Things will be looking up for the Yankees if The Captain looks healthy and ready to go for his final season.
Those with a vested interest in such things surely never actually expect spring training to go according to plan. That's just not how spring training rolls.
But hope that things go according to plan? Oh yeah, there are most definitely hopes that maybe, just maybe spring training will go just...perfectly.
We're here to play along with the idea by asking: What would constitute a perfect spring training for all 30 teams in Major League Baseball? Since these are the things that matter the most, we're going to proceed with a template that addresses the following:
- (Player A) will look healthy
- (Player B) will tease a rebound
- (Player C) will tease a breakout
- (Prospect D) will look ready for The Show
- (New addition E) will live up to his billing
There will be some cases when two players belong to a certain category, but other than that, well, that's the template. We can proceed...now.
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.
You ready for this, Archie Bradley?
Healthy: Cody Ross
The news on the dislocated right hip Ross suffered last August is good, as Jack Magruder of FoxSportsArizona.com reported earlier this month that Ross is "way ahead of schedule." It's doubtful that he can steal a starting job in the outfield, but Arizona's bench could certainly use a healthy, able fourth outfielder capable of crushing lefty pitching.
Rebound: Miguel Montero
Montero had some health issues of his own in 2013, and one figures it was partly due to those that he never looked right at the plate. After compiling an .817 OPS from 2009 to 2012, Montero's OPS fell to .662 in 2013. If he looks good at the dish this spring, Arizona's lineup will look considerably deeper.
Breakout: Chris Owings or Didi Gregorius
They're both talented, they're both young, they both play shortstop, and they both flashed some potential as rookies in 2013. All the Diamondbacks need is for either Owings or Gregorius to build on what happened last season. It doesn't matter who, really, so long as one of them does.
Prospect: Archie Bradley
Bradley's the top pitching prospect in baseball according to most prospect pundits (also my Uncle Red), and he's going to be in camp with the big club this spring. The signing of Bronson Arroyo will make it hard for him to crack Arizona's rotation, but Bradley's good enough to possibly force the D-Backs' hand.
New Addition: Mark Trumbo
With all respect to Arroyo, there's probably more pressure on Mark Trumbo to live up to his billing. He has as much power as anybody in the big leagues, and, according to FanGraphs, the D-Backs got less power out of their outfield than any other team in 2013. It's Trumbo's job to fix that.
These two can't be any worse than they were in 2013, right?
Healthy: Brandon Beachy
Beachy had Tommy John surgery in 2012, ran into more elbow trouble shortly after returning and eventually needed another surgery. Mark Bowman of MLB.com says Beachy won't have any limitations this spring, which better be the case given how much he's needed with Tim Hudson in San Francisco.
Rebound: Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton
In 2013, Uggla had a .671 OPS and Upton had a .557 OPS. That's on the opposite end of the spectrum from "good." That the Braves had a solid offense anyway makes one wonder how dangerous they could be in 2014 if Uggla and Upton aren't awful. Maybe the Braves will get a hint this spring.
Breakout: Evan Gattis
Gattis did have a solid rookie season, hitting 21 homers with a .771 OPS. But with Brian McCann gone to New York, the Braves will need Gattis to make the turn from promising player to dependable player in 2014. Otherwise...well, they'll be missing McCann.
Prospect: Christian Bethancourt
Hey, why settle for one good catcher when you can have two? If Bethancourt shows this spring that he has a bat to go along with his excellent defense, the Braves won't be missing McCann all that much after all.
New Addition: Ryan Doumit
Yeah, Doumit's name is here for lack of a better idea. It's not like the Braves brought in anybody of note, after all. But if Doumit flashes the power that he had in 2012 (.186 ISO) this spring, Atlanta's bench will look that much stronger.
Healthy: Manny Machado
Because the baseball gods are mean sometimes, Machado tore up his left knee toward the end of 2013. Fortunately, ESPN.com's Stephania Bell reported earlier this month that the young third baseman had been cleared for baseball activities. Given that Opening Day once sounded like a long shot for Machado, the O's may be on the verge of dodging a major bullet.
Rebound: Nick Markakis
Markakis' .685 OPS in 2013 was by far the lowest of his career, and it's not good that a primary symptom was a lack of power. With 2014 being a walk year, maybe he'll turn his power back on again this spring, much to the delight of the Orioles.
Breakout: Tommy Hunter
With Jim Johnson gone to Oakland and neither Grant Balfour nor Fernando Rodney coming to town, Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com says the O's closer role is likely Hunter's to lose. He had a very good year as a full-time reliever in 2013, but a dominant spring will go a long way toward convincing everyone the ninth inning is in good hands.
Prospect: Kevin Gausman
Maybe the biggest weakness on the Orioles is a lack of a top-of-the-rotation starter, but don't let his mediocre cameo in 2013 (5.66 ERA) convince you that Gausman doesn't have the goods to be that guy. If he blows hitters away this spring, he could step into Baltimore's rotation and not look back.
New Addition: Suk-Min Yoon
The Orioles have been linked to various big-name pitchers throughout the offseason, but Yoon's the guy they've ended up with. The Korean righty signed a three-year deal with the O's this week. How he fits into Baltimore's plans is hard to decipher, but Yoon can make it easier by showing he belongs this spring.
There will be a lot of eyes on Xander Bogaerts this spring.
Healthy: Clay Buchholz
Buchholz had a 1.71 ERA through his first dozen starts in 2013, but then his shoulder acted up and he just wasn't the same after he came back. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported last month that Buchholz is good to go, but nobody's going to breathe easy until he flashes the electric stuff he had early last year.
Rebound: Will Middlebrooks
It says a lot that Middlebrooks was the only Boston regular with an OPS+ below 100 in 2013, but he did have a solid .805 OPS in 41 games down the stretch after a stint in the minors. That's something to build off, starting this spring.
