Yes, it's that time again, everyone. Spring Training is very much upon us, bringing with it our annual dose of excitement, the promise of seven months of baseball, of evenings spent listening to, watching, and discussing-slash-arguing baseball games in all their magnificent, myriad minutiae.
And with the coming of Spring Training comes one of my favourite features of the year, that of our annual Spring Surprises game. I don't honestly know how many years in a row it is now I've been doing this; only that it would seem dreadfully wrong to me if I didn't.
I'm sure all you longtime vebers know the drill by now; for those who don't, who may be new to the community or just tend to ignore the things written on Wednesdays because you personally dislike me (and I know you're out there), here are the parameters of the game we are all about to play (I won't say the rules of the game because rules are for chumps, kiddies. We don't need 'em, we don't want 'em, so fuck 'em.):
I want you to think very very hard about the team the Cardinals are bringing into training camp this year. I want you to think about all the players who will be reporting, all the guys with jobs sewn up, all the guys on the cusp, fighting for jobs, and all the guys who will be scratching and clawing just to force their way into enough playing time to make a positive impression on the coaching staff and, to a lesser extent, the public at large. Think some more. Keep thinking. Okay, thought enough? Are your eyes bleeding? Then no, you haven't thought enough. Think more, ya baby.
Now, having thought yourself into a mild stroke (the proper state for enjoying one of my posts, to be quite honest), I want you to pick out a pair of names. One name will belong to a pitcher. One name will belong to a position player. I want you to pick out a pair of players you believe are going to come into spring training this year and just put everyone on their respective asses with a notable, attention-grabbing performance. The players you choose do not have to be minor leaguers, though that's usually the way things work out, simply because it's tough for an established vet to be a big surprise.
In short, I want you to give me two players, one of each variety, who will be the talk of camp. And I want positive surprises only, please; I can come up with enough existential dread during the season to keep us all from getting too high on the team. I won't have negativity clogging up a post before the first session of long toss even gets going down in Florida. We're not Cubs fans here, for god's sake.
If you're looking for a helpful resource, fourstick's excellent Other 15 series has the pertinent info on all the players on the fringey part of the 40 man roster. Not to say the player you choose has to come from that demographic, of course, but the nature of the question tends to point toward guys in just that situation, really.
As always, I will go through the comments here and note some of the players picked, and the posters doing the picking, and I'll periodically update how our little game is going throughout the spring. When camp breaks and the team heads north, we'll all look back and laugh at how foolish we were, thinking that the surprise of spring was going to be Oscar Taveras hitting well enough to make the opening day roster, when in reality the surprise was Oscar Taveras going Super Saiyan during a game on the 16th of March and destroying six square miles of Florida swinging at a particularly nasty curveball.
My picks? On the position side, I'm going with Stephen Piscotty. He was one of my favourite prospects in the system heading into last year, and he actually rewarded my belief in his bat with an outstanding season that landed him in the top four of pretty much every prospect list this year. I said in one of my draft previews a while back that I've come to believe the hit tool is the one tool that can pretty much trump all the others, and Piscotty is actually a big part of the reason why. I think he comes into camp a rising prospect, and leaves it as the Michael Wacha of 2014.
On the pitching side, I'm going to go with a guy who might not be such a surprise in terms of big-time talent, but who I do think will shock people all the same with how ready he looks, and that's Carlos Martinez. We've seen the quality of the stuff already, and Carlos the Jackal cemented himself as one of the most intriguing young arms to be found anywhere in the postseason last year, but there are still some questions about how polished Martinez is, whether he's a starter long term, and so on. By the time March turns to April, those questions will be gone. I think Martinez is going to blow everyone away with the step forward he takes, and the only question anyone is going to have is who has to move out of the way, seeing as how the train is coming and you don't want to be on the tracks when it do.
So them's my picks. How about you?