PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 10: U.S. Futures All-Star Shelby Miller #19 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the third inning during the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field on July 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
I was planning on doing a chat thread this morning, sort of pre-Pitchers and Catchers Report Day celebration type thing, but unfortunately I find myself a bit more pressed for time today than I had anticipated. Thus, the two hour or so window I usually try to set aside for chats just isn't going to be feasible.
So I was thinking of what I could do instead, and I considered another batch of scouting reports. Since I hadn't actually put together a group for this week ahead of time, though, that would actually be more time-consuming than a chat, not less. So a draft preview post be out.
It was then I suddenly realised I had failed as of yet to do one of my annual tradition posts. I speak, of course, of the Spring Surprise Game.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Spring Surprise Game, the rules are as follows: I want one (1) pitcher and one (1) position player who you think is going to make a big impression in camp this year. It can be a major leaguer or minor leaguer, but let's face it: we're mostly talking either prospects or guys on the margins here. The players in question do not have to make the team out of spring training to qualify as a Spring Surprise; I just want to know who you think we'll all be excitedly discussing come the second week of March.
I didn't do well at all last year with my picks; I chose David Kopp and Tommy Pham. Miss and miss. On the other hand, I did list Matt Carpenter as my alternate choice, and he was the big story of spring 2011, so I claim partial victory. I also mentioned Lance Lynn in passing, which is still plenty good enough for me. Even though I was actually mentioning him as a counterpoint to my actual pick. I suck.
Now, those of you who remember this game from years past will also likely recall every year I promise to revisit this post later on in spring training or at the beginning of the season and determine who won. You may further recall my track record of actually following up on this game is, well, rather spotty. So I'm not going to promise this year I will revisit, determine a winner, and dispense a hypothetical prize of internet money or original erotic art. However, I will promise you I will totally try to remember to do that stuff. Hey, you want dependability? Buy a Honda. You want adventure? Trust the baron, baby.
Anyhow, as for my picks, I'm going to go with Shelby Miller for the pitching side. Him performing well may not be a huge surprise, exactly, but I do think he's going to be the player we're all talking about throughout camp as he makes it tough to send him down. He had a brilliant season last year, is close to being ready, and I think he may come out with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, hoping to prove he's past some of the off the field issues he was dinged for last year. I don't think Shelby breaks camp with the team, if only due to the arbitration clock, but I think he sticks around until very late and makes the decision to send him out much tougher than most of us think it will be.
On the positional side, I've gone back and forth between a pair of players, and I finally decided to go with Kolten Wong. I also considered Tyler Greene, Ryan Jackson, Bryan Anderson, and Robert Stock, but for various reasons I am taking Wong. (Ahem.)
I think Wong comes into camp in great shape, and I think he gets into a bunch of noon games early on in camp, demonstrating just how close he already is to being a major league-ready hitter. He won't stick around nearly as long in camp as Shelby, simply because of the number of players competing for playing time in the middle infield, but I think he makes the biggest impression among the hitters the first few weeks.
So those are my choices. Shelby pitching deep into March and tantalizing with his proximity and talent, Kolten starting out like a house on fire trying to prove how good a draft pick he really was in just three weeks. I think Carlos Martinez and Joe Kelly could also make some noise on the pitching side. Just a feeling on Kelly.
Give me your picks, quickly!
The Baron's Valentine Playlist (8tracks held a little contest for the best Valentine's Day playlist; this was my attempt)