MLB Spring Training 2014: Who's Hot, Who's Not Through 1st Week of Games
There's only been a single week of MLB spring training games, but already plenty of players have busted out, while others have so far flopped.
Of course, the players who have impressed aren't always the ones whom you would have expected to, just like how the ones who have underwhelmed can be surprises as well. After all, spring training is the time of year when previously anonymous minor leaguers post outlandish batting averages and established big leaguers are far more concerned with the process than the results.
So, here's a look around the league at who's hot and who's not through the first week of MLB spring training games.
Note: All stats courtesy of MLB.com. All videos courtesy of MLB Advanced Media.
Hot: Yangervis Solarte, INF, New York Yankees
Spring Training Stats: .857 (6-for-7), 2 home runs, 5 RBI, 4 runs
Yangervis Solarte has done nothing but hit since arriving at the New York Yankees spring training camp.
The 26-year-old is hitting .857 in his first four Grapefruit League games, as Solarte has done everything in his power to separate himself from a crowd of contenders angling for a job as a backup infielder on the Yankees bench.
Solarte has never played in a big-league game, but he does offer tons of defensive versatility. Last year, he appeared in games at second base, third base and the outfield while playing for the Texas Rangers Triple-A club.
Not: Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
Spring Training Stats: .000 (0-for-9), 4 strikeouts
Kolten Wong has yet to record a single hit this spring, as the second baseman struck out in four of his first six at-bats. Manager Mike Matheny is unconcerned by the early scuffles, as he explained via Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
I think we'd all rather get off to a good start than a bad one. But I think Kolten is going to be one of those guys that just trusts himself and his ability and not to get too high or too low. I think there's a lot to be seen about how he handles it when things don't go his way. We're constantly watching that with all these guys.
Wong still has plenty of time to turn around his spring, and he'll certainly need to with the veteran Mark Ellis ready to step in.
Hot: Tommy La Stella, 2B, Atlanta Braves
Spring Training Stats: .438 (7-for-16), 2 doubles, 4 runs, 1 RBI
Tommy La Stella is making a name for himself this spring for the Atlanta Braves.
The second baseman had seven hits in his first four contests of the spring, including a four-hit game on March 1. According to Buster Olney of ESPN (subscription required), the 25-year-old's impressive play "has caught the attention of evaluators early on."
Last year, La Stella hit .343 in 324 plate appearances for the club's Double-A affiliate. The left-handed batter is likely ticketed to begin the year in Triple-A. Already, though, he's on his way to becoming an insurance option in case Dan Uggla flounders again in 2014.
Not: Sergio Romo, RP, San Francisco Giants
Spring Training Stats: 54.00 ERA, 1 inning, 7 hits, 6 earned runs
Sergio Romo got dinged for six runs on seven hits in his first spring outing, as the right-hander worked one inning in the Cactus League opener.
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn't read too much into the results, as Chris Haft of MLB.com reports. Bochy explained to Haft that Romo had relied only on his fastball and changeup and had refrained from throwing his slider, the most devastating pitch in his arsenal. That insight helps explain away an otherwise ugly first outing for the Giants' top reliever.
Hot: Juan Francisco, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
Spring Training Stats: .429 (3-for7), 2 home runs, 2 runs, 3 RBI
In his first three games of the spring, Juan Francisco has already clubbed two home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Teammate Carlos Gomez was unsurprised by that early power display and expects big things to come for Francisco, as he explained via Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Juan has power like you can't even imagine. He's got sick power. I don't know if he's going to hit .300, but I know he's going to hit 30-plus home runs or probably more. He has the power to be something crazy.
That's a bold prediction from Gomez. Of course, for it to ring true, Francisco will have to beat out either Mark Reynolds or Lyle Overbay for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Not: Jarrod Parker, SP, Oakland Athletics
Spring Training Stats: 40.50 ERA, 1.1 innings, 5 hits, 6 earned runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
Jarrod Parker's first start of the spring didn't exactly go to plan.
The Oakland Athletics right-hander lasted just 1.1 innings as he served up six runs on five hits and one walk. Manager Bob Melvin brushed off the poor showing, explaining that the 25-year-old was "just a little out of sync," via Jane Lee of MLB.com.
Lee also noted that part of the ineffectiveness could have been due to the fact that Parker shied away from throwing his slider. He dealt with forearm and elbow issues at the end of the 2013 season, and throwing sliders can place added stress on a pitcher's arm.
Hot: Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals
Spring Training Stats: .556 (5-for-9), 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 6 RBI
After a disappointing 2013 campaign, Mike Moustakas spent the offseason playing winter ball in Venezuela. So far, the extra work has been paying major dividends for the third baseman. Through his first four games, the left-handed hitter is batting .556 with a pair of home runs.
Manager Ned Yost is happy to see his third baseman get off to such a strong start, as it helps "validate" all the extra winter work, per Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star.
Not: James McDonald, SP, Chicago Cubs
Spring Training Stats: 54.00 ERA, 1+ inning, 3 hits, 6 earned runs, 3 walks, 0 strikeouts
James McDonald endured a forgettable outing in his debut as a Chicago Cub.
