Spring training numbers. Some view them as a window of things to come. Others see them as meaningless stats. A case can be made for both sides of this argument.
The batting average leader through Friday this spring is Jesus Aguilar. He is 23 for 46 at the plate with five home runs. This could be construed as a meaningless fact considering Aguilar was a .270 hitter over his last 2,504 at-bats. It could also be a sign of things to come since the 26-year-old has 55 doubles and 49 home runs over the last two seasons.
On the other side of the coin we have Trea Turner and his .235 batting average. Everyone would like to believe this is meaningless and the hitter many consider a first round draft pick is just off to a slow start. The fact is, it is entirely possible that Turner, who hit above .300 since his time at Class-A, will not be as good as advertised and that these struggles foreshadow what could be a rough season.
Fantasy owners are going to see things how they want to see them. If you believe in a player then those spring numbers are either embraced when strong or dismissed if there are struggles. If you do not believe in a player then those numbers either solidify and support your claims if they are bad or are dismissed as lucky if they are good. Truth is we have no clue who is right. All you can do is weigh all the evidence and make your best educated guess on what the future holds.
Today we’ll take a look at the hitters in the American League – the highs and lows – along with any particular standouts that should be monitored, targeted, or avoided in 2017. Come back tomorrow for the National League.
*All spring stats are through Friday.
Highs: Trey Mancini – 17 for 51 (.333) with five doubles and three home runs: Solid average and moderate power, but blocked at 1B/DH. Could earn a bench role, but will need to fight for at-bats.
Lows: Mark Trumbo – (6 for 37 with zero home runs. Slow start may warrant an early benching for fantasy owners. Nothing to be concerned about long-term, but something to monitor early on.
Player to watch: Joey Rickard – 15 for 40 (.375) with three home runs, 5 stolen bases and 13 walks. He holds a career .285 batting average in Double-A with 28 steals and 67 walks over 442 at-bats. Outside of Adam Jones, nobody in the Baltimore outfield is a sure thing. Rickard is a speed option if he breaks camp with the O’s giving him value in leagues with more than 12-teams with the potential for 12-team relevance given a high spot in the batting order and regular at-bats.
Highs: Marco Hernandez – 20 for 48 (.417) with six doubles, five triples, and two stolen bases. The presence of Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt limits the appeal of Hernandez even with a major league job. He could be a mid-season call-up at some point, but he will be more valuable to his actual team than he will your fantasy squad.
Lows: Jackie Bradley Jr – 9 for 42 (.214) with 12 strikeouts. Given the strikeout rate of 27 percent or higher from 2013 to 2015, the spring strikeout totals are a concern. Two outfield spots are secured between Benintendi and Betts so Bradley will need to step things up or risk losing at-bats/playing time.
Player to watch: Pablo Sandoval – 17 for 47 (.362) with five doubles and three home runs. Nice to see the average and power present early, but an 11/1 – K/BB ratio could become an issue. Sam Travis (.317) and Mitch Moreland (.361) are also hitting well. Any stumbles by Sandoval could take Shaw from a platoon at first base to one at third. Pablo could be an interesting early waiver wire investment.
Highs: Greg Bird – 19 for 44 (.432) with seven doubles and six home runs. The Yankees signed Chris Carter as an insurance policy, but a .136 (6 for 36) spring has negated that need early on. Temper your expectations as Bird has not shown this type of power or average in the past and missed all of 2016.
- Honorable mention: Gary Sanchez (15 for 44) with four doubles and four home runs. Early results are positive, but remember Sanchez hit great when called up in August last year only to fizzle in September.
Lows: Brett Gardner – 10 for 49 (.204). As if the Yankees needed another reason to not be happy with Gardner. The power is on the decline, he has lost a few steps on the bases, and a .259 three-year average isn’t doing him any offensive favors. Gardner could find himself in the fourth outfield role by mid-season if he does not pick things up.
