Major League Baseball's Most Eye-Opening Spring Statistics
Most of the time, spring training statistics are worth about as much as your 1988 Donruss set.
But every year, there are always a handful of players, most of whom you've either never heard of or didn't think were all that good, who put up monster numbers in Florida or Arizona. Who can forget in 2011 when Jake Fox smacked 10 spring homers and led all players with 17 extra base hits. He was red hot!
Of course, after a spring like that, he made the Orioles big league roster. He then proceeded to hit .188/.250/.396 with two homers and five RBIs in 52 plate appearances before being designated for assignment.
So spring numbers can often be a mirage. That being said, once in a while, they are a sign that a player is destined to have a good year. Below is a collection of spring stats this year that may make you think twice about the players or teams putting up those gaudy (or not-so-gaudy) numbers.
Giovanny Urshela's 5 Home Runs
The man who has put on the biggest power display so far this spring is Philadelphia's Maikel Franco, who has blasted a MLB-high seven home runs. Hunter Pence is second with six, and then there are three players tied with five dingers. Two of them you're familiar with -- Andrew McCutchen and Danny Valencia. The one you may not know very well is Cleveland's Giovanny Urshela.
In 36 spring plate appearances, Urshela is hitting .306/.359/.806 with an OPS of 1.165. He has 12 RBIs and three doubles and has struck out as often as he has homered this spring: just five times.
The Indians called up the 24-year-old last year to replace Lonnie Chisenhall, and while Urshela played decent defense at third, he struggled at the plate with a wRC+ of 68 and six homers in 288 plate appearances. And while Cleveland will likely start the season with Juan Uribe as their everyday third baseman, Urshela's spring is making manager Terry Francona think long and hard about bringing him with the team when they break camp.
He'll likely start the season in Triple-A, but he's a guy worth keeping an eye on in the first few months of 2016.
Jean Segura's 23 Hits, Nick Ahmed's 1.075 OPS, and Chris Owings' .966 OPS
When the Diamondbacks traded for Jean Segura, most laughed at the deal. I wrote about the trade back in February and noted that Segura has been largely a below replacement level player ever since his 2013 season.
And even that Segura rookie campaign was aided by a tremendous first half in which he had a wRC+ of 133. In the second half, it was 55.
But this spring, Segura has put up some eye-popping numbers. He is tied for the most hits this spring with 23 (the ridiculous Nolan Arenado also has 23 in 42 at-bats), and is slashing .523/.543/.750 this spring with two doubles, one triple, two homers, five stolen bases and an OPS of 1.293.
As for the other two members of Arizona's weak-hitting infield trio, Nick Ahmed is 19-for-48 this spring with a .396/.388/.688 slash line, five doubles, three triples and an OPS of 1.075. His 19 hits are tied for sixth-most in baseball. And Chris Owings has gone 17-for-47 this spring for a slash of .362/.434/.532 and an OPS of .966.
Will it continue? I remain unconvinced, seeing as how all three players failed to crack an on-base percentage above .281 last season.
Juan Nicasio's 24 Strikeouts
As a relief pitcher for the Dodgers last year, Juan Nicasio turned in a decent season, with a 3.86 ERA but a more impressive 2.83 fielding independent pitching (FIP), thanks to his eye-popping 10.03 strikeouts per nine innings. He did walk 4.94 batters per nine, which wasn't good, but he did well enough in 58 1/3 innings and gave up a minuscule 0.15 homers per nine innings last season.
Now with the Pirates, Nicasio is being used as a starter and has been brilliant. He leads all Major League pitchers with 24 strikeouts this spring, in just 15 innings. He has also given up just five walks and has yet to give up an earned run yet this spring, allowing only 10 hits.
He's competing with Ryan Vogelsong and Jeff Locke for the final spot in the Pittsburgh rotation, and there's reason to believe that what Nicasio is doing is somewhat sustainable in the regular season. Consider what Pittsburgh has done with Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, Vance Worley and J.A. Happ in recent seasons. Pitching coach Ray Searage is widely regarded as one of the best in the business.
Of course, some caution is warranted.
Last year's Juan Nicasio in ST was Taijuan Walker. 25 IP, 24 K, 0.36 ERA in the spring. A 7.33 ERA in his first nine regular season starts.
— Mike Gianella (@MikeGianella) March 22, 2016
Jeff Samardzija's 8.53 ERA and Johnny Cueto's 16.62 ERA
Ordinarily, numbers like these from veteran pitchers wouldn't be all that concerning. However, Samardzija is coming off a season in which he put up an ERA of 4.96 and struck out a career low 6.86 batters per nine innings in 32 starts with the White Sox last year. And after a brilliant first half last year, Cueto was largely terrible in 13 starts with the Royals, with a 4.76 ERA and a strikeout rate of 6.2 per nine.
Cueto had to leave his last start early after getting hit in the head by a line drive.
He's OK and is expected to make another start this weekend. But the fact both pitchers came into the season with question marks and haven't done much this spring only confirms those concerns.
The Philadelphia Phillies' 30 Home Runs
The pace has slowed in recent days, but heading into Friday's spring games, the Phils had hit 30 homers in spring action, tied with the Diamondbacks and the Cubs for second-most among NL teams, and sixth-most in baseball.
They've been led by Franco's seven dingers, but unheralded guys like Cedric Hunter, Darin Ruf and Cameron Rupp all have three, and J.P. Arencibia and Ryan Howard each have two. In all, 16 players have homered for the Phillies this spring.
Don't expect it to last. Given an outfield trio of Odubel Herrera, Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel, it's unlikely the outfield will crack 20 homers combined this season. And the middle infield of Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez will be lucky to reach 15 between them.
The spring power surge has been fun, but it's not going to be sustained when the team heads north for the regular season.