MLB Spring Training 2014: Who's Hot, Who's Not Through 2nd Week of Games
We are roughly two weeks into spring training games being played, and while it is wise not to put too much stock into a hot or cold preseason, the statistics are there to be analyzed nonetheless.
For hitters, it's a matter of working on timing at the plate as they deal with sporadic playing time and a disparity in the quality of pitching they face on a game-by-game basis.
For pitchers, guys are still trying to stretch out their arms and are oftentimes tinkering with new pitches or mechanics as they ready themselves for the upcoming season.
So while I acknowledge that spring training stats don't always mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, here is a look at who's hot and who's not through two weeks of spring training games.
Not: SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Spring Stats: 3 GS, 9 IP, 10 ER, 12 H, 4 BB, 5 K
It's hard to get too concerned about the best pitcher in baseball, but Clayton Kershaw has been far from impressive so far this spring.
He threw of the ball better his last time out, allowing five hits and two earned runs in five innings of work. He seemed pleased with his performance.
"The results were a little bit better," Kershaw said to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "Still things I need to work on. For the most part, a positive step in the right direction."
There's really no reason to worry about the reigning NL Cy Young winner at this point, but there's no question he's gotten off to a less-than-dominant start to 2014.
Hot: SP Max Scherzer, Detroit TIgers
Spring Stats: 3 GS, 9.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 10 K
While the reigning NL Cy Young winner has scuffled out of the gates, his AL counterpart, Max Scherzer, has been lights-out in his three starts so far this spring.
The only run he's allowed so far has been a solo home run to Brian McCann in his first start of the spring, and he was terrific his last time out. He allowed two hits in 4.2 scoreless innings of work against a good St. Louis Cardinals lineup, striking out five and walking none.
Not: SS Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays
Player Stats: 4-for-27, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
A severe left ankle sprain cost Jose Reyes 66 games last season, but he provided an undeniable spark to the Toronto Blue Jays lineup once he returned at the end of June.
All told, he hit .296/.353/.427 over 382 at-bats in his first season with the team last year. There's not much cause for concern here, but it's worth noting that Reyes was a career .334/.383/.519 hitter over 389 career spring at-bats entering the season.
Hot: C Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates
Spring Stats: 8-for-15, 1 2B, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R, 2 BB, 1 K
The Pittsburgh Pirates took a chance on Russell Martin last offseason, signing him away from the New York Yankees with a two-year, $17 million deal.
The signing wound up being one of the better deals of the offseason, as Martin posted a 4.3 rWAR, doing a great job handling the team's pitching staff while providing some plus pop with 21 doubles and 15 home runs. The 31-year-old has failed to hit over .250 each of the past five seasons, and a boost in his offensive production would make him that much more valuable.
Not: RP Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants
Spring Stats: 4 G, 3 IP, 11 ER, 11 H, 3 BB, 3 K
Sergio Romo has been one of the best relievers in baseball since he first broke into the league in 2008. He was terrific in his first full season in the closer's role last year, going 38-of-43 on save chances with a 2.54 ERA and 8.7 K/9.
One of the best sliders in baseball has been a big reason for his success, and a big cause for his struggles this spring is the fact that he isn't throwing his slider, according to Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area. He's working on his changeup, and developing it further could make him that much better of a pitcher, so getting hit hard now is the price he has to pay.
Hot: RP Jesse Chavez, Oakland Athletics
Spring Stats: 3 G, 2 GS, 8.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 8 K
Jesse Chavez has bounced around throughout his career. When the Oakland Athletics acquired him in August of 2012, he joined his seventh team since being selected in the 42nd round of the 2002 draft by the Texas Rangers.
He looks to have found a home in Oakland, as he had the best season of his career last year, posting a 3.92 ERA and 8.6 K/9 in 57.1 innings of work over 35 appearances. With a number of Athletics starters struggling, Chavez is a dark-horse candidate to make the rotation, but at the very least, he looks like a lock for a roster spot.
Not: 1B/OF Corey Hart, Seattle Mariners
Spring Stats: 2-for-18, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 4 R, 4 BB, 10 K
A consistent producer in the middle of the Milwaukee Brewers lineup for several years, Corey Hart posted an OPS over .800 each year from 2010 to 2012, but he missed the entire 2013 season after undergoing a pair of knee surgeries.
The Seattle Mariners took a chance on him with a one-year, $6 million deal during the winter meetings, and the 31-year-old will be looking to make good on what could be the steal of the offseason if he returns to form. That said, he's off to a slow start this spring, and the team is counting on him to protect fellow newcomer Robinson Cano in the middle of their lineup.
Hot: 1B/OF Tommy Medica, San Diego Padres
Spring Stats: 14-for-29, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB, 2 K
Ranked as the No. 23 prospect in the San Diego Padres organization entering the year, according to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook for 2014, Tommy Medica has been perhaps the biggest surprise of spring training so far.
The 25-year-old was added to the 40-man roster last September, and he went 20-for-69 with two doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI down the stretch. If he can keep it up, it will be awfully hard to leave him off the Opening Day roster.
Not: SP Jarrod Parker, Oakland Athletics
Spring Stats: 3 GS, 9.1 IP, 11 ER, 11 H, 4 BB, 8 K
Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks prior to the 2012 season, Jarrod Parker has been a consistent arm atop the Oakland Athletics rotation the past two seasons, going 25-16 with a 3.73 ERA in 61 starts.
With Bartolo Colon gone in free agency, Parker looked to have the upper hand on Opening Day start honors entering the spring. He's off to a rocky start this spring, but he struggled last preseason as well, posting a 7.45 ERA in 19.1 innings of work, so there's no reason to panic.
Hot: SP Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
Spring Stats: 2 GS, 8 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 9 K
The ace of the San Francisco Giants staff entering the 2013 season, Matt Cain went 5-6 with a 5.06 ERA in the first half last season. He got things back on track after the All-Star break, though, posting a 2.36 ERA over his final 11 starts.
His last time out, Cain threw five perfect innings against the Chicago Cubs, striking out seven. If he can keep pitching at a high level, it would go a long way in helping the Giants turn things around after a disappointing 2013 season.
Not: LF Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies
Spring Stats: 2-for-25, 1 RBI, 2 R, 5 BB, 9 K
The No. 4 prospect in baseball prior to the 2011 season, according to Baseball America, Domonic Brown took longer than expected to put it all together, but he finally had the breakout season people were waiting for last year.
He hit .273/.320/.535 with 23 home runs and 67 RBI in the first half last season, but he was limited to just 44 games in the second half while dealing with a concussion and an Achilles injury. Brown is healthy now, but he's off to a very slow start this spring as he looks to prove his breakout season was no fluke.
Hot: RF Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Spring Stats: 8-for-20, 3 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R, 5 BB, 4 K
Since hitting 97 home runs in 2010 and 2011 and emerging as a bona fide MVP threat, Jose Bautista has had some trouble staying on the field the past two seasons. Last season, it was a hip injury that shelved him, and the season before it was a wrist injury and subsequent surgery.
The 33-year-old still has some of the best power in the game and a terrific eye at the plate, and if he can stay healthy, there is no reason to think he can't be an MVP candidate once again in 2014. He's off to a hot start this spring, and he'll be key in helping the Toronto Blue Jays bounce back from a disappointing season.