With the lockout, this off-season has been very unusual as teams were not able to make trades and new signings as well as some rule changes to make this season one of interest. Through the deals during the lockout, some new rules have been implemented this season such as the universal DH and getting rid of the infield shift, but the more important question to come from the end of the lockout is what each team needs to do in order to succeed with the little time they had to prepare for opening day.
For the National League East:
The Braves main goal for this season coming off the World Series win is to show that they can be the same team they were last season despite trading Freddie Freeman to the Dodgers and replacing him with Matt Olson for the A’s.
The Marlins this season will focus very much on their starting rotation as they have one of the youngest rotations in the league with the oldest pitcher being 26. They will have to prove that counting on these young pitchers is a risk worth taking.
The Mets main goal this season is to stay healthy, simple as that. Having the best 1-2 in the game between deGrom and Scherzer is only helpful if they can remain healthy enough to make it through the season. A team that very much has a “win now” mentality has all the key pieces to be successful as long as their aces can remain healthy throughout the season.
The Nationals success this year really relies on one person, Juan Soto. However, it has more to do with the Nationals convincing Juan Soto that they are going in the right direction and finding a way to ensure that he will resign with them.
The Phillies are a team who have a great lineup when it comes to at-bats; defense is however a massive issue that will need to be faced. On top of that, the Phillies have not made the playoffs in 11 seasons and if they do not make it this year then the big-spending they did this offseason and the rebuild that failed to bring young potential will lead to questioning from fans and even the owners on how much longer they will need in order to have a playoff contention team once again.
For the National League West:
The Dodgers do not really have to worry about the regular season, they have made the playoffs consistently the past few years and have made two World Series appearances back to back. The Dodgers' key to success this season is ensuring they have a healthy team going into the playoffs, and if so they are a top contender to win the World Series.
The San Francisco Giants had one of the best seasons last year, winning 107 games, something that only 11 franchises have done, so the focus is on them to succeed again this year and to keep the momentum all the way through the season to carry them to playoff success.
The Padres were on the way to a great season last year before being riddled with injuries, including star player Tatis Jr., who will be missing the first few months of the season. So the key to success for the Padres is finding a way to succeed without Tatis until he can return healthy and once again be the star of the team.
The Rockies are a team who have made some interesting trades in the past seasons, getting rid of Nolan Arenado and even sending money to the cardinals when trading him for pitcher Austin Gomber, the Rockies made a shocking offseason signing by bringing in Kris Bryant. The Rockies are still a fairly young team who have a little time before they will be seen as true contenders, so their goal is to keep Bryant happy and find a way for him to aid them as they try to play in one of the toughest divisions of the league.
The Diamondbacks really have nowhere but up to go after losing 110 games last season, and they also know that they will not be playoff contenders anytime soon, so what is the major goal for this team this season? To stay healthy and for their younger stars to show up and perform, then maybe the Diamondbacks will be a step closer to success.
For the National League Central:
The Brewers have been a consistent playoff team for the past five years, but their issues come during at-bats. Last year when they lost to the Braves in the Divisional series they only managed to produce 6 runs in the 3-1 series, so their focus for the season will be to ensure that they can get their bats hot.
The Cardinals have a team full of veterans and didn’t make too many additions during the off-season, although they did sign Corey Dickerson and bring back Albert Pujols along with a few other minor signings. The key to success for this team is to ensure that their rotation stays intact while their two main starters recover from injuries.
The Reds are another team that is in the stay healthy mindset, as coming out of spring training they already have various players with injuries and will have to rely on some younger talent until they can get back to full health. The Reds' main focus will be to stay healthy and find a way to get the offense going while some of their stars are recovering.
The Cubs are in what appears to be some form of a rebuild, as at the trade deadline last season they traded away almost all of the remaining stars from their 2016 World Series team. While they added some key players like Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley to help out their rotation, the Cubs know they aren’t a playoff team at the moment and will focus on finding what works so that they can get back there soon.
The Pirates are another team that appears to be rebuilding, although they are approaching it as a complete top-to-bottom rebuild. Through various offseason deals, the Pirates have what looks to be one of the strongest farm systems in the league, however, they know that a playoff bid for them is not likely and will focus on developing the prospects that have gained as they go through this rebuild process.
For the American League East:
The Rays were a team that going into last season many fans had high hopes for and while they won the division and made a run in the playoffs, being upset by the Red Sox in 4 games was disappointing. This year their aim is to once again win the division and make a long run in the playoffs, but there are some questions focused on how their bullpen being riddled with injuries will take a toll on their goals for the season. However, a bright spot for them is Wander Franco already being thrown into possible MVP conversations and knowing that this young star will be key to their success.
The Yankees want to make it back to the World Series, which is the obvious goal for a star-studded team such as this one. Their keys to success will be ensuring that their offense remains healthy as last year there was a constant back and forth of many of their star hitters being put on the injury list because there was a lack of support. So in order for them to make that World Series run they so desperately desire they need to make sure they can keep their team healthy.
The Red Sox stunned many last year by being able to knock out the Rays in the playoffs and coming into this season many fans have high expectations. The key to success for the Red Sox success involved being able to hold their rotation together until Chris Sale and James Paxton both return from injuries, as well as being able to handle what could be an issue with Xander Bogaerts opting out of his contract next year since Trevor Story was signed by them this offseason to a major deal. If the Red Sox can find a way for their rotation to get them some wins until their main starters can return and keep whatever drama might ensue from contract talks controlled, then they might have a shot at success.
