March 25, 2015
The Lineup Card
Eight Spring Training Lines of Interest
1. Kris Bryant
But did you know that Kris Bryant has hit nine home runs this spring, three more than anyone else in baseball?
Kris Bryant struck out almost 30 percent of the time in the minors last year. He did the same in High-A in 2013, and he only walked 4.8 percent of the time there. Kris Bryant has major league-ready power, but he does not have a major league-ready plate approach. PECOTA projects him for 125 strikeouts and 44 walks in 2015. That's about as "three true outcomes" as you can get.
But did you know that you have to go all the way back to 2008 to even find 10 other guys who hit even eight home runs in spring training? And none of them did it in fewer than 62 plate appearances. Bryant has had 32, as of Tuesday.
But did you know that all of Kris Bryant's home runs have been off pitchers who have thrown in the majors? So the assertion that he's been feasting on cannon fodder isn't entirely accurate. One of those dingers was even off Felix Hernandez himself.
Kris Bryant is a mirage. Kris Bryant is about to become one of the greatest power hitters in MLB history. The truth is probably somewhere in between. —Ian Frazer
2. Kendall Graveman
Needless to say, that's a pretty glowing review for a pitcher fighting to make the A's rotation out of spring training. So far this spring, Graveman has been given many opportunities, throwing 15 innings for the "A" team, posting a 0.60 ERA while allowing less than 0.75 baserunners per inning. So far this spring Graveman has been terrific, though we all know spring training stats aren't exactly reliable. If there's been one hole in Graveman's game this spring it's his inability to get strikeouts, recording just eight of them over his 15 innings pitched.
Still, Graveman is making a case to be considered for the rotation despite having just 49 career innings above A-ball. That in itself is surprising. Graveman's workload this spring suggests that the A's are seriously considering him as an option for the rotation, wanting to give the coaching staff a long look to determine if he can succeed in the majors right now. His performance this spring might go a long way to convincing the team that their trust in the young right-hander isn't misplaced.
Sure, Graveman's peripherals, especially the strikeouts, might not suggest success. The fact that the A's are having him throw so much though, that might give some insight into how the club views him. Even if Kendall Graveman doesn't make the team out of spring training, it likely won't be long until we see him pitching in Oakland. —Jeff Long
3. Francisco Cervelli
4. Ender Inciarte
Astute observers will recognize that this isn’t an historic feat. Andrelton Simmons struck out for the first time in 2014 in his 52nd plate appearance, to cite just one example. Ben Revere went 73 plate appearances without whiffing in late August and early September. Still, it’s an impressive thing, and it highlights one thing (of many) Inciarte does well. He struck out only 11.9 percent of the time in 2014, although he never had a streak to rival this one without fanning. He also stole 19 bases in 22 tries, and—whether you prefer Defensive Runs Saved, UZR, or FRAA—was one of the two or three best defensive center fielders in baseball. Inciarte doesn’t walk much or hit for any notable power, but he was worth three or more wins in every major system last season. I mention this, because the Diamondbacks have A.J. Pollock slated for center field, and Yasmany Tomas, Mark Trumbo, Cody Ross, and David Peralta battling for time in the corners.
Inciarte is a left-hitting speedster who plays sparkling defense and doesn’t strike out, 110 percent of Ben Revere, basically, but he’s buried in Arizona. Meanwhile, Tuffy Gosewisch is going to start behind the plate. Free Ender Inciarte! —Matthew Trueblood
5. Brennan Boesch
I’m not sure if his batting numbers can outweigh the guaranteed contract numbers of Skip Schumaker for the fourth outfield spot, but he’s not typically a spring training phenom—at least he wasn’t since his Detroit days, when fans saw him as a hybrid of Al Kaline and a unicorn. (A centaur fielder, if you will.)
Two other things stand out in his stat line beyond the high usage, high average and homers: (1) his OBP is lower than his batting average, meaning he hasn’t taken a walk yet, and (2) normally a corner outfielder, he’s been getting plenty of reps in center.
Most likely he’s going to turn this spring into another year of hammering Triple-A fastballs, but the potential of Boesch single-handedly raising fan optimism is a favorite annual ritual. He turns 30 next month, and time is a fleeting prison. —Matt Sussman
6. Matt Wieters
7. Trevor Bauer
That's the good news. Here is the
Through 186 1/3 official big-league innings and 821 batters, the 24-year-old Bauer has surrendered a grand total of one triple, delivered by Twins rookie Danny Santana on July 23rd, 2014. No pitcher in Indians history has permitted more than three of them in a regular- or post-season major-league game. Both of those facts are still true.
But last Friday, Bauer was the victim of a three-bag assault from the Angels, who notched four triples in the third inning and prompted Terry Francona to quip that he sent pitching coach Mickey Callaway to the mound chiefly to give the outfield a rest. That shelling left Bauer with 23 hits on his line through 15 1/3 innings, including five homers to go with those triples. It's a good thing the UCLA product hasn't walked anyone, or his ERA might be considerably higher than 5.87.
Credit Bauer for his dogged effort to pound the strike zone early in the count this spring, an approach that could serve him well with less predictable pitch selection once the games start to count. The right-hander seems cognizant that he needs to be even stingier with bases on balls than he was last year. Now, the Tribe just has to hope that he'll leave the three- and four-baggers in the desert like he has in the past. —Daniel Rathman
8. Mookie Betts
Betts' spring (1.324 OPS) certainly hasn't curtailed any of the superstar talk either. But anyone who follows prospects is well aware of how quickly a star can fall. It was just a year ago that all the buzz in Red Sox camp was Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts was a consensus top-10 prospect and had been one of the team's better bats during their World Series run the previous October. However, as rookies are wont to do, Bogaerts had a very up and down inaugural season.
Reports out of Red Sox camp indicate that it's more than just numbers this spring, as Betts is hitting everything in sight with authority. So much so, that he hasn't bothered to take a walk. Both the .400-plus batting average and zero walks will of course change during the regular season, but expectations are set. Betts had an impressive big-league debut and has followed it up with an emphatic spring--whether we put much stock in the latter numbers or not, Betts will be looked upon to be a big part of a team hoping to be much improved after a rough 2014. —Sahadev Sharma