Every big league team has cause for optimism in 2017
By Richard Justice
Spring Training has always had a magical quality to it, and that's true no matter how many times you've been through it. It's warm weather and green grass and seeing your favorite team again. In that way, it truly is renewal.
And there's optimism, too -- gobs of it in every camp. Some of it at different levels, but still. It's when things start to come into focus. Wade Davis pitching for the Cubs, Chris Sale for the Red Sox. Dexter Fowler bringing his smile to the Cardinals, Edwin Encarnacion ramping up the excitement around the Indians.
It all starts to feel real with Major League Baseball announcing every team's workout dates on Tuesday. For some clubs, that day is a mere five weeks away. What are you looking forward to seeing?
Here's my list for all 30 teams, by division:
National League East
• Braves:Bartolo Colon takes batting practice, too. His are less interesting than Bryce Harper's. But Colon is a big reason the Braves are excited about 2017.
• Marlins:Giancarlo Stanton does things that take your breath away. Among them, he had the four hardest-hit baseballs in the game last season, according to Statcast™. They ranged from 118.7-120.1 mph.
• Nationals: Harper's batting practices are among the most entertaining things in the game. Get there early.
• Phillies: Amid a roster loaded with talented kids is center fielder Odubel Herrera, who emerged as a star in 2016. He represents where the Phillies are headed.
• Brewers:Eric Thames is back in the United States after four seasons in Korea. The Brewers believe he will jump-start his career nicely.
• Cardinals: Alex Reyes may have the best pure stuff in the game. His bullpen sessions alone will be must-see entertainment.
• Cubs: How many generations of Cubs fans have dreamed of the boys taking the field as World Series champions? Welcome to the new normal.
• Pirates: To see Andrew McCutchen still in a Pirates uniform should be the sweetest of sights for Pittsburgh fans.
• Reds: Joey Votto is the most prepared, meticulous and conscientious hitter of his generation -- and one of the best.
• D-backs:Paul Goldschmidt is quietly putting together a Hall of Fame resume. He prides himself on doing everything correctly. Goldschmidt is not the only reason to be excited about this team, just the best.
• Dodgers:Corey Seager is already one of the five or 10 best players in the game. He's also all of 22.
• Giants: Hunter Pence is back, and one of many reasons the Giants are optmistic.
• Padres: Top prospect Hunter Renfroe represents a new era of Padres baseball -- not just the talent, but the youth and energy.
• Rockies: Have the Rockies ever been this optimistic about the future? That optimism begins with Chad Bettis at the front of a rotation that has a chance to be special.
American League East
• Blue Jays:Josh Donaldson has come to define baseball in Toronto, where they appreciate his desire and his production.
• Orioles:Adam Jones has led a remarkable turnaround. After 14 seasons without a playoff appearance, the Orioles have been to the postseason three times in the past five years.
• Rays: Evan Longoria is a pro's pro. To watch him do something as simple as taking infield is a joy.
• Red Sox: Retirement is hard, isn't it, David Ortiz? Are you being pulled back? I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say if you decide to jump back in, we'd be happy to have you.
• Indians: After signing Encarnacion, no team opens the 2017 season with more optimism than the one that co-starred in one of the great Fall Classics ever played. No team is more optimistic about what a new season holds.
• Royals: Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are back for another ride. They've come to define the teams that won back-to-back AL pennants in 2014-15.
• Tigers:Miguel Cabrera is the living, breathing definition of greatness. Catch him now. One day Cabrera will have a plaque in Cooperstown.
• Twins: This is the season we find out about Byron Buxton. No player has a greater skill set, and he's capable of leading the Twins into their next great era.