The New York Yankees continued their red-hot start to the season with a 6-2 away win against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday.

With the win, the Yankees are now 26-9, and sit three games clear atop the standings.

As has been the story with the Pinstripes this season, their power was again the driving force in their success, with every run scoring as a result of an extra-base hit.

New York took the lead in the third inning through a Giancarlo Stanton RBI double, before Jose Trevino gave the Yanks some breathing room with a three-run homer an inning later.

Anthony Santander launched his own long-ball in response for the Orioles, making it 4-1 later in the fourth inning, and that score would hold all the way through to the ninth frame.

After Luis Severino pitched six terrific innings, allowing just one hit – Santander's home run – with two walks, the big bats came back to the plate to put the icing on the cake.

Josh Donaldson blasted the longest shot of the night for a 395-foot solo shot, before Rizzo topped it as the very next batter, sending his solo home run 406 feet through the Baltimore sky.

In a consolation for the home fans who stuck around, Santander hit his second bomb of the night in the bottom of the ninth.


Cubs go crazy in first inning

The Chicago Cubs wasted no time putting their 9-0 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates to bed, jumping out to a 8-0 lead in the first inning.

Pirates starting pitcher Dillon Peters was only able to get two outs before being pulled from the game as the Cubs piled on eight hits and two walks for their eight runs, highlighted by a grand-slam from Willson Contreras in his second plate appearance of the inning.

Cubs pitcher Wade Miley was lights-out, retiring 12 straight batters through the fourth inning, and finished with just one hit allowed, and no walks, through seven complete frames.

Brewers battle for 1-0 win

A wild pitch was the only thing that could bring in a run in the Milwaukee Brewers' 1-0 win against the Atlanta Braves.

Freddy Peralta was spectacular on the mound for the Brewers, striking out 10 batters in seven full innings, conceding just two hits and one walk.

Ian Anderson was not much worse for the Braves, giving up four hits and two walks in his six innings, but a costly wild pitch in the sixth inning while a runner was on third base gifted the Brewers the game's only run, and the win. 

The Atlanta Braves came out best after an action-packed eighth inning to defeat the San Diego Padres 6-5 on Saturday.

Down 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth following a four-run inning from the Padres, the defending World Series champions responded with a four-run inning of their own to split the opening two games of a three-game series.

Marcell Ozuna scored a home run and Austin Riley hit the go-ahead double in the response to hand the Braves the win, in what has been a sputtering start to the season.

Charlie Morton pitched solidly, striking out nine and giving up two hits over 83 pitches in six innings.

Atlanta have now won four of their past six games to move to a 16-18 record for the season.

Robert ruins Yankees win streak

Luis Robert drove home the winning run in the ninth inning to hand the Chicago White Sox a 3-2 win over the American League East-leading New York Yankees.

The Yankees were relentless at the plate over the opening two games of the series, scoring 25 runs but faced difficulty against Dallas Keuchel, who struck out three and gave up only four hits over 86 pitches.

While New York still hold the best record in baseball at 24-9, the loss ends a five-game winning streak.

Marte mashes Mariners

Patrick Mazeika hit the game-winning home run in the seventh inning, but Starling Marte was the star for the New York Mets in their 5-4 win over the Seattle Mariners.

Marte tripled, doubled, singled and claimed three RBIs from four at-bats for the Mets, who let a 4-0 lead slip when Jesse Winker tied with a three-run home run in the seventh inning.

Batting ninth, Mazeika had the final say however, mashing Andres Munoz inside the right-field foul pole for his second home run in the major leagues.

Minnesota Twins pitcher Josh Winder etched his name into the history books on Friday night as he guided his team to a 2-1 win against the Oakland Athletics.

Winder, 25, in his second career start, pitched six shutout innings, giving up three hits and no walks with eight strikeouts. It comes after allowing just two hits and one walk from six scoreless innings in his first start against the Tampa Bay Rays.

He is the first pitcher since ERA became an official stat in 1913 to have 15 strikeouts, no more than one walk and allow no earned runs over his first two career starts.

It was almost not enough for the Twins, who scored their two runs from two solo homers, courtesy of Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco. 

The Athletics cut the margin back to one when a fielding error allowed Cristian Pache to third base, where he would get brought home by a sacrifice fly, before Twins closer Emilio Pagan allowed a base hit and two walks to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning.

After a ground ball allowed the Twins to stop the third-base runner from getting to home plate, Pagan finished the job with a strikeout, sealing the victory and collecting the hard-earned save.

 

Trout delivers for Angels

AL MVP hopeful Shohei Ohtani's biggest competition for back-to-back trophies may be on his own team, as Mike Trout lifted the Los Angeles Angels to a 3-0 win against the Washington Nationals.

Reigning MVP Ohtani finished zero-for-three with a walk and an RBI, while three-time MVP Trout batted in two runs with a clutch double in the fifth inning.

It was a terrific performance by the Angels pitching staff, as starter Jhonathan Diaz gave up three hits and four walks through five scoreless frames, before the bullpen allowed just one hit and no walks the rest of the way.

Acuna bombs in Brewers win

Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr gave the home fans something to cheer for, despite going down 6-3 to the Milwaukee Brewers.

In his second game back in Atlanta after a long-term injury, Acuna blasted a 450-foot home run to center-field for his first since July, but a four-run sixth inning for the Brewers put the visitors in front, where they would stay.

Alek Manoah was in intimidating form on Thursday as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated their divisional-rival Boston Red Sox 1-0.

The 24-year-old Blue Jays starter gave up only three hits and struck out seven over 92 pitches in seven innings.

With Xander Bogaerts rested, the second-year pitcher was able to put the Red Sox batters under constant pressure, claiming first-pitch strikes on 15 of the 25 he faced.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. scored the winning run in the third inning, moving to second after a walk for Raimel Tapia and getting home via Alejandro Kirk's two-out single.

The Blue Jays moved 13-7 for the season, within a game of the New York Yankees atop the American League East.

Acuna returns for Braves

Ronald Acuna Jr. made his return for the Atlanta Braves, who defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-2.

The 24-year-old made was taken off the injured list after a 10-month absence from a torn ACL and was immediately inserted into the lineup, starting as leadoff hitter for the Braves.

The Venezuelan went without a hit from his first three at-bats, but finished one-for-five and stole two bases.

Halos continue impressive start

The Los Angeles Angels claimed their 12th win in 16 games and secured a four-game sweep of the Cleveland Guardians with a 4-1 victory on Thursday.

Rookie pitcher Reid Detmers struck out four and allowed two hits over 88 pitches in five innings, but most notable was the fact the Angels performed at the plate without big showings from Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.

While Trout went zero-for-two at the plate and Ohtani was rested, Brandon Marsh had three hits and an RBI while Taylor Ward claimed two RBIs and a hit in the win.

The Atlanta Braves have activated star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. from the injured list, where he had been since suffering a torn right ACL last July.

The Braves announced the move on Thursday after originally targeting a May 6 return date. The reigning World Series champions decided he was ready to be activated after Acuna went seven for 19 (.368) with one double, three stolen bases and six walks during a rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett.

The 24-year-old had been named to his second All-Star Game and was in the NL MVP conversation before injuring his knee while trying to make a leaping catch in the outfield at Marlins Park on July 10.

At the time of his injury, he had compiled a .283/.394/.596 slash line with 24 home runs and a league-leading 72 runs scored in 82 games.

The knee injury sidelined him for the final three months of the regular season and forced him to miss Atlanta’s run to the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1995.

The Braves are off to an 8-11 start to the 2022 season, already five and a half games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets. They will conclude a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday at Truist Park before embarking on a seven-game trip to face the Texas Rangers and Mets.

Ronald Acuna Jr. claimed he feels better than he ever has after returning from an ACL tear for the Triple-A Gwinnett Stripers.

The two-time All-Star suffered the serious knee injury last July and missed the Atlanta Braves' run to the World Series title.

Acuna led MLB with 72 runs in 2021 at the time of his injury and has had to stay patient in his rehabilitation, also sitting out the start of this season.

But the left fielder took a significant step forward on Tuesday in his first game back in the minors.

According to The Athletic, Acuna said he was "very good" and "ready to go" as he went one-for-three with a double in a 2-0 defeat to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

"I didn't know if I would come back and be the same," he added. "Now, I'm healthy again. Actually, I feel I'm better than I was."

The Braves have made a 6-7 start in 2022 but have an eight-game homestand starting on May 6, which Acuna could target.

"I hope sooner [than that]," he said.

Max Fried starred with eight strikeouts across seven innings as the Atlanta Braves won 3-1 over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday.

Braves left-hander Fried went perfect across the first five innings, before allowing two hits, while Freddie Freeman was quelled against his former side.

