They’re going to tell me that spring training statistics are not worth anything, right? I know they will remind me that I should not be moved by anything that has happened in Florida or Arizona during the last two weeks.
The reality is that what happens during the spring is important. Maybe not when evaluating Mike Trout or Max Scherzer. But as far as some teams are concerned, we have already learned a lot during the training sessions.
There is still a lot to be deciphered, but based on what we have seen so far, we can say that for some teams 2018 could be a different year.
Let’s analyze then five teams that could surprise us:
This is what happens when you fill your farms with talent. It is inevitable that you end up winning. For the Braves, the issue is when that will be. Given how well they have been this spring the Venezuelan Ronald Acuña, the Dominican Danny Santana and Ozzie Albies, the rejuvenated rotation has been great, they have much more talent on the way and are under the command of a tremendous baseball man (Alex Anthopoulos), it’s easy to know that it will be a fun summer in Atlanta.
And that they still have not signed Jake Arrieta and/or Alex Cobb yet. Perhaps no team should consider that possibility as much as the Padres. The signing of free agent Eric Hosmer was an indication that in San Diego they believe they are capable of taking a turn for the better in 2018, and these first weeks of training have served to reinforce that notion. The Padres have hit a lot of home runs, with Austin Hedges leading the group with four. Not counting the day on Saturday, they had the best average on-base of the spring (.373) and were tied for fourth place with 14 stolen bases. In addition, it is an organization with great depth in pitching. However, that depth is basically composed of young people, and in a spring with so many superlatives, placing a veteran at the head of that rotation would be a big step.
The Rangers’ starters came to Saturday’s day with a 3.47 ERA in practice and now joined Tim Lincecum in his bullpen. The pitching is the big question of a team that nobody has chosen to finish above the fourth place in the West of the American League. They are putting together a rotation with a group of guys trying to revive their careers, guys who once became quality openers. So far, Bartolo Colon, Matt Moore, and Doug Fister have been effective, while Matt Bush seems capable of making the transition from reliever to starter.
Yes, there will be questions, even with Mike Moustakas returning to take again the third base. But not in as many areas as you might think. And beyond the numbers, this spring has provided reasons to believe that the reconstruction of the Royals will not take as long as previously thought. There are enough veteran arms in the rotation, and enough young people fighting for jobs, to make things interesting. And they still have enough important pieces of equipment that won the World Series in 2015. Beyond that, there is a culture of optimism and work, starting with general manager Dayton Moore and going through the Venezuelan and clubhouse leader, Salvador Perez. These things are important, and in a season in which it will prove how much young people can contribute, the return of Moustakas could be decisive.
We are not sure exactly what they are doing. I mean, we do not know how the pieces fit together. Call us skeptical about the rotation of four starters. But the Rays are definitely not demolishing their team. If that were the case, they would have changed Chris Archer and Alex Colomé and they would not have signed Carlos Gomez. Despite all the changes, Tampa Bay still has a solid pitching staff and several very interesting offensive pieces. Are they good enough to win the Eastern Division of the American League? Probably not. Do they have enough talent to battle for one of the two Wildcard positions? Possibly.
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