Baseball is finally back. Though it is just Spring Training and the games mean nothing, there are still some things you should keep an eye on during these games in Arizona.
The Dodgers are fresh off the most intense games in the World Series and now their very next games will be the exact opposite of what they experienced in October. Spring Training games are here solely for the players to get their work in before the grind of the 162 game season.
The first thing you should watch out for this Spring Training is your emotions. Basically what I’m saying is, if Kershaw has a bad outing it does not mean hitters have finally figured him out. It goes both ways for negative and positive things. Just don’t put too much stock in the outcome of spring training games.
Now into some important storylines and things to look out for this spring, the most intriguing of which is the competition in left field. Going into the competition there are five candidates for the job. The two long shots are Alex Verdugo and Enrique Hernandez. Verdugo will really have to show up this spring to get the nod, but, even if he absolutely balls out he may not get the job.
Hernandez could land the role but it seems unlikely due to his versatility and how well he is suited to be a utility man coming off the bench. Toles is a third candidate who could make some noise depending on how his rehab and knee hold up.
The top two dogs for this position are Joc Pederson and Matt Kemp. Spring training will likely provide enough clarity as to who the everyday starter will be. But, if it is still unclear, a platoon situation is not out of the question. All five players have a shot at the job and can earn that spot by putting together nice at-bats, solid defense, and most importantly staying healthy this spring.
On that note, another storyline to follow during the spring is how healthy some of these players look. It is also important to look out for players returning from injuries and seeing whether or not they will be a different player than they were before the injury.
Players to watch closely include Andrew Toles, Yimi Garcia, and Adam Liberatore. All three players are returning from significant time off due to an injury. Toles tore his ACL at a very inopportune time last season. Seeing how he looks on his legs during a game will be very important for his progress. The hope is he does not look timid and trusts his rehab has paid off and is comfortable on that repaired ACL.
As for Garcia and Liberatore after over a year off baseball, it will be very interesting to see them pitch in a game situation. Unlike Toles I won’t be looking to see if they are timid trusting their repaired injuries, I will be looking for pitch location, stamina, and situational pitching. It will be very interesting to see how rusty they are after being down with an injury for so long.
On another injury note, it is going to be interesting to see Corey Seager and his elbow are as healthy as he says. Last season it was very visible just how banged up he was. This spring he claims to be past the elbow issues and fully healthy. His swing and arm will be telling the real story this spring.
Trayce Thompson will also be a very intriguing player this spring. As of now, it looks like there is just no room for him on the team. He is no longer a young prospect and could be a player that gets stuck in AAA. This spring he won’t be fighting for a starting spot but rather for his life on the
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Dodgers. He could make a big statement or prove that he is just not good enough to be on a championship-caliber team.
The final thing to keep an eye on is the non-roster invitees. As Dodger fans, we know all too well that injury could strike at any moment. The Dodgers have luckily been able to fill those injuries with players who could produce well enough, and at times even better, than those who went down with an in injury.
Players like Donovan Solano, Mark Lowe, and Zach Neal are all players who have the opportunity to make a good first impression. Doing so may earn them a 40 man roster spot, especially if an injury occurs. With solid springs, they could find themselves on the big league roster later on in the year to fill holes created by injuries. These games in spring mean a lot for these non-roster invitees. Especially the veterans.
It may not matter whether the Dodgers win or lose these games. It may not matter if established stars falter. But there are reasons to watch these games and huge storylines to follow. More information will emerge as the spring continues and some of these questions will be answered.