Player to watch: Matt Holliday – 13 for 42 (.310) with four doubles and four home runs. Health has been the primary concern with Holliday the past few seasons. So far so good this year, and if the Yankees keep him primarily at DH we could 500 plus at bats and 20 or more home runs. If an emergency pushed Holliday into the outfield – hold your breath and cross your fingers.
- Honorable mention: Aaron Judge (15 for 50). A .252 Triple-A batting average, a .179 major league debut last year, and a potentially problematic strikeout rate means this hot start might be short-lived.
Highs: Jake Bauers – 13 for 35 (.371) with three doubles, four home runs and seven walks. Bauers hit .274 and .276 in his last two trips to Double-A, showing low double-digit power and speed with plus walk skills. He may start the year in the minors, but I can envision several scenarios in which Bauers gets the call this summer and becomes a productive OF4 in fantasy leagues with more than 12-teams. Then again, I can also see the Rays making him wait another year.
Lows: Brad Miller – 8 for 43 (.186) with one home runs and 14 strikeouts. Those that doubted the 30 home run season are feeling justified for not investing in Miller. He didn’t become Brad Miller until June last year so maybe the slow start is nothing to be concerned about. That said: if the power doesn’t return he his a .250 hitting middle infield option with moderate power. In other words – nothing special.
Player to watch: Corey Dickerson – 17 for 46 (.370) with three home runs and 11 strikeouts. He his .294 in July and .307 in September so maybe that .230 batting average in the first half is behind him. The jury is still out, but maybe the former Coors hitter can actually hit outside of Colorado. With an ADP of 298 and being reached for no higher than 198, it won’t cost you much to find out if he has turned the corner.
Highs: Jose Bautista – 10 for 18 (.556) with two home runs. The fear of an early demise for Bautista may have been exaggerated. A return to the 30-40 home run hitter we saw in 2014 and 2015 is not out of the question, and an ADP outside the top-100 makes him quite the bargain. An injury, like we saw in 2012, 2013 and 2016, still make him a risk, as does his age (36).
Lows: Russell Martin – 3 for 23 (.130). This isn’t the first time Martin has started off slow, and he isn’t much of a batting average guy anyway. I would not shy away for drafting him or panic if you already own him, but I might monitor the waiver wire early – just in case.
Player(s) to watch: Kendrys Morales – 11 for 30 (.367) with two home runs. Any potential rumors of Morales not getting full-time at bats have been put to rest for now. The batting average will come down, but the home run and RBI numbers should still be there – even more so given his new home and supporting cast. As long as Morales remains at first base (or DH) those injury concerns can be put to rest as well.
Highs: Tyler Saladino – 16 for 44 (.364) with three doubles, three home runs and a stolen base. Prior to his 2016 debut Saladino displayed a mediocre batting average and what can best be described as an acceptable strikeout rate. He has 10/20 – power/speed upside. The ability to sustain a plus batting average will either lead to success or justify a reason to promote Yoan Moncada.
Lows: Todd Frazier – 5 for 25 (.200). Not a good start for a guy that batted .225 last year. It might be a slow start, or it could be another step in the de-evolution of one Todd Frazier. I’m an optimist, but even I would want a plan B option on my bench.
Player to watch: Yoan Moncada – 13 for 31 with four doubles and three home runs. Moncada has already been sent to the minors, but he will be back once the super-two deadline passes. Exactly what position he will play is up in the air, but it really doesn’t matter. Moncada is a stash in leagues with more than 12-teams, and 12-team leagues only if you have a very deep bench.
- Honorable Mention: Jacob May – Outside of Melky Cabrera the outfield is full of mediocrity and questionable talent. May is only an average hitter, but his speed and defense could expedite his arrival time. He could be a deeper league speed option later in the season.
