Picking the 2016 Mid-Spring Training All-Overachiever Team
Gaudy spring training statistics are like finding the car of your dreams at an absurdly low price. Everything looks great until you pop the hood and find an empty void where the engine should be.
Yet that doesn't stop us from dreaming big and hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe, our favorite team has struck oil and stumbled upon a game-changing talent who flew under the radar, or that a perennial underachiever has finally figured things out.
That's not to say that every player having a torrid spring won't carry that momentum into the regular season—a handful do every year—but by and large, what happens during exhibition play has no impact on a player's regular-season performance.
Keep that in mind as we take a look at nine players who have wildly overachieved this spring. Some are locks to break camp on a 25-man roster, while others are either destined for the minor leagues or still battling for a roster spot on Opening Day.
What they all have in common, however, is that none of them will look nearly as good a month from now.
Catcher: Bryan Holaday, Detroit Tigers
Bryan Holaday has been on borrowed time in Detroit ever since the Tigers decided that veteran journeyman Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the best choice to back up starter James McCann behind the plate.
So it was no surprise when the Detroit News' Lynn Henning reported that the Tigers have been "quietly prepared" to trade the 28-year-old, who is out of minor league options, for some time. With the way Holaday has swung the bat this spring, it shouldn't be difficult to find him a new home.
But buyer beware. While Holaday is good, he's not good like eight extra-base hits and 11 RBI in 11 games. Four of those extra-base knocks have cleared the outfield walls—one more than Holaday has hit over 259 major league at-bats. He's not the next coming of Johnny Bench or Mike Piazza, either.
First Base: Mike Napoli, Cleveland Indians
As Cleveland.com's Paul Hoynes pointed out, Mike Napoli finished 2015 strong in Texas and is now two years removed from sleep apnea surgery. That he could return to his prior form—hitting .250 with a high on-base percentage and 20-plus home runs—even as he enters his age-34 season isn't hard to believe.
Hitting .444 (12-for-27) this spring, Napoli leads the Cleveland Indians with 11 RBI and a 1.307 OPS. Slotted fourth or fifth in the Indians lineup, he'll have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. If everything goes well, he could even approach his career high of 92, which was set in 2013 while playing for Boston.
But the idea that he's suddenly going to contend for a batting title? Well, that's a bit harder to swallow.
Second Base: Jemile Weeks, San Diego Padres
Step aside, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Derek Norris—there's a new masher in camp for the San Diego Padres, and his name is...Jemile Weeks?
Yes, the 29-year-old speedy middle infielder, who has spent the better part of the past four years in Triple-A, leads San Diego in nearly every offensive category this spring, including hits (12), RBI (eight) and OPS (1.261). If we didn't know any better, we'd think Weeks had become Dee Gordon overnight.
But we do know better. Since hitting .303 with a .761 OPS over 97 games with Oakland in 2011, he's hit only .226 with a .618 OPS over his last 146 games spent with three different teams.
While Weeks looks poised to break camp with San Diego as a utility infielder and pinch runner off the bench—the latter a perfect role for him—he's not going to be a significant contributor once the regular season starts.
Third Base: Matt Davidson, Chicago White Sox
Power has never been an issue for Matt Davidson, who has hit at least 20 home runs in four of his past five minor league seasons. But he's led the International League in strikeouts while posting the lowest batting average in each of the past two seasons, clouding the 24-year-old's future in the big leagues.
His inability to make consistent contact is one of the reasons the Chicago White Sox traded for Todd Frazier during the offseason, and that's why it's hard to put much stock into his .440/.462/.960 slash line this spring, or the fact that he's only struck out twice in 25 at-bats.
With Frazier on board, the White Sox don't have to worry about whether Davidson has suddenly figured things out at the plate or not, as he's destined to spend the season back in Triple-A.