The Dodgers' only run of the game, scored by Chris Taylor, came in the eighth inning once Fried had been relieved, with Kenley Jansen closing it out in the ninth.

Travis d'Arnaud hit a solo home run at the top of the second inning, before Orlando Arcia's RBI double in the fourth and Austin Riley's single on a line drive for Ozzie Albies to score in the fifth.

 

Franco's maiden 2022 blast... at last

Wander Franco blasted his first home run of 2022 in a three-hit game as the Tampa Bay Rays won 6-5 over the Chicago Cubs.

Franco had missed Monday's game to rest his right quad but returned in style with a two-run homer on a 2-0 pitch in the third inning.

The young Rays star has now had seven multi-hit performances across 11 games this Major League season. Franco is a joint leader in the majors for hits, with 19.

"He's unique, special, talented, and we're seeing it in every part of his game," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

 

Vintage Scherzer and Perez

Reliever Clarke Schmidt stepped up for the New York Yankees after Gerrit Cole's early struggles by tossing down six strikeouts in their 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers. Cole had walked four batters, included with base loaded.

Max Scherzer was at his vintage best with 10 strikeouts in the New York Mets' 3-1 win over the San Francisco Giants, which backed up their earlier 5-4 victory on a double-header.

Salvador Perez put aside blurry vision to slug two home runs as the Kansas City Royals won 4-3 over the Minnesota Twins.

Freddie Freeman said his emotions were "all over the place" as he hit his first home run for his new club, the Los Angeles Dodgers, against his former team in a 7-4 win against the Atlanta Braves.

Freeman spent 12 seasons with the Braves, earning five All-Star appearances and an MVP trophy in 2020, and faced them for the first time on Monday since signing a six-year, $162million deal with the Dodgers this past offseason.

In his first at-bat, from just the second pitch he saw, he blasted a home run over the fence at left-center, and later scored a second run when he was brought home by Trea Turner's base-clearing double in the fourth inning.

"Obviously there's just a lot of emotion going on right now," Freeman said afterwards. "But a lot of good emotion.

"I’m just happy to be able to see all the guys. We won a championship together last year, so that's what we're all talking about over there.

"I love every single person on [the Braves'] side of that field – but I do hope they don’t do good for these next three games.”

When asked if the game represented some closure for Freeman, he insisted that was not the case.

"I don't know if any of us are really looking for closure," he said. 

"I had a great 12 years; I'm not trying to close anything. I'm just trying to move on, obviously. 

"But I had so many great memories with the Braves, with the guys over there. That's always going to be there, I think."

He added: "As the game went on, there were a couple smiles here and there from staff members and people I spent a lot of time with.

"It's just a special day, one I'll always remember."

Early National League Rookie of the Year favourite Seiya Suzuki continued the remarkable start to his MLB career on Monday with another two hits in the Chicago Cubs' 4-2 win against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Suzuki, 27, was named National League Player of the Week in his first full week in the majors, and with his first of two hits on Monday, he tied Akinori Iwamura for the longest hitting streak by a Japanese player to start their career at nine games.

He is also the first Cub to hit safely in the first nine games of their career (with an official at-bat) since 1943. He sits fifth in the majors in batting average (.429) and is tied for fourth in home runs (four).

Of the Cubs' four runs, Suzuki scored two, as he was driven in by a Patrick Wisdom two-run homer in the second inning, before getting hit by a pitch in the seventh inning, eventually coming around to score again off an Ian Happ hit.

With the Cubs up 3-2 in the eighth inning, Frank Schwindel gave Chicago a little breathing room with a solo home run for the last score of the game.

Despite the loss, it was a terrific performance on the mound for Rays Cy Young candidate Shane McClanahan, striking out nine batters in six innings, allowing only four hits and no walks for one earned run.

Yelich grand slams for Brewers

Leading 2-1 in the fourth inning, Christian Yelich stepped up to the plate with bases loaded and slogged a massive 429-foot grand slam to give the Milwaukee Brewers their 6-1 final score against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Brewers starting pitcher Eric Lauer was excellent, striking out five batters in six innings, conceding only one run and six baserunners in the process.

Freeman goes deep against old friends

After spending the first 12 years of his MLB career with the Atlanta Braves, Freddie Freeman hit a home run against them in the first inning of the Los Angeles Dodgers' 7-4 home win against his visiting former team.

From just the second pitch he faced against his old side, Freeman hammered it for a 386-foot home run to center field for the early lead.

