Spring Training is a lousy indicator of who is going to do well in the regular season and who is going to fare poorly. There are just too many variables to consider. First, you could have an average to poor pitcher facing a line up of youngsters and fringe players trying to obtain a job. A good result is fairly meaningless there. The Yankees, for example, have rarely had a game this spring where their regulars all played. The Tigers on the other hand, play their regulars often. Then throw in split squad games and what, if anything, does that tell you? But despite all of that, there are small indications that a team will be better than thought or worse than expected. Let's look at a few of those here.
On the plus side:
Cleveland Indians - The Indians have rarely lost a game this spring and for all the reasons stated above, you have to look at that with a skeptical eye. But there are a lot of positive things going on for the Indians. The biggest of those positives has been the pitching of Francisco Carmona. A few years ago, this guy won 19 games and then lost it. He couldn't throw strikes, and when he was forced to, he got cuffed around. While it's a small sample size, Carmona has been outstanding and has only walked two batters all spring. That's a very good thing for the Indians. He is joined in the rotation by Jake Westbrook, who missed most of the last two seasons to injury. He's throwing well this spring and was a very solid starter before he got hurt. Masterson and Carrasco have great arms and if they can put it together, can be very effective for the Indians, Masterson especially. Talbot will get his starts and has had a good spring too. The Indians have to find a way not to start Sowers. The guy is just not effective.
The Indians could also have a formidable line up too, especially if Hafner is back and can come close to his past glory. But even if he can't, a healthy Grady Sizemore, the ever improving Choo, Peralta and Asdrubal Cabrera and a couple of guys who could have career years and this team can be quite dangerous. The Fan has a gut feeling that the Indians will be in the fight for the AL Central.
Tampa Bay Rays - Well, this may not be a surprise as everyone knows the Rays have talent. But looking at the spring statistics (yeah, yeah, the Fan knows), the Rays are in the middle of the pack in offensive and pitching stats and have still won at a .700 clip. These guys are scary good.
San Diego Padres - The Padres will have more offense than last year. Adrian Gonzalez also has Venable and now Kyle Blanks joining him in a lineup with possibilities. Tony Gwynn Jr. might finally break out to a good major league hitter and Ley Brothers, Hundley and Headley seem poised to become productive every day hitters. But it isn't the batting that is exciting about the Padres, it's their pitching. Yeah, they have Garland, who is a gritty and determined pitcher of mixed results, but at least he is a known quantity. But Correia has only walked one batter all spring, LeBlanc might just outshine Peavy for a long time and Latos, a golden arm, is their fifth starter. That's pretty exciting stuff. Here is a bold prediction. The Padres will not end up in last place and might just be in the hunt this year.
On the down side...
Chicago White Sox - The White Sox have molded a new kind of offense for Ozzie Guillen and it just doesn't seem to be working. They are faster than before but seem vulnerable to power arms. A lot will depend on guys like Rios and Teahan, guys who were basically given up on by their former teams. Juan Pierre leading off doesn't scare anyone. And just what do guys like Andruw Jones, Paul Konerko and A. J. Pierzynski have left in the tank? Beckham and Quentin are rising stars, but the rest of the offense just doesn't scare the Fan. And their pitching? Peavy and Buehrle will be okay, but Danks, Floyd and Freddie Garcia are a frightening collection of the rest of the rotation. The Fan just doesn't see the White Sox contending and they will finish behind both the Twins and the Tigers.
The California Angels - Forget that the Angels lost Figgins and Vlad and replaced them with lesser beings. The Angels real problem is their pitching. Jared Weaver just isn't an ace and he is the opening day starter. Ervin Santana can't stay healthy, Saunders is always a train wreck waiting to happen, Pineiro might be decent and then who? This just might be their weakest starting rotation in a decade and this will be the year the Angels fall off the tracks.