Christian Yelich was a very good player who became an MVP in 2018. Baseball history is full of players who have followed that path. So who are the candidates to compete for postseason awards for the first time? Walker Buehler sure looked like a Cy Young contender in his brilliant World Series start. Kyle Schwarber has the power to contend for a home run title, and a couple of big league years under his belt. Nick Pivetta had his issues last year, but struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings.19. Which guys go from afterthought to All-Stars?What are we talking about? Think Scooter Gennett and Max Muncy. Who are the potential candidates? No idea, and that’s kind of the point. It’ll be fun to watch happen, though. Spring training games start next week, which is awesome.The regular season will be here before we know it, and hopefully Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel and the other still-free-agent stars find teams before Opening Day. Here are 19 storylines we’ll be watching once the baseball season starts for real.MORE: Opening Day schedule for all 30 MLB teams1. L.A.’s quest for a championshipThis isn’t a regular-season storyline, unless an avalanche of disasters inundate Dodger Stadium and keep what is a very good team right now out of the postseason. This is an October storyline. After back-to-back trips to the World Series, winning a championship is the only thing that matters. Can they get it done? 2. The Nationals in the post-Harper eraThere’s a very good chance the 2019 Nationals will finish with a better record, actually. Losing Harper hurts, of course (if he does eventually choose to sign elsewhere), but so many things went wrong for the Nationals in 2018 — a season that ended with only 82 wins. If the Nationals can stay healthy, this is a team that should contend for a playoff spot. The rotation has Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg up top, the bullpen has Sean Doolittle, Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough, the outfield has Juan Soto, Adam Eaton and highly touted prospect Victor Robles and the infield has Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmermann and Brian Dozier. Healthy, that’s better than an 82-win team. 3. Will pending labor issues impact how deals/trades/moves are done in 2019?The current CBA expires on the first day of December 2021. The players are far from happy with how this current one has played out. It’s already impacted at least one contract extension …Interesting detail: Severino and his agents wanted money pushed toward front of deal to protect against possible strike when CBA expires on Dec. 1, 2021. https://t.co/iRa8udjxbA— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 15, 2019Because, yeah, players know what’s coming …#STLCards pitcher Adam Wainwright on @TMASTL: “Unless something changes, there’s going to be a strike. 100%. I’m just worried people are going to walk-out mid-season.” pic.twitter.com/M8WeRVcASe— Tim McKernan (@tmckernan) February 15, 20194. The cellar-to-October hope is realEight teams lost at least 95 games last year. Eight! But you know this. Which one of those also-rans could actually be a playoff contender in 2019? With all due respect to Padres and White Sox, that list starts with Cincinnati. The Reds have finished last in the NL Central and lost at least 94 games four consecutive seasons, but they’ve added a good deal of talent — Yasiel Puig, Sonny Gray, Alex Wood, Matt Kemp and Tanner Roark — and have a nice crop of prospects, headed by Nick Senzel, ready to contribute. Oh, and they still have Joey Votto. The Central is tough, but the Reds could definitely make a big jump this season. 5. The October-to-afterthought fear is real, tooThe A’s were baseball’s biggest surprise in 2018, going from two games under .500 on June 15 (34-36) to 97 wins on the season. The Rays defied pretty much every expectation en route to a 90-win campaign in the AL East. Will their 2019 records look similar or take a step back? 6. Are the Phillies a World Series contender?After three consecutive years of at least 91 losses, the Phillies were 15 games above .500 in early August last season before the bottom fell out. The talent is there for a repeat of the first four-and-a-half months, but if we’re being honest, just getting to the playoffs isn’t the primary goal. They’ve added J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura and are still chasing either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. They have Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta atop the rotation and a bullpen with big, though largely unproven, arms. 7. The arrival of the JuniorsThe namesake son of the a Hall of Famer is the top prospect in the American League and the namesake son of the only player in baseball history to hit two grand slams in the same inning is the best prospect in the National League. Pretty cool, right? We probably won’t see Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Fernando Tatis, Jr. on Opening Day, but both soon-to-be-stars will make their mark on the 2019 season. Guerrero hit .402 at Double-A and .336 in Triple-A last year, and Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections give Guerrero 23 major league homers and a .370 on-base percentage — even though he doesn’t turn 20 until March 16. Tatis hasn’t seen Triple-A yet, but don’t expect him to spend a ton of time there. 