Breakout: Xander Bogaerts
Technically, Bogaerts is still a prospect. But after compiling an .893 OPS and showing all kinds of poise in the postseason last year, it's clear that stardom is within his reach. The Red Sox hope so, anyway, as Bogaerts is currently penciled in to be their starting shortstop.
Prospect: Jackie Bradley Jr.
Heading into spring training, Bradley is the biggest wild card on the Red Sox. He has the glove to play center field every day, but he'll need to show he has the bat too if it's a healthy Grady Sizemore he ends up battling for the starting job. A repeat of last spring, when Bradley had a 1.120 OPS, would do the trick.
New Addition: A.J. Pierzynski
The Red Sox didn't make many moves this winter, but Pierzynski was the big one. He's taking Jarrod Saltalamacchia's place behind the dish, and there's pressure at work after Salty had the best offensive season of his career in 2013. Pierzynski needs to show that his bat still has something left.
WANTED: Rebound seasons from Starlin Castro (left) and Anthony Rizzo.
Healthy: Arodys Vizcaino
It's been nothing but trouble with Vizcaino's elbow in the last couple years, as he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 and hasn't pitched in either of the last two seasons. However, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reported in December that Vizcaino was up to 98 mph with his heat. If he looks good this spring, he'll be a sleeper candidate for the Cubs' closer job.
Rebound: Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo
These guys were supposed to be the bright spots for the Cubs in 2013. They weren't, as Rizzo had just a .742 OPS and Castro only got as high as .631. The bright side is that both are still young, and the talent is definitely there. Things will be looking up if they both look ready to put 2013 behind them this spring.
Breakout: Welington Castillo
Castillo put up modest numbers at the plate in 2013, but the numbers he put up in the second half were a bit more than modest. His OPS rose from .677 to .863. If there's more where that came from, he could be one of the National League's better hitting catchers in 2014.
Prospect: Kris Bryant
With Cubs prospects it's, "Pick a bat! Any bat!" But Bryant's intriguing because he's already zeroing in on the big leagues despite the fact he was just drafted in 2013. He's certainly a potential answer to the team's third base enigma, and might even be able to steal the job this spring.
New Addition: Jason Hammel
The Cubs didn't make any big additions, but the Hammel signing was one of the more intriguing acquisitions made anywhere. If he gets back to being the solid pitcher (3.43 ERA) he was in 2012, he'll earn a rotation spot this spring and, most likely, net the Cubs some solid young players in a trade later on in the summer. Think of him as Scott Feldman 2.0.
Spring training means finally getting a look at Jose Abreu.
Healthy: Tyler Flowers
Maybe you'd go John Danks here, but Flowers is the guy coming off a more recent shoulder scare. He had surgery on his right shoulder in September, a procedure that would take as many as three months to recover from. The White Sox's catching depth chart will look awfully thin if he's not healthy.
Rebound: Dayan Viciedo
I mean, it's hard to find a hitter on the White Sox who had a good year in 2013. Virtually all their hitters need to tease a rebound this spring. But I'm looking at Viciedo because of how his power took a turn for the worse in 2013. His ISO fell to .161 from .188, and he hit only 14 homers.
Breakout: Avisail Garcia
Garcia put up a solid .304/.327/.447 line in 42 games with the White Sox after arriving from Detroit in a three-team trade. It's hard to tell exactly how good he can be, but more of that will certainly help the White Sox forget about Alex Rios.
Prospect: Erik Johnson
ESPN's Keith Law (Inside required) is one guy out there who has Johnson pegged as Chicago's top prospect, and he's going to have a very good shot at cracking the club's thin rotation. If he has a strong spring, their rotation will look noticeably less thin.
New Addition: Jose Abreu
The White Sox gave Abreu the largest deal both in club history and ever given to a Cuban defector. All he has to do to earn it is basically be Paul Konerko's replacement as Chicago's righty-hitting slugging first baseman. No pressure, man.
We know Billy Hamilton is fast. It's time to find out what else he is.
Healthy: Tony Cingrani
You could put a number of players here, really. Mat Latos. Johnny Cueto. Brandon Phillips. Whomever. But I'm going with Cingrani because the Reds can't have the chronic back problems that held him back in 2013 pop up again. With Arroyo gone, Cingrani needs to be ready to go for their rotation.
Rebound: Brandon Phillips
Phillips posted a modest .706 OPS and an even more modest 92 OPS+ in 2013. Maybe the wrist injury he dealt with over the bulk of the season was the problem, but Phillips wasn't great in 2012 either with a 99 OPS+. But if he puts together a good spring, maybe we can put the decline talk behind us.
Breakout: Devin Mesoraco
Mesoraco was one of the top prospects in all of baseball a couple years ago, but he spent 2012 and 2013 playing second fiddle to Ryan Hanigan. That's poised to change in 2014, as the starting job is his to lose. Given that Mesoraco hasn't done much to inspire confidence when he has played, a good spring would definitely help the Reds sleep at night.
Prospect: Billy Hamilton
Yes, Hamilton is still technically a prospect. But he's also slated to be Cincinnati's starting center fielder and Shin-Soo Choo's replacement at the top of the lineup. We know the speed is there in abundance, but Hamilton needs to show this spring that he has the bat to stick in the majors.
New Addition: Skip Schumaker
What? Don't look at me like that. It's not as if the Reds did anything else this winter. Schumaker was their big catch, so he goes here. All there is to say, really.
Danny Salazar's stuff will soon be on display again. This is a good thing.
Healthy: Shaun Marcum
All right, yeah. I'm cheating here a little bit given that Marcum is a new addition. But the guy is coming off surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome and is slated to be in the mix for a rotation spot, so him looking healthy is absolutely an ideal scenario.
Rebound: Asdrubal Cabrera
Cabrera only had a .299 OBP in 2013, and he continued his custom of getting worse in the second half. These aren't good looks for a guy who looked like a star back in 2011, but maybe he can begin to turn things around with free agency looming after the 2014 season.
