The best thing about spring training is the hour before every exhibition game begins, when scouts and other evaluators sit for lunch and chat about what they've seen -- the good, the bad and the ugly.
Based on those sorts of conversations, here's a list of players poised for a breakthrough this season:
Shortstop Trevor Story, Rockies: Jose Reyes' situation was a major blemish for Colorado at the outset of spring training, with the veteran shortstop facing a trial and potentially a long suspension for an alleged domestic-violence incident. But Story has performed so well this spring that he will make it easier to move on from Reyes, however that's accomplished. "He can do a lot of things on both sides of the ball," one scout said. Spring training stats don't mean anything unless they help a player win a job, and Story has killed it, posting a 1.362 OPS.
Reliever Matt Bush, Rangers: He has made just one appearance in an official spring training game, but rival evaluators have seen enough of him -- and his fastball, which has been clocked as high as 100 mph -- to say with certainty that he could play a significant role for the Rangers this season. "He was throwing 98, but he looked like he was throwing 110," said one scout, referring to how the ball seemed to jump on hitters. "He could pitch for somebody in the eighth inning right now and have an impact."
Bush is a former No. 1 pick in the 2004 draft who was incarcerated from the spring of 2012 until last October for a drunken driving accident that seriously injured a man. He has more development ahead as he transitions back into baseball, bearing questions of whether he'll hold up under the grind of working as a reliever. But he is more than intriguing.
Pitcher Kenta Maeda, Dodgers: He's 27 years old and has pitched in Japan for eight seasons, so this is not like some relatively unknown rookie busting into the big leagues, like Story. Some teams passed on Maeda this offseason, in fact, because of what they knew about the right-hander, feeling like he didn't have enough fastball for their taste. But Maeda has taken the first steps of his transition with ease this spring, and wowed the evaluators with his feel for the baseball, with his command.