Spring Training is a wonderfully optimistic time. Most players enter a new season by picking up where they left off the year before, and the assumption is that they will pick up where they left off, or they will improve. Then you’ve got the other group — the guys who struggled. You don’t want to think that this group will have another down year. You want to see if something has changed that might be the answer. Maybe a player is in better shape, or made an adjustment to his game, or my personal favorite, had Lasik surgery.
This kind of stuff happens all the time. In the last week I’ve gone over a lot of those changes. Gregory Polanco added 12-15 pounds of muscle, aimed at doing a better job of hitting in the majors and holding up over a full season. Corey Hart says he finally was able to build up strength in his knee, which hopefully will allow him to bounce back. Ray Searage already has an adjustment in the works for Antonio Bastardo to cut down on his control problems. Jose Tabata is trying to add leverage to his swing, so that he can avoid hitting ground balls and weak line drives.
All of these stories are usually met with one of two responses:
1. Maybe this is what the player needs to finally break out/bounce back/surprise everyone.
2. This will never work, and I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it does.
It’s optimism and pessimism. Some want to believe that it’s possible a player can make that switch from a guy who struggles to make the majors, to a guy who belongs in the majors. Others refuse to believe anything until the results show up on the field.
Personally I think the story should just be viewed as information. Take the above cases. It’s fact that Polanco added muscle, Hart had more focus this off-season to strengthen his knee, Bastardo is working on a mechanical adjustment, and Tabata is changing his swing. Whether the desired results happen or not, nothing changes the fact that the players had a specific focus to improve their game. And if the desired results do take place, it’s always nice to know what happened ahead of time, rather than wondering what suddenly happened to make this change.
As for where I fall on the optimist or pessimist scale, I’d land on the optimist side. I’d actually be surprised if there’s any prospect writer out there who falls on the pessimist side. It takes an optimist view to look at a player who is a mess of tools and potential, and suggest he could one day figure it out and be a star player in the majors. But I also have never seen the value in being pessimistic about these types of things.
My favorite story in baseball is when a player unexpectedly has success. From the extreme cases like John Holdzkom to the more common cases like Edinson Volquez, it’s always nice to see someone succeeding when everyone wrote him off. So when there is a player making an adjustment to his game, I’d rather hope it works for him, rather than assume it won’t. Either way, you don’t know if the specific change will work out.
As for the changes above (and all of the other adjustments we’ve been talking about so far), tomorrow begins the next step in evaluating those changes. The Pirates will start their game schedule, which means we can stop evaluating players in bullpens and batting practice, and get a look at them in games. Of course, that still leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s a step up from the evaluation opportunities we’ve had so far in camp.
**Here are the lineups for the Black and Gold game. Also, Clint Hurdle has announced the starting pitchers for the first three Spring Training games.
**We have about 100 hard copy books of the 2015 Prospect Guide remaining from the most recent shipment. We’ve already sold more than last year’s total, and I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current batch is gone, the hard copy version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.
**Every day I upload content on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the video features on YouTube. Be sure that you’re subscribed to all of those sites to follow everything we upload throughout Spring Training (there is different content for each social media site).
**Video features from the weekend:
- What Led To Keon Broxton’s Breakout Year In Altoona?
- How Ray Searage is Trying to Fix Antonio Bastardo’s Control Issues
Other features you may have missed:
**Jose Tabata Changed His Swing After Talking With Marlon Byrd. I’ll have more on this subject in tomorrow’s video feature.
**Q&A: Will PNC Park Burn Down When Neil Walker Eventually Leaves? I answered your questions on Friday, including a look at the potential reaction for what seems like the inevitable departure of Neil Walker in the next year or two.
**Don’t Forget About This Pitcher When Creating Your Pirates Dream Rotation. A look at a guy who gets lost in the Cole/Taillon/Glasnow/Kingham mix.
Draft and International Coverage: