1 important thing we learned from each team this spring

March 28th, 2023

With Spring Training nearly over and the start of the season mere days away, teams are beginning to gear up for Opening Day. Rosters are being finalized, roles are being put in place for players and expectations are rising.

So with that in mind, here's the most important thing we learned from each team's camp during Spring Training.


Blue Jays: They’re going to run. A lot

The Blue Jays have long been able to produce runs with power, but now they’re planning to crank up the aggression on the bases. This was already in the cards under John Schneider, but MLB’s new rules have only pushed the Blue Jays further. This is an athletic lineup from top to bottom, and while you’ll see plenty of this speed in their improved outfield with Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho, you can certainly expect this team’s stolen base totals to climb. -- Keegan Matheson

Orioles: Adley Rutschman looks ready to avoid a sophomore slump

Last spring, Rutschman strained his right triceps, which prevented him from making Baltimore’s Opening Day roster out of camp and delayed his MLB debut until last May 21. This year, the 25-year-old catcher stayed healthy, and he had an impressive Spring Training in the process. Rutschman has looked good hitting from both sides of the plate. He’s worked with the pitching staff as well as expected. And he’s also seemed quite comfortable assuming a leadership role. So the 2022 American League Rookie of the Year runner-up appears poised for a big ‘23. -- Jake Rill

Rays: Their key hitters are healthy

Without any offseason additions, the Rays entered Spring Training banking on bounce-back and breakthrough performances from their returning hitters. So far, so good. Wander Franco looks strong and lean. Brandon Lowe has been swinging (and hitting homers) without pain. Randy Arozarena was a standout performer at the World Baseball Classic. Yandy Díaz is ready to go. They’ve also been encouraged by the work of two left-handed hitters, Josh Lowe and Luke Raley, who could help make up for their lack of free-agent activity and bolster their performance against right-handed pitching. -- Adam Berry

Red Sox: Masataka Yoshida’s bat will play

Yoshida impressed the Red Sox at every turn in Spring Training, and also when he went to the World Baseball Classic and came through with a tournament record of 13 RBIs for Japan, the eventual champion. Playing on a big stage didn’t unnerve Yoshida at all. Instead, it seemed to bring his game to an even higher level, something that will play well in a market like Boston. Yoshida’s plate discipline is plus-plus. He’s also shown power to all fields. While some scouting reports were down on his defense when the Red Sox signed him, manager Alex Cora is confident Yoshida can get the job done in left field, especially at Fenway Park, where there isn’t much ground to cover. -- Ian Browne

Yankees: Judge’s captaincy will be seamless

The vibe around Yankees camp felt much the same as it did in 2021 and ‘22, and that should not have been a surprise. Judge may have been formally named the team’s captain in December, but he has been essentially serving in the role of clubhouse leader for years now. Like Derek Jeter, Judge’s default setting is to lead by example: He speaks up when necessary, but mostly he serves as the 6-foot-7 guide post for his teammates. Judge has the American League’s single-season home run record, a big contract, and this is unquestionably his team. Now he needs to lead it to a championship. -- Bryan Hoch


Guardians: Small ball or bust

The roster is nearly the same as last year, but a year of experience under everyone’s belts and the additions of slugger Josh Bell and Mike Zunino, who can provide power at times, suggested this squad could play differently this season. But as the old adage goes: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The club was aggressive on the bases all spring, preparing to wreak havoc with stolen bases and singles. Maybe this lineup isn’t being overlooked as it was last year, but the Guardians still have a chip on their shoulder, ready to prove their strategy can win a division yet again. -- Mandy Bell

Royals: New voices can help

How much can a new coaching staff help improve a team? After all, it’s the players on the roster who are responsible for wins and losses, and you would hope that a new coaching staff brings new energy in Spring Training, where the vibes are already good under the Arizona sun. What we learned this spring, though, is that the Royals are embracing the messages and approaches that new manager Matt Quatraro, pitching coach Brian Sweeney, assistant pitching coach Zach Bove and others are relaying to the group. Pitchers are talking with more confidence about their stuff than we’ve heard before, and young hitters are more comfortable with the coaches they have surrounding them. This is just the first step for the Royals to get back to contention, and we’ll find out how much it truly helps when wins and losses start to matter. But so far, so good. -- Anne Rogers

