Springing into action: 7 players already impressing

February 26th, 2020

Here’s to first impressions. This isn’t just about young players, either. Did you see Gerrit Cole’s first spring start for the Yankees on Monday?

Right out of the gate, Cole’s fastball touched 98 mph, and he could not have looked more ready for Opening Day.

This is what happens after a winter of waiting for baseball to resume. Even in an amazing offseason, there’s nothing as satisfying as getting back on the diamond.

You will hear people say you should not draw too many conclusions from these first Spring Training games. You should ignore these people.

Here’s to seven players who have made a nice first impression. For the purposes of this exercise, we’re focusing on veterans with new teams or prospects still trying to make a name for themselves.

1. , RHP, Yankees: Cole has picked up where he left off after a dominant 2019 season for the Astros and could probably go five innings right now. He was clocked at 98 mph in his first start on Monday, striking out two in a dominant first inning under the lights at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Yes, the Yankees now have a No. 1.

2. , RF, Dodgers: Betts' strong first impression came off the field, as L.A.'s newest star gave an introductory team address on Sunday that drew raves from teammates.

3. Jo Adell, OF, Angels: In his first appearance of the spring on Sunday, the 20-year-old outfielder collected two hits, stole a base and drove in a run. If that doesn’t lock up a spot on the Opening Day roster, it’s certainly a step in the right direction for MLB's No. 6 prospect overall, according to MLB Pipeline.

4. , LHP, Giants: Smyly breezed through his opening start with his new team, throwing 1 2/3 shutout innings and touching 94 mph with his fastball on Monday against the D-backs. After all the frustration and injuries of recent seasons, he gave the Giants every reason to feel good about his signing.

5. , RHP, Braves: He’s noticeably thinner and his typical happy self in what he hopes will be a career rebirth in the Braves' rotation. He allowed one baserunner and struck out two in a scoreless two-inning first start for his new team on Saturday against the Orioles.

6. Pavin Smith, D-backs, 1B/OF: His four-for-five start in his first two games -- going 2-for-2 on Sunday vs. the A's and 2-for-3 with a run scored on Monday against the Giants -- was a continuation of a nice second half at Double-A that earned him a big league camp invitation and has put him back into the Major League mix. He’s likely to open the season at Triple-A, but he has already opened eyes.

7. Riley Greene, OF, Tigers: He’s 19 years old and a year removed from his last high school game. On the other hand, talent is talent, and the No. 5 overall pick in the 2019 Draft walked twice and homered in his spring debut on Sunday against the Pirates. He then followed that up with another walk and home run in his second game on Tuesday vs. the Mets, going five plate appearances without recording an out.