2014 MLB Spring Training

MLB Spring Training: 5 Players Who Are for Real, 5 Who Aren't

Karl BuscheckContributor IIIMarch 19, 2014

MLB Spring Training: 5 Players Who Are for Real, 5 Who Aren't

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    MLB spring-training stats can be terribly misleading when it comes to predicting future success at the big-league level. The fact is that when determining which players are for real and which ones aren't, a few weeks' worth of game action simply isn't a large enough sample. 

    The following list takes a look at 10 prospects from around baseball that have stood out this spring and examines who is ready to carry that success into the regular season and who is all hype.

     

    All stats courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com.

For Real: Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats: .400 (18-for-45), 7 2B, 2 HR, 16 RBI

     

    Why He's for Real 

    Nick Castellanos has pumped out some impressive stats this spring. However, as Lynn G. Henning of the Detroit News explained via Twitter, its not just the 22-year-old's numbers that have stood out so far in Grapefruit League action: "Still have't seen Nick Castellanos: (a) get overmatched by a pitch; (b) get fooled by a pitch; (c) has only struck out 3 times in 13 g[ames]."

    The 2010 first-round pick has also held his own at third base, a position he didn't even play last season in the minor leagues. Manager Brad Ausmus described his performance at the hot corner as "solid," per Henning

    The way he's played so far this spring, Castellanos is a leading contender to snag American League Rookie of the Year honors.

Not for Real: Billy Burns, OF, Oakland Athletics

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats: .291 (16-for-55), 1 2B, 7 BB, 9 SB

     

    Why He's Not for Real 

    Billy Burns has been one of the most pleasant surprises of camp. But right now, it's far too soon to say that he's the real deal. 

    The outfielder, whom the Athletics acquired in the offseason from the Washington Nationals, has demonstrated blazing speed this spring, as he's racked up nine stolen bases. 

    However, the 24-year-old has only appeared in 30 games above High-A, and as a result, is largely untested against advanced pitching. So far in Cactus League play, the switch-hitter has collected just one extra-base hit. 

    According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Burns is slated to begin the season in Double-A. One of his top priorities this season will be to consistently hit the ball on the ground so that he can utilize his remarkable speed.

For Real: Yordano Ventura, SP, Kansas City Royals

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats: 1.76 ERA, 15.1 IP, 10 H, 15 K, 1 BB

     

    Why He's for Real

    Thanks to an excellent performance so far this spring, the hard-throwing Yordano Ventura has locked down a spot in the Kansas City Royals starting rotation, as Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star reports.

    The 22-year-old right-hander has also caught the eye of talent evaluators from rival clubs. According to Peter Gammons, one team official from the Oakland Athletics described Ventura's changeup as "unbelievable." Meanwhile, his fastball can eclipse 100 mph on the radar gun. 

    With the ability to change speeds so dramatically, Ventura could prove to be an absolute nightmare for American League hitters this upcoming season.

Not for Real: Yangervis Solarte, INF, New York Yankees

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Spring Training Stats: .500 (15-for-30), 2 HR, 8 RBI

     

    Why He's Not for Real 

    Yangervis Solarte has been battering the Grapefruit League this spring, as the versatile infielder has hit .500 through his first 16 games. 

    However, his minor-league track record suggests that his torrid start is more of a fluke than a sign of things to come. In 2,804 plate appearances spread across eight minor-league seasons, the switch-hitter owns a pretty average .733 OPS. In fact, he's only once posted an OPS of .800 or better in a full season. 

    It's possible that the 26-year-old is simply a late bloomer. However, it's much more likely that his spring showing has been a mirage and his future lies as a utility infielder.

For Real: Tommy Medica, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Spring Training Stats: .396 (19-for-48), 4 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI

     

    Why He's for Real

    Tommy Medica is far from a lock to make the Opening Day roster for the San Diego Padres. 

    However, the 25-year-old is certainly making a compelling case for a spot on the team with his play this spring. Through his first 19 games, Medica is batting .396. That performance comes on the heels of the right-hander hitting .290 with three home runs in 69 major-league at-bats at the end of last season. 

    So far in Cactus League play, Medica has split time between first base and the outfield, as the Padres look to find a spot for his bat in the lineup.

    Medica knows that if he keeps swinging the bat like he has, he'll find his way to San Diego, one way or another. "I've learned that if you can hit the ball, they're going to find somewhere to play you," he explained to Doug Miller of MLB.com.

    As his Cactus League showing this spring and his .926 career OPS in four minor-league seasons demonstrate, Medica can definitely hit the ball.