Tigers: Spencer Torkelson should be fine as a hitter

This isn't exactly a revelation, but there was some uncertainty after Torkelson's rough rookie season that included a midseason return to Triple-A Toledo and a more encouraging September call-up. Torkelson has made solid contact all spring and has caught up with fastballs that troubled him at times last season. If he can take that into the regular season, he should blossom into the run producer the Tigers saw when they selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 Draft. -- Jason Beck

Twins: Don’t sleep on Trevor Larnach

With last season’s persistent groin issues behind him, Larnach has been a monster at the plate in Spring Training (as usual) -- and this time, it should pay off with a spot on the club’s Opening Day roster. The club’s onetime No. 3 prospect hasn’t been striking out, and he’s been consistently hitting the ball hard to all fields. With a path to regular playing time in the corner outfield and at designated hitter, Larnach could finally be poised for a breakout as a powerful, middle-of-the-order bat if he can avoid being held back by lingering injuries, as he was in the last two seasons. -- Do-Hyoung Park

White Sox: Oscar Colas is ready

Colas, the No. 2 White Sox prospect and No. 85 overall, per MLB Pipeline, came into Spring Training as the favorite to start in right field even if the White Sox wouldn’t categorically admit that fact. But the 24-year-old earned the job once he arrived in Arizona. Actually, he earned the job before arriving through extensive offseason work in Florida involving White Sox Major League field coordinator Mike Tosar and Luis Robert Jr. Is Colas a finished product? No. Will he have some hiccups along the way? Certainly. But the rookie doesn’t need to be the guy for the White Sox, or even one of the top five guys, and has proven himself willing to learn in every facet of the game. -- Scott Merkin


Angels: We need to see Angels stars in the postseason

Angels superstars Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout both shined in the World Baseball Classic, with Ohtani coming through on the big stage by leading Team Japan to the title and winning the tournament’s MVP Award. Both said it was the most fun they’ve had playing baseball and it showed with the way they performed and carried themselves on the field. The Angels, though, haven’t been to the postseason since 2014, before Ohtani joined the club in 2018. The club added much-needed depth in the offseason and a return to the postseason is a must, especially with Ohtani headed to free agency after the season. -- Rhett Bollinger

Astros: Pitching depth will be tested

The Astros had the luxury of having seven healthy starters in the playoffs, and that didn’t even include No. 1 prospect Hunter Brown. They had so much pitching that José Urquidy and Luis Garcia barely pitched in the postseason. With Justin Verlander on the Mets and Lance McCullers Jr. out indefinitely, the Astros’ starting pitching depth will be tested early. To make matters worse, Brown came down with a tight back at the end of Spring Training. -- Brian McTaggart

Athletics: Starting pitching depth is important

The A’s have always operated under the belief that there’s no such thing as “too much” pitching and we’ve seen why this spring. Over the final week of camp, 2022 All-Star Paul Blackburn and right-hander Drew Rucinski, both of whom projected as rotation locks, sustained injuries that will likely land them on the injured list come Opening Day. Because of that depth, not only do the A’s still have enough arms for a five-man rotation, but they also plan to carry a sixth starter-type pitcher in the bullpen. -- Martín Gallegos

The postseason drought is finally over in Seattle after 20 long years, but with that breakthrough comes expectations of advancing even further. Spring Training was mostly uneventful in Mariners camp, but for all the right reasons. There weren’t any position battles (because they have roster clarity). There weren’t a ton of new personalities (because they have established players). The focus was much more deliberate because ambitions -- and expectations -- are high for 2023. -- Daniel Kramer

Rangers: The offense is better than anybody gives it credit for

The core four of Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Nathaniel Lowe and Adolis García will no doubt provide impact at the top half of the lineup, but there were question marks about the consistent offensive capabilities of the rest of it. The catching tandem of Jonah Heim and Mitch Garver will provide quality depth behind the dish and Robbie Grossman has looked good from both sides of the plate this spring. Rookie third baseman Josh Jung has has hit at every level of the Minors and if he can do even a portion of that at the big league level, the Rangers are looking at one of the deepest lineups in the American League. -- Kennedi Landry


Braves: Plenty of starting pitching depth

With the emergences of top prospect Jared Shuster and fellow lefty Dylan Dodd, the Braves may have far more starting pitching depth than most thought at the start of camp. This depends on Michael Soroka staying healthy and Ian Anderson eventually bouncing back. Soroka is bidding to return to the Majors for the first time since first tearing his right Achilles tendon in 2020. He won’t necessarily have to rush, as it looks like Shuster and possibly Dodd could adequately fill the fifth spot over an extended stretch. -- Mark Bowman

Marlins: What exactly did we learn?

