What are the best and worst things about spring training?
Turambar: So many good things, it’s hard to pick just one. From a purely fan perspective though I’d have to say it’s the almost contagious optimism for the upcoming season that almost everyone seems to share. The newly acquired free agent seems like the tipping point of a team’s good fortune, young rookie appears to hit like Ted Williams and the recently minted starter will obviously be the next Randy Johnson. All these positive thoughts and more thrive in the fertile soil of Spring Training.
Makakilo: I like Turambar’s contagious optimism! My thoughts:
- Best: Non-roster players will experience tougher competition, and I will be happy if their talent shines. And I will enjoy seeing the newly acquired players in action.
- Worst: I worry (likely needless worry) that our pitchers will show their best stuff, giving hitters a chance to figure them out (to our pitchers’ detriment during the season).
Dano: It’s new, but it’s not new, so there’s a comforting and inspiring blend of consistency and novelty. The team is familiar enough that, if one felt good about last year (and I did), one gets to revisit that, but there’s also more or less new stuff that is at least speculatively exciting, and makes you wonder what the alchemy of spring training can and will transmute from the base materials. That’s the best stuff.
The worst, and I hate to be a downer, is the injuries, and the potential for injuries. I recapped the game last year during which Souza’s knee was destroyed. I was never very high on Souza, honestly, but it was awful, and the potential is always there, and I’m dreading something like that transpiring again this spring.
James: The best thing is, it means there is baseball to follow again, and it is even local. The worst thing is, the games don’t actually count, so I look a bit silly when I get worked up over how my team is performing.
Edbigghead: Best thing is the variety of baseball, the many available live games, the great food, the spring-party atmosphere, the fun and you can’t forget the massive straw hats. You get to see the new player additions, up and comers, and hopefully some surprises. Plus cheap lawn tickets at places like Surprise and Peoria stadiums where almost any game you can walk up to and get a ticket last min.
The worst thing about spring training (in AZ) is the day games without shade. You pay $$ for a seat and the sun is roasting you all game while you’re marinating in light beer and salt from all the junk you have ingested. Hopefully mother nature does not decide to break any records that game or you will look like Hellboy at work the next day.
Jack: When I was a kid growing up in New York, there was nothing like the first few warm days of March when you broke out your glove and ball, and signed up for little league and got ready to start playing. Although I live in Arizona where we don’t have spring and just go straight from Winter to Summer, I can still smell the air and hear the sounds of spring when it’s time to start playing baseball again. The crack of the bat, the pop of the ball hitting gloves…..it’s the best time of the year.
Michael: Best thing about Spring Training is that baseball season is starting up. There is no worst part.
Who will you be watching especially closely this spring?
Turambar: MadBum and Starling. They’re our biggest additions this offseason and we NEED both to perform in the regular season. So yes, I’ll be keeping tabs on both of them.
Makakilo: Jake Lamb. How well can he play in each position? How well does he hit left-handed pitching? How well can he pinch hit? He has often been injured - does he avoid minor injury during spring training?
Dano: The newbies, mainly—which isn’t to say the folks trying to climb up from the minor leagues (though them, too), but our new free agents. Calhoun, Guerra, even Bumgarner, as well as Jay and Jackson. Seeing how they do while wearing the Sedona Red. Every signing is, essentially, a lottery ticket, so this first look lets me begin to figure out how much performance I can reasonably expect from them going forward.
James: The utility guys, including Jake Lamb. I am interested to see who makes the cut, especially since Lamb is not able to slide into a corner outfield position. Will options dictate who makes the cut, or will performance? I was curious to see how the team was going to construct the roster, but then MLB went dictated that no more than 13 members of the 26-man roster could be pitchers, so that eliminates the curiosity about roster construction.
Edbigghead: Any player who had a significant injury last season, Weaver, Peralta, Lamb etc. Want to see how they play, how often, and how well.
- Luke Weaver: Is he healthy, how is he throwing the ball ?
- Daulton Varsho: Will he play exclusively as a catcher in Spring or get time in the outfield ?
- Josh Rojas: Will he work out mostly with the infielders or outfielders ?