The Braves rallied in the sixth frame to get Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw out of the game with seven strikeouts and four earned runs through five complete innings, but it was not enough to deny the Dodgers their seventh consecutive win to move to the best record in the majors at 8-2.

National League Rookie of the Year favourite Seiya Suzuki registered a hit in the eighth consecutive start of his career after a home run in the Chicago Cubs' 6-4 away win against the Colorado Rockies.

The 27-year-old, who arrived from the Hiroshima Carp this off-season on a five-year, $85million deal made more history with his home run, becoming the second Japanese player to ever start his career with an eight-game hitting streak, and the third Cubs player in the past 100 years to start a season that way,

With a hit in his next game, Suzuki will tie Akinori Iwamura for the record for longest hitting streak to start a MLB career for a player coming from Japan, which happened in 2007 for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Suzuki's home run was his fourth of the season – trailing only C.J. Kron and Vladimir Guerrero Jr (five each) for most home runs in the entire MLB.

It came at an important time on Sunday, after the Rockies had cut the Cubs' 5-0 lead back to 5-3 going into the seventh inning, before Suzuki tacked on the extra insurance run.

Nick Madrigal was also terrific for the Cubs, going three-for-five at the plate, including a double, while the biggest hit of the game was Ryan McMahon's 447-foot two-run blast for the Rockies in the sixth inning.

Freeman and Heaney fit right in as Dodgers sweep Reds

Freddie Freeman had four hits and three RBIs as the Los Angeles Dodgers completed a four-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, claiming a 9-1 win on Sunday.

Andrew Heaney struck out 11 over six innings in a scoreless home debut, while Max Muncy, Will Smith and Chris Taylor.

Heaney was dominant, posting his 15th career start with at least 10 strikeouts, while walking three and only allowing a double from Kyle Farmer in the third inning.

Darvish bounces back against Braves

Yu Darvish pitched into the seventh inning as the San Diego Padres beat the Atlanta Braves 2-1 with only three hits.

Following the shortest outing of his career, not even covering two innings against the San Francisco Giants on the prior Tuesday, the 35-year-old allowed his only run against the reigning World Series champions via Marcell Ozuna's home run in the seventh.

Taylor Rogers closed out the four-hitter for San Diego, to save what was an otherwise off day at the plate for the Padres, with Jake Cronenworth particularly going zero-for-three.

Freddie Freeman vowed to never forget his winning home Los Angeles Dodgers debut, saying: "I don't think it could have gone much better than that."

Freeman joined the Dodgers in free agency after leaving the Atlanta Braves, where he won the World Series last season, the National League MVP the year before and was a five-time All-Star.

The 32-year-old first baseman had made a steady start to life as a Dodger prior to Thursday's game against the Cincinnati Reds, batting .286/.375/.381 with six hits and two runs through five games.

But against the Reds in the first game of the year at Dodger Stadium, Freeman gave a flavour of why Los Angeles had invested $162million over six years in him.

Freeman finished with two hits and two runs, with his leadoff double at the bottom of the eighth with the game tied setting in motion a six-run inning that prompted his name to be chanted by the home crowd and sealed a 9-3 win.

"That's as special as it gets right there," Freeman said.

"You have those feelings before, coming out on the line for the intros, but usually once the game starts those feelings go away. For the fans to be able to create a moment for me in the eighth inning is something I'll never forget.

"It's definitely been nice. The last month has been pretty special, from the first game at [spring training] to tonight, they've been welcoming me with open arms.

"First game at Dodger Stadium with the Dodgers, I don't think it could have gone much better than that."

The 4-2 Dodgers have three more games against the Reds this weekend before the Braves visit LA next week in what is sure to be a big series for Freeman, who was unhappy with the nature of his exit from Atlanta.

Playing at Dodger Stadium as a Brave, Freeman batted .296/.353/.512 with seven home runs in 33 regular season games.

Juan Soto made history with his 100th career home run in the Washington Nationals' 16-4 loss to world champions, the Atlanta Braves, on Tuesday.

Soto, 23, became the youngest player in franchise history to reach 100 career home runs with a moon shot at the top of the sixth inning.

The homer, which travelled 451 feet according to Statcast to right-center field, was the fourth longest of his career.

"It just comes to me. I never tried to hit a homer, or anything like that," Soto told reporters. "I’m one of the guys who just tries to hit singles every day. So for me to become consistent hitting homers, it’s just impressive and it tells how good I’ve been working on my body and everything."