8. Let’s all enjoy the Eloy Jimenez show — eventuallyEloy Jimenez won’t be on the White Sox roster on Opening Day because of service time considerations. That’s a shame. He’s ready to be a star in the major leagues right now. He’s 22 and ripped through Double-A and Triple-A last year, batting a combined .337 with 22 homers and a .961 OPS in 122 games. Chicago’s best hope for contention is for Jimenez to play 155 games, from the get-go. FOSTER: 19 reasons why baseball will be great in 20199. The hunt for red OctoberNo team was more consistent in the 2000s than the Cardinals; they reached October in 12 of the first 16 seasons this century. But they’ve missed three years in a row, and they fired manager Mike Matheny last year when things weren’t trending in the right direction. With Mike Shildt steering the ship and Paul Goldschmidt anchoring the middle of the lineup, will the Cardinals finally get back to the postseason? 10. The Mariners and their playoff droughtSeattle owns the longest playoff drought in baseball. Last year, it was kind of excruciating to watch the Mariners and their fans see the A’s shoot past them into October. This year, after a roster revamp that was mostly a sell-off, at least it won’t be so painful to see the Mariners miss the postseason again. But maybe they’ll pull an A’s, eh? Maybe. Doubtfully, though. 11. Which fanbase will be most annoyed with their team’s boring offseason?Lots of fanbases had dreams of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado wearing their favorite team’s uniform. For some of those fans, anything short of that was going to be a disappointment. And when their favorite team is a couple of games out of a playoff spot in September, you can bet those fans will remember how the front office opted against spending money in the offseason. 12. Will “the opener” gain in popularity? The Rays used Brian Kenny’s favorite theory more extensively than any other team during the regular season, and the Brewers had success with it in October. After an offseason to get used to the idea, will other teams make this a regular part of their approach? 13. Which would-be contender will become a seller?The path to October is fraught with peril, and detours have to be taken. For some teams, the detour will mean delaying a playoff push until 2020. Sometimes, it’s better to go home than to go big. 14. Unexpected trade chipsBarring extensions, next winter’s crop of free agents will include Nolan Arenado, Madison Bumgarner, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rendon, Yasiel Puig, Scooter Gennett, Khris Davis, Gerrit Cole and Josh Donaldson. Most of those players are stars for teams that expect to contend this season, but what happens if those plans go south? That means those guys could be potential trade chips before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. That’ll be fun. RIVERA: Grading every MLB team’s offseason15. Will Mike Trout finish another October-less season? You know the drill by now. Mike Trout has been in the majors for six full seasons — not counting his 114-game 2017 campaign — and he’s finished first or second in the AL MVP voting all six years. His Angels, though, have only made the postseason one time in that stretch. If everyone else stays healthy, it’s possible the Angels could make a push, but when was the last time most players on the Angels actually stayed healthy? 16. Baseball across the pondThe sport will showcase two of its premier franchises when the Yankees and Red Sox play a pair of games in London. OK, so maybe this isn’t a storyline, per se, but it’s a highlight of the season, and that’s worth pointing out. 17. What’s next for the Orioles and Chris Davis?It’s hard to imagine a worse season for that team or that player. The Orioles won only 47 games all season — Boston had 47 wins by June 13 — and Davis struggled through a miserable season — .168 average, .296 slugging percentage and -2.8 bWAR. He’s signed through 2022 for $23 million a year. Yeah. The 2019 campaign HAS to be better, right? Right?Chris Davis remains bullish on a Chris Davis bounce-back.”The player who has been productive in the past is not gone,” he said. “He didn’t disappear. He is still here. I think, as far as my swing is concerned, I feel like I’m that player right now.” #Orioles— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) February 15, 201918. Which young stars will take “the leap” toward superstardom?