It could be a veteran player attempting a career renaissance. Or a young player hustling his way into hearts and onto a roster. You can find both on virtually every team, and this is one of the reasons we love Spring Training.Possibilities are endless when the skies are clear and
It could be a veteran player attempting a career renaissance. Or a young player hustling his way into hearts and onto a roster. You can find both on virtually every team, and this is one of the reasons we love Spring Training.
Possibilities are endless when the skies are clear and the sunshine bright, and almost every baseball fan has a checklist of players worth keeping an eye on.
Here are 10:
1. Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH/OF, Angels
Ohtani does not belong on this list. If he were, say, baseball's hottest pitching prospect -- and he is -- he'd belong. Or if Ohtani were one of the most intriguing hitting prospects -- and he's that, too -- he'd belong. Because he's trying to do both and become baseball's first two-way player in 99 years (See Ruth, Babe, 1919 Red Sox), he's an entirely separate category. And we cannot wait to see how it plays out.
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2. Manny Machado, SS, Orioles
Machado is really doing it, isn't he? After spending six seasons at third base and establishing himself as one of baseball's best, he will be moving to shortstop, the position he played in the Minors, at his own request. To some, this is insane. To others, it's another indication of how good and how confident this guy is. If it works out, it adds another dimension to Machado's highly anticipated foray into free agency at 26 next offseason.
3-4. Evan Longoria, 3B, Giants; Andrew McCutchen, RF, Giants
To say it'll take some time getting used to seeing these guys wearing Giants uniforms is a huge understatement. Longoria was a franchise icon with Tampa Bay; McCutchen, with Pittsburgh. They're the key offseason acquisitions for a San Francisco team that remains in a win-now mode.
5. David Price, LHP, Red Sox
Price had the full Boston experience in 2017, from getting injured in Spring Training to sparring with the media. Lost in the fog is that when he was on the mound, he was solid. Price is healthy again, and he could not be more motivated to re-establish himself. If you're looking for an early AL Cy Young Award candidate, he's it.
6. Gleyber Torres, 3B/2B, Yankees
This spring will be a tryout for the 21-year-old infielder ranked baseball's No. 5 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline. If Torres is even close to being what the Yankees project him to be, he'll be in the Major Leagues before the All-Star break and give New York fans one more reason -- as if they needed one more -- to be optimistic about 2018.
7. Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves
Acuna is the 20-year-old crown jewel of a great farm system and one of the biggest reasons the Braves are on the verge of a huge turnaround. In 54 games at Triple-A Gwinnett last season, he hit .344 and showed off every skill. Atlanta will use this spring to assess how close he is to the big leagues. For Braves fans, it's a glimpse at a very cool future. Acuna will likely make his Major League debut at some point this season, and when he does, it'll mark a milestone moment for Atlanta's rebuild.
8. Dee Gordon, CF, Mariners
In the past four seasons, Gordon has been a two-time All-Star, a three-time stolen-base champion and Gold Glove Award winner -- all as a shortstop and second baseman for the Dodgers and Marlins. But when the Mariners traded for him this offseason, they promptly announced he would be moving to a position he played nine games once in winter ball four years ago. Don't bet against Gordon making a smooth transition to center field.
9. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers
As awkward springs go, it'll be tough to top this one. The Dodgers reacquired their former All-Star outfielder (and the two years and $43.5 million remaining on his contract) in a complicated salary swap. They would like to move Kemp, but his salary makes that unlikely. So he'll play some this spring, and while he could open the season as the starting left fielder, nothing is certain.
10. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Rays
If it's Wednesday, Odorizzi is still a member of the Rays. As for Thursday, check back then. After trading franchise cornerstone Longoria, Tampa Bay has listened on just about everyone, including ace Chris Archer and closer Alex Colome. At the moment, it's Odorizzi, two years from free agency, who seems the most likely to go. The Twins and Brewers both think he'd look good in their uniforms.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.