Spring Training baseball has finally commenced, and finally many of the questions that have been asked since the final out of the dramatic 2017 World Series begin to get answered. Can the Astros repeat? Can the Dodgers avenge? Is Shohei Ohtani really worth the hype? Will the Yankees break the single season team home run record of 264 set by the 1997 Mariners? The list goes on.
Ohtani made his debut Saturday and while overall most thought it was pretty good: 1 earned run in 1+ innings, he did look human with human nerves and some rust. He is expected to show us what he can do with the bat on Monday.
The Giancarlo Stanton/Aaron Judge show has arrived in Yankees camp, though they have yet to hit in the same lineup yet, with Judge not even making his debut yet after off season shoulder surgery.
The Padres may have (mostly) excited their fan base with the signing of Eric Hosmer, but he hasn’t yet made his Padres Spring Training debut. Alas, we still have over a month until real baseball starts, and no team wants to take any chances with injuries. The new look Giants especially, given that both of their big free agent acquisitions are in their early 30’s. I can attest – you get sore quicker in your early 30’s than your 20’s.
Spring Training is a magical time for baseball – when every team has a chance and year after year someone surpasses expectations given a little extra playing time. The Atlanta Braves Ronald Acuna is eager to make the big league squad at 20 years old and push to be Rookie of the Year – an award the Braves have not won since Craig Kimbrel in 2011 and their last position player to win was Rafael Furcal in 2000.
The Astros went relatively unchanged this off-season – though they essentially made their big 2018 moves at the 2017 trade deadline when they went out and got Justin Verlander.
Spring Training isn’t more than what it is – glorified practice – but there are still little snippets you can gain from paying attention to individual performances over the next 30 days across fields in Arizona and Florida. Often the teams more important to watch are the ones that are going to be heavily dependent on their prospects this year and in the future.
Top 5 on Baseball America’s list are:
- Atlanta Braves (up from 29 in 2015, 3 and 1 the last 2 years respectively)
- New York Yankees (even after the promotions of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez over the last couple of seasons…)
- San Diego Padres (up from 25 in 2016…counts for something?)
- Chicago White Sox (hoping trading Sale/Frazier pays off)
- Tampa Bay Rays (if only wins counted for a strong farm system)
These are the teams that are going to be playing more youth than veterans in these games, hoping that energy leads to discipline leads to quality baseball being played and victories in the regular season.
In the end – we get to baseball in smaller stadiums for cheaper prices and a fun combination of the past, present, and future of the sport we love.