Highs: Bradley Zimmer – 18 for 52 (.346) with five doubles, three home runs, four stolen bases and 13 strikeouts. Power, speed, and strikeouts; that is what Zimmer is good for. The Indians will start him out in Triple-A, but the minute there is an opening (after the super-two deadline) I expect to see him in the majors. Part of me thinks he’s a stash candidate, but I can see passing as well given the potential strikeout/batting average issues.
Lows: Francisco Lindor (4 for 18) and Carlos Santana (4 for 20). Is anybody really worried about either of these two hitters? Yea, that’s what I thought.
Player(s) to watch: Yan Gomes – 11 for 34 (.324) with two home runs. 2014 seems like such a long time ago. Currently Gomes is not even a top-20 catcher option and is a last resort in two-catcher formats. If the batting average holds up he could be a popular waiver wire add early in the season.
Highs: Andrew Romine – 18 for 53 (.340) with four doubles, two home runs, and a stolen base. The 31-year-old is a Swiss army knife, qualifying for every position except catcher. Too bad he can’t (and will not) hit like this during the regular season.
- Honorable Mention: Nick Castellanos – 16 for 47 (.340) with seven doubles, three home runs and 15 strikeouts. He had a 25 percent strikeout rate the past two years so those 15 spring strikeouts should be an issue as far as batting average is concerned.
Lows: J.D. Martinez – 8 for 37 (.216) with two home runs and 16 strikeouts. On top of the bad spring numbers, Martinez will now miss the first month of the season with a sprain in his right foot. One can only hope that once he returns there are no lingering effects and he can quickly work out the kinks.
- Honorable Mention: Victor Martinez – 4 for 27 (.148). He is 38 and was basically a useless fantasy option in 2015. Don’t count him out, but don’t count on him either.
Player(s) to watch: None. There are no real standouts this spring to monitor and no hitting prospects worth stashing.
Highs: Alex Gordon – 18 for 48 (.375) with one home run and two stolen bases. I’ve made Melky Cabrera comparisons before, and that still holds true. Despite the batting average dip last year, the power was still there. As long as the average holds Gordon can again be relied upon to be a solid OF4 option in 12-team leagues.
- Honorable Mention: Peter O’Brien – 15 for 47 with seven home runs and 18 strikeouts. New team – same bad strikeout rate. He needs to drop that down to at least 25 percent; otherwise the major league batting average will never crack .200. Back to Quadruple-A for you.
Lows: Mike Moustakas – 9 for 47 (.191) with four home runs. On the bright side he is hitting for power. Outside of 2015 the batting average has always been an issue, but we expect better than that.
Player(s) to watch: Whit Merrifield – 14 for 48 (.292) with five stolen bases. Merrifield will start the year at second base. How well he does will determine the arrival time of Raul Mondesi (15 for 41). Merrifield could also be moved to the outfield if the Jorge Soler experiment (7 for 49) ends.
Highs: Byung-ho Park – 14 for 39 (.359) with four home runs and 12 strikeouts. Can Park hit for average with a high strikeout rate like he did in the KBO? That is the million dollar question. Right now he is looking like a top-15 first base option, but there is no telling if/when the bottom will fall out. I say ride the wave.
Lows: Miguel Sano – 8 for 38 (.211) with two home runs and 17 strikeouts. Park isn’t the only guy with strikeout issues. He may be able to improve upon last year’s 25 home runs season, but if the average isn’t any better than .236 – is the power really worth it?
Player(s) to watch: Byron Buxton – 10 for 38 (.263) with seven doubles, one home run and stolen base, and just seven strikeouts. The strikeout rate since his promotion in 2015 has been outrageous, so seeing it below 20 percent is a welcome sight. If the K’s are truly under control maybe Buxton can finally begin to live up to his first round potential.
Highs: Colin Moran – 14 for 36 (.389) with two home runs. Moran put up a batting average close to .300 up through Double-A. He struggled some in Triple-A which played a part in his minor league demotion; the other part being there is no room in the infield. The lack of pop limits his fantasy value anyway.
