All 30 MLB Teams' Blueprint to a Perfect 2016 Spring Training
For the most part, the MLB preseason is a time for established players to shake off the rust and the manager to decide who fills the handful of open spots on the 25-man roster.
However, teams focus on a few key areas in particular; it's sort of a blueprint to preseason success, if you will, and those are what the following article will zero in on.
We chose one player (in some cases two) who applies to each of the following categories:
- Health: The key player either recovering from an offseason injury/surgery or an oft-injured player to keep an eye on. The hope here is that he will avoid any setbacks or stay healthy.
- Rebound: The key player coming off a down season. Ideally, he'll turn in a big spring performance and build some confidence heading into a potential bounce-back year.
- Prospect: The prospect in big league camp who is capable of making the biggest impact this coming season or is expected to fill a key role on the Opening Day roster. A young player who looks like he belongs in the spring can certainly give the team some added confidence in him heading into the year.
- Newcomer: The one new addition everyone will be watching this spring. Not necessarily the top player the team added, though in many cases they are one and the same.
Think of this as a quick overview of what to watch for this spring.
If a team's respective health question mark, rebound candidate, prospect contributor and key newcomer can all walk away with positive spring performances, it may be as close to a perfect spring as any team can hope for.
Health: SP Patrick Corbin
Patrick Corbin returned from Tommy John surgery July 4, pitching to a 3.60 ERA and 1.271 WHIP in 16 starts. However, he was an All-Star prior to the injury and appeared to be a front-line arm in the making, and another year removed from the operation could mean a big season so long as he stays healthy.
Rebound: RF Yasmany Tomas
A six-year, $68.5 million deal meant plenty of hype for Yasmany Tomas as he made the jump after starring in Cuba, but a .707 OPS and minus-1.3 WAR left him well short of expectations as a rookie. Now that Arizona has traded Ender Inciarte, the team will be counting on the 25-year-old to be a part of the everyday lineup.
Prospect: SP Archie Bradley
For the past two years, Archie Bradley has been expected to be a key piece of the rotation. Injuries have kept that from happening, though, and he still carries his rookie eligibility as a result. The back of the staff is up in the air, so don't be surprised if he gets an early opportunity once again.
Newcomer: SP Zack Greinke
Signing Zack Greinke to front a rotation that desperately needed an ace was a big move in itself for the Diamondbacks, but signing him away from a pair of division rivals in the Dodgers and Giants made it that much sweeter. All eyes will be on him the first time he takes the mound this spring.
Health: SP/RP Mike Foltynewicz
Hard-throwing Mike Foltynewicz was sidelined last September with what was deemed a "potentially fatal blood clot," and he could begin the season on the disabled list as a result, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com. He posted a 5.71 ERA in 86.2 innings of work last year and could work his way into the rotation once he's healthy.
Rebound: SP Julio Teheran
Julio Teheran was an All-Star in 2014 when he went 14-13 with a 2.89 ERA and 1.081 WHIP, but the young right-hander took a step back with a 4.04 ERA and 1.306 WHIP in 2015. The 25-year-old still has plenty of time to get back on track, and if he does, he could wind up being a valuable trade chip.
Prospect: SP Tyrell Jenkins
The Atlanta Braves have added a bevy of pitching prospects to the organization in recent years thanks to a number of blockbuster trades, and while he may not have the highest ceiling of that group, right-hander Tyrell Jenkins could be the first to arrive.
Newcomer: SS Erick Aybar
Replacing a fan favorite and arguably the best defensive player in the game in Andrelton Simmons will be no easy task for Erick Aybar. The 32-year-old had a down season of sorts last year with a .639 OPS and a 2.3 WAR, but as a free-agent-to-be, he could turn himself into a valuable trade chip with a strong start to the year.
Health: SP/RP Dylan Bundy
Tommy John surgery in June 2013 and shoulder inflammation last year have kept Dylan Bundy from pitching in the majors since he shot through the minors and debuted as a 19-year-old in 2012. He took part in the team's minicamp last month and was reportedly in a "great place" physically, according to Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun.
Rebound: C Matt Wieters
Returning from Tommy John surgery, Matt Wieters was sidelined to start the year and was never able to get into any sort of rhythm once he did finally take the field. He made the somewhat surprising decision to accept his qualifying offer, and the Orioles will hope for an improvement over the 0.8 WAR he tallied in 75 games.
Prospect: OF Hyun-soo Kim
Looking for a low-cost solution to upgrading their corner outfield situation, the Orioles signed Hyun-soo Kim to a two-year, $7 million deal. The 28-year-old hit .326/.438/.541 with 28 home runs and 121 RBI last season, and while his power may not translate at this level, his on-base skills should make him a solid contributor.
Newcomer: 1B/OF Mark Trumbo
Mark Trumbo ranks 14th in the majors with 131 home runs since the start of the 2011 season, and he will be playing in a hitter's park for the first time in his career after being acquired in a trade with the Mariners. He's never going to provide much in the way of batting average or on-base percentage, but a career year in the power department is a real possibility.
