What is spring training for, if not unbridled optimism that this baseball season is going to be amazing? Slates have been wiped clean, disasters have been buried in the past and anything is possible with a fresh start to a new year.
Spring training is for embracing the possible. Especially early in the spring, right?
Here are five strong spring starts we’re really excited about, small sample sizes be damned.
Chris Davis is back, baby!
This spring: In 14 plate appearances, Davis has three home runs, six RBIs, five walks and only one strikeout. He has a .625 batting average and 2.464 OPS.
Thoughts: If you don’t want to see a Chris Davis revival, you might have no soul. Or, you’re an Orioles fan who is angry that your favorite team paid the slugger $46 million over the past two seasons to bat .172 with a bWAR of -3.8. Even then, you should get over it. The past two years have been a complete disaster, and he’s still a human who wants his career to end with something other than a complete disaster. Pull for this to be another season of homers and strikeouts, not just strikeouts. And, yes, Davis might strike out in every single one of his at-bats the rest of spring training, but we’ll still be happy for this ray-of-hope start.
King Felix isn’t done yet!
This spring: In two starts covering 4 2/3 innings, Braves starter Felix Hernandez has six strikeouts while allowing only three hits, one walk and one run. He has a 1.93 ERA.
Thoughts: Even though it seems like he’s been around forever, Hernandez is only 33 and trying to prolong his career with the Braves, after 15 mostly amazing seasons with Seattle. I say “mostly amazing” because the last three were struggles; he averaged only 105 innings with a 5.42 ERA. Even though it’s weird to see him in something other than a Mariners uniform, it would be great to see him back in a starring role for a playoff team in Atlanta. Because even though he was great — 2010 AL Cy Young winner, five other years with Cy Young votes — his Mariners usually weren’t, and he’s still chasing his first playoff appearances. That’s enough “even though” notes, right? Let’s just say everyone in baseball should be pulling for him.
Arozarena is the next Pham!
This spring: In 14 plate appearances, Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena has seven runs, six hits, five walks and four RBIs, with a triple and a double. He’s batting .667 with a .778 on-base percentage.
Thoughts: I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time an outfielder was traded from the Cardinals to the Rays and became an All-Star caliber player. It just happened in 2018, when Tommy Pham had a 0.8 bWAR in 98 games with the Cardinals, then produced a 2.6 bWAR in 39 games with the Rays after he was traded, then posted a 3.7 bWAR in 2019.
And, let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be shocking it Arozarena was really good for Tampa Bay this year. He batted .358 for Triple-A Memphis last year, with 12 homers and nine stolen bases in 64 games, and was only traded because the Cardinals had (have?) a glut of outfield options that have to be sorted out somehow.
Carlson is the NL RoY lock!
This spring: In 17 plate appearances, Cardinals rookie Dylan Carlson has seven hits, seven runs, five walks, two doubles and a triple. He’s batting .417 with a 1.193 OPS.
Thoughts: A first-round pick by the Cardinals in 2016, Carlson is the No. 10 prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America, and he’s gotten an opportunity to showcase his talents early this spring. He hasn’t disappointed. If he continues to rake, the Cardinals have a decision to make. Will they bring him up to start the season, or put him back in the minors for “seasoning” — cough, cough, delaying his service-time clock — while putting other guys in the outfield for a short while? Hmm …
Brinson finally gets it!
This spring: In 12 plate appearances, Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson has six hits, five runs and two homers. He’s batting .500 with a 1.667 OPS.
Thoughts: Once upon a time, Brinson was a highly regarded prospect. Baseball America ranked him 16th in baseball heading into the 2016 season, 27th in 2017 and 18th in 2018. And he was one of the prize pieces of the deal that sent Christian Yelich from Miami to Milwaukee. But Brinson has, let’s say, not excelled in the majors. In 709 big-league PAs, he’s batting .183 with a .531 OPS and a -2.7 bWAR. Yikes. But he’s only 25, and he’s a talented player. Some guys just need time to adjust, and this is somewhat of a make-or-break year for him.
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