10 spring performances to get excited about

Harvey, Kemp among those off to strong starts in camp

March 6th, 2018

Spring Training isn't make or break for a lot of players. For some, spring performances are neither revealing nor critical. So and Max Scherzer are not eligible for this list. Neither is Joey Votto, nor .

This one is for the players who needed a good spring, either for their own confidence or to make a team. In these cases, every at-bat really does count.

This is for some very young players, some older players and some who simply need to reprove themselves. So here goes with a few guys who should feel good about the way this spring has begun:

1. Matt Harvey, RHP, Mets (2 starts, 5 IP, 1 ER, 3 K)

Some wondered if Harvey would even get this far. After the past couple of years, no one knew what he was still capable of. At this point, the right-hander has given the Mets every reason for optimism. Harvey could be the difference between the Mets making and missing the playoffs. Or he could be dealt at the Trade Deadline.

2. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers (.313 BA, 3 HR, 1.228 OPS, 16 AB)

Wait, what? Wasn't Kemp's return a bookkeeping part of a complicated salary-dump trade with the Braves? Well, maybe not. He singled and homered in his first two spring at-bats, has been getting warm ovations and seems to be handily winning the Dodgers' left-field job.

3. Jr., OF, Braves (.435 BA, 1 HR, 2 SB, 1.084 OPS, 23 AB)

It's one thing to read the scouting reports that predict a 20-year-old is going to lead the Braves' rebirth. It's another thing for every fan, teammate and coach to actually see it. This spring, they've seen it. Acuna may start the season in the Minors, but he's unlikely to be there long.

4. , 3B, Yankees (.421 BA, 4 HR, 2 2B, 1.579 OPS, 19 AB)

seemed penciled in to start at third base on Opening Day while Andujar polished his game at Triple-A. But if Andujar keeps banging balls off the wall and slapping them into gaps, general manager Brian Cashman will have the kind of decision everyone in his position would love to have.

5. , RHP, Nationals (3 starts, 8 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 0.50 WHIP)

Are we sure the Nationals need another starting pitcher? If this is a statement spring for Roark, he's making it emphatically. With Roark slotted into the fourth spot, Washington could have the National League's best rotation without another addition.

6. , C/DH/1B/OF, Red Sox (.429 BA, 5 2B, 1 HR, 1 SB, 1.310 OPS, 21 AB)

Swihart might be the most pleasant surprise of the entire spring and appears to be on his way to forcing his way onto Boston's Opening Day roster. Manager Alex Cora is moving Swihart all around the field to see if he can be a super-utility player. He has answered every challenge.

7. , 2B, Indians (.571 BA, 5 HR, 2.214 OPS, 14 AB)

Kipnis apparently didn't enjoy hearing his name floated around as a trade candidate. Or maybe it's just that he is a really good player, healthy again and prepared to show how much game he still has. Kipnis is the kind of player who can elevate a championship-caliber team to an even higher level.

8. , LHP, Giants (3 starts, 8 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 0.96 WHIP)

Blach experienced some of the usual growing pains in his first full Major League season. That is, he was really good in some games and struggled in others. But the Giants never stopped believing Blach had a chance to be a contributor on a postseason team. This spring, he is proving them correct.

9. , 1B, Rockies (.400 BA, 3 2B, 1 HR, 1.063 OPS, 25 AB)

Maybe the Rockies still could use another corner outfielder, but McMahon is making their decision to insert the 23-year-old former second-round Draft pick onto the depth chart at first base look smart. This is exactly the guy who hit .355 in 119 games at Double-A and Triple-A last season.

10. , RHP, Angels (2 starts, 5 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1.00 WHIP)

If Richards makes 30 starts, the Angels will be back in the postseason. Other players figure into this prediction as well, but none of these are as important as the ace of the staff, the guy who has made just two starts the past two seasons combined. So far, so good.