Spring Training is here for all teams today and as we get updated news reports, late signings, and manager quotes, it’s important to have an idea of what to look forward to among all the noise.
Pitchers can illuminate plenty in their early starts, let it be an increase in velocity, a firm grasp of a rotation spot, new mechanics, or an added pitch to their arsenal. Keep in mind, in most cases, you should be shifting your perspective of pitchers only from a positive change, rarely when a pitcher underperforming as they ramp up for the season’s premier.
I’ve gone through all thirty teams and written quick notes on every considerable pitcher. Feel free to return to this through the pre-season as a quick reminder of what we’re hoping to see. I won’t be updating this before the season starts, but I will be discussing changes I’ve seen during my weekday morning Plus Pitch podcast until the season starts.
Zac Gallen – Reports came out that he had shoulder bursitis, but he threw a bullpen on Tuesday and seems fine. Monitor the feel of his secondary pitches as their resurgence will spell a return to dominance.
Madison Bumgarner – Let’s hope he’s throwing 91+ mph again instead of 89/90 mph.
Merrill Kelly – He’s typically around 91/92 mph with middling secondary pitches. Not a whole lot is expected to change here.
Luke Weaver – He’s a fastball/changeup arm as he’s struggled to find a third pitch to keep him consistent. Maybe it’s a cutter, maybe it’s a curveball.
Dan Straily – It’s a return from the KBO for Straily and keep an eye to see if he’s leaning heavily on his slider. It could spell for a fantasy-worthy arm in bursts.
Max Fried – We’re waiting for his curveball and slider to truly take the next step. Maybe we’ll get a quote or two showcasing a greater focus on whiffs with the slide piece.
Charlie Morton – Monitor his health and velocity. Returned to 95+ last year and we want that to stick.
Ian Anderson – Low walk rates. That’s all I care about from Anderson. I don’t expect a major improvement in the spring, but achieving higher strike rates across his curveball and changeup is a major goal for 2022.
Huascar Ynoa – Who knows, maybe the changeup takes another step. Let’s just see him healthy and regularly throwing at this point after shoulder concerns at the end of last season.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – It could be Tucker Davidson or Kyle Wright as they wait for Mike Soroka to return mid-season. I wonder if we’ll see a small signing from them to help them out in the opening months.
John Means – I wonder if he’ll continue developing his curveball & slider. Changeup can still be better if he keeps it down, while I’ll be all kinds of hyped if he’s sitting 93/94 in camp instead of 92/93.
The Rest – Seriously, you don’t need me to talk about the others. Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall are the only two of intrigue and while we’ll likely get glimpses of them and all the hype, I’d be surprised if one of them breaks camp with the team. Monitor them and not the other four (Jordan Lyles, Bruce Zimmermann, Keegan Akin, and Zac Lowther).
Chris Sale – Welp, he’s already dealing with a rib injury and will be on the IL to start the year.
Nathan Eovaldi – As long as he still has his velocity and curveball working, he’s fine. I wonder if there will be talk of any other secondaries taking a step forward.
Nick Pivetta – His command is the issue and I find it hard to think of something convincing in spring training to suggest he’s alleviated his struggles.
Rich Hill – He’s still existing and has a clear hold on a rotation spot. As long as he’s above 86mph, he’ll be okay.
FOURTH AND FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – Does Tanner Houck make it into the rotation? What about Michael Wacha? And maybe this is the time for Garrett Whitlock to get a proper shot. I wouldn’t be excited if Wacha gets his rotation spot, but if Houck is impressing (and maybe with a refined changeup/splitter?) it could make us more confident in drafts. And hey, if Whitlock actually grabs a rotation spot, you should be interested.
Kyle Hendricks – Getting strikes with curveballs and changeups. Sinker command will always be good.
Marcus Stroman – Is there a focus on getting whiffs with his slider/cutter?
Wade Miley – Still cutter/changeup focused? I’d be shocked if not.
Alec Mills – Don’t get absolutely crushed, okay?
