With less than two weeks of spring training to go, all 30 teams are starting to lock up their 40-man rosters. Managers will be looking closely at the progress their players have made now more than ever. Both veterans of the game and new prospects alike will be fighting even harder for those few vacancies remaining. Opening Day will arrive before any of us know it.
Several questions will need answers soon. Who starts out on the diamond? Where in the batting order does a certain player produce more? Which players will make up the starting rotation?
Progress will illustrate more than just the skill set of players and managers. It will also show the maturity and chemistry of the entire team. It will show the players ready to become leaders and the players ready to become the next stars of America’s pastime.
Here are some players who have evolved the most in spring training.
Progress Report: veteran players and Managers
Let’s begin with a team in need of veteran mentorship: the Miami Marlins. Despite a turbulent and dramatic offseason, the Marlins are riding surprisingly high in the Grapefruit League. But one veteran has settled rather nicely and is now ready to become a mentor for the younger guns.
Meet second baseman, Starlin Castro.
Castro is working in his first few rounds as a Miami Marlin. Aware of the rebuilding process in Miami, the former Yankee initially wanted out and wanted to be on a playoff team. But now it seems he’s ready to be leader. With experience at both second base and shortstop, Castro will provide much needed advice for the new starters in the infield. Of course, the .304 batting average in this spring doesn’t hurt either.
As the man calling the shots in the dugout, managers need to make all the right moves to bring a team victories. But one manager not too many people give credit to is Milwaukee Brewers skipper, Craig Counsell. Do not let the under .500 manager record fool you. Counsell has steadily improved since taking over, finishing 86-76 last season. So far, the Brewers lead the Cactus League at 16-7. It’s only a matter of time before you see Miller Park as a stage for October.
Progress Report: New Prospects and Managers
For a player’s rookie year in the majors, it can no doubt be nerve-wracking. First-year managers have substantial amounts of pressure put on them as well, whether to continue a club’s success or turn around its luck. However, despite the fact it is still just spring training, these players have proven they are ready to accept the waiting challenges.
With that in mind, what can be said about Ronald Acuna that hasn’t been said already?
He brings so much that the Atlanta Braves can work with. He is hitting .432 this spring with four home runs and 11 RBIs. His fielding IQ adds to the strong case for why he deserves a spot on the 40-man roster. After a 72-90 outing last season, Acuna might prove to be a valuable asset for Atlanta’s run for the playoffs.
With experience at all three outfield positions under his belt and zero errors in his spring runs, he can at least win a Gold Glove award in 2018.
The Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, are looking to exceed their own success from 2017. This time, Alex Cora will be their skipper in 2018. A former Red Sox player himself, Cora was on the Boston squad that won the World Series in 2007. He was also on the bench for the Houston Astros when they grabbed their first World Series title last season.
This spring training, Cora has led the Red Sox to a 15-8 record, good for second in the Grapefruit League. Cora’s familiarity with the Red Sox may play a vital role in Boston’s return to October.
As Opening Day Approaches
March 29 will start a new chapter in America’s pastime. As spring training winds down, veterans and new guys from all 30 teams will have those open 40-man roster spots in their sights. Some teams have a steeper mountain to climb in 2018, which is why bringing the right guy in the right position is absolutely essential.
However, history has proven time and time again that the biggest surprise is the one nobody sees coming. Come March 29, the stage is set for those who seize the opportunity for greatness without a second thought. On that day, fans of baseball will finally hear those famous two words: Play ball!
Featured image from springtrainingonline.com
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