Spring Training is here! Actually, it’s been here a whole week already! And that means we have STATS to look at! One of the things that really separates baseball from other major sports is how much we rely on stats - whether ERA and RBIs or FIP- and WPA+. We could have the same old arguments about how much Spring Training stats can tell us or we can just really lean into the madness and have fun with it.
I’m choosing the latter.
The new lineup
LF - Khalil Lee
DH - Salvador Perez
RF - Brewer Hicklen
CF - Bubba Starling
C - MJ Melendez
1B - Ryan McBroom
2B - Erick Mejia
3B - Kelvin Gutierrez
SS - Jeison Guzman
Your eyes do not deceive you, there are a lot of new names in that group. That’s not all that surprising after how bad the team was last year, though. Khalil Lee has had a pretty good spring so far, with four hits and a stolen base he seems like just the kind of speedster who will get on base and get things started. Salvy may not be able to catch anymore - as evidence by not playing a single inning behind the plate this year - but his bat is still worth keeping in the lineup with that sweet .545 OBP. Brewer Hicklen has been a revelation; he’s batting .667 with a 2.000 OPS, literally every hit so far has been a double. That’ll play in the three-hole.
Bubba Starling has provided even more pop than Hicklen with a pair of home runs to go with his double. He’s struck out twice as much so it makes sense to let Hicklen bat earlier in the lineup. MJ Melendez has shaken off the Wilmington funk and driven in a team-leading 4 RBIs so he’s got to bat cleanup. Ryan McBroom picked up right where he left off last year, but added some pop; half of his hits have gone for extra bases and he’s been driving in runs, too.
Mejia got a cup of coffee in September last year and has shown he’s got some real staying power with a whopping five hits, two doubles, and even a stolen base. Kelvin Gutierrez is the weak spot in the lineup because he has only a .727 OPS but Guzman and his .500 OBP will bat ninth to act as a second lead-off man.
I know people were counting on the likes of Whit Merrifield (.444 OPS), Hunter Dozier (.250 OPS), and Adalberto Mondesi (hasn’t played, possibly considering retirement?). But they’re just not cutting it. Jorge Soler hasn’t done too poorly for himself with a .897 OPS, but he’s just not as good as the others. There’s probably room for him on the bench along with backup catcher Cam Gallagher and his 1.091 OPS. Kyle Isbel (.744 OPS) and Kevin Merrell (.727 OPS) should round things out, there.
There are some other guys we probably expected to make the rotation here, but obviously, no one who hasn’t had a start can be taken seriously as a starter and these five guys have the five best ERAs among the rotation candidates, so far. I know Brad Keller was a favorite to start on opening day but an 18.00 ERA just isn’t going to cut it, there. Even with the way it’s built, Foster Griffin and his 15.00 ERA will be bringing up the rear. The bad news is that the rotation looks to continue to be terrible, but the bullpen should be phenomenal!
Top 5 Relievers:
Stephen Woods Jr.
Who would have guessed that Holly and Rosy would have still had so much in the tank after all of their recent failures? But they’re both carrying 0.00 ERAs. Actually, all five of these guys are carrying 0.00 ERAs, which is great news for Royals fans who are hoping for a return to the days of the shutdown bullpen. They’re ranked by Opponent Quality, for the record. Even better, though, there are lots of other guys with 0.00 ERAs to duke it out for the other three spots and ready to take a spot when injury inevitably strikes during the season. Keep your eyes on Yunior Marte, Andres Machado, Arnaldo Hernandez, Ofreidy Gomez, Tyler Zuber, Josh Staumont, Glenn Sparkman, Jake Newberry, Jake Kalish, Kris Bubic, and Randy Rosario. Those guys are all going places!
Guys like Eric Skoglund, Tim Hill, Daniel Tillo, Gabe Speier, Jesse Hahn, Jackson Kowar, and Kyle Zimmer all should probably take a page from Connor Greene, though. They all have ERAs over 10 and it seems like they’re going to make more money recording silly videos for would-be fans than as professional athletes with those kinds of stats.