Breakout: Danny Salazar and Lonnie Chisenhall
The Indians can expect a breakout from Salazar after he pitched to a 3.12 ERA and 11.3 K/9 last year, but they need a breakout from Chisenhall. If he shows he can be better than his .694 major league OPS, the Indians can move forward with him at third and Carlos Santana at DH, a role that suits him best.
Prospect: Trevor Bauer
Francisco Lindor could just as easily go here, but the Indians need Bauer to realize his potential more than they need Lindor to realize his. A lot was needed to get Bauer, and he's been a disappointment. With the back end of Cleveland's rotation looking shaky, now would be a good time for Bauer to figure things out.
New Addition: John Axford
Axford turned a bad season around upon joining the Cardinals last summer, posting a 1.74 ERA and 3.67 K/BB in 13 outings, but it still feels like a stretch that the Indians are trusting him to be their closer. A good spring will help brush aside the doubts.
Brett Anderson is the kind of pitcher who should fit well on the Rockies.
Healthy: Carlos Gonzalez
That CarGo will be playing center field this year means there's enough pressure on him as is. But he's also looking to rebound from a season that was derailed by a finger injury and then an emergency appendectomy in January. Him looking healthy this spring would be a big relief.
Rebound: Juan Nicasio
Pitching is always a question mark in Colorado, but the club's rotation was actually solid in 2013—except for Nicasio, that is, as he had an ERA over 5.00. But since he can pick up ground balls and, per FanGraphs, his FIP and xFIP say he deserved better than a 5.00 ERA, maybe he can turn things around.
Breakout: Nolan Arenado
We know Arenado's defense at third is amazing, but we haven't seen the best of his bat yet. That could change very soon, however, as Arenado quietly finished 2013 with a .298 average and .742 OPS in the second half. If he hits, he'll be one of the league's better two-way third basemen.
Prospect: Eddie Butler
Butler and Jonathan Gray are Colorado's two big arms, but Butler's closer to the big leagues. He's made it as far as Double-A, whereas Gray only got as far as High-A in 2013. It will be a surprise if Butler earns a rotation spot, but he could definitely put himself on the doorstep of The Show with a strong spring.
New Addition: Brett Anderson
The Rockies added Drew Stubbs and Justin Morneau, but, again, pitching is always the big question. They picked up an injury-prone pitcher when they traded for Anderson, but they also picked up a guy with some very real talent and a very real ability to get ground balls (see FanGraphs). Sounds like a fit for them.
The Tigers used to have Prince Fielder. Now they have Ian Kinsler. They'll soon find out if that was a good swap.
Healthy: Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander
Cabrera underwent surgery to repair various core muscles in October, and Verlander had a core surgery of his own in January. These guys are only slightly important to the Tigers' chances of winning it all in 2014, so suffice it to say everyone in Detroit's camp will be feeling better if they both look good to go.
Rebound: Austin Jackson
Jackson didn't have a bad season in 2013, but his OPS did fall 102 points from where it was in 2012. If he looks good at the plate this spring, the Tigers could face a dilemma over what to do with the leadoff spot in their lineup. It depends on what another guy we'll soon be discussing does this spring.
Breakout: Rick Porcello
It feels like Porcello's been on the verge of a breakout for years, but he might actually be on the verge of one this year. He stands to benefit from a much-improved Tigers defense, and it bodes well that his strikeout habit enjoyed an impressive uptick in 2013 (see FanGraphs).
Prospect: Nick Castellanos
With Prince Fielder gone, Miggy's going back to first base. That's Castellanos' ticket to be Detroit's everyday third baseman, and everyone will be feeling good about that if he flashes his potential as a .300 hitter with power this spring.
New Addition: Ian Kinsler
Kinsler's the guy the Tigers got in the Fielder swap with the Rangers, and he'll be looking to rebound from what fWAR says was his worst season since 2007. If both he and Jackson have a good spring, new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus will have a good problem on his hands: too many good leadoff hitters.
Dexter Fowler is a much-needed upgrade for the Astros in center field and, well, in general.
Healthy: Jesse Crain
I'm cheating once again, but justifiably so (I think). Crain was one of baseball's best relievers before his shoulder decided it had had enough. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, however, reported earlier this month that the right-hander had started a throwing program. If he looks healthy, a bullpen that was awful (an understatement) in 2013 will look just a wee bit better.
Rebound: Jose Altuve
Altuve tailed off after hitting .300 before the break in 2012, and it continued in 2013 as he hit to the tune of a .283 average and an icky .316 OBP. But he's only heading into his age-24 season, and another .280 average will be fine if he adds some walks. Combine the experience he has now with his tiny frame, and that should be doable.
Breakout: Matt Dominguez
Dominguez only had a .690 OPS last year, but that obscures the strides he made in the second half. His OPS rose from .640 to .753, and he hit 10 homers in 260 plate appearances. A 25-homer season with good defense at the hot corner is in the cards for 2014, and the Astros would certainly take it.
Prospect: George Springer and Jonathan Singleton
Houston's farm system is loaded and includes two potential cornerstones in shortstop Carlos Correa and right-hander Mark Appel. But Springer and Singleton are the two guys closest to being ready, and they can fill two areas of need (outfield and first base) if they look ready this spring.
New Addition: Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman
Fowler and Feldman were Houston's two big additions this winter, and both are just what the doctor ordered. Fowler's a good hitter for a lineup that had few in 2013, and Feldman's an innings-eater for a rotation that didn't have even one. Both will be welcome sights in Astros camp this spring.
Mike Moustakas is in the best shape of his life and, hopefully, on the comeback trail.
Healthy: Danny Duffy
Duffy had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and had his comeback in 2013 cut short when another elbow injury arose. He's a wild card this spring in that it's not clear if he's competing for a bullpen spot or a rotation spot. But if he's healthy and throwing blazing fastballs again? Shoot, a guy like that fits anywhere.
