Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I am of the belief that little is learned in spring training from a major league hitter blasting a home run off a college pitcher or a player soon to be pitching in the Pacific Coast League.
The only thing to truly pay attention to is whether a player heads north fit, healthy and ready to begin the season on Opening Day.
For a perfect example of why we ignore spring training statistics, we simply look back to 2011 and find that Baltimore's Jake Fox led all of baseball with 10 home runs last spring, in just 74 Florida at-bats.
How did Fox do in the regular season, you ask? Did he power the Baltimore Orioles and your fantasy team to a title? Hardly. Fox was batting .188 with two homers and four RBIs when he was sent to the Norfolk Tides of the International League.
In 2010, it was Houston Astros young third baseman Chris Johnson who led the league with eight home runs. He was a lot better than Fox, batting .308 with 11 homers and 52 RBIs, but the numbers aren't enough to get a fantasy owner excited.
Two years earlier in 2008, future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez led the majors with eight spring training home runs. The normally hard-hitting catcher would go on to post one of the worst batting seasons of his career, hitting just seven homers all season and batting .276 for Detroit and the New York Yankees.
That said, I still watch and enjoy spring training games. And I have gleaned a few tidbits of information that could be useful for fantasy owners.
Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who many experts believe is ready for a breakout season, is batting .467 this spring with three home runs, 10 RBIs and a 1.300 OPS. It appears Kendrick is enjoying the benefits of batting in front of newly acquired slugger Albert Pujols. Kendrick is the ninth-ranked second baseman in the latest preseason Yahoo ADP and 71st overall. He's looking like a legitimate "steal" as a sixth-round pick.
The "new" Miami third baseman, Hanley Ramirez, seems to be taking to the change very well. There were two primary concerns with Ramirez heading into 2012 - health and attitude.
Was he healthy after an injury-filled and disappointing 2011 in which he hit just .243 with 10 HRs, 45 RBIs and 20 steals as a top-three fantasy pick?
Would he accept the change to third base after the team signed former New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes to a mega-contract?
This spring, there seems to be no problems with Ramirez's surgically repaired left shoulder and he's batting .385 with a 1.246 OPS through 11 games. There has been no complaining about not playing shortstop and the only negative to date is that he hasn't stolen any bases. With a Yahoo ADP of 21, he could be a huge bargain.
The Alex Gordon we saw in 2011, the one on the verge of becoming a fantasy stud by posting career highs in runs (101), hits (185), HRs (23), RBIs (87) stolen bases (17), batting average (.303) and OPS (.879), has arrived at Royals camp with his hitting shoes still on. He's batting .378 this spring with a couple of homers and nine RBIs. Despite the breakout season in 2011, Gordon isn't being drafted until the sixth round in most leagues (ADP 66). You should select him up before that round.
Finally, Minnesota starter Francisco Liriano has looked very good in three of four outings this spring and has a 2.77 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and 18 strikeouts against just two walks in 13 innings. To date, this is the best spring performance of his career and the 9:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio bodes particularly well. With all of the problems he's dealt with over the past few years, you can get him very late in your draft (ADP 249) and the upside is simply too high to resist with little or no risk.
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