With the necessary caveat that the numbers mean absolutely nothing, Spring Training is nevertheless a fascinating time for player evaluation.
My friend Will Leitch recently wrote about one guy from every team who brings excitement to camp. But here we’re going to look at 30 guys who are flat-out interesting, be it because they’re vying for a job, coming back from an absence or trying to maintain some recent momentum.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Nate Pearson, RHP
Pearson was the talk of the Grapefruit League one year ago, prior to the shutdown. He wound up making his debut in 2020 but had his season interrupted by a flexor strain. The Blue Jays have a wild card rotation with the likes of Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark and Steven Matz in tow. But if Pearson is throwing strikes this spring, it improves the outlook considerably.
Orioles: Trey Mancini, OF
Last year was strange for all players, but nobody went through more than Mancini. He missed the season while undergoing 12 chemotherapy treatments for Stage 3 colon cancer. Thankfully, he’s been declared cancer-free and can now resume his role as the Orioles’ best player and, possibly, biggest trade chip.
Rays: Francisco Mejía, C
Understandably, the focus has been more on what the Rays gave up in the Blake Snell trade than what they got back. But Mejía is a former blue-chip prospect whose future at catcher is unclear and whose supposedly high-ceiling switch-hit tool has translated to only a .225/.282/.386 slash line in 362 plate appearances over the last four seasons. What can he do with a new opportunity on a new team?
Red Sox: Jarren Duran, OF
Boston still has stars on its roster and made some effort to improve this winter, but there is still a feeling of transition around this team, and Duran, its No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has a clear path to the bigs this season on a team that has not (as of this writing) addressed the Jackie Bradley Jr. vacancy in center field. Here is his chance to make an impression on Alex Cora and Co.
Yankees: Gleyber Torres, SS
In bringing back DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees recommitted to Torres as their everyday shortstop, despite his 2020 troubles. Torres reported to last year’s Summer Camp out of shape and dealt with a leg injury and a big statistical slide. He and catcher Gary Sanchez (who could just as easily occupy this spot) have to begin rewarding the Yanks’ patience.