There are many fantasy players and baseball fans who want to overlook spring training numbers, especially when we have not seen a lot of at-bats stacked up yet. But not everything that has transpired in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues so far are illusions. Some guys are battling for playing time, others are returning from injuries or have something to prove. So spring training becomes more than just exhibition games for some select performers. Here is an early look at some hitting trends, and what actually may be truth while other results could just be early fiction.
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Spring Training Batting Observations
Dominic Smith (.500 BA, six RBI): Once considered a rising star in the Mets organization, Smith now is seemingly getting his last chance to earn significant time at first base before Peter Alonso busts out and seizes the position for good. Smith could force a platoon if he keeps hitting, which would not boost his Fantasy appeal as much as it would dampen Alonso’s 2019 outlook. Alonso is hitting over .400 in spring training so far, but if Smith forces his way into the mix with a strong spring training showing, the Mets could hold Alonso back from the Majors at the beginning of the year.
Tim Anderson (.474, five RBI): We already saw what type of counting numbers Anderson can put up, as he is a wild swinger who can be a drag on your batting average. His pure natural ability should continue to generate the power and speed numbers you want, especially at shortstop, but this is a situation to watch. If Anderson has found something to generate more consistent contact, his value could really shoot up. But for now, we cannot see this as anything more than a spring training hot streak.
Lewis Brinson (.429, five HRs): Last year, he could not hit an off-speed pitch to save his life. But he is off to a blazing start, and power is certainly one of his more sure attributes. If Brinson can continue to fashion a respectable average throughout the spring, then we may have to consider whether he will finally start to live up to his potential when the season begins for real. More regular contact could mean a decent batting average and quality power and run production over a full year. He has already started to hit the ball to all fields in spring training, so Brinson is looking very promising so far.
Rafael Devers (.500, three extra-base hits): Last year, he had a “disappointing” season and the power numbers were still good. Devers is still maturing physically and mentally, and the best is likely yet to come. As the 16th third baseman off the board in FanTrax drafts, he is looking like a very good value right now.
Byron Buxton (,429, three HRs, 11 RBI): The hype machine is going to be fueled up again after the way he has come out of the gate this spring. As the 42nd OF off the board in FanTrax drafts, it seems like you should take a chance on a rebound year. It was not too long ago when Buxton appeared to be on the verge of breaking out, and he appears to be healthy and possibly ready to get back on track after a lost 2018 season.
George Springer (three stolen bases): The Houston Chronicle reported that Springer came to camp 12 pounds lighter and A.J. Hinch wants the team to be more aggressive on the bases overall this year. He already has half of the amount of steals he did during all of the 2018 regular season. Springer could get back to 30 homers while providing double-figure steals this year.
Edwin Encarnacion (.150): He had been so consistent and dependable for so long, that it almost seemed like he was going to venture into David Ortiz territory in terms of being so reliable for power production for such a long period of time. But his plate discipline skills continued to decline last year and it appears that he could be starting to slide into the twilight of his career.
David Dahl (,200, one RBI): I’m not worried about him yet. I just want to see Dahl stay healthy in spring training and make it to Coors Field for the regular season.
D.J. LeMahieu (.222): He is off to a slow spring start, but he should get quality at-bats for a while with the Yankees, and I see him becoming a fan favorite. He has never provided enough in the power game, but he will provide pretty good overall totals for a healthy period while he gets extended playing time.
Jonathan Villar (.111): He played much better in Baltimore last year, but I find it hard to trust him over a full season. A former Major League GM once told me Villar was an overhyped utility man, and I maybe just cannot get his 2017 season out of my head. I just cannot be comfortable with him as the eighth second baseman off the board.
Dee Gordon (.176, two steals): Gordon is nowhere near a 60-steal guy anymore and he is starting to get up in age to the point where you wonder if he is going to steal even 30 anymore. Gordon is not going to help you too much in any one category this year and I believe it’s time to accept that a slow fade has started to take place.
Max Muncy (.176): Since he has a .391 OBP, I tend to believe he still has a pretty good eye and he will come around. Muncy struck me as a streaky sort last year, but I am also a believer. He may not hit 35 home runs over a full year instead of just under 400 at-bats, but I think he is here to stay as a quality fantasy corner infielder for the pop.
Scott Engel is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s Hall of Fame and a four-time award winner. He was one of the driving content forces in the rise of RotoExperts.com and was the lead host on the RotoExperts in the Morning for six years on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. He was also instrumental in the launch of the FNTSY Sports Network. Scott was the first-ever Senior Writer and Managing Editor at CBS SportsLine and won a company Hall of Fame Award. He was also an Associate Editor and Fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He has been the featured Fantasy Writer on Seahawks.com since 2012 and his work has been syndicated to the Associated Press, NFL.com, New York Daily News, New York Post, Yahoo Sports, Bloomberg Sports, Sports Illustrated and many others. He is a credentialed media member who won an FSWA award in 2016 for his Insider Fantasy Reporting. Known as “The King”, Scott is on Twitter @scottTheKing
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