Many people tend to ignore Spring Training and it can be a mistake. While the stats don’t mean much considering the competition, there are things that stand out and need to be taken into account. Here are a few things I noticed in the spring.
- Kyle Schwarber looks really good.
Schwarber lost weight and is in the best shape we have seen him. Schwarber hit 30 home runs in 422 at-bats last season and was sent to Triple-A for a period. He batted .257 in 144 at-bats after his demotion. He needs to improve against left-handers, but he hit for average in the minors and if he continues to hit for power, all he needs to do is hit .250. He has stolen several bases in the spring, too.
- Tommy Pham still has issues with his eyes.
Pham had 23 home runs and 25 stolen bases last season in his age 29 season. Pham has keratoconus, an eye condition that leads to blurred vision and sensitivity to light. He has 20 strikeouts in 57 at-bats in the spring.
- Jorge Soler is getting his chance.
Soler is another player that lost weight and changed his diet. He has struggled making contact in the majors, but it’s a small sample. Soler has flashed the power in the spring and will play every day. He could hit 30 home runs and is worth taking a shot in the final rounds.
- Brandon Belt is healthy.
Belt had his season end due to a concussion. While his big breakout hasn’t come as many hoped, he was on his way to career highs last season. In 382 at-bats, Belt scored 63 runs with 18 home runs and 51 RBIs. The deep right-centerfield in San Francisco hurts his power upside, but Belt is cheap in drafts and gets a boost in on-base percentage leagues. Belt has a 1.040 OPS in the spring.
- Wilmer Flores needs at-bats.
I know his defense is shaky, but Flores can hit. Manager Mickey Callaway has said Flores will play, even against right-handers. If Adrian Gonzalez is done, Flores could get some time at first base. Keep an eye on how he’s handled because he went undrafted in many leagues.
- Jose Martinez needs playing time.
Martinez was one of the biggest surprises last season, producing at age 28 after not showing much powers in the minors. In 272 at-bats, he hit .309 with 47 runs, 14 home runs, 46 RBIs and four stolen bases. Martinez was among the league leaders in exit velocity and has three home runs, 13 RBIs and a 3:6 K:BB ratio in the spring.
- Yasmani Grandal has been undervalued in drafts.
In early drafts, Austin Barnes was going before Grandal since Barnes saw most of the playing time in the postseason. Manager Dave Roberts said Grandal is the starter and Barnes had some elbow soreness in the spring. Grandal had 22 home runs and 58 RBIs in 438 at-bats last season with a .247 average. Grandal has hit five home runs in the spring.
- Trevor Bauer is ready for a breakout season.
After Bauer went to the slider more in his final 12 starts, he had a 2.42 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and a six-percent walk rate. In 24.1 spring innings, he has a 32:7 K:BB ratio.
- Michael Conforto has made a rapid recovery from shoulder surgery.
Injury optimism with the Mets? What the hell is going on? Conforto was slated to return May 1 and not play in any spring games, but he played in a few last week. In one of the games he hit for the cycle. He will begin the season in the minor leagues, but could be activated in mid-April. He has moved up my rankings.
- Marco Gonzales is healthy and looking good.
Gonzales missed the 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery and pitched mostly in the minors last season. His velocity went up as the season went on and he has a good changeup. In the spring, he has a 1.69 ERA and an 18:7 K:BB ratio in 21.1 innings. I drafted him in a lot of 15-team leagues. Keep him on the radar in 12-team leagues.
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