The right-hander, who is competing for a spot in Chicago's rotation, ended up allowing six runs in one-plus inning of work, as he gave up two home runs and walked three batters. The Cubs ultimately lost the contest 15-3 to the Los Angeles Angels.
Despite the disappointing stat line, Cubs manager Rick Renteria offered McDonald words of encouragement afterward, via Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune:
He's going to have plenty of opportunities to go out there and put himself in the position to show everybody what he's got, and we're going to do everything we can to facilitate that and make it easier.
McDonald, who missed the final five months of the 2013 season due to a shoulder injury, also struggled with fatigue during the outing, as Gonzalez notes.
Hot: Billy Burns, OF, Oakland Athletics
Spring Training Stats: .308 (4-for-13), 3 runs, 4 stolen bases
Billy Burns won't be making the Oakland Athletics' Opening Day roster, as the 24-year-old has yet to advance beyond Double-A.
Still, that hasn't stopped the speedy outfielder from turning quite a few heads at the Athletics' spring training camp. In a recent game against the Texas Rangers, Burns racked up two hits, two runs, two steals and two outfield assists.
After that performance, manager Bob Melvin weighed in with his take, via John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle:
He's been terrific, exactly what we heard. He's played well defensively, a fearless baserunner obviously, a guy that doesn't have to square the ball up to get a hit. He's really impressed us this camp, and he's going to continue to get a lot of playing time.
The team acquired Burns from the Washington Nationals during the offseason in exchange for left-hander Jerry Blevins. Last year, Burns swiped 74 bases in the minor leagues. That's the kind of disruptive speed that could be a highly valuable asset in the big leagues.
Not: Alex Guerrero, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Spring Training Stats: .308 (4-for-13), 1 run, 2 RBI
Through the first week of games, Alex Guerrero has posted decent numbers for the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, the firsthand reports on the Cuban second baseman are far less favorable, as Buster Olney of ESPN (subscription required) reports:
"One evaluator on the early feedback on the Dodgers' Alex Guerrero, who signed for $28 million: 'They could get him through outright waivers right now if they need a roster spot.'"
That sounds like a remarkable claim, but Jim Bowden of ESPN seconded that notion. Bowden writes (subscription required) that "signs point to him beginning the season in Albuquerque," the home of the club's Triple-A affiliate.
Hot: Tim Hudson, SP, San Francisco Giants
Spring Training Stats: 0.00 ERA, 2 innings, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout
It's only fitting that Tim Hudson would have to cover first base in his return to the mound. In fact, he actually had to cover the bag twice during his brief outing.
It was, of course, just such a play that led to a fractured ankle last summer and an early end to his 2013 campaign. In his first appearance as a San Francisco Giant, the veteran right-hander worked two scoreless frames, allowing no hits and striking out one.
For Hudson, getting through the outing unscathed (and healthy) was a key step toward becoming a key cog in the Giants rotation.
Not: Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
Spring Training Stats: 5.40 ERA, 1.2 innings, 2 hits, 1 earned run, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez didn't exactly impress in his first ever outing as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, as he dished out four free passes in 1.2 innings of work.
According to Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer, "The moment appeared to overwhelm the 27-year-old right-hander. He looked like a pitcher who had not pitched in two years."
As Gelb points out, that final part is actually true. Gonzalez last pitched "competitively" in early 2012 after a failed attempt at defection left him banned from the Cuban national team. Manager Ryne Sandberg admitted that it "might have looked like he had a little rust," per Gelb.
If Gonzalez is going to grab a spot in the Phillies rotation, he'll need to get rid of that rust as quickly as possible.
Hot: Jose Bautista, RF, Toronto Blue Jays
Spring Training Stats: .400 (4-for10), 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 3 runs, 4 RBI
So far, Jose Bautista has four hits this spring, and all of them have gone for extra bases. The right fielder for the Toronto Blue Jays has collected two doubles and a pair of home runs in his first four Grapefruit League contests.
The home run in the video above actually traveled so far that it cleared Bright House Field altogether. Suffice it to say that Bautista, who has slugged at least 27 home runs in each of the past four campaigns, is already in midseason form.
Not: CC Sabathia, SP, New York Yankees
Spring Training Stats: 0.00 ERA, 2 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 strikeout
The stat line looked good after CC Sabathia worked a pair of scoreless innings in his first start of the spring.
However, after the game, there were plenty of questions about the left-hander's diminishing velocity after Sabathia's fastball topped out at 88 mph, according to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News.
The left-hander dismissed the concerns, as McCarron reports: "My fastball is what it is. If it gets better, it will. If it's not, it won't. I can pitch. I'm fine. As long as I'm healthy I'll be good."
That certainly doesn't sound like a pitcher who suddenly expects to gain some life on his fastball. In fact, it actually sounds like Sabathia is resigned to the fact that his velocity won't return.
As long as the veteran continues throwing up zeroes, there isn't much to complain about. Still, Sabathia's decreased velocity is definitely a red flag to keep track of as the spring wears on.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.
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