SweetSpot's AL players to see

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
3:11
PM ET


As camps open in Arizona and Florida, we put it to the SweetSpot network: Which player from your team are you most excited to watch this season, and why? First up, the answers from the American League.

Baltimore Orioles: Matt Wieters

Orioles
Why Wieters? He's likely the team's best player, and he's the only one I want to watch whenever he's on the field. At the plate it will be interesting to see if he can build on his 22-homer campaign from 2011 while improving in other areas (a higher average and especially OBP would be nice) to potentially take a place as one of baseball's best hitting catchers. Behind the dish, every stolen-base attempt is exciting (he led the AL in nabbing opposing would-be thieves last year). Can he go from being a very good player to a star? If he does, that could be the most exciting part of Baltimore's season. -- Daniel Moroz, Camden Depot

Boston Red Sox: Daniel Bard

Red Sox
Bard is an object of intrigue this season. He was originally drafted as a starter but after an implosion at the low levels of the minors he was shifted to relief and blossomed as one of the best young arms in the game, becoming the heir apparent to Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth. Instead, Boston has elected to try the starting gambit again, where Bard could become the 2012 version of Alexi Ogando. He needs to develop his changeup further and there are questions on how his control and endurance will hold up on a transition, but he has front-line potential if all goes well. If not, it's back to the purgatory of middle relief, which may force a trade. His ceiling and the risk of the conversion will make him one of the more intriguing players on the Red Sox to watch. -- Evan Brunell, Fire Brand of the AL

Chicago White Sox: Chris Sale

White Sox
The one guy who’s really going to be fun to watch this spring is the rail-thin Sale. The lefty’s power slider/fastball mix has him well-equipped to make the jump to the rotation in his age-23 season, and he might be the latest success story to add to pitching coach Don Cooper’s track record for success. The questions revolve around his ability to sustain the workload, but Cooper has already noted Sale will have an innings cap. What shot the Sox have got will rely on their rotation; if Sale breaks through, Kenny Williams’ winter inactivity may not look so bad. -- Christina Kahrl

Cleveland Indians: Ubaldo Jimenez

Indians
As a child, part of the excitement of Christmas morning was the mystery of what magical toys Santa left under the tree during the night. Was it what you'd been asking for all year or was there some kind of surprise in store? (Like socks.) That's one of the reasons we're excited to watch Ubaldo Jimenez this season. Which version of Jimenez will be in the Indians' rotation: The 2010 NL Cy Young contender or the inconsistent thrower that Cleveland fans saw in 2011? The Indians could use another ace beyond Justin Masterson. When the Tribe surrendered Drew Pomeranz and Alex White for Jimenez, it was a move that angered many fans and left others cautiously optimistic at best. While an incredible pitching performance isn't the only thing that determines a team's fortunes (see Cliff Lee, 2008), a great year for Jimenez could go a long way in determining the success of the Indians this season. If Jimenez struggles early, already pessimistic and dejected Indians fans may be ready to throw in the towel early. -- Stephanie Liscio and Susan Petrone, It’s Pronounced “Lajaway”

Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera

Tigers
You can take Justin Verlander and his impressive hardware. You can also have Prince Fielder and his nine-year contract. The player I'm most interested in is Miguel Cabrera. Will he play third base all year? How much will his defense (or Fielder) affect his offense? Can he continue his streak of 300/30/100 seasons? Cabrera is human, he's shown that to us in the past, and his new challenges are an intriguing storyline. -- Josh Worn, Walkoff Woodward

Kansas City Royals: Mike Moustakas

Royals
As he moved up the organizational ladder, Moose developed the reputation as a player with a learning curve delay: Whenever he moved up a rung, he would start slowly before making adjustments and laying waste to that league’s pitching. He held true to form last summer, struggling in his big-league debut to the point that there were whispers the Royals were considering dropping him back to Triple-A. Instead they opted to give him three days off to work with hitting guru Kevin Seitzer, breaking down his swing. It worked, as he ripped through September. Moustakas is poised to pair with teammate Eric Hosmer to give the Royals a one-two punch in the middle of the lineup they'll need to contend in the AL Central. If Moustakas can build on his September, he has the potential to be a special player in Kansas City for years to come. -- Craig Brown, Royals Authority

Los Angeles Angels: Albert Pujols

Angels
As you may have heard, Pujols signed with the Angels this offseason. The team has plenty of exciting players, but Pujols will be the man to watch in 2012. Can he bounce back after the worst season of his career? How will he adjust to the American League? There are plenty of questions about the 32-year-old and his huge contract, but we’ll see many of them answered this season. It should be a fun ride. -- Hudson Belinsky, Halos Daily

Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer

Twins
In many ways, Joe Mauer's 2011 campaign was emblematic of Minnesota's season as a whole. He was hurt often, he didn't get it done on the field and he drew plenty of criticism from media and fans. The Twins, in their second year at a new stadium and with a record payroll, were a huge disappointment. Mauer, in the first year of a massive new contract, was a big reason why. So now he and the team are coming into 2012 with much to prove. Reports on his health have been encouraging and, as he showed in 2009 when he lifted an otherwise mediocre team to the playoffs with an MVP performance, Mauer can be a difference-maker. Relying on a roster dotted with more question marks than a Riddler costume, the Twins are going to need a few of those. -- Nick Nelson, Nick’s Twins Blog

New York Yankees: Michael Pineda

Yankees
Ever since the Yankees missed out on Cliff Lee before the 2011 season, GM Brian Cashman has been preaching patience to Yankees fans. That patience finally paid off this January when they dealt top prospect Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Pineda. Ever since, Yankees fans have been impatient for the season to start to get a good look at their new young pitcher because there is more than just this season riding on Pineda's success. If he's a failure, Yankees fans will be crying for years watching Montero smack homers out in Seattle. -- Rob Abruzzese, Bronx Baseball Daily

Oakland Athletics: Yoenis Cespedes

Athletics
Cespedes is so blindingly obviously the most exciting aspect of the on-field product in Oakland that I'm tempted to be contrarian and claim that I'm jazzed for Josh Reddick's soft Georgia accent and cannon arm instead. I can't bring myself to it, though, because the raw power that Cespedes (supposedly) carries in his bat as a (reportedly) legit center fielder who is (apparently) ready to play (more or less) right now beckons. It's both what's inside and outside the parentheses that makes Cespedes so compelling. Forget about his range afield; his range of possible outcomes is breathtaking. Early Bobby Bonds and late Bobby Crosby both seem well within reach. And if the most compelling part of Cespedes' season winds up being a chase for the strikeout record in September? Well, my most prized A's possession is a Jack Cust shirt, so that suits me fine. -- Jason Wojciechowski, Beaneball

Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez

Mariners
Picking anyone else would feel wrong -- Felix is the Mariner to be most excited about in 2012. The King is 6 1/2 seasons deep into his Mariner career and has at very least gotten himself in the conversation with Randy Johnson as the franchise's premier hurler. With a full season of King's Court -- the best thing to happen to Safeco Field since Safeco Field itself -- Hernandez's home starts will remain can't-miss events this summer. -- Jon Shields, Pro Ball NW

Tampa Bay Rays: Joe Maddon

Rays
I know Joe Maddon isn’t a player but they make him wear a uniform, so he is the 2012 Ray I am most excited to watch. From my seat, Joe outshines all the stars in the Rays clubhouse by standing in the background. Joe is a mad scientist when it comes to the lineup card, mixing and matching on a daily basis. I am on the edge of my seat waiting to see the creative ways he will use the 25 men in the Rays’ 2012 clubhouse. -- Marquis Heilig, The Ray Area

Texas Rangers: Yu Darvish

Rangers
Darvish is arguably the most exciting and most intriguing new face in the majors right now, and he's a Texas Ranger, which makes him a slam-dunk pick for the most exciting player to watch in Arlington this season. The Rangers bet historically huge money on Darvish and the hope that he can emerge as a true ace, but it's never the best idea to set the expectation bar that high, and I know I'll be more than satisfied with a legitimate No. 2-caliber performance. The promise of so much more, though, and the still mysterious aura that surrounds Darvish ... those qualities make Darvish the most exciting player in a Rangers uniform right now. -- Joey Matschulat, Baseball Time in Arlington

Toronto Blue Jays: Brett Lawrie

Blue Jays
The Royals’ Mike Moustakas wasn’t the only highly touted third-base prospect to make his debut in 2011. Lawrie, a 22-year-old hitting machine with soft hands and great bat speed, gave Toronto fans a glimpse of their future at the hot corner. Acquired from the Brewers in a December 2010 deal for Shaun Marcum, Lawrie dealt with fractured bones in each of his hands in 2011, but still managed to compile a .293/.373/.580 line in 43 games at the major league level. His defense still needs some work, but it was his first full season at the position. The members of the Blue Jays brass think they have a keeper at the position. -- Diane Firstman, Value Over Replacement Grit

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