Hope springs eternal, and for some of Major League Baseball’s best, that means an annual chance to wipe away the feelings of missed opportunities from a season not worth remembering. Here then are nine players who really, truly can’t wait to report for spring training and get this new year properly started.
Tim Lincecum, P, San Francisco Giants
Yes, he has three World Series titles under his belt. Yes, he has the two Cy Young Awards. Yes, he’s thrown no-hitters the last two seasons. But Lincecum is still only 30 and sports the second-highest K/9 among active pitchers, so despite his obvious struggles last year, you know he’d like to start 30-plus games this season and show that he’s ready to earn every penny of the $18 million he’s still owed for 2015 (and whatever he hopes to be paid after that).
Getty ImagesJamie Squire
Prince Fielder, 1B, Texas Rangers
'Fielder, Texas Ranger' still feels like one of those mantras you have to repeat every day to convince yourself that it’s true. But Fielder, who played only 42 mostly miserable games last season in Arlington thanks to neck surgery that cut his year short, is most definitely still owed $24 million a year for the next six, so we figure it’s high time he start earning that dough in his new-ish digs. Surely, he’s looking forward to socking a few dingers in that hot Texas air as well.
Getty ImagesJohn Williamson
Matt Harvey, P, New York Mets
For as fast as Harvey’s star rose during a meteoric 2013 season, let’s take stock of where he is now. Entering his age-25 season, Harvey (having missed all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery) sports a career record of 12-10, has faced fewer than 1,000 batters and has yet to top 180 innings in a professional season. The pressure will be immense on Harvey to show he can once again anchor this promising Mets rotation, which includes current Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard (soon, anyway), and …
MLB Photos via Getty ImagesAnthony Causi
Bartolo Colon, P, New York Mets
Due just $11 million this season -- a downright bargain considering his recent reliability and current market conditions -- Colon doesn’t figure to stay the full season in Queens, since someone will likely trade for his services … unless the Mets are in competition for a playoff spot. Either way, Colon figures to end this season on a squad that’s playing meaningful games, so expect the 41-year-old to put every conceivable effort into what could be his final year in the big leagues.
Getty ImagesAlex Goodlett
Rick Porcello, P, Boston Red Sox
It’s hard to believe Porcello is through his age-25 season and already has thrown more than 1,000 innings. He scrapped his way to a 15-13 record during his last year in Detroit, all the more impressive considering he posted one of the lowest K/9 among qualified starters last year. (A career best walk rate always helps in these instances.) In 2015, he’ll be the main man in a revamped Red Sox rotation that will count on his stuff from Day 1.
Getty ImagesJim Rogash
Shelby Miller, P, Braves
After all the promise Miller showed in 2013 during the Cardinals’ run to the World Series, what an awful follow-up he had in 2014. A 15-9 record with good peripherals gave way to a dismal replacement-level season that saw his strikeout rate drop and his walk rate rise. Still only 24 and with not even 400 innings of MLB wear and tear on his right arm, Miller now gets a fresh start in Atlanta thanks to a blockbuster November trade that sent Jason Heyward west. Miller could be the anchor for the newly revised Braves rotation, and that’s reason enough for him to be optimistic about the new digs.
Getty ImagesMike Zarrilli
Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles
Like Shelby Miller but in an Orioles hat and way more pop in his bat. After 53 homers, 138 RBI and 6.1 bWAR in his 2013 age-27 season, big things were expected of Davis last year. Instead, he sputtered his way to barely half of those power numbers in just 127 games before a positive test for Adderall wiped out his final 25 games and kept him from Baltimore’s surprising run to the ALCS. Now, Davis has his TUE for Adderall (as he had in the past) and, as the Orioles’ best middle-of-the-lineup power source, is surely ready to erase any lingering effects from a forgettable 2014 season.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
Alex Rodriguez, DH, New York Yankees
With regular playing time and a production level at a fraction of his past capabilities, here are some marks Rodriguez could surpass this season: .300+ career batting average (currently .299), 3,000 career hits (needs 61), 2,000 career RBs (needs 31), and 2,000 career runs (needs 81, so probably not). The only other player to have reached all those marks? Hank Aaron. So yeah, he has something to prove.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Much like Harvey, Puig has a small sample size of work but has rocketed to international fame like a, well, really fast rocket. And with the Cuban superstar, you feel like there’s still so much of his skillset that hasn’t even come to full maturity yet. (A .386 OBP in 252 games, but only 22 steals on 37 attempts? I mean, this is a player who can go from second to home on a routine groundout.) He’s the most exciting player on the most expensive team in baseball, so you know he’s ready for an even bigger year in 2015. (Also, baseball is way better with Yasiel Puig, so bring it on.)