The real "Opening Day" is finally here, and ESPN2 and WatchESPN have plenty of the action, starting with the Detroit Tigers hosting the Boston Red Sox at 1 p.m. ET, followed by the Miami Marlins visiting the Cincinnati Reds at 4 p.m.
In today's Triple Play, our analysts discuss some key National League storylines for as the season kicks into high gear.
1. True of false: The Atlanta Braves' inactivity this winter will doom them.
Christina Kahrl (@ChristinaKahrl), SweetSpot
False, because the platform of young talent they're building from is tough to top. The young pitching, the growth they'll get from Freddie Freeman in his second year, and a healthier, rebounding Jayson Heyward are all reasons to believe. And trading for Juan Francisco will prove it's better to deal late than never, because he has 30-homer power that will play well in whatever corner they need him to man.
Chad Dotson (@dotsonc), Redleg Nation
False. Sure, the acquisitions of Livan Hernandez and Chad Durbin pale in comparison to the spending spree in South Beach, but there is still plenty to be excited about in Atlanta. This is the same team, essentially, that posted one of the best records in baseball until late in the 2011 season. A resurgent Heyward will keep the
Braves competitive once again.
Franklin Rabon (@fjrabon), Capitol Avenue Club
False. The Braves need several things to go right for them, including bounce-back years from Martin Prado and Heyward, but they are far from doomed. It would have been nice to add an impact bat in left field, but it wasn't strictly necessary, and there wasn't a great fit to be found for those needs anyway.
2. True or false: Aroldis Chapman should be starting.
Kahrl: False, because the Cincinnati Reds have a fairly full slate of options in the rotation. However, he shouldn't be restricted to an inning or less per outing. The Reds need to get enough good innings from that injury-depleted bullpen while also giving Chapman enough of a workload to dispel concerns about his control. Pairing Chapman with Sean Marshall, manager Dusty Baker shouldn't fidget and get too cute, playing matchup games with his fourth- or fifth-best reliever.
Dotson: True, true, a thousand times true. This spring, Chapman has been brilliant as a starter, displaying a command of his high-octane fastball that hasn't always been evident. Unfortunately, manager Dusty Baker got his wish and Chapman will begin the 2012 season back in the Reds' bullpen. As a starter, Chapman has a chance to be very special. Let's hope that he returns to the rotation immediately once lefty Bill Bray is healthy again.
Rabon:False. I have a hunch there are durability issues that the front office knows about that we are not aware of. However, if there are no issues and the Reds believe he is one of their five best starting pitchers, he should be starting, regardless of any needs in the bullpen. But I have some faith in the Reds' front office, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt here and say their reasons are well-founded.
3. True or false: Stephen Strasburg will receive at least one Cy Young vote in 2012.
Kahrl: True, because he'll be healthy enough and certainly good enough with that health. And the expanded five-place BBWAA ballot doesn't hurt -- how else were David Robertson or Madison Bumgarner going to get votes last year?
Dotson: True. Strasburg will pick up a couple of stray third-place votes, but he won't be a serious contender for two reasons. First, even if he is healthy all year, the Nationals intend to limit Strasburg to 160 innings. Second, Washington isn't going to be a contender in the NL East, no matter how much they want you think otherwise. I expect Strasburg to be great, but the awards will have to wait.
Rabon: False. Through either innings limitations set by the front office or injuries, he will not put up the requisite number of innings to get Cy Young votes in a National League that is absolutely loaded with legitimate Cy Young candidates.