Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Spring training records and statistics
don't really count.
Sometimes, though, stats can carry at least a little bit of significance.
Occasionally, a starting job or roster spot is decided on the basis of spring
performances. Other times, players can gain confidence during spring training
games that carries over into the regular season.
Let's take a look at some hitters' interesting stat lines in spring training
and discuss their possible significance:
BRANDON BELT, 1B, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: .433 AVG., 7 HR, 17 RBI, 2 SB
There was plenty of hype surrounding Belt during 2011 spring training, when the
first baseman was considered one of the sport's top prospects. He had a
disappointing rookie season, then improved in 2012, but did not really become
the impact hitter that the Giants probably envisioned. For the first time, Belt
enters a season with the first base job completely to himself. Perhaps his
spring training stats suggest a breakout year could be on the way.
DOMONIC BROWN, OF, PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: .354 AVG., 7 HR, 16 RBI
Considered perhaps the National League's top hitting prospect when he first
came to the majors in 2010, Brown has never come close to living up to the
billing. With the Phillies' corner outfield positions wide open coming into the
spring, Brown has nailed down one of them with his standout performance. Now
26, he suddenly has the look of a post-hype sleeper.
TRAVIS HAFNER, DH, NEW YORK YANKEES: .135 AVG., 2 HR, 5 RBI
Trying to keep their payroll under the luxury tax threshold, New York was
hoping that Hafner would provide solid bargain-basement production at the
designated hitter position. It hasn't looked that way in spring training. Last
postseason, the Yankees offense was criticized by some because it couldn't
score many runs without the benefit of home runs. With Mark Teixeira, Curtis
Granderson and Alex Rodriguez all shelved for the start of the season, this
lineup is really going to struggle to hit homers now, too.
PEDRO ALVAREZ, 3B, PITTSBURGH PIRATES: .186 AVG., 1 HR, 7 RBI
When Alvarez connects, few can hit the ball harder or farther than he can. The
problem is that he's so streaky, and it's tough for the Pirates to rely on him
in the middle of the order because of those frequent dry spells. On the bright
side, maybe he'll be on a hot streak by Opening Day.
LONNIE CHISENHALL, 3B, CLEVELAND INDIANS: .412 AVG., 4 HR, 12 RBI
Some expected 2012 to be Chisenhall's breakout season, but it looks like it has
a good chance of happening one year later. The Indians let veteran Jack
Hannahan leave via free agency, and Chisenhall is showing the power bat
Cleveland envisioned from him.
JUAN FRANCISCO, 3B, ATLANTA BRAVES: .344 AVG., 5 HR, 13 RBI
CHRIS JOHNSON, 3B, ATLANTA BRAVES: .373 AVG., 3 HR, 12 RBI
These guys each entered the spring hoping to win the right to replace future
Hall of Famer Chipper Jones as the Braves' third baseman. It looks like they
both won, since the left-handed hitting Francisco and right-handed hitting
Johnson are expected to platoon.
Third base is expected to be Atlanta's weakest offensive position, but these
two appear determined to make sure that won't be the case.
MANNY MACHADO, 3B, BALTIMORE ORIOLES: .256 AVG., 0 HR, 0 RBI
Machado is one of the game's top young hitting prospects, but his spring stat
line provides a cautionary tale. Still only 21, Machado's power is still
developing. It's also going to take some time for him to adjust to the major-
league level. After all, he opened 2012 in low-A ball.
If Orioles fans remain patient, they'll eventually see Machado develop into the
star who many forecast him to be. This spring is just a reminder that it
probably won't happen this summer.
YASIEL PUIG, OF, LOS ANGELES DODGERS: .526 AVG., 3 HR, 11 RBI, 5 SB
The Cuban defector signed last year for $42 million over seven years, so the
Dodgers were eventually expecting Puig to become a star. The 22-year-old hit
well during a short stint in Class A ball last summer, but he was thought to be
at least a full year away from contributing at the big-league level.
Now, Puig has at least an outside chance to make the Dodgers' Opening Day
roster, although it might not happen if Carl Crawford can show he's healthy
enough to be the everyday left fielder. Puig's debut in the majors could happen
sometime this season, though, and it looks like he can be a tremendous all-
JASON CASTRO, C, HOUSTON ASTROS: .342 AVG., 5 HR, 11 RBI
Injuries have stunted the growth of this one-time prospect. Now injury-free,
Castro appears ready to realize his considerable offensive potential. Now he'll
have to work on improving the disappointing defense he played last season.
