Every season there are a few players who seem to come out of nowhere and surprise everyone during spring. These players, and their spring training talents, don’t always translate to the regular season against consistent major league pitching, but they provide great stories to occupy our time in anticipation of opening day.
For example, Chris Denorfia set the Cactus League on fire last spring. He hit .404/.429/.579. He had the 32nd highest OPS in the entire league during spring of 2011. Now, he didn’t necessarily underperform during the regular season, but he certainly came back to earth. For the 2011 regular season, Denorfia hit .277/.337/.381. Denorfia is just one example. Venable had a .627 slugging percentage last spring, Eric Patterson had a 1.298 OPS in 15 games, and Brad Hawpe had a .469 OBP. That’s both the beauty and the illusion of spring baseball. It’s easy to get excited about performances during spring training, but they don’t always equate to success during the season.
This spring, we can make some predictions about who will put up the best numbers, but until the season starts we will have no idea whether the spring success Will Carry over. Prior to pitchers and catchers reporting, I thought we’d take a look at some players to watch this spring.
Liriano is working his way through the minor league system and really has nothing to prove this spring. Obviously he is always being evaluated, but what I mean is he is not making the major league club no matter what he does. Therefore, he can relax and just hit. It would not surprise me one bit to see him put up some impressive numbers.
Career minor league line: .267/.334/.420
2. Jedd Gyorko
Gyorko is a player who expect to see at some point in the near future. His performance this spring may in fact accelerate any promotion he sees this year. Gyorko is coming off a batting title from the Arizona Fall League, and he is swinging a hot bat. That should drive his spring and help him destroy the lower-level pitching he will see for the most part during spring training.
Career minor league line: .323/..392/.518
The party lines were split pretty heavily when Alonso came over from Cincinnati. Much of that has dissipated now that Anthony Rizzo is no longer a member of the club, but Alonso is eager to prove himself. From his interviews and quotes, he sounds excited to play for San Diego and that excitement can help drive his spring numbers.
Career line: .299/.354/.479
4. Joe Wieland
Our first pitcher on the list. Weiland is closest to making his major league debut of all the prospect pitchers, and his spring training performance will go a long way. He knows this. Wieland may have a breakout spring in anticipation of his final season of minor league ball. He is a likely call-up candidate come September at the latest, but probably earlier.
Career minor league line: 33-18, 3.28 ERA
The list is short, but the fact is, not many players each season have huge numbers in spring. There are generally just a couple players each season that have big performances during spring training. In addition, you’ll notice many of these players have yet to crack the major league lineup. During spring training, minor league players often get more action because they are still proving themselves. The sample size for them is larger allowing the opportunity for a breakout performance.
The future is bright for San Diego, and we get a chance to catch many of the future stars in action this spring. These are just a few players to keep an eye out for.