Shortstop: Jean Segura, Arizona Diamondbacks
Warning: The joy emanating from the Arizona Diamondbacks' chief baseball officer, Tony La Russa, as he discussed Jean Segura while a guest on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM's Doug and Wolf Show could be contagious:
A couple years ago he was an All-Star; his talent is real. He’s had some tough injuries and the family situation, but it sure looks like he’s got his head in the right place. And his skills are way above average.. He’s not just a hitter, he can play defense, also he can steal bases, so I know he’s gotten off to a great start, and just we’re all patting (GM) Dave Stewart on the back and our scouts and the job for making that (trade) happen.
But La Russa and the rest of the Diamondbacks' front office might want to pause the self-congratulatory celebration for a while. Segura is a spring sensation with a career .348/.381/.506 slash line during exhibition play. When the games count? A far less enticing .266/.301/.360.
Like a replay of the previous day's game, we know how this is going to end.
Left Field: Shawn O'Malley, Seattle Mariners
Getting on base has never been an issue for Shawn O'Malley, the owner of a .350 on-base percentage over a decade in the minor leagues and .366 mark in 35 MLB games since 2014. And the 28-year-old knows what to do when he does get on: He's successful on nearly 76 percent of his stolen-base attempts as a pro (213-of-281).
It's the rest of his offensive game that he struggles with. So while O'Malley's .556 batting average and 1.440 OPS this spring are impressive, his career .263 batting average and .698 OPS is a lot closer to his ceiling than his floor.
Center Field: Juan Lagares, New York Mets
Three years into his big league career, we've gotten a pretty good idea what kind of player 27-year-old Juan Lagares is: He's a fleet-footed, glove-first outfielder who doesn't draw walks—among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances since 2013, Lagares' 4.2 percent walk rate is baseball's 12th-lowest—and lacks real power.
So while he may have arrived to camp in "tremendous shape," as New York Mets manager Terry Collins told the New York Post's Mike Puma, his numbers this spring, which include a 12.5 percent walk rate (three free passes in 24 plate appearances), are a mirage.
That's not to say Lagares isn't a useful player. But don't expect him to replace Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto or Curtis Granderson in New York's lineup anytime soon.
Right Field: Andrew Lambo, Oakland Athletics
A former Baseball America top-100 prospect, Andrew Lambo has put together a strong spring for the Oakland Athletics by hitting .387 with four extra-base hits (two home runs) and a 1.086 OPS in 15 games.
“He’s off to a nice little start,” A's manager Bob Melvin told CSNBayArea.com's Joe Stiglich. “This is someone we’re taking a pretty hard look at. He’s taking advantage of it.”
A career .280/.347/.467 hitter over parts of eight minor league seasons, Lambo has shown the ability to be a productive batter before. But he's also failed miserably against major league pitching, hitting .191 with a .530 OPS over 99 plate appearances.
While admittedly a small sample size, it's far more likely that the 27-year-old Lambo is a quintessential Quadruple-A player—too good for the minors and not good enough for the majors—than someone a major league team can rely on for consistent production over the course of a 162-game schedule.
Pitcher: Juan Nicasio, Pittsburgh Pirates
Juan Nicasio has pitched his way into contention for a spot in the Pittsburgh Pirates' Opening Day rotation—something nobody thought was a possibility entering camp.
"We're going to play it out," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told MLB.com's Adam Berry about his plans for the rotation. "Every outing leads to the next outing. We like what he's doing."
It'd be impossible not to like what the 29-year-old has done thus far. He's yet to allow an earned run over 10 innings of work while scattering five hits, walking three and striking out 16. While the magic that Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage wield over wayward pitchers is legitimate and strong, it's not this strong.
Nicasio surely may break camp in the Pirates rotation, and he might even become a reliable, trusted member of the group. But an ace he's not, despite his spring numbers telling us otherwise.
Unless otherwise noted, all spring training statistics courtesy of MLB.com and are current through games of March 19. All other statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. All contract information courtesy of Cot's Contracts (via Baseball Prospectus).
Hit me up on Twitter to talk all things baseball: @RickWeinerBR.