With the start of the 2013 MLB season just three days away, it's time to review some of the biggest takeaways from spring training.
Additions via free agency, injuries sustained in spring training and the 2013 World Baseball Classic have a lot of Opening Day rosters looking different than what we're accustomed to.
There have been plenty of storylines to follow this spring, but what are we to make of them?
Let's take a look.
Entering the 2013 season, one of the biggest questions around baseball—and, more importantly, the Cincinnati Reds organization—was Aroldis Chapman's role on the team.
That question was answered when manager Dusty Baker announced that Chapman would remain the closer for the Reds, to which Chapman responded by telling MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, "I feel really, really happy to be the closer of the team."
Known as one of the hardest throwing pitchers in all of baseball, Chapman saved 38 games for Cincinnati last season while boasting a minuscule 1.51 ERA and 0.81 WHIP. The 25-year-old Cuban native also fanned 122 batters in 71.2 innings of work and made it to the 2012 MLB All-Star Game for what's likely to be the first of many appearances at the Midsummer Classic.
The 2013 World Baseball Classic will have positive and negative ramifications for teams across MLB.
For instance, Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez tore ligaments in his right thumb in the Dominican Republic's championship game against Puerto Rico and will miss a significant amount of time to begin the season, according to the organization.
Hanley Ramirez's right thumb will require surgery. Ramirez is expected to return to competition in approximately 8 weeks.— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 21, 2013
While the WBC wasn't friendly to the Dodgers, it could potentially be a launching pad for what may be a career season for Robinson Cano, who won the MVP award for hitting .469 and leading the entire tournament in hits as his D.R. team went undefeated en route to their first WBC title.
Playing in the WBC is a risk for major league players who are trying to stay healthy for the opening of the MLB season, which is why we never see a completely stacked USA squad.
After a disappointing ending to the 2012 postseason, the New York Yankees are dealing with a slew of injuries heading into this season that have many pegging them to finish near the bottom of the AL East.
The Bronx Bombers will have to grind it out at the beginning of the season, as Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Phil Hughes will all miss time at the beginning of the 2013 campaign.
New York dealt for veteran outfielder Vernon Wells and signed journeyman first baseman Lyle Overbay in an attempt to put healthy bodies in the lineup, but Wells is coming off two down seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and Overbay hasn't hit better than .300 in a season since 2006.
With the Baltimore Orioles emerging as a contender last season and the Toronto Blue Jays making significant offseason moves to compete in the division, the Yankees could be in trouble in the AL East.
ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski feels the same way. He projected the Yankees to finish in fourth place in the division with an 83-79 record.
While spring training is perfect for things like analyzing player capabilities and finding positional fits, one area where it's not accurate is team records.
If we based our analysis for the 2013 season on the spring training records, the MLB would see the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners and Colorado Rockies—all clubs that were well below .500 last season—currently sitting atop the Cactus League.
The league would also see playoff bound teams such as the Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers occupying the basement of their respected spring training leagues, which just isn't accurate.
Because managers are constantly holding tryouts during spring training and hardly ever sticking to what they hope will be their Opening Day lineup, you can pretty much throw out spring training records as any indication of what the upcoming MLB season holds.
Last season's rookie phenoms are at it again in 2013, absolutely tearing up spring training.
While measuring a team's performance in the spring isn't always accurate, it's fair to analyze a player based on his statistics and mechanics during spring training.
After hitting .270/.340/.477 with 22 long balls, 59 RBI and 18 stolen bases last season, Harper is having arguably the best spring of anyone in baseball, hitting .476/.507/.730 with three homers, 14 RBI and five stolen bases. If he carries this hot streak into the regular season, the Washington Nationals will be even more dangerous than they already look.
Meanwhile, after completely taking the MLB by storm in 2012 by averaging .326/.399/.564 at the plate to go with 30 HR, 83 RBI and 49 stolen bases, Trout is putting together an excellent spring for the Los Angeles Angels. He is hitting .373/.492/.627 with one homer, 10 RBI and five stolen bases.
By the looks of it, as long as these two stay healthy in 2013, there won't be any type of sophomore slump from either of these 2012 Rookies of the Year award winners.
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