- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Ten players who had great spring trainings, in no particular order:
1. Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds: He was told Friday that he has made the Reds' season-opening rotation, and he will be the first player since Darren Dreifort in 1994 to pitch in the majors without touching the minor leagues.
2. Kyle Blanks, San Diego Padres: "He has basically shown everybody that he is going to be a good player in the big leagues," a rival GM said. Blanks improved his physical condition and is moving better, and has come in and hammered the ball -- 12 extra-base hits, with an OPS of more than 1.200.
3. C.J. Wilson, Texas Rangers: He pitched himself into a starting job with the team by not letting anybody get on base -- only 22 hits and walks combined over his 25 innings. He has never thrown more than 73.2 innings in any given season, so there will be questions lingering about whether he can do this over a full season. But a year ago, did anybody have Scott Feldman pegged as a Cy Young candidate?
4. Ricky Nolasco, Florida Marlins: His assignment to the minors in the middle of last season seems like a mere blip now, because scouts are extremely impressed with how he is pitching and how he is attacking the strike zone. He handed out exactly one walk in 25.1 innings this spring.
5. Michael Young, Texas Rangers: The Rangers might not have Ian Kinsler to start the season and they have other distractions as well, but Young is the Texas metronome; he has hit .426 this spring. The season is starting and he is ready to hit again.
7. Tyler Colvin, Cubs: He wasn't even really in the conversation at the outset of spring training, but he played himself into consideration by hitting .468 in 77 at-bats. The number that probably concerns the Cubs: zero walks in spring training. But he's a left-handed hitter, and the Cubs need left-handed hitting. Because of the play of Colvin and others, the Cubs' regulars might not be regulars for long, Gordon Wittenmyer writes.
8. Sean Rodriguez, Rays: The second baseman, acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade with the Angels, walked into spring training and elbowed his way into a starting job with one of the best teams in baseball by hitting .460. Some rival evaluators do not think this is a fluke. "He is a good player," one American League East executive said this week.
9. Matt Garza, Rays: He worked on his command in the spring, Joe Smith writes, and appears to be poised to take his performance to the next level -- which Tampa Bay needs. The Red Sox have Jon Lester and Josh Beckett to anchor their rotation, and the Yankees have CC Sabathia; Garza has the ability to be that kind of pitcher.
10. Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves: You might have heard of him, and if you haven't, you will be hearing a whole lot about him over the next 15 years or so. His spring numbers to date: a .435 on-base percentage and a .316 batting average, with five extra-base hits.
The most incredible baseball-related story I've read in a long time
Mediators are brought in to resolve fantasy league disputes, Sarah Talalay writes.
The battle for jobs
5. The Nationals picked a No. 5 starter, sort of, Adam Kilgore writes.
6. The Mets will open the season with a first-base platoon, Andy Martino writes.
Moves, deals and decisions
3. The Royals bought a pitcher.
Dings and dents
1. Spoke with some scouts who think that if J.P. Howell does not bounce back from his shoulder problem and the Rays are in need of a reliever late in the season as they push for a playoff spot, they will have an internal solution. "It wouldn't surprise me if they moved David Price into the bullpen later in the year and called up [Jeremy] Hellickson," one evaluator said. "Price could give them a lot of what Howell gave them out of the bullpen, and Hellickson has a chance to be pretty good."
One thing to remember about Johnson's history: Injuries initially classified as day-to-day have turned into something more serious. Of course Johnson is hurt, writes Joel Sherman.
1. Max Scherzer had a good outing. To me, he is a scale-tipper for the Tigers: If he's really good, they could win this division. If he doesn't pitch well, they'll have a hard time winning this division.
3. The Giants' bats were cooled.
From The Mailbag
- Do you think Carlos Gonzalez will be a better leadoff [hitter] than Rajai Davis? Do you think the Rockies' lineup reminds you of a AL lineup? One more, do you think the Rockies can win 90-plus games?
Vern: Yes, I think Gonzalez will have a better season than Davis, who has had a rough spring. I picked the Rockies to win the World Series -- but, as noted above, the season is not starting well for them, with the injury to Jeff Francis.
• The Rangers are hitting their stride as they depart Arizona, writes Jeff Wilson.
• The Twins played in Target Field for the first time, and they felt at home, writes La Velle Neal. The Twins can be proud of their park, writes Patrick Reusse. There was a lot of fresh air for fans. The players had a sense of wonder, writes Tom Powers.
Can't wait to see the place.
• Every year, Ron Cook expects the worst from the Pirates.
• Tom Gage is picking the Tigers to win the AL Central.
• Geoff Baker is picking the Mariners to finish in third place.
• Kevin Baxter picks the Mariners to win the division.
• Young guys and old guys are fired up to make the Seattle roster, writes Larry LaRue.
• The Padres will try to run this year.
• Dick Enberg is very excited to work the Padres' games this season.
• Rob Johnson has had a long and painful journey back to the big leagues this year, writes Steve Kelley.
• Keri Hilson is going to sing the national anthem Sunday -- if she can remember the words, writes Mark Shanahan.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Pitchers Mike Leake, Fausto Carmona and C.J. Wilson are among the players who excelled this spring.