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Spring Surprises

The Cardinals have resigned Aaron Miles. I am not particularly pleased by this development. Thus, following my mother's advice as to what to do when nothing nice to say presents itself, I will consider something else entirely.

Yesterday, the projection season officially kicked off around here with the community projection for Matt Clement. If you haven't done so yet, scroll on down the page and get your projection in. For me, projection season is a time of great joy and expectation. Not only is it great for generating conversation and contemplation, it also indicates the beginning of the real countdown toward the season.

Every year, there seems to be at least one player in Spring Training who just absolutely jumps up, seemingly out of nowhere, and makes a huge impression. Probably the most well known example in recent years is Albert in 2001. He had a huge spring, Bobby Bonilla got hurt the last week of Training Camp, and the rest is history.

Two seasons ago, in Spring Training of 2006, it was Bryan Anderson. The Cards needed an extra catcher, they brought him in, the year after he was drafted, and he hit well over .300 and generated a huge buzz. Last year, it was Dennis Dove and his 96 mph sinker.

So, in the spirit of projection season beginning, as well as the unseasonably springlike weather of this past weekend, let's all throw out our guesses on this year's spring surprise. It doesn't necessarily have to be a guy who makes the major league team out of the spring; I just want to know what single player you think we'll all be talking about at the end of Spring Training. These also don't have to be guys completely off the radar screen, just players who aren't expected to make much of an impact on the team this season. Actually, not the single player. Let's try for two players. One pitcher, one position player. We may not know his name now, but we'll sure as hell know it come the end of March.

Alright, here's mine. First, as far the pitcher goes, I'm going to say that I think Jason Motte is going to be the guy. He's obviously on the radar, as he was added to the 40 man roster over the winter, but he's seen as being a little ways off still. He's got huge velocity, (his fastball sits in the 97-99 mph range) very good control, but very limited secondary stuff. He throws a slider that still needs work, and a little bit of a splitter. Everyone's talking about Chris Perez as possibly being in the bullpen this year, but I think Motte's going to be the guy. Perez will start in AAA, I think, to try and work some more on his command, and I think Motte may sneak his way in with a big time performance. He's probably not ready to stick for the whole year, but I see him doing much what Dove did last spring: just absolutely wowing everybody with the quality of his stuff. His command is significantly better than Dove's was at the same point in time last year, and I think he could break camp with the team.

My position player is a little tougher. I considered a bunch of players, and no one really just absolutely jumped out at me. I finally settled on Travis Mitchell. Now, Mitchell has absolutely no chance of making the big club in the spring. He's only about twenty years old, and he hasn't played above short season ball yet. He was a late round pick out of high school in 2006, from Chesterfield, I believe. The kid's still extremely raw, but he's just a bundle of tools. I think he's going to have a big spring and jump over low class A up to Palm Beach, and I think we're going to hear a lot about him from the back field reports. I just have a good feeling about the kid. He's speedy, his plate discipline improved quite a bit this past season, and his overall athleticism is just off the charts. It's a long shot, but that's part of why they call it a surprise.

Okay. Those are mine, now let's have everyone else's. Let's all pretend baseball is nearly here, instead of being a dim rumour still months off, referred to only in ex senator's reports and trade speculations. Have at it.

By the way, you should check out the rotoworld sidebar. There's a blurb about Yadier and Mr. Anderson. What is written there also makes me pretty angry, but I'm focusing on positive, cheerful things this morning. Focusing very, very hard.