A new Major League Baseball Season kicks off this week, and while some things haven’t changed in decades—every player will trot onto the field in a New Era cap, just as they have since 1933—there are lots of new players to watch, new teams looking to contend, and new storylines to follow. Here are five things to keep your eye on during the 2015 season.
A New Team for Matt Kemp
After nine seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Kemp headed south to join a suddenly stacked San Diego Padres roster. I may seem strange to see the letters “SD” atop Kemp’s cap, but he’s now the face of a team that completely remade itself during free agency, signing pitcher James Shields as their ace and adding power bats James Upton and Wil Myers. With Kemp anchoring a lineup full of firepower, and some solid starting pitching to steady the other side of the ball, this new look has the potential to serve Kemp very well.
A New Locker Room Around David Ortiz
David Ortiz still has his infectious smile and smooth swing, and he’s capable of sending balls sailing over the right field fence at Fenway Park, but the team around him is now remarkably different. All-Star Pablo Sandoval signed on as a free agent. Hanley Ramirez is there too. The Sox nabbed former Detroit Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello to replace Jon Lester. Even longtime fans might not recognize the Boys from Boston at first glance. But you can bet that when the cleanup hitter walks up to the plate, Big Papi will be ready to drive in more runs.
A New Look for Andrew McCutchen
If you can’t spot Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star Andrew McCutchen right away during his first game, you don’t need to schedule Lasik surgery. McCutchen clipped off his glorious dreadlocks this past off-season, leaving his head looking a little bare. But when you’re a former MVP, you’ve got the right to do whatever you want, and McCutchen’s new do looks pretty legit.
New Bling for Buster Posey
Fresh off a World Series victory, Buster Posey will be rocking a fresh piece of jewelry on his fingers this season. And sure, you might think he’s used to it, having earned three World Series rings in the past five years, not to mention winning World Series MVP in 2010. But Posey’s hunger for hardware only seems to grow with each championship, so expect him and his Giants teammates to play better than ever during the 2015 campaign.
A New “Sandman” in the Bronx?
Mariano Rivera’s retirement left a hole on the Yankees’ pitching staff the size of Manhattan. But someone has to replace the iconic closer, and Dellin Betances looks like the man to do it. The 6-foot-8, 265-pound flamethrower is a Brooklyn native who grew up a Yankees fan, and he’s poised to help the men in pinstripes get back to the place they once owned—the World Series.