Rebound: Mike Moustakas
Moustakas had an .817 OPS in the first half in 2012 but then a .586 OPS in the second half and a .651 OPS last year. But he's only heading into his age-25 season, and it was a productive offseason for the third baseman. As Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star reported, Moustakas lost some weight and worked on his approach over the winter. Maybe these things will help.
Breakout: Salvador Perez
Everyone knows Perez is a gem of a defensive catcher, but he can handle the stick all right and was only getting better when we last saw him. He had an .818 OPS and nine homers in the second half of 2013. That's absolutely a performance to build off.
Prospect: Yordano Ventura
Kyle Zimmer is the best prospect the Royals have, but Ventura is pretty darn good and there's pressure on him to be ready for The Show now. He's already a rotation candidate. If he blows hitters away this spring, he could move a few spots up in said rotation.
New Addition: Omar Infante
According to FanGraphs, Royals second basemen were the weakest-hitting second basemen in the American League last year. It's the job of Infante, he of the .318 average in 2013, to fix that—hopefully starting right away.
A big spring from their $240 million man would be a welcome sight for the Angels.
Healthy: Albert Pujols
There are eight years and over $200 million still left on Pujols' contract, and his health has been nothing but trouble since the end of 2012. He told Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times that he feels 100 percent, but here's guessing the Angels are like the rest of us: They'll believe it when they see it.
Rebound: Josh Hamilton
A .739 OPS and 21 homers isn't what the Angels were hoping for in the first year of Hamilton's $125 million deal. Credit where it's due, however: Hamilton did raise his OPS from .696 in the first half to .801 in the second half. His power didn't go up, but his OBP sure did (.283 to .341). If you're the Angels, you have no choice but to hope a corner was turned.
Breakout: Garrett Richards
Kole Calhoun is an option here now that he's slated for everyday duty in right field following an .808 OPS showing in 2013, but the Angels need a breakout from Richards more. He had a solid 3.72 ERA in 13 starts down the stretch last year, and the Angels' rotation will look much stronger if he picks up where he left off.
Prospect: Tyler Skaggs
I'm cheating a bit with this one, as Skaggs technically isn't a prospect anymore. But because he's still only 22 and largely unproven, and because the Angels are counting on him to do something this year and because their farm system is as weak as any, I'm going to allow it. His prospect days may technically be over, but the Angels truly need Skaggs to look ready for The Show this spring.
New Addition: David Freese
Skaggs or Hector Santiago could just as easily go here, but Freese is the biggest name the Angels brought aboard this winter. It will be his job to bolster a position in third base that didn't give the Angels much offense in 2013.
Why Matt Kemp was walking around without his mandatory bubble wrap protection, nobody knows.
Healthy: Matt Kemp
Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley are also injury comeback stories, but let's not kid ourselves. Kemp is the guy with the big contract, and he's coming off an injury-ruined 2013 that was followed by shoulder and ankle surgery. The Dodgers won't push him this spring, but don't think they're not hoping.
Rebound: A.J. Ellis
Ellis quietly put together a rock-solid .270/.373/.414 batting line in 2012, but his numbers fell to .238/.318/.364 in 2013. But with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reporting earlier this month that Ellis has dropped 15 pounds, he belongs in the "Best Shape of His Life" club. There are worse places to be heading into spring training after a down year.
Breakout: Alexander Guerrero
The Dodgers don't really have any young stars who are just on the verge of breaking out, so Guerrero goes here because he's the next best thing. The Cuban defector is penciled in as the Dodgers' everyday second baseman, and he'll erase the question marks in the air if he shows his offensive potential this spring.
Prospect: Joc Pederson
The Dodgers outfield is a cast of highly paid veterans, featuring Yasiel Puig. There's no room for rookies. But that could change in a hurry given how volatile the club's outfield is, and Pederson is the guy who stands to benefit from that. He's one of the organization's best prospects, and a strong spring will be just another thing that shows he's not long for the farm.
New Addition: Dan Haren
Haren's the big guy the Dodgers brought in this winter, and he's basically being tasked to do what he failed to do in Washington last year: stabilize the back half of a starting rotation. Because Haren finished with a solid 3.52 ERA in the second half, the Dodgers can hope.
The Marlins are hoping Salty has a sweet spring. (Lets self out.)
Healthy: Jake Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna
These two are up for Miami's starting job in center field, but both have to prove they're healthy first. Ozuna is coming off season-ending thumb surgery, and Marisnick is coming off a left-knee surgery that he had the day after the season ended. It could be that the spoils will go to whichever player is the healthiest.
Rebound: Giancarlo Stanton
No, Stanton didn't have a bad year in 2013. But he didn't have a great year either, as he hit only 24 home runs and his ISO fell to .231 from .318 the year before. Injuries were partly (mostly?) to blame. If Stanton is 100 percent this spring, he should supply us with some precious highlights.
Breakout: Christian Yelich
Yelich entered 2013 as one of baseball's very best prospects, and he impressed with a .288 average and .370 OBP over 273 plate appearances at the major league level. If he shows off some more power this spring, watch out.
Prospect: Andrew Heaney
He's no Jose Fernandez, but Heaney is the next youngster in line to join Miami's rotation, and he might be able to do so this spring. He'll be in camp with the big club, where he'll be looking to build on a strong 2013 season that ended with him posting a 2.94 ERA across six Double-A starts.
New Addition: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
According to FanGraphs, the Marlins had the worst offensive catchers in the majors last year. Salty is coming to them off a 2013 season in which he had an .804 OPS. This spring, he'll hopefully look like just the man for a job nobody could do last year.
Think people will be interested in how Ryan Braun looks this spring?
Healthy: Rickie Weeks
Weeks' 2013 season ended in August when he went in for surgery on a torn left hamstring. He was having a rough season even before that and will now have to fight Scooter Gennett for playing time this spring. But if Weeks is healthy and looking like his old self, the Brewers will have a good problem on their hands.
