Making Sense of the Spring Pt. 1

Spring training is awesome. It marks the dawn of a new season where every team has a chance, at least in theory, to reach October glory. Fans flock from across the nation to watch stars and prospects intertwine on fields that shine of green and smell of summer. As great as spring training is, the stats that it produces are, for the lack of a better word, crap. I’ll be checking in now and again on some spring action and try to make logical sense of the numbers, or lack thereof, which show up in the box scores each day.

From the games on 3/8…

Alfonso Soriano already has three home runs on the spring and a few more might cause his draft stock to rise a bit. If his stock remains low enough, however, I would actually endorse drafting him with intent to trade right around July first (only if you think you can pull this off in your league). For the past three seasons, Soriano has actually had good first halves, but faded in the second half. If you can get him late, ride out a hot April and May and then deal him away to fill another need, you’ll have maximized his value.

Ubaldo Jimenez allowed two runs in two innings of work. He has walked three and struck out only one in his three innings of work this spring, but the important thing to note is that his fastball velocity looks good early on. His velocity fell off last season, but he also dealt with a thumb injury in March. Jimenez’s K/BB ratio was essentially the same in 2010 and 2011, so an uptick in velocity could go a long way toward a bounce-back season. I’m buying in at his deflated draft day stock.

A’s top prospect and potential rotation spot winner, Jarrod Parker, was not sharp on Thursday as he walked three batters and plunked one in two innings of work. Pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery often struggle to find their command for a while and this may very well be the case for Parker in the first couple of months of the 2012 season. Keep in mind, however, that he still has the pure stuff to make an impact as some point this season and could be a tremendous long-term value in keeper formats.

Adam Dunn went deep off of Neftali Feliz, which was obviously a sight for sore eyes for White Sox fans and fantasy GMs alike. Keep in mind, however, that Dunn hit .224/.333/.448 with three spring home runs last year and ended 2011 with only 11 round trippers. In the spring of 2010, Dunn hit .208/.321/.250 with no home runs and ended that season with 38 bombs. Obviously, a big spring from Dunn would hint that he has made some adjustments, but as the numbers show, his spring stats have had no bearing over his recent regular season performance. Given his rock bottom price tag on draft day, you almost have to take a chance that his high-end power will return.

Now transitioning to the rotation, Neftali feliz will have to avoid a recurrence of what Dunn did to him yesterday. Feliz is a fly-ball pitcher and he never showed much command/control in the minors leagues when he worked mostly as a starting pitcher. As a one inning at a time pitcher, he could suppress his shortcomings due to an electric fastball and a small sample size. Now, he’ll have to find new ways to fool hitters as he runs through the lineup multiple times per game. Since he’ll play his home games in the hitter-friendly Ballpark in Arlington, his fly ball tendencies might turn into home run problems (as they did last year in a relief role). Keep an eye on whether or not he can avoid the long-ball this spring.

Francisco Liriano struck out five in three innings of work. Remember that he dealt with shoulder issues all last season, starting in the spring, so he was never really right the entire year. If he can stay healthy his spring, I’m buying in 100-percent on a bounce-back season. Despite his struggles last season, he still held opposing hitters to a very low 72.7 percent contact rate, so the swing-and-miss stuff never left.