I’ll admit it. Sometimes my excitement over the fact that spring training has begun and we’re watching games on TV can cloud my judgment. I’m just so happy to have the season back that even a light-hitting shortstop batting .320 over a dozen spring at-bats gets me all charged up and I have fleeting thoughts of drafting him for a late-round buck in my mixed-league auction. But as draft day nears, cooler heads prevail and I stop watching with my heart and start listening to that all-too-sensible voice in my head that keeps telling me that unbridled enthusiasm can destroy a fantasy team in a heartbeat. Though fantasy baseball is technically a game, there’s little fun to be found in it if you draft like an idiot. Objectivity is the key to evaluating spring stats and looking at them any other way is a one-way ticket to last place.
We’ve seen it all too many times before – some player gets real hot in the beginning of March and by the end of spring training, he’s batting .624 with six home runs and 22 RBI. Forget about the fact that he’s never hit more than 10 home runs in a single season nor has he ever batted higher than .275 for any given year. Suddenly he’s all over everyone’s radar come draft day and he ends up costing more, whether it’s a draft pick or auction dollars, than he should. And what happens during the season? He hits .112 through the first dozen or so games, gets dropped in the batting order, and starts to fall off the map. That, in turn, hurts your fantasy team more than it should because this guy was so high-profile on draft day that you reached for him at the expense of much more sensible moves. Those who reached for a well-hyped Eric Hosmer last season can attest to this.
So with that, we’re going to look at some interesting developments we’ve seen during the spring thus far. I’m not looking to run any particular player down and I’m certainly not looking to be a buzzkill, piss in your Cheerios and ruin your morning. I’m just trying to keep it real here and make sure that you’re not looking at any of these players through rose-colored glasses.
San Diego 2B Jedd Gyorko has three home runs and two doubles through his first 21 AB
This is actually one of the hotter stories right now as everybody is looking for something bigger and better at second base. The position is thin enough as it is and most of the guys who are sitting in the top part of the rankings are, for the most part, older players who are both past their prime and prone to injury. So naturally, everyone is getting excited about Gyorko’s power, especially sinc e he’s coming off of a 30-home run season last year between Double and Triple-A. But let’s no anoint him savior of the keystone just yet. Most pitchers are prone to the home run early in the spring due to the fact that they are testing out new pitches or simply working on different things such as new arm angles and release points.
There’s also the question of how much of Gyorko’s power last year stemmed from the hitter-friendly ways of the Pacific Coast League. There are plenty of players who have raked in the PCL only to come up short once they reach the majors, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. You also have a 16-percent strikeout rate last year at Triple-A with just an average 8.3-percent walk rate. You have to figure those numbers are likely to change once the season opens and stronger pitchers are on the hill.
And finally, let’s not forget that he hasn’t even been given the job just yet. No decision has been officially made and the Padres could still turn the position over to Logan Forsythe should they ultimately deem Gyorko not ready. Again, I’m certainly not trying to run the kid down, but you have to keep your expectations in check and not put so much weight into a hot start.
Ryan Raburn is batting .600 with a league-leading four home runs and nine RBI through seven games
Once a darling sleeper pick in 2012, Raburn was cast aside by the Tigers and landed in Cleveland this past offseason. While he’s off to a tremendously hit start, chances are his best-case scenario is “first guy off the bench” in case of injury. He’s obviously working on changing his approach at the plate, but too many strikeouts and not enough walks will likely continue to stand in his way. Not to mention the fact that he has no place to play. The outfield is a little clogged to begin with and Mike Aviles looks to have a good hold on the back-up positions in the infield.
Mike Zunino is seeing an awful lot of playing time this spring
He’s been a name whispered in many a fantasy circle as a potential sleeper, but before you go buying the unproven hype, keep in mind that the Mariners are committed to Jesus Montero behind the plate, what with Kendrys Morales supposedly handling the bulk of the DH responsibilities, and veteran Kelly Shoppach was signed to back him up this season. Zunino’s development is better served with full-time work down in Triple-A.
Nolan Arenado has three home runs and seven RBI through just 14 at-bats
There’s probably little doubt that Arenado is the Rockies’ third baseman of the future, so dynasty league owners as well as owners in long-term keeper leagues should be paying attention to him. But just because his early spring stats are strong and new Rockies manager Walt Weiss has mentioned the possibility of him breaking camp with the big club, doesn’t mean you should be reaching for him in your draft. With Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson already battling for the third base job and the fact that Arenado actually struggled against Double-A pitching last year, you really have to wonder about the quality of arms he’s faced thus far. Obviously, I could be wrong and things might have actually clicked for the 22-year old, but I’d be a little more than just wary of things.
Domonic Brown is batting .350 with three home runs, four RBI and 10 runs scored over 20 at-bats
So finally, here’s one to prove that I’m not all negative here on every good spring start: When the Phillies signed Delmon Young, it seemed like Brown was destined to head back to Triple-A, but his level of play under the pressure of a possible demotion has been great. The power numbers are nice, but what I like most are the six walks he’s drawn so far. He’s showing good plate discipline right now and he seems to be very at ease with his game. Should this continue, he’ll be a well-deserved starter in left field, pushing fan-favorite Darin Ruf back to the minors.
We’ll be back a little more regularly now, providing spring training updates, thoughts on position battles, injury news and, of course, more draft strategy to think about. We’re less than a month away from Opening Day, so the prep work is more important now than ever.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For questions, thoughts or comments you can find him writing on his own site, RotobuzzGuy.com, on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or you can email him at email@example.com
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