If the popularity of Moneyball, which questioned the efficacy of old-fashioned scouting and trumpeted the arrival of the sabermetric era, wasn't statistically undeniable, you'd be tempted to conclude that no one paid the moral of that story much mind. The stands of every major club's spring training stadium are packed with would-be experts analyzing the swings and throws of the up-and-coming players. Fans are eager to spot talent and even more eager to spot talent first – to have that strangest of claims to a player's career: "I said he was going to be good."
Scouting is like watching the future so long as you're looking at the right guys. Whether you're making the trip to Arizona or Florida for Spring Training over the next five weeks, or just binging on games shown by MLB Network, here are the boys of spring to watch. These potential franchise players are coming into their own and their success or failure will shape the playoff landscape for at least the next five years.
Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees
Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who garnered a $20 million windfall for his former team, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, on his way from the Nippon Professional Baseball league to a 7-year, $155-million deal with the Yanks. The right-hander will make his first appearances stateside during spring training and no one knows what comes after that. The last time the Yankees engaged in a bid for a Japanese pitcher, they secured the rights to Kei Igawa, who spent much of his two-season MLB career on the bench. New York hopes Tanaka has more in common with countryman Yu Darvish, who has been dominant in two seasons for Texas, but he's unlikely to be that effective.
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