Keaton It Real: Buying and Selling Spring Training Performances
It’s always difficult to make heads or tails of spring training stats, but sometimes they can offer you a glimpse into the direction a player is trending. As we round the Grapefruit/Cactus League corner into the home stretch and into Opening Day, let’s take a dive into some stat lines I’m believing and doubting.
Victor Robles, OF, WAS: .375/.475/.594 2HR 7RBI 5SB
After a rash of injuries over the past couple seasons, prospect fatigue seems to have set in on Robles and people are starting to move on to the next hot prospect names in the rankings. Now pushing for an Opening Day roster spot, Robles is reminding us what his ceiling really is. He should be on the Nationals roster when they break camp and he’ll be ready to put on a show. Just as encouraging as his slash line and steals so far through 13 games is the fact that Robles has walked more than he has struck out this spring (7 walks, 6 strikeouts). With 60 grades across the board, Robles has no shortage of talent I’m excited to see what he does with it.
Byron Buxton, OF, MIN: .423/.467/1.000 2HR, 13RBI, 1SB
Buxton sent fantasy owners into a tizzy when he arrived at camp in the best shape of his life, having added muscle in the hopes to avoid another injury-shortened season. He has since put on a show in spring training, further tizzying those wanting to believe that this is the year. Sounds familiar, right? It’s rare that the best shape of their life moniker actually pays off during the season, and Buxton has given us reason after reason to doubt a full productive season. He’s had a great spring for sure, but it’s almost impossible to believe in him until it actually happens at this point.
Franklin Barreto, MI/OF, OAK: .375/.459/.594 1HR, 3RBI, 0SB
It’s felt like for some time that all Barreto has needed was consistent playing time to shine. After the acquisition of Jurickson Profar it seemed his path to playing time was muddled once again. However, Oakland has decided to give Barreto some run in the outfield, thus opening up his path to at-bats. With a shimmer of hope to make the opening day roster, Barreto has had an impressive spring so far. Aiding in his stellar OBP is his 5 walks, showing his plate discipline. He has had 2 small cups of coffee and failed to really do anything with them but he has shown he’s finished with Triple-A and should now, with consistent playing time, put it together at the major league level.
Lewis Brinson, OF, MIA: .355/.394/.871 5HR, 5RBI, 1SB
Brinson spent his fair share of time on top prospect lists prior to being traded from Texas to Milwaukee to Miami. Brinson has continually mashed in Minors and was finally given some leash at the Major league level last season. He failed to really do anything with it. Entering this spring as a 24-year-old, Brinson has been lighting pitchers up, currently leading everyone in homers. However, even with his slash and all the bombs, there are some major red flags. Brinson is currently striking out at a 30% clip and walking at a 6% rate showing that the plate discipline that’s caused him issues in the Show is still very much present. His spring has been entertaining, there’s no doubting that, but there are more reasons to be skeptical.
Chris Paddack, SP, SD: 2.13 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 20K, 2BB 12.2IP
If you’re not aware of what Chris Paddack is doing right now, familiarize yourself immediately. Reaching Double-A last season, Paddack has mopped batters at every level so far. This spring has been no different, and so much to the point where he may just skip Triple-A altogether and make the Major league roster out of camp. He has incredible control and probably the best changeup in the minors. Paddack currently leads the spring in strikeouts and has only issued an impressive 2 walks. His spring line has just been more of the same along with his track record so it’s hard to dismiss this performance as a flash in the pan.
Jordan Zimmermann, SP, DET: 2.00ERA, 0.67WHIP, 14K, 1BB 9.0IP
It has been some time since Zimmermann has put together a productive season, and while his spring line is pretty good, it just screams veteran pitcher eating up youngsters. The biggest indicator is the strikeouts. Sure 9 innings pitched is a very small sample size, even for spring training, but Zimmermann has never been a strikeout + an inning pitcher at any point in his career. The fact he’s racked up 14 indicates to me that he’s just dominating inferior batters. Every season so far in Detroit for Zimmermann has been a disappointment and there’s little in this spring performance to indicate that will change.
Frankie Montas, SP/RP, OAK: 0.69ERA, 1.08WHIP, 13K, 3BB 13.0IP
Montas has appeared as both a reliever and a starter so far this spring, and whichever he ends up being he should be successful. He’s been pretty close to or over a strikeout an inning at every level, with the exception of his time in the majors last season. But even with down strikeouts, he was able to put together a productive 65 innings. Many people have long thought Montas was destined for the bullpen and I feel more confident now he would excel there; however, if Oakland gives him a chance to start, he should be pretty solid as a starter too. The control has been the biggest issue for Montas and he did make improvements there last season, cutting walks per nine to below 3.00. I would bet the strikeouts come back and he can provide some fantasy value wherever he pitches from.
Sandy Alcantara, SP, MIA: 1.50ERA 1.33WHIP, 14K, 10BB, 12.0IP
This feels like the epitome of a spring training stat line. Alcantara has given up almost twice as many walks as he has hits yet only 2 runs have crossed the plate on him. This leads me to the major red flag with him: Alcantara has had some major walk issues, posting a walk per nine over 6 in his 42 innings in the majors so far. It would seem those issues are still very present through his first 12 spring innings. He probably has the raw stuff to be a back-end SP2 at his best, but he’s barely an SP5 if he continues to post these poor walk numbers.
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