With pitchers and catchers set to report to Arizona, it's time to examine five Spring Training storylines for both the Giants and A's.
San Francisco Giants
Is Brian Wilsons arm back to full strength?
All the offseason talk surroundingthe Giants involves Buster Poseys health, offensive improvements, and contracttalks with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. But lets not forget that Brian Wilson did not pitch in agame from Aug. 15 to Sept. 18 with elbow issues. Even when on the mound, Wilson did not have thevelocity or control that made him one of the games most intimidating closersin 2010. While Wilsonclaims he feels fine, the Giants plan to hold him out of early Spring Traininggame action. A healthy Wilsongives the Giants a leg up in all the one-run games that are likely to littertheir N.L. West schedule. But if Wilsonstill isnt one hundred percent healed, the Giants bullpen -- and chances toreturn to the playoffs -- would take a major hit.
Will Buster Posey look like he did in 2010 when he returns? I havent seen Buster Poseyslatest X-rays, but if we are to believe him and the Giants staff, Posey shouldbe ready to start behind the plate on Opening Day. However, the Giants needPosey to do more than just start; they need him to produce like themiddle-of-the-order threat he was in 2010. If Poseys health keeps him out ofthe lineup too often or if his bat speed and core strength isnt yet up to parwith where it once was, the Giants offense will be in trouble. Will Brandon Crawford establish himself as a starting shortstop? While his glove is obviouslybig-league caliber, Brandon Crawfords bat leaves a lot to be desired. Theoffensively starved Giants can hardly afford a hole in the lineup, andCrawford, in all likelihood, is just that. But a strong showing in SpringTraining could give the UCLA product a confidence boost heading into theregular season, which he needs if he expects to avoid a return trip to theminor leagues. Is Aubrey Huff in shape and ready to return to his 2010 form? From MVP candidate in 2010 tolaughing stock in 2011, Aubrey Huff has had an interesting two years in Orange and Black. Whetherits the pilates routine or cutting down on the cigarettes and cheap beer,were already hearing plenty of Best Shape of His Life stories about Huffheading into Spring Training. But even if Huff arrives in Arizona looking like Mr. Universe, there arelegitimate concerns that he is too far past his prime to rebound and producelike he did in 2010. Will Brandon Belt make the 25-man roster? Brandon Belt had a tough rookieseason. He struggled at the plate to start his Major League career and justwhen he started to get hot, an injury derailed his momentum. Huffs SpringTraining performance will help Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy decide what to dowith Belt, who has the potential to start at first base, in left field or in Fresno if things dont gohis way. Oakland AsIs Yoenis Cespedes the real deal? The As turned what looked to be adull team into a must-watch product when they signed Cuban defector YoenisCespedes to a four-year deal. The international spotlight will be on the26-year-old slugger as soon as he reports to Spring Training. While he hasfaced some Major League pitching in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, most ofCespedes monster numbers have come against inferior competition. How he faresagainst MLB starters looking to get their Spring Training work in should givefans a glimpse of what type of player he will be in the big leagues. What will the starting lineup and rotation look like? Before the Cespedes signing, theAs may have started the season with Coco Crisp batting in the middle of theorder. Even with Cespedes on board, there are a lot of questions about who willbat where. Other than speedster Jemile Weeks in the leadoff spot, the rest ofthe lineup remains a mystery. The same goes for the starting rotation. BrandonMcCarthy and Bartolo Colon are scheduled to open the season against theMariners in Japan,but the 3-5 starters are still up in the air. Will Dallas Braden be healthyenough to join the rotation some time in April? Will Tommy Milone, Tyson Rossandor Graham Godfrey stake a claim to a slot? While Spring Training lineupsand rotations will feature a few players unlikely to end up playing in Oakland during theregular season, manager Bob Melvin should provide some hints as to what his 1-9and 1-5 will look like come Opening Day. What can Bob Melvin do with a full season at the helm? Melvin went 47-52 in the final 99games of the 2011 season after taking over for the fired Bob Geren in June oflast season. He took over a team that was decimated by injuries and filled withplayers that had issues with their previous manager. With that in mind, Melvingetting the As to play near-.500 ball is pretty impressive. While he willstart the season with a clean slate, he is also dealing with less talent on theroster with the departures of Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, among others. WhileSpring Training won-loss records are meaningless, it will be interesting towatch Melvin work in his first season in Arizonaas the As manager. Is Bartolo Colon capable of repeating his 2011 season? Bartolo Colon cant fill the voidleft by Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill on the mound, but he will surely try toat the clubhouse buffet table. Sorry, pardon the cheap shot. Colon, the 2005 Cy Young award winner withthe Angels, had an impressive season with the Yankees in 2011 after notpitching in the majors in 2010. He went 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA against some toughoffenses in the A.L. East. The As dont seem to have an ace for 2011, butthey will need Colon to come into Spring Training as in shape as he possiblycan and put up numbers at least as good as he did last season in pinstripes. Will the As new prospects be ready to contribute immediately? Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, TommyMilone, Derek Norris, Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill, Ryan Cook and Josh Reddickare among the plethora of prospects that are now part of the As system aftergeneral manager Billy Beane shipped away players like Gonzalez, Cahill, AndrewBailey, Ryan Sweeney and Craig Breslow. Many of these players need some moreminor league seasoning, putting them in line for major roles with the As in2014 and beyond, when the team hopes to land a new stadium in San Jose. However, some of the acquisitionsmay get a shot to contribute right away. There is no doubt the loss of suchfan-favorites as Cahill and Gonzalez will hurt, but if some of the youngstersput together a strong Spring Training and make the Opening Day roster, it couldhelp fans with their postpartum depression.
Rael Enteen is a web producer with CSNBayArea.com. Follow him on Twitter @RaelEnteenCSN.