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MLB Spring Training 2019: Highlighting Most Impressive Pitchers and Hitters

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 21, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 15:  Ryan McMahon #24 of the Colorado Rockies gets ready in the batters box during a spring training game against the Kansas City Royals at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 15, 2019 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

As fans have been told time and again, don't overestimate the importance of spring training statistics.

But that doesn't have to stop us from celebrating MLB's stars of the exhibition season.

Maybe these breakouts will carry over into the 162-game grind. Maybe they'll never make it out of Arizona or Florida.

That's not our concern. We're just here to highlight this spring's stars.

              

Spring Training 2019 Most Impressive Players

Ryan McMahon, 2B, Colorado Rockies

The Rockies haven't made it easy for Ryan McMahon to find steady playing time. Between the signing of Daniel Murphy and the surge of prospect Garrett Hampson, there isn't an obvious spot for the 24-year-old on the right side of Colorado's infield.

Or there wasn't before McMahon spent his spring hitting the cover off the ball, at least.

His .457 average is tops among all qualified hitters. The same goes for his 21 hits, more than half of which have gone for extra bases. He has seven doubles, three homers and a triple.

His bat is clearly big league-ready. He's forced the Rockies to figure out how all the pieces fit, since he deserves to be a part of the puzzle.

                 

Luis Cessa, SP, New York Yankees

John Bazemore/Associated Press

The Yankees will enter the regular season with extra openings in their rotation, since Luis Severino is shelved for a month-plus and C.C. Sabathia is facing a five-game suspension and rehabbing himself.

If Luis Cessa's spring is any indication, he might not only fill one of those early vacancies, he'll demand consideration even when this rotation is whole.

The 26-year-old has made five appearances, three as a starter. He has more strikeouts (18) than innings pitched (17), a microscopic average against (.153) and has just one run and one walk each.

"He looks great," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Starting with how he got his body prepared and came in really good shape. There has been a growth, there has been a purpose and an understanding of who he is as a pitcher."

Cessa compiled a 4.71 ERA over 151 innings the past three seasons at the big league level. That either means massive regression is imminent, or he's transforming in front of our eyes.

              

Hunter Pence, OF, Texas Rangers

The San Francisco Giants were abysmal last season, and even then, they usually concluded they were better off without Hunter Pence. So, when the 35-year-old followed a four-homer, 24-RBI campaign by inking a minor league pact with the Rangers, there wasn't an obvious reason to take notice.

There is now.

Pence has cemented himself on a short list of spring's biggest surprises. He's hitting .349 with five doubles and three homers over 43 games. His six stolen bases (!) are tied with Hampson and Victor Robles for the MLB lead. Even if none of this proves sustainable, it seems he's at least done enough to crack the Opening Day roster.

"There is still a ton of life to that body, maybe as much as I've ever seen," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. "I don't have to tell him this, but he just needs to make sure the consistency is real."

That's always the question with the stars of spring, isn't it?

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