Soto is the seventh active player to blast 100 homers at age 23 or younger, having first homered as a 19-year-old in 2018.

The Braves ultimately got the win after 10 runs in three innings to open up a 10-1 lead after four innings, but Soto finished with two hits, one run, one walk and one RBI.

Ozzie Albies, who finished with three hits, two runs and three RBIs, blasted his first homer of the 2022 season in the fourth inning.

Giancarlo Stanton continued his remarkable home-run hitting form against the Boston Red Sox as the New York Yankees won 4-2 on Saturday.

Yankees slugger Stanton homered for the sixth consecutive game against the Red Sox, hitting the go-ahead two-run homer to left center field in the sixth inning.

Boston had gone ahead in the second inning from Alex Verdugo's two-run homer, before Anthony Rizzo equalled the feat in the fourth inning to level the game up.

The victory means the Yankees have begun the new season with a 2-0 start, ahead of the third and final game of their series against the Red Sox on Sunday.

"I can’t say it’s the rivalry or anything," Stanton said about his record against the Red Sox. "I’m doing my homework and getting the ball over the plate."

 

Dodgers offense shut down

The Los Angeles Dodgers struggled on offense as they slumped to a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies, who were sparked by an eighth-inning Connor Joe homer.

Rockies closer Daniel Bard shut down the Dodgers in the ninth inning to round out the win, striking out Justin Turner, Edwin Rios and Cody Bellinger.

Austin Barnes had two hits and an RBI for the Dodgers, while Mookie Betts had an eighth-inning RBI single to tie the game up, before Joe's go-ahead blast.

 

Alonso hits career-first grand slam

Pete Alonso clubbed a fifth-inning grand slam to lead the New York Mets past the Washington Nationals 5-0. That marked 27-year-old's first career grand slam and comes after Alonso had been left with a bloodied lip after being struck by a Mason Thompson fastball earlier in the series.

The benches cleared in the Chicago Cubs' 9-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers after tempers flared between the division rivals when right-hander Keegan Thompson hit Andrew McCutchen in the hip with a fastball.

Dylan Cease stepped in for the Chicago White Sox with eight strikeouts across five innings in their 5-2 win over the Detroit Tigers. Cease remarkably boasts a 9-0 record against the Tigers in 10 starts.

 

Saturday's results

Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 Baltimore Orioles
Chicago White Sox 5-2 Detroit Tigers
Seattle Mariners 4-3 Minnesota Twins
St Louis Cardinals 6-2 Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs 9-0 Milwaukee Brewers
Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 Texas Rangers
Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 Oakland Athletics
Miami Marlins 2-1 San Francisco Giants
New York Yankees 4-2 Boston Red Sox
Kansas City Royals 1-0 Cleveland Guardians
New York Mets 5-0 Washington Nationals
Atlanta Braves 2-1 Cincinnati Reds
Colorado Rockies 3-2 Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres 5-2 Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Angels 2-0 Houston Astros

 

Astros at Angels

The Los Angeles Angels take on the Houston Astros in the final game of their thrilling four-game series, with Shohei Ohtani potentially back on the mound after being rested for the past two games.

After a chaotic offseason, which included a lockout and pushing back Opening Day, baseball is almost back.

With a new collective bargaining agreement in place, two new playoff spots up for grabs and plenty of big-name player movement, it is shaping up to be an enthralling MLB season.

The defending champion Atlanta Braves may have improved, despite losing star Freddie Freeman to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Yankees' position as the best team in New York could soon be under threat. 

With so many storylines, the most logical place to begin is right at the very top.

 

Can the Braves go back-to-back?

As is often the case, the World Series race is wide open, but Atlanta is at least in the mix as far as the pre-season odds go.

Some would consider the Braves' run last season a fluke – they won 88 games in the regular season, while the 91-win Toronto Blue Jays and 90-win Seattle Mariners missed out on playoff berths entirely.

However, they were missing superstar Ronald Acuna Jr for a large chunk of the year, and made meaningful additions at the trade deadline including Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson, and their playoff surge indicated that the record was not an accurate reflection of their talent.

While they lost franchise legend Freeman to the Dodgers, the Braves are arguably getting an upgrade at first base in the form of Matt Olson, who is four years younger and was a two-time Gold Glove winner with the Oakland Athletics before being traded for a four-player package of young Braves prospects.

