VIERA, Fla. -- Since pitchers and catchers reported a month ago, everything has had a preliminary feel to it. This is the nature of the first half of spring training.
Of course, players who were active during winter ball might be a little ahead of those who didn’t. But on the whole it’s difficult to get a real read on players in early spring training because in the first 10 or 12 games, hitters are just getting their timing and pitchers are still building arm strength. Or they could be working on refining a pitch. In Arizona I watched Neftali Feliz throw more changeups than he normally does simply because he’s working on improving a pitch he will need after being moved from the closer’s role to the starting rotation this season.
With rosters brimming with non-roster invitees and minor leaguers of all levels, pitchers and hitters are facing a spectrum of talent from A-ball to the big league caliber so that also makes it difficult to evaluate roster players early on. For example, Mariners manager Eric Wedge wants Kevin Millwood to make the team. But if Millwood’s doing well early, it might only be because he’s using veteran guile and pitchability to beat Double-A hitters. It’s simply too soon to tell.
But as spring training heads into its halfway mark, teams are starting to buckle down and gear up for the regular season. It is now that roster cuts begin and proper player evaluation can take place. The real grind starts now. Here’s a laundry list of things general managers often want resolved, reviewed and re-evaluated in the next two weeks.
Mind the farm
Spring training is when general managers have the chance to see all of their minor league prospects. It is an opportunity to decipher the difference between players who are ranked extremely close by the organization. Moreover, there is time to get to know each player a little more personally and judge their makeup. Likewise, GMs will often try to see top prospects from other organizations' minor league systems during minor league games. All of this information could prove very important for trades down the road.