Four Players to Watch This Spring

Four Players to Watch This Spring

Four Players to Watch This Spring

Spring Training is finally here! I’m so excited I can barely contain myself. The prospect of a great summer filled with interesting storylines, great games, good races, and high quality action has never been stronger. Baseball is back. As we head into training camps, however, many players have a lot to prove. Some are trying to show that last season’s strong performance wasn’t a fluke, others are trying to bounce back from disappointing seasons or injuries, and still more are attempting to justify major investments their respective teams made in them. Here are five guys who can either make their managers and GM sleep easy or keep them up nights depending upon how this spring goes:

Rueben Tejada, New York Mets: Tejada is the Mets starting shortstop this season after the departure of Jose Reyes. Though he’s only 22, he’s already played more than 170 games in the big leagues and shown he can be a slick fielder. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he seemingly can’t hit. Tejada, whom some call Rey Ordonez 2.0, had a .284 batting average in 96 games but showed almost no pop with only 15 doubles, 1 triple and no home runs. He also drove in only 36 runs. Considering that Reyes won the batting title last season, Tejada has a lot to live up to. Nobody expects him to produce like Reyes did but he has a long long way to go to even get to the point where he can help this Mets lineup. Hopefully, he’ll show some improvement this spring.

Jose Iglesias, Boston Red Sox: Staying in the light hitting shortstop department, we have Jose Iglesias of the Red Sox. The Sox traded away their starting shortstop Marco Scutaro and the oft-injured but offensively adept Jed Lowerie leaving the short open for the highly touted Igelsias to snag. Jose has been heralded for his glove work (though the one time I saw him live he made an error) but questions persist about his hitting. He hit only .235 in AAA last season and if he wants the starting job must prove that he can be something better than a black hole at the bottom of the order this year.

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: Miguel is anything but light hitting. He launched 30 bombs and 48 doubles to go along with his league leading .344 average en route to a season that put him 5th in the MVP voting. However, the signing of slugger Prince Fielder this winter has caused Cabrera to attempt to move across the diamond and try to play third base, thus allowing Fielder to work at first. Now, Miggy really wasn’t that good at first to begin with and he hasn’t played third in about 50 pounds so this could get tricky. Between Cabrera, Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, and Ryan Raburn, the Tigers could have the worst defensive infield in generations this season. It remains to be seen if this sinks the years of guys like Rick Porcello who rely heavily on the ground ball and if the Tigers can hit their way out of their inevitable defensive miscues. A-Rod recently made the transition to third base pretty well but he was moving from shortstop and worked his tail off. I’m not sure Miguel is capable of such a feat. Stay tuned.

Johan Santana, New York Mets: Johan is attempting to come back from multiple injuries this season. He missed all of last year and is still pretty behind, only first throwing off of a mound now. Though the Mets are going nowhere this season, they have a lot of money invested in Santana and he, along with David Wright, are just about the only fan draws the Mets have. If Johan can get back to his Cy Young caliber form, or really anything close, he would be a major help to the Mets this season, if only to justify the millions they’ve sunk into him.

Of course, these are not the only players to watch this spring. There are countless others. These our just the four I chose today. In the future, I’ll be taking a look at bunch of other really interesting Spring Training Storylines.

-Max Frankel

By Off The Bench
Sunday, 19 Feb 2012

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