Every MLB Team’s Biggest Question That Must Be Answered During Spring Training
Every MLB Team's Biggest Question That Must Be Answered During Spring Training
If you find a true, die-hard fan of MLB that does not absolutely love the newness and excitement of Spring Training, you have found someone that does not tell the truth all of the time. There truly is nothing quite like the spring season. It comes around at the perfect time of year with warm sunny days all around. At least that is the weather in Florida and Arizona at the spring camps, a lot of these teams still have snow on the ground back home.
The excitement goes far beyond the weather however. Every team has at least a small chance to win. Every team, in principle has an equal shot at the title. We have seen a World Series champion miss the playoffs the following season which, while bad for that team, makes things very exciting for the others. Which teams will be the newcomers to the postseason this year? Will the champs repeat? Will there be a huge upset?
All of the questions in the world could be asked about a baseball team at this point and honestly very few have answers. Some questions for each individual team will need to be answered before they leave Spring Training however. It could be a pitching staff question or a question of who the starting second baseman will be. Will a team get a closer or fill the role from within? There are many types of questions for each time and here are the biggest each team currently faces. The teams are listed by division then alphabetically.
Baltimore Orioles – Will the Pitching Staff Be Better Than 2013?
Assuming that the career years from 2013 will repeat for the Orioles on offense, there still remains a huge question. Their pitching staff was not good enough to win in 2013 with the great offense. They have lost their closer Jim Johnson and starters Jason Hammel and Scott Feldman. How can they hope to improve after losing key members from last season? It is impossible to be certain before the season starts but the Orioles have got to have a better idea about how strong their rotation and bullpen will be before Opening Day.
Boston Red Sox – Will Jackie Bradley Jr. Successfully Replace Jacoby Ellsbury?
No one really expects the rookie center fielder to be every bit as good as Ellsbury in all facets of the game when he steps onto the field this Opening Day. They do however believe that Bradley could well be as good or even better defensively than Ellsbury was very quickly. How good he looks on offense this spring could determine the exact playing situation in center when the season starts.
New York Yankees – How Healthy is Derek Jeter?
Jeter is going to be the key to this season for the Yankees. I don’t care if they signed two-dozen free agents, right now this team still needs Jeter to be in the line-up. He appears to be healthy and motivated as the spring begins. Just how well his ankle, legs and the rest of him reacts to the entire spring season will be a huge question to be answered before the season breaks.
Tampa Bay Rays – How Good Will the End of the Rotation Be?
Because David Price stuck around with Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, the Rays rotation starts out like gangbusters. The offense should be solid with David DeJesus and James Loney returning. The only real question is whether Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer can finish out the rotation in style. If those two have great springs they could really build into a great season. If that happens the Rays will be tough to beat.
Toronto Blue Jays – Will They Add a Veteran Starter?
There are a few options currently that the Blue Jays could choose to fill out their starting rotation. They are rumored to be in the market for either Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez however. For a team that appears to be on the edge of being good enough, this could be a huge swing decision for this team. They have to make the choice soon though.
Chicago White Sox – How Productive Will Jose Abreu Be?
With all of the buzz and cash that surrounded the signing of Abreu, one would hope that he will hit MLB like a storm. It is possible that he will have trouble adjusting to the big leagues however, at least as possible as it is for anyone just starting out. How he fares during Spring Training is likely to determine his playing time. Will he truly be everyday at first base or will Paul Konerko pull in a nice share of that time as well?
Cleveland Indians – Can They Find the Magic Again?
There is not a single player that is going to be the key for the Indians. Various things will come into play and several things have to go right for them to compete like they did last season. It will not be easy but if they can find the right mix of players for Terry Francona during the spring, the Indians can be tough once again.
Detroit Tigers – Will Nick Castellanos be the Man at Third Base?
Some assume it is a foregone conclusion but Brad Ausmus has made it clear that Castellanos will have to play well enough during Spring Training to win the third base starting job that was vacated when Miguel Cabrera moved to first. The Tigers would assumedly be at the offensive best with a big rookie campaign from Castellanos at third but that is only if he wins the job.
Kansas City Royals – What Kind of Force Will Norichika Aoki Be at Lead-off Spot?
Aoki could potentially be one of the most important additions for the Royals if he is able to produce. If he takes to the top of their order well enough, Alex Gordon could possibly get comfy in the middle of the order. A lot of that will be played with during the spring and Aoki’s performance early will go towards how the playing time and batting orders are created.
Minnesota Twins – Will Revamped Rotation Make the Difference?
With the additions of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, it would at least seem possible that the Twins will enjoy a more potent rotation in 2014. Although because they are not both proven aces it is also possible that they will struggle to be what the Twins want them to be. The attitude that the Twins and their starting rotation have coming out of Spring Training will go a long ways towards how their season starts.
Houston Astros – Will George Springer Win a Starting Job?
After the unbelievable 2013 season that Springer put up in the minor leagues, many believe he will be a force in his rookie season in MLB. All of that is undecided at this point however. If Springer tears it up during Spring Training there is a good chance he will have a lot of playing time. If he struggles it could swing all the way in the other direction.
Los Angeles Angels – Is Albert Pujols Really 100 Percent Healthy at Last?
Word has it that Pujols feels like a new man this spring. Considering his enormous potential, the Angels would surely love if that were true. Because of the last few seasons however, Pujols is going to have to go out and prove first during Spring Training that he can handle things at the top of his game once again. If he can take spring momentum into the season it could make all the difference early for the Angels.
Oakland Athletics – Can Scott Kazmir be a Top Starter Material?
Reports suggest that it is so far, so good for the A’s new starter Kazmir. Will he continue to impress his new coaches and teammates? If he does have a great spring then the A’s will really begin to look like the best team in the AL West very quickly out of the gate.
