Biggest Takeaways from the First Half of MLB Spring Training
As we wait for the MLB regular season to start on March 31, we are left with the second half of spring training action to keep us occupied.
It is hard to believe we are just about two weeks away from the start of official games. However, even the first half of spring training has left us with some memorable moments and interesting takeaways.
While the stats and records don't matter, a number of prospects have stepped up, while a few veterans have had less-than-desirable springs so far.
Impact of New Free-Agent Compensation Rules
As Matthew Leach of MLB.com explains regarding free-agent compensation, "the signing team gives up a first-round selection, unless it possesses one of the first 10 selections. In that case, the team gives up its next selection after that."
He goes on, saying, "when a player reaches free agency, his former team may make him what is known as a qualifying offer, worth the average amount of the previous season's top 125 salaries -- $13.3 million this offseason."
So, despite being one of the top free agents on the market, Michael Bourn did not sign until Feb. 11 with the Cleveland Indians. Kyle Lohse, who is coming off an outstanding season, is still looking for work.
It is clear the new compensation rules are affecting this process.
Impact of World Baseball Classic
While the World Baseball Classic should in theory feature all of the game's premier players, MLB teams occasionally hold out some stars for a variety of reasons. Fear of injury to an expensive investment is a big one.
There have been a number of entertaining games so far—Italy winning 6-5 thanks to a ninth-inning rally against Mexico being a particularly memorable one—and the top-level competition is a great way to prepare for the MLB season.
Some stars may be better served getting routine at-bats in spring training games, as it isn't helpful when they are sitting on the bench during the WBC.
New York Yankees May Be in Trouble
The injuries keep piling up for the New York Yankees. Alex Rodriguez (hip surgery),
The AL East is stacked, with the Toronto Blue Jays now seen as a favorite to take the division for many. The Jays join the Baltimore Orioles, who made the playoffs last season, along with the normally competitive Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox.
Things have gotten to the point where the Yankees are desperate enough to try to lure Chipper Jones out of retirement for one last season, according to David Waldstein of The New York Times.
Impressive Prospect Performances
One of the great things about spring training is that prospects get a chance to compete against major leaguers. A number of them have proven that they deserve a longer look from their teams.
Aaron Hicks has been knocking the cover off the ball so far this spring, hitting .342 with four home runs and 13 RBI in 38 at-bats. According to Jon Heyman, he will likely be the starting center fielder for the Twins, making the jump from Double-A.
Though he was reassigned to minor league camp, Michael Wacha was a strikeout machine during spring training, fanning 13 batters in only 9.2 innings of work.
According to Mike Rosenbaum of Bleacher Report, Christian Yelich, Jackie Bradley Jr., Julio Teheran, Antony Rendon and Nolan Arenado have all had big springs.
Tim Lincecum, who clearly regressed last season with the Giants, has not turned things around in spring training, posting a 14.73 ERA in 3.2 innings of work.
After signing a two-year, $24 million contract with the Nationals, Adam LaRoche has hit just .111 in 18 at-bats so far. Teammate Denard Span, who inked his own five-year, $16.5 million deal, hasn't fared much better. He's only hit .160 in 25 plate appearances.
The again, it is called spring training for a reason.
Stats and Records Don't Matter
While some people may get worked up over stats during spring training, they should not be taken too seriously. According to Michael R. Summers of Pepperdine University, records from the previous season carry much more weight.
All of the players are still trying to prepare for the 2013 season, and as a result, many of them are more focused on working out the kinks in their swing or in their pitching motion.
The Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies lead the American League and the National League, respectively. That should tell you all you need to know.