Boston Red Sox
Health: SP Clay Buchholz
Clay Buchholz has failed to make over 20 starts in three of the past five seasons, including last year when a flexor strain limited him to 113.1 innings. He pitched to a 3.26 ERA (2.68 FIP) when he was healthy and is still capable of making an impact if he can stay on the field. Therefore, his health will certainly be an X-factor this winter.
Rebound: 1B Hanley Ramirez and 3B Pablo Sandoval
The Red Sox spent $183 million to sign Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval last winter, and they contributed a combined 29 home runs, 100 RBI and a minus-2.2 WAR. If nothing else, it will be hard for that duo to be worse in 2016.
Prospect: SP Brian Johnson
He's not the top prospect in a deep Boston system, but left-hander Brian Johnson might make the biggest impact of any Red Sox rookie this coming season. The 25-year-old went 9-6 with a 2.53 ERA and 1.104 WHIP in Triple-A last year, and he appears to be the next man up if a starter goes down with an injury.
Newcomer: SP David Price
All of last season, the big storyline for the Red Sox was that they needed an ace to lead their starting rotation, and they finally found one this winter when they signed David Price to a seven-year, $217 million deal. The team also added Craig Kimbrel and Carson Smith to bolster the relief corps, but Price will be the main attraction this spring.
Health: RP Neil Ramirez
Neil Ramirez was a stud out of the bullpen in 2014, posting a 1.44 ERA, 1.053 WHIP and 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings over 50 appearances, but shoulder issues limited him to just 19 games last year. The one-two punch of Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon will once again anchor the pen, but Ramirez could give the Cubs a third elite arm if healthy.
Rebound: SP Jason Hammel
A stud in the first half when he had a 2.86 ERA and 0.945 WHIP in 17 starts, Jason Hammel fell off dramatically after the All-Star break with a 5.10 ERA and 1.493 WHIP over his final 14 starts. The John Lackey signing pushes Hammel back to the No. 5 spot in the rotation, and a return to his first-half form would make the Cubs' rotation dominant.
Prospect: RP Carl Edwards Jr.
Moved to relief last season in an effort to expedite his arrival in the majors and help counter his control issues, Carl Edward Jr. made five appearances out of the Chicago bullpen in September and October. He has electric stuff, as evidenced by his career 11.4 K/9 rate in the minors, and he could really emerge as a key piece of the relief corps this season.
Newcomer: CF Jason Heyward
The Cubs needed better on-base skills at the top of the batting order and improved defense in the outfield as they sought a replacement for Dexter Fowler in center field, and they went big with their addition of Jason Heyward on an eight-year, $184 million deal.
Chicago White Sox
Health: RP Nate Jones
Limited to 19 games last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Nate Jones showed enough before the injury to earn a three-year, $8 million extension this winter. His 97.6 mph average fastball velocity was a good sign he was back to normal. Expect him to pitch the eighth inning ahead of David Robertson.
Rebound: 1B/DH Adam LaRoche
The White Sox signed Adam LaRoche on the heels of a season when he posted an .817 OPS with 26 home runs and 92 RBI in hopes he could provide some protection for Jose Abreu. Instead, his OPS fell to .634, and he managed only 12 home runs and 44 RBI, so he'll certainly be looking to rebound.
Prospect: SS Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson still has work to do defensively if he's going to stick at the shortstop position, but his .312/.350/.429 line with 38 extra-base hits and 49 stolen bases in Double-A during the 2015 season speaks to the kind of impact he's expected to make offensively. Tyler Saladino is not the answer at shortstop, so Anderson should have every chance to play his way to the majors this year.
Newcomer: 3B Todd Frazier
It cost the White Sox a trio of quality young players in Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson and Micah Johnson, but there is little question Todd Frazier will provide a huge upgrade at third base. The position was a disaster last year, producing a .226/.277/.345 line with 13 home runs and 50 RBI.
Health: SP Homer Bailey and C Devin Mesoraco
Homer Bailey won't be ready for the start of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last May, but he's targeting a mid-May return, according to C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
As for catcher Devin Mesoraco, he was sidelined with a hip issue that eventually required surgery, which effectively ended his season in May. He expects to be at full health heading into spring training, according to another piece from Rosecrans.
Rebound: RF Jay Bruce
Jay Bruce has been a shell of his former self the past two seasons, hitting a combined .222/.288/.406 and posting a minus-0.4 WAR. Those struggles—combined with a deep free-agent outfield market—have kept him from being dealt this winter, but a return to 30-homer form could make him a valuable trade chip.
Prospect: LF Jesse Winker
The left field position is wide open for the Reds heading into spring training, as a number of unproven options will be vying for playing time. In the big picture, they're all just keeping the spot warm for top prospect Jesse Winker, who hit .282/.390/.433 in Double-A last year and should take over at some point in 2016.
Newcomer: OF Scott Schebler
Winker may be the long-term answer in left field, but another prospect, Scott Schebler, looks like the favorite to win the job out of spring training. Acquired from the Dodgers in the Todd Frazier deal, Schebler has a career .828 OPS in the minors with a pair of 20-plus-homer seasons.