Rebound: Ryan Braun
Braun will be looking to rebound in more ways than one this spring. He'll obviously be looking to put his 65-game Biogenesis suspension behind him, but let's not forget that he wasn't having a great season before that. He had a very un-Braunish .869 OPS in 61 games. That would also look better in the past.
Breakout: Marco Estrada
The Brewers have a number of players who could go here, but their pitching staff will look considerably better than just OK if Estrada picks up where he left off last year. He had a 2.15 ERA and 5.09 K/BB in his last nine starts. That's terrific stuff, and the Brewers could definitely use more of it.
Prospect: Johnny Hellweg
There's not much in Milwaukee's system worth getting excited about, but Hellweg is one of the team's better pitchers and will be competing for a rotation spot this spring. The key will be him getting his command under control, as the 5.7 BB/9 he had at Triple-A last year doesn't look so great.
New Addition: Matt Garza
The Brewers got a good deal when they signed Garza for four years and $50 million a few weeks back, but it's still fair to call it a gamble. Garza was hit-or-miss with the Rangers, and he doesn't come without health question marks. He'll have to silence some doubters this spring.
Miguel Sano equals guy to watch this spring.
Healthy: Joe Mauer
The move from catcher to first base will help Mauer avoid future concussions, but first he has to prove that he's over his last one. That's the one that ended his 2013 season in August, and Mauer told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press in late January that he hadn't begun swinging yet. This isn't an indication that he's not ready for spring, but still...
Rebound: Josh Willingham
Willingham was quietly one of the best power hitters around in 2012 with 35 homers and a .264 ISO, but that power was nowhere to be seen in 2013. The left-knee problems he had didn't help, though. If Willingham is over those, the power should be back this spring.
Breakout: Oswaldo Arcia
Arcia will be the man in right field for the Twins this spring, and on Opening Day too if he builds on what he did as a rookie in 2013. He had his ups and downs, but he showed off some good power with 14 homers and a .179 ISO in 378 plate appearances. The Twins will gladly take more of that.
Prospect: Miguel Sano
Byron Buxton and Sano are both awesome, but Sano's the guy to watch this spring. After crushing 35 homers in the minors in 2013, he told Phil Miller of the Star Tribune that he's set on making the big club. Since Sano has some serious talent and there's not much standing in his way at third base, he might do it.
New Addition: Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes
Twins starters had a 5.26 ERA last year—the worst in Major League Baseball. Nolasco and Hughes are two guys they brought in this offseason to help turn things around. Simple as that.
Matt Harvey broke out last year. Now it's Zack Wheeler's turn.
Healthy: Bobby Parnell
As much as I wanted to put Matt Harvey here...yeah, that's just not practical. But Parnell is an interesting case in his own right, as the righty closer is coming off a neck injury that ended his 2013 season early and required surgery to fix. Mike Puma of the New York Post, however, reported in late January that Parnell was looking "great." Perhaps he will this spring too.
Rebound: Ike Davis
Davis finished 2012 on a strong note after starting off on a not-so-strong note. He sort of did the same in 2013 too, as he finished with an awesome .429 OBP over his last 48 games. If he can keep doing that and show some power this spring, maybe Mets fans won't want him gone as much.
Breakout: Zack Wheeler
Wheeler had his ups and downs during his debut in 2013, but there were more ups than downs as he went along. He had a 3.14 ERA in his last seven starts, striking out a solid 21.3 percent of the batters he faced. Given the kind of stuff he has, that should have been just him scratching the surface.
Prospect: Noah Syndergaard
With Wheeler in the big leagues, Syndergaard is the Mets' best pitching prospect now. And he may soon be joining Wheeler, as he's coming off a strong showing in Double-A (3.00 ERA and 5.75 K/BB in 11 starts). He's looking at possibly cracking a rotation that is very crackable at the back end.
New Addition: Curtis Granderson
Bartolo Colon was the Mets' other big addition, but there will certainly be more pressure on Granderson to perform this spring—partially because his contract is bigger, but also because he has much to prove after struggling through an injury-riddled 2013 season.
The Yankees knew they wanted Masahiro Tanaka. They just don't know what they're going to get now that they have him.
Healthy: Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira
Jeter's 2013 season was delayed first by his recovery from a fractured left ankle and was then ultimately ended by the same injury—with various injuries in between, of course. Teixeira's 2013 season, meanwhile, was ruined by a bad right wrist. Given the lack of talent around them on the Yankees infield, suffice it to say there's a lot riding on Jeter and Teixeira this spring.
Rebound: CC Sabathia
There aren't many positives to discuss regarding Sabathia's 2013 season. He didn't look like himself, nor did he produce like himself. But he looks like he's in good shape, and...well, that's something. Hopefully, anyway, as the Yankees don't need a repeat of 2013.
Breakout: Ivan Nova
It's been a bumpy ride for Nova in the big leagues, but he was fantastic in his last 17 appearances (16 of them starts) in 2013. In those, he had a 2.70 ERA over 116.2 innings. If he's still that guy this spring, that's one less question mark in the Yankees rotation.
Prospect: Mark Montgomery
The Yankees are short on major league-ready prospects, but Montgomery is one that has a shot to earn an important job this spring. David Robertson is the new Mariano Rivera, but nobody knows who the new Robertson is supposed to be. It could be Montgomery.
New Addition: Masahiro Tanaka
The Yankees also signed Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, but Tanaka's the guy everyone will be waiting to see this spring. He'll be facing major league hitters regularly for the first time and will look like a good get if he handles himself. Either that, or it will be apparent that he has an adjustment period ahead of him.
A rebound from Yoenis Cespedes would be nice.
