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Does spring training performance carry into the regular season?

It’s complicated

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The time has finally come! After 99 days the shadow cast over the entire league is finally gone. Now it is once again time for some real baseball. Year after year through spring training the performances almost never transfer past Opening Day. However, this is the first step to the regular season and we are all excited to see some baseball again, so below I am going to analyze the last three spring’s top performers and see if there is any hope for real production.

*Top five will be ranked by OPS and must have at least 25 spring at-bats*

2021

1. Nick Pratto – 29 ABs (.345/.406/.862) (1.268 OPS)

2. Hunter Dozier – 45 ABs (.289/.373/.733) (1.106 OPS)

3. Salvador Perez – 40 ABs (.350/.409/.650) (1.059 OPS)

4. Michael A. Taylor – 39 ABs (.333/.438/.615) (1.053 OPS)

5. Jorge Soler – 56 ABs (.286/.344/.661) (1.005 OPS)

While the above rankings do show a sort of mixed bag in terms of regular-season results, there does seem to be a possible correlation. For starters, Nick Pratto tore up spring training and then went on to dominate Double-A and Triple-A, so the performance transferred over well for him. Next up is Hunter Dozier. After destroying baseballs in spring, he started off the regular season slow before injuring his thumb very early on. He claimed this injury lingered on until mid-June which does check out with his numbers, as mid-summer is when he finally started to pick it up. Third up is Salvy. He did great in spring and then led the entire MLB in home runs and RBIs, not much else to say there. Michael A. Taylor showed out in spring training and started off the first few games scorching hot before soon cooling down to what was expected from a lower lineup type of player. The final mystery is Jorge Soler. After having the fifth-highest team OPS (in the most total at-bats) in spring training, Soler was one of the worst hitters in the first half of the regular season. He then picked it up near the halfway point enough to get traded to the Braves. Soler did well for the rest of the regular season there and went on to win the World Series MVP (still can’t believe I just typed that).

Overall, as expected, it seems that a hot spring training doesn’t hurt but definitely is not the only factor in deciding how a player's regular season turns out.

2020

1. Bubba Starling – 37 ABs (.378/.439/.865) (1.304 OPS)

2. Ryan O’Hearn – 35 ABs (.343/.395/.857) (1.252 OPS)

3. Salvador Perez – 37 ABs (.297/.372/.568) (.940 OPS)

4. Ryan McBroom – 43 ABs (.302/.348/.581) (.929 OPS)

5. Nicky Lopez – 30 ABs (.300/.344/.533) (.877 OPS)

Well, three and a half of these players are not like the rest. Ignoring Bubba, O’Hearn, and McBroom for a minute let’s check out the positives here. Salvy loves to play the game and will always perform to his best, so him being here again is no shocker. In regards to Nicky, he was counted as a half here since his 2020 regular season did not translate over well from spring. Although, maybe a scenario like this could repeat itself again this spring and in future seasons for someone else. Now back to the big three, Bubba is retired two years later, O’Hearn has still never fully figured it out, and McBroom is on his way to take over Japan. Maybe this spring training study really is just a guessing game. Let’s check out one more year.

2019

1. Chris Owings – 51 ABs (.333/.404/.725) (1.129 OPS)

2. Humberto Arteaga – 46 ABs (.478/.500/.565) (1.065 OPS)

3. Bubba Starling – 32 ABs (.344/.432/.625) (1.057 OPS)

4. Erick Mejia – 41 ABs (.390/.435/.610) (1.045 OPS)

5. Hunter Dozier – 47 ABs (.277/.404/.638) (1.042 OPS)

Alright, I think this is enough. The top four players from the 2019 spring training above hardly stayed in the majors that year and none had above a .610 OPS. The one outlier here is Hunter Dozier who did have his breakout season following this spring training. If you look at all three of the past spring top-fives once again and take out old reliable Salvy you will begin to see a common trend. There seems to often be three to four players who cannot continue their spring success and one player who has a breakout year following the hot spring. So while we may all be excited for ‘baseball’ to be back, let’s not get too excited at times and remember what history is showing us.