Health: LF Michael Brantley
Michael Brantley underwent surgery on his right shoulder at the beginning of November and was expected to be ready for "game activity" in five to six months, according to an Associated Press report (via ESPN). He'll resume baseball activities at some point during spring training, and the team will keep a close eye on his progress.
Rebound: C Yan Gomes
The AL Silver Slugger winner in 2014, Yan Gomes struggled through a tough 2015 season with a .659 OPS, 12 home runs and 45 RBI in 95 games. An MCL sprain cost him time in the first half, and rushing back from that injury likely contributed to his struggles.
Prospect: CF Tyler Naquin
Fellow prospects Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier rank higher in the organization, but another former first-round pick in Tyler Naquin could be the first to arrive in the majors. He hit .300/.381/.446 while reaching Triple-A last year, and a strong spring could earn him the center field job with a relatively clear path to playing time.
Newcomer: 1B Mike Napoli
As usual, it was a fairly quiet offseason for the Indians, as they are never one to break the bank in free agency. They did manage to sign Mike Napoli to a one-year, $7 million deal, and if he regains his power stroke, he could be the right-handed power bat they've been seeking the past few years.
Health: SP Tyler Chatwood
Tyler Chatwood quietly had a good season for the Rockies in 2013, posting a 3.15 ERA (142 ERA+) over 20 starts for a 3.4 WAR. He underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2014 and spent all of last year recovering, but he could be an X-factor for a team that desperately needs one on the pitching side of things.
Rebound: SP Tyler Matzek
Tyler Matzek was also quietly productive in 2014, and he looked like a potential breakout candidate after going 4-3 with a 1.90 ERA and a shutout in his final seven starts. Instead, control issues and performance anxiety derailed his 2015 season, and he'll be looking to get his career back on track while competing for a rotation spot this spring.
Prospect: C Tom Murphy
With Nick Hundley only signed through the 2016 season, the Rockies will no doubt want to get a long look at Tom Murphy at some point this year. The 24-year-old backstop posted an .804 OPS with 26 doubles and 20 home runs in Double-A and Triple-A last season, before debuting with three home runs in 35 at-bats down the stretch.
Newcomer: RP Jake McGee
The Rockies converted just 36 of 61 save chances last year, and the bullpen was the worst in the majors with a 4.70 ERA. The team added Jake McGee, Jason Motte and Chad Qualls to bolster the relief corps this winter, and McGee will take over as the closer after thriving in the Rays bullpen in recent years.
Health: SP Anibal Sanchez
After following up his AL ERA title in 2013 by pitching just 126 innings in 2014, Anibal Sanchez was sidelined again this past season with rotator cuff inflammation. He made his last start of the year on Aug. 18, but after an offseason of rest, the Tigers are hoping he can again re-emerge as a front-line arm.
Rebound: DH Victor Martinez
Victor Martinez was an absolute beast in 2014, leading the AL with a .974 OPS while hitting a career-high 32 home runs to finish second in AL MVP voting. The Tigers rewarded him with a four-year, $68 million extension, but knee issues led to a dramatic fall-off last year when he had a .667 OPS and just 11 home runs.
Prospect: SP Michael Fulmer
The key prospect acquired from the New York Mets in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline, Michael Fulmer went 10-3 with a 2.24 ERA and 1.075 WHIP while reaching Double-A last year. Daniel Norris is the favorite for the No. 5 starter spot, but expect Fulmer to see time in the majors at some point.
Newcomer: LF Justin Upton
Having already signed Jordan Zimmermann to a contract north of $100 million, the Tigers continued their busy offseason when they added Justin Upton on a six-year, $132.75 million deal. Comerica Park is not exactly a hitter's paradise, but Upton had a good year playing half of his games in Petco Park last year, and he should have plenty of protection in the middle of the lineup.
Health: SP Scott Feldman
Scott Feldman turned in a solid first season with the Astros in 2014, but right shoulder issues limited him to 18 starts last year. He's gone 25-29 with a 3.83 ERA in 77 starts over the past three seasons, but he'll likely enter camp battling for the No. 5 starter spot after the Astros signed Doug Fister in free agency.
Rebound: CF Carlos Gomez
The difference a full season of Carlos Gomez can potentially make for the Astros offense can't be overstated. The free-agent-to-be hit just .242/.288/.383 in 149 at-bats after being acquired at the deadline last year as hamstring issues nagged him all season, but a return to health could mean a return to his previously dynamic form.
Prospect: 1B A.J. Reed
First base has been a mess for the Astros in recent years, as Jon Singleton has failed to emerge as the everyday option the organization hoped he would be. Singleton will get one last chance to win the job, but regardless he'll soon be pushed by top prospect A.J. Reed, who hit .340/.432/.612 with 34 home runs and 127 RBI between High-A and Double-A in 2015.
Newcomer: RP Ken Giles
The bullpen was significantly improved last season, but the team nonetheless made an aggressive push to add a more traditional lights-out option in the ninth inning. The Astros eventually settled on trading for Ken Giles, and after shipping five pitchers to the Phillies to acquire him—including former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel—expectations will be high.
