GLENDALE, Ariz. -- This is the time of spring training when a player can redefine himself with a first impression, good or bad. You could be Jesus Montero walking into the Seattle Mariners' camp 40 pounds overweight, or maybe Masahiro Tanaka, cutting up the strike zone with seven different pitches in his first outing. (Tanaka was the real deal, writes Bob Klapisch.)
Those first impressions aren’t always lasting, but they can be meaningful, and help a player lose or win a job, and alter perceptions and decisions.
Some of the first early impressions from around MLB camps.
Atlanta Braves: Dan Uggla is one of the highest-paid Braves and will get a shot to rebuild his swing, and the early signs are good, as I wrote the other day. But Tommy La Stella has caught the attention of evaluators early on. He’s 25 years old, so his .343 average in Double-A last year has to be put into that context, but his history is that he hits everywhere he goes. La Stella has been fine in the field, as well.
If Uggla doesn’t bounce back, La Stella could be an option at second base down the road. Carroll Rogers has more on La Stella.
Kansas City Royals: Mike Moustakas has impressed those around him with his condition and an evolution in his attitude; he had a nice start to spring training on Friday. In addition, Norichika Aoki has opened eyes in his first year in the Royals' camp with his intensity, and how he goes hard after everything.
St. Louis Cardinals: Outfielder Randal Grichuk, acquired in the David Freese trade, is opening some eyes, writes Derrick Goold. From his piece:
Grichuk (pronounced Gri-chuk with the “gri” from “grip”) tripled in his first at-bat of the Cardinals’ exhibition loss Saturday, and later he had a potential home run pushed foul by the wind and a potential double speared by the third baseman. Grichuk extended to drive a two-strike pitch to deep center field and then sped for the RBI triple. The strong showing came a few days after he hit two home runs -- one to left, the other to right -- in a scrimmage pitched by a Cardinals coach. He’s arrived at camp with a jolt.
Officials have described him as one of the “most impressive” young bats in camp. He’s slated to go to Class AAA as a starter in the outfield, though a righthanded bat with his pop may earn a look for the major-league bench. He could force that discussion.
Minnesota Twins: Alex Meyer, the pitching prospect acquired from the Nationals in the Denard Span trade, is throwing well early, and the internal projections for him are high. Meyer had 13 starts in Double-A last year and will presumably start the year in the minors, but he could be a midseason candidate to break through.
Cleveland Indians: Last year, the Indians were impressed by Yan Gomes from the outset, and he wound up winning the job as their everyday catcher.