As the 2018 spring training games thunder onward, several players and managers are starting to find their strides. Managers are making their cases as to why they were the right hire for their organizations. As all 30 teams are continuing to construct their 40-man rosters, players are contending for those last few starting spots. Opening Day is less than three weeks away, and everyone wants a piece of the pie.
This is just spring training, and the regular season is where the real battle begins. But to me, these names are taking full advantage of the spring games to make themselves known. Is there a lot of hype behind these names? Of course. Do these players and managers live up to it? I really think so. I will be spotlighting stars looking to repeat past success, players looking to debut in 2018, and managers in charge of continuing a team’s success.
Here are the managers and players making waves in the league.
Players and managers: Grapefruit League
The 15 teams playing in Florida have shown the latest and greatest they have to offer. Though much work still needs to be done, players and managers alike have risen to the occasion. The first name is looking to continue his All-Star strides as a third baseman. Meet Baltimore Orioles Manny Machado.
In 2017, Machado did not make the All-Star team, posting a career low batting average of .259. But he did put up similar numbers in home runs (33) and RBI’s (95) as he did in the two seasons prior. Now in spring training, he is posting a .480 batting average, 3 home runs, and 14 RBI’s.
He will be back as an All-Star selection in 2018 no problem if he continues this improvement in the regular season.
One of the names that will be in the “NL Rookie of the Year” conversation is Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves. At the plate, Acuna has recorded a .419 batting average in 2018. His fielding prowess is equally as impressive. The 20-year old outfielder has maintained a 1.000 fielding percentage and zero errors.
Expect to hear his name quite a few times in 2018.
For new managers, having a stacked roster is great. But it can lead to some challenges. Players putting their own interests ahead the teams needs is one of the most common of them. So far, Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees is breaking into in his new manager’s shoes. Yes, having Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge has more than plenty of benefits. But stacked rosters doesn’t always equate to automatic success. With the Pinstripes comfortably above .500 in spring training, Boone has proven he can make an impact as a first year manager.
players and managers: Cactus League
Changes in scenery can be challenging. Traded players and managers have to adjust to a new play scheme and build chemistry with new teammates. In some cases, this can also mean learning to play a completely different position. But Dee Gordon of the Seattle Mariners does not seem phased with such changes.
Primarily fielding as short-stop or second base, Seattle moved the 29-year old to center-field. So far, Gordon has recorded a .385 batting average in the 2018 spring games. He is also starting to find a rhythm in the outfield, having no errors at that position.
Pitchers are among the most idolized and scrutinized positions in baseball. When a young pitcher starts dominating at the mound, the entire league and baseball fans start noticing quickly.
Corey Copping of the Los Angeles Dodgers has the potential to be the next big arm in the majors.
In the 2018 spring games, Copping has an ERA of 0.00 and a pitching record of 2-0 in five games. In 2017, the team had the second lowest ERA and the lowest average in the MLB. Copping can prove to further continue the team’s pitching power and aid the Dodgers return to the World Series.
When looking to repeat success, managers need to make adjustments and find more formulas for winning. Chicago Cubs manager, Joe Maddon, knows a thing or two about repeating success. Along with the Cubs on top of the Cactus League, Maddon has guided Chicago to three consecutive appearances in the NLCS. More importantly, he led the charge winning the 2016 World Series, ending a 108-year title drought. Not to mention, Maddon accomplished this in just three seasons as the Cubs’ manager.
Before you know it, a new season of baseball will begin. Then, the training wheels come off, and the game is on. With each franchise with its own laundry list of important issues, the prize is the same: a World Series trophy. As spring training starts to wind down, players and managers will have to buckle down to turn around past misfortunes or repeat appearances in October. Soon, the league will see who has what it takes to step up and help their teams win.
“From Our Haus to Yours”
Image Courtesy of springtrainingonline.com
Photo by Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Image courtesy of The Seattle Times