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – With Adbert Alzolay on the IL to start the year, it could be Steven Brault or Justin Steele earning this spot and I’d be surprised if we saw something from either of them to get me excited. Maybe a prospect forces the Cubs’ hand with Cory Abbott and Brailyn Márquez. Stay tuned there.
Lance Lynn – More of the same, please don’t hold diminished velocity.
Lucas Giolito – You do you.
Dylan Cease – My biggest concern for the year is four-seamer and curveball command. If he has excellent curveball feel, there could be something. Also, if the slider command isn’t the same as last year, that could be a huge issue.
Dallas Keuchel – Does he do enough to hold his rotation spot? Highly unlikely he loses it, but there’s always room for being worse, even with last year’s marks.
Michael Kopech – Every quote says he’s in the rotation, monitor his dominance to ensure it.
Reynaldo López – Could sneak in a rotation spot if the White Sox go six-man, I’d need to see something extraordinary with his slider/changeup to get excited.
Garrett Crochet – He’s apparently in the running for a rotation spot, he’d have to be overwhelming to get there.
Vince Velasquez – They signed him, too, but will he get the chances to earn a rotation spot? And even if he gets those, will they be of any value?
Luis Castillo – It’s Castillo. Hope he’s still getting all the whiffs on changeups.
Tyler Mahle – Does his slider/splitter come alive? Four-seamer is always amazing
Mike Minor – Is his velocity up past 92 mph again? Was last year, fell in April during the season.
Vladimir Gutierrez – Is he doing enough to hold onto his rotation spot?
Justin Dunn – Velocity still up at 93/94 mph? Are his breakers coming into form?
Reiver Sanmartin – Could steal a spot like he did at the end of last year. I wonder if he can get out of the 89/90 mph velocity range.
Nick Lodolo – Could force a rotation spot if Vlady or Dunn are not up to snuff. Excited to watch the prospect get his chances this spring.
Hunter Greene – Same goes for Hunter, who boasts 100+ mph velocity. Missing the command, though.
Brandon Williamson – Maybe he impresses as well, though I believe he’s behind Lodolo and Greene.
Shane Bieber – Fastball velocity back to 94 mph? How is his fastball command?
Cal Quantrill – Is there anything more than cutters and fastballs?
Zach Plesac – Are his slider and changeup destroying once again?
Aaron Civale – Is he going to his curveball more than 15% of the time? I’d love to see a world where cutters + curveballs equate to more than half his pitches.
Triston McKenzie – Velocity still 93/94 mph? Is he able to execute the BSB or is his fastball/breaker command all over the place?
Germán Márquez – Calm your thoughts and quietly remember that whatever you see in the spring is not located in Coors.
Kyle Freeland – Calm your thoughts and quietly remember that whatever you see in the spring is not located in Coors.
Antonio Senzatela – Calm your thoughts and quietly remember that whatever you see in the spring is not located in Coors.
Austin Gomber – Calm your thou–okay Gomber is a little more interesting and I want to see his breakers working effectively.
Chad Kuhl – Is he tossing upper 90s again? With 35-40% sliders?
Eduardo Rodríguez – Is he feeling his changeup? Four-seamer was all alone last year, with sliders/cutters getting some called strikes but not a whole lot else.
Casey Mize – Is there anything to get excited about from the splitter or curveball?
Tarik Skubal – Is he going four-seamer/slider/changeup with the occasional hook? I believe in that approach for the future for Skubal.
Matt Manning – Has he developed something else to pair with the heater? Is he still holding 95mph velocity like in his last start?
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – Is it Tyler Alexander? The newly signed Wily Peralta? Maybe someone else joins the fray like Julio Teheran or Tyler Anderson? Or hey, maybe Joey Wentz or Alex Faedo force the Tigers to add them to the squad.
Justin Verlander – Is he sitting – not hitting – 95+ mph? If so, ALL ABOARD!
Framber Valdez – Monitor his changeup and if his sinker is getting crushed. Curveball is always elite but needs help.
Luis García – Is his slider back in the mix? He lost it at the end of last year and became fastball/cutter. He needs that breaker or maybe his changeup steps up again.
