10 MLB Players Who'll Overperform/Underperform This Spring
Spring training is important, but you cannot always judge regular-season success based on how people perform in this month of exhibitions. For example, some guys do great all spring but never seem to stick on a major league team.
On the flip side, some of the best players in baseball aren’t very good at spring training for some reason. They struggle but then get it together in time for the games that really count.
I want to highlight five overachievers and five underachievers for you today. They are active in Major League Baseball right now, and we will see how this spring will progress for them.
Overachiever: Jason Donald, Kansas City Royals
Jason Donald has played in 170 total regular-season games since 2010 and has a career .257 batting average. He has hit seven home runs and driven in 43 runs. Obviously, he has done enough to stick around, but he hasn’t found that everyday role.
In spring training, he has appeared in 99 total games with a batting average of .289. This year, in nine games, his batting average is .412.
With a small sample size, it is easy for an outlier to throw the data off, but if he could hit for that average during the regular season, we would see a lot more of him.
Underachiever: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
David Ortiz is arguably the best designated hitter to ever play baseball. He has 431 career home runs with 1,429 RBI. He has been an integral part of the Boston Red Sox's recent success.
Interestingly, he seems to take a little while to warm up. His spring training batting average is only .240 for his career, and he has gotten one hit this season in 10 at-bats.
A lack of significant success in this spring obviously hasn’t held back his career at all. However, it is interesting that he has not been better against the generally weaker spring competition.
Overachiever: Paul Janish, Colorado Rockies
Shortstops have traditionally been smooth on defense and serviceable on offense. Paul Janish definitely fits that stereotype on the offensive side. He has had opportunities as an everyday player, but his career average is only .214, and he has struggled with the Atlanta Braves for the past two seasons.
That said, he is a career .289 hitter during the spring. He still doesn’t show much power, but his average is respectable.
He will be hoping to earn a spot off the bench for the Colorado Rockies and resurrect what was a reasonably promising career at one point. He has talent, but it hasn’t manifested itself at the plate in the regular season.
Underachiever: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
Wil Myers was pretty much a can’t-miss prospect with the Kansas City Royals, and he was a major part of the trade that convinced the Tampa Bay Rays to part ways with James Shields. He did not disappoint in his first major-league season as he hit .293 with 15 home runs and 53 RBI.
However, spring training has never gone well for him. He has appeared in 33 games over his career and has never hit a home run. His spring batting average is only .243, and he has only driven in three runs.
He is only 23 years old, so some of his spring performance might be tied to his youth, but it is interesting that such a high-end prospect has struggled in his major league spring experience.
Overachiever: Alex Gonzalez, Baltimore Orioles
Alex Gonzalez has played in 1,600 career major league games, and he has certainly done enough to stick around. He hits for a little bit of power, and he has had opportunities for substantial playing time on a variety of teams.
Still, his career batting average is .246, and he hits a home run approximately every five games.
In the spring, his power dips like everyone else, but his batting average is 41 points higher. This year, he is hitting .455.
Underachiever: Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
Johnny Cueto had an excellent year in 2012, going 19-9. In 2013, he might have been just as strong, but he dealt with severe injuries that limited him to only 11 starts.
He is only getting better as his career goes on, but spring training is still problematic for him. His career ERA during spring training is 4.75 but probably should be higher than that. In 2009, he had a great spring that keeps that ERA a little lower than it might be otherwise.
He is a great pitcher, but something about spring training doesn’t seem to work out so well for him.
Overachiever: Logan Kensing, Seattle Mariners
Logan Kensing has done a great job when he has been invited to spring training. He made his first appearance in 2006, but he failed to earn an invitation in 2007, 2011 and 2012. In the remainder of these years though, he has posted a combined 2.77 ERA. He had averaged almost a strikeout per inning as well.
Unfortunately, that success has not transitioned into the regular season. He has bounced from the majors to the minors several times, and his career record is 8-9 with a 5.79 ERA in 135 games.
This spring has started out very well for him, so maybe he’ll finally be able to carry a strong spring performance over to the games that count.
Underachiever: A.J. Burnett, Philadelphia Phillies
A.J. Burnett has had an excellent career. Barring some kind of major injury, he is going to post is 150th victory this season, and he has a career ERA of 3.99. He has always been susceptible to the long ball, but he has been a consistent performer for many years now.
Interestingly, in spring training, he has never been able to do very much, even though he has been there multiple times. His career ERA is 5.57 with a 1.42 WHIP.
As he gets older, we can assume that he will slow down a little bit, but hopefully he will pitch well during the regular season since he hasn't been doing it in spring training.
Overachiever: Michael Blazek, Milwaukee Brewers
I want to put a disclaimer on this one. Michael Blazek is very young at age 24 and does not have a lot of major league experience. However, if you look at him in spring training, he has been lights out. Between last season and the beginning of this season, he has a 0.90 ERA.
However, he wasn’t able to turn it into a solid performance at the major league level last year, as he ended up with a 5.79 ERA. I don’t want to lose hope because he turned in an excellent season in the minors, but he is hoping to rebound and make the team this year.
Young players have time, but so far he has overachieved in spring training. I personally hope he keeps it going into the regular season.
Underachiever: Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants
Sergio Romo transitioned into the closer role for the San Francisco Giants last season, and he did a great job of shutting the door. He saved 38 games in 43 opportunities and averaged nearly one strikeout per inning.
Spring training has been interesting for Romo. Some years he is excellent, and some years he is terrible. 2014 has been more of the latter so far, as he has given up six earned runs in three innings. Obviously, it is a small sample size, but it must be a little nerve-racking for the Giants.
Difficulties in spring training does not mean that a player is going to have a terrible season, but it is interesting how some players are capable of shaking off these tough starts and doing so well during the year.