MLB News and Rumors: 2011 Top 10 Spring Training Performances

Colin KirschnerContributor IIMarch 22, 2011

MLB News and Rumors: 2011 Top 10 Spring Training Performances

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    The 2011 MLB season is just around the corner, and teams are starting to move into combat mode with spring training winding down and so are the top 10 performers of this year's spring.

    Spring training is when players want to set their name in stone.  With a top performance in just a couple of games, a manager or GM could decide, "This is our guy to start the season at this position."

    Besides a few household names known by the average fan, we have seen a surprising spring by a fair share of players.

    In rating the top 10 performers this spring, a player must have at least 30 plate appearances and rank with a respectable batting average.

10. Yunel Escobar, Toronto Blue Jays

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    This spring, Yunel Escobar is hitting a solid .400 in 40 at-bats.  Last July, he was traded by the Atlanta Braves to Toronto for shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

    A change of scenery may have been just what he needed to re-spark his career.  He has struck out just five times this spring.

    However, with his batting average being so high, it would be nice to see him touch more bases, as he only has 19 total bases this spring.

9. Alex Cora, Washington Nationals

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    Alexa Cora has been around the league for a long time and is known to be a great clubhouse presence who leads by example.

    A 35-year-old that is hitting .400 in spring training can mean two things.

    1) The pitching is just poor due to teams giving their young guns a chance to show what they've got.

    2) He can really still play at his age.

    As a Washington Nationals fan, I'm hoping the answer to that is No. 2.  If needed, Cora could step in and play some shortstop for the Nats this season if second year starter Ian Desmond doesn't get his act together.

8. Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves

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    The future is now for the Atlanta Braves and for right fielder Jason Heyward.  This spring, he is murdering the ball, hitting .419.

    Along with his average, his on-base-percentage is a whopping .571 thanks to his eight walks.

    Heyward is known to be a patient but lethal hitter who attacks opposing pitchers like a cobra.  He waits for his opportunity and then strikes the ball.

7. Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves

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    With offseason surgery on his torn ACL in his left knee, Jones is looking fresh to say the least.

    This spring his numbers are through the roof for a 38-year-old—.420/.463/.740.

    Adding to the damage he has done through 17 games is his total base count of 37, with only five strikeouts.

    If Jones can stay healthy, the Braves could shock Major League Baseball in 2011.

6. Scott Hairston, New York Mets

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    The New York Mets are in dire need of anything and everything.  If Scott Hariston can catapult his average from this spring of .425 into the season, he could be used as trade bait later on to pick up some needed prospects.

    Hariston will be a utility man for the Mets, as he can play across the outfield.

5. Russel Branyan, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Russel Branyan is what we call in the sports world a journey-man; he has played for 10 different teams in his 12 year career.

    This spring, he is hitting .428 with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.218.  

    He might be on the backend of his career, but you never say never in baseball, and it doesn't look like Branyan is yet, either.

4. Jason Kubel, Minnesota Twins

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    Jason Kubel has looked good thus far, batting .447 with 10 RBI's and 26 total bases.

    His strikeouts have been low, with only four all spring.

    With the health questions of Justin Morneau, the Twins will need Kubel to step it up again this season if they want to make a run.

3. Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Rickie Weeks had what some would consider a breakout year in 2010—with 29 HR's and 83 RBI's—however, a .269 batting average is what really held him back.

    This spring Rickie is locked in, hitting .457 with 22 total bases.  

    He has yet to clear the yard with an at-bat, which questions, where did all his pop go?

2. Melky Cabrera, Kansas City Royals

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    After a struggling season in Atlanta in 2010, Melky Cabrera is looking to prove to GMs that he can consistently contribute to a team.

    He certainly has done so this spring, hitting .488, 30 total bases, one home run and 12 RBI's.

    The Royals will need him to be an early success so they are not rushed to bring up their highly rated prospects that will be in uniform sometime this season.

1. Marlon Byrd, Chicago Cubs

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    Marlon Byrd is having a great spring for the Chicago Cubs, hitting .488.  

    Now he needs to work on driving in more runs, as he only has four RBI's with one home run.  

    Byrd could be a threat this season if he can become an all-around threat at the plate.