Pitchers and catchers report. The words fans long to hear as they anxiously await the start of spring training. Unfortunately, this day always feels like much ado about nothing. The whole team has yet to assemble and the real action doesn’t really begin for another two weeks. However, baseball is back nonetheless and that is reason enough to be excited for the start of 2017 season.
While the actual importance of game results is lacking, there are certainly other areas worth analyzing this time of year. The following is a list of common spring training themes and some of the teams who may be attached to these storylines throughout camp.
“I’m in the Best Shape of My Life”
This is always a fan-favorite line players love to feed to reporters early in the season. Whether it’s shedding a few pounds (I’m looking at you Pablo), packing on muscle, or recovering from an injury, all eyes are on the general health of the team this time of year.
Team to Watch: Cleveland Indians
Last year’s World Series runner-up battled through a bevy of injuries at year’s end and look to recuperate in 2017. Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Michael Brantley are all key pieces recovering for the Tribe. Their contribution to the upcoming campaign will be absolutely critical if Cleveland is to attempt a follow-up appearance in October.
Honorable Mentions: Mets, Tigers and Nationals
Rookie Roster Spots
This is the chance for the young guns to shine. With plenty of invites to go around, fans will see first-hand some of their organization’s rising stars. Leaving camp with only 25 roster spots means competition is fierce, and many won’t make the cut.
However, the opportunity for these minor leaguers to taste some big league action must be an experience like no other. There’s an impressive influx of young talent throughout the MLB, and spring training is the perfect chance to see it in action.
Team to Watch: Chicago White Sox
Chicago was certainly one of the more active teams this offseason. Committing fully to a rebuild, the White Sox offloaded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for an impressive group of prospects.
There are few positions locked in for Chicago, and young stars Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito will undoubtedly get an opportunity. Those names added to a strong farm system should set the Sox up for an exciting spring and promising future.
Honorable Mentions: Braves, Rays and Brewers
Battle for the Bullpen
The aptly named “Closer Carousel” is always a hot topic come spring training. The pen is a perpetual source of spring intrigue for two major reasons.
First, it’s a way for managers to trial promising young arms and allow them to compete for a potential spot. Second, it provides the battle ground for the ever revolving door that is an MLB closer’s job. It’s a high stakes game with some of the hardest throwing individuals in Major League Baseball. What’s not to like?
Team to Watch: Colorado Rockies
This matchup represents one of the more intriguing closer battles going into spring training. Colorado improved this offseason with the addition of Ian Desmond to an already talented offense. The question hanging over Coors field is who will be the brave soul tasked with securing a home lead?
Adam Ottavino is coming off a respectable 2016 season and posted a 2.67 ERA with seven saves. The challenger will be the recently signed Greg Holland, who is coming off a season-ending Tommy John surgery in 2016. Holland holds a career 2.42 ERA and has amassed 145 career saves, including 47 in his best season.
At 31 years of age, both veterans will battle it out to earn a spot as the ninth inning man in one of baseball’s most hitter friendly parks.
Honorable Mentions: Reds, Angels, A’s, Twins, Phillies and Nationals