The 13 most intriguing players in Spring Training

February 21st, 2019

Sometimes they’ll tell you Spring Training performances don’t mean all that much. After all, as The Earl of Baltimore -- that would be Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver -- once said, “Nothing that happens in Fort Myers in March has anything to do with what happens at Fenway Park in September.”

Those weren’t Earl’s precise words, but you get the point. Besides, what Earl actually said after something like a 20-2 loss in Fort Myers would not get past my editors if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Besides that, it’s not correct. Even though almost every manager, coach and executive will tell you spring performances can be deceptive, it’s at least another brick in the wall in the decision-making process. So, yes, it matters.

That’s why we’re paying attention to certain players more than others. Let’s face it, Mike Trout could hit .000 this spring, and no one would care. For plenty of others -- older players, younger players, those trying to grab a roster spot -- spring is hugely important.

Here are 13 players to keep an eye on in camp:

Manny Machado, Padres 3B/SS

Welcome to a whole new world. Suddenly, you’re the face of the franchise, the leader. You’re expected to do more interviews and to be a role model for young players and do all sorts of things apart from being a great player.

Eloy Jimenez, White Sox OF

He’s the crown jewel of a terrific farm system and the biggest reason White Sox fans are feeling optimistic about the future. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

Leonys Martin, Indians CF

One of the really good guys in the game and a one-time top prospect with the Rangers, he appears to have fully recovered from a life-threatening bacterial infection and is ready to prove he can contribute to a winning team.

Troy Tulowitzki, Yankees SS

He’s 34 and has played 66 games over the last two seasons. This opportunity with the Yankees is about his proving he can still be an everyday player, if not a star again.

Josh Donaldson, Braves 3B

If Donaldson stays healthy, the Braves will have made one of the smartest signings of the offseason. Between 2015 and '17, he averaged 37 home runs, 31 doubles and a .946 OPS (and 151 OPS+).

Ryan Brasier, Red Sox RHP

He was an unknown quantity a year ago after spending the 2017 season in Japan. He was dominant in 34 games for the Red Sox and allowed one run in nine postseason appearances. Now he could be the guy to take over for Craig Kimbrel at the back of the Red Sox bullpen.

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals RHP

He has meant so much to the Cardinals and to the entire sport that pretty much everyone who knows him is hoping his 14th season -- whether or not it’s his last -- will be a productive one.

Jesus Luzardo, A’s LHP

Having started last season in Class A ball and finished in Triple-A, this 21-year-old lefty has blown past every expectation. If he has a solid spring, his fast-track ticket to the big leagues will be punched.

Evan Longoria, Giants 3B

His first season with the Giants was impossible to evaluate after a broken left hand sidelined him for six weeks and may have been responsible for his worst offensive season. If he bounces back, he could help make Bruce Bochy’s final season a happy ride.

Jo Adell, Angels OF

Is this baseball’s next great player? OK, let’s not do that to the kid just yet. At 19, he’s two years removed from high school and in his first Major League camp after tearing through the Angels system, including 17 games at Double-A. To project him in the same lineup with Mike Trout this season is not a stretch.

Felix Hernandez, Mariners RHP

His 15th season with the Mariners begins with him trying to re-prove himself after a tough 2018. His velocity has declined to the point that he’s throwing curves and changeups half the time, and given his aptitude for pitching, it would be a mistake to doubt him.

Victor Robles, Nationals CF

He’s 21 years old and a five-tool player that appears to have zero holes in his game. After missing most of last season with an elbow injury, he arrives at Spring Training knowing that Bryce Harper’s probable departure creates both an opening and additional expectations.

Tim Tebow, Mets OF

You know you’re interested. You can deny if you like, but we all know you’re going to follow his spring. Who thought he would ever get as far as Double-A and not be overwhelmed? Tebow fever in 2019!