Even though it doesn't feel like it in many parts of the country, spring training is approaching quickly.
For many players, it can't get here soon enough.
Spring Training gives an opportunity. Players who might not have a chance to make a major-league roster otherwise can get some playing time and demonstrate their true value. A hot start can prove a lot.
Some players in this situation are over the hill and are trying to make a comeback while others are striving to make a good first impression and begin what will hopefully be a long major-league career.
I'm going to tell you about 10 of the most interesting cases this season. These 10 players need a lot to go right to have a prayer of seeing the majors on Opening Day.
Do you remember how dominant Dontrelle Willis was when he pitched for the Florida Marlins? In 2005, he went 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA.
He came in second in the NL Cy Young Award voting that year as well.
Unfortunately, it was all downhill after that. He never posted another record over .500 again, and only had one year where his ERA was below 4.00.
This year, the Chicago Cubs are the latest suitor trying to rekindle the magic of the D-Train. He obviously had the talent at one point, and maybe at 31 years old is ready to come back.
Scott Kazmir began his career as a first-round draft pick of the New York Mets. After being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays, he posted four solid campaigns, and even led the American League with 236 strikeouts in 2007.
After he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009, he began to drop off. 2010 did not go well, and he made his last major league start on April 3, 2011.
After almost two seasons lost due to injury, Kazmir will try to get his career back on track as a 29-year-old when he heads to Spring Training.
The Tampa Bay Rays are notorious for cautiously advancing their prized prospects. It is highly possible that newly acquired Wil Myers will be treated the same way.
Last season, he absolutely demolished the minor leagues, hitting .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI as he split his time between Double-A and Triple-A.
Of course, with a strong spring training, he could easily force the Tampa Bay Rays to bring him to the majors immediately.
He has succeeded at every level of competitive baseball so far, so it seems as though he will be in a good position to fight for his position.
As a 19-year-old playing his first season of professional baseball, Dylan Bundy made it all the way to 1.2 innings with the Baltimore Orioles in 2012.
That privilege came about as the logical conclusion to a season where he went 9-3 with a 2.08 ERA at three different minor-league levels.
Obviously, he is very young, so it is quite possible that he will not begin the season in the major leagues. However, if he is able to put together an incredible spring and prove that last year was not just beginner's luck, it would not be totally impossible for him to make the jump.
There was a time when Austin Kearns was actually a viable hitter in the middle of the lineup. In 2006, he hit .264 with 24 home runs and 86 RBI.
Ever since then, his career has spiraled downhill, and he has struggled through part-time play over the past few seasons.
He did appear in 87 games last year for the Miami Marlins, but given his lack of effectiveness, he needs a strong spring training to make sure he is not beaten out.
Cesar Izturis never had much power, but the former All-Star and Gold Glove winner will be looking to stick with the Cincinnati Reds this season.
Last year, he played very limited time, and only managed to hit a combined .241 with the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals. As a player who relies on contact rather than power, that was obviously not a great sign.
Nevertheless, with a strong spring training, he could easily make the roster for the Cincinnati Reds and try to resurrect his career.
You might remember Rick Ankiel as the 20-year-old pitcher who won 11 games for the St. Louis Cardinals way back in 2000.
You might also remember him as the outfielder with a rocket arm that hit 25 home runs in 2008.
Either way, he is now a member of the Houston Astros, and after a difficult 2012, a strong spring will help him avoid a trip to the minors.
He obviously has a lot of power, so perhaps it will make an appearance again.
Aaron Cook was brought to the Philadelphia Phillies as a potential bottom of the rotation option. His main competition will be John Lannan, and the loser will probably end up down in the minors.
Cook had incredibly hard season in 2012 with the Boston Red Sox. He ended up at 4-11 with a 5.65 ERA.
He did win 16 games in 2008, so that is evidence of what can happen when his sinker is working.
However, he has had some difficult times since then, and we will have to see if he can be impressive enough in spring training to earn a rotation slot.
Trayce Thompson had a great season in 2012 as he made his climb up the farm system. He hit a combined .253 with 25 home runs and 96 RBI.
He had a cup of coffee as high as Triple-A, but a vast amount of his success came in advanced Single-A.
This Chicago White Sox already have a relatively crowded outfield, and they surely don't want one of their top prospects to sit on the bench in the majors when he could be developing.
Consequently, he would need to have an incredible spring to grab a substantial role on the major-league roster.
Julio Teheran seemed like he was on the fast track to the major leagues after a dominant 2011 when he went 15-3 and posted a 2.55 ERA in Triple-A.
Last season, he stumbled to a 5.08 ERA at the same level and saw his strikeout total fall dramatically.
Of course, he absolutely has star talent, but he will need to prove that he is able to unlock it.
It would not be surprising to see him in the majors before the end of the season, but it might take a little bit of time for the Braves to put him right back in the rotation.
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