Heading to spring training 2010, Stephen Strasburg was the big new name, the guy everyone had to see . . .
Until people started talking about Jason Heyward, too. And Aroldis Chapman.
It was still the spring of Strasburg, but it really became the spring of the phenom.
This spring could be the same.
The early focus is again on the Nationals, who seem determined to give Bryce Harper a real shot at making the opening day roster (which they didn't do with Strasburg in 2010).
But there are tons of other names, tons of other young players with some shot at opening the year in the big leagues, and an even better shot at opening eyes this spring.
An early look at a few names to watch, besides Harper, who colleague Jon Heyman wrote about separately:
Matt Moore, 22, Rays. The situation has changed only a little bit since Moore got everyone so excited last September and October. Moore signed a long-term contract in December, which seemingly lessens the financial incentive for the small-budget Rays to have him begin 2012 in the minor leagues. But the Rays haven't yet traded any of their other starting pitchers, so there's not yet an open spot in the rotation. The decision on what to do with Moore will be closely watched.
Jesus Montero, 22, Mariners. He can hit, but can he catch? And can he hit enough to make a difference for the Mariners? Those questions will get better answers during the season than during the spring, but as the key player going to Seattle in the big Michael Pineda trade, Montero will be watched and discussed.
Jacob Turner, 20, Tigers. The Tigers tried for Gio Gonzalez and they tried for Roy Oswalt, but they still don't have a fifth starter. Turner is the most exciting name among many candidates. He's probably less likely to end up with the job than some of the others, but on a team that has no problem with promoting young talent (Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, Rick Porcello), he will get a chance.
Trevor Bauer, 21, Diamondbacks; Danny Hultzen, 22, Mariners; Sonny Gray, 22, A's. Who will be the first pitcher from the 2011 draft to make it to the big leagues? Bauer, Hultzen and Gray all go to spring training with some chance, and whether they make it or not, all three will likely excite people every time they're scheduled to pitch.
Nolan Arenado, 20, Rockies. Arenado won a lot of fans among scouts who covered the Arizona Fall League, with one saying: "He's Edgar Martinez at the plate, with the best hitting approach I've ever seen from a young player." The signing of Casey Blake no doubt lessens Arenado's chance to make the team this spring (for now, he's ticketed for Double-A), but if he hits in spring training the way he did in the fall, the Rockies will at least begin talking about it.
Julio Teheran, 21, Braves; Randall Delgado, 21, Braves. The Braves got a look at Teheran and Delgado last year, but with health concerns about Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, the look this spring may be more significant.