With newcomers Jean Segura and Luis Arraez competing at the World Baseball Classic, the Marlins rarely had their entire lineup together during Spring Training. How will Segura (third base) and Arraez (second base) look at their new positions with limited reps there? Will the infield chemistry be quick to develop? And how much stock should be put into the lineup's struggles considering the new staff is implementing its philosophy? -- Christina De Nicola

Mets: Pitching depth is going to be critical

Over a brief stretch in mid-March, the Mets lost Edwin Díaz to knee surgery, José Quintana to a rib operation, Brooks Raley to a hamstring strain, Bryce Montes de Oca to a stress reaction in his elbow and Sam Coonrod to a lat strain. All but Raley will miss significant time, forcing the team to dip into its depth sooner rather than later. In the short-term, the Mets should be fine relying on players like David Peterson and David Robertson in significant roles. Longer-term, the Mets must be wary of additional injuries, especially given their reliance on older pitchers. The Trade Deadline already looms significantly for a club that will probably be looking to replenish its reserves. -- Anthony DiComo

Nationals: Future core is taking shape, but without Cavalli in '23

Looking around the Nationals clubhouse, it was easy to envision the team in 2023, '24, '25 and beyond. This will be the first full season for the developing core of catcher Keibert Ruiz (who signed an eight-year contract during camp), 24; second baseman Luis García, 22; shortstop CJ Abrams, 22; right-hander Josiah Gray, 25; and left-hander MacKenzie Gore, 24, to play together. This group will be missing a key piece, though, in righty Cade Cavalli, 24, who underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery this month. -- Jessica Camerato

Phillies: Health is fleeting

All things considered, the Phillies were feeling really good entering the final week of Spring Training. Sure, Bryce Harper is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the Phillies said he is progressing well enough that they will not place him on the 60-day injured list. It allows the possibility that he could be back before the end of May. Sure, the rotation has some depth concerns with injuries to Ranger Suárez, Andrew Painter, Christopher Sanchez and Nick Nelson, but the Phillies seem relatively unconcerned about Suarez’s left elbow and Painter’s right elbow issues. Those injuries seem manageable. But then Rhys Hoskins’ suffered a season-ending ACL injury last week. The Phillies must find a way to overcome it, but they can’t afford to take much more. -- Todd Zolecki


Brewers: Fingers crossed that bullpen arms step up

The Brewers are deep in starting pitching and have a better lineup than you think (just look at the numbers – they were 10th last year in runs per game). But they are relying on a whole lot of things to go right in the bullpen. Will Devin Williams continue to thrive now that he’s entering his first full season as the closer? Can Matt Bush solve his propensity for the long ball? Can Peter Strzelecki and Hoby Milner build on last year’s breakouts? Will Adrian Houser thrive in relief when he would prefer to start? When will Aaron Ashby be back from his shoulder injury? Which unknowns will emerge? -- Adam McCalvy

Cardinals: They might not need a true ace

What the Cardinals might lack in terms of a true ace, they make up for it with depth and five quality starters along with the injured Adam Wainwright (groin strain). The linchpin of the season might be the 27-year-old Jack Flaherty, a two-time Opening Day starter who is as healthy as he has been since the start of 2021 when he opened 8-1 before injuries hit again. Flaherty can be a free agent after the season and he has plenty of motivation to try and turn back the clock to 2019 when he looked like the most dominant young pitcher in the game. Jordan Montgomery, an acquisition from the Yankees last August, is also pitching for his next contract and he would prefer to make St. Louis his home for years to come. Steven Matz, the only starting pitcher under contract beyond this season, wants to atone for an injury-plagued 2022 and has the kind of electric stuff to be a much-needed 15-game winner for the Redbirds. -- John Denton

Cubs: The North Siders’ depth looks much improved

The last two seasons of rebuilding provided experience for a list of younger players, but it also led to games in which a lack of depth was exposed. One of the primary goals over the offseason for the Cubs was to bring in experienced Major League talent and, in turn, strengthen the options on the bench and at Triple-A. Especially on the pitching side, Chicago looks like it has legitimate rotation depth behind the Opening Day group and real stuff available in the Minors for when the bullpen needs help. This should help the Cubs be able to better withstand in-season setbacks. As an example, Kyle Hendricks is roughly a month behind the rest of the pitchers as he works his way back from a right shoulder injury. But that opened the door for highly touted prospect Hayden Wesneski to win a rotation job. That is the type of promotion that helps Hendricks focus on his rehab without feeling the need to push his way back before he is fully ready. The Cubs hope that remains the case across the board throughout the summer. -- Jordan Bastian

