Today is a glorious day. It’s not the most glorious day, as that comes tomorrow, but it’s glorious nonetheless. It’s glorious because, as you may have heard, there is regular season baseball being played today. That’s right, spring training is over.
With camp finally breaking and the players heading to their regular season assignments, I’m going to go ahead and break the one rule of spring training. I’m going to look at the stats. We all know that these are mostly meaningless numbers, but indulge me for a minute as I look at the five most stand-out good performances from hitters and three from pitchers over the course of spring training. It’s the last day in which we are allowed to be unabashedly optimistic, so let’s take advantage.
Steve Selsky: .356/.431/.689
A waiver claim from January that some believed the team would try to sneak through waivers themselves before the start of the season, all Selsky did this spring is become a personal favorite of John Farrell’s and earn himself an Opening Day roster spot. Part of that is just because he’s right handed and can play some first base, but make no mistake. If he hadn’t hit this well he’d be starting the year in Pawtucket where we all expected him. The power was particularly striking, as he smashed four home runs and three doubles in just 45 at bats.
Marco Hernandez: .377/.433/.672
The man whose roster spot Selsky likely swiped was Hernandez, who just put together his second consecutive great spring. The utility infielder was brought in as a no-name player to be named later in exchange for Felix Doubront, and sooner or later will be up with a major-league team for good. Whether that’s for the Red Sox or another team — or as a starter or bench piece — remains to be seen. He’s not a perfect player, and his near-.300 Isolated Power in camp isn’t indicative of who he really is. However, the hit tool is for real, he can play multiple positions and is an asset on the base paths. He’ll start the year in Pawtucket, but we’ll see him in Boston soon enough.
Pablo Sandoval: .339/.349/.677
Here, we have what might be the most important spring performance in the Red Sox lineup. It’s basically impossible to be a bigger question mark than Sandoval was heading into camp, but he made a good first impression with his new slimmed down look. We weren’t going to be fooled, though. Regardless of what he looks like physically, he needs to perform before we’ll come around. Perform he did, at least against Grapefruit League pitching. The same old aggressive approach is here to stay, but he made good contact and showed off some real power in camp. I’m not going to be sold on him until I see him do it consistently against real major-league pitching that is trying its best to get him out, but it’s hard to be anything besides encouraged after this performance.
Andrew Benintendi: .322/.397/.610
No player on the roster was receiving more hype than Andrew Benintendi heading into camp. He was being named the number one prospect in baseball on a seemingly everyday basis, and it was hard not to get up in the excitement. Of course, it’s easy to see that kind of national exposure turn sour for such a young, inexperienced player. That wasn’t the case for Benintendi, who looked consistently great and even earned himself a spot in the top third of Boston’s lineup. Given this and more importantly his strong performance in the team’s short playoff stint a year ago, it doesn’t seem like pressure gets to Benintendi. It’s going to be a fun year in left field at Fenway.
Sam Travis: .318/.400/.591
You can’t talk about strong spring performances without mentioning Sam Travis. The first base prospect is to the Grapefruit League as Pablo Sanchez is to Backyard Baseball. He’s the secret weapon. If he hadn’t spent most of last season on the disabled list, this spring likely would’ve been marked by Travis trying to nail down a roster spot. However, he’ll need a little more time at Triple-A, so for now he is blocked unless an injury occurs in the infield despite his dominant performance against Grapefruit League pitching. If he can show this power in regular season action, though, he’ll force his way up at some point this summer.
Kyle Kendrick: 2.18 ERA, 31/4 K/BB
If there was a pitching version of Sam Travis to be found on this roster, it was surely Kyle Kendrick. Given the injury woes in the rotation, his breakout spring performance was a welcome sight. He’s captured the imaginations of fans, some of whom are calling for him to be in the rotation over Drew Pomeranz regardless of the latter’s health. I’ve mentioned Kendrick’s lackluster career to this point before, but I’ll stay positive this time. Maybe this is Brian Bannister’s latest conquest. He’ll start the year in Triple-A and the Red Sox may try to pick their spot with Kendrick, since he’ll have to be exposed to waivers before they can take him off the active roster. Still, we’ll see him at some point soon, and hopefully he can look a fraction as good as he did in camp.
Chris Sale: 2.57 ERA, 26/2 K/BB
Sale is the shiny new toy at John Farrell’s disposal, and while he’s not taking the hill on Opening Day he’s clearly the best pitcher heading into the season. Of course, it’s always a worry that new pitchers will struggle in their first year in Boston, as we’ve seen about a billion times over the last decade or two. He did his best to put those worries to rest this spring with a string of solid outings, some of which reached dominant territory. I know I said I’d try to stay positive, but it’s just not in my nature. This is when I mention that David Price had a 2.81 ERA last spring.
Ben Taylor: 3.46 ERA, 19/3 K/BB
Along with the health concerns in the rotation, the Red Sox have had some injury worries in the bullpen as well. The combination of both led to an open roster spot for one of the many minor-league relievers who spent all of camp playing in big-league games. Taylor ended up emerging from that pack with a dominant performance. It doesn’t show up as much in his ERA, but that 19/3 K/BB came in just 13 innings. It’s important to realize he was pitching mostly at the end of spring training games when minor-league hitters populate the opponents’ lineups. Still, Taylor looked electric for much of camp and earned his roster spot. Now, it’s up to him to show that he deserves to stay up with the big-league club.