This week and in the upcoming weeks I'll be talking about spring stats, even though there's a very small sample size to this point. The stats are very subjective depending on the players we're talking about. For example, I'm not worried about Matt Garza's 14.50 spring ERA but I am worried about his teammate Carlos Silva. Garza could be tinkering with pitches where Silva is fighting to get a spot in the rotation. We've seen players year after year put in horrible springs that don't carry over into the regular season and vice versa. With that in mind, I'll do my best to keep the spring stats in perspective based on each individual player.
Michael Pineda, P, SEA - Pineda has impressed the Mariner's brass enough to have his name thrown in the mix to break camp as the team's fifth starter. He's only given up two runs over seven innings this spring (2.57 ERA) and is widely regarded as one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. He's an imposing figure on the mound at 6'7", 260 lbs. and complements his mid-90s fastball with a plus changeup and slider. That repertoire helped him to a 9.9 K/9 rate over two minor league levels last year, indicating he has little left to prove there. The Mariners may still send him down to delay the arbitration clock but it'll be a matter of time before he's up and in the rotation. Definitely grab him in AL-only leagues or deep mixed formats and keep him in mind in almost any format come mid-May.
Zach Britton, P, BAL - Britton may find himself in the same situation as Pineda with regards to delaying the arbitration clock and starting the season in the minors. An extreme ground ball pitcher, Britton looks like he'll make for a solid #2 or #3 for years to come in Baltimore. The O's have drastically improved their lineup and the team had the best record in the AL East (34-23) after Buck Showalter took over as manager. Britton has had a stellar spring, throwing nine scoreless innings with a 4.5:1 GB/FB ratio. Like Pineda, he'll be up at some point if he starts the year in the minors.
Starlin Castro, SS, CHI - Castro has gotten off to a blistering start this spring, hitting .433 with three home runs and eight RBI. Many will look at last year's three home runs and 10 stolen bases and not see his immense upside. He's going to turn only 21 next week and has consistently hit for a solid average throughout the minors. The early show power bodes well for his prospects this year and should continue to develop as his body fills out. Don't forget he didn't start last year with the Cubs, so with his continued development and an additional 100-plus plate appearances, he has the potential to put together a 10/20 season.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, TEX - I put Beltre in the "check status" part of this column a few weeks ago when he first suffered a calf strain. There's now news coming out of the Lone Star state that Beltre could play as soon as Monday. His stock has fallen sharply and I grabbed him at pick 107 in a draft I did last week. Beltre has been running the bases and doing "baseball-related" activities so I'm guessing the Rangers have been handling their $96-million investment with white gloves. He's still got a few weeks to get up to speed and I'd look to draft him as he'll likely still be undervalued for another week or two.
Mike Morse, OF, WAS - National's GM Anthony Rizzo said Saturday that if the season were to start tomorrow, Morse would be the starter in left field. He's gotten off to a hot start this spring, tied for the lead in home runs with five and second in the league with 31 total bases. Morse's 15 home runs last year were impressive especially when you figure in he only had 266 ABs (one homer per 17.7 at-bats). With Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina both on the roster Morse won't have a long leash and probably won't sniff 500 ABs. However, with enough playing (think around 400 ABs) the upside is there for a 20-home run season.
Kila Ka'aihue, DH, KC - Because the Royals are so stocked with offensive talent, Ka'aihue spent most of 2010 in the minors, putting together a 24 home run campaign with a .322 batting average. This year the Royals appear to be ready to give him a shot at everyday work alternating between DH and first base. Over his final 110 plate appearances with the Royals he hit only .261 but slugged .511 with a .367 OBP. Kila will strike out a lot (over 21 percent last year) but can take a walk (also over 21 percent in the minors). Even in standard mixed leagues he should be on your radar.
Ryan Braun, OF, MIL - Braun left Saturday's game with a rib injury although both he and the team downplayed the severity of the injury afterwards. There's an interesting debate between who should go first in drafts this year - Braun or Carlos Gonzalez. CarGo has more upside in the speed department but Braun has more upside in the power department. Monitor Braun's injury over the next week to determine if this will be something to affect his status as we head towards Opening Day.
Johan Santana, P, NYM - Depending on who you believe, Santana's rehab from offseason shoulder surgery may or may not be on schedule. Santana himself is denying any report that things aren't going as planned and insists he'll be ready to pitch around June/July. Santana will be kind of a wildcard when he returns as it's tough to predict how much of his stuff will be there.
Carlos Silva, P, CHI - Silva has struggled thus far, giving up four home runs which has lead to a 16.20 ERA over 8.1 spring innings. His changeup doesn't seem to be working and while spring stats aren't always indicative of a pitcher's ability, Silva is fighting for a spot in the rotation. With Andrew Cashner (4.50 ERA) and Randy Wells (0.00 ERA) pitching better this spring, Silva looks like he'll start the year in the bullpen as opposed to the rotation.
J.P. Arencibia, C, TOR - I'm guessing this isn't going to be a popular choice but I see too many red flags for Arencibia this season. Outside of his amazing debut last year for the Blue Jays, Arencibia went 1-for-30 (.033) for the Blue Jays last year. Obviously this is a small sample size, although it's carried over into this spring (2-for-25, .080 BA). Getting back to his debut game, both pitches he hit were the first he saw in each at-bat, which makes me think they were likely fastballs. After making headlines with that game, I'm sure opposing teams quickly got the book on Arencibia which may account for the poor hitting. He's consistently struck out over 20 percent of the time in the minors and will have to learn to handle a major league pitching staff in addition to succeeding at the plate which isn't an easy task in the AL East (ask Matt Wieters). The minor league power numbers are nice, just keep in mind that he did it in a hitter-friendly league.