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Countdown to pickoff: 51 MLB storylines await

February 4, 2017

After Super Bowl LI, we know what's really on your mind: only a week left until the first pitchers and catchers report. Soon it will be time for Spring Training, and the World Baseball Classic, and then Opening Day.So following the 51st Super Bowl, here are 51 things to look

After Super Bowl LI, we know what's really on your mind: only a week left until the first pitchers and catchers report. Soon it will be time for Spring Training, and the World Baseball Classic, and then Opening Day.
So following the 51st Super Bowl, here are 51 things to look forward to in the upcoming MLB season. Some you can pencil in on your lineup card; others might take a little bit of magic. Let's get to it.
Potential milestones
1. Adrian Beltre joins the 3,000-hit club. The gregarious third baseman is sitting on 2,942 base knocks, so he needs 58 more to become the 31st member of the elite fraternity.

  1. Jose Pujols becomes one of only nine Major Leaguers with 600 home runs. He has 591.
    3. Michael Trout finishes the year with the highest WAR by any position player through his age-25 season. Trout, at 48.5 WAR, needs at least 7.4 in 2017 to eclipse Mickey Mantle and Ty Cobb, and he's exceeded that in all of his five full seasons.
    4. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer both rack up their 2,000th strikeouts in their 10th Major League season, meaning both will be averaging over 200 per year for their careers. Kershaw is at 1,918, Scherzer at 1,881. Kershaw's 2,000th K will put him in a group with Don Sutton, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax as the only Dodgers to hit the plateau.
  1. Jacoby Ellsbury becomes MLB's all-time leader in catcher's interference. The Yankees outfielder set the single-season record with 12 in 2016, and now sits three shy of Pete Rose's 29.
    6. Beltre's fifth homer, ninth double and 58th hit give him 450, 600 and 3,000, respectively. Only three others in Major League history have that combination -- Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Carl Yastrzemski.
    7. Beltre becomes the 21st Major Leaguer to reach 5,000 career total bases (he needs 60), while Pujols cracks the top 10 all-time. The Angels first baseman has 5,232, and needs 166 to pass Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Robinson, Rafael Palmeiro and Eddie Murray.
    8. Pujols gets an outside shot at 3,000 hits. He's at 2,825 entering the year, but he hasn't had 175 hits in a season since 2010.
    9. Trout becomes the eighth player with 200 home runs through his age-25 season (Pujols was another). The reigning American League MVP needs 32 homers in 2017 to reach 200.
    10. Ichiro Suzuki passes Rod Carew, Rickey Henderson and Craig Biggio on the Major League hits list. Dave Winfield, Alexander Rodriguez and a spot inside the top 20 all-time are also in striking distance for the 43-year-old Ichiro, who enters 2017 with 3,030 big league base knocks.
  1. Jose Cabrera records his 1,000th career extra-base hit (he's at 986), joining Pujols, Beltre and Carlos Beltran as the only active players with 1,000.
    12. Beltran passes Max Carey, Roberto Alomar and Chipper Jones and ends the year with the fifth-most hits ever by a switch-hitter (he needs 110).
    13. Jose Reyes steals his 500th base. He needs 12 steals to join Ichiro as the only active players with 500.
    On your calendar
    14. The fourth World Baseball Classic begins in Seoul on March 6, with South Korea taking on Israel.
  1. On MLB Opening Night, the Cubs begin the defense of their first World Series title since 1908 by taking on their rivals, the Cardinals.
    16. The AL pennant-winning Indians head north of the border in early May to take on the Blue Jays in a postseason rematch that will also be Edwin Encarnacion's return to Toronto. At the end of the month, former White Sox ace Chris Sale returns to the South Side of Chicago for the first time with his new team, the Red Sox.
    17. Iconic jersey retirements: the Yankees retire Derek Jeter's No. 2 in May, the Red Sox retire David Ortiz's No. 34 in June, the Rangers retire Ivan Rodriguez's No. 7 in August, and the Mariners do the same with Edgar Martinez's No. 11.
    Franchise leaderboards
    18. Yadier Molina, already the Cardinals' leader in games caught with 1,582, finishes the season with more games played for the Cards than Pujols. He needs to play 95 to become the franchise's new active leader.
    19. David Wright becomes the Mets' franchise leader in home runs. The captain needs 11 to eclipse Darryl Strawberry's mark of 252 in a Mets uniform.
  1. With three wins, Bruce Bochy passes Dusty Baker and becomes the second-winningest manager in Giants history behind Hall of Fame skipper John McGraw.
    21. Giancarlo Stanton becomes the Marlins' RBI leader. He needs 39 to pass Jeff Conine and Mike Lowell.
    22. Evan Longoria likely takes over the Rays' franchise lead in at-bats, runs, walks and possibly hits (he needs 170 to pass Carl Crawford, a mark he reached last season for the first time).