- Merrill Kelly: Will he be stretched out to be a starter or conditioned as a reliever right out of the gate ? (See also below answer on decisions)
- Josh Rojas: Can he make strides at the plate? EV data suggests he has an intriguing profile, but I think at times he would overthink things in the box and get himself out. I still think he’s one of the 26 best players in the organization and have him making the team due to the ability to play the outfield competently in addition to his infield defense. I see him as a Daniel Descalso type player with slightly better tools.
- Seth Beer and Pavin Smith: Can they provide enough value with the bat to unseat Walker, a relatively safe projection to be an average starter at 1B the next 2-3 seasons? My gut feeling says no right now, but things can change with more observation.
- Geraldo Perdomo: This kid is scratching the surface of his potential as a player despite the already high floor of good hit, obp, baserunning, and defense at a premium position all put together in one 6’3” 184-pound package. Ketel Marte 2.0 if the power tool develops in his early to mid 20s?
- Daulton Varsho: If he can competently handle center field, he’ll turn into what Dan O’Dowd calls an Everyday Value Player (EVP). An EVP doesn’t really play any set position, but has a strong bat and can competently play multiple position groups. Due to fringey arm, Varsho is probably limited to C, 2B, LF, and CF but could still be a regular top of the order guy (I like him as a future leadoff hitter).
- Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, and Kristian Robinson: If I can, I will. Those three are the future of the outfield.
- Blake Walston: Reportedly he’s already beefed up from 172 pre-draft to 197 at the end of the year and that’s reflected on his velo which is low 90s and touching 96-97 on his fastball. I also think he’s got a good shot to beat his projected ceiling from draft day (instead of a mid-rotation guy, could develop into a 1-2 if the breaking ball comes along).
What’s the biggest decision left for the D-backs to make?
Makakilo: Assuming Jake Lamb plays well in spring training, and assuming no injuries on the team, Jake Lamb will start the season on the bench. The big decision is, “Should the D-backs trade Jake Lamb?” Although depth is a great thing, there are two reasons to trade him. His salary of $5.5 million is high for depth, but low for a primary third baseman (in 2019 the average salary of 33 qualified third basemen was $6.675 Million per Bill Felber). He will be a free agent at the end of the season, and it is unlikely that the D-backs extend him. That leads to another question, “Will the right trade opportunity happen?”
Dano: How the pitching is going to shake out, both in terms of the rotation and how we’re going to assemble and sequence the bullpen. I think we’ve plugged just about all of our roster holes, to the extent we’re going to do so, and we’ll just have to see how all that turns out. Who winds up in the rotation, though, and in what order, is concerning to me and I don’t have any idea how it’s actually going to break. Likewise the bullpen—who closes, who gets the seventh, who gets the eighth, who gets assigned to which roles. Our success or failure this year will largely depend on those choices, I suspect.
James: The bench/5th outfielder. I am assuming that Jake Lamb is going to make the roster. If that is the case, then who fills out the rest of the bench? Tim Locastro is the only one able to play in CF. Rojas, Young, and Vargas all have their own reasons for being likely roster candidates. It is going to be interesting.
Edbigghead: I am sure the decision has already been made but Jake Lamb and his actual purpose. I understand he can backup 3rd and 1st and come off the bench to bat left - on paper he can right? Let’s see it in action for more than a couple of weeks, and let’s see some actual offense from him or else there is no reason for him to be on the 26 man roster. 5.5 mil is a lot for someone who has not played a combined full season of ball in the past 2 seasons. Something is still missing here.
Jack: The biggest decisions revolve around the rotation. Bumgarner and Ray are locks.
I assume Leake, due to seniority and salary is a 90% lock as well.
That leaves Gallen, Weaver and Kelly to compete for two spots, with Alex Young, Duplantier and others right behind them. Who’ll be in the rotation, who’ll get a spot as a long man in the pen, and who will be sent to Reno to stay stretched out and wait their turn ?
Turambar: Keep or drop Lamb. He’s gotta show he’s still got value, all $5mil+ of it. Honestly I think he gets dropped, but we’ll.
Michael: Last infielder on the roster: Josh Rojas, Andy Young, or Jake Lamb? Rojas has the best positional versatility, Young gives the team a RH bench bat with pop and decent OBP skills, and Lamb is the LH version of Young. If Rojas can make a jump at the plate
Predict one surprise that will unfold between now and Opening Day for Arizona.
Makakilo: Stefan Crichton makes the opening day bullpen.
