Although most will tell you that spring statistics should be taken with a grain of salt, it is impossible to ignore it when someone goes on a tear over the course of 40-80 at bats. Remember that a lot of owners benefited from spotting Domonic Brown's effectiveness last spring, parlaying it into some late-round magic for their teams in 2013. So here at RotoBaller, each week we will spotlight three players who are tearing it up this spring, and three that are not.
3 Strong Spring Performers
If fantasy points were awarded for calling a great ballgame, Martin would be a top-five catcher. But in our game, he has gone from being a fifth-round selection earlier in his career to being a fringe roster player in most formats. Injuries derailed him, and a willingness to play while banged-up has hurt his numbers. Despite an average slip, he has hit for solid power and RBI totals in recent seasons. The issue is his inability to get back to the .265-.285 range in the average department that he posted as a Dodger. A solid clutch hitter, Martin is currently hitting at a .381 clip this spring through 21 at bats, and has clubbed four home runs. At 31, and now being one of the leaders on a playoff team in Pittsburgh, 2014 could be a good year for Martin. If he continues his good hitting into the season, .265, 20 HR, 10 SB and 60 RBI could happen. I have a feeling something pretty cool is brewing in Pittsburgh, and although the division is going to be a gauntlet in 2014, this will be an exciting team to watch.
2. Max Scherzer
The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner still had some skeptics out there after his brilliant 2013. This spring, he's just making sure everyone knows he is here, and he doesn't plan on fading back anytime soon. He has thrown 14.1 innings, and has struck out 16 batters, while only issuing a single walk. He has also given up just nine hits, and is staking claim that he is ready to defend his crown. He is currently going just behind Stephen Strasburg in drafts, at the end of Round 3. The choice between those two pitchers, and throw Jose Fernandez into that mix, could be the decision that makes or breaks your fantasy team. As easy as it is to drool over Strasburg and his repertoire, Scherzer is more of a workhorse. Max is showing no ill effects after breaking the 200-inning barrier for the first time in his career in 2013. More innings, with pretty much equal peripherals, equals more strikeouts, as well as better win opportunities, so Max is the guy here. Fernandez is a favorite of mine, but Scherzer has sold me this spring.
3. Tommy Medica
I have already profiled Medica here, but it was unknown if he was going to be able to get a spot on the Opening Day roster on for the San Diego Padres. He is currently hitting .409, with two HR and two SB this spring. Medica hit well down the stretch in 2013, but is currently blocked at 1B (his natural position) by Yonder Alonso. Medica has worked hard to prove he can play the outfield in the big leagues, but the team has said he still has some work to do in that department before converting him full time handing him a job. Medica most likely will open the season on San Diego's bench, or even worse in Triple-A, but this kid can hit, and eventually he will become a fixture in the Padres lineup. There hasn't been any chatter that he could go back to catching, which was discussed earlier in the offseason, but it is his bat that has Padres fans enamored. He could be an impact pickup in the middle of the season if he earns an everyday job. Monitor his progress the rest of spring; if he is going to break camp with a starting spot, he might be worth picking up in the late rounds.
3 Spring Underperformers
The Astros demoted Brett Wallace, and eventually released him, which seemingly was one more roadblock removed from the path for Singleton to become the Astros first baseman at some point in 2014. By hitting .130 with eight strikeouts over 22 at bats this spring, Singleton is proving that he is not yet ready to contribute at the big league level. Behind those ugly numbers, he has drawn eight walks, and does have a home run, so perhaps he just isn't ready for the advanced pitching and simply needs to conquer Triple-A, where he struggled at last year. There is still promise here, just not to open the season as the first baseman on the big club. It has also been revealed that Singleton was abusing alcohol last season (read more here), and that explains why he had a massive drop-off in production. Don't give up on him, just don't expect a whole lot, at least not in the first two months of 2014.
Ozuna is picking a terrible time to slump. This spring, he has struck out 12 times in 35 at bats, and is hitting just .143. His counterpart in the center field battle, fellow prospect Jake Marisnick, is hitting .346 over 26 at bats, while stealing three bases and hitting a triple. Most importantly, Marisnick has shown improved plate discipline, something Ozuna still lacks. Ozuna will have the job, or at least the starter's innings for a little bit longer, but he needs to get it going if he wants to be starting in center field on Opening Day.
Fielder had a first-round ADP a few weeks ago, but has since dropped off to the early second, probably due to his hitting .250 up to this point. Even worse, he has struck out 10 times compared to zero walks. Fielder's career started out with him striking out almost twice as often as he walked, but in a full 162-game season as a rookie he still managed to hit .270. At his peak, when he was an MVP candidate, Fielder was walking as much if not more often than he struck out, but last year he regressed back to a 117/75 strikeout/walk split. If this trend continues, Fielder's owners will be wishing they'd drafted Joey Votto instead.