Spring training numbers don’t guarantee anything, but right now they’re about all we have to look at. Here are 15 players with astounding spring numbers, though we all know that doesn’t really mean anything when it comes to regular season success.
Matt Wieters, C, BAL
.372/.449/.767/1.216, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 12 R, 8 K in 43 AB
For the second straight year, Wieters raised his HR/FB rate as he powered his way to 23 home runs. This spring he has continued to rake, clubbing five homers in just 43 at-bats. At that rate he’s on pace for over 60 home runs this season! It’s awesome when your home run and strikeout totals are similar, and while that certainly won’t carry through all of 2013, it’s exciting to think that there’s still a lot of room for improvement from Wieters’ final 2012 stat line.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI
.414/.493/.603/1.096, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 4 SB, 10 BB, 10 K in 58 AB
Few doubt Goldschmidt is one of the better first baseman in baseball, but few like him as much as I do. Most Goldschmidt doubters (and even most of them only doubt those of us who see him as middle-of-the-order rock for a playoff team) worry whether his batting average (.286) and stolen base total (18) will remain high. So far this spring Goldy Knocks has batted .414 on the strength of an awesome 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, whiffing just 10 times in his 58 at-bats (17.2%) while stealing four bases!
Kendrys Morales, 1B, SEA
.305/.323/.610/.933, 6 HR, 13 RBI, 2 BB, 9 K in 69 AB
It’s true that the Mariners’ spring training home isn’t Safeco Field, but it’s also true that Morales is slugging .610 with six homers this spring. Just like when he was a promising young slugger with the Angels just two years back, Morales has been able to maintain a high average despite some swing-happy tendencies, and that’s once again been the case this spring. A .280 season with 25+ homers isn’t far-fetched.
Michael Morse, OF, SEA
.370/.453/.926/1.379, 9 HR, 15 RBI, 18 K in 54 AB
Did everyone just forget that Morse batted .303 with 31 homers and 95 RBI in 2011? Like Morales, he’ll need to prove he can hit in Safeco, but nine homers and a .926 slugging percentage—yes, I said slugging percentage, not OPS—is ridiculously good.
Brandon Belt, 1B/OF, SF
.448/.471/.925/1.397, 8 HR, 3 BB, 13 K in 67 AB
Belt has tantalized and tormented for two years now. Is his strong spring just more torture from a talented player? I wouldn’t bet on Belt to keep up the pace or be the impact player we thought he might become when he was tearing up the minors, but he’ll be a serviceable starter for the Giants with enough power and speed to easily reach double figures in both homers and steals.
Domonic Brown, OF, PHI
.376/.430/.671/1.101, 7 HR, 17 RBI in 85 AB
Belt and Brown belong together. Both players have seen their star status dim over the last few seasons, and Brown in particular seemed to have fallen out of favor with his organization. That’s nothing a 1.101 spring OPS with seven homers can’t fix! Even if he is one of Philadelphia’s “every day” outfielders to start the season, he’ll sit against left-handed pitchers. Still, there’s lots of potential here and he’s only helping his trade value should the Phillies ever explore that option.
Lorenzo Cain, OF, KC
.458/.536/.712/1.248, 10 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 4 SB in 59 AB
Cain has had a tough time staying healthy and has never had a great, or even good, strikeout-to-walk ratio. This spring, though, he’s struck out just seven times compared to 10 walks, which is actually an amazingly good strikeout-to-walk ratio. That trend won’t continue, and you still can’t guarantee his health. Cain is capable of playing very well in stretches, but the grind always seems to get to him. He’ll have to prove he’s resilient before I believe in him.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, KC
.406/.440/.739/1.179, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 5 BB, 15 K in 69 AB
Sticking in Kansas City, how about the spring Moustakas is having? I’ve maintained all offseason that between Moustakas and Will Middlebrooks it’s Moose Tacos that you want (and it’s not even that close), and a 1.179 OPS in spring training only reinforces my opinion. I wish the 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio was a little lower, but the Royals can live with a .265-.275 average from Moustakas if he hits homers and drives runners in at the pace he has thing spring.
