The most important player to watch this spring on all 30 teams

From ESPN - February 15, 2018

Spring training is not just about getting your arm ready for Opening Day or getting some reps in the cages. For some players, it's a chance to win a job, or keep a job, or prove that you are healthy, or show that you are ready to take the next step. Here are 30 players to watch this spring.

American League

Baltimore Orioles -- Austin Hays, RF. The big story will be Manny Machado moving to shortstop, but I am not too worried about that transition; he started 43 games there in 2016 and played well (plus-3 defensive runs saved). Hays will be a more interesting guy to watch. A third-round pick in 2016, he jumped all the way from Class A to the majors last year, skipping Triple-A, and the Orioles have apparently handed him a starting job unless he has a terrible spring.

Boston Red Sox -- Tyler Thornburg, RHP. Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Rodriguez will both be rehabbing from knee surgeries, but remember Thornburg? He had a big season for the Brewers in 2016, the Red Sox traded Travis Shaw (and others) for him, and then he missed the entire season after thoracic outlet surgery.

Chicago White Sox -- Yoan Moncada, 2B. A good approach starts in spring training, and if Moncada is going to maximize his talent, he needs to cut down on the strikeouts. His problem in his first extended stay in the majors was not so much chasing out of the zone, but swinging and missing in the zone.

Cleveland Indians -- Michael Brantley, LF. The Indians picked up Brantley's $11 million option even though he had ankle surgery that leaves him questionable for spring training. If the issue persists, the Indians probably will move Jason Kipnis to the outfield and give Yandy Diaz a shot at third base.

Detroit Tigers -- Michael Fulmer, RHP. We want to see if Miguel Cabrera's back is OK, but spring training might not show us much about that. Fulmer had ulnar transposition surgery in September and is expected to be full strength at the start of camp.

Houston Astros -- Anthony Gose, LHP. Yes, that's the former outfielder, trying to make the team as a left-handed reliever. He was a Rule 5 pick so he will have to make the team despite limited mound experience (he pitched just 10 2/3 innings in Class A). It's a flier, but he reportedly touched 100 mph last summer.

Kansas City Royals -- Jorge Soler, OF. The Royals made what looked like a smart trade in acquiring Soler for Wade Davis, but he hit .144 in 35 games and was sent back to Triple-A. He mashed there (.267/.388/.564), but he's 26 now and it's time to produce.

Los Angeles Angels -- Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH. The Angels' priority will be making sure he's ready for the rotation, but they will want to give him plenty of time at the plate as well. How they handle him -- and how he hits in the small sample of a few spring games -- will be insight into whether he will be given a real opportunity as a two-way player.

Minnesota Twins -- Fernando Romero, RHP. With Ervin Santana out until May after finger surgery, there's an opening in the rotation even if the team signs a free agent. Romero or Stephen Gonsalves could break camp with a big spring.

New York Yankees -- Gleyber Torres, 2B/3B. The prized prospect had Tommy John surgery last summer on his non-throwing elbow, but he has been deemed ready to go and the Yankees will give him a long look to see if he can win a job at second base. He has only 55 games above Class A, so a couple of months at Scranton probably still makes sense.

Oakland Athletics -- Dustin Fowler, CF. Called up to the Yankees in late June, he injured his knee slamming into a wall chasing a foul ball -- before he even registered his first big league at-bat. A month later, he was part of the Sonny Gray trade. He has been cleared to play games and could win the center field job.

Seattle Mariners -- Dee Gordon, CF. This is maybe the most interesting position move of the spring as Gordon moves to the outfield. He already has spent much of the offseason tracking down fly balls, but now we will see how he does in game action.

Tampa Bay Rays -- Brent Honeywell, RHP. Honeywell, No. 15 on Keith Law's top 100 prospects list, struck out 172 in 136 2/3 innings in the upper minors last season. The Rays will certainly game his service time so he will spend at least a couple of weeks in Triple-A, but a strong spring could prompt a Jake Odorizzi trade.

Texas Rangers -- Willie Calhoun, LF. Nobody doubts his bat after slugging 31 home runs at Triple-A, but the prize for Yu Darvish is transitioning from second base to left field and there are serious concerns how that will go. If he ca not hack it, Shin-Soo Choo will have to play more defense in 2018.

Toronto Blue Jays -- Danny Jansen, C. He had never hit until last year, when he started wearing glasses. Boom. He mashed to a .323/.400/.484 line across three levels. The Jays have always liked his defense and, while Russell Martin is signed for two more seasons, a strong impression from Jansen could lead to an in-season promotion.

National League


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