José Urquidy – Check out his arsenal depth. If he can make his changeup, slider, and curveball all work, he’s ready for a strong April.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – With Lance McCullers Jr. out indefinitely, Cristian Javier seems like the clear choice – how long do they stretch him out to? Also, consider Jake Odorizzi to take the spot as he obviously has starting experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if neither one acts as a definitive starter out of the gate, for what it’s worth, being limited to 3-4 innings.
Zack Greinke – Hey, he’s back! He’ll have massively diminished velocity as he’s notorious for taking it easy in the spring before turning it “on” to upper 80s by the start of the year.
Brad Keller – Is he sitting 94+? Is he executing sliders down effectively?
Brady Singer – Is it anything more than sinker/slider? His ceiling is capped until then.
Kris Bubic – Is he sitting 92+ mph? How is his changeup command – is he getting the pitch consistently down?
Carlos Hernández – Command is his biggest problem, watch his intent and execution across all pitches.
Shohei Ohtani – Likely taking it easy in the spring. Don’t worry about it, just look for quotes about how they are using him.
Noah Syndergaard – Is his velocity 95+ mph? Is he allowed to throw sliders and curveballs again? I have my doubts, but this would heavily impact his potential this year.
Patrick Sandoval – Still dope? Heavy emphasis on secondaries over heaters?
Michael Lorenzen – Is he ditching the cutter? Slider and changeup still whiff pitches?
José Suarez – How’s the curveball/change looking?
SIXTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – The Angels have expressed the above five as inside the rotation & they want a sixth as well given the existence of Ohtani. With Griffin Canning on the IL, that leaves Jaime Barría and Reid Detmers. Jaime isn’t much of a factor in most leagues, but if Detmers has an impressive spring (curves for strikes + sliders for whiffs) he can become a very interesting flier.
Walker Buehler – Fastball velocity back up to 96/97 mph? Is he getting whiffs with it?
Julio Urías – Look for fastball location up + that ridiculous curveball. If the changeup gets whiffs, look out.
Clayton Kershaw – Are ya pitching? 90/91 mph velocity?
Tony Gonsolin – Is he able to get strikes with his slider again? If he can get that pitch back to 2020 levels, things can be wonderful.
Andrew Heaney – Are they taking him seriously in the rotation? That is, how long is he starting for? Any better with his curveball/changeup command?
David Price – I don’t expect him to be in the rotation, but monitor how the Dodgers are treating him.
Sandy Alcantara – Still ~30% slider usage? We love the changeup, but as a third pitch, not as his #2.
Trevor Rogers – Is the slider back to stealing strikes in the zone? Monitor his four-seamer command glove-side and hitting the edge.
Pablo López – He threw plenty harder in his sole start back from the IL in October, is the 95 mph velocity still there? Is his cutter or curveball taking strides forward? Are the Marlins confident in his shoulder?
Elieser Hernandez – He has a comfortable rotation spot…right?
Jesús Luzardo – Let’s hope he’s going heavy on curveballs with changeups and four-seamers backing them up. Please stop throwing sinkers.
Edward Cabrera – There’s an outside shot he forces his way into the rotation with a dominant spring. If he’s piling up strikeouts, your eyebrows should be raised.
Corbin Burnes – Aces gonna ace.
Brandon Woodruff – Same.
Freddy Peralta – Is he keeping the walk rate down? Command a major issue still?
Adrian Houser – He has the rotation spot…right?
Eric Lauer – Velocity still up to 90+ mph on the cutter? Four-seamer used as a whiff pitch at 92/93 mph?
Aaron Ashby – He’s getting stretched out as a starter. Does he force a spot in the rotation? That would be AMAZING.
Sonny Gray – Slider was horrible at getting strikes last year while the curveball didn’t do enough. I wonder if the Twins will work with Gray to get his breaker usage up this year and emphasize more sliders inside the zone.
Dylan Bundy – Is he going over 30% sliders? It’s an elite pitch and needs a massive usage bump.
Bailey Ober – How’s the slider looking?