Pirates: There’s plenty of starter depth

The Pirates entered this offseason with their starting five already, for the most part, set in stone. Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras and JT Brubaker were the incumbents, while Rich Hill and Vince Velasquez rounded things out by signing one-year deals. From there, the Pirates have plenty of young starters who can contribute at the Major League level this season. Johan Oviedo, 25, and Luis Ortiz, 24, enjoyed some success with the Pirates last season, but will likely start the year with Triple-A Indianapolis. Quinn Priester and Mike Burrows, the Pirates’ No. 4 and No. 9 prospects, stand to make their debuts this season. Kyle Nicolas and Carmen Mlodzinski, the Pirates’ No. 20 and No. 25 prospects, impressed as well and could flirt with the Majors if they perform in the Minors. -- Justice delos Santos

Reds: The big three starters are ready to make more progress

Cincinnati is putting a lot of responsibility on three relatively inexperienced starting pitchers entering their sophomore seasons with Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft at the top of its rotation. All three appeared to show they were ready to take it on throughout camp, but especially in the second half of spring. Greene, the Opening Day starter, gave up one earned run and struck out 12 over his final three starts (13 innings) as he focused on making his slider a strong secondary pitch behind his triple-digit velocity. Already with a nasty cutter, Ashcraft developed his slider and it made big strides, as he racked up 21 strikeouts over his last three starts with only one earned run. And the lefty Lodolo’s big sweeping curveball remained effective to right handed-hitters as he had scoreless outings in three of his first four starts entering Sunday. The young trio’s progress in the coming season will be critical in judging the merits of the current rebuild and so far, so good. -- Mark Sheldon


D-backs: Corbin Carroll is poised for a big season

This isn’t a surprise to anyone who has followed the club’s No. 1 prospect rise through the system or watched him hold his own in a late-season callup in 2022. Carroll, who signed an eight-year contract extension this spring, has consistently hit the ball hard, played good defense and has not been overwhelmed at all in his first big league camp. This is great news for the D-backs, who are counting on a big year from Carroll to help lead their offense. -- Steve Gilbert

Dodgers: They’ll be relying on a lot of young players

This Dodgers’ team looks a lot different than it has over the last few seasons and it’s largely because of the youth movement that is taking place. Miguel Vargas is going to handle the everyday second base duties for the Dodgers. James Outman will take significant at-bats in center field. On the pitching side, the Dodgers will ask Dustin May, Ryan Pepiot and Gavin Stone to take down the bulk of innings at different points of the season. The Dodgers have a good core of veterans led by Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Clayton Kershaw, but they’ll be relying on young players a bit more than in each of the last few seasons. -- Juan Toribio

Giants: A promising wave of prospects is close to breaking through

The Giants’ farm system has struggled to produce impact players in recent years, but this spring showed that there’s plenty of exciting young talent working its way through the pipeline. The Opening Day roster seems likely to feature three rookies in Blake Sabol, Sean Hjelle and Bryce Johnson. More newcomers should get a chance to contribute throughout the regular season, including pitching prospects Kyle Harrison, Tristan Beck and Keaton Winn and infielders Casey Schmitt and Brett Wisely. -- Maria Guardado

Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr. is back, healthy, invested and ready to rake

It took a few games for Tatis to shake off the rust. He’d missed the entire 2022 season after all, due to injury and a PED suspension. But quickly enough, Tatis was back to his old self at the plate, finding a late-spring groove. More importantly, he says he’s not feeling any effects of the left shoulder and wrist surgeries he underwent last August and October, respectively. Tatis still must serve the remaining 20 games of his suspension. But when he returns, he looks more than capable in right field, fully bought into his new role and ready to torment opposing pitchers again. -- AJ Cassavell

Rockies: There may be some pitching on the way, after all

The growing reputation of the Rockies’ farm system is always tempered by one question: Where is the pitching? Late-spring outings from developing right-handers toward the end of camp – three innings against the Dodgers from 2022 first-round pick Gabriel Hughes, and two innings against the Padres from 2021 second-rounder Jalen Hill – showed that there are big fellows with power arms on the way, although patience is necessary. -- Thomas Harding