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These spring standouts could be in for big years

March 20, 2018

Let's face it, Spring Training numbers do matter, at least a little bit. Actually, they're fascinating because as we plow through the leaders it's interesting to see the mix of names, and isn't that the beauty of Spring Training?Some players we're familiar with. Spoiler alert: Max Scherzer is having an

Let's face it, Spring Training numbers do matter, at least a little bit. Actually, they're fascinating because as we plow through the leaders it's interesting to see the mix of names, and isn't that the beauty of Spring Training?
Some players we're familiar with. Spoiler alert: Max Scherzer is having an insane spring. Also dotted on the leaderboard are a bunch of players we're less familiar with or just getting to know.
Know this: For players and coaches in camps, spring statistics are significant. And even though it's a mix of Minor Leaguers playing with experienced vets, Spring Training numbers are the easiest way for unproven players to make first impressions on Major League managers and coaches. This summer, when teams need help from their farm systems, spring performances will be remembered. Bottom line: Even if a player might say, "spring stats don't really matter," every guy would rather have good spring stats than bad ones.
With all of that in mind -- and because Spring Training is winding down -- here's our 2018 Spring Training All-Star Team, along with a glance at what each performance means for each player:
Catcher: Salvador Perez, Royals: .382 BA, 6 HR, 1.446 OPS
Perez is the undisputed leader of his clubhouse, and if you think Kansas City could surprise some people this season, this is where you start. At 27 years old, he has a chance to be a primetime performer for many more years. 
Honorable mentions: Blake Swihart, Red Sox; Tucker Barnhart, Reds.
First baseman: Daniel Vogelbach, Mariners: .400 BA, 5 HR, 1.385 OPS
Seattle acquired Ryon Healy from Oakland in the offseason and penciled him in at first base. Then Healy missed some time this spring, and the Mariners got a longer look at 25-year-old Vogelbach, who is now forcing them into a tough call. Healy is now healthy and seems likely to be the Opening Day first baseman, but Vogelbach surely will play at some point.
Honorable mentions: Ryan McMahon, Rockies; Kyle Jensen, Giants.

Second baseman: Jason Kipnis, Indians: .474 BA, 6 HR, 1.565 OPS
Well, that settles that. Looks like someone didn't enjoy hearing his name thrown around in trade discussions all offseason. It also looks like Kipnis won't be seeing any more time in center field. Or maybe one of baseball's best players and coolest dudes simply is healthy again and able to do the things we always knew he could do.
Honorable mentions: Jonathan Schoop, Orioles; Brandon Dixon, Reds; Carlos Asuaje, Padres; Scott Kingery, Phillies.
Third baseman: Giovanny Urshela, Indians: .500, 3 HR, 1.369 OPS
Urshela is out of Minnor League options and there's no place for him in a stacked Indians lineup. For now, he appears to be competing with Erik Gonzalez for a bench job. But Urshela is also a prime candidate to be dealt because there's zero chance he clears waivers.
Honorable mentions: Sheldon Neuse, Athletics; J.D. Davis, Astros.
Shortstop: Trevor Story, Rockies .410 BA, 1 HR, 1.272 OPS
Story has carried a solid finish to 2017 into Spring Training. He's more selective at the plate and seems locked in with his mechanics. Story is important to a Rockies lineup that isn't as dangerous as the altitude often makes it seem.

Honorable mentions: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox; Ryan Court, Cubs; Mike Freeman, Cubs.
Outfielder: Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves .432 BA, 4 HR, 1.247 OPS
Acuna has been sent to Minor League camp to continue polishing a game that doesn't look like it needs much. Now it remains to be seen whether he will be brought to the Majors as soon as April 13, which stands as the earliest date Atlanta could promote him and secure an extra year of contractual control. When Acuna returns, it'll be another symbol to Braves fans that the club is turning a corner fast.
Outfielder: Jose Pirela, Padres .452 BA, 2 HR, 1.234 OPS
Pirela got a chance to play full-time last June, and he made the most of it with an .837 OPS, and he's been even better this spring. San Diego is still sorting out its outfield options, but Pirela appears to be locked in somewhere, and he could also see some reps at second, where the club doesn't have an obvious long-term solution.
Outfielder: Ian Happ, Cubs .342, 5 HR, 1.300 OPS
Happ is officially a backup at all three outfield spots. He has also played well enough to start at any of them. Manager Joe Maddon faces a tough call in figuring out who plays where -- the kind of problem every manager would love to have.
Honorable mentions: Jorge Soler, Royals; Mike Tauchman, Rockies; Mac Williamson, Giants; Preston Tucker, Braves; Teoscar Hernandez, Blue Jays.

Designated hitter: Yonder Alonso, Indians .357 BA, 5 HR, 1.247 OPS
Do spring home run numbers mean anything? The Indians sure hope so, because that's about the only thing missing from Alonso's game. Regardless, he's going to end up being one of the smarter pickups of the offseason.
Honorable mentions: Avisail Garcia, White Sox; Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox; Franchy Cordero, Padres.

Starting pitcher: Max Scherzer, Nationals 0.63 WHIP, .138 BA
Having won back-to-back National League Cy Young Awards, Scherzer seems intent on winning another. If he did, that would be his fourth, putting him in a class with only Roger Clemens (seven), Randy Johnson (five) and Steve Carlton and Greg Maddux (four). Scherzer is now vying with Clayton Kershaw for the title of "Best of His Generation."
Honorable mentions: Corey Kluber, Indians; Madison Bumgarner, Giants; Marco Gonzales, Mariners; Justin Verlander, Astros; Blake Snell, Rays.
Reliever: Tayron Guerrero, Marlins 0.32 WHIP, .037 BA
Guerrero gets your attention because his fastball touches 98 mph and because he's 6-foot-8. If he's ever able to command his stuff, he has a chance to be a full-time closer. This spring has shown what Guerrero can do.
Honorable mentions: Dan Altavilla, Mariners; Jose Alvarado, Rays; Kevin Jepsen, Rangers; Bobby Poyner, Red Sox; Taylor Williams, Brewers; Matt Bowman, Cardinals; Edwin Diaz, Mariners; J.J. Hoover, Brewers; Tyler Jones, Pirates; Matt Albers, Brewers.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.