Healthy: Josh Reddick
Reddick battled a right-wrist injury last season, which was a factor in draining his power. He had surgery on the wrist in October, and the word, via Jane Lee of MLB.com, is that he's feeling 100 percent. If he is, he'll hopefully look like the surprise power hitter he was in 2012.
Rebound: Yoenis Cespedes
Cespedes kept the power coming in 2013, but the A's can't having him posting another .294 OBP in 2014. If there's a bright side, it's that he had a .314 average and a .907 OPS in September. Like several others we've already discussed, that's a performance to build off.
Breakout: Sonny Gray
All Gray did last year was post a 2.67 ERA and 3.35 K/BB in 12 appearances, 10 of them starts. He then famously outdueled Justin Verlander in Game 2 of the ALDS. These were indicators of some real talent, and Gray has a shot to expand on them in 2014 with a rotation spot set aside for him heading into spring.
Prospect: Addison Russell
Russell is a long shot to make the A's Opening Day roster out of camp, but he will be there and is undoubtedly the best prospect Oakland has. He won't take Jed Lowrie's spot, but maybe Russell can convince the A's to start the season with Lowrie on a short leash.
New Addition: Scott Kazmir
Kazmir is replacing Bartolo Colon in Oakland's rotation, and that means he has some big shoes to fill (Nuk Nuk Nuk). Kazmir should be up to it, though, as he was one of the majors' best starters in the second half last year with a 3.38 ERA and 27.1 strikeout percentage. As you can see at Brooks Baseball, his velocity was also going in a good direction all season: up.
Another year, another "Does Ryan Howard have anything left?" discussion.
Healthy: Ryan Howard
After missing most of 2012 recovering from a ruptured left Achilles, Howard missed a good chunk of 2013 because he needed surgery on his left knee. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said at the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association dinner (via the Philadelphia Daily News) in late January that Howard's 100 percent. If (big if) that's true, that's a big piece in the Phillies lineup that they haven't had in a while.
Rebound: Jimmy Rollins
Rollins' average and OBP were basically the same in 2013 as they were in 2012. What wasn't there was his power, as he hit only six homers with an .097 ISO. That's not good, especially in light of the hitter-friendliness of Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies better hope that Rollins shows some pop this spring.
Breakout: Miguel Gonzalez
Though Gonzalez initially agreed to a $48 million deal, the Phillies ended up signing the Cuban right-hander for only $12 million after issues arose in his physical exam. The word from Todd Zolecki of MLB.com now is that the organization isn't quite sure what to make of him. That means they have to hope Gonzalez provides some sort of sign this spring—preferably a good one.
Prospect: Jesse Biddle
Biddle is the top pitching prospect the Phillies have, and he's going to have a shot at the rotation with Gonzalez a question mark and Cole Hamels out of the picture for Opening Day. Biddle pitched to a 3.64 ERA in 27 starts in Double-A last year, but he also had a 5.3 BB/9. He'll have to show better control than that this spring.
New Addition: A.J. Burnett
As Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com was first to report, the Phillies picked up Burnett on a one-year deal earlier this week. Good timing too, as Burnett's addition looks all the more important with Hamels hurting. If Burnett looks like the guy he's been the last two years, the top of Philly's rotation will be in good hands until Hamels is ready.
We get to see Gerrit Cole's stuff soon. Huzzah.
Healthy: Wandy Rodriguez
Rodriguez's 2013 season came to an early end in June thanks to a cranky left elbow. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says the lefty will be good to go for spring training, and the Pirates surely hope that's the case. With Burnett in Philly, the team's rotation really needs Rodriguez for depth purposes.
Rebound: Jeff Locke
It does feel a little weird to say that an All-Star is a rebound candidate, but it's warranted in Locke's case. He struggled so badly in the second half of the season that the Pirates resorted to demoting him. A key for him this spring will be to show off more consistent command, as walks catching up with him were a big part of his second-half struggles.
Breakout: Gerrit Cole
We know Cole is good. He proved that by posting a 3.22 ERA and 3.57 K/BB in 19 starts last year. But he also showed that he could be great, as he struck out over 26 percent of the batters he faced while pitching to a 3.94 K/BB in his last 11 starts. If he comes into his own in 2014, the loss of Burnett won't hurt so bad.
Prospect: Gregory Polanco
The Pirates already have homegrown stars in left field and center field. They could have another in right field if Polanco, a top-15 prospect in MLB.com's eyes, has a great spring. With Jose Tabata and Travis Snider listed on Pittsburgh's depth chart for right field, it's not like there's a great wall blocking Polanco.
New Addition: Edinson Volquez
No, there's not much point in holding out hope for Volquez. He pitched to a 5.71 ERA last year and owns an ugly career BB/9 of 4.8. But since the Pirates didn't do much else this winter and Volquez was actually solid in a cameo with the Dodgers last year, well, maybe.
Fair warning: Andrew Cashner could be in for a huge 2014.
Healthy: Cameron Maybin
Maybin's 2013 season was wrecked by a right-wrist injury and a left-knee sprain, and his wrist eventually required a complicated surgery. He's a question mark heading into spring, but let's remember that this is a guy, by FanGraphs' reckoning, who was a four-win player as recently as 2011. If Maybin is himself, the Padres stand to get a big boost.
Rebound: Chase Headley
Headley didn't have a bad year in 2013. He just didn't come close to building on his explosive 2012 season, when he hit 31 home runs with an .875 OPS. He did have some injuries, so maybe it was their fault. Or maybe 2012 was just a fluke. Either way, Headley teasing another power outburst this spring is something that would probably be OK with the Padres.
Breakout: Andrew Cashner
With respect to Jedd Gyorko, who was pretty good in 2013, there's no question that Cashner's the guy on the Padres closest to a breakout. In his last dozen starts of '13, Cashner racked up a 2.23 ERA and struck out at least seven in six of his last seven starts. If he picks up where he left off, he's going to be a sleeper Cy Young candidate (if he isn't already).
