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.
Billy Hamilton, Reds
Billy Hamilton, 23, has just 19 major league at-bats to his name and is on this list for precisely one reason: He's fast. Hamilton combined to steal over 250 bases from 2011-2012 while working his way up from Dayton to Bakersfield to Pensacola. After spending the first part of last season in the minors, he was promoted late last fall to Cincinnati, where he nabbed 13 bases in 13 games. By all accounts, the Reds are giving him a shot to be their starting center fielder out of spring training, but it's no gimme. He'll have to earn his ticket from Arizona to Ohio by showing strong defense, a good eye at the plate, and a knack for putting the ball in play.
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