Kansas City Royals
Health: SP Jason Vargas
Still owed $16.5 million over the next two seasons, Jason Vargas is not expected to be back until sometime in the second half as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery, according to Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star.
Rebound: SS Alcides Escobar
An All-Star for the first time in an admittedly weak AL shortstop crop, Alcides Escobar struggled in the second half, hitting just .220 with a .521 OPS. As the catalyst of the offense out of the leadoff spot, the team will be counting on Escobar to once again hit for a high enough average to offset his lack of on-base skills.
Prospect: SP Kyle Zimmer
MLB.com's Prospect Watch wrote the following:
Some teams considered Zimmer the best pitcher available in the 2012 Draft, where he went fifth overall and signed for $3 million. They Royals thought he'd reach the big leagues within two years, but elbow, biceps, lat and shoulder injuries have slowed him considerably. He pitched just 216 2/3 innings in his first four pro seasons, topping out in Double-A.
Finally healthy, he could arrive in 2016 as a key piece of either the rotation or bullpen.
Newcomer: SP Ian Kennedy
Looking to fill out the starting rotation after Johnny Cueto departed in free agency, the Royals signed workhorse Ian Kennedy to a five-year, $70 million deal. He may never repeat his Cy Young-caliber performance of 2011, but his 1,175 innings pitched the past six seasons rank 14th in the league, so if nothing else he's been durable.
Los Angeles Angels
Health: 1B Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols turned in an impressive bounce-back season in 2015, launching 40 home runs, but his status for Opening Day is in doubt after offseason foot surgery. According to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, he is still expected to resume full baseball activities in late March.
Rebound: SP Jered Weaver
After tying for the AL lead with 18 wins in 2014, Jered Weaver struggled this past season. His 4.64 ERA was the worst mark of his 10-year career and the first time he had been over 4.00 since 2008. He doesn't have the same stuff he did in his prime, but at 33 years old he is still capable of providing some quality innings alongside Garrett Richards at the top of the rotation.
Prospect: 3B Kyle Kubitza
At some point, the Angels would love nothing more than for Kyle Kubitza or Kaleb Cowart to step forward and seize the everyday third base job. With an .812 OPS in the minors and a good glove, we'll bet on Kubitza being the one who emerges as a solid contributor in 2016.
Newcomer: SS Andrelton Simmons
Acquiring shortstop Andrelton Simmons may not help the Angels offensively, considering his .256/.304/.362 career line, but what he does bring is one of the best gloves in baseball. With one Web Gem after another, it won't be long before Angels fans are enamored with their new shortstop.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Health: SP Hyun-Jin Ryu and SP Brandon McCarthy
Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder surgery) missed the entire 2015 season, and Brandon McCarthy (Tommy John) only appeared in four games. As a result the Dodgers' starting pitching depth was really put to the test.
Ryu expects to be ready for the start of the season, per Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, while McCarthy likely won't be back until midseason as he continues his recovery.
Rebound: RF Yasiel Puig
After hitting .305/.386/.502 with a 10.3 WAR during his first two years in the league, Yasiel Puig was not the same player last year, as his batting line slipped to .255/.322/.436 and he posted a 1.1 WAR. A pair of hamstring injuries played a significant role in those struggles, and a healthy season could mean a big rebound.
Prospect: SS Corey Seager
Corey Seager made such an impact last September that it's easy to forget he still carries rookie eligibility into the 2016 season. The 21-year-old hit .337/.425/.561 in 113 plate appearances, and he'll likely be the favorite for NL Rookie of the Year with a clear path to the starting shortstop job.
Newcomer: SP Kenta Maeda
As Kenta Maeda looks to become the latest Japanese ace to make the jump to the majors, he'll no doubt be one to watch this spring. He went 97-67 with a 2.39 ERA and 1.048 WHIP in eight seasons with the Hiroshima Carp, and while he may not have ace upside like Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka, he does have a chance to be a big piece of the puzzle.
Health: RF Giancarlo Stanton
Giancarlo Stanton played in a career-low 74 games last season, as a fractured hamate bone ended his season June 26. Keeping him healthy will be priority No. 1 if the Marlins hope to have any shot at contending for a playoff spot.
Rebound: SP Jarred Cosart
When the Marlins acquired Jarred Cosart in a six-player deal at the deadline in 2014, the thought was that they were adding a young, controllable arm capable of emerging as a solid No. 2 option in the rotation. Instead, his first full season with the team was a disaster, as he posted a 4.52 ERA (5.11 FIP) in 69.2 innings and spent time in the minors and on the disabled list with a vertigo issue.
Prospect: RP Kyle Barraclough
The Marlins don't have an obvious top prospect in a position to make a big impact this coming season, but keep an eye on reliever Kyle Barraclough as he looks to win a bullpen job. The 25-year-old was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in the Steve Cishek trade, and he went on to post a 2.59 ERA and 1.233 WHIP in 25 appearances with the Marlins.