Prospect: Matt Wisler
With 20 Double-A starts under his belt, Wisler's pretty close to the bigs. He was also notably a surprise entry on ESPN.com's Jim Bowden's list of prospects to watch this spring. With the back end of San Diego's rotation certainly crackable, this could be Wisler's lucky spring.
New Addition: Josh Johnson
It's either Johnson or Joaquin Benoit. I'm going with Johnson because of the intrigue that surrounds him returning to the National League following a disastrous stint in the American League in 2013. Him staying healthy is always a concern, but there's no question he's a potential bargain based on his ability.
The Giants need Matt Cain to look like Matt Cain again.
Healthy: Tim Hudson
Yes, Hudson is a new addition, but I'm putting him here because, let's face it: That was a pretty nasty injury (WARNING: video link) he suffered last year. The good news from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, however, is that Hudson is expected to be on a normal throwing schedule this spring. If he's healthy, the Giants have a pretty good replacement for Barry Zito.
Rebound: Matt Cain
A number of Giants could go here, but Cain gets the nod because of how quickly he fell from ace status last year. The bright side is that he had a 2.71 ERA in his last 12 starts, and Brooks Baseball can show that his velocity did pick up toward the end. Like a Monty Python peasant, maybe he's not dead yet.
Breakout: Brandon Belt
Buster Posey has the big name and Hunter Pence got the big contract, but Belt was the best hitter the Giants had in 2013 with a team-high .841 OPS. He was even better in the second half with a .915 OPS. Since he can also play D and run the bases pretty well, the Giants have a potential star at first base.
Prospect: Heath Hembree
Kyle Crick is the best pitching prospect the Giants have, but he's still a ways away from cracking the big leagues. Hembree is not, as he debuted in the majors last fall and will have a shot to pitch his way into the pen this spring. If he still has the good control he established in 2013, a job should be his.
New Addition: Mike Morse
Hudson was the biggest addition the Giants made this winter, but don't overlook the importance of them adding Morse. He's going to see some regular action in left field, and the Giants sorely need him to show off his usual power while playing out there. This, after all, is a team that got less power from left field than any team not named the Marlins last year, according to FanGraphs.
Nobody mention what happened to the last $240 million man to end up in the AL West.
Healthy: Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker
Paul Casella of MLB.com reports that Iwakuma won't throw for as many as six weeks with an injury to his right middle finger, and Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times reports that Walker has some soreness in his right shoulder. These injuries aren't deal-breakers for Seattle's 2014 season, but it would certainly be better if they went away.
Rebound: Tom Wilhelmsen
Wilhelmsen was outstanding in 2012, but he slipped in 2013 thanks in no small part to a 5.0 BB/9. The Mariners will have a sick pen if Wilhelmsen puts himself back on track this spring, however, as it will be him, Charlie Furbush, Danny Farquhar and Fernando Rodney at the back end of games. There's some serious stuff there.
Breakout: Dustin Ackley
Ackley was supposed to break out in 2012. He didn't, and maybe you lost sight of him after he started slow in 2013. But if you did, you missed Ackley hitting .304/.374/.435 over his last 53 games. That's what the Mariners were hoping for when they drafted him. Maybe they'll see more of it in 2014, starting right away.
Prospect: Walker and James Paxton
They may only have seven major league starts between them, but they're the best pitching prospects the Mariners have and are all but assured rotation spots out of the gate this spring. It wouldn't be nice if they looked ready for The Show. They truly need to look ready for The Show.
New Addition: Robinson Cano
Duh. The Mariners spent $240 million on Cano and are hoping that his bat can be a key ingredient in reviving an offense that, frankly, has sucked for five years now. It is with considerable sincerity that I say this: Good luck, Robbie.
Obligatory caption: Wacha! Wacha!
Healthy: Jaime Garcia
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last month that Garcia would be ready for spring training, and hopefully that's the case. It's easy to forget that Garcia was a darn good pitcher when he was healthy, but you just never know with guys coming off shoulder surgeries.
Rebound: Shelby Miller
Why tab a guy who finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting? Partially because not many Cardinals had bad seasons in 2013, but also because of how Miller disappeared last year. He looked somewhat fatigued in August and September, and then made only three appearances in the postseason. Miller will be looking to put that experience behind him this spring.
Breakout: Michael Wacha
It's hard to choose just one breakout candidate on the Cardinals, and it's true that Wacha's already kind of a star. But if he can post a 2.78 ERA in 15 regular-season appearances and then a 2.64 ERA in five postseason starts at the age of 21, you naturally wonder what he can do at the age of 22.
Prospect: Oscar Taveras
The Cardinals have graduated some good young players to the majors recently, but it's possible they haven't yet unveiled their best. Taveras has the goods to be that guy, as he's a top-five prospect no matter whom you ask and projects as an elite hitter. His 2013 season was wrecked by an ankle injury, but he'll be in camp with the big club and could very well force his way into the starting lineup.
New Addition: Jhonny Peralta
Per FanGraphs, Cardinals shortstops were fourth from the bottom in offensive production in 2013. Peralta, who is coming off an .815 OPS in 2013, is the guy who's supposed to change that. Along the way, ideally he'll silence those who think the Cardinals were fools to give a guy coming off a PED suspension a $50 million contract.
I don't know, guys? What if the Orioles were right?
Healthy: Grant Balfour (pictured)
Yup, cheating again. But there is a concern here with Balfour. The Rays clearly didn't find anything wrong with him, but there's still no escaping the what-if notion that the Orioles had the right idea in cancelling their deal with the hard-throwing right-hander on account of his physical. We're going to find out.
Rebound: Ben Zobrist
This one's straight from the "for lack of a better idea" file. Zobrist hardly had a bad season in 2013. He just didn't have a typical Zobrist-y season, as his OPS was below .800 at .756 and his ISO fell from over .200 down to .127. If that missing power shows up again this spring, the Rays and Zobrist fanboys (Hi there!) will feel better.
