Personally I do not put much stock in spring training stats as a whole. I tend to rely on my preseason analysis – the exception being news of a potential injury which of course trumps everything. However, I cannot dismiss the fact that each year a number of players we had discounted or even written off have a hot spring and go on to have a successful year. However, more often than not, those hot starts do not last, especially ones from no-name players, and they fade into obscurity.
With spring training coming to a close and the regular season just a week away I thought I’d take a look at some of the hot hitters in 2018 to see if there are any surprised worth chasing this year. For those that have not drafted this is just another resource to take into consideration. For those that have completed their draft, this could serve as a hint on who to trade for or away, or maybe target on waivers.
Note: All stats through Wednesday 3/21 – look for the pitchers in the coming days
- 2B Whit Merrifield: 22 for 47, 3 double, 4 triples, 4 HR, 3 SB, 12 RBI, 18 R
I was one of the lowest people on Merrifield in our second base rankings, and his outburst this spring has me second guessing myself. His preseason ADP of 72 (6th at 2B) still seems high to me, especially with the Royals losing several key cogs this winder. However, the Kansas City has a tendency to surprise each year, and Merrifield appears primed to repeat his 2017 line. His highest reach was 37 overall is a costly one, especially if he comes crashing back down to earth, but if he comes close to that .288 average from last year we could be looking at a 20/30 season.
- 1-3B Ryan McMahon: 21 for 60, 8 doubles, 2 home runs, 9 RBI, 10 R
His 303 ADP is extremely low and is the result of the Carlos Gonzalez signing along with the slew of talent in Colorado. He has done everything possible to earn every day at bats, but Ian Desmond (now officially moved to first) and the presence of Gerardo Parra complicate matters – despite neither hitting much this spring. As much as fantasy owners hate to hear this, I don’t see him making the opening day roster. Even if he does the at bats will be limited. His spring should carry over to Triple-A, though, and if Desmond doesn’t produce we could see McMahon sooner rather than later. Still, his strong spring and solid bat are worth taking a chance on that late in the draft, even if you have to sit on him for a few months.
- 3B Gio Urshela: 21 for 42, 6 doubles, 3 HR, 15 R+RBI
We may not see Urshela until later this season. He will miss the next 10-14 days with a hamstring injury suffered on Monday. His hot start was already in question batting ..225 over his previous 423 major league at bats. Plus the Indians have a full infield meaning he would need an injury to Ramirez or Kipnis before getting an opportunity. If you see his name among the leaders, just skip ahead and do not take the time to add him to your watch list.
- OF Mike Tauchman: 20 for 54, 3 doubles, 4 triples, 1 HR, 3 SB, 14 R+RBI
The 26-year-old was a long-shot to make the Rockies squad, but he, like McMahon and David Dahl, is another future building block for the organization. He holds a career .301 minor league average and has not batted below .294 at any stop. In 1,860 minor league at bats he has just 24 home runs and 99 steals, but 16 of those home runs came last year, and he has 40 steals the past two seasons along with 54 doubles (over half his minor league total). If Cargo gets hurt, Dahl can’t handle major league pitching, or there are any issues with Parra or Desmond this could be the first name recalled. Add him to your watch list and monitor the Rockies outfield closely. Tauchman is not a household name you will see on prospect stash lists so there is sleeper potential.
- OF Ronald Acuna: 19 for 44, 1 double, 4 HR, 19 R+RBI, 4 SB
The dreaded service time excuse was given when Acuna was reassigned to the minors on Monday. That’s not what owners who drafted him at 107 or even reached into the top-50 wanted to hear. According the Braves he will be recalled in Mid-April. If he hits a wall in the first few weeks that would give the team an excuse to keep him down longer. It is only delaying the inevitable, though. While he is no longer a reach, his overall ADP is more than fair even with the demotion. His pedigree also makes him a prime trade chip that could fetch you a solid return from those prospect oriented owners in your league.
- 1-3B Matt Davidson: 19 for 56, 3 doubles, 4 HR, 18 RBI
Some may have expected a breakout from Davidson this year, but he is not a .339 hitter. That’s 100 points higher than his major league average. He did hit 26 home runs last year and does qualify for both corner infield spots. His ADP outside the top-400 and 9% ownership on Yahoo tells you what you need to know long-term. However, a free player that can produce out of the gate – especially one you are not attached to and can drop once the bottom falls out should be considered, especially in roto. Davidson might be worth a few week audition.
