30 teams, 30 first impressions as season begins

April 2nd, 2018

The Red Sox and Brewers are rolling, the Braves and White Sox are mashing, and is off to a ridiculously great start. Max Scherzer is his usual dominant self, and the Yankees have a pocketful of worries.

We've waited so long for baseball to return that we savor every moment of these first few days of a new regular season. We overstate the importance of these games even though we constantly remind ourselves it's just a tiny slice of the regular season. We do this every season no matter what.

Here now, 30 teams, 30 first impressions:

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Shortstop Dansby Swanson is hitting .357, and if Atlanta fans are looking for reasons to be optimistic, start here. He hit .156 last April and had a lost season, so a hot start this year is a must. Oh, and there are waves of talent on the way.

Marlins: Kids here, kids everywhere. Rookie third baseman is hitting .333, and a pair of young left-handers, and , had excellent first starts.

Mets: If was your National League MVP Award pick, you love what you've seen so far. Does a .500 OBP ring your bell?

Nationals: That's a microscopic 0.98 ERA for a rotation that's doing a real good imitation of the NL's best.

Phillies: Manager Gabe Kapler is redefining aggressive, having used 21 pitchers in 28 innings. He even took out one guy before he had another warmed up on Saturday. Love you, Gabe, but you gotta take a breath.

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: The new guys, and , were 15-for-28 in a three-game sweep in San Diego, and Milwaukee just might be as good as advertised.

Cardinals: forced manager Mike Matheny to write his name in the lineup last season and could be doing the same thing this year, with a .455 batting average. Even his outs are hard: On Sunday, he put three balls in play with an exit velocity above 100 mph, and he had zero hits to show for it.

Cubs: Where do we play him? How much do we play him? 's 1.242 OPS means manager Joe Maddon will play him somewhere.

Pirates: First baseman Josh Bell is batting .462. Pretty good for a 25-year-old who was third in the NL Rookie of the Year Award voting last season. Also a great sign for someone who could anchor the middle of the Bucs' lineup for a long time.

Reds: Scooter Gennett is hitting .538 and proving himself to be one of the more valuable waiver claims -- from Milwaukee last year in his case -- in recent history. When Joey Votto gets hot -- and he will -- Cincinnati will have a variety of ways to pressure opponents.

NL WEST

D-backs: Is there a hotter player than Nick Ahmed? At the very least, he's on the real short list with a .455 batting average and a 1.409 OPS.

Dodgers: It's all about the pitching, right? The Dodgers' rotation has allowed one run in 25 innings. Same as it ever was.

Giants:Joe Panik may not be Superman, but he's batting .400 and won two games with home runs. He'll do until the real thing comes along.

Padres: This is the San Diego hoped it was getting. His hot start has given the Padres hope that once , , etc., start to hit, things will improve.

Rockies: Center fielder Charlie Blackmon is off to a great start with three home runs and a 1.476 OPS. Especially big for him as he begins a contract year.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Sometimes it only takes one insanely hot player to keep you afloat, and that's what first baseman is for Toronto right now with two home runs -- including a game-winning grand slam on Sunday -- and a .467 batting average to help the Blue Jays earn a four-game split with the Yankees.

Orioles: The bullpen did a nice job with a 2.77 ERA as the O's lost two of three to the Twins to open the season. Only one of manager Buck Showalter's seven relievers has allowed more than one run.

Rays: Tampa Bay lost three of four to Boston despite a 2.25 ERA, the second-lowest in in the AL. The Rays are seeking offense other than third baseman , who is hitting .375.

Red Sox:Chris Sale, and strung together 18 scoreless innings in the first three games of the season, and that's the only number that matters for this team. Everything else is taken care of.

Yankees: Two numbers. One is a 1.31 ERA for the rotation, which is the one that counts. Here's another: .209 team batting average. Offense is one thing the Yanks should not fret about.

AL CENTRAL

Indians: and have two hits between them in the first three games of the season. Moral of this story: They will hit. And so will the Tribe.

Royals: Welcome back, Moose. Third baseman Mike Moustakas has a .444 OBP with a double, triple and walk in two games.

Tigers: hit his first home run of the season Sunday and raised his batting average to .357. He remains an absolute joy to watch.

Twins: Remember how Minnesota focused on upgrading the rotation? Starters , and Jake Odorizzi haven't allowed an earned run in 21 innings.

White Sox: No team is happier about its start than this one. Scoring 18 runs and hitting seven home runs in a two-game sweep of the Royals, and third baseman Matt Davidson is hitting .571. Waves more talent on the way.

AL WEST

Angels: has gotten a hit as a DH and gotten a win as a starting pitcher. Maybe we'll see something like this again in another 99 years.

Astros:, and had dominant first starts, Altuve is hitting .563, and there's a World Series banner being unveiled at Minute Maid Park on Monday.

Athletics: Third baseman 's fast finish to 2017 has carried into this season, including an impressive home run against Ohtani on Sunday.

Mariners: Right fielder Mitch Haniger is hitting .625 with a double and two home runs, which has many believing last year's .843 OPS was for real. He has batting in front of him and behind him. Yes, Seattle is going to be fun to watch this season.

Rangers: Evidenced by the fact that the Astros unveiled a four-man outfield for Joey Gallo, MLB teams have realized he is a special hitter. Gallo hit his first home run Sunday afternoon. Expect around 40 more.