I have two four-year-olds. They play with toy trains all the time. They run them across the floor, picking up imaginary passengers, stopping at stations underneath the couch, and blowing the horn loudly and for no reason I can discern. The world of make-believe can be a fun place. It is with that in mind that I'd like to take you to another magic place of make-believe: Florida. Also Arizona.
There's been talk about outfield prospect Jackie Bradley making the team. I addressed why that won't happen last week, but the reason people are excited about it is two-fold. First, Bradley's defense grades out as awesome. That was already known through reading scouting reports and the like, but it's probable that fans and the Red Sox coaching staff had not seen Bradley with their own eyes. The second is this: .471/.550/.529. That's Bradley's spring training slash line (average/on-base/slugging). While you try to think of what manager or fan wouldn't want a gold glove defender with an almost 1.100 OPS, I'll remind you that Bradley has played 61 games above Single-A ball. It's not that he hasn't played well during Spring Training, it's that it doesn't matter in the scope of long-term evaluation. I'm sure there are scouts who are re-assessing Bradley based on the way he's doing what he's doing, but not on getting eight hits in 17 at-bats.
Looking around the team, Mike Napli's slash line stands out. Yours would too if you hit .500/.500/1.250. Looks impressive, and it is to the extent that four at-bats can be. Seeing Napoli hit one out over the center field wall the other day was more impressive than any numbers he's put up so far and maybe a good indicator that his power hasn't been sapped by his hip condition. But maybe not. We don't know. While it's good to see him hit for power like that, it doesn't mean much other than on that day during that at-bat Napoli hit the ball well. It doesn't necessarily even mean he felt well. Still, you'd rather have Napoli homer than not, so from that extremely limited standpoint, good.
On the other side of the ledger, you've got Stephen Drew who is hitting .154. Nobody wants to hit .154, not even in Spring Training, so maybe uh-oh. But, in the right sample size anyone can fail. There were certainly 13 at-bat stretches last season when MVP Miguel Cabrera or should-have-been MVP Mike Trout did worse than .154. Thirteen at-bats in early March mean nothing as far as what Stephen Drew can do for the Red Sox in 2013. About the only thing that we can take from those at-bats is that Drew looks healthy. He also says he feels healthy, so both should be encouraging, far more so than the .154
Spring Training is no place for judgements, and especially not sweeping judgements of a long-term nature. 'A guy looks healthy' and 'that was a rough outing for someone' are factual and non-prediction-based statements. That's about all you can get out of Spring Training. With all that in mind, here are some of the odder numbers from the Red Sox and around baseball.
- The best pitcher so far has been the Cardinals Michael Wacha with no runs allowed in 7.2 innings. No, I've never heard of him either. MLB.com lists him as "M. Wacha" and I had to click his name to learn what the initial stood for.
- After Mike Napoli's two at-bats and Jarrod Saltalamacchia's three doubles in 10 at-bats, the highest slugging percentage on the Red Sox belongs to Jose Iglesias at .667.
- The best team in baseball right now? Why, the Kansas City Royals, of course. They're undefeated, a perfect 9-0. Guess that trade for James Shields worked out, huh? (For the record, Shields has pitched one scoreless inning this spring.)
- Your home run leaders with four are Ryan Raburn and Nolan Arenado. A cookie to the first person who correctly identifies the teams they play for without looking them up.
- The worst team in either league is the Anaheim of Los Angeles Angels at 1-8, surprising considering Josh Hamilton is hitting .429, Mike Trout is hitting .417, and Vernon Wells is hitting .364. They could be the first team in baseball history with three triple crown winners in the same lineup to go 18-144.
- Boston's leader in extra-base hits? I already gave this one away, but I think it's pretty funny so I'll just say it specifically: Iglesias with four! He has three doubles and a homer. You can't stop him because he's unstoppable! Unless you throw him a curveball or something.
I say he’s Justin Friend.
And I say he’s Justin Friend
Oh baby yooooou, you got what I neeeed,
and you say he’s Justin Friend,
and you say he’s Justin Friend.
Happy Spring Training.