Friday, March 30, 2012

Stat Grabber Spring Training Edition - Andrew Ericksen

You can’t take the numbers too seriously. After all, it’s just spring training, pre-season, the Florida baseball league where players are just warming up, trying to get their rhythms going before the 162-game stretch that will consume the next 5 months of their lives. That doesn’t mean that we can’t take a little peak at the progress of some of the top performers and players struggling at the bat so far this preseason. So Stat-Grabber’s got an eye out for the numbers that might be good to know.

THE STATS WE LIKE:

10 – Amount of players hitting .400 or better so far this spring (minimum 35 at-bats). Some of the more important fantasy names amongst them: Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Howie Kendrick, Delmon Young, Dee Gordon, Chris Young and Hanley Ramirez. Young leads the pack of .400 hitters with 5 home runs and 19 RBIs while Dee Gordon’s 10 steals leads all spring training participants. Cain could be interesting to watch based on where he’s put in the Kansas City lineup and after a rough 2011 campaign, it’s nice to see Hanley showing some determination to do his thing.

6 – Current three-way tie for the lead in spring-training home runs between Ryan Raburn, Alfonso Soriano, and Dan Uggla. While Uggla’s a sure thing to put up some big power numbers this year, it will be interesting to see what the solid spring-trainings from utility man Raburn and aging outfielder Soriano mean for the 2012 season.
12, 4 – Total walks and home runs in 44 plate appearances for White Sox DH/1B Adam Dunn. Coming off quite possibly the most disappointing season throughout the league last year - .159 batting average,11 home runs – a .455 On-Base-Percentage this spring is particularly nice to see. We like him as a solid bounce back candidate.
7 – Amount of pitchers with 20 or more strikeouts so far this spring. The group includes some familiar faces such as Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, and Zach Greinke as well as some interesting fantasy options this season in Madison Bumgarner, Francisco Liriano, Max Scherzer, and Scott Feldman. While Bumgarner’s coming off back-to-back solid seasons and seems an almost sure thing to continue improving, the threesome of Liriano, Scherzer and Feldman is an intriguing group: Liriano’s had tons of injury trouble in the past three or four years and is coming off a plus-five ERA season but we’ve seen what kind of damage he can do when he’s on; Scherzer’s been nothing other than inconsistent in Detroit but will be backed up by one of the league’s strongest lineups this season; and Feldman, a 29-year-old who has been toggled between starting and relief throughout his career so far could be an interesting option to watch if the right opportunity comes to him.

9 – Amount of pitchers who have thrown at least 15 innings this spring and have held an ERA under 2.00: Wade LeBlanc, Mike Minor, Clayton Kershaw, Jake Westbrook, Rick Porcello, Josh Johnson, Luis Mendoza, Jeanmar Gomez, and Dan Haren. Very good signs for Josh Johnson, who is coming off a season shortened due to shoulder inflammation, as well as youngsters Minor and Porcello who are attempting to solidify their status in the league this upcoming season. LeBlanc and Mendoza are long- shots to make their respective rotations but Gomez could be an interesting player to watch in a heavily questioned Indians pitching staff.

STATS WE DON’T LIKE:

21 – Amount of hitters under .200 so far this spring (again, minimum 35 AB’s), with the most notable names amongst the pack being Rafael Furcal, Gaby Sanchez, Emilio Bonifacio, Nolan Reimold, Jason Heyward, David DeJesus, Carlos Santana, and Dexter Fowler. Take it or leave it with spring-training, but with important years coming up for youngsters such as Heyward, Santana and Fowler, it would be nice to see some more promising preseason numbers.

17, 15, 15 - Strikeouts so far from three youngsters that struggled with their plate discipline last season: Jason Heyward (60 At-bats), Austin Jackson (47 AB’s) and Pedro Alvarez (33 AB’s). Heyward and Jackson will both be under big inspection by their respective coaching staffs throughout their upcoming third seasons in the majors but with Alvarez’s lack of spring training production, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the one-time top prospect of the Pirates spends a significant amount of time working on his swing in AAA this season.

11 – Pitchers who have allowed 15 or more earned runs so far this spring, the most notable ones being Jeremy Hellickson, Jair Jurrjens, Daniel Bard, Travis Wood, Jeff Francis, and Ivan Nova. Hellickson’s coming off a near-200 inning season in which he excelled with a sub-3 ERA, but we’ll see how he performs with higher expectations in Tampa Bay. Jurrjens has been riddled with injuries the past couple seasons but we’ve seen his potential before. There’s been a lot of speculation that Bard could find himself in the Boston starting five this season, but a weak spring training doesn’t seem to bode well for him. Nova is also a key player to watch going into his second season with expectations high as always in the Bronx. Of all the guys mentioned, Hellickson is far and away primed for the biggest season.

10 – Walks given up in 13 and two-thirds innings this spring by Indians SP Ubaldo Jimenez. With a 7.24 ERA and a direct 1:1 Walks to Strikeouts ratio, it doesn’t look like Ubaldo has rediscovered the form that once had him near the top of the class in major league pitching. Draft him with confidence as a #3 or lower, but don’t expect his ace status to return anytime soon. 

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