Breakout: Chris Archer
Wil Myers would go here, but, you know, he did win Rookie of the Year. Archer's a fine backup choice, however, as he quietly finished the season with a 2.85 ERA and a 3.80 K/BB over his last 17 starts. Him being a Rays pitcher, there should be more where that came from.
Prospect: Jake Odorizzi
With Jeremy Hellickson out until May following elbow surgery, the Rays are going to need one of their young guns to fill in for at least the early portion of the 2014 season. Odorizzi is the best man for the job, as he's both talented and MLB-ready with nine MLB appearances (six starts) under his belt.
New Addition: Heath Bell
We've already touched on Balfour, but don't forget that the Rays also added Bell to their bullpen this winter. And while the #HeathBellExperience is a very real thing, let's give Bell some credit: He actually did have a solid season in 2013. His ERA wasn't much to look at, but he did up his strikeouts and lower his walks. These being the Rays, he'll probably be an All-Star in no time.
It feels like it was only two years ago that Prince Fielder was doing this in Detr...wait...
Healthy: Matt Harrison
Jurickson Profar could go here, as Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News reported that Profar will be slowed out of the gate this spring thanks to shoulder tendinitis. But Harrison's the guy who the Rangers really need to look healthy this spring. He had three surgeries in 2013 yet is slated to be a part of the rotation that could certainly use a bit of the old Harrison with Derek Holland out until mid-2014.
Rebound: Elvis Andrus
Andrus' numbers took a serious dive last year, with his OPS notably falling from .727 to .659. Not exactly a good way to follow up a massive contract extension. Credit where it's due, though, as Andrus did hit .313 with a .774 OPS in the second half. Effectively, his rebound has already long since begun.
Breakout: Martin Perez
Profar could also go here, but Holland's injury also puts more pressure on Perez to help carry the load. That's fortunately not asking too much of the young lefty, as he pitched to a rock-solid 3.19 ERA in his last 12 starts in 2013. If he picks up where he left off this spring, the Rangers will be thankful for it.
Prospect: Michael Choice
A once-rich farm system still has some good pieces left in it, and Choice is one that is slated to make an impact right away in 2014. With Craig Gentry in Oakland, Choice looks like he's ticketed for a role as a right-handed platoon partner for Leonys Martin and/or Mitch Moreland. Since he hasn't proven anything in the majors, some big-time production this spring would help ease some doubts.
New Addition: Prince Fielder
With respect to $130 million-man Shin-Soo Choo, I had to go Fielder here. He had a lousy season by his standards in 2013, with the most discouraging aspect of it being another dip in his power production. If I'm the Rangers, I'm not feeling better until I see some bombs from Fielder this spring.
Have we seen the last of Jose Bautista's mightiest power?
Healthy: Jose Bautista
In 2012, it was a bad wrist that ended Bautista's season early. In 2013, it was a bad hip. There's no indication that he'll be limited this spring, but still, that's two injury-shortened seasons in a row for a guy who's getting up there in age and leaking power. Him having a monster spring would be encouraging.
Rebound: R.A. Dickey
Dickey didn't live up to his Cy Young billing in his first season in Toronto, but it wasn't a total loss. He did give the Blue Jays well over 200 innings, and he did finish the season better than he started it. In 14 second-half starts, Dickey had a 3.56 ERA and a 3.54 K/BB. Per Brooks Baseball, his velocity also spiked at the end of the year. A good spring could definitely be in Dickey's immediate future.
Breakout: Brett Lawrie
Lawrie's generally been good in his time in the major leagues, but he hasn't put it all together yet. After finishing 2013 with a solid .279/.340/.408 line over his final 70 games, maybe he's on his way to doing so. Except, hopefully with more power than that.
Prospect: Marcus Stroman
Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are the two golden arms in Toronto's system, but one is further along than the other. That would be Stroman, who has 20 Double-A starts under his belt and is a candidate to crack the weak back end of Toronto's rotation this spring.
New Addition: Dioner Navarro
There aren't many other candidates to choose from, but Navarro has the advantage of coming off a strong offensive season (.856 OPS) and stepping into what was an area of weakness for the Blue Jays in 2013. J.P. Arencibia gave them some power, but he also only gave them a .227 OBP. Navarro should be able to help everyone forget that.
Washington's rotation was already good, and then it got Doug Fister. Have fun, NL East.
Healthy: Bryce Harper
Harper exploded out of the gate with a 1.150 OPS last April, but then the injuries came. The big one was to his left knee, which required surgery after the season was over. That happened a while ago, but Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post reported in late January that Harper might not be 100 percent when he reports to camp. That's the Nats' cue to cross their fingers.
Rebound: Adam LaRoche
LaRoche just didn't have the power he showed in 2012, in part, it would seem, because he lost 15 pounds throughout the course of the year thanks to medication he was on for ADD. He can't do any worse than he did in 2013. But if he has that weight back this spring, he could put himself on track to do better.
Breakout: Anthony Rendon
Rendon is slated to be Washington's everyday second baseman in 2013, provided that he can hold off Danny Espinosa with a strong spring. And one of those should be in order. Rendon certainly has the talent, and he ended 2013 by slashing a cool .278/.359/.417 in his last 44 games.
Prospect: A.J. Cole
Cole doesn't have Lucas Giolito's talent, but he is a lot closer to the big leagues. The 22-year-old right-hander cracked Double-A last year and did well with a 2.18 ERA and 4.90 K/BB in seven starts. With the fifth spot in Washington's rotation hardly set in stone, Cole's a guy to watch this spring.
New Addition: Doug Fister
The Nationals pulled off highway robbery when they acquired Fister from the Tigers. They gave up little to get him, and in return they got a guy who FanGraphs WAR says has been as valuable as Cole Hamels and David Price over the last three seasons. The Nats should enjoy watching their new toy this spring.