopes of a title that has eluded the A's since 1990. Focus, then, on the one player who seems as likely as any to stick around Oakland all year: outfielder Khris Davis, who quietly bashed 42 homers last season (tied for third in all of baseball). That included this monster shot against the Royals back in September, when he sent a Dillon Gee offering 473 feet deep into the fountains in Kauffman Stadium’s centerfield. That power will play.
Mariners fans have endured 16 long, sad, frustrating years since their team last reached the postseason. The franchise's glory days—Griffey and the Big Unit, A-Rod and Ichiro—resulted in four playoff appearances from 1995 to 2001, but since then Seattle has mostly been a blip on the radar, with only six winning seasons in that time. But after finishing 86–76 last year, this season's edition looks like one that is finally ready to break through. With sluggers Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz in the lineup, an offense that led the AL in runs last season, the all-around excellence of third baseman Kyle Seager, a strong rotation fronted by longtime ace Felix Hernandez and a bullpen anchored by the electric arm of Edwin Diaz in the ninth inning, Seattle's drought may be coming to an end.
There’s no doubting Beltre’s Hall of Fame worthiness; the Dominican star will, once he retires, go down as one of the greatest defensive third basemen ever and a consistently excellent hitter, particularly in his later years. Thankfully, we’re still a few years away from Beltre hanging up his spikes, but 2017 will see him hit a milestone that will make his Cooperstown induction all but automatic: 3,000 career hits. Beltre begins this season, his 20th in the majors, just 58 hits shy of the mark, so if he stays healthy he should get there well before the All-Star break. So come for the history and stay for Beltre’s dazzling glove work, his delightful if unusual swings at the plate and his tussles with Elvis Andrus, the shortstop who functions as the Costello to Beltre’s (occasionally scowling) Abbott.