Five things we learned this Spring Training
Within days, the 30 Major League Baseball teams will break their temporary March outposts in Arizona or Florida for more permanent digs for the next six months. The Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues did exactly what they were designed to. Get players warmed up for the regular season. Settle the last few roster spots for the aging veteran or the budding rookie. And create interesting stories. Here are five things that we learned this Spring Training season
5) Albert Pujols looks healthy and back in form
Rumors of Albert Pujols demise have been greatly exaggerated. The still-just-35 year old slugger (barely 3 years older than Miguel Cabrera for reference) was in classic form in the Cactus League, hitting .319 (just above his career average) and yanking four HR (one every 13 AB). The three-time MVP looks like a significant upgrade from the injury-plagued version (in his lower body) that seemed to have sapped his power.
4) Kris Bryant is ready to kill major league pitching
One of the hottest stories this Spring was whether Kris Bryant could slug his way into the starting third base job to start the 2015 season. He earned it, but for reasons that are either business or future or both, he will be starting in Iowa. The 2014 second overall pick in the June draft hit an astonishing 9 HR (including two off of Felix Hernandez) while batting .425 and slugging over 1.000. Wait until about May 1, then we’ll see the next Cubs great start at 3B, probably for a long time.
3) B games are the new place to coddle your ace pitchers
With literally hundreds of players at camp (major or minor) for each team, there are minor league (or so called “B”) games every day. Not just scrimmages, minor leaguers travel just like the big league guys to square off against other teams. Mostly out of sight, out of mind, suddenly we’re finding players like Jon Lester or C.C. Sabathia take the hill in these games. Why? Why not! They get to work through their array of pitches, perhaps hiding their best pitches from their major league adversaries. And the media won’t blast them for three walks or two home runs. Out of sight, out of mind!
2) Alex Rodriguez looks like he hasn’t missed a beat
Alex Rodriguez? I think I heard of him! Having missed the entire 2014 season on a PED suspension, conventional wisdom was that he would need some time to get his timing back against major league pitching. If Grapefruit action is to be believed, conventional wisdom is wrong. Rodriguez his an impressive .324 with three long balls to boot. With an OPS in excess of 1.000, the three-time MVP looks poised to be a plus DH for the Bronx Bombers.
1) Injuries are still the biggest fear of teams
Ask any major league manager (field or general) what his goals are for Spring Training and you’ll get the same answer. “Get through it healthy.” Mathematically it’s not so easy with 25 or more games plus workouts for players who are rusty. Former All-Stars Yu Darvish, Cliff Lee, or Hunter Pence, along with prospects like Marcus Stroman, Zack Wheeler, Jurickson Profar, or Hyun-Jin Ryu all suffered serious setback potentially jeopardizing their team’s 2015 fortunes. Even Clayton Kershaw took a liner off the face. Scary considering what happened to Aroldis Chapman last season.
Not to mention each time had story lines, be it the 5th starter, or 4th outfielder, or starting first baseman. Spring is a time to settle those things. Spring is done. It’s time for the real deal.
– David Whitlock
Chicago Cubs have every right to start Kris Bryant in the minor leagues
Five worst MLB cliche’s of Spring Training
WATCH: Chicago Cubs biggest prospects hit back-to-back-to-back home runs
Top six MLB position battles to watch in Spring Training
Pitcher who broke Hunter Pence’s forearm apologizes on Twitter