We’ve made it, everyone. Winter is giving way to spring. Baseball is here. And while it’s still true that Spring Training stats mean nothing, Spring Training is far better than the absence of pitchers and.
So as camps open, here are five predictions of things we might see between now and Opening Day in early April.
1. Trea Turner will give the Nationals a very difficult decision.
Turner, the Nationals’ hot-shot shortstop prospect, has the kind of skill set that seems to catch eyes in Spring Training. He’s fast, he’s an exciting defensive player, and he seems rather polished for a guy who has one full season in pro ball.
And he seems to fit right in with what the Nats are looking for. Check out the moves Washington has made this winter: The acquisitions of Daniel Murphy and Ben Revere seem to indicate a move toward a more contact-based offense, away from the homers-and-strikeouts style.
That is bad news for Danny Espinosa, whose offensive game includes copious quantities of homers and strikeouts.
To be clear: Espinosa is the favorite. There would be nothing wrong with Turner getting a little more seasoning. But don’t be a bit surprised if Turner makes it a very tough call.
2. By the end of March, youíll see someone predict Adam Wainwright for Cy Young.
OK, you’ll see a lot of silly predictions this spring. Everybody wants to look smart and find the next big thing, so you’ll also see things like Jonathan Schoop as an MVP candidate (actually, that’s less ridiculous than it might sound).
Wainwright won’t be a silly call. If he’s healthy, he’ll likely be a candidate. The point here is that he’s healthy, and you can bet he’ll be motivated. The veteran right-hander will impress early in camp, will pitch well in Grapefruit League games, and when people see him pitch, they’ll start thinking big.
Maybe it’ll go well in the regular season, maybe it won’t. But the prediction is this: Waino will impress enough in Florida that Cardinals fans will allow themselves to dream.
3. There will be overreaction in Mesa.
So, so much overreaction.
Look, barring significant injuries, the Cubs are going to be very, very good in 2016. They can hit and pitch and catch the ball, and they are deep and talented and exciting.
But they’re also extremely hyped. They’re this year’s darlings (and, again, understandably so). What that means is that when things go wrong, people are going to Freak. Out.
Jason Heyward has started 30 games in the big leagues in center field, and he’ll be re-learning the position in Arizona. That’s a tough assignment. Things will go wrong. Kyle Schwarber can absolutely rake, but he’s a bit of a man without a position. Things will go wrong for him defensively. Javier Baez is trying to cut back on the strikeouts, but he’ll still whiff. Jake Arrieta threw a combined 249 1/3 innings last year. He might not show up at absolute full strength.
All of these things are fine. But to read some of the coverage, you will think the 2016 Cubs are doomed. Don’t panic when that happens. They’re not.
4. At least one big name player will be traded.
There are always minor deals in Spring Training, as guys who would otherwise be waived instead get swapped. This is part of the deal. In this case, we’re talking a real deal.
Maybe not Jim Edmonds in 1999, but maybe something even that significant. Matt Kemp is the obvious name, as there have been rumors of him being shopped. Jonathan Lucroy is another name very much in the mix.
The trade market never really got burbling this winter, though there were some interesting deals. But plenty of teams have weird fits, like the Dodgers’ abundance of outfielders, the Rays’ glut of corner bats, and the Angels’ slew of starters. Somebody will find a match.
Typically July and the offseason are the two biggest times for trades, but this year, look for a trade with significant pennant-race impact before the spring is out.
5. We’ll start to realize just how good the Dodgers might be.
Sure, a lot can go wrong. Their starting rotation is a bit hazy. Some essential players need to show they’re healthy.
But Los Angeles’ depth is ridiculous. There are so many good players even as you get down the depth chart. Guys like Enrique Hernandez, Chase Utley and Andre Ethier could start a lot of places.
As day after day of camp goes by, and the Dodgers almost never trot out a lineup that looks like a “B game” lineup, it will become clearer just how much talent there is here, and how good this team can be if even a reasonable number of things go right.