By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
Spring training is so close now you can taste it. First pitchers and catchers and then a full- on schedule of way too many baseball games that don’t count.
As we count down, it’s time to start talking about the topics that will draw the most attention all spring long. Our writers will pick 4 each in this week’s One Topic –Two Takes.
What are the 4 most interesting things you’ll be watching in spring training?
I like the idea of spring training, the idea that it’s about to begin. But I have never been that enamored with following the games. It’s just too difficult to evaluate individual performance because the variables and objectives are so different from the regular season.
Spring training means April is near. My concentration is squarely on the guys who are not locks for the Opening Day roster beginning with:
How polarizing can one player be? The man has been on a seemingly endless roller coaster ride and everyone is kind of waiting for it to run right off the tracks.
I have wished and hoped that Bruce would see himself as a difference maker, because he has that ability. It will be intriguing to watch and to see his level of commitment. He may view it as make or break time, but putting too much pressure on himself won’t be the way to go.
Dixon knows he can play and it must be infuriating for him wondering how close he is to being one of the future cornerstones somewhere in the infield. Is it a matter of when? Is it a matter of where?
His continued development and maturity will earn my attention.
I felt bad for Shane last season. The way he began the season was astonishing really. It appeared like we had really fleeced the Yankees.
He deserves a nice boring spring without a care in the world. He’s got great stuff and has shown he can pitch. Looking forward to watching a very relaxed and effective Shane Greene heading into the regular season.
I have never seen this guy pitch anywhere but YouTube, but nonetheless I am really excited. What is incredible is the pure volume and level of pitching talent that has emerged from the Mets minor league system.
That lineage makes Fulmer maybe the most fascinating player to watch this spring.
As it turns out, I will be headed to Lakeland next month to take in some games, badger Omar Vizquel for an autographed baseball for my father-in-law (his favorite player) and look for intrigue. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in Washington too long, but I find the stories-behind-the stories more interesting to follow.
Who will get regular playing time in the outfield and who will end up in the bullpen are stories that will develop in earnest during the actual season, not in spring training. In the meantime, I want to see more about the team’s preparation, mindset and sense of urgency before they head north, which include:
Last year, the Tigers were 2nd in most offensive categories and last in baserunning which was part of the reason they ranked 10th in scoring those runs. Just think how many of those 24 games they lost by 1-run (average 4/month or 1/week) could have been won if they were better on the basepaths.
This has been a huge issue for 3 years now and only getting worse so I expect Gibby to be out there with nothing less than a whip.
Speaking of which……. I want to see how large and in-charge he is while coaching baserunning and stealing. Will he be full of energy and demonstrative on the field? How will the players react to working with him? And how involved will he be in the dugout during the spring training games?
All of this may give us a hint of his future in baseball – and not just in front of the TV monitor.
If anyone is going to come back with something to prove this year, it’s Victor. He is one of those guys who will achieve beyond the restrictions of bad knees. I’m looking forward to seeing him punish opposing pitchers and having more time to re-focus on leading this team.
I just hope he balances his passion with common sense and caution.
Make no mistake, Scott Boras will take Iggy to free agency if the Tigers don’t trade him at the end of 2017 in order to get maximum value. The Tigers need to rebuild their stripped farm system and Iggy could bring a treasure trove of well-ranked prospects but Dixon Machado’s development will be the key.
It will be interesting to see how much playing time Machado gets – and when he finally gets sent down to AAA. Because as much as we’d like to see him play, his advancement depends upon regular time…….in Toledo.