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.
Michael Wacha, Cardinals
The best big-league prospects come out of the Cardinal's farm system. Here's the evidence: In 15 career starts, Joe Kelly is 9-3 with a 2.28 ERA and he might have to begin this year in the bullpen because of guys like Michael Wacha, who nearly no-hit the Washington Nationals on Sept. 24 and carried that trend into the postseason, where he won his first four while striking out 28 batters in 27 innings. Wacha turns 23 this year and, if last year's playoff performance was any indication, he'll be one of baseball's top arms for years to come.
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