Every single year we go through the same thing with spring training, and every single year we fall for the same mistakes. The first phase of spring is just being excited to watch baseball. What actually happens is mostly secondary for the first game or two. It’s just about watching baseball happen live with your eyeballs. It’s thrilling! The next few days are filled with you looking for something to care about with these games, but reminding yourself there’s not nearly as much to learn from this stuff than we want. It’s time to stay disciplined, watch for some small tidbits but then remember what you’re really watching. Finally, the longest section of spring training is basically the entire month of March when we all lose our minds and forget our reminders from the previous portion of the spring. We are desperate to find meaning in this baseball. We’re watching, and we can’t tell ourselves we’re watching for nothing.
All of this is not to shame anyone, because I’m probably falling into the same trap as everyone else. It’s just the way it is. With that in mind, I figured this year we’d try to get ahead of the game. We are going to get overly excited about someone’s performance this spring. It happens every year where someone plays themselves onto the Opening Day roster, or at least into the discussion, who isn’t already a lock. That means guys like Dustin Pedroia, Rafael Devers or any of the catchers don’t count here. They will be huge topics of conversation all spring, but their spot on the roster isn’t in question. Instead, here are five players on the bubble, or not even close to the bubble right now, whose performance I predict will grab headlines in camp.
5. Bobby Dalbec, 3B
Dalbec isn’t even the consensus best prospect at his position in camp, and I’m in the camp that prefers Chavis over Dalbec. I think the former is a better hitter and much more likely to have a lengthy major-league career. That being said, Dalbec is the kind of player who is more likely to make headlines. Everyone loves power, and Dalbec is a legitimate masher. There’s obviously a chance he gets overwhelmed by major-league pitching in camp and we just see a bunch of whiffs, but there’s also the possibility of him hitting a handful of monster home runs. That’ll get people’s attention. I also think most aren’t aware of how good he can be defensively, so that would only add to the hype. There’s no way he makes the Opening Day roster, and I don’t think he’ll see the majors at all this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays well enough in spring to pique people’s interests and make him a season-long conversation topic, though.
4. Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP
Obviously, all eyes are going to be on the bullpen this spring so the majority of the hype is going to come from there. The rest of the roster is mostly set, but if someone is going to come out of nowhere to sneak onto the roster it’ll be in the ‘pen. I’m not predicting that will happen with Hernandez, but I would not be surprised if there is some clamoring at the end of the month for him to appear in the majors right away. The Red Sox haven’t had a lefty with big stuff since Andrew Miller left, and there’s something aesthetically pleasing about that kind of pitcher even beyond their obvious value on the field. If Hernandez has even a little bit of command during televised games this spring, his stuff is going to shine through and people are going to be psyched. Everyone’s looking for any excuse to be excited about a reliever.
3. Durbin Feltman, RHP
It’s another reliever, of course! Feltman is the most well-known name among relievers who hasn’t made the majors yet. There’s something about a recent draftee who has the chance to make the majors in his first professional season that piques interest. Obviously Feltman didn’t do that, but people became familiar with him because of that possibility. Now, the righty didn’t get an official invite to camp this year, but he’s going to appear in some major-league games. He’s essentially major-league ready right now, and presumably he’s going to be pitching late in games when the opposing lineups are filled with minor-league talent. That should give him a good chance to dominate and put up gaudy numbers. People are already intrigued, and I would bet that by mid-April people will be clamoring for the 2018 draftee.
2. Colten Brewer, RHP
With our third consecutive reliever we have the guy who is probably least known among fans at this point but the one who has a very good chance of actually breaking camp with the team for Opening Day. He’s probably a favorite at this point, but I don’t think it’s so set that he can’t be included here. We’ve talked about Brewer plenty before, including recently as another Bannister breakout. Between his talent, the potential with his repertoire and the inevitable Ryan Brasier comparisons that are going to pop up all spring, people are going to know his name. If he pitches as well as we think he can in camp, too, expect people to want him in the late innings, never mind simply being on the roster.
1. Sam Travis, 1B
It’s Sam Travis’ world. We’re just living in it.