Every MLB Team's Biggest 2018 Spring Training Revelation
Spring training is all about hope, and some players supply it in bushels.
Maybe it's a prospect putting up big numbers and teasing even bigger things. Maybe it's an injury comeback story. Maybe it's a fading veteran proving he's got gas sloshing in the tank.
Let's examine each of the 30 teams' biggest exhibition revelation, keeping in mind that stats compiled in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues can disappear as quickly as a desert mirage.
American League West
Houston Astros: OF Kyle Tucker
Before he was sent to the Houston Astros' minor league camp, outfielder Kyle Tucker hit .410 with four home runs and a 1.223 OPS in 17 exhibition contests.
The 21-year-old doesn't have a spot in Houston's outfield with Marwin Gonzalez, George Springer and Josh Reddick locked in from left to right.
After some seasoning at Triple-A, however, the top prospect's a virtual shoo-in for a September call-up and possible future stardom with the 'Stros.
Los Angeles Angels: RHP Garrett Richards
The Los Angeles Angels' biggest offseason addition, two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, is off to a rough start this spring.
On the plus side for the Halos, ace Garrett Richards is showing positive signs after a pair of injury-marred seasons.
Through 12.2 frames, Richards has held opposing hitters to a .190 average, tallied 14 strikeouts and looked like the guy who eclipsed 200 innings in 2015.
Oakland Athletics: INF Sheldon Neuse
The perennially retooling Oakland Athletics are always on the lookout for young talent. They've got a potential keeper in Sheldon Neuse, who leads the club with five home runs and 15 RBI in the Cactus League.
The 23-year-old infielder has yet to advance past Double-A, but it's safe to say he could soon be a fixture in the East Bay.
"That kid is a great hitter; he's going to be a phenomenal hitter in the game for a while," A's outfielder Matt Joyce said, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Just a natural hitter, fun to watch hit. Take notice, for sure."
Seattle Mariners: 1B Dan Vogelbach
Presumed Seattle Mariners starting first baseman Ryon Healy, an offseason acquisition, is working his way back from hand surgery. That opens the door for Dan Vogelbach.
The powerful 25-year-old has yet to stick in the big leagues after brief auditions in 2016 and 2017, but he's raking this spring to a .415 average and 1.392 OPS.
Once he's fully healthy, the M's will give Healy a long look. In the meantime, Vogelbach has a legitimate shot at making the Opening Day roster.
Texas Rangers: OF Shin-Soo Choo
Texas Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo made $20 million in each of the last two seasons. He produced a .242 average and .756 OPS in an injury-marred 2016 and a .262 average and .780 OPS in 2017.
Needless to say, the 35-year-old hasn't given Texas its money's worth.
Signs point to a comeback this spring, as Choo has gone 11-for-31 with three doubles and a pair of home runs.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: RHP Lucas Giolito
For all the justifiable hype surrounding flame-throwing Chicago White Sox prospect Michael Kopech, another young right-hander may be closer to impacting the ChiSox's rotation.
Through 11.1 spring innings, Lucas Giolito has struck out 13 and held opponents to a .200 average.
The 23-year-old was the 16th overall pick by the Washington Nationals in 2012 but has hit some speed bumps on his road to the majors. Now, he sounds confident.
"Can't wait to get the season started," Giolito said, per MLB.com's Richard Justice.
Cleveland Indians: C Francisco Mejia
Francisco Mejia will begin the 2018 season in the minor leagues for the Cleveland Indians. That's not for lack of spring production.
Before being assigned to minor league camp, Mejia hit .421 with two doubles and two home runs in 11 games. At some point soon, he'll supplant Cleveland's experienced but light-hitting catching duo of Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes.
Or he could make the jump as an outfielder, where he'll apparently get reps in the minors, as manager Terry Francona outlined, per Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com.
