The wait is over. Players have begun showing up at Spring Training sites all over Florida and Arizona. This Spring Training will obviously be unlike any other, but it will still have what fans crave the most; it will remind us that baseball is coming, that things are starting over and new again.
So today, we take a look at the player every franchise’s fanbase is most excited about seeing this spring. Maybe it’s a new player, maybe it’s a star, maybe it’s an emerging phenom, but every fanbase has someone they can’t wait to see stretching and doing drills in the sunshine. It’s a sign that Opening Day might just be here soon.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: George Springer, OF
The biggest Blue Jays signing since … Roger Clemens? Springer brings the Blue Jays instant credibility and establishes them as the rising force in the AL they’ve been building to be.
Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C
He’s actually two years older than Vladimir Guerrero Jr., so it’s probably time for him to get here and get started. Fans are ready to start seeing some hope for the future.
Rays: Randy Arozarena, OF
Nobody was thinking much about Randy last Spring Training, when he was the other guy in the José Martínez-Matthew Liberatore trade. He may get more attention this time.
Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
His importance to the pitching staff is just a surface-level thing; on the whole, everyone just wants to make sure he is healthy and feeling strong after his battle with COVID-19.
Yankees: Corey Kluber, RHP
Of all the pitchers on the Yankees' staff other than Gerrit Cole, he has the highest upside. If he’s the old Kluber, the Yankees might be unstoppable.
Indians: José Ramírez, 3B
Considering the wild variance in his performance over the past two seasons, fans will want to make sure he looks like the good José rather than the less-than-good one.
Royals: Carlos Santana, 1B
This may go down as one of the more underrated and underappreciated acquisitions of the offseason.
Tigers: Casey Mize, RHP
Is he going to be ready? Are they going to push him toward a spot in the rotation on Opening Day? The Tigers’ future hopes all rest on their young arms. He’s the star among those.
Twins: Josh Donaldson, 3B
Year 1 of the Donaldson era was a little bit of a bust in Minneapolis. But this is an MVP-level player when healthy, and Twins fans would love to see it.
White Sox: Luis Robert, CF
The real answer might be “Tony La Russa,” but let’s stick to players. It’ll be fascinating to see how Robert’s overwhelming talent manifests itself in his second year in the bigs.
Angels: Mike Trout, CF
It’s always Mike Trout as long as he’s here. That’s actually sort of the problem with this team.
Astros: Yordan Alvarez, DH/LF
It was a lost season in 2020 for the slugger, but don’t forget just how incredible he was with the bat in 2019. Is he healthy now? And please: Nobody ask him to play the field.
Athletics: Elvis Andrus, SS
It’s going to require several double-takes before anyone gets used to seeing him in that uniform.
Mariners: Kyle Lewis, CF
Lewis is a potentially great player, but his ability to get fans excited about a franchise with a lot of frustration in its past may be his most important quality.
Rangers: Joey Gallo, RF
Gallo appears to have hit a pivot point in both his career and his time with the Rangers. Can he stay healthy? And be a star? Or is he something else? All eyes will be on him this spring for clues.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Ronald Acuña Jr., CF
For all the talk of him being a pending MVP candidate, he’s yet to be the best player on his own team. Is this the year of the explosion?
Marlins: Starling Marte, CF
He was one of the most heralded acquisitions in Arizona last winter, but he could end up having a bigger effect this year in Miami.
Mets: Francisco Lindor, SS
It’s fair to say Mets fans might be a little excited to see him in a Mets uniform.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, RHP
No player may be more important for his team’s future, both in 2021 and moving forward, than Strasburg.
Phillies: Andrew McCutchen
He just hasn’t really been on the field long enough for the Phillies, but he still can be the lightning bolt this team desperately needs. If he’s healthy.
Brewers: Christian Yelich, RF
Last year has to be an anomaly. Right? Right?
Cardinals: Nolan Arenado, 3B
This is the most anticipated Cardinals addition since … well, since Paul Goldschmidt two years ago, actually.
Cubs: Javier Báez, SS
Yelich is the MVP-caliber player whose 2020 struggles drew the most attention, but it was downright bizarre to see Báez struggle as he did.
Pirates: Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B
Hayes is going to have to be the beacon of hope for this franchise for a while.
Reds: Eugenio Suárez, 3B
Many thought he was going to lead the Majors in RBIs last year. The Reds need all the offensive help they can get.
D-backs: Madison Bumgarner, LHP
If the D-backs are going to have any hope this year, they need Bumgarner to be himself. Spring may give us the first signs.
Dodgers: Trevor Bauer, RHP
There are a lot of options here, obviously, but it will be fascinating to see how Bauer gets along with, say, Clayton Kershaw.
Giants: Buster Posey, C/1B
It was a year away for a franchise legend. How much does he have left for an increasingly intriguing franchise?
Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS
Even with all those new starting pitchers around … Tatis is the player everyone wants to see.
Rockies: Trevor Story, SS
How does Story feel about entering his last year before free agency, now without Nolan Arenado? Expect that to be a popular question all spring.