The Blue Jays have a team stacked with talent and should have no issue making it to the playoffs if they remain healthy. The key focus for the Blue Jays this season will be how Matt Chapman fits into the Blue Jays lineup, and is it okay if his at-bats do not stack up to those of the past. But also the fact that for the first time since the 2019 season the Blue Jays get to play at home. The Blue Jays should no doubt have a successful season but in a division full of some strong teams it will be interesting to see how they perform.
The Orioles have been a team that year after year just cannot seem to put the pieces together, and the 2021 season was no different. So how will they be able to succeed in 2022, while realistically they know that they are not going to be major contenders anytime soon and are still trying to figure out how to make sure that the rebuild they had begun does not fail, but they are getting close to the last few years of potential from this rebuilding group. Their main focus for this season will be to see what players they can slowly start moving up from the minors as well as decide on whether they want to keep an aging Trey Mancini who is towards the end of his contract. Success for the Orioles will not be coming anytime soon, but hopefully this year they can show that they are headed in the right direction.
For the American League West:
The Astros have been in three of the five last World Series and they definitely want to win one, especially if it will help them silence those still going on about the trash can situation from their 2017 World Series win. It is clear that the Astros are capable of making it to the World Series, so what do they need to do to finally win it again. To start it would be helpful if Alex Bregman could provide the massive at-bats he once provided, and with Carlos Correra having moved to the Twins the Astros need Bregman to step up and fill in with the at-bats he once provided. The other key to success for the Astros would be ensuring that their young rotation is strong enough to carry them through, while Justin Verlander is returning the rest of their rotation are all in their 20s, which might scare some but the Astros have faith in this young rotation and are hoping this could be their year to pick up the World Series Trophy once again.
The Mariners were a bit of a shock last year, getting second in the division and getting so close to making their first playoff appearance since 2001, but ultimately just fell short. In order for the Mariners to finally end their playoff appearance drought they will have to ensure that their off season additions will be enough to help their offense, with additions such as Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez, which caused some headlines due to the injuries and struggles the two players had in the past season. The Mariners really need their offense to start hot from the beginning and carry that momentum throughout the season.
The Athletics have to focus on the next step for the team this season as they traded away both Matt Chapman and Matt Olson; they are once again in a rebuilding phase. The A’s have had rebuild after rebuild over the past few years so they need to make sure that they can make this once fast and ensure that it will allow them to be a playoff contention team sooner rather than later as fans are beginning to get fed up with the constant rebuilds, and many of their stars are 30 or older so they really need to focus on the future of this team for success.
The Angels are a team who when you look at their roster there should be no doubt they are a playoff team between Mike Trout and Shohei Othani, but they have been riddled with injuries year after year. The two keys to success for the Angels are to make sure Trout is really healthy and this is not going to be a repeat of the past few seasons; the last time he had a full season where he did not miss games was 2016. The other key for this team is to focus on their rotation as they signed Noah Syndergard, who has just recovered from Tommy John surgery, and it appears that the most reliable pitcher on their staff would be Shohei Othani, definitely not the worst option, but their are surely doubts that they will run into bullpen issues once again.
The Rangers were one of the most active teams this offseason making deals to obtain both Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, but the rest of their lineup is still pretty concerning to many and while these are two of the biggest stars in the game they can only do so much to help a team as troubled as the Rangers. In order for the Rangers to have success they might just have to wait a little longer until they can pull up some of the players from their farm system, but that could still take some time and many will not want to wait for that.
For the American League Central:
The White Sox were a solid team last year making it all the way to the American League Divisional Series, and have many of the key components for success but there are two things they need to focus on. The first being health as many of their stars played fewer than 100 games last season due to injuries, but this did not hold them back too much so being able to have a full health team would only be able to help build on their success from last season. The other concern for the White Sox is how they perform in the postseason as they lost to Houston in four games and did not look too competitive. They should have no issue making it to the post season this year, but they will need to keep their momentum throughout it rather than what occurred last season.
The Guardians are another team whose key to success revolves around ensuring their team can stay healthy, they have a solid group of pitchers, and big names at-bat but if these guys cannot stay healthy then having them does no good.
The Tigers were a sleeper team for most of last year but towards the end of the season really picked it up and even manage third in the division, so if they can find a way to carry the momentum they had at the end of last season into this season that would be the start to a step in the right direction. On top of that they also made some major off-season deals including signing Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez, but the Tigers are still the same team that has not been over .500 since 2016.
The Royals have underperformed in their last few seasons and for them to be successful at all this season there are two key players they need to focus on. The first being Zack Greinke and how many innings he can throw, in a pitching rotation full of average pitchers Greinke is the star of this team but he is getting towards the end of his career and putting up nearly as many innings as he once was for the Royals, so being able to get the most out of him this season will be key to their hopes of success. The other is dependent on whether the Royals are ready to move some people up from their farm system, such as Bobby Witt Jr. who is one of the biggest prospects in the league and could possibly help turn around the Royals, but whether they are ready for that and if he can have an impact from the start will be a deciding factor of how this season could go for the Royals.
The Twins knew they needed to make some big deals during the off season if they wanted to even come close to having a shot at just making the playoffs, and they sure did just that by signing Carlos Correa. However, they still have work to do as their lineup looks pretty solid and they have some explosive at bats, but the lack of pitching the Twins have is very much a concern and could be what keeps them from postseason play.