- Honorable Mention: J.D. Davis – 14 for 40 (.350) with a home run. Davis has 49 home runs over the past two minor league seasons. He will need to lower his strikeout rate, and will probably need a change of position on a team with Alex Bregman at third base.
Lows: Evan Gattins – 9 for 40 (.225) with zero home runs. It is still early, but with Brian McCann hitting .282 (11 for 39) Gattis is not making a strong case to split time.
- Honorable Mention: Josh Reddick – 9 for 45 (.200). Reddick hasn’t been of much fantasy use outside of his 2012 and 2015 season. You will get the occasional stretch deserving of a waiver wire add, and maybe he has another rogue season in him, but that’s it.
Player(s) to watch: Yuri Gurriel – 15 for 47 (.319) with two home runs and a steal. A.J. Reed (11 for 36 with four home runs) made a strong case this spring, but Gurriel ultimately prevailed. This will be Gurriel’s first full season so monitor his progress for any signs of slowing as the season progresses.
Highs: Ben Revere – 17 for 42 (.405) with four stolen bases and eight walks. A down year in 2016 has pushed Revere off the radar. He is an excellent source of runs, steals and batting average.
Lows: Every catcher – this is not a place to look even in a two-catcher format.
Player(s) to watch: Jefry Marte – 17 for 56 (.304) with three home runs and eight walks. Luis Valbuena is out until the end of April, Yunel Escobar is batting .162 this spring, and Cliff Pennington will be busy at second base with Danny Espinosa currently batting .216. Marte could steal some third base at bats and maybe build on last year’s showing.
Highs: Yonder Alonso – 15 for 40 (.375) with four home runs and 11 walks. Remember when the Reds considered him a possible replacement of Joey Votto? Unless this turns out to be a career year don’t read much into the numbers.
- Honorable Mention: Ryon Healy – 15 for 50 (.300) with five doubles and five home runs. Some were worried how the presence of Plouffe would affect playing time. Plouffe is off to a hot start himself (17 for 40), but a recent hip issue gives Healy the advantage.
Lows: Khris Davis – 9 for 36 (.250) with zero home runs. I’m not overly concerned, but no home runs means it could be a dry April.
Player(s) to watch: Franklin Barreto – 13 for 27 (.481). Jedd Lowrie is only a stopgap; Barreto will be up this Summer (or sooner).
Highs: Mitch Haniger – 25 for 62 (.403) with nine double, two home runs, and three stolen bases. The lost man in the Jean Segura trade is no longer a sleeper. Given his minor league numbers I can see a decent major league outfielder, but the early hype makes him seem better than he really will be. Ride the hot start, but do not get too attached.
Lows: Danny Valencia – 11 for 53 (.208) with one home run and 13 strikeouts. With a track record of a part-time player and only two years of moderate success under his belt, how firm of a grasp does Valencia have on the first base position. Dan Vogelbach failed to impress this spring, but he could be back and challenging for the job at some point this year.
Player(s) to watch: Mike Zunino – 11 for 31 (.355) with three home runs and 10 strikeouts. Everyone loves the power, but bad contact, high strikeouts and a batting average only a mother could love have held him back. Is this the year Zunino finally puts things together?
Highs: Carlos Gomez – 11 for 32 (.344) with three home runs and 12 strikeouts. Is Gomez set to have an Ian Desmond type season? Will the speed return? There is nothing but question here, and all we have to go on is hope. I just wish he would fall a little further in drafts to justify his draft round.
- Honorable Mention: Ryan Rua – 18 for 55 (.327) with three home runs and a stolen base. Prior to the Mike Napoli signing Rua appeared to be the front-runner for a first base platoon. With so many first base and outfield options on the team Rua will now have to wait his turn.
Lows: Shin-Soo Choo – 7 for 36 (.194) with 11 strikeouts. Sadly, the Rangers are still on the hook for $82-million dollars over the next four years so they will continue to run Choo out there. He can be useful at times, but those dependable days are long gone.
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