Newcomer: SP Wei-Yin Chen
With Cosart failing to develop as hoped and no one else stepping up in the rotation, the Marlins turned to Wei-Yin Chen in free agency to fill their need for a No. 2 starter. Plenty of expectations will come tied to the five-year, $80 million deal he signed, and he'll be one of the biggest X-factors for the team this season.
Health: C Jonathan Lucroy and RF Ryan Braun
Jonathan Lucroy (concussion) and Ryan Braun (back surgery) will both be monitored closely this spring as they try to get ready for Opening Day. Lucroy is looking to put concussion issues behind him after a disappointing follow-up to his 2014 breakout, while Braun is "a couple weeks behind schedule" in his recovery from back surgery, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Rebound: SP Matt Garza
With two years and $25 million left on his contract, as well as a $13 million vesting option for 2018, the rebuilding Brewers are essentially stuck with Matt Garza at this point. He went 6-14 with a 5.63 ERA last season before being bumped to the bullpen late in the year, and the team would love nothing more than for him to rebuild some value and turn himself into a trade chip.
Prospect: SS Orlando Arcia
The Brewers have made it clear that top prospect Orlando Arcia will be headed to the minors to start the 2016 season, but they also made it fairly clear they expect him to arrive in the near future with the trade of incumbent Jean Segura. He should get a long look this spring.
Newcomer: 3B Will Middlebrooks and OF Rymer Liriano
A number of low-risk, high-reward additions were made to the Brewers roster this winter, and two worth keeping an eye on this spring are third baseman Will Middlebrooks and outfielder Rymer Liriano. Both are former top prospects who could benefit from a change of scenery, and Middlebrooks in particular could play his way into a starting job.
Health: CF Byron Buxton
You could also highlight Byron Buxton as the prospect to watch, but let's focus on his health issues as the big story heading into camp. With the retirement of Torii Hunter and trade of Aaron Hicks, the Twins have cleared a path for the 22-year-old in center field, but he'll need to prove he can stay on the field after a thumb injury last year was the latest in a line of ailments.
Rebound: SP Ervin Santana
Suspended 80 games for a positive performance-enhancing drug test shortly after signing a four-year, $55 million deal last winter, Ervin Santana returned to go 7-5 with a 4.00 ERA in 17 starts. He has a shot at winning the Opening Day starter nod with a strong spring, and regardless of where he's slotted in the rotation, the Twins will be counting on a productive season from him.
Prospect: SP Jose Berrios
Speaking of the rotation, top prospect Jose Berrios should get a chance to join the staff this coming year after another terrific season in the minors. The 21-year-old went 14-5 with a 2.87 ERA, 1.046 WHIP and 175 strikeouts in 166.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He could quickly emerge as the team's best starter once he gets the call.
Newcomer: 1B/DH Byung-ho Park
There is no ignoring the numbers put up by Byung-ho Park last season, even if they were in the hitter-friendly KBO. The 29-year-old hit .343/.436/.714 with 35 doubles, 53 home runs and 146 RBI, and while all of that power won't translate, he is capable of making a run at AL Rookie of the Year honors with a big debut.
New York Mets
Health: SP Zack Wheeler
As though the Mets needed any starting pitching help, the return of Zack Wheeler from Tommy John surgery will make what is already widely considered to be the best rotation in baseball even better. As of now, he's eyeing a July 1 return after undergoing the surgery last March, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN.com.
Rebound: 3B David Wright
David Wright has missed time to various injuries throughout his career, but never to the extent he did last season when spinal stenosis limited him to 38 games. He's still capable of being an impact bat, as evidenced by his .814 OPS in the 174 plate appearances he did make last year, and a healthy season could give the offense a huge boost.
Prospect: SP Steven Matz
Another player who it's hard to believe still has rookie eligibility, Steven Matz will begin the season as arguably the best No. 4 starter in baseball. He went 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA in six regular-season starts last year, and if not for a lat injury that cost him two months, he would have surely eclipsed the 50-inning limit.
Newcomer: 2B Neil Walker
Replacing a postseason hero is no easy feat, and Mets fans will almost certainly be comparing the stats of newcomer Neil Walker to the departed Daniel Murphy all season. As he enters his final year of team control, Walker could make himself a candidate for a qualifying offer next winter with a strong season.
New York Yankees
Health: 1B Mark Teixeira
The Yankees managed to stay relatively healthy last season despite a lineup that features a number of aging stars, but they did lose Mark Teixeira down the stretch to a fractured leg. With the recent news that Greg Bird will miss the entire 2016 season following shoulder surgery, the health of Teixeira becomes that much more important.
Rebound: CF Jacoby Ellsbury and LF Brett Gardner
Just how bad was the duo of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner in the second half last season?
Ellsbury hit a miserable .220 with a .593 OPS after the All-Star break, yet Gardner somehow managed to be even worse with a .206 average and .592 OPS. As catalysts atop the lineup, it goes without saying that those two will need to be much better in 2016.
