Spring Training is finally starting, and it brings with it thousands of story-lines to keep an eye on. Here are some of the most intriguing things to watch during the spring and beyond.
It’s that time of the year for MLB clubs – the start of Spring Training. The regular season is still a couple of weeks away, but there will be some interesting story-lines follow this spring.
Here are some story-lines to keep an eye on as the spring gets underway:
What can we expect from the Chicago Cubs in 2015?
The Chicago Cubs haven’t won the World Series in what seems like forever, but they’re a team on the rise in the National League. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has slowly been building a winner, and the team is stacked with prospects who are ready to make an impact.
Then during the offseason, the Cubs hired Joe Maddon to be their manager and signed one of the top free-agent starting pitchers in Jon Lester to anchor the rotation.
This certainly has accelerated the re-building process for the team, and it’s very possibly the team could contend for a playoff spot this season.
One thing to keep in mind with them over the spring is their third-base prospect Kris Bryant. Bryant is one of the top prospects in all of baseball, and he could be a big boost to the Cubs’ lineup if he makes the club.
He is the future third-baseman for the Cubs, but the team could decide he isn’t quite ready and call up Bryant at some point later on in the season. This could be an exceptional year for the Cubs and the talent is there for them to contend.
Can Alex Rodriguez and Masahiro Tanaka help the New York Yankees this season?
For the Yankees, this will be the first Spring Training without the presence of shortstop Derek Jeter for quite some time. The other change is about some uncertainty with their lineup and starting rotation.
The team will have Alex Rodriguez in camp, but since he hasn’t played since 2013, they’re not sure what to expect from him. There’s no guarantee he’s ready to play a full season, and they have no idea how effective he can be with a bat in his hand when he is in there.
It’s possible that Rodriguez will be their primary DH, as this is one way to keep him healthy.
The other unknown is about Masahiro Tanaka, and how effective he will be this season. He avoided having to undergo Tommy John surgery last season, but could need the procedure in the future. The success of the Yankees’ rotation hinges his health.
Will the Nationals super-rotation lead to World Series title?
Baseball is a long season; obviously no team is going to go out there and win all 162 games on its schedule.
However, what if you had a superb rotation along with talented position players? That team would have to be considered a favorite to win the World Series. The Washington Nationals fit this description, as the addition of Max Scherzer gives them a rotation that every other MLB team would love to have.
Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez are about as talented a quintet of starters you will see. They also have Tanner Roark as another option in case one of them goes down.
The Nationals have assembled a legendary rotation, which could have a historic season. The one aspect to look out this spring for them is how well the offense looks, because preventing runs shouldn’t be an issue.
They should have no troubles getting through the regular season with the roster they’ve assembled; once we get to the playoffs, it may be a different story.
Will the San Diego Padres stellar offseason lead to success in the regular season?
The offseason for some teams is the way to make subtle tweaks in preparation for the upcoming season. San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller took things a step further, by making a flurry of deals to overhaul his roster entirely.
Preller acquired outfielders Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, and Wil Myers via trades, along with catcher Derek Norris. He wasn’t content with this, as free-agent pitcher James Shields was signed to lead their staff in 2015. Shields not only gives them an ace, but someone who has experience pitching in the postseason.
The Padres have the pitching, but will they be able to score enough runs? Their lineup is filled with right-handed hitters. Padres’ manager Bud Black will probably use Spring Training as a way to find the starting lineup that best works during the regular season.
They have a high chance to contend for a division title this season.
Who will be the closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers?
The Dodgers found out earlier this week that closer Kenley Jansen could be out up to 12 weeks, due to having surgery on his left foot. This injury came at a bad time for the club, as he was the best reliever in their bullpen last season.
The team could opt to sign a free-agent reliever like Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, or Joba Chamberlain to take over pitching in the ninth inning until Jansen can come back.
The other option is using the relievers already on their roster. They signed Joel Peralta in the offseason and he has pitched well in the ninth inning throughout his career, as indicated by him having a 3.07 ERA in this inning.
Pedro Baez posted a 2.63 ERA across 24 innings last season with 18 strikeouts. He is capable of reaching triple digits with his fastball. He doesn’t have much experience, but his power stuff could play well in late innings.
I do think the team will consider using a closer-by-committee approach, as it could depend on the situation.
Spring Training has only just begun, but these and thousands of story-lines abound after a long offseason. As the spring progresses, and rosters begin to take their final shapes, we may just start to see some answers.