By: Adam Tortelli ~Staff Writer~
The snow has melted, trees are starting to regain their color and temperatures are beginning to rise. This can only mean one thing. Opening Day is upon us in the Buckeye State.
Baseball enthusiasts throughout Ohio are itching for what looks to be another promising year for Ohio teams that are striving for a return to postseason play in 2015.
In Cincinnati, the Reds are hoping to once again ride ace pitcher Johnny Cueto in the wake of their massive offseason overhaul of the pitching staff that included goodbyes to beloved starters Matt Latos and Alfredo Simon.
Last year, injuries plagued position players the most, cursing the team’s offense all season long and prohibiting it from gaining any traction.
However, an infield saturated with potential all-stars will hope to bring its offensive numbers back to the fans’ expectations.
When healthy, first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips are easily the most dynamic right-side infielders in baseball.
Pair that with returning all-stars third baseman Todd Frazier and catcher Devin Mesoraco, the Reds will have no trouble competing in the National League Central, predicted by experts to be the toughest division in all of baseball this year.
Oh, did I mention the outfield that can potentially be one of the best in baseball? Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick play the corners and hit for power while center-fielder Billy Hamilton may be the fastest man in the game.
Throughout his first full season in the big leagues, Hamilton did not always hit the way a leadoff man should, but once he got on first, the 24-year old flew around the bases.
If year two as a full-time big-leaguer comes with more consistency, Hamilton can easily evolve into one of baseball’s biggest game changers both offensively and defensively.
If you look to northeastern Ohio, you will find another anxious baseball team scratching their heads from “what could have been” in 2014. The Cleveland Indians also will hope to ride their ace pitcher Corey Kluber who returns as the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner for the league’s best pitcher.
Kluber silently dominated his opposition, sneaking his way into baseball’s elite.
Kluber will be supported by a group of budding stars in the starting rotation that can potentially be the American League’s best.
In the field, the Indians will lean on outfielder Michael Brantley and newly acquired utility man Brandon Moss.
While Brantley earned a third-place finish in 2014’s AL MVP race, Moss contributed heavily to a surprising Oakland Athletics squad that reached the playoffs.
Major question marks this year will float around first baseman Nick Swisher, who has yet to prove his worth since signing the biggest contract in franchise history two years ago, and the oft-injured center fielder Michael Bourn, (who is a shell of his previous self) who used to dominate the base path much like Billy Hamilton does today.