I was going to start off by talking about the feisty Phillies, rolling along on the wings of Ryan Howard and Dom Brown, but then the Phillies got hammered by the Dominican Republic today to the tune of 15-2. The DR team had 28 hits (not a typo), but the good news is they have a pretty stacked lineup and the game doesn’t count toward official Grapefruit league standings. Of course, Grapefruit League stats don’t mean too much anyway, so what to make of some teams and some players getting off to torrid or ice cold starts this spring? Opening day is only four weeks away are we getting a preview of things to come?
Some Spring Training Facts:
1. Ryan Howard’s 1.215 OPS. Now, Howard won’t be hitting .370 this year, or slugging .815, but it’s clear that the Phillies’ first baseman is no longer hobbled by his Achilles injury. His health is easily the best news coming out of Clearwater, because a healthy Ryan Howard is going to produce, even if it comes with a ton of strikeouts and a middling average.
2. Mike Moustakas (.579) and Eric Hosmer (.400) batting averages. The Royals are scoring a bunch of runs, and producing some gaudy offensive numbers–just like last spring. But, these two hitters are their young core. Hosmer had a brutal sophomore campaign, but expect a big bounce back. If Moustakas continues to develop, the Royals have two middle of the order bats until those arbitration years run out.
3. Darin Ruf’s .800 fielding percentage. It wouldn’t be possible for an outfielder to have this fielding percentage over a whole year. At least, I don’t think it would. If you botch one of every five plays, you don’t last long in the lineup. The point is, Ruf cannot play LF. CAN NOT. He should be headed to AAA to get some repetitions. Decision made easier by the fact he’s not hitting.
4. No NL Team more than two games over .500. There are a lot of good teams in the National League, but if you want to talk great teams it’s hard to find one. The Nationals probably look the best on paper, but when the NL playoffs start, it’s going to be wide open. I could see at least seven teams winning the NL, and yes, I put the Phillies at the back end of that line.
5. Trevor Bauer 2.57 ERA. Bauer has a high maintenance reputation and Arizona gave up on him pretty quickly by shipping him off to the Indians this winter. I think Bauer ends up being a steal in that deal. I’d look for a solid, if up and down year with some major highs.
6. Yankees 3-7 Record. The Blue Jays are now the darling of the AL East and implied with that is the Yankees and the Red Sox will be down. The Yanks are playing the part this spring and you look at their roster and wonder how much they will struggle this year. The Curtis Granderson injury didn’t help.
Spring Training Fictions:
1. Royals 10-0 Record. The Royals are all-in this year. They shipped off mega-prospect Wil Myers to Tampa for Wade Davis and James Shields. I think Kansas City will finally take a big step in their rebuilding this year, but they’re not quite ready to dominate the American League. A wild-card seems like their high-end potential.
2. Mariners 10-1 Record. The Mariners have Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay in camp. That’s telling. I like Felix Hernandez, but this team is still going to struggle mightily to score runs. Maybe they should start playing their home games in Phoenix.
3. Brandon Belt 1.348 OPS. Belt has been a perpetual tease. He’s torn up AAA, he had a huge spring last season and he’s doing it again this March. Some might think Belt is finally poised to break out, but I’m not sure he’s ever going to produce at the MLB level like he has against inferior competition. He may hit for a decent average, but in SF, I don’t think those power numbers are ever going to come.
4. Ryan Rayburn 4 HRs. Rayburn is a Spring Training power god. He clubbed six bombs last year and everyone was primed for a huge season in Detroit’s stacked lineup. What happened? Rayburn hit .191 with 1 bomb in 200+ at-bats. Don’t get your hopes up, Cleveland.
5. Johnathan Papelbon 43.20 ERA. Been a rough go so far for Papelbon, who was scratched from today’s slaughter thanks to an illness. Papelbon claims to be “working on his delivery,” which is right out of the closer’s book of cliches. The most reliable bullpen piece for the Phillies last year should get things under control by the regular season. At least expect a single digit ERA.
6. Angels and Reds combined 4-19 record. If I was picking today, I might take both of these teams to make the playoffs in 2013. I like Cincinatti’s lineup and if Aroldis Chapman can make the transition to starter (at least for the 1st part of the season) it will really bolster their rotation. The Angels have an incredible outfield, Albert Pujols in the middle of the lineup and a pretty deep rotation. Should get them off to a better start than 2-8.