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What to Watch For in Spring Training

It’s not just for naptime anymore

It’s baaaaack. That’s right, baseball is just about underway as teams have now reported to their respective Spring Training camps, and the fun is about to begin. While baseball may have been replaced by football as America’s favorite sport, it will never be unseeded as her pastime, and there’s certainly something special about this time of the year. With perhaps more drama than usual surrounding Major League Baseball and more than a few major moves this offseason, here are a few things to keep an eye on rolling into Spring Training:

Shohei Ohtani

The great experiment is underway. As the Angels arrive to their Tempe home for the Spring, all eyes are on alleged Japanese Babe Ruth Ohtani. With cleanup power at the plate and ace potential on the mound, Ohtani could bring a change to baseball. “He’s probably going to influence our team more as a pitcher,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the Los Angeles Times, “but that’s not to say he’s not going to have a chance to make a difference on the offensive end, too.”

In recent years, baseball has seen hard-hitting pitchers more notably in Madison Bumgarner and even Mike Hampton, but perhaps none that have rivaled the production Ohtani had in Japan. Many say that Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) is between AAA and MLB-level play, but nobody will really know what he can do until he takes the field. Spring Training will give the world its first glance of Ohtani and what he can do for the game.

Free Agent Camp

For the first time in two decades, Spring Training will feature a free agent camp. This offseason has been notoriously slow on the free agent front, and stars such as Jake ArrietaEric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas still find themselves without contracts. About fifteen players have reported to the free agent camp where media is forbidden, but Scott Boras’ clients, including the three mentioned above, will not be attending. The camp currently has plans to remain open at IMG Academy in Florida until March 4th, hoping that some if not all free agents will be signed by then.

The lack of signings has caused quite a stir for both the unsigned and those already under contract. There were whisperings of a Spring Training holdout or protest in solidarity with those still unsigned, but the rumors were dispelled and all have reported on time. The free agent market is noticeably weaker than past offseasons, but it still hasn’t swayed agents like Boras from asking for mammoth contracts for their clients.

The Evil Empire in Pinstripes

Albert Ostman’s nightmare has officially come true as two Sasquatches have found their home in the Bronx. With 2017 AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge and reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton set to take the field together, it’s time to hate the Yankees again. Judge spoke with the New York Post:

“He said, ‘When we get down to Tampa, let’s spend some time in the cage and pick each other’s brain.’ He has quite a bit of success in the league and I have a lot to learn from him and maybe he will learn a couple of things from me. I am excited to pick his brain a little bit, his mechanics, his approach. He has seen a lot of guys in the league, but him coming to the AL East, it’s a little bit different, so he will have a chance to pick my brain. It’s going to be nice to have another big guy in the clubhouse.’’

So, while the NBA is still less-than-competitive and the NFL is in hibernation, sit back, relax, and enjoy some baseball.

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