Believe it or not, pitchers and catchers for a handful of teams reported to spring training camps in Arizona and Florida on Tuesday and the first workouts for those players will begin on Wednesday. All teams will have held their first workouts for pitchers and catchers by Friday with position players reporting to most camps on Sunday. Baseball is just around the corner! The defending World Series Los Angeles Dodgers are +330 favorites to repeat on the MLB odds.
First Spring Workouts Begin Wednesday | 2021 MLB Expert AnalysisThe first spring training games are on Feb. 28 and the 2021 MLB regular season begins on April 1 with every team scheduled to play – although there surely will be postponements of spring and regular-season games due to the COVID pandemic.
Outside of local government implementing the type of health and safety restrictions that would prevent teams from congregating at their facilities it would have to come from the MLB Players’ Association agreeing to delay the start of spring training and while owners wanted to push back the spring dates one month and the regular season a month as well, the MLBPA said no. The MLBPA had no incentive to change the calendar as pitchers were already ramping up for a mid-February start.
If you plan to attend spring training games, it will look a bit different. The spring camps in Florida are a lot more spread out than in Arizona, so MLB put teams in the Grapefruit League into pods in terms of playing one another to limit travel. Cactus League teams will play 28 games in 30 days in Arizona, with two off-days.
The Grapefruit League clubs whose facilities are on the east coast of Florida will play 24 games in 30 days, with six off-days. These teams are the Astros, Marlins, Mets, Cardinals and Nationals, and they will play each other exclusively. The clubs whose Spring Training facilities are on the west coast of Florida will be split into two groups.
Where Will Jackie Bradley Jr. Land?Now that Justin Turner has returned in free agency to the champion Dodgers, the biggest-name player sill on the market is likely former Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. He’s a phenomenal defensive player but not a great hitter.
Last year, Bradley played in 55 of the team’s 60 games, all in center field. According to Baseball-Reference, his 1.9 WAR tied for the Red Sox team lead with Alex Verdugo) and also tied for the AL lead among center fielders with George Springer of Houston.
Bradley did set career highs in AVG (.283) and OBP (.364). His OBP was the highest by a Red Sox CF since Jacoby Ellsbury’s .376 mark in 2011. In his final 37 games, Bradley hit .313 with a .937 OPS (42-for-134, 18 BB, 2 HBP, 9 2B, 7 HR). In that time, he ranked 5th in the AL in OBP (.400).
His 118 OPS+ in 2020 was his best offensive season in five years, but the underlying numbers (exit velocity, chase rate, etc.) suggest he was the same hitter as always, just that he benefited from a career best .343 batting average on balls in play (.298 career).
Defensively, Bradley was charged with 0 errors in 123 total chances and had three assists, tied for the second-most among center fields. Bradley led MLB outfielders with 7 outs above average (next: 6 players with 5).
Bradley re-signing with Boston, replacing Springer in Houston (he signed with Toronto) or landing with the Mets are the three-most likely options. Bradley reportedly is seeking a contract as long as five years but probably will have to settle for four.
The Mets recently signed Albert Almora, which could take them out of the Bradley sweepstakes – although Bradley is the far superior player. The 26-year-old Almora, a right-handed hitter, slashed .167/.265/.200 in 28 games for the Cubs last season. Almora’s addition comes after the Mets’ failed pursuit of Springer, who joined the Blue Jays on a six-year contract worth $150 million.
As of now, there are no plans for the DH in the National League but that could change. If it does, the Mets could sign Bradley and platoon him and Almora in center field and play Brandon Nimmo in left. Pete Alonso would become the primary DH with Dominic Smith at first base.
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