Not for Real: Brandon Hicks, 2B, San Francisco Giants

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats: .419 (13-for-31), 7 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI

     

    Why He's Not for Real 

    Much like Yangervis Solarte, Brandon Hicks is a longtime minor-league infielder who is enjoying a monster spring. Through his first 18 games, Hicks is batting .419 with a pair of home runs and seven doubles, as he continues to battle for a spot on the San Francisco Giants bench. 

    However, as is the case with Solarte, there's not much of a track record to suggest that Hicks will be able to maintain his high level of play. In seven minor-league seasons, the right-handed hitter owns an uninspiring .247/.336/.434 slash line. 

    Admittedly, his major-league experience is highly limited, as he's totaled just 90 at-bats at the level over three seasons. Furthermore, the results have been extremely poor; in two of those seasons, Hicks actually posted a negative OPS+.

For Real: Michael Pineda, SP, New York Yankees

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats: 0.00 ERA, 9.0 IP, 8 H, 14 K, 1 BB

     

    Why He's for Real 

    There was all sorts of uncertainty surrounding Michael Pineda heading into spring training.

    The 6'7" right-hander missed all of the 2012 season and much of the 2013 campaign as he recovered from shoulder surgery. However, the early returns this spring have been highly promising, both for the starter and the New York Yankees. 

    Over three outings, Pineda has piled up 14 strikeouts in nine innings of work. The 25-year-old has also demonstrated excellent command, as he has issued just one walk.

    His most recent start against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday was his most noteworthy performance to date. Pineda recorded five strikeouts in 4.1 innings of scoreless work. That strong showing caught the attention of Red Sox first baseman Mike Carp.

    "He was completely dominant," Carp said, via Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. "He had the presence to go out there and attack hitters...He's a force to be reckoned with and hopefully he's going to provide them with some depth. Hopefully we don't have to face him a lot this year."

    If Pineda continues dealing like he has so far this spring, Carp won't be the only hitter looking to avoid facing the towering righty in 2014.

Not for Real: Miguel Rojas, INF, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats: .444 (12-for-27), 2 2B, 3 RBI

     

    Why He's Not for Real 

    Miguel Rojas' glove is definitely for real. In fact, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has compared the infielder's defensive skills to those of Omar Vizquel, according to Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles.

    However, the bat that Rojas has displayed this spring is definitely not for real. In 21 Cactus League contests, the 25-year-old infielder has led the club with a batting average of .444. Unfortunately, there's absolutely nothing on Rojas' minor-league resume to suggest that he'll be a competent big-league hitter in 2014. 

    In eight minor-league seasons, Rojas has posted a .234/.302/.287 slash line. Last year, while playing for the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate, the Venezuelan hit just .233 with a .610 OPS.

    Rojas could prove to be a valuable defensive replacement for the Dodgers in 2014 and beyond, but to expect anything more than that is a serious stretch.

For Real: Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats: .214 (6-for-28), 2 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI

     

    Why He's for Real 

    Carlos Correa won't be breaking camp with the Houston Astros.

    After all, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 MLB draft hasn't even played a single game above Low-A. Still, that hasn't stopped the shortstop from making a memorable impression this spring as Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle explained via Twitter: "The Astros' best player in camp is 19. His name is Carlos Correa. He's a year away."

    That's a pretty rough assessment of the talent currently assembled on Houston's big-league roster. But Ortiz definitely is not alone in recognizing just how ridiculously skilled Correa is, as a tweet from Peter Gammons indicates: "Scout for whom I have immense respect: 'Carlos Correra will be ranked the No. 1 prospect in baseball by season's end.' I'm all for that."

    It seems it's only a matter of time before Correa will be making a substantial impact in Houston's lineup.

Not for Real: Hector Santiago, SP, Los Angeles Angels

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Spring Training Stats: 2.76 ERA, 16.1 IP, 11 H, 19 K, 6 BB

     

    Why He's Not for Real 

    There's no doubt that Hector Santiago has posted some big-time numbers this spring for the Los Angeles Angels. Still, there are a couple of reasons why I'm not convinced that the left-hander is for real, at least not as a starter.

    First, while Santiago has punched out 19 batters in 16.1 innings of work this spring, the 26-year-old has also issued six free passes. Looking at his minor-league numbers, there's definitely some concern about his lack of command, as Santiago has posted a 4.1 BB/9 ratio in six seasons.

    There's also the consideration that during those six campaigns, Santiago only made 27 starts out of a total of 156 appearances. Last year, as a member of the Chicago White Sox, the lefty started 23 times in 34 appearances. 

    It's quite possible that Santiago can overcome his command issues and lack of starting experience, but both will be major factors to keep an eye on this season.

     

    If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.

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