"I told him, 'Look we have Perez and Gomes. Do the math,'" Francona said, per Hoynes. "He's such an advanced hitter. And if he's able to play another position and there's an injury, he could find himself not only in the big leagues but playing."
Detroit Tigers: RHP Buck Farmer
The rebuilding Detroit Tigers are looking for help anywhere they can find it. Enter Buck Farmer.
The 27-year-old was a fifth-round pick by the Tigers in 2013 and has seen limited MLB action in each of the past four seasons. This spring, he's logged nine shutout innings with 10 strikeouts and made a case for a spot in Detroit's Opening Day bullpen.
"We knew he had a great arm," manager Ron Gardenhire said, per Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. "He's pounding the strike zone and working ahead and all those things we like to see."
Kansas City Royals: 1B Ryan O'Hearn
An eighth-round pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2014, Ryan O'Hearn ascended to Triple-A in 2017, where he hit 18 home runs in 114 games.
This spring, the 24-year-old has five homers, a triple and four doubles in 17 games, good for a 1.618 OPS.
He's unlikely to crack K.C.'s 25-man roster with Lucas Duda penciled in at first and the outfield set left to right with Jorge Soler, Alex Gordon and Jon Jay.
That said, look for O'Hearn to debut in northwestern Missouri before long.
Minnesota Twins: LHP Gabriel Moya
At age 23, Gabriel Moya is knocking on the door of the Minnesota Twins bullpen.
The left-hander debuted last season with Minnesota. This spring, he's racked up nine strikeouts in nine innings while yielding one earned run and holding opponents to a .188 average.
"I see [guts] and heart. I see a guy who's not scared. At a young age, that's pretty good," said Twins bullpen coach Eddie Guardado, per Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "Half the battle is going out there and believing in your stuff. And he believes in it."
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: C Chance Sisco
Caleb Joseph will begin the 2018 season as the Baltimore Orioles' starting catcher. But Chance Sisco, MLB.com's No. 3 Orioles prospect, has made his case this spring as the club's catcher of the future.
Sisco has 11 hits in 28 at-bats, including four doubles, a triple and a home run. The 23-year-old has little left to prove in the minors and could open the season as Joseph's backup in Baltimore.
If he keeps hitting like he has in the exhibition slate, that designation won't last long.
Boston Red Sox: RHP Marcus Walden
There may not be a place for Marcus Walden in the Boston Red Sox's Opening Day bullpen, but the 29-year-old has opened eyes this spring.
In 10 innings, Walden has fanned 11 while posting a 0.90 ERA.
"To see a kid like that come in here and throw the ball the way he did, that was cool to watch," manager Alex Cora said of Walden in February, per Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald.
"Kid," in this case, is a relative term. But don't be surprised if Walden, who has yet to make his MLB debut, gets an audition in Boston's 'pen this season.
New York Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia
How can a six-time All-Star and Cy Young Award winner be a revelation in spring training? By reinventing himself.
CC Sabathia is no longer a dominant pitcher who can blow hitters away. At age 37, however, the lefty is leaning on all his pitches to be effective. After inking a one-year, $10 million deal with the New York Yankees this winter, he's posted a 1.50 ERA with four strikeouts and one walk in six innings.
"I think he's a great athlete," manager Aaron Boone said, per Dan Martin of the New York Post. "So for being such a big guy, he's so repeatable with his delivery that I just think he's gotten now really comfortable with how to pitch with the stuff he has and he sequences really [well]. It allows him to throw any pitch any time for a strike."
Tampa Bay Rays: LHP Blake Snell
After wobbling early last season and getting sent down to the minors in May, Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Blake Snell has come into spring with a chip on his shoulder. So far, it's serving him well.
The 25-year-old left-hander has struck out 19 in 11.2 exhibition innings while allowing just two earned runs and holding opposing hitters to a .146 average.
"I know how good I am," Snell said, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. "I don't feel I've showed it at all. I had an OK second half [in 2017]. I know I'm way better than that. So it's just more personal."
