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April 23, 2013

Fantasy Freestyle

Springing Into Action

by Jason Collette

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Earlier this month, Ben Lindbergh and Jon Shepard wrote an article reviewing the John Dewan rule about how spring training slugging can predict breakouts. Needless to say, the rule did not hold up well to scrutiny—and this should not come as a surprise to most people. Hot and cold performances in spring training are as predictive as Punxsutawney Phil. He did not see a shadow this February, which meant we would have an early spring. Yet, just last night, two more baseball games were snowed out, and many Midwesterners want to turn that groundhog into roadkill.

It has been just under a month since teams left Arizona and Florida to return to their respective home cities. Some players have picked up right where they left off in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, for better or for worse, while others have seen their game take a complete 180. Here are some players that fall into each one of those groups (all stats as of the completion of Sunday’s games).

Hot Spring/Hot Start:

  • Bryce Harper: .478/.500/.716 in spring; .369/.431/.738 in April
  • Lorenzo Cain: .450/.529/.700 in spring; .368/.431/.509 in April
  • Alex Gordon: .438/.494/.822 in spring; .342/.368/.507 in April
  • Brandon Crawford: .375/.423/.609 in spring; .317/.403/.524 in April
  • Mike Morse: nine home runs in spring; six home runs in April
  • Alex Cobb: 25.2 IP, 19 H, 5 BB, 28 K in spring; 21 IP, 21 H, 6 BB, 15 K in April
  • Clay Buchholz: 22.2 IP, 12 H, 2 ER, 22 K in spring; 30 IP, 19 H, 3 ER, 29 K in April
  • Jon Lester: 24 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 20 K in spring; 26 IP, 19 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 23 K in April

Most of the hot bats were players that spent their time in the Cactus League, but no hitter was hotter in March than Harper, and the same can be said for April as well. Even those who took Harper 11th overall could not have envisioned this kind of start to the season. Cain has continued his hot run from March that is fueled by a .455 batting average on balls in play, as his other skills are nearly in line with his 2012 efforts. Crawford, not really known for his hitting prowess, is still hitting the ball well while drawing more walks and striking out less than he did in 2012. Morse may not be hitting for much of an average, but he is still hitting the home runs early. And the Red Sox one-two punch at the top of the rotation has been even better in April than it was in March.

Hot Spring/Cold Start:

  • Jeff Keppinger .412/.483/.510 in spring; .153/.149/.167 in April
  • Jackie Bradley: .419/.507/.613 in spring; .097/.263/.129 in April
  • Brandon Belt: .410/.432/.833 in spring; .183/.227/.233 in April
  • Justin Smoak: .407/.455/.797 in spring; .188/.282/.203 in April
  • Lonnie Chisenhall: .400/.456/.667 in spring; .224/.255/.408 in April
  • Mike Moustakas: .394/.429/.718 in spring; .158/.226/.193 in April
  • Aaron Hicks: .370/.407/.644 in spring; .059/.200/.059 in April
  • Alex Avila: .309/.431/.455 in spring; .196/.224/.304 in April
  • Emilio Bonifacio: eight steals in spring; zero steals in April
  • Julio Teheran: 26 IP, 7 H, 9 BB, 35 K in spring; 16 IP, 21 H, 7 BB, 12 K in April

Last night, Keppinger snapped an 0-for-24 slump with an infield single. He did start off the 2012 season ice cold before getting and staying hot with the Rays, so do not give up faith just yet. Bradley made the team out of necessity when David Ortiz was injured, but the kid was clearly not ready for the major leagues and is already back in the minors. Belt once again teased his potential in March and got everyone excited for what he could do, but his numbers apparently were lost in luggage on the flight from Phoenix. Smoak got some nice run about how much better he looked at the plate in March, only to revert back to looking like the old Justin Smoak so far in April; it is tough to imagine that this guy was once traded straight up for Cliff Lee. Chisenhall and Moustakas were both hoping for bounce-back seasons after disappointing 2012 campaigns, but neither is off to the type of start that would signify a rebound. Hicks, like Bradley, was not ready. Bonifacio did not hit well in Dunedin but was able to steal bases; unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to steal first base since the season started. Teheran was rather unhittable in Orlando during camp but has not shown the same crispness in his three starts to date.

Cold Spring/Hot Start

  • Mark Trumbo: .243/.273/.297 in spring; .329/.373/.500 in April
  • Ian Kinsler: .222/.292/.333 in spring; .303/.395/.545 in April
  • John Mayberry Jr: .192/.259/.308 in spring; .316/.409/.553 in April
  • Homer Bailey: 22.2 IP, 30 H, 16 ER in spring; 25 IP, 20 H, 9 ER, 26 K in April
  • Jeremy Hellickson: 22.2 IP, 33 H, 17 ER, 5 HR in spring; 25.1 IP, 19 H, 10 ER, 4 HR in April
  • Mike Minor: 23 IP, 29 H, 16 ER, 14 BB, 4 HR in spring; 19 IP, 15 H, 1 HR, 1 BB in April
  • Kris Medlen: 23.2 IP, 32 H, 19 ER, 4 HR in spring; 25 IP, 22 H, 6 ER, 1 HR in April

Trumbo is off to a hot start, just as he was last season. Kinsler’s bad camp did not discount his numbers any, as he is always drafted as a top-50 player. Mayberry played second fiddle to Domonic Brown in Clearwater, but it is Mayberry who is hitting while Brown is back to disappointing. Bailey is off to a solid start and looking to put up a third consecutive steady-yet-unspectacular fantasy season. Hellickson continues to struggle with the long ball early, but is back to stranding runners as he is apt to do. Minor took a backseat to Teheran in camp, but has pitched extremely well so far and, more importantly, has kept the ball in the yard. Medlen had a few rough March outings, leading some to wonder if last year was just too impressive, but so far, so good in his effort to provide a worthy encore.

Cold Spring/Cold Start

  • Matt Joyce: .233/.313/.300 in spring; .204/.235/.347 in April
  • Dan Haren: 25.1 IP, 30 H, 18 ER, 7 HR in spring; 13.1 IP, 26 H, 12 ER, 5 HR in April
  • Brandon Morrow: 22 IP, 27 H, 15 ER, 4 HR, 11 K in spring; 21 IP, 30 H, 13 ER, 4 HR in April
  • Gavin Floyd: 21.2 IP, 33 H, 15 ER, 5 HR in spring; 21.2 IP, 25 H, 12 ER, 3 HR in April

Joyce has not looked good at the plate in April outside of the two home runs he has hit. Besides those two batted balls, he has made a lot of bad contact and has looked rather lost at the plate. Haren is still having trouble getting batters out and had another poor outing last night against the Cardinals, though he did manage to avoid giving up a home run. Morrow was not sharp in Dunedin and has been just as bad in April, struggling to miss bats and being charitable with the long ball. The upside with Floyd so far this season is he is striking out hitters at a career-high rate and is generating more ground balls than he ever has; unfortunately, he is also walking hitters at a career-high rate. Luckily for him, all three home runs he has allowed so far have been solo shots.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Spring Training 2012,  April,  Bad Start

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