Joe Ryan – How’s the slider looking?
Randy Dobnak – How’s the…okay, not EVERYONE is about sliders on the Twins. Does Dobnak even get a rotation spot? Does it matter? I wouldn’t be shocked if the Twins signed or traded for one more arm to round out the rotation.
Jacob deGrom – Just stay healthy. PLEASE.
Max Scherzer – Same. Welcome to the life of a #2.
Chris Bassitt – I wonder if we’ll see that slider usage come up this year. Could pave the way for more strikeouts.
Carlos Carrasco – As long as he keeps his 93/94 mph velocity, his success hinges on slider and changeup feel coming back. Watch closely.
David Peterson – I don’t think he has a shot to disrupt Megill’s spot and unless he has something new, expect him to miss the rotation.
Gerrit Cole – Aces gonna ace.
Luis Severino – Is his velocity back to 96/97 mph? How’s the look of his changeup and slider? I’m excited for him to have a normal ramp-up to the season.
Jordan Montgomery – Is he leaning more on changeup + curveball? If so, does he have a better fastball or cutter to complement them?
Nestor Cortes Jr. – Is his slider and fastball still overwhelming batters? Velocity still 91 mph?
Jameson Taillon – He desperately needs his slider or curveball to become a whiff generator to pair with the heater. Let’s hope they’ve taken a step forward.
Sean Manaea – Is he still with the team? Is his velocity sitting 92+ mph or is it back to 90/91 mph?
Frankie Montas – Is he still with the team? Does he have feel for his splitter and slider?
Cole Irvin – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Daulton Jefferies – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Paul Blackburn – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
SIXTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – Keep in mind, someone needs to step up if Manaea or Montas are dealt.It could be Brent Honeywell Jr., who could also push out Paul Blackburn with an exciting spring, but there may be another sneaky play out of Oakland if someone seizes the opportunity.
Zack Wheeler – Is he fully ramped up to start the year? There were small concerns his shoulder was a little creaky.
Aaron Nola – Is his changeup back to form?
Kyle Gibson – Does he have solid command across his repertoire?
Ranger Suárez – How is the slider coming along? Is he still commanding the edges with heaters?
Zach Eflin – Is he actually ready for opening day? If not, who is the Phillies’ fifth starter? Does it matter?
José Quintana – Is he executing the BSB? Had moments of success with elevated four-seamers and curveballs down. I wonder if he unlocks his potential, despite its improbability.
JT Brubaker – Is he able to get away being sinker/slider?
Zach Thompson – How does the cutter/curveball combo look? Is he able to sneak in heaters to steal strikes?
Mitch Keller – Is he actually sitting upper 90s? And with decent command?
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – There’s a whole lot up in the air here (is Keller inside the rotation as the #4?). Bryse Wilson seems like the most logical bet, but there’s also Dillon Peters, Miguel Yajure, Max Kranick, and Roansy Contreras, the latter of which tosses upper 90s and has a bit of upside. Follow this just for Roansy.
Saint Louis Cardinals
Adam Wainwright – As long as he can still sneak sinkers in for called strikes, Waino should be fine. Would be cool to see his cutter dominate, too.
Jack Flaherty – We haven’t had an update yet on the condition of Flaherty’s shoulder and we anticipate he’ll be out for the start of the year. Monitor this closely.
Steven Matz – Is he decent enough to be a Toby in St. Louis with that wonderful defense?
Dakota Hudson – What Matz said.
Miles Mikolas – What Matz and Hudson said.
Yu Darvish – Is his cutter still getting crushed?
Joe Musgrove – Has he figured out the ideal approach? Could have a monster spring and really turn heads.
Blake Snell – Is the changeup actually out of timeout? I hope not. Look for low walk rates –> fastballs heavily in the zone without care.
Mike Clevinger – HE’S BACK! We’re looking for him sitting 95 mph on heaters with devastating breakers.
Nick Martínez – Is he sitting 93/94 mph? How does his stuff look? I’m so curious.
Logan Webb – Still a ton of drop on his sinker? Is he feeling his slider and changeup?
