On Tuesday, Feb. 14th, the day that baseball fans have been waiting for finally arrived: pitchers and catchers reported to spring training for most Major League baseball teams. This day marks the beginning of Major League Baseball spring training. Half of the teams in the league play in the “Grapefruit League” in Florida, while the other half play in the “Cactus League” in Arizona.
The games played in these leagues are where current Major Leaguers get back into the swing of things, get used to playing games again and hone their skills. There is also a large group of Minor Leaguers from each organization asked to play games with the Major League team during spring training for a chance to earn a spot on the roster. It is an exciting time for fans to watch their favorite teams prepare for the season.
Now that spring training has begun, the baseball analysts are submitting all of their predictions for everything from the next World Series Champion to the win-loss records of each individual team. USA Today put together this year’s projections with a panel of six people, all very knowledgeable about baseball statistics.
In the AL East, the Boston Red Sox are projected to win the division with 94 wins. The Cleveland Indians are projected to win the AL Central with 95 wins. The Houston Astros are predicted to edge out the Texas Rangers for the AL West pennant with 90 wins. The Washington Nationals, led by Bryce Harper, are strong candidates to win the AL East, as are the Mets, with 90 and 89 wins projected for the teams respectively. As is to be expected with human prediction, these are certainly imperfect. And as all baseball fans know, there is always an underdog: a team expected to perform poorly that has a phenomenal season and makes a playoff run. Similarly, there is also always a team that is supposed to make the playoffs that severely underperforms.
One team with the potential to exceed expectations is the New York Yankees. Over the off-season, the New York Yankees reacquired “The Cuban Missile” Aroldis Chapman after trading him to the Chicago Cubs during the 2016 season. He was a huge part of the Cubs’ World Series victory, throwing a fastball exceeding 100 miles per hour. Joining Chapman, Greg Bird will be returning after spending the 2016 season on the disabled list due to a torn labrum. In the outfield, it is likely that Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier will earn spots on the Yankees roster. These two are arguably the two best outfield prospects in the game, and it appears that they are Major League ready.
When coupled with last year’s breakout star catcher Gary Sanchez, rapidly maturing shortstop Didi Gregorious and the ever-dangerous infielder Starlin Castro, there is reason to believe the Bronx Bombers could do something special in 2017. Only time will tell how they will perform.
Potential trades present great opportunities for teams to get ahead. One of the prime free agents right now is former Orioles catcher Matt Wieters. He is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, and he swings a power bat. He would make a huge addition to any team in the league, and his contract with the O’s is up. Bleacher Report analysts predict that the veteran catcher will end up with the Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals or Los Angeles Angels. The Rays and Angels would seriously benefit from his presence, as neither team has been predicted to do particularly well this season. If he were to end up with the Nationals, they would be a very difficult force to stop, being that they are already projected to win the AL East.
Spring training presents a lot of unique opportunities for teams to prepare themselves, develop their prospects and acquire new talent before Opening Day. With so many shifts in talent and exciting new players to watch, it will be another great season of Major League Baseball.