DEVIN MESORACO, C, CINCINNATI REDS: .361 AVG., 2 HR, 11 RBI
A top prospect last year, Mesoraco made the big club and split time behind the
plate with Ryan Hanigan. His rookie season was disappointing enough that the
Reds signed free agent Miguel Olivo as insurance during the offseason. Mesoraco
seems to be back on the right track toward eventually becoming one of the NL's
better power-hitting catchers.
AARON HICKS, CF, MINNESOTA TWINS: .361 AVG., 4 HR, 16 RBI, 3 SB
DARIN MASTROIANNI, CF, MINNESOTA TWINS: .324 AVG., 0 HR, 4 RBI, 7 SB
Although Hicks has long been one of the Twins' top prospects, Mastroianni came
into the spring as the favorite for the starting center field job. Other than
being sidelined for a while with a strained hamstring, Mastroianni did nothing
to really dissuade Minnesota from giving him the job.
Hicks, however, has been declared the Opening Day center fielder by virtue of
his solid spring. He belted three homers in a March 7 spring training game and
played solidly since.
CHRISTIAN YELICH, OF, MIAMI MARLINS: .364 AVG., 5 HR, 14 RBI
Yelich is the Marlins' top hitting prospect, so these numbers aren't a complete
surprise, even though he is just 21 and hasn't played above Class A. Let's face
it: The cost-cutting Marlins aren't about to let Yelich open the season in the
majors and get his arbitration clock started.
However, this does make it seem possible that Yelich could be in Miami at some
point in 2013. When he arrives, he could instantly become the team's second
best player behind Giancarlo Stanton.
LEONYS MARTIN, OF, TEXAS RANGERS: .339 AVG., 0 HR, 12 RBI, 3 SB
Expected to take over as the Rangers' starting center fielder, Martin has
looked like the effective table-setter the Rangers envisioned he could be.
While he will be a much different player than the man he is replacing in the
starting lineup (slugger Josh Hamilton), Martin ought to be a pretty effective
NICK HUNDLEY, C, SAN DIEGO PADRES: .409 AVG., 3 HR, 10 RBI
During a horrible 2012 season that was hampered by a knee injury, Hundley lost
his starting job to prospect Yasmani Grandal. Now that Grandal will open the
season serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for performance-
enhancing drugs, Hundley will have the chance to resurrect his career.
Hundley's under contract through 2014, so he ought to at least have a two-month
audition for some of the league's catcher-needy clubs.
MELKY CABRERA, OF, TORONTO BLUE JAYS: .382 AVG., 3 HR, 14 RBI
Speaking of performance-enhancing drugs, there will be plenty of eyes on
Cabrera this season, because he will be back on the field for the first time
since being suspended last year with the Giants. It will be interesting to see
how much credit for his career-best 2012 season should be attributed to PEDs.
JAVIER BAEZ, SS, CHICAGO CUBS: .298 AVG., 4 HR, 10 RBI
The Cubs are going through a tough rebuilding phase, but the spring performance
of top prospect Baez, 20, has to be comforting to the long-suffering fan base.
Baez struggled in high-A ball last summer, and he's probably two years away,
but he figures to eventually be an infield fixture, whether at shortstop or
JASON BAY, OF, SEATTLE MARINERS: .319 AVG., 2 HR, 6 RBI
For a mere $1 million investment, Bay seems poised to make a positive
contribution for the Mariners. He was a productive player before the New York
Mets gave him a mega free-agent contract in 2010. Still just 34, perhaps he can
recapture some of that past form as a part-time player in Seattle.
NOLAN ARENADO, 3B, COLORADO ROCKIES: .319 AVG., 4 HR, 12 RBI
Considered one of the sport's best third base prospects last year, Arenado saw
his power diminish at the Double-A level. He's bounced back in that area this
spring, keeping him in the mix for the Rockies' starting job this season.
CUTTER DYKSTRA, 2B, WASHINGTON NATIONALS: 1.000 AVG. (1-FOR-1)
Lenny Dykstra's son singled in his only official spring at-bat. He's not really
a top prospect, but it could be argued he has had the best spring of anyone.
Last month, he was engaged to former "Sopranos" actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler and
the couple is expecting a child.
Jeff Saukaitis has been a professional sportswriter since 1985.
The Sports Network