Ask Jason: On Angels' playoff chances, Joey Votto and a glorious podcast reunion

Well, folks, we've finally arrvied at Opening Day. Take a good whiff. The air is good today.

Well, folks, we've finally arrvied at Opening Day. Take a good whiff. The air is good today.

With the exception of the All-Star break, there will be regular-season baseball every day from now through Sept. 30. That's good stuff.

Anyway, on to this week's questions ...

MORE: Opening Day schedule for all 30 teams

"What do you expect to happen with the few prominent unsigned free agents now that the season is getting underway?" — @cstiles24

As I wrote in my 18 questions for 2018 column this week, nothing will surprise me. They could sign today (like Greg Holland!), they could sign in July, they could since in December. Holland was the obvious candidate to land a deal first. In any other year it would've been outlandish that the league leader in saves from last season was unsigned until Opening Day. But this offseason has been a special kind of weird.

"Is this the year @MikeTrout and the @Angels make a dent in the post-season, or is it the last hurrah of @MikeScioscia?" — @johnyhuber

Given their offseason dealings, it seems obvious that the Angels are in a playoffs-now mode. Apart from Shohei Ohtani (who may or may not end up being a big factor this season), they extended Justin Upton and acquired Ian Kinsler and Zack Kozart. And, oh yeah, they also have Mike Trout, the best overall player in the game. And, oh yeah, they also Andrelton Simmons, the best defensive shortstop in the game and a guy who's developed into a strong all-around player. The starting pitching is somewhat of a question mark, but if the lineup stays healthy and pounds opponents into submission, the Angels might be primed for a wild-card chase.

MORE: Angels, Ohtani hope success is just a matter of time — and timing

"Where is Votto in the discussion of #Reds GOAT? How does his consistency and production shape this year's team? — @smarmy81

Votto is without question the best player to wear a Reds uniform in quite some time, and his place among the all-time-great Reds is an interesting discussion. Barring injuries and/or a drastic falloff in production, he will have a strong, if somewhat unconventional, case for the Hall of Fame — joining Reds great such as Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez in Cooperstown. But it'll probably take further influence of advanced stats before Votto is widely considered among the upper echelon of Reds greats. His career totals in the traditional categories — hits, home runs, RBIs — might not stand out among those all-time greats, but Votto's value is inarguable.

Because of his ability to take walks, he's on base a ton — probably way more than a lot of fans realize. Seriously, look at his page on Baseball-Reference.com and notice all that black font. Yes, he can hit for power and average, too, but his on-base prowess is mostly fueled by his good eye at the plate. It may not be sexy by traditional standards, but Votto does his job exceedingly well. He's already had six seasons with a WAR of 5.9 or higher. As for how he'll help this year's team, well, it'll be more of the same. He'll get on base plenty and drive in plenty of runs. But he won't be surrounded by that much talent, so whatever success Cincinnati has this season will be in large part because of Votto.

"What rebuilding team will have the worst record in 2018?" — @slightguy

The Marlins. And I don't think it'll be close. As I wrote earlier this week, it would be surprising for another team to out-bad the Marlins after their latest roster destruction. Even in the context of baseball being weird and producing results that nobody saw coming, the Marlins are a plenty safe bet to finish in MLB's cellar. But if I had to pick another rebuilding team to overtake the Marlins for the worst record, I'd choose the Tigers.

MORE: Sporting News staff predictions for the 2018 MLB season

"Do you think Ian Happ will be successful as a lead off hitter for the Cubs? We all know spring training can be a bit misleading." — @nontweetingchad

Yes, spring training stats are often the devil's lies, but sometimes they also just give further evidence that a player is really good. In Happ's case, the Cubs obviously think they're on to something with him in the leadoff spot. He brings power and, if those spring stats can be believed, the potential for strong on-base ability at the top of the order — a combo that's always valuable. That doesn't mean he'll be the next Rickey Henderson, but I think he'll serve the Cubs well in the role.

"Any better Opening Day tease than Tuffy Rhodes hitting 3 homers for the Cubs, then finishing with like 10 for his career?" — @SeeWillTweet

No, Tuffy Rhodes is the poster child for Opening Day teases. But a low-key, under-discussed Opening Day tease was George Bell's three homers in 1988. I call it a tease because Bell was coming off an MVP season in which he hit 47 homers. His three on Opening Day likely had Blue Jays fans expecting another monster year. Alas, he finished with "just" 24 homers and a significantly lower average and on-base percentage. Not to mention that his WAR dropped from 5.0 in 1987 to 0.8 in 1988, and he never really approached an MVP level again.

"When will we see another reunion of MY favorite team, The PopCast Guys?" — @jasonwheatley

This question is a semi-serious query from a former colleague with whom I co-hosted an award-winning (it's true!) pop culture podcast back in 2007-08. We "reunited" recently week with the third member of our trio, former SN MLB editor Justin McGuire, to record a "Seinfeld"-related Orioles podcast — you know, the episode where Elaine wears an Orioles hat to Yankee Stadium and ends up getting kicked out. Anyway, recording that was a lot of fun and made us all ponder the possibility of doing another regular podcast. I'd say chances are decent for another one-off reunion at some point, but a weekly podcast might be a stretch at this point. But if you were a PopCast fan back in the day, never stop believing. And if you're an Orioles fan or a "Seinfeld" fan, click here to listen to our first reunion episode.