    23. On-base machine Joey Votto becomes one of four Reds with 900 walks, along with Rose, Bid McPhee and Barry Larkin.
    24. Ryan Braun drives in his 1,000th run for the Brewers (he needs 63 RBIs), something only Robin Yount has done for the Crew.
    25. Paul Goldschmidt takes over the D-backs' lead in position player WAR from Luis Gonzalez.
    26. Carlos Gonzalez hits his 200th home run as a Rockie (he has 197 with Colorado; four with Oakland), joining Todd Helton, Larry Walker, Vinny Castilla and Dante Bichette as the only Rockies to do so.
  1. Buster Posey catches his 700th game (he's at 699), and by season's end will have caught more games than any Giant since the franchise's move to San Francisco.
    28. Justin Verlander starts on Opening Day for the Tigers for the ninth time in the past 10 years, creeping closer to Jack Morris' franchise-high 11 Opening Day starts.
    It could happen
    29. The U.S. puts it all together in the World Baseball Classic and takes home its first title in the tournament.
    30. Trout wins a third AL MVP, becoming just the 11th Major Leaguer to win the award three times (joining his teammate Pujols on the list), and the youngest by two years over Musial.
  1. Mookie Betts becomes the 15th Major Leaguer with multiple 200-hit campaigns by his age-24 season, and the first since A-Rod.
    32. Nolan Arenado wins his fifth Gold Glove in five years in the Majors, an MLB career-opening run exceeded only by Ichiro (who won a Gold Glove his first 10 seasons). Arenado is just as good at the plate, leading the NL in home runs and RBIs for a third straight season.
    33. Someone joins the 30-30 club for the first time since 2012, when Trout and Braun both hit 30 homers and stole 30 bases. A few candidates: Trout (29-30 in 2016), Betts (31-26), William Myers (28-28).
    34. Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances join Albertin Chapman as the only active relievers to strike out 100 batters in four straight seasons, while Chapman ties Goose Gossage and Rollie Fingers' record with his fifth overall 100-K season in relief.
    35. An Oriole takes home the MLB home run crown for a fifth straight season, following Mark Trumbo (2016), Chris Davis (2013 and '15) and Nelson Cruz ('14). Manny Machado, anyone?
  1. The Rockies produce a fifth different National League batting champ this decade, with someone new -- Arenado? Charlie Blackmon? -- joining DJ LeMahieu, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Gonzalez.
    37. Cole Hamels and Madison Bumgarner extend their streaks of 30-plus starts/200-plus innings to eight and seven seasons, respectively, the longest such active streaks in the Majors.
    Wish list
    38. Bryce Harper puts his 2016 struggles behind him and goes swing-for-swing with Trout over a thrilling season, bringing back a new wave of "Trout or Harper?" debate.
    39. Even as that debate goes on, Corey Seager and Trea Turner are sparking one of their own as the top two 2016 NL Rookie of the Year finishers stay electric in their followup campaigns.
  1. Noah Syndergaard throws 200 innings for the first time and whiffs 250 batters. Thor's fastball continues to average over 98 mph and routinely hits triple digits, while his slider averages better than 91.
    41. Gary Sanchez is as good as advertised for the Yankees, leading all catchers in homers and caught stealing percentage in his first full season.
    42. Zach Britton's sinker stays heavy and the O's closer posts a sub-1.00 ERA for a second straight year.
    43. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, the Astros' dynamic duo in the middle infield, combine for more than 50 homers and 50 steals.
  1. Kristopher Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs' equally dynamic duo in the corner infield, combine for more than 70 homers and 200 RBIs for a second straight season.
    45. Miguel Cabrera adds to his legacy as one of the best hitters of his generation with a fifth batting title and makes a push for a second career Triple Crown.
    46. Kershaw stays healthy, wins a fourth NL Cy Young Award (only four others have done so) and contends for a second Triple Crown of his own, while setting the single-season record for strikeout-to-walk ratio following his 172-strikeout, 11-walk 2016.
    47. Daniel Murphy continues to haunt his old team, extending his already record streak of hitting safely in his first 19 games against the Mets when the Nationals head to Flushing in late April.
    48. Felix Hernandez returns to the 30-start and 200-inning marks, and also tops 200 strikeouts for the first time since 2014.
    49. Re-signed in Toronto, Jose Bautista plays a full season and mashes 35 homers to become the second Blue Jay with 300 (Carlos Delgado was the other).
  1. Andrew McCutchen finds his stroke and makes his sixth All-Star Game in seven years.
    51. New Statcast™ territory: Chapman hits 106 mph on the radar gun, shattering his own record 105.1-mph fastball. Stanton, already with one 500-foot home run on his resume, launches a baseball farther than any tracked to date.
    Bartolo Colon throws a no-hitter. Or jacks another home run.

David Adler is a reporter for based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.