Spring training statistics can be horribly misleading. With so many young, inexperienced prospects in big league camp, it’s imperative that all numbers be analyzed within context. At the same time, it’s hard not to get excited when a prospect makes an immediate impact.
Even though Cactus and Grapefruit League games began only a few days ago, numerous top-ranked prospects have already opened eyes with their performances against big league competition this spring in spite of limited opportunities. On the flip side, a small contingent of prospects got off to a rough start this past week and will look to right the ship as the spring unfolds.
Here’s a look at some of the best and worst performances after the first week of spring training.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Spring Training Stats: 1-for-5, HR
The Pirates will continue to give Polanco extended playing time this spring in order to determine his timetable for the upcoming season. While the 22-year-old is expected to take over as the team’s right fielder at some point during the summer, he’s likely headed back to Triple-A until the organization deems him ready for a promotion.
Polanco has collected only one hit through his first two games this spring, but it was a big one: a solo home run off David Phelps in the first inning of Thursday’s game.
Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers
Spring Training Stats: 3-for-6, 2 2B, 4 RBI
The Tigers aren’t holding anything back this year with top prospect Castellanos, who is tabbed to open the season as the team’s starting third baseman; basically, the position is his to lose. Therefore, the organization has to be pleased with the soon-to-be 22-year-old’s red-hot start this spring.
Castellanos turned in his signature performance Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies, going 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and four RBI. His two-out, bases-clearing double off the right-centerfield wall in the first inning gave the Tigers an early 3-0 lead.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Spring Training Stats: 1-for-6, HR, 2 RBI
Joc Pederson is a baller. Yet I can’t help but feel as though he’s still very underrated.
The 21-year-old is an impressive athlete with sneaky strength, showcasing five potentially average or better tools and mature secondary skills. Pederson projects to be a slightly above-average hitter at the highest level, with an advanced approach and line-drive-oriented swing, and he already demonstrates a feel for working counts and getting on base. Oh yeah, he legitimately can play all three outfield positions.
Pederson has already appeared in three games this spring, and the left-handed batter made a strong impression Friday with a two-run, opposite-field home run down the left field line. Expect him to receive consistent playing time this spring so long as Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford are on the shelf.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
Spring Training Stats: 1-for-1, HR, 2 RBI
Bryant hasn’t stopped hitting since signing with the Cubs last summer; he posted a 1.078 OPS with nine home runs in 36 games across three minor league levels before heading to the prestigious Arizona Fall League, where the 6’5” slugger produced a 1.184 OPS with eight doubles and six home runs in only 20 games.
The 22-year-old was arguably the lone bright spot Friday in the Cubs’ 15-3 loss to the Angels, launching a two-run home run to straightaway center field in his only at-bat.
Rafael Montero/Jacob deGrom, RHP, New York Mets
2013 Spring Stats: Montero: 2 IP, 2 K; deGrom: 2 IP, 4 K
Two of the Mets’ top pitching prospects made their respective spring debuts Friday against the Washington Nationals, as Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom combined to throw four perfect frames to open the game.
Montero received the starting nod and struck out two batters in two innings, and deGrom followed by one-upping the right-hander with four strikeouts in his two innings of work. Though neither prospect is expected to compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster, both Montero and deGrom should spend a portion of the upcoming season in the major leagues.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians
Spring Training Stats: IP, 2 BB, K
It was obvious that something needed to change for Trevor Bauer following his disappointing 2013 campaign with the Indians—or should I say the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate. So the right-hander finally decided to alter his mechanics this offseason with the hope that it would improve his control.
Bauer showed off his new mechanics Wednesday in his spring debut, though it seemed to have a minimal impact on the 23-year-old right-hander’s approach and overall control. In his only inning of work against the Cincinnati Reds, Bauer recorded one strikeout against two walks while throwing a strike in four of 12 pitches.
Unless Bauer demonstrates a drastic improvement this spring, it’s difficult to envision the once-promising prospect breaking camp in the Tribe’s Opening Day rotation.
Marco Gonzales, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Spring Training Stats: 1.2 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, K
Gonzales, the Cardinals’ first pick in the 2013 draft, had a shaky spring debut Friday against the Miami Marlins, though I’m sure the left-hander’s nerves played a role in his struggles. The 22-year-old was unable to complete his scheduled two-inning outing, as his fringy control and tentative approach resulted in two earned runs on two hits and three walks.
J.R. Graham, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Spring Training Stats: 0.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, K
Graham was expected to make an impact in the major leagues last season, but a shoulder injury in mid-May prevented the 24-year-old from taking the mound for the rest of the year. A clean bill of health has the right-hander back on the mound this spring, which is really all that matters. As expected, Graham was rusty Friday in his spring debut following the extended layoff, allowing two earned runs on three hits in 0.2 innings.
But don’t read too far into his line; right now, he just needs to build arm strength in preparation for the upcoming season.
Daniel Corcino, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Spring Training Stats: 0.2 IP, 4 ER, H, 3 BB, 2 K
The Reds rushed Corcino to Triple-A last season based on the merits of his successful 2012 campaign at Double-A. As a result, the 23-year-old regressed considerably in the International League, registering an ugly 5.86 ERA and 90-73 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 129 innings. Specifically, the right-hander struggled to pound the strike zone with his fastball, which in turn made his secondary offerings less effective.
Unfortunately, Corcino’s spring debut Thursday against the Indians indicated that nothing has changed for the right-hander, as he allowed four earned runs on one hit and three walks and failed to complete his outing. However, for what it’s worth, the two outs Corcino recorded in the frame were both strikeouts.
*All stats courtesy of MLB.com and reflect games through Feb. 28, 2014
*All videos courtesy of MLB Advanced Media, MLB.com