Spring Training is finally here. The Diamondbacks' and Dodgers' pitchers and catchers have finally reported. Baseball season has started. As we draw closer to the beginning of Spring Training, here is a list of things to keep an eye out for when the games begin and teams start scrimmaging.
The top prospects:
Nine of the top ten prospects (MLB.com) will be non-roster invitees to their Major League teams’ camps. Some of those prospects include:
Byron Buxton, Outfielder, Minnesota Twins
Buxton, ranked nearly number one on every top prospect list, will be very fun to watch as he competes for a Major League spot on the Twins. In 2013, he showed his five tools off, hitting .334/.424/.520 in 125 games at the Twins’ Single-A and High Single-A affiliates. Buxton was picked second overall in the 2012 First Year Player Draft. I am looking forward to seeing if the 20-year-old can make some noise in the Twins organization in Spring Training, and am waiting to see if he can make the team out of camp.
Archie Bradley, Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
I really believe that Bradley has a good amount of Minor League experience and is ready to make the Diamondbacks out of camp. We thought that Bradley could make the rotation out of camp, but the D-Backs signed Bronson Arroyo, pretty much ending Bradley’s chances at the rotation. In 2013, Bradley was phenomenal, going 14-5 with a 1.84 ERA in 26 games at the Diamondbacks’ High Single-A and Double-A affiliates. Since being selected seventh overall in the 2011 Draft, Bradley has gone 26-11 with a 2.76 ERA in 55 games. I am really looking forward to seeing what Bradley has against Major Leaguers.
Kris Bryant, Infielder, Chicago Cubs
I highly doubt Bryant makes the Cubs team out of Spring Training. The 22-year-old has just played in 36 games since being drafted second overall in the 2013 Draft. However, those 36 games have been fantastic. He hit .336/.390/.668 with 9 home runs and 32 RBI. He added 14 doubles and 2 triples. Bryant crushed everything he got. He sped through the Cubs’ Rookie, Low Single-A, and High Single A affiliates. How could you not invite this guy to camp? However, we probably won’t see Bryant in the Major Leagues until September 2014 or even Opening Day 2015.
Some players we have not seen in the Major Leagues in awhile signed again this offseason, most of them getting minor-league deals with an invite to Spring Training. Here are a few players to watch for in Spring Training.
Grady Sizemore, Outfielder, Boston Red Sox
Sizemore signed with the Boston Red Sox this January to a Major League contract worth $750 thousand. The outfielder was a fantastic hitter with the Cleveland Indians, posting a 126 OPS+ from 2005 to 2009, while averaging 149 games each season. He got voted to three All Star games during that stretch. From 2010 to 2011, Sizemore just couldn’t stay healthy, posting a 84 OPS+, while averaging 52 games per season. In 2014, Sizemore will come out of retirement with the Boston Red Sox. Check out his early performances in Spring Training.
Mark Mulder, Pitcher, Los Angeles Angels
Thirty-six year old Mark Mulder will be making a comeback as well, as he signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Angels with an invitation to Spring Training. Since Mulder won’t get an immediate shot at the Major Leagues, Spring Training will be very important for him to prove what he’s got. From 2001 to 2005, Mulder posted a 120 ERA+, while averaging 18 wins and 211 innings pitched per season. However, from 2006 to 2008, Mulder posted a 58 ERA+ and a 7.73 ERA, while only averaging eight games per season.
Ryan Madson, Pitcher, Free Agent
Pitcher Ryan Madson will be coming back in 2014. He threw for 19 teams on Friday, hitting 93 MPH on the radar gun, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. Madson has received interest from the Phillies, Royals, and Red Sox, according to Ken Rosenthal. Madson hasn’t pitched since 2011, after injuries in back to back seasons with the Reds and Angels. In 2011, Madson went 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA and 32 saves with the Phillies. I am anxious to see what Madson has got in 2014.
New faces, new places:
After a long offseason, many players have changed teams and gone elsewhere. Here are a few players that I am looking forward to seeing them play in their new uniforms.
Robinson Cano, Infielder, Seattle Mariners
Robinson Cano signed a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Seattle Mariners for the 2014 season, taking the top free agent off the board. The five-time All Star second baseman is the center piece in Seattle, and I am looking forward to see how the Mariners utilize him in 2014. He has a career 125 OPS+ in eight-years, one-hundred fifty three days in the Major Leagues.
Prince Fielder, First Base, Texas Rangers and Ian Kinsler, Infielder, Detroit Tigers
Both Fielder and Kinsler were acquired off a blockbuster trade between the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers this past winter. Kinsler, a three-time All Star second baseman (110 career OPS+), will head to Detroit, while five-time All Star first baseman (141 OPS+) Prince Fielder will head to the Texas Rangers. As a result, the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera will be moved to first base, and prospect Nick Castellanos will likely head to third. Check out all the new places for these players in Spring Training.
Masahiro Tanaka, Pitcher, New York Yankees
The public’s first view of Tanaka will be this Spring Training, as he faces Major League hitters for the first time ever. The 25-year-old went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) in Japan in 2013. Yankees fans, and baseball fans in general, are excited to see how well Tanaka will be able to translate to the Major Leagues. We will see if he is up for the challenge in 2014.
There is a lot to look forward to this Spring Training, and even though these are "exhibition games," one can check out all these players' performances and more! Although these games do not count for anything, they count towards how well your team will perform in the upcoming season. Let's get ready for baseball season, shall we?