Spring training is a time for warm weather and a relaxed atmosphere for baseball players and fans. While I'll certainly be watching some of the games, in person and on television, I, and my fellow fantasy owners, must be careful to avoid overrating the statistics. Last spring training, then-Baltimore Orioles catcher Jake Fox led everyone with 10 home runs, and among the top 10 qualified pitchers in ERA were Nick Blackburn, Randy Wells and Zach Britton. Turned out those performances weren't exactly precursors of things to come for those guys.
While it's important to put in context what we see in spring training, there are players to watch to see how they perform or if they're even doing so because of injury. While some pitchers are simply working on new pitches they'll never use and hitters are similarly experimenting and aiming to avoid getting hurt, here is a player from each team I will be paying some degree of attention to over the next few weeks:
Atlanta Braves: If outfielder Jason Heyward, foolishly believed to be at a career crossroads at only 22, is hitting one ground ball after another at the opposing second baseman (as he did last season), that's noteworthy. We need to see if his balky shoulder remains a problem. Lift the baseball like Jake Fox can, J-Hey!
Miami Marlins: Everyone is watching this team. Will new third baseman Hanley Ramirez be kicking one grounder after another? What's the right fielder's name today? At what point will new manager Ozzie Guillen and Logan Morrison have it out on Twitter? OK, for real, I'm watching Josh Johnson's velocity and results. Don't we have to?
New York Mets: I like Ike, as in Ike Davis. If he's swinging and running without issue, that's a potentially big deal in a questionable National League first-base crew. Remember, his manager said he would hit between 30 and 40 home runs. What, only 40?
Philadelphia Phillies: The key arms are set, but let's see if Jim Thome can handle first base. He has nice NL-only value if he can play there a few times per week in April and May. John Mayberry Jr.'s spring numbers could matter as well.
Washington Nationals: If Bryce Harper hits .400 this spring, the Nats might have to keep him in the bigs. With him, the stats do matter (though they shouldn't). I say send him to Triple-A regardless. Frankly, there should be NL-only value in pending center fielder Roger Bernadina.
Chicago Cubs: The first-base battle intrigues me. Don't tell me Bryan LaHair can't matter. Of course, he ought to have a big spring, which might overrate him some. Check out Anthony Rizzo and reasonable prospect Josh Vitters. It's not like Ian Stewart is safe at third base.
Milwaukee Brewers: It's not Ryan Braun. We know he's good. Expect the furor surrounding his situation to gently die down. Certainly I've spoken and written about new first baseman Mat Gamel at length. He almost has to hit to win the job, with outfielders lurking (Norichika Aoki among them) and Corey Hart working out at first base.
St. Louis Cardinals: Not much here. The second-base battle probably isn't too relevant to us. I do want to see if one of the young third basemen -- Matt Carpenter, Zack Cox -- goes nuts, because it's not like David Freese is the most durable fellow.
Colorado Rockies: There are a lot of starting pitcher options in camp, including a few young guns with major upside in Drew Pomeranz and Alex White. Will they make the team? And I must admit every time Jamie Moyer throws, I'm interested. You just have to root for that guy.
Baltimore Orioles: Lefty Brian Matusz jumps to mind. Watch the radar gun on him, because if he's in the mid-90s. ... A year ago, Matusz was a 20th-round pick in ESPN leagues, right around Ricky Romero and Gio Gonzalez. Now? Not so much.
Boston Red Sox: How often will the KFC delivery man show up? OK, there's actually much to watch here, including two rotation spots and both corner outfield positions. Will Daniel Bard stick in the rotation?
Toronto Blue Jays: Like Moore, if Brett Lawrie hits .450 with eight home runs, he'll move up draft lists. Frankly, he could move up in the lineup too. Watch the left-field battle between Eric Thames and Travis Snider. If both fail, a potential 50-steal guy in Rajai Davis lurks.
Chicago White Sox: Most of the offense bears a curious look, including Adam Dunn, Brent Morel (huge September 2011) and new regular Dayan Viciedo. Is Alejandro De Aza really going to lead off? Also, Chris Sale has huge upside as a starter.
Detroit Tigers: Most would say Miguel Cabrera at third base, but isn't he a top-3 overall pick regardless? Let's see how pitching prospect Jacob Turner performs and, if it's poorly, which lefty wins the fifth starter role.
Los Angeles Angels: Watch Mike Scioscia's lineup, particularly before and after Albert Pujols. Will Kendrys Morales be in it? It's not so much about Pujols, but certainly whoever hits directly after him is worth a bit more than last season (Torii Hunter? Howard Kendrick?).