Prospect: C Gary Sanchez
Brian McCann is entrenched as the starting catcher, but don't be surprised if prospect Gary Sanchez pushes him to designated hitter more in the second half. Seemingly one of the top catching prospects in baseball for the past decade, Sanchez hit .274/.330/.485 with 18 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last year, and he'll battle Austin Romine for the backup catcher job this spring.
Newcomer: RP Aroldis Chapman
The Yankees have a few intriguing newcomers on the position-player side of things in Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks, but flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman will be the big draw this spring. He joins Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances to form perhaps the best bullpen trio in baseball history.
Health: SP Henderson Alvarez
The A's took a chance on Henderson Alvarez with a one-year, $4.25 million deal in free agency. He made just four starts last year before undergoing shoulder surgery but pitched to a 2.65 ERA in 187 innings in 2014 to finish 12th in NL Cy Young voting. He's not expected to pitch until May as he continues his recovery, according to ESPN.com news services.
Rebound: C Stephen Vogt
A deserving All-Star after hitting .287/.374/.498 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI in the first half of 2015, Stephen Vogt followed that up with an awful second half in which he batted just .217/.280/.349 with four home runs and 15 RBI. Which Vogt will show up in 2016?
Prospect: SP Sean Nolin
One of the prospects acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson deal, Sean Nolin is out of minor league options, so he'll be one of the more interesting bubble guys to watch this spring. The left-hander struggled to a 5.28 ERA in six big league starts last year, but he had a 2.66 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) in Triple-A.
Newcomer: SP Rich Hill
Making his first starts since 2009, Rich Hill turned heads by going 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA, 0.655 WHIP and 36 strikeouts in 29 innings for the Boston Red Sox to close out the 2015 season. That strong finish was enough for the 35-year-old to garner plenty of attention in free agency, and he wound up landing in Oakland on a one-year, $6 million deal to serve as the No. 3 starter.
Health: SP Matt Harrison
An 18-game winner who finished eighth in AL Cy Young voting in 2012, Matt Harrison has made just nine total starts the past three seasons while dealing with significant shoulder and back injuries. The 30-year-old has at least two years and minimum of $28.4 million left on his contract, and at this point there is no clear timetable for him to return.
Rebound: SP Jeremy Hellickson and SP Charlie Morton
Looking to fill out their rotation with relatively cheap veterans who could potentially turn themselves into trade chips, the Phillies acquired Jeremy Hellickson from the Diamondbacks and Charlie Morton from the Pirates. Both guys are capable of more than they showed in 2015 and could net some decent young talent in July if they do in fact rebound.
Prospect: SS J.P. Crawford
After hitting .288/.380/.414 with 35 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases while reaching Double-A last year, J.P. Crawford remains on the fast track to Philadelphia after being taken with the No. 16 pick in the 2013 draft. It won't be long before he joins Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco as cornerstone pieces of the team's rebuild.
Newcomer: OF Tyler Goeddel
The No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 draft, Tyler Goeddel hit .279/.350/.433 with 17 doubles, 10 triples, 12 home runs and 28 stolen bases for the Rays' Double-A affiliate last season. The toolsy outfielder has a good chance of sticking on the roster, and it's not out of the question that he'll play his way into significant at-bats.
Health: SS/3B Jung Ho Kang
One of the biggest surprises of 2015, Jung Ho Kang became the first position player to make the leap from the KBO and wound up emerging as a 4.0 WAR player for the Pirates. However, his season ended abruptly on Sept. 17 when he broke his leg and tore his MCL being taken out with a slide at second base.
He's unlikely to be ready for Opening Day but could return as early as April, according to Adam Berry of MLB.com.
Rebound: 3B Josh Harrison
Josh Harrison may not be as good as the .837 OPS, 5.3 WAR player who finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting in 2014, but he's also probably better than the .717 OPS, 1.8 WAR player who was slowed by injuries last season. Where exactly he lands between those two performances remains to be seen.
Prospect: 2B Alen Hanson
With Neil Walker traded to the Mets and Jung Ho Kang sidelined to start the year, the second base position is wide-open for the Pirates heading into spring training, and prospect Alen Hanson appears to be the front-runner for the job. A career .284/.343/.444 hitter in the minors who has shown double-digit home run pop, he'll look to prove something before Kang returns and pushes Harrison from third base to second base.
Newcomer: SP Jon Niese
Looking to replace the retired A.J. Burnett and departed J.A. Happ, the Pirates acquired lefty Jon Niese from the Mets in exchange for Neil Walker. The 29-year-old will make $9 million this season, with two options totaling $21 million potentially keeping him in Pittsburgh through the 2018 season.
San Diego Padres
Health: SP Brandon Morrow
Signed to a one-year, $2.5 million deal last offseason by the Padres as one of the more intriguing buy-low options on the market, Brandon Morrow went 2-0 with a 2.73 ERA in five starts before once again dealing with shoulder issues. This time around he had to settle for a minor league deal, but a healthy season could make him an absolute steal.
