The most magical time of the year is upon us, as baseball is set to begin this weekend with the first full slate of spring training games getting underway. Even though the results don't matter, that doesn't mean we can't circle a few games to get excited about.
Granted, any baseball game is a reason to get excited, so we could just circle the entire spring training schedule and it would be justified. However, we do like to show some discretion when declaring our love for baseball.
On that note, here are the spring training games that you should go out of your way to catch.
For a complete look at the spring training schedule, go to MLB.com.
February 25: Houston Astros at St. Louis Cardinals
I should note up front that, as much as I love baseball, prospect-watching is my biggest vice. I love spring training because it gives us a chance to look at prospects in camp and how they fare against proven big leaguers.
No team in baseball has done more work on the farm system over the last 12 months than the Houston Astros. They are only paying around $34 million to field a big league team this season, but the farm system is in much better shape now than before general manager Jeff Luhnow took over.
As great as the Astros' system looks right now, that of the Cardinals is the best and deepest in all of baseball. They have roughly 10 players who can be at least solid-to-average regulars within the next two years.
These two former division rivals will be two of the funnest teams to watch in spring training. Fortunately, we don't have to wait long before they square off with each other.
March 6: Chicago Cubs at Texas Rangers
Speaking of a front office trying to rebuild a farm system, the Cubs did a great job last season under Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, adding a lot of high-upside, impact talent after years of largely ignoring the minors under Jim Hendry.
The additions of Arodys Vizcaino, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora and Duane Underwood, to name a few, along with 2011 first-round pick Javier Baez have the Cubs dreaming big for the future.
We will get our first look at what that future could look like this spring, and what better way to showcase this team than against one of the best and most consistent systems in baseball over the last five years?
There seem to be a lot of people down on the Rangers because Josh Hamilton left, but Yu Darvish will be better and Jurickson Profar as well as Mike Olt are going to make an impact at some point this season.
Plus, if Baez really can stick at shortstop, we could see two of the top 10 prospects at the position on the same field in this game.
March 11: Baltimore Orioles at Pittsburgh Pirates
In keeping with the prospect love, it will be worth following these two teams because of the potential pitching matchup that we could see when they meet on March 11.
Everyone knows that the Orioles have the best pitching prospect in baseball with Dylan Bundy. He was the talk of the minor leagues last season and made it all the way from Low-A to the big leagues as a 19-year-old.
The Orioles also have Kevin Gausman, last year's first-round pick out of LSU, who could move quickly through the system and be in Baltimore by the end of the year.
That could be a bit of a stretch, but need and his development will determine all of that.
The Pirates also have two top-flight pitching prospects in Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. Cole remains one of the three best pitching prospects in the game thanks to his combination of size and electric stuff. If he can just harness his command, he will be in Pittsburgh by the end of the season.
Taillon's stock is dropping slightly because, despite having great stuff, he doesn't miss as many bats as you would think. However, he still has an incredibly high ceiling and just turned 21 in November.
If there is even a chance we get to see Bundy vs. Cole or Taillon (who is pitching for Canada in the WBC), it is something that everyone should pay close attention to.
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