2008 Spring Training is here. Pitchers and catchers and even some “out to prove something” players are already reporting. It’s a glorious time when absolutely nothing matters. If Pujols strikes out fifty consecutive times in spring training, he can go on to win the MVP. Or maybe he’ll carry that into the season and have an atrocious April. Either way, you can’t tell from spring training. It’s an exhibition. Got that? Good. Okay, time to contradict myself. Here’s some things that actually do matter in spring training:

Jay Bruce vs. Ryan Freel – Don’t think Freel’s going to lose this one. Bruce has hit everywhere he’s been. Rocketing through the minors, but he’s still extremely young. But Josh Hamilton won the starting centerfield job last spring, so you never know. Then again, Dusty’s in town. Bruce is headed for Triple A; you still watch. See what all the hype is about.

Mike Hampton – He can’t strikeout anyone, probably nothing but an innings eater at this stage in his career, but the Braves say he’s their number starter. I say he hasn’t pitched since 2005. This is something to watch in NL-only leagues if for no other reason than to see if Jair Jurrjens gets a chance. Remember every pitcher gets drafted in NL-only, why not grab one on a team that should have a winning record.

Carlos Quentin – He’s already reported to spring training and he wants to play. Shoulder’s said to be healed; hopefully his OBP will be, as well. Throw last year away, it wasn’t indicative of his promise. Why you’re watching? See if he gets the job. Outfield got crowded with Pretty Boy Swisher.

CJ Wilson – It’s being reported that he’s the team’s closer. Saves are predictably saves, so if it’s Wilson, he must be drafted.

Zach Greinke – Harnessing his demons and his fastball towards the end of last year proved fruitful. He’s still only 24.

Pedro Martinez – He’s already reported to spring training and he’s already talking. He insists that his incredible steriods’ era numbers were un-enhanced. Good for Pedro. He’s still old and his body’s frail. Check to see how he looks this spring. He might be a steal on a team that will win a lot of games. Just keep expectations in check – i.e. 150 innings is a gift.

Will be back tomorrow with more things that matter in spring training when nothing matters.