Friday afternoon, the Grapefruit League and Cactus League seasons opened across Florida and Arizona. It was the first of approximately 30 exhibition games for each team before Opening Day.
I, like I’m sure all of you, am very glad to have baseball back. It’s been too long. So, to celebrate the occasion, let’s take a gander at some dingers and great defensive plays from the first day of spring training games. Get us started, Curtis Granderson:
The Blue Jays signed Granderson to a one-year contract over the winter and he will platoon in left field this season. He went deep in his first spring at-bat Friday.
Also going deep Friday? The new-slash-old Dodger Matt Kemp. The returned to the Dodgers as part of a salary-shuffling trade with the Braves over the winter. Here is his first spring dinger:
Almost like he never left. Kemp in Dodgers blue is certainly a familiar sight.
As for players with new teams, new Indians first baseman Yonder Alonso also went deep Friday. He’s replacing Carlos Santana and he crushed a homer to right field in Cleveland’s spring opener. To the action footage:
Yonder has always had a pretty swing. He broke out last season and hit a career-high 28 home runs with the Athletics and Mariners. Alonso’s previous career-high was nine homers with the Padres in 2012.
A’s first baseman Matt Olson was another breakout player last season. He smacked 24 home runs in 59 games after being called up at midseason. Olson also went deep Friday:
Olson was a consensus top 100 prospect a year or two. A no-doubt top 100 prospect right now is Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who they acquired in the James Shields trade. Tatis went oppo Friday:
Gosh, that is mighty impressive for a kid who turned 19 last month. Two-strike homer the other way? That’s no joke. Tatis hit .278/.379/.498 with 22 home runs and reached Double-A last season. MLB.com ranks him as the 8th best prospect in baseball at the moment.
Friday’s dinger-hitter of the day award goes to Marlins first baseman/outfielder Scott Van Slyke, who went deep not once, but twice. His second homer was a grand slam:
Van Slyke went 2 for 2 with two home runs and 5 RBI on Friday. Former Marlins outfielders Giancarlo Stanton (Yankees), Christian Yelich (Brewers), and Marcell Ozuna (Cardinals) combined to go 1 for 6 with three strikeouts and a double play. Marlins win the trades!
Enough long balls for now. Let’s get to the defense. Sticking with the Marlins, new top prospect Lewis Brinson laid out to make a diving catch in center field Friday. Miami got him from the Brewers in the Yelich deal.
Brinson went 1 for 2 with a double in the game as well, so he made a nice little first impression on Marlins fans. They need as many young players they can feel good about as they can get right now.
Speaking of good young players, Nationals top prospect Victor Robles doesn’t have much of a shot of being on the Opening Day roster despite being on the postseason roster last year, but he’s going to force the team to make a tough decision. He laid out for this stellar diving catch Friday:
White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia, who doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being a graceful defender, made this nice leaping catch at the wall in Chicago’s spring opener:
Garcia was not the only ChiSox player to flash the leather Friday. The versatile Yolmer Sanchez went way up to rob the equally versatile Chris Taylor of a hit at the hot corner. Check it out:
Mariners left field Ben Gamel is pretty well locked into a roster spot going into the 2018 season, though has always played with the dial turned to 11, so it’s no surprise he went all-out to make this lunging catch against former Triple-A teammate Jose Pirela on Friday:
Welcome back, baseball. I’ve missed you so.