Rebound: 1B Wil Myers
Moving to a new team and playing a new position in center field, Wil Myers was limited to 60 games last season while battling left wrist issues. He underwent surgery in July and returned to hit .208 in September and October combined, but with a full offseason of rest and a move to first base, he could finally deliver on his big-time offensive potential.
Prospect: SP Colin Rea
A breakout prospect last season when he went 5-4 with a 1.95 ERA and 1.003 WHIP in 101.2 innings in the minors, Colin Rea debuted in August and posted a 4.26 ERA in six starts. The back of the rotation is up in the air, and even if he doesn't break camp with the team, expect Rea to make an impact in 2016.
Newcomer: OF Jabari Blash
A Rule 5 selection out of the Mariners' organization, Jabari Blash posted a .946 OPS with 32 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last year. With Jon Jay and Melvin Upton likely to platoon in center field, Blash could play his way into the starting left field job with a strong spring.
San Francisco Giants
Health: OF Denard Span
Denard Span picked an awful time to get hurt, as his contract year was limited to 61 games by a hip injury that eventually required surgery in August. Free-agent interest was not what it was expected to be as a result, and he wound up signing a three-year, $31 million deal with the Giants. That could be the steal of the offseason if he's back to 100 percent.
Rebound: SP Matt Cain
Who knows what to expect from Matt Cain at this point, as he's made just 26 starts the past two years and not pitched particularly well when he has managed to take the mound. Not all that long ago he was one of the best pitchers in the National League, though, and a bounce-back season at the age of 31 is by no means impossible.
Prospect: SP Clayton Blackburn
Chris Heston gives the Giants a solid sixth starter option if Cain or someone else winds up missing time, but behind him it's unclear who the next man up would be. One pitcher worth watching is 23-year-old Clayton Blackburn, who went 10-4 with a 2.85 ERA and 1.293 WHIP in 123 innings in Triple-A last year.
Newcomer: SP Johnny Cueto and SP Jeff Samardzija
In desperate need of quality arms to follow Madison Bumgarner in the starting rotation, the Giants shelled out a combined $220 million to sign Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto this winter. Both pitchers come with question marks. Cueto has an injury history, and Samardzija struggled with the White Sox last year, but they're also both capable of being front-line guys.
Health: SP Hisashi Iwakuma
After originally agreeing to a three-year, $45 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hisashi Iwakuma wound up returning to the Mariners after issues popped up during his physical. He signed a one-year, $12 million deal with a pair of $10 million team options tacked on, so the Mariners are protected against potential injury.
Rebound: RP Steve Cishek
Giving Steve Cishek a two-year, $10 million deal wasn't overly surprising as the Mariners' bullpen desperately needed retooling and Cishek had a solid track record prior to last year. What was surprising was that they immediately named him the closer, considering he converted just four of nine save chances in 2015 and quickly lost his job after a pair of 30-save seasons.
At least the team acquired Joaquin Benoit as an insurance policy.
Prospect: OF Boog Powell
Acquired from the Rays in the Nate Karns-Brad Miller/Logan Morrison trade, outfielder Boog Powell hit .295/.385/.392 and reached Triple-A last season. The Mariners are counting on Leonys Martin to rebound in center field, but if he struggles, Powell could end up making an impact there.
Newcomer: 1B Adam Lind
There will be no shortage of newcomers in camp for the Mariners as new general manager Jerry DiPoto wasted little time overhauling the roster, but we'll call Adam Lind the one to watch. The 32-year-old will need a platoon partner as he can't hit left-handed pitching, but he has a chance to be the most productive Mariners first baseman in years.
St. Louis Cardinals
Health: C Yadier Molina
Yadier Molina played through a thumb injury down the stretch and underwent surgery immediately after the Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs. That first surgery did not heal properly, though, and a second operation was required that is expected to sideline him for most of spring training, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.
That obviously makes his status for Opening Day at least questionable.
Rebound: SP Adam Wainwright
A torn Achilles limited Adam Wainwright to just 28 innings during the regular season last year, but he returned to pitch well out of the bullpen in September and into the postseason. He'll return to his spot atop the rotation in 2016, and he should be among the favorites for NL Comeback Player of the Year as he looks to return to ace form at the age of 34.
Prospect: C Mike Ohlman
Acquired from the Orioles for cash considerations last spring, catcher Mike Ohlman hit .273/.356/.418 with 17 doubles, 12 home runs and 69 RBI in Double-A last year. With the health of Molina up in the air and limited catcher prospects in the organization, the 25-year-old is worth watching.
Newcomer: SP Mike Leake
The Cardinals whiffed on signing both Jason Heyward and David Price before finally making a big addition this offseason, inking right-hander Mike Leake to a five-year, $80 million deal. That addressed the need for a starter that arose following the news that Lance Lynn would be lost for the year to Tommy John surgery.
Tampa Bay Rays
Health: SP Alex Cobb
An emerging star for the Rays after going 21-12 with a 2.82 ERA and 1.143 WHIP in 49 combined starts between 2013 and 2014, right-hander Alex Cobb missed all of the 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March. He should return at some point during the first half, provided he doesn't suffer any setbacks.