Toronto Blue Jays: OF Curtis Granderson
Curtis Granderson turned 37 on March 16. He hit a scant .212 last season between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers. It would be easy to assume his days as an everyday MLB outfielder were over.
Not so fast.
This spring, Granderson has gone 10-for-30 with two doubles, two triples and four home runs for the Toronto Blue Jays. As long as he keeps sipping from the fountain of youth, he should get regular reps in Toronto's outfield.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Zack Godley
Zack Godley cracked the Arizona Diamondbacks rotation last season and was a significant contributor to the Snakes' postseason push. This spring, the 27-year-old righty appears primed to build on his success.
Godley has fanned 15 through 13.1 innings while holding hitters to a .152 average.
"The one thing that he doesn't have this year is that he's not going to be a secret," manager Terry Lovullo said, per Craig Grialou of Arizona Sports.
Colorado Rockies: OF David Dahl
After missing the 2017 season with a rib injury, David Dahl got off to a slow start this spring for the Colorado Rockies.
He's come on strong, however, and now leads the club with five home runs and 16 RBI this spring. Suddenly, the 23-year-old looks like a factor in the Rockies' crowded outfield.
Ian Desmond, Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez are penciled in from left to right, but Dahl could muscle his way into the picture before long.
Los Angeles Dodgers: OF Matt Kemp
They say you can't go home again. Matt Kemp apparently wants to try.
Through 15 spring contests, the 33-year-old outfielder is hitting .317 with two doubles and four home runs. After ho-hum stints with the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves, he's back with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he enjoyed his glory days from 2006 to 2014.
This winter, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times noted, "the Dodgers acquired [Kemp] from the [Braves] for accounting purposes, bringing him back in a salary-driven swap so the team might avoid paying a luxury tax this year."
Now, Kemp has a shot to begin 2018 as the Dodgers' starting left fielder. Thus far, he's earned it.
San Diego Padres: OF Jose Pirela
Outfielder Jose Pirela was a bright spot for the rebuilding San Diego Padres last season, hitting .288 with 10 home runs after a June call-up.
This spring, the 28-year-old looks like he plans to build on that success.
In 16 games, Pirela is hitting .436 for the Friars with three doubles, a triple and two home runs.
"He plays the way you want everyone to play," manager Andy Green said, per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I absolutely love it."
San Francisco Giants: 1B Kyle Jensen
The San Francisco Giants need power after finishing last in MLB in home runs in 2017.
Kyle Jensen provided pop this spring, as he led the club with five home runs in 27 at-bats. The 29-year-old Bay Area native was sent to minor league camp and will likely begin the season at Triple-A.
He's blocked at first base by Brandon Belt and hasn't seen big league action since 2016 with the D-backs. Still, don't be surprised if he gets a call at some point from the homer-starved Giants.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: OF Ian Happ
After a breakout 2017 season, Ian Happ is making a strong case to be the Chicago Cubs' everyday center fielder in 2018.
The 23-year-old is hitting .342 this spring and leads the Cubbies with five home runs. He'll have to compete for time in center with Albert Almora Jr., but right now he looks like the best choice for manager Joe Maddon.
"I feel comfortable swinging the bat; I'm seeing the ball well and just having a lot of quality at-bats, feeling really comfortable in center field too," said Happ, per Larry Hawley of WGNTV.com.
Cincinnati Reds: OF Scott Schebler
Scott Schebler cracked 30 home runs for the Cincinnati Reds in 2017 but also posted a pedestrian .307 on-base percentage.
The 27-year-old is raking this spring, with 17 hits in 33 at-bats, including five doubles and three home runs.
He's drawn only three walks, suggesting his on-base numbers might not vastly improve, but he's clearly a key piece for the rebuilding Reds.
