Spring training is obviously too early to make any sweeping statements about the forthcoming season, but still, baseball has been played. Baseball we have been able to watch with our special eyes and baseball we can make observations about. Do not expect to predict anything about the regular season from anything you have seen in the first week of March, but there are definitely some interesting things to discuss right now.
Just so I do not have to do it before every sentence, just assume that everything said below is prefaced with "Well it's only spring training, but..."
1. Tyler Naquin is playing for his career, and it shows
Tyler Naquin has looked good in spring training before (he was 5-for-19 with a home run in 2013), but it's more important than ever that he has a good spring this year. That does not necessarily mean he has to have good stats, but he needs to look like he is major league ready.
With several center fielders competing for the same position this season and Bradley Zimmer breathing down his neck next year, the pressure for Naquin is on. If the first few games are any indication, he realizes these facts and is essentially playing for his career.
He has looked great in his first seven games this spring, at least from what I have seen. Good speed in the outfield, and a silky-smooth job of baserunning on a triple in his first game. Naquin's stock has seemingly skyrocketed ever since Abraham Almonte was slapped with an 80-game suspension and it just keeps going higher.
2. Lonnie Chisenhall has avoided being a disaster in right field
All I wanted out of Lonnie Chisenhall was for him to not look terrible in right field. He could still very well look bad once the season rolls around, but he needed to get through spring and show that there was not some kind of baseball voodoo going on in August and September. So far he has looked great, flashing his rocket arm from the outfield to tag runners.
Offensively, he has not gotten up to speed yet, notching only a lone hit in 10 at-bats. He has time, though, and I cannot wait to see what he does once the regular season rolls around. So far he has been a joy to watch in the field.
3. Broadcasts with just stadium noise are great
When the Tribe played the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday, it was broadcast exclusively on MLB.com with no commentary -- just the stadium noise. And it was awesome.
I am sure there are more logistics to it than I understand, but I have always wanted MLB to just stick a camera in the outfield and let me watch spring training games. I don't need commentary or even changing camera views. I just want to see guys hitting balls with sticks.
Hearing the stadium ambiance makes the whole experience change as well, it really feels like you are there in a sense, instead of just watching through a TV while Rick Manning and Matt Underwood do their things.
4. James Ramsey looks terrible
Just like how Tyler Naquin could suddenly look bad when the regular season starts, James Ramsey could very look great when it rolls around. Based on his spring, however, he has looked awful. He is 1-for-15 with a team-leading five strikeouts. He is essentially in the same position as Naquin -- in that they are both playing for what could be their last chance to play for the Indians -- but Ramsey is going in the opposite direction.
5. Danny Salazar is finally having a good spring
I think this is the first year where I feel good about Danny Salazar right out of the gate. He started slow in his first outing, but then tapped into the power of his finely-pointed beard and struck out five batters in a row.
In past years, Salazar has been consistently inconsistent (both in the regular season and spring), but hopefully his emergence last year is not a fluke and the real Salazar is this deadly strikeout machine.
6. It's refreshing to see Mike Napoli play first base
With apologies to Carlos Santana, it has been great to watch Mike Napoli handle first base. Napoli is projected to hit pretty darn well by some systems, but even if he does not, his defense is going to be such a boon at first base compared to Santana playing there that I do not think it really matters.