Rebound: SP Matt Moore
Another Tommy John casualty, Matt Moore went under the knife early in the 2014 season and didn't return until July 2 last year. An All-Star in 2013, he struggled shaking off the rust to go 3-4 with a 5.43 ERA and 1.540 WHIP in 12 starts before being demoted to the minors. Another year removed from the operation could mean a solid rebound performance.
Prospect: SP Blake Snell
Keeping with the pitching theme, left-hander Blake Snell is coming off a brilliant season that netted him Minor League Player of the Year honors. The 23-year-old went 15-4 with a 1.41 ERA, 1.022 WHIP and 10.9 K/9 and could force his way into the big league rotation if he keeps that up to start the 2016 season.
Newcomer: RF Corey Dickerson
Acquired from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for reliever Jake McGee, outfielder Corey Dickerson will look to provide some protection for Evan Longoria in the middle of the lineup. His home (1.085 OPS) and road (.695) splits during his time in Colorado are troubling, and the Rays are counting on his non-Coors Field splits improving.
Health: SP Yu Darvish
The Rangers were dealt a huge blow last spring when they lost Yu Darvish for the year to Tommy John surgery, but they managed to hang around and eventually make a late-season run to reach the postseason.
"I have no problems at all right now, I have no concerns at all," Darvish told the Associated Press (via ESPN.com) on Tuesday.
He's expected to be back in mid-May or early June.
Rebound: 3B/OF Joey Gallo
Calling a 22-year-old who made his big league debut last year a rebound candidate may seem strange, but something will have to change if Joey Gallo is going to live up to his potential. The struggles at the MLB level were to be expected, but a 39.5 percent strikeout rate in Triple-A is more than a little bit concerning.
Prospect: OF Nomar Mazara and OF Lewis Brinson
On the other hand, outfielders Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson are both coming off terrific seasons in the minors and continue on the fast track to the majors. The inevitable Josh Hamilton injury should open up one outfield spot, and at some point in the near future expect those two to be flanking Delino DeShields Jr. in the outfield, with Shin-Soo Choo moving to designated hitter.
Newcomer: RP Tony Barnette
The Rangers haven't made many significant additions this offseason, but reliever Tony Barnette comes with an interesting backstory. Originally drafted by the Diamondbacks, Barnette moved to the Japanese League before ever reaching the majors. Now, the 32-year-old is returning to the states after establishing himself as one of the top closers in Japan, saving 41 games with a 1.29 ERA and 0.894 WHIP last year.
Toronto Blue Jays
Health: 2B Devon Travis
Before Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor burst onto the scene, it was Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis who appeared to be the AL Rookie of the Year front-runner. However, his season was halted by a shoulder strain that eventually required surgery in November. He's currently targeting a mid-May return, according to Mike Johnston of Sportsnet.
Rebound: LF Michael Saunders
After trading Ben Revere to the Nationals for reliever Drew Storen, the Blue Jays appear to be giving the left field job to Michael Saunders. The 29-year-old played just nine games last season after suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee, but he had a .743 OPS with the Mariners from 2012 to 2014.
Prospect: CF Dalton Pompey
Dalton Pompey broke camp as the starting center fielder last year but was sent down in early May with a .193/.264/.337 line. He returned in September after hitting .307/.383/.421 in the minors, and while his debut was disappointing, the 23-year-old still has a chance to be a big part of the team's future.
Newcomer: SP J.A. Happ
No deadline acquisition pitched better than J.A. Happ down the stretch, as he went 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA, 1.026 WHIP and 9.8 K/9 in 11 starts with the Pirates. That earned him a three-year, $36 million contract from the Blue Jays in free agency, and the team will count on him to help anchor the rotation alongside Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey and Marco Estrada.
Health: 3B Anthony Rendon
After finishing fifth in NL MVP voting in 2014, Anthony Rendon looked like a superstar in the making for the Nationals. That may still be the case, but 2015 was essentially a lost season as knee and quad injuries limited him to 80 games and he was not the same player when he was on the field. A full offseason of recovery time should have him back at 100 percent, but he'll need to avoid further injury this spring.
Rebound: SP Stephen Strasburg
On the surface, the 2015 season was a fairly mediocre one for Stephen Strasburg, who went 11-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 23 starts. However, he was an absolute stud in his final 10 starts, going 6-2 with a 1.90 ERA, 0.754 WHIP and 12.5 K/9. That strong finish, coupled with the fact that he's entering a contract year, could mean big things in 2016.
Prospect: SS Trea Turner
Right-hander Lucas Giolito is the Nationals' top prospect and could arrive late in 2016, but shortstop Trea Turner is far more likely to make a significant impact this season. The team's decision to sign Daniel Murphy and Stephen Drew means he'll start the year in the minors, but it may not take long for him take over as the starting shortstop and push Danny Espinosa back to a utility role.
Newcomer: CF Ben Revere
In search of a leadoff hitter and center fielder to replace Denard Span, the Nationals acquired a remarkably similar player in Ben Revere. The 27-year-old has two years of team control left, and he's hit .303 with 142 stolen bases over the past four years.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.