Carlos Rodón – Maybe the most important question in this article – what is his velocity? Is he sitting 94/95 mph?
Anthony DeSclafani – Is he primarily fastball/slider still?
Alex Wood – Is he sitting around 92 mph? Slider still elite?
Alex Cobb – Is he getting early strikes with curveballs? How’s “The Thing” (the splitter) looking?
Tyler Beede – He won’t be in the rotation early, but I’m excited to see if he still has strong velocity and if his secondaries still earn whiffs.
Robbie Ray – Still pumping heaters in the zone? Quickly glance at the overall walk rate to quell your fears.
Marco Gonzales – Is there anything in his secondaries to get us excited? Any chance of sitting 90 mph instead of 88 mph?
Chris Flexen – He can’t do it again…right?
Logan Gilbert – I’m dying to see how his slider looks. If that’s a consistent pitch (or the changeup…?) he’ll have the perfect #2 for his elite heater.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – With Dunn gone, there’s a question of who the #5 is. Justus Sheffield seems like the logical choice, but the Mariners do have Matt Brash and George Kirby seemingly ready to go (maaaybe Emerson Hancock?). Pay close attention to their performances this spring and how the Mariners treat them.
Shane McClanahan – Don’t allow your fastballs to be destroyed. K thx.
Drew Rasmussen – Is your slider any decent?
Corey Kluber – Is your cutter doing wonderful things again? Are you sitting above 91 mph? Curveball needs to still be excellent as well.
Ryan Yarbrough – You know “The Fratty Pirate”. He ain’t changing.
Luis Patiño – How’s the slider coming along? Are the Rays giving him a bigger shot this year?
Shane Baz – I’m guessing the Rays leave him out of the rotation until mid/late April. We’re sure to see him toss some innings, though.
Jon Gray – Is his velocity at 95+ mph? Slider still great?
Martín Pérez – Maybe he gets his ole velocity spike back…? Don’t get your hopes up.
Dane Dunning – I wonder if there’s something extra to unlock.
FOURTH AND FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – There are a lot of options for the Rangers to fill their final two spots between A.J. Alexy, Kolby Allard, Glenn Otto, Spencer Howard, and Taylor Hearn. Sadly, none get me excited save for Howard and only if he has his slider and changeup working.
José Berríos – Just be yourself.
Kevin Gausman – Just be yourself, too.
Hyun Jin Ryu – Can he get the form back for his cutter/changeup/curveball?
Alek Manoah – I wonder if we’ll see the changeup return in great form. Otherwise, the four-seamer and slider should still be elite.
Yusei Kikuchi – If he’s sitting 96 mph consistently, he has my attention.
Ross Stripling – Stripling seems like the sixth option with Kikuchi signed, but if he has his secondaries working, he has an outside shot to put some pressure to grab the spot.
Nate Pearson – I doubt you’ll see Pearson in the rotation, but make a note to keep track of the buzz. If he looks unhittable and gets stretched out, there’s a small chance.
Stephen Strasburg – Please be healthy and sitting 94+ mph. It’s not easy coming back from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery, but if Strasburg is there, he’ll be a solid fantasy play.
Patrick Corbin – Corbin pushed up his velocity last year to 93 mph, but it came with more hittable heaters. Look for the velocity & a better job commanding the zone.
Josiah Gray – Fastball command is everything as his breakers will continue to get whiffs. I’m most interested to see how the Nationals stretch him out to make sure he has a chance for six frames early in April.
Paolo Espino – I guess he has the fourth spot…? He could lose it if Anibal is amazing and one of the final three options is stellar.
Anibal Sánchez – Apparently he impressed during his showcase. The Nationals could lean on Anibal plenty and if he looks solid in the spring, you may have a decent early streamer.
Aaron Sanchez / Joan Adon / Cade Cavalli – Pay attention to these three in the spring. I don’t expect any to break camp with the team, but if any of them massively turn heads, it may push Paolo out of the rotation.
Featured image by Shawn Palmer (@Palmerdesigns_ on Twitter)