Pitchers and catchers have reported, and position players are right behind, but a ceremonial first pitch for the Grapefruit League season occurs this afternoon, with Florida's installment of the annual Spring Training Media Day.The event, which will be attended by Commissioner Rob Manfred and representatives from seven of the Grapefruit
Pitchers and catchers have reported, and position players are right behind, but a ceremonial first pitch for the Grapefruit League season occurs this afternoon, with Florida's installment of the annual Spring Training Media Day.
The event, which will be attended by Commissioner Rob Manfred and representatives from seven of the Grapefruit League's 15 teams, takes place at the newly renovated Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, the spring home of the Tigers. MLB Network's live coverage of the event will be streamed on MLB.com at 4:30 p.m. ET. This is the second year this event has been held in Florida, and you could say it makes the start of spring officially official.
It also provides us with an opportunity to check in on some key Grapefruit-specific storylines. Among them:
Alex Reyes' Tommy John surgery
Even after the loss of one of the top pitching prospects in baseball (Reyes ranked No. 14 overall on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list), the Cardinals still have depth in their rotation. The problem is that they don't have much with regard to reliability, given Michael Wacha's repeated shoulder problems, Lance Lynn coming back from Tommy John surgery, Jaime Garcia traded to the Braves and Trevor Rosenthal in experimental mode as he gets stretched back out after several seasons in the bullpen. The Cards' rotation picture will be interesting to watch develop over the course of the next six or seven weeks, especially if general manager John Mozeliak decides to go outside the organization for help.
The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches
The first new Florida facility since Fenway South (aka JetBlue Park) opened in 2012, the new spring home of the Nationals and Astros looks like a beauty. And, more important, it provides a needed cluster of clubs in the Treasure Coast/South Florida region, with the Mets, Cardinals and Marlins all within about 40 minutes of the new field. Unfortunately, this leaves the Braves in a bit of a no man's land in Lake Buena Vista, as their nearest neighbor is the Lakeland-based Tigers, roughly an hour away. But the Braves are currently scheduled to move to Sarasota County in 2019.
The health of the Mets' starting staff
With Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler all working their way back from surgery, their spring starts will have scouts paying even closer attention to their velocity and command. Oh, and we'll see if that venison diet added even more life to Noah Syndergaard's already sizzling stuff.
Aaron Sanchez's innings
The Blue Jays' brass, including general manager Ross Atkins (who is scheduled to attend Media Day), managed Sanchez in such a way that he was able to make the transition from solid reliever to borderline Cy Young Award-worthy starter without having to be shut down late in the season. But Sanchez's gargantuan 52.7 percent jump in innings will make his spring workload a matter of discourse.
The Marlins move on
Though the grieving process after the untimely death of Jose Fernandez began at the tail end of the 2016 season, it is ongoing, as a new season begins with painful reminders of the absence of Jose's smiling face. Though Fernandez can't be replaced, GM Michael Hill, who will make the trek north for Media Day, worked hard to improve this club's outlook, especially in a beefed-up bullpen.
The late change in the Braves' infield
Sean Rodriguez's awful auto accident, mere months after he joined the organization on a two-year free-agent contract, forced GM John Coppolella, who will join manager Brian Snitker in attending Media Day, to make a last-minute move for Brandon Phillips. Now exciting rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson has an accomplished new double-play partner as Phillips joins his hometown team.
Those young Yanks
It will be a big spring for Aaron Judge and a now-healthy Greg Bird, who will look to assert themselves in Yankees camp, as well as for Gary Sanchez, who wants to prove his late-2016 breakout was no fluke. GM Brian Cashman, who is trying to balance the long-term view with the always-present expectation to win now, will be at Media Day.
Red Sox move on without Big Papi
To date, David Ortiz has not heeded all those calls for him to reconsider his retirement, and so life must go on for the Red Sox. This is obviously an important spring camp for the switch-hitting Pablo Sandoval -- not just because he's trying to reclaim his third-base spot but because he, along with Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland, is trying to account for the loss of lineup balance that accompanied Ortiz's exit.
Bryce Harper's bounceback bid
Harper's performance at the Nats' new park won't count toward his 2017 totals, but it could be an early indicator of whether he's ready to rebound from last season's surprising fall from MVP grace.
Do the Astros trade for Jose Quintana?
It's the question on everybody's lips, because the Astros are an obvious fit for the eminently available Quintana. The answer could be dependent on the health and effectiveness of Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers in camp, as well as the performance of top pitching prospect Francis Martes.
Andrew McCutchen's move
A superstar player, on the heels of having his name bandied about in rampant rumors, has been asked to shift from center field to right. How will Cutch adapt to his new spot in the field and his tenuous spot on this Pirates team as the games get going?
Will there be new pace-of-play initiatives?
Though this one obviously could affect exhibition play in Florida and Arizona, one of the topics that is sure to come up in Manfred's meeting with the media is pace of play and whether MLB and the MLB Players Association will come to an agreement on ways to cut dead time out of games in advance of Opening Day. The league has reportedly put a proposal on the table to slightly raise the strike zone and to eliminate the actual pitching associated with the intentional walk.
Do the Rays land Matt Wieters?
He's the biggest name left on the free-agent board, and, despite his past All-Star credentials, there's not an obvious fit for his services. The Rays already invested in catcher Wilson Ramos over the winter, but he won't be available until May, at the earliest, and he could be limited defensively in the aftermath of his knee surgery. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the Rays have made Wieters an offer "likely for one year." Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom will be at Media Day.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.