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  • Mike Whiteman

Do Spring Training Stats Matter?

By Mike Whiteman

March 17, 2024

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One of the things that makes baseball so great is the whole Spring Training experience. No other sport has the optimism, the intrigue and sometimes even the excitement of Major League Baseball’s pre-season training.


The story of a young phenom playing himself into a regular season job with a great exhibition season is as old as the game itself. The Yankees experienced it again last year when Anthony Volpe somewhat surprisingly played himself into the starting shortstop job. Unfortunately, while Volpe had a pretty good season overall, his batting statistics (.209 batting average, 81 OPS+) didn’t reflect the promise he showed back in March.

This, of course, isn’t the first time it has happened. Perhaps the best known instance was back in 1951 when a 19-year old shortstop named Mickey Mantle rode a .402, nine home run preseason to a place in the Opening Day outfield. As well, Grapefruit or Cactus League games aren't just for rookies.


The Yankees are sure hoping that Anthony Rizzo’s current slash of .522/.621/.870 in 29 plate appearances are an indicator that he is fully recovered from his concussion sustained last year. Rizzo himself reports that all is well. The ability to have the game experience of Spring Training, even if not overly intense, is invaluable for players coming back from injury. Per the MLB.com website stats, here are the recent spring training OPS leaders (minimum 1.8 plate appearances per team played game), and a short summary of their subsequent season: 2023 – Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks (1.138) – Went on to win National League Rookie of the Year with a .285/.362/.506 season. He made the All-Star game and finished fifth in NL Most Valuable Player voting. 2022 – Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals (1.629) – After his scorching Spring Training, he went on to take the NL 2022 MVP award. 2021 – Josh Bell, Nationals (1.328) – Bell had a solid .261/.347/.476 season with 27 home runs and 88 RBI for the Nats. 2020 – COVID season. The sport was shut down for four months after the Spring Training season was suspended. 2019 – Ryan McMahon, Rockies (1.233) – Slashed .250/.329/.450 over 141 games. 2018 – Daniel Vogelbach, Mariners (1.455) – Split his time between Seattle and AAA Tacoma, struggling to a .207/.324/.368 season with the M’s. 2017 – Greg Bird, Yankees (1.654) – An injury riddled .190/.288/.422 season. He did have a .921 OPS in the postseason, including that clutch home run off of Andrew Miller in the ALDS.

2016 – Nolan Arenado, Rockies (1.596) - Had a solid season, slashing .294/.362/.570, with NL-leading 41 home runs, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger.

2015 – Mike Trout, Angels (1.362) - Finished second in MVP voting with .299/.402/.590. Silver Slugger.

2014 – Brad Miller, Mariners (1.314) - Batted .221/.288/.365 as Seattle’s primary shortstop. 2013 – Mike Morse, Mariners (1.332) - .215/.270/.381 as a part-time outfielder for Seattle and Baltimore. 2012 – Albert Pujols, Angels (1.287) – Batted .285/.343/.516 in his first season for the Angels after signing as a free agent. 2011 – Kila Ka’aihue, Royals (1.306) – Broke camp as the Royals’ primary first baseman but was sent back to AAA after a .195/.295/.317 start in 23 games. 2010 – Sean Rodriguez, Rays (1.373) - Hit .251/.308/.397 over 118 games in a “super utility” role, playing every position except for pitcher and catcher. 2009 – Mark Teixeira, Yankees (1.285) – Tex went on to finish second in MVP voting and take home Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. 2008 - Mike Morse, Mariners (1.317) – After earning a spot on the team after his torrid spring, his season ended due to injury in April.

Any trends here? It’s tough to nail down anything specific. Some MVP performances, some clunkers. Back in the early 1980s, Toronto first baseman (and onetime Yankee farmhand) Willie Upshaw was known as "Mr. March" for his exhibition season prowess. The modern-day “honor" would likely go to Morse. He had an OPS over 1.000 in five spring trainings, slashing at .325/.395/575 with 34 home runs in 572 Spring Training at bats.

So far this year, Texas outfielder Wyatt Langford leads eligible players with a 1.248 OPS+ and five home runs. The Rangers’ top prospect has only 17 games of experience above A-ball, but per reports may be playing himself into a role on the Opening Day roster. Do YOU think Spring Training stats matter?

5 Comments


Alan B.
Alan B.
Mar 17

For prospects battling for spots, yes it does. With a veteran, you learn whether or not it matters. But I will say, it is my opinion the Yankees will not have ANY starting pitcher truly ready for the season. When guys are not yet allowed t go even 4.1 IP, or up to 75 pitches yet,, sorry, those stats tell me more about everything than the results. As for the kids, whether it be Dominguez last year, or Jones this year - or any other prospect who does not have a shot at making the roster, is: how fast can we move this guy up? How much does he have left at the level he is scheduled to be bef…

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fuster
Mar 17
Replying to

how many innings pitched per outing do you think it necessary for starters to record in early April?

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fuster
Mar 17

Volpe aint hitting home runs this spring. aint trying to hit 'em.


trying to limit Ks and get on base


doing pretty good at the on-base thing with a .400+ OBP


but it's Rizzo who is starring in that category with a whopping .559

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Melfman1
Melfman1
Mar 17

No, they don’t really matter. However, they can sometimes provide some insight. Insight into how healthy a player or players returning from injury might be. Insight into whether or not a batting tweak appears to be working. Insight as to how well a player is adjusting to his new team/teammates.


What I’ve gleaned so far this spring are the following:

1) Anthony Rizzo appears to be in good shape and showing no symptoms of the head injury that cost him time last year.

2) Both Rodon & Cortes appear healthier and ready to contribute more so than in their injury riddled 2023 campaigns.

3) Anthony Volpe’s new more level approach at the plate appears to be paying dividends early on.


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jeff
Mar 17

No, not really. The biggest proof of that is Kyle Higashioka's spring training performance several years ago. Higashioka was unstoppable that spring. He was hitting homers left and right and leaving even Aaron Judge in the dust! But come the regular season, he was back to being the light hitting catcher we have always known him to be. The one thing that finally stopped the prolific power hitter Higashioka? The start of the Regular Season!


Spring Training is a time for pitchers to work on new pitches they recently developed, as Carlos Rodon is doing this spring with the new "third pitch" he is adding to his repertoire. A cutter. It is also a time for them to work …


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