The 5 things I'm looking forward to this spring training

March 3rd

As far as I'm concerned, the March 3rd broadcast against the Royals on CSN is the official start of spring training. I've grown so spoiled by Comcast's coverage of the spring games that the only real excitement I feel prior to being able to see some game action, no matter how poor the play may be, is searching the internet for pictures of game action; and if I get really desperate (as I am now) it's pictures of practice, not even full-squad practice. Man, I am jonesing for some real live baseball.

I suppose it's a bit ironic that spring training doesn't start for me until I can actually see it in action. I mean I write about the White Sox, yet reading about bullpen sessions and towel drills just doesn't do it for me. So while pitchers and catcher reporting, the first full-squad practice, or the first spring game prompts countdown clocks on other sites, I've got March 3rd circled on my calendar.

Alexei Ramirez

Within hours of receiving word that he had filed for residency in the Dominican Republic, I was wondering what it would take to get Alexei Ramirez on the south side, and if we wanted him at all. Six months later, we know how much it took to get him in black, but that's about it. What we knew about Ramirez back then, just hours after learning his name, is essentially all that we know about him now. He's added 14 lackluster at-bats in the Dominican Winter League, but that's hardly enough to form an opinion.

Ramirez could burst on the scene and emerge as the starting second baseman, or even the starting center fielder, respectively rendering the Cunningham and Carer trades unneeded. He could be a valuable super-utility guy, allowing the Sox trim almost $10M off the roster in the form of Joe Crede, Juan Uribe, and the soon-to-be completely useless Pablo Ozuna. He could show lots of promise, but still need some seasoning in the minors to work on some thing, or he could be a washout who pulled himself from the DWL for fear that more at-bats would expose him as a career minor leaguer.

I think Ramirez is more like to fall into one of the latter categories, but the complete unknown, the possibility for anything is not something you often see in spring training. Ramirez is easily the player I'm most eager to see in action.

John Danks and Gavin Floyd better be ready in spring training. Broadway and Egbert are right there, pushing them for a rotation spot.

The 6th Starter Battle

When Lance Broadway took the mound for his first major league start, I was more concerned about watching the latest episode of The Office than watching the Sox march their way to a higher (lower?) draft pick. After reading some positive initial reports in the gamethread, however, I made sure to watch the replay on Comcast. Broadway doesn't have stuff that will blow you away, and his numbers from Charlotte last season don't inspire much confidence, but the September addition of a cutter, and his improved peripherals in the second half are enough to swing me back into the viable 5th starter camp.

Jack Egbert went from me calling him an organizational player in 2006 to underrated top-10 prospect by the end of that season to no-longer underrated top prospect this season. Like Broadway, he's not going to dazzle you with his stuff, but he should have enough to get hitters out, with a plus sinker that can occasionally climb above 90, a plus changeup, and a bit of hitch in his delivery. ZiPS and PECOTA project him to be the Sox 3rd or 4th best starting pitcher, even though he figures to spend the year in Charlotte.

Nick Massett says he's in camp to earn a spot in the White Sox starting 5. We're amused. Prove us wrong, Nick. Prove us wrong.

I don't expect any of these players to make the club, but between Egbert and Broadway, I think the Sox have a pitcher who should pitch well enough to allow Ozzie and Kenny to have a quick leash should any of the back-end starters falter in April. Add in the overconfident Masset and the always unpredictable knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, and you've got enough candidates to almost expect a surprise breakout. I know I am.

Carlos Quentin

In his community projection thread -- polls open until mid-day Wednesday. Log your projection here -- I opined that as go Carlos Quentin, so go the White Sox. If Quentin is able to become a plus-defensive doubles machine with an above average OBP, the White Sox offense will take a huge leap forward. In the last two seasons, the Sox have had just one outfielder-season of both above-average OBP and and average slugging. Nick Swisher should easily fill this category, and Jermaine Dye will provide slugging if not OBP. Should Quentin show the promise that made him a top 25 prospect, the Sox will have their most potent offensive outfield in years, perhaps ever.

The Joe Crede trade

There hasn't been a more telegraphed trade during Kenny Williams' tenure as White Sox GM. We all know it's going to happen. Joe Crede knows it's going to happen. The San Francisco Giants know it's going to happen. As long as Joe Crede demonstrates the ability to make it through the first two weeks of spring training, he's going to be shipped out to the highest bidder, presumably San Francisco.

I've never really been someone who likes to spend too much time speculating about possible trades. Too many of them have such little chance of happening that it's almost fruitless to speculate. And that's what makes the Crede trade fun. We know it's gonna happen, and we pretty much know where he's headed. Now we can speculate willy-nilly about possible return.

The only thing more fun (for me) than speculating about a would-be trade is writing about one that actually happened. For that reason, and that reason alone, I can't wait for Crede to finally be dealt. It's not every spring training that you get to write about a significant player being traded.

How about you?

What are you looking forward to this spring? Did I miss something? Anyone taking a trip to Tucson?
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