Dodgers Spring Training Stock Watch: Which Players Are on Fire and Slumping?
I'm a big believer in not believing in spring training stats. Even when it comes to my Los Angeles Dodgers. But that doesn't mean we can't start analyzing the early performances of certain players.
Every team is going to get their fair share of flukes and slumps—for example, is Matt Kemp really going to go hitless all spring? Is Luis Cruz going to slug .889? Neither is likely.
But we could see some star careers beginning, as we watch Yasiel Puig and Alex Castellanos rip the cover off the ball and drive in runs at the highest level.
So which Dodger players are on fire and which are slumping? I've mentioned a few already, but here is a full rundown.
Fire: Hanley Ramirez
Spring training stats (as of 3/6): .333, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K, 3 SB, .389 OBP
One of the main criticisms directed at the Dodgers this offseason was how there was no way to manage this supposed diva they had playing shortstop. While I won't pretend that Hanley Ramirez is any good with the glove, he's been a stellar offensive presence.
If Ramirez is back to his batting-title form, the rest of the National League should be put on notice. Not only has he been ripping it up for the Dodgers this spring, but he also put together four hits and a homer in a romp for Team Dominican Republic over the Phillies this week.
Slump: Matt Kemp
Spring training stats: .000, 3 K, 2 RBI, 1 CS, .000 OBP
That's a lot of zeroes for the best player on the team. He didn't register an RBI until two RBI groundouts against Team Mexico, but neither were relatively well-hit balls. Matt Kemp is obviously still feeling the effects of his offseason shoulder surgery.
So, should Dodger fans be worried? Not in the slightest.
Kemp needs to ease himself back into baseball activity after missing such a long chunk of time without any drills or batting practice. It will take him a couple weeks to get pitchers' timing down and to iron out all the kinks in his swing. After that, the Dodgers have their star center fielder back.
Fire: Luis Cruz
Spring training stats: .444, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 K, 1.333 OPS
Anyone still thinking Cruz might not be up for defending his roster spot at the hot corner? Though Cruz has struggled uncharacteristically with errors so far, we can take that with a grain of salt given last season's performance. What is really raising eyebrows is his offensive prowess.
It seems like every time Cruz comes up, he hits a line drive to the gap. If he really has developed even further in the off season with his bat, it adds an almost unfair element to an already-stacked lineup in Los Angeles. It will be interesting to see if this is just a hot streak, or if Cruz carries it through the spring.
Slump: Clayton Kershaw
Spring training stats: 1-2, 9.00 ERA, 2.25 WHIP, 12 K, 1 BB, .475 BAA
It's disappointing to list the Dodgers' best pitcher as slumping, just two slides after listing the best hitter the same way. But it's early, and there's no reason to be worried about Clayton Kershaw's performance so far. It takes all pitchers a little while to adjust in the spring, as their arms get to full strength.
Barring injury (God forbid), Kershaw will be the Opening Day starter, the staff ace and one of the best pitchers in all of baseball again in 2013. Wait until Kershaw gets stretched out a little bit as spring training continues, and then we'll talk about him "slumping."
Fire: Yasiel Puig
Spring training stats: .391, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 6 SO, 1 BB
Nobody expected Puig to come out of the gate this hot in spring training. We're starting to see glimpses of his massive talent, as he's driving in runs in clutch situations and just getting on base at a torrid pace. His strikeout numbers are still a little bit high, but it is expected from a 22-year-old.
Puig might be in the conversation to be the first outfielder called up if the Dodgers need some depth out there. We've seen the massive power, but his plate discipline has been better than I expected to this point. He will hit the skids at some point (as all young hitters do), so it will be intriguing to see how he rebounds from those moments.
Slump: Ronald Belisario
Spring training stats: 6.75 ERA, 2.63 WHIP, 4 BB, 3 K, .300 BAA
This is another guy I'm not extremely worried about, because when he settles in, that movement on his fastball will continue to baffle hitters. If for some reason he does struggle this season, however, that great bullpen in L.A. looks a lot more beatable.
Clearly, Ronald Belisario's biggest issue has been control early on, which is something he is usually exceptionally good with. He has his wild bouts, but his strikeout numbers over the course of the season should even out.
Fire: Josh Beckett
Spring training stats: 0.00 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 2 H, 5 IP, 1 BB, 6 K, .118 BAA
Anyone who thought Josh Beckett's solid stretch with the Dodgers last season was a fluke, might want to re-consider that theory. Beckett is back in a pitcher-friendly league in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark, and he looks extremely comfortable on the Dodgers.
Even though Beckett is getting on in age, he's a veteran, professional pitcher who knows how to work a count. Personally, I'm expecting a very solid season in 2013 from Beckett, and I'm enjoying watching him get back to form in spring training.
Slump: Adrian Gonzalez
Spring training stats: .235, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 CS, .409 OBP
Adrian Gonzalez has gotten off to a slow start this spring for reasons similar to why many considered him a disappointment in Los Angeles down the stretch last year. It seems that at times, Gonzalez is still trying to do a little bit too much with his swing.
Once A-Gon gets back to his normal oppo-bombing self and keeps that front shoulder in consistently, we may see the return of his .330 average. Gonzalez should heat up after playing for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic these next couple weeks.