Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
If you’re like me, you’ve been longing for spring training if for no other reason than it means that summer is getting ever closer, and the air will soon stop hurting our faces. Beyond that, it means that baseball is here, and that’s pretty awesome. Enough of my senseless banter, let’s get to what you came for, the five things to watch for this spring training, and two things to avoid watching.
What to Watch:
1. Pitcher Injuries
There will be a pitcher injury this spring training. It’s basically inevitable. Pitchers are ticking time bombs, and eventually they’re going to explode. Everyone remembers Chris Narveson. He was a solid back of the rotation arm, and then one spring his shoulder decided it was done, and he had to go under the knife. The Brewers should hope that it will be some AAA fodder arm (no offense Hiram Burgos), but someone is going to get hurt.
2. Matt Garza
New toys are always exciting, and this case is no different. Let’s just hope Garza, who has an injury history, can get through spring training with his arm, shoulder, and back all in one piece. Beyond that it’s just a matter of him being able to build up arm strength, stamina, and command.
3. The Minor League Pitchers
There are a group of Minor League pitchers that will be in camp this spring, and they’re always fun to watch. I’m most interested in Jimmy Nelson (who I rated as the #3 prospect in the Brewers’ system). It will also be our first chance to see whether or not Johnny Hellweg was able to find the strike zone over the winter.
4. The First Base Fiasco
This three-way (really two-way) battle between Mark Reynolds, Fat Juan Francisco, and Lyle Overbay will be the primary position battle of the spring. I hope the Brewers don’t plan to put too much stock into the spring training performance of these players, but the fans will want to watch how this plays out. It will be interesting to see as the spring goes on if the Brewers plan to platoon FJF and Mark or if they plan on giving one of them the full-time job and use the other as a 1B/3B reserve and interleague DH. Also, Hunter Morris is a guy there who, even though he’s not of typical prospect age, may be in the picture at some point.
5. All the Televised Games
Brewers fans should be really happy that FS Wisconsin has identified the desire for televised spring training games. After televising only three games last year, they will be showing fourteen games this spring. This gives fans a glimpse of some of the minor league talent as well as giving us baseball junkies what we want. This is a big win for Brewers fans.
Two Things to Avoid Paying Attention To:
1. Spring Training Stats
Remember, this is one month. This one month is against inconsistent competition. Remember Yuniesky Betancourt last April? That was one month, and that one month came exclusively against Major League competition. Spring Training doesn’t even offer consistent Major League competition, not to mention that the Major League competition that you are facing has not gotten all their reps to prepare for the season yet.
2. “Player X is in the best shape/worst shape of their life”
This is the biggest narrative spouted by columnists are too bored or too lazy. Remember when everyone threw a fit when Mike Trout came in “too heavy” last year? Yeah, he was still awesome. Remember Josh Hamilton and how he was in much better shape? How’d that work out? In other words, don’t click on the “best shape” columns. After all, who is to say that a person shaped as a hexagon or octagon will perform better than someone shaped as an oval or parallelogram?