Some young prospects might be getting their assignments to minor league camp right now, but not before scouts get to see who has impressed and who has not.
Now that we're approaching mid-March, early cuts have begun at spring training sites. For some this makes the games more interesting, as the big leaguers play more innings; for others, the earlier games are the ones to watch since the younger players get to play more, even if they're not as polished. Many scouts fall into the latter group, as early games mean extended looks at 2011 draft picks, or introductions to big-name prospects who play for organizations the scouts don't normally cover. So before all of the prospects head down to minor league camp, here are some players opening scout's eyes–for good or bad reasons–in Florida so far.
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As training camps wind down, here's a look at news that has cheered each major-league team this March.
Spring training is the time for optimism and dreams. However, with Opening Day just eight days away, the time for wishing and hoping is drawing to a close. Before the party gets spoiled by the natural ebb and flow of the season, let's take a look at one positive occurrence for each of the 30 clubs this spring (to balance things out, on Friday we'll look at the negatives of the spring):
Wrapping things up by running down the National League's best candidates to benefit from hot spring starts.
Picking up where we left off on Tuesday, let’s complete our circuit of the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues by identifying some less established NL players who may have put themselves in stronger consideration for roster spots this season on the basis of small-sample spring performances thus far.
Hunter Pence provided one of the only bright spots for the Houston Astros during a breakout rookie performance in 2007. Pence didn't quite match his output as a hitter in his follow-up act in 2008 but, with his defense, remained a valuable asset. The Houston right fielder has rebounded offensively this spring, playing well enough to enter the All-Star conversation at his position in the National League.
Onward, ever onward with the pursuit of random knowledge!
Doesn't "Stocks, Cactus, Grapefruit & Jones" sound like the name of a band that released one semi-well-received album in 1968 and then faded into the vast desert of obscurity? It's not, though; it's just a roundup of the various topics I'll be covering today.
Where: Mesa, Arizona (Cactus League)
2007 record: 85-77 (1st, NL Central)
New guys:Jose Ascanio, Jon Lieber, Kosuke FukudomeGone guys:Cliff Floyd, Koyie Hill (NRI), Jacque Jones, Jason Kendall, Will Ohman, Angel Pagan, Mark PriorWow, he's still here?Felix Pie has been traded to Baltimore in a deal for Brian Roberts a thousand times in the media, and not once in MLB. With the Orioles having added Adam Jones, it would seem less likely that they'd acquire Pie, leaving the 23-year-old free to roam center field for the Cubs.
Winter grade: A-. Their only move of note-signing Fukudome-was a terrific one, giving them the OBP boost they sorely needed, and solidifying a position, right field, that was a problem in 2007.
NRI to watch: God bless him. Chad Fox, 37 years old and nearly three years removed from his last professional appearance, is in camp. Fox, who we used to describe as "effective when healthy," hasn't been either since 2003. Still, you have to root for a guy who wants it this badly.
Job battle to track: There's no obvious closer, as Ryan Dempster is being moved back to the rotation after a few years of relief. That leaves Kerry Wood, Bobby Howry and Carlos Marmol, all hard-throwing righties, grappling for the job. This seems like a good place for Piniella to re-create his 1990 Reds approach, with no closer and all three guys available for work from the seventh through the ninth.
One move to make: Slapping Lou Piniella with a clue stick. Piniella, who has a lot of good qualities as a manager, indicated last week that his lineup would feature Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Theriot in the top two spots, with Fukudome fifth. The Cubs' biggest problems on offense have been not having enough runners on base for Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Hitting Fukudome behind those two is a waste of his talents. If Soriano has to bat leadoff because he's fast, fine; at least bat Fukudome second and Theriot down in the lineup where he belongs.