Where Did My Spring Go?
It's been just a little over a week, and we're already seeing why spring training statistics are not to be trusted. Guys like Jose Tabata and Justin Morneau who were having tough springs (for different reasons, of course) are now doing just fine and even having great starts to the year. The other end of spectrum is true as well, with players such as Jake Fox and Mike Morse, who were absolutely tearing the cover off the ball in Grapefruit League play, have come plummeting down to Earth. Those of us who got too excited about the meaningless statistics are likely singing the Kinks and regretting the rash excitement now.
We'll go more in-depth regarding the struggles of these early-peakers as well as hit some other lineup notes from around the league.
After hitting 10 home runs and generating all kinds of excitement in spring training, Jake Fox has played just two games in the regular season. To make matters worse, he's 0-for-7 and not playing catcher, where he would have the most value for fantasy leaguers. If he sneaked his way onto your fantasy team due to the hot spring campaign, it's probably time to let him loose as he likely won't get enough playing time to be useful and it may take some time before he gains catcher-eligibility.
Another promising spring training performer, Russell Branyan has actually managed to maintain his hot preseason bat, hitting .444. Unfortunately, the average comes over just 11 plate appearances as Juan Miranda has gotten the lion's share of the starts at first base for the Diamondbacks. Miranda isn't playing nearly as well (.231 average), but manager Kirk Gibson has committed to him as the team's primary first baseman so it doesn't look like anything will change for the time being. Considering Xavier Nady even got a start a couple days ago, this is looking more and more like a situation that should just be avoided altogether in mixed-leagues until we can get some sort of clarity. None of these guys are likely to maintain solid numbers all season, save some home runs from Branyan.
Mike Morse has followed up his massive spring campaign (nine home runs, .364 batting average) that earned him a starting gig for the Nationals with a rather pathetic .130 average, recording just three hits in 23 at-bats up to this point. Worse, none of his hits have gone for extra bases. He is still being slotted as the fifth hitter in the lineup and even fourth on at least one occasion, but if he can't get it together that can't last much longer. Luckily for him Laynce Nix isn't too much of a threat right now, but also remember that 26-year old Roger Bernadina is only a minor league call-up away.
Some interesting news came out of Washington on Tuesday when Nationals manager Jim Riggleman announced that Danny Espinosa would replace Ian Desmond in the leadoff spot, with Desmond moving down to seventh in the order. "Whichever one is getting on base a little bit more is the way we'll go about it. We're just going to see how it plays out," said Riggleman. Of course, being the manager of a professional sports franchise, he has done exactly the opposite of what he said he would do and has continued to bat Desmond in the leadoff spot.
So what do we take from this, other than that Jim Riggleman hates you? There's a chance this was just his attempt to motivate his shortstop, who had failed to record a hit up until this announcement. It apparently had an effect, as the next day Desmond went 4-for-5 and has recorded a hit in three of his past four games. Espinosa has kept pace though, batting .304 on the season and blasting a home run on Saturday, his first of the season. In summary, just because Riggleman hasn't made the switch yet doesn't mean it won't happen, and Desmond will have to keep his bat lively if he wants to stave off Espinosa and keep his spot in the order. Stay tuned, as this could be a season-long situation.
Despite a fine start to the season, Ryan Raburn has been ceding time in left field to Brennan Boesch. The second-year outfielder has been on a tear so far this season, batting .364 with five RBI, seven runs and a homer over seven games. It would be nice if there was a way for manager Jim Leyland to work them both into the regular lineup, but Magglio Ordonez won't sit very often and Victor Martinez is already locked into the DH spot. With the exception of one or two games per week in which V-Mart will actually play catcher, it looks like this pesky platoon will continue, limiting the value of Raburn who was projected as a fantasy sleeper coming into the season.
After a great start in which he hit a home run in his second career game, Brandon Belt has recorded just three hits over the six games since that bomb. The promising rookie has been primarily batting seventh in the Giants lineup, which is clearly where he belongs until he can acclimate to major league pitching. Growing pains were to be expected of course, but there is the looming threat of Cody Ross, who could push Belt back to the minors once he comes off the disabled list. Belt will have to turn it on if he wants to remain with the major league squad.