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10 things we'd like to learn this spring (but won't)

February 10, 2018

On the very first day of Spring Training, we're going to gather around Angels manager Mike Scioscia and ask him questions about Shohei Ohtani that he simply can't answer. Then, we're going to circle back almost every single day after that. If we weren't such a charming group, Scioscia might

On the very first day of Spring Training, we're going to gather around Angels manager Mike Scioscia and ask him questions about Shohei Ohtani that he simply can't answer. Then, we're going to circle back almost every single day after that. If we weren't such a charming group, Scioscia might get tired of this routine.
On the other hand, he gets it. In that way, he's as curious as the rest of us to see if Ohtani can do something no player in 99 years has done. Ohtani wants to be a member of the Angels' rotation while getting regular at-bats at designated hitter, first base or the outfield between starts.
If he succeeds -- and we're not even sure what the definition of success would be at this point -- every organization surely will be forced to take a second and third look at all those two-way players in high school and college.
No spring storyline is more interesting than Ohtani's. But we're not likely to have any real answers until long after Spring Training, as the Angels come up with a workable schedule that allows Ohtani to do both. Stay tuned.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Spring Training is like that. It's a teaser for the season ahead. We sometimes get bad news -- usually if a player is injured -- but success or failure in baseball is judged over the grind of a 162-game regular season.
We love Spring Training anyway. We love seeing Clayton Kershaw and Jose Altuve back in uniform. We love hearing from our favorite players. We especially love watching teams begin to come together again.
After almost every World Series, players on championship teams are asked when they knew they were part of something special. To a man, they will mention that there was a different kind of vibe, a different kind of confidence all the way back in Spring Training.
Here now are 10 things we'd like to learn in Spring Training -- hope springs eternal -- but probably won't:
1. How will the six new managers fare?
Only one of them -- Detroit's Ron Gardenhire -- has ever had a Major League managing job. Two -- Dave Martinez of the Nationals and Mickey Callaway of the Mets -- have had extensive experience as Major League coaches. As for the other three -- Aaron Boone of the Yankees, Alex Cora of the Red Sox and Gabe Kapler of the Phillies -- they were hired because of their smarts, toughness and communication skills. This spring will offer hints about their styles and how they're fitting into the job, but it'll be months before they've got enough of a track record to make any kind of determination about this next chapter of their careers.
2. Can Michael Brantley ever recapture his All-Star form?
We hoped we'd answered this question last spring when Brantley sailed into the regular season and ended up a member of the American League All-Star team. Then came an ankle injury that limited him for the remainder of the season. Brantley begins 2018 having played 101 games over the last two seasons. He proved again last season that when he's healthy, he's one of baseball's best players. Here's to a healthy spring and then more of the same for the entire regular season.

3. Will Rick Porcello and David Price thrive again in Boston?
Last season the Red Sox believed Chris Sale, Porcello and Price would give them a dominant front three capable of getting deep into October. But an elbow injury limited Price to 11 starts, and Porcello was tagged for 38 home runs while losing 17 games. Both begin the spring healthy and in a better state of mind. Getting through the spring would be a nice start, but nothing more.
4. Are the Braves ready to contend?
These next few weeks are going to be great fun for Braves fans as they see all their Minor League talent paraded onto the field, including MLB Pipeline's No. 2 prospect, 20-year-old outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr.. Behind him, there are layers and layers of quality pitching prospects. The Braves have so much talent that the future could not be more positive.
5. Is the Rangers' window closed?
The Rangers have passed on big-ticket free-agent pitching (so far) and are hoping Doug Fister, Matt Moore and Bartolo Colon can rediscover the magic of previous years. Rangers GM Jon Daniels is hoping they have the kind of turnaround Mike Minor had in Kansas City last summer. (Oh, and Daniels signed him, too.) If a couple of those guys jump-start their careers, the Rangers have a chance to contend for an AL Wild Card berth.
6. What does Matt Harvey have left?
We won't find out about Harvey this spring. But we may find out if he's still capable of competing at a high level for even a short period of time and if he has a productive relationship with his new manager. Callaway, who did a tremendous job developing and communicating with pitchers as Terry Francona's pitching coach in Cleveland, could help make this a great baseball summer in Queens.

7. Can the Angels' rotation stay healthy?
This one is day by day. First, it's getting to Opening Day with Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Matthew Shoemaker and Andrew Heaney -- or some combination -- healthy. After that, well, forget after that. Let's get to Opening Day first.
8. Who will step up for Arizona?
Yasmany Tomas had 30 doubles and 31 home runs in 2016 and looked like he could help anchor the lineup for years to come. Last season, he played in just 47 games, which was the reason the Diamondbacks had to trade for J.D. Martinez to help finish off a playoff run. So far, Tomas is penciled in to play right field. Given that he has three years and $50 million remaining on his contract, the D-backs are heavily invested in him succeeding.
9. Do the Dodgers really need another starting pitcher?
The Dodgers would like to trade Matt Kemp and his $22 million salary to free up payroll to sign a starting pitcher. But FanGraphs already projects them to win 94 games and capture the National League West by 10 games just as they are. Their current rotation of Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu probably is top five or six. Besides that, they've got quality depth in Thomas Stripling, Brock Stewart, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias.
10. Who'll close for the Astros?
Manager A.J. Hinch had a great postseason by mixing and matching hot starters and slumping relievers to bring a World Series trophy to Houston. He hinted last week that he may not designate a full-time closer and could play matchups just as he did during the World Series. Here's guessing that Hinch hopes last year's closer Ken Giles, who struggled in the World Series, wins the job back during Spring Training and then holds onto it right through another October run.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.