Milwaukee Brewers: 1B Ji-Man Choi
There probably isn't a place on the Milwaukee Brewers' 25-man roster for Ji-Man Choi. The South Korean first baseman is certainly making an impression, however.
In 19 spring contests, Choi sports a .419 average with three doubles, a triple and three home runs.
The 26-year-old will likely head to Triple-A Colorado Springs, but Milwaukee should call him up if an injury or underperformance opens up a spot.
Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Starling Marte
An All-Star in 2016, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte tumbled last season amidst an 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension.
This spring was his shot at rehabilitation, and he's seized it.
Through 37 exhibition at-bats, the 29-year-old leads the Bucs with 15 hits, including three doubles, a triple and three home runs.
"I'm coming into this season with a brand-new mentality," Marte said, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "It's a mentality to help my team like never before, to be the best teammate I can be and to be healthy to continue to be the best Marte that I am."
St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright
Adam Wainwright is a 36-year-old pitcher coming off elbow surgery. He posted a 5.11 ERA last season. None of that bodes well.
Here's something that does: This spring, the erstwhile St. Louis Cardinals ace has struck out 10 in 10.2 innings with a 0.84 ERA.
He isn't going to light up any radar guns, but it looks like Wainwright could be a key piece of the Cards rotation in 2018.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: OF Ronald Acuna
Thanks (or no thanks) to MLB's service-time rules, the Atlanta Braves reassigned outfielder Ronald Acuna to minor league camp. It won't be long before we see the top prospect in the big leagues.
The 20-year-old hit .432 with four home runs and four stolen bases in the Grapefruit League and looked major league-ready.
As MLB.com's Mark Bowman noted, the Braves will have to keep Acuna in the minors until at least April 13 to maintain another season of club control. Expect to see Acuna in Atlanta around April 14.
Miami Marlins: OF Derek Dietrich
The Miami Marlins aren't a good team for players hoping to make the playoffs in 2018, but they're a great team for players looking for playing time.
Case in point: Derek Dietrich, who made his MLB debut with the Fish last season. This spring, the 28-year-old is hitting .342 with four home runs and 10 RBI. He's primed for an expanded role.
"I think Derek has gotten to the point where he finally started to believe in himself and what he was doing and didn't need to make changes all the time," manager Don Mattingly said, per Craig Davis of the Sun-Sentinel.
New York Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard
The fate of the 2018 New York Mets rests on the health of their starting pitching. More specifically, they need Noah Syndergaard to be Thor once again.
Through 20 exhibition innings, Syndergaard looks like a Norse god with 23 strikeouts and a 1.35 ERA. After he missed most of last season to injury, that's a welcome development for the Amazin's.
New manager Mickey Callaway is encouraging his hard-throwing stud to utilize more offspeed offerings.
"If he can mix that slower pitch in at times and get hitters off all the hard stuff, there's no telling what he can do," Callaway said, per Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post.
Philadelphia Phillies: INF Scott Kingery
Scott Kingery, the Philadelphia Phillies' top position-player prospect according to MLB.com and the eyeball test, has lit up the Grapefruit League.
The 23-year-old sports a .378 average with three home runs and has capably played second base, third base and the outfield.
"Based on his skill set, I think he could play, legitimately, anywhere on the diamond and be just fine," manager Gabe Kapler said, per Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I don't think there's much that he can't do on a baseball field athletically."
Washington Nationals: RHP Erick Fedde
Because he has minor league options remaining, Erick Fedde will likely begin the season at Triple-A.
That said, the 25-year-old right-hander has shown he deserves a spot on the Washington Nationals staff with a 2.84 spring ERA and 10 strikeouts in 12.2 innings.
The 18th overall pick by the Nats in 2014, Fedde underwent Tommy John surgery in May of that year. Almost four years later, he's on the precipice of big things.
"I feel great right now," he said, per Pete Kerzel of MASNSports.com. "Healthy, fresh. For sure, I'm feeling the best me."
All statistics current as of Tuesday and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.