Major League Baseball

10 MLB storylines to watch as Spring Training begins in Arizona, Florida

February 27

By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst

Spring training is finally upon us. 

The grass is cut, the fields are full, and we’re getting all the weird videos on Twitter that we could ever ask for. This includes a video of Pirates outfielders jumping on a tire for some reason.

I'm not sure what the reason is for this drill, but who cares? Baseball is here!

With the arrival of spring training come the storylines, and there are plenty. I came up with a list of 10 that I’m looking forward to keeping up with.

Tyler Glasnow and his 'slutter'

What’s not to love about Tyler Glasnow? His fastball reaching triple digits, his 6-foot-8 frame, his knee-buckling curveball, his long, luscious locks of hair and now a brand-new pitch.

The one knock on Glasnow was that he needed to add another weapon to his repertoire of pitches. It appears that he has done just that with his "slutter," a mix between a slider and a cutter. And man, is this exactly what he needed. 

This pitch brings a new element to Glasnow's already electric stuff, and I will be locked in this spring to see how it looks. It might be a work in progress, but if he’s able to use it effectively, I could see him contending for the Cy Young Award. 

Kim Ng at the helm for the Marlins

Now, this is something to be excited about. I urge you all to look at the resume of Kim Ng. She is one of the most qualified first-time GMs in the history of the game, and I couldn’t be more excited to watch the direction she and Derek Jeter take this team. 

She also just so happens to be the first female GM in MLB history. But what excites me the most is how much she deserved this job, and I can’t wait to watch it all unfold in Miami

The Dodgers' rotation

Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, David Price, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May.

The Dodgers have seven legitimate options for their starting rotation, and that is simply amazing. What in the world do they do with this group?

You have to assume the team's top three are locked and loaded, with some variation of Buehler, Bauer and Kershaw. The fourth and fifth spots aren’t so obvious. I would assume Price and Urias are the front-runners for those, but Gonsolin and May certainly deserve a chance. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out this spring.

Shohei Ohtani's health

As a legitimate two-way player, Ohtani is one of the most exciting and unique players in Major League Baseball. We know he can hit, and when healthy, he has shown flashes as a pitcher, too, with a 3.31 ERA in 51.2 innings in 2018. The problem is he hasn't been healthy.

That might be changing, though, as reports out of Angels camp have him throwing 97 mph in his bullpen sessions. That's a good sign.

A clearly injured Ohtani had a 37.80 ERA in his two starts in 2020, managing only 1.2 innings of work. But he has the potential to be electric on the mound and a force to be reckoned with when healthy. That's something I'm hoping for in the upcoming season.

The Mariners. Yikes.

The Mariners have been in the limelight this offseason for all the wrong reasons.

Former President/CEO Kevin Mather was forced to resign earlier this month when comments he made at a rotary club were made public online. In his comments, he bashed the English skills of some foreign players, calling them "loud." He also mentioned that the team manipulated the service time of some star prospects by delaying their promotions to the majors.

Why am I keeping an eye on this team? Partly because one of the players in question, Jarred Kelenic, is one of the best prospects in baseball (No. 4, according to MLB.com), and I’m wondering if this whole situation causes the team to call him up sooner.

 I'll be interested to see how the Mariners control the damage from the comments of their former president.

The new 1-2 punch in San Diego

One of the most exciting teams to keep an eye on this spring is the San Diego Padres. That's partly because of the mega-deal they gave their young superstar, Fernando Tatis Jr, and also because of the two star pitchers they acquired for the top of their rotation: Yu Darvish and Blake Snell.

I’ll be keeping an eye on these two in spring training with their new, vastly improved squad.

The Mets

Under the new ownership of Steven A. Cohen, it just seems different this time around for the Mets

Cohen has made quite a splash in his first offseason, acquiring arguably the game’s best shortstop, Francisco Lindor, in a trade with Cleveland that also brought a quality pitcher in Carlos Carrasco. Catcher James McCann and relief pitcher Trevor May are also huge new pieces. 

Cohen's transparency on Twitter is what I love. He responds to fans, he asks for their input, he talks about updates whether big or little. He just does it differently than most owners, which I think is good for baseball.

On top of that, Cohen is bringing back those beautiful black jerseys! Truly a blessing for us all.

Arenado in St. Louis

In one of the wildest trades I have ever seen, the Colorado Rockies essentially gave Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals. They even sent the Cardinals $51 million as part of the deal! WHAT?

Regardless of how you feel about the Rockies, the deal is official, and Arenado now begins his first season as a Cardinal.

He is one of the best third baseman in the game, though some are concerned about his home/road batting average splits. Since 2016, Arenado is batting .322 at Colorado's Coors Field but just .269 in other stadiums.

However, I am a huge fan of his and would point out that a lot of players hit better at home. I believe Arenado will settle in nicely in St. Louis and continue to be the player he has always been.

The Tigers' promising rotation

Let’s talk about this Detroit Tigers rotation -- it is exciting. They aren't on a level with the Dodgers, but the organization that drafted me is heading in the right direction. The Tigers are absolutely loaded with young arms.

Matt Manning, Alex Faedo (out for the 2021 season), Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize are all names that get me excited for the future of Detroit baseball. In fact, Manning, Skubal and Mize are ranked among the top 25 prospects in baseball by MLB.com, and they have a chance to break camp with the big-league squad. These guys are legit, and I can’t wait to continue to watch their growth and see what the organization does with these guys.

Pitching injuries

With the 2020 season as short as it was, there were a lot of unused bullets in the arms of pitchers. We are already seeing some coming out of the gate throwing harder than usual, and I’m really hoping it doesn’t lead to arm injuries.

Baseball players are creatures of habit, and pitchers like to start throwing at the same time every offseason. But last season was so short that it's causing some guys to feel like they are closer to "ready" than they normally would at this point. I will be watching them this spring training and hoping no serious arm injuries occur. 

Ben Verlander, who spent five years in the Detroit Tigers organization, is a baseball analyst for FOX Sports. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. Follow him on Twitter @Verly32.


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