Seattle Mariners – Will Young Core and New Additions Meld Well?
The Mariners still have quite a few young core players like Justin Smoak and Kyle Seager. Now they have additions like Robinson Cano and Logan Morrison to join the group. How well will these two groups meld together during Spring Training? The answer to that question might well answer whether or not the Mariners will find their dollars well spent at the end of 2014.
Texas Rangers – How Will Prince Fielder be Received?
Price Fielder comes with a good bit of numbers behind him but he also comes with a lot of dollars tied up in the future as well as the stigma that Ian Kinsler is no longer with the team. How well will Fielder be received with his new team? His performance early in the spring as well as his fun attitude could go a long ways towards him becoming a quick team leader.
Atlanta Braves – Will B.J. Upton Rebound?
Though Upton’s inaugural spring in Atlanta was pretty good, having a good spring this time around will be a much bigger deal. As soon as the season hit in 2013 we all saw the worst season of his career unfold. Dan Uggla will do what he will do but the Braves likely will need Upton to be his average self this year. Because of how bad he was last season, a great spring would be a big uplift for his season.
Miami Marlins – Will Team Set a New Tone This Spring?
A lot is supposed to change for the Marlins this season, one of the biggest of those being their hitting approach. They have a big time change at hitting coach and a few others that are specifically supposed to help achieve a Marlins-specific approach to the game. If this is going to take hold, they need it to do so this spring. From there they would set a more serious tone and more competitive tone going into the season.
New York Mets – What Production Will Come at First Base?
At first base the Mets will have to get a good season out of someone. It is possible that they could even compete this year but they need to get some great seasons in more than two spots. First base was a big hole last year. This Spring Training is going to be a competition between Lucas Duda and Ike Davis, both of which could improve a ton from last season. Which one will win the job? Will they both win the job? It all depends on the spring.
Philadelphia Phillies – Can the Veterans Get Moving in Winning Direction?
No matter what additions the Phillies make they still have the same question hovering over their head. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and even latest addition A.J. Burnett all are veterans that have to rise up. This team has the talent to win but they have had trouble staying healthy. Some say they are too old to win for the entire MLB season. A cohesive and dominant Spring Training performance would speak very loudly.
Washington Nationals – How Will Roster Play for Matt Williams
Williams is one of the more exciting new managerial choices in the game this season. The Nationals are coming off of one of the most legendary managers and going to a rookie manager. How Williams is able to motivate this team in Spring Training is likely to be a great sign as to how they will be during the season.
Chicago Cubs – How Close are Top Prospects?
The Cubs have some of the best prospects in all of MLB. One such prospect who is going to get attention this Spring Training is Javier Baez who looks to be heading to Triple-A. If his spring season is impressive enough, expect him to be the first guy called up if the Cubs happen to need him.
Cincinnati Reds – Will Billy Hamilton Hit and Where?
We all know how fast Hamilton is but the question remains will he be able to consistently get on base. The Reds have genuine concerns about that and are spending a ton of time teaching him all there is to know about bunting. Clearly if this guy has a well instructed and productive spring, he could have one of the more exciting MLB rookie seasons in recent history.
Milwaukee Brewers – Will Ryan Braun Settle In or Distract?
Chances are Braun will show up, be his normal nice self and fade right into the role that he carried proudly for so long for the Brewers. They need him to be what he was before the PED mess and injuries ruined his 2013. If 2014 is going to be a non-distracting and well productive season, it needs to begin during the spring.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Will Gregory Polanco Prove MLB Ready?
To be sure the Pirates would have a spot for their top outfield prospect if Polanco proved this spring he was ready. He remains one of the top few minor leaguers in baseball and has proven he can hit at every level. It would stand to reason that he could make an early splash this year in MLB, possibly as early as Opening Day if he were to have a great spring.
St. Louis Cardinals – Can Kolton Wong Win Second Base Job?
Wong could be already considered the favorite to win the starting second base job but the Cardinals did bring in Mark Ellis who is a solid second baseman to be sure and there could be other options if Wong proved not quite ready. Most figure he will but it will be up to Wong to go out and prove it this spring.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Where Will Mark Trumbo Fit In?
There is no doubt that the DBacks will make sure Trumbo feels right at home with them. The question is where will he fit in the batting order? The spring will be a great place for the coaching staff to determine if Trumbo is best being protected by Paul Goldschmidt, protecting Goldschmidt by being slotted behind him or not being next to him at all.
Colorado Rockies – Can Justin Morneau Start Bounce-back Early?
Morneau might well be in the best place in the world he could possibly have wanted to be in. Colorado with the thinner air and the somewhat launching pad of a ballpark might be just the place for a rebound season. All of that would be easily seen if Morneau goes out this spring and really shows what he can still do getting ready for the year. For him a big spring would mean a great deal.
Los Angeles Dodgers – How Will Puig Play This Spring?
Puig has been called a lot of things by his own manager even but Puig could do a lot to settle that down if he has a great spring. The Spring Training stats don’t count but Puig doesn’t need that anyway. He needs to prove that he can play by the rules and learn fundamental basics of the game. All of the hyper-exciting stuff will come on its own during the season.
San Diego Padres – Will Chase Headley Start Year on Positive Note?
Headley is a key figure if the Padres hope to keep pace in the NL West but there is no way to know how he will produce. He could give the Padres a great feeling and good potential season if he is able to go out and blow it up during the spring.
San Francisco Giants – Is Tim Hudson Really Completely Back and Healthy?
Signing Hudson was a great move by the Giants pending one key thing. Hudson had a terrible ankle injury end his season last year. If he is able to really be 100 percent, the Giants could be a huge get for them. If he is not 100 percent he could be a liability. The Spring Training games will be enough for us to know whether he is his normal healthy self.