Max Fried and Charlie Morton comprise a stout top of the rotation while Mike Soroka is out injured, and they have some strong bullpen arms including Tyler Matzek and Collin McHugh.

The Braves are a team without a clear weakness and will be full of confidence, so expect them to be fighting it out at the top of the NL East against the second-most expensive team in baseball, the New York Mets, as they bid to become the first team to win consecutive World Series since the Yankees in 1999 and 2000.

 

Are the Mets the best team in New York?

Since 2001, the New York Mets have only finished with a better record than the Yankees twice, in 2015 and 2016.

During that span, the Mets have never had a more expensive payroll than their local rivals – until this year.

The Mets are projected to come into Opening Day trailing only the Dodgers with the second-highest payroll in the league at $251million, while the Yankees are third at $239m.

It represents more than just deep pockets for second-year owner Steve Cohen, it shows that the Mets are no longer the 'little brother', and are willing to spend what it takes to be taken seriously against the most decorated franchise in major league history.

Buck Showalter will be the man tasked with turning the money into wins in his first year in the role, the former three-time AL Manager of the Year known for maximising talent on a limited budget with the Baltimore Orioles from 2010 to 2018, a stint that included a playoff series win over the Yankees.

Ultimately, what the Mets' season will hinge on is the health of their starting pitchers, with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer (who turns 38 this season) comprising the best one-two punch in baseball after Marcus Stroman left as a free agent to join the Chicago Cubs. DeGrom has already been sidelined for four weeks with a shoulder injury.

The rotation also includes 2021 All-Star Taijuan Walker, who tailed off late last season, but showed impressive ability when fresh.

Francisco Lindor remains the young jewel of the franchise – now two seasons into a 10-year, $341m contract extension – and along with power-hitting Pete Alonso and rangy center-fielder Starling Marte, there is plenty of quality stepping into the batters' box.

The Yankees will have one of the highest-ceiling batting line-ups when they roll out sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo, but they also play in the league's toughest division in the AL East, and could be candidates for regression after losing pitcher Corey Kluber and trading away bats Gio Urshela and Luke Voit.

 

 

Did the best team in baseball not make the playoffs in 2021?

It may be hard to believe, but given the meat grinder that is the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays are bookmakers' second-favourite to win the World Series despite not making the playoffs this past season.

The Blue Jays were top three in runs scored in 2021 and should again be one of the most explosive teams in the league this time around.

Toronto will also be able to enjoy a homecoming season, returning to Rogers Centre after the Blue Jays were forced to play their 2021 home games in Buffalo due to pandemic restrictions.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette are franchise cornerstones, last year's big signing George Springer was enormous in an injury-shortened debut campaign, and they have the luxury of adding Matt Chapman this season, who has two Platinum Gloves to his name as one of the best defensive players in the league.

Pitching remains the question mark in Toronto, with AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray departing for Seattle in a serious blow to a rotation with plenty to prove.

Nobody should be surprised if the Blue Jays jump up from fourth in their division all the way to the top, and are one of the teams with real World Series aspirations this season.

 

Which top prospect will establish themselves as a star? 

There will be some elite prospects finding their way in the majors this season, but will any of them burst onto the scene as a star?

In 2017, Judge did more than just win Rookie of the Year, he led the AL in home runs and finished second in AL MVP voting.

While there is always a chance that an unheralded rookie emerges as the premier prospect, there is a relatively clear top-tier consisting of three players entering the season.

Kansas City Royals infielder Bobby Witt Jr, Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman and Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez.

Rutschman will hit for average from both sides of the plate while projecting as an elite defensive catcher, Witt is the five-tool stud who will make eye-popping plays with his glove at shortstop, and Rodriguez is the big, power-hitting corner outfielder.

At 24 years old, Rutschman is the senior of the class, while the other two are considerably younger at 21, but all three will have a chance to prove themselves early in the year as franchise-altering stars – and potentially become the biggest story of this season.

The Miami Marlins have agreed to a three-year, $36million contract with 2021 World Series MVP Jorge Soler, according to ESPN.

The 30-year-old, who is a two-time World Series champion, has signed a deal that includes opt-outs after the first two seasons.

Soler had joined the Atlanta Braves from the Kansas City Royals in July last year, before dominating the World Series.

The Havana-born outfielder hit .300 with three home runs and six RBIs in the six-game World Series victory over the Houston Astros.

Soler has 121 home runs and 343 RBIs in 661 career MLB games with the Royals, Braves and Chicago Cubs.

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