- OF Jose Pirela: 19 for 42, 3 doubles, 2 HR, 1 SB, 17 R+RBI
Perala was one of the best hitters for the Padres last year, but and ADP and ownership level rivaling Matt Davidson tells us nobody was buying it. While he is competing for the left-field job, he could see time at second base and possibly other infield positions as well. As an outfielder Pirela isn’t worth much with limited power and speed, but if he gains eligibility elsewhere he could make a sneaky plug-and-play injury replacement. You should not buy the .452 spring average, and even last years .288 is highly questionable. That said, a hot spring coming off a career year in batting average combined with a full-time role is worth monitoring.
- OF Scott Schebler: 19 for 35, 5 doubles, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 10 R
A few brave souls have reached into the mid-100s to acquire, but overall he is a late-round pick with an average ADP of 283. Schebler was one of the players featured in my post-draft waiver wire report earlier this week simply for his hot start and 30 HR pop. A quick recap is I do not expect him to hit for average, but I do believe he can carry this hot bat into the first few weeks of April.
- 1B Brandon Belt: 18 for 45, 6 doubles, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 14 R
We’ve seen this before. I’m a Brandon Belt hater so I give little weight to these spring totals. Even with an ADP close to 300 I don’t see him as a waiver wire add if available (48% on Yahoo). He has never reached 20 HR, never scored 80 runs, and passed 70 RBI once. Even with Longoria and McCutchen I don’t see the added protection helping much. At 30 years of age Belt is what he is, a replacement level corner infielder with zero upside. If you drafted him ride his spring as far as it will take you, but bail out once the mediocrity sets in (you’ll know it when you see it).
- OF Avisail Garcia: 18 for 47, 7 doubles, 1 HR, 15 R+RBI
Garcia is doing everything he can to ease the minds of those that thought his .392 BABIP last year was a fluke. A .383 spring is much higher than his .330 average last season – no doubt it will come down, but it does add some weight to last years breakout. If he can come close to repeating, that 200 ADP will be quite a discount. I’m not a member of the Garcia fan club, but I’ve stopped making fun of those that are.
- 2B Jason Kipnis: 18 for 42, 3 doubles, 6 HR, 12 RBI, 10 R
I will stick with my preseason analysis and lump Kipnis in with Belt as a 30-year-old tease. His 238 ADP lets me know I”m not alone, but a reach of 101 tells me some of you are not done with him yet. I do believe he, like many players like him, have one more career year in him, but I’m not willing to pay for that. He is one year removed from a 23 home run campaign in which he hit .275 with 173 combined runs and RBI. Is this hot spring a sign? Is Kipnis a late bloomer? A deep second base class makes him a risk for those that take the gamble, but as a MI and not a starting second baseman, it might be worth the chance if he falls. Personally I would include him as a sweetener to an early trade if he does carry this over into April – get what you can while the value is high.
- 1B Yonder Alonso: 17 for 45, 4 doubles, 6 HR, 19 R+RBI
The early power shows, or at least hints at, the 28 home runs season in 2017 being for real. That’s good news for anyone who bought in at his average ADP of 283. Expect to pay more than that in the coming week, but even at 200 he could be a steal. A 1/1 BB/K ratio early on is also a good sign. Not strong enough given the sample size to suggest he will hit .300+, but enough to suggest he could at least repeat his .265 average – that’s also close to his career average. Unlike some of the players above, this is one spring to buy into long-term. Not for the batting average, but for the power and overall production.
- OF Jorge Soler: 13 for 52 (.250), 3 doubles, 6 HR
To date Soler has failed to live up to his rookie hype. A .250 average is hardly exciting, but six home runs combined with a full-time job does make him an interesting name to know. His current ADP puts him close to 400 – basically undrafted in standard 12-team leagues. I see plenty of power options available late so maybe he isn’t worthy rostering early on. But, if the power continues in April he might be that guy I target once those April pretenders start to fade and I’m looking for a permanent replacement.
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