Spring Training is fun, because baseball’s back, and it can be interesting, because there are guys coming back from surgery, or the minors, or just a few months off of real baseball. There are battles for positions, rotation spots and even roster spots. But too often we think a good spring could catapult someone into a place they don’t belong.
For the most part we know better, but I guarantee you if Jerry Hairston were to hit .350/.450/.550 over the next month, people would start talking about him as the starting left fielder or SS or 2B going in to the season. It’s possible that Hairston has 4 weeks that make those numbers happen, but Hairston is a career 257/.325/.370 hitter, in over 4000 PAs. We know exactly what we’ll get from Hairston. This isn’t to pick on him, it’s to remind you that spring training is just a month of the not-yet-season, against sub-standard competition, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
All those caveats aside, there are things that we can learn in spring training, especially from young players who don’t have alot of experience. Sometimes they can surprise in the spring and give us a preview of something new. Here are a few players that are worth watching right now:
Ross Detwiler – Detwiler is no longer a super young prospect, but he just turned 25 so he should be entering his prime. While he doesn’t have a blazing fastball, it sits in the low 90s and it is coupled with a strong breaking ball. His new delivery is what is most intriguing. I don’t think improved mechanics will ever put him back to the #1 pitcher that people thought might develop, it won’t put his fastball up to 95 mph. But the guy has had 277 2/3 IP in the minors and while he has been able to strike out 251 in that time, which has been very nice, he has also walked 108. It’s a little high to get super excited about him – a 2.32 K/BB is certainly very good, but it could be better. If the new delivery gives him a slight uptick in control and those Ks go up a tad while the BBs go down a tad, that could lead to a serious increase in his effectiveness. He’s young enough still that this improvement could make a real difference.
Mike Morse – He’s got a chance, after last season, to show that maybe he has developed into a full time hitter. If last season never happened, it’d be easy to dismiss a March ability to hit righties as something that would disappear. But since he did it with some proficiency last season, it’s worth watching this year.
Jesus Flores – Not so much because you expect him to be something he’s not. Rather, he’s worth watching to determine if he can come back to what he was, a strong hitting catcher. If he finishes the spring hitting well, it is a good sign that he’s back to being a starting caliber catcher.
Roger Bernadina – This one I have a bit of trouble with. Bernadina has a career of minor league PAs – 3148 to be precise. In that time he’s hit .267/.352/.387. He’s always shown a decent ability to take a walk, something that didn’t translate in his rookie year in the majors, and he’s never shown power. Then he appears in training camp as a giant version of his old self, with huge arms and the look of someone that is gonna make a few baseballs pay. Will this translate into more power? Will it add aggressiveness and take away the ability to walk that he showed in the minors? Will it make him only think he’s a power hitter, adding lots of fly outs and taking away the advantage of his speed? I have no idea, but I’d like to see how his spring goes.