Dano: Some key figure is going to get hit by the injury bug, and a last-minute scramble is going to ensue as we try to get creative and plug an unexpected hole in either our rotation, our lineup, or our bullpen (or, possible, two of three, or all three of the above).
James: I’m pretty sure I am in agreement with Makakilo. I have a feeling an out of options arm will force his way onto the bullpen roster. Stefan Crichton seems the most likely candidate.
Edbigghead: Something surprising happens with one of many 1st basemens….
Jack: One “out there” possibility is that some team suffers a catastrophic rotation injury and overpays for Robbie Ray, who the DBacks feel able to let go because they are getting good spring performance from more than 5 starters. Perhaps a higher probability surprise would be Hector Rondon being named closer over Archie Bradley.
Michael: The team will have at least one pitcher and one position player go down with an injury that requires an IL stint to open the season. My guess is someone competing for a rotation spot now will have a major arm injury and miss most of the season making us grateful that Hazen had better depth this year compared to last year. I also believe one of the penciled position players starters will open the season on the IL.
As for player movement, I still think there is the possibility of a Ray trade. Remember the Souza deal wasn’t done until about a week after Spring Training opened up so never say never.
Does the Mookie Betts trade lock up the NL West for LA?
Makakilo: It depends.
- Without acquiring Betts, the Dodgers are the favorite, although should they stumble the D-backs are in position to challenge them for the Division.
- The impact of acquiring Betts (if the trade is completed), remains to be seen. Unpredictable events happen. Mookie Betts could be injured on opening day and miss the season.
Dano: No. One player, however good that player, doesn’t a successful MLB team make. I think that goes double with a high-profile add for a high-profile team like the Dodgers. Big name, big market players on a big market, big name team means big ego issues. Big name players with big egos often have difficulty playing well with others. Betts makes LA look better on paper, by an awful lot, but keeping all the big egos happy on that team (especially if Betts joins the crew) and getting top performance out of them will be….well, interesting to watch, I suppose.
James: It is beginning to look like Betts might not make it to the Dodgers to open the season. Even if he does though, I don’t think it really changes much of anything. The Diamondbacks narrowed the gap between themselves and the Dodgers with the moves that they made this winter. The Dodgers acquiring Betts and Price likely stretches that gap back out to where it was before all the moves. I wouldn’t necessarily say that getting Betts and Price locks up the NL West for the Dodgers though. I do think it gives the Dodgers a better October roster than what they started with, but the NL West was mostly locked up either with or without the Betts trade.
Edbigghead: Negative. While adding Betts to any team will make that team better, it does not lock up anything for anyone especially before ST even starts. I feel like the Dodgers have weakened themselves by letting Ryu and Maeda go and only slightly added to their offense by acquiring Betts. I feel like they went after Betts only to appease their fanbase and because they can.
Jack: The DBacks are listed as 9-1 underdogs to win the NL West. If the Betts trade goes through, those will increase to 10-1. Nothing is locked up before they play the games and play the season. But you have to ask yourself, just how much are you willing to put down on the DBacks to win the division even at 9-1 odds. $20 ? $100 ? A house payment ? How far will you go with your “optimism” and back it up ?
Michael: Dodgers were already essentially locks to win the NL West barring some unforeseen circumstance. The trade will still likely go through in the coming days.
If you could eliminate one inanimate object from existence worldwide, what would it be?
Makakilo: Viruses. Rationale follows:
- Without viruses, many diseases would be eliminated, such as the 2019 novel corona virus.
- Viruses are inanimate because they do not conduct metabolism, and do not self-reproduce (instead these functions are done by cells in an infected life form). Furthermore, when outside a cell (when viruses are called virions), they lack nearly all essential characteristics of life.
Dano: Smartphones. They have made us stupider, more forgetful, less engaged with the actual people in our lives, and less socially aware. They are bad for humanity, and have made each of us who uses one and comes to depend on it worse as a person and worse as a citizen.
Edbigghead: Any furniture that I smack my foot into while walking around at night. So footboards and bedframes got to go, bro.
Jack: Dodger Stadium
Michael: Hoverboards, or at least the real life incarnations of it. If they can actually develop legit hoverboard technology from Back to the Future Part II, then I may change my stance.
* = Note by Jim. Answer left blank. So, until otherwise informed, I’m going to assume James is making a comment about being thoroughly content with the state of human existence at the present time. :)