Spring training is in full swing and teams are starting to get their first look at their players. During the offseason, teams generally don't have as much contact with their players as they would during the season. Players will use this time to try to improve using their own training programs.
Based on offseason reports and early stats from spring training, these are four players who improved the most this winter and will hopefully lead to successful seasons in 2013.
Jedd Gyorko is fighting for the starting second baseman job and could have ended the battle before it even started. The San Diego Padres prospect is battling Logan Forsythe for the spot and is off to a great start.
Through the first six games, he is hitting .286 with three home runs and nine RBI. He has distanced himself from Forsythe, who is only hitting .182 with two RBI. The concern with Gyorko is that he has primarily played third base in the minors and doesn't have a great deal of experience playing second.
However, if he keeps swinging the bat like he is, the Padres would probably be willing to live with his defensive shortcomings for his bat.
It is hard to improve when you win Rookie of the Year and you're in the discussion for MVP, but Mike Trout may have done just that. One concern with Trout was that his production dropped as the season went on. He looked like he may have worn down.
In the month of July last year, Trout hit .392 with 10 home runs and 23 RBI. In September, he hit only .257 with five home runs and seven RBI. This was understandable for a 20-year-old who had never played a full season at the major league level.
Trout may have addressed this problem this offseason, as he came to spring training 10 to 15 pounds heavier than last year. This extra weight should benefit the centerfielder as he will be able to handle the long MLB season better and put up consistent numbers from start to finish.
Anyone associated with the 2012 Red Sox will want to forget that year and move on. Jon Lester is no different. He had career highs in ERA and losses and wasn't able to win double-digit games for the first time in four years.
It is now a new year and Lester seems focused on regaining his 2010 form, when he went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA. He has spent a lot of time this offseason working on his delivery and even watched tape of him pitching in 2010 and 2012. He mentions that the difference was "clear as day" (via Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe).
If his start in spring training is any indication of how his season will go, his offseason work has really paid off. He has made one appearance, throwing two innings of scoreless ball with one strikeout.
If he is not able to show improvement this year, it could be Brett Wallace's last chance with the Houston Astros. He started his career as a top prospect with the Cardinals, with stops in Oakland and Toronto, before coming to Houston three years ago.
Wallace has been very inconsistent and has struggled against major league pitching. In 232 career games, he has struck out 214 times and only has a batting average of .250. The first baseman/ designated hitter understood he needed to get better and spent the offseason working on his batting stance with Astros hitting coach John Mallee.
Looking at his early stat line, the hard work may pay off for Wallace. He is hitting .417 with one home run and four RBI in just 12 at-bats.