During spring training, opportunities are won and lost for playing time. We are trying to determine if breakout players from the previous season will continue their success, and Spring Training is a good place to look for a sign of things to come.
1) Brad Miller
Miller came in the Mariner camp knowing that he would be in a battle for his starting shortstop job. Once Robinson Cano had been signed, it signaled the end of Nick Franklin’s time at 2nd base. That left an open competition between the two rising prospects. So far Miller has pulled away and should be leaving an impression from a fantasy perspective with his incredible .467/4 HR/10 RBI thus far in spring. Of course spring numbers don’t mean a whole lot, but keep in mind that Miller put on extra weight and added strength to his wiry frame. He is a definite sleeper at the SS position. Fellow RotoBaller Zach Hebert profiles Miller further in his own sleeper piece.
2) Chris Davis
Early indications show that Davis’s monster 2013 season should be taken seriously. Those looking for a significant regression just might be wrong. Davis really gained momentum at the start of the season by showing power and average. It looks like a hot start might be repeated with a spring average of over .400. Couple that with the fact that Baltimore’s lineup will be deeper with the right handed power of Nelson Cruz. When Cruz is rolling, he can provide sufficient protection for Davis. Expect power, production and a decent average again - don't be afraid to draft Davis in the 5-9 range of the 1st round.
Arenado has everything going for him. He's a rising star with pop, neatly fitted into a potent lineup and playing 81 games in the rare air of Coors Field. All Arenado needs to do is stay healthy and hope that his teammates do the same for the 2014 season. In his rookie campaign he posted close to a .270 BA and 10 HR. With a spring average in the mid .300s, I would expect both numbers to rise and for Arenado to be a viable starter at the third base position.
Crawford finds himself in a difficult spot. He is an aging player that is starting to move past his prime years and is becoming more and more injury prone. At his best, Crawford is a run scoring, base stealing machine that produces at an elite level. However, most of that has occurred with the Rays which seems like a long time ago. He is also caught in the 4 outfielder rotation of that has been a big talking point this spring. Of the four, Puig is too talented to sit and Andre Either is the only one that can stay healthy. That leaves Matt Kemp and Crawford. When healthy, Kemp is far and away the better of the two and will be in the lineup. It looks like Crawford’s play could be limited and he is unlikely to pile up big numbers in any category. Stay away from him unless you have a deep bench and play in a daily league.
I admire Garza as a competitor. He wants the ball and attacks the hitters with his best stuff, but when is that not going to be enough? This spring could be seen as a red flag as Garza has taken one beating after another. I witnessed a game that he pitched against the Angels that resembled a laser show courtesy of the opposing teams' entire lineup. I know that vets pace themselves and are not too concerned with numbers during the spring, but an ERA of over 10, WHIP of 2.4 and BAA of .411 is just plain bad. Ouch. Also, factor in the injury risk to go along with the poor spring and Garza looks like a late pickup at best.
Taveras's talent sure is tempting and his ceiling sure is high, but he keeps running into roadblocks. First, he is log jammed on one of the deepest rosters in baseball. On an organization that values well-rounded players, it may take a while in terms of development before the Cards hand the keys to a starting spot over to Taveras. Then there is the issue of a cranky ankle that has limited him in the past. This spring he has seen very little action in Grapefruit games and has already been optioned to Triple A. The Cards are in a win it all mode so Taveras seems destined to have a minor role in their 2014 run.