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, CLE
.404/.462/.684/1.146, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 7 BB, 9 K in 57 AB
We move from one prospect third baseman to another, though Chisenhall is rapidly moving towards failed prospect status. He improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio as he worked his way up the minors, peaking at 47:28 (1.68) at triple-A in 2011, but a taste of the bigs that season sent his plate discipline spiraling. Chisenhall struggled to draw walks and avoid strikeouts during the latter half of 2011 and all of 2012, but thus far this spring he looks like the Chisenhall of old.
Jean Segura, SS, MIL
.382/.393/.582/.975, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 4 SB, 1 BB, 2 K in 55 AB
I was very high on Segura for most of the offseason before backing off a little in February. While I love his stolen base potential, his lack of solid contact (low line drive rates) and poor projected lineup slot (eighth in the NL) gave me pause. So far this spring, though, Segura has looked like a potential impact player at shortstop. He’s walked only once in his 56 plate appearances, but he’s also struck out just twice. If he can bat .270 and post an OBP of just .300, we could see a sneaky 30-steal season, making him a poor man’s version of Andrelton Simmons.
Julio Teheran, SP, ATL
3-1, 1.04 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 35 K, 9 BB, 7 H in 26.0 IP
As Teheran entered the upper reaches of the minor league system in 2011 and 2012, his strikeout rate really began to fall. This spring it’s been astounding. Thirty-five punchados in just 26 innings? That’s Stephen Strasburg stuff right there. That rate probably won’t remain over a strikeout per inning, but it does give hope that Teheran can get back to being a high-strikeout pitcher like he was when he first entered Atlanta’s minor league system. He’s now forced Atlanta’s hand, and (pardon the double negative) I can’t see a scenario where he doesn’t start the year in the team’s rotation.
Alex Cobb, SP, TB
0-1, 2.81 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 28 K, 5 BB in 25.2 IP
Cobb has flashed great control throughout his professional career with mostly high strikeout rates, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s fanned 28 batters to just five walks in 25.2 spring innings. He’s an extreme ground ball pitcher, and that bodes well for his chances at succeeding with the Rays. Buy, buy, buy.
Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS
3-0, 0.79 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 22 K, 6 BB in 22.2 IP
As far as I’m concerned, no man in baseball strikes fear into the heart of Buchholz like new manager John Farrell. Buchholz even admitted as much when asked about his relationship to Farrell, a former pitching coach for the Red Sox. It’s no surprise that we’re seeing such a strong spring out of Buchholz, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s never been durable and has struggled to maintain high strikeout rates.
Jon Lester, SP, BOS
3-0, 0.75 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 20 K, 4 BB in 24.0 IP
Like Buchholz, Lester’s revival has been a welcome sight to Sox fans this spring, and I attribute it to Boston’s new clubhouse environment. Don’t say I didn’t try to tell you! I have more faith in Lester to rebound to his near ace-dom than I do in Buchholz to become a front-line starter because Lester has a proven track record of high strikeout rates and extreme durability.
Branon Maurer, SP, SEA
3-1, 0.90 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 22 K, 6 BB, 0 HR in 20 IP
I still think it was a mistake for the Mariners to stick with Maurer over Erasmo Ramirez, but it won’t be long before Ramirez is back where he belongs in Seattle’s rotation. In the meantime, who the heck is Maurer? Well, he pitched at Double-A for the Mariners last season and has a track record of high ground ball rates. he appears to be about league average in terms of strikeout ability (think 7.0 K/9) so don’t buy his 22-Ks-in-20-innings spring training performance, and his 0.90 ERA is certainly depressed by the fact that he’s yet to allow a homer. As a ground ball pitcher in Safeco, there won’t be many homers to be had against Maurer and I do believe he’ll spend the majority of 2013 in the team’s rotation, but he seems to me like someone with average strikeout rates, a high WHIP (1.30+), and very few wins.