12 Spring Training stat lines that matter

March 25th, 2021

Parsing Spring Training statistics and trying to figure out which ones matter and which ones don't is a yearly exercise. Time to dive into the numbers for 2021.

The big question: Which top spring performers will carry over that performance into the regular season? These are the players who are giving us a reason to believe.

We're looking for players whose Spring Training stat lines stand out for a specific reason, not just superstars dominating as usual -- we're not worried about the Jacob deGroms or Gerrit Coles or Fernando Tatis Jr.'s of the world.

Here are 12 Spring Training stat lines that shouldn't be ignored.

Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Angels
ST hitting stats: 25 AB, .600 BA, 1.080 SLG, 1.701 OPS, 4 HR
ST pitching stats: 8 IP, 7.88 ERA, 14 K, 15.8 K/9

Two-way star Ohtani looks like he's back. This Spring Training, he's crushing home runs as a hitter and racking up strikeouts as a pitcher. And he needed this. After a down season at the plate and a lost season on the mound in 2020, Ohtani had major questions to answer. His spring performance is helping.

Ohtani has already hit a 468-foot homer, and he has hit several homers to center field and the opposite field, which is what he does when he's at his best. And as a pitcher? He's hitting 100 and 101 mph, while striking out hitters in bunches with his splitter. That's put to bed velocity concerns (he dipped to the low 90s last year) and concerns about the split-finger, which is his best pitch but one he couldn't command at all in 2020.

Francisco Lindor, SS, Mets
ST stats: 38 AB, .342 BA, .684 SLG, 1.074 OPS, 4 HR

OK, so Lindor is a superstar, but he had the worst hitting season of his career in 2020, especially in the power department. Lindor was barely league average at the plate (102 OPS+) and slugged .415 after three straight seasons above .500. But in a Mets uniform, he's already raking again. Not only has Lindor belted four home runs, he's doing it in his trademark fashion, with pull power. From 2017-19, Lindor pulled 77 home runs (of his 103 total) -- only Nolan Arenado had more. Now, all four of Lindor's spring homers have been turned on and drilled down the right-field line.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B/3B, Blue Jays
ST stats: 25 AB, .520 BA, .606 OBP, .840 SLG, 1.446 OPS, 6 BB, 2 K

We're all waiting for the big Vlad Jr. breakout. His Spring Training performance gives us a little bit of hope that 2021 will be the year it happens. The 22-year-old looks like a complete hitter right now. He still has his elite exit velocity -- Vlad Jr. has ripped a 111.2 mph home run, a 110.0 mph double and a 111.4 mph single -- he's showing strong plate discipline (six walks to only two strikeouts) and he's even hitting the ball in the air more often than he's hitting it on the ground. That was the biggest thing that held him back from becoming a monster power hitter in his first two big league seasons. If Vlad is launching air balls? Look out.

Jameson Taillon, RHP, Yankees
ST stats: 8 1/3 IP, 1.08 ERA, 14 K, 15.1 K/9

The Yankees clearly valued Taillon highly when they traded for him, but the 29-year-old is still coming back from his second Tommy John surgery and needs to prove he's a front-end starter. He looks good. Taillon's only allowed one run through four Spring Training outings and has 14 strikeouts in his 8 1/3 innings. His revamped, shortened arm action looks effective. His new commitment to elevated four-seamers is generating swings and misses. His velocity has broken 95 mph. All good signs.

Akil Baddoo, OF, Tigers
ST stats: 32 AB, .344 BA, .475 OBP, .781 SLG, 1.256 OPS, 4 HR, 3 SB

The 22-year-old Rule 5 Draft pick, Detroit's No. 24 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, is basically forcing himself onto the Tigers' roster with a monster spring. Baddoo is doing it all on offense, hitting everything and showcasing impressive speed on the basepaths. And there are some encouraging underlying numbers to back up his stat line. Baddoo has a 76.5% hard-hit rate on his 17 tracked batted balls this Spring Training -- that means over three-quarters of his contact has been hit 95 mph or harder -- the best hard-hit rate of any player this spring. And he's flashed elite speed. Baddoo has a top sprint speed of 30.3 feet per second this spring (on this play) -- 30-plus ft/sec is MLB elite speed -- and he has four tracked runs at 29-plus ft/sec and 10 at 28-plus ft/sec, compared to the MLB average speed of 27 ft/sec.

Jazz Chisholm, SS/2B, Marlins
ST stats: 32 AB, .250 BA, .531 SLG, .825 OPS, 3 HR, 1 SB

MLB Pipeline's No. 66 overall prospect doesn't have the elite traditional stat line of some of these top spring performers … but look deeper. Chisholm could be a real power/speed threat. Start with the 71.4% hard-hit rate on his 14 tracked batted balls -- that's third-highest on the Spring Training leaderboard. And how about the 112.7 mph home run he hit on March 17 (his hardest-hit ball of the spring so far)? Reaching that top tier of exit velocity, and especially being able to drive that ball over the fence, is a real skill. Then there's the speed. Chisholm has reached a max sprint speed of 29.8 feet per second -- borderline elite -- and he has three tracked runs at 29 ft/sec or faster.

Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pirates
ST stats: 37 AB, .432 BA, .784 SLG, 1.259 OPS, 1 HR, 6 2B, 2 3B, 2 SB

Hayes' performance in just 24 games in 2020 (.376/.442/.682 slash line, five home runs, 1.124 OPS) was enough to earn the 24-year-old a sixth-place National League Rookie of the Year finish. And that was no flash in the pan. Hayes is for real. The Pirates' top prospect, and No. 9 prospect in baseball, hasn't stopped hitting in his return to the batter's box this Spring Training. Not only is his stat line amazing, Hayes is also running a 60.9% hard-hit rate on his 23 tracked batted balls (including a 110.3 mph max exit velo), and 43.5% of those balls have been hit in the 8-32 degree launch angle sweet spot. Hayes' contact quality was great in his debut season. It's still great. He can flat-out hit.

Ketel Marte, 2B/CF, D-backs
ST stats: 33 AB, .333 BA, .667 SLG, 1.072 OPS, 114.7 mph max exit velo

Marte's breakout as an NL MVP contender in 2019 was somewhat tempered by his solid-but-not-elite 2020, when his power numbers dropped off significantly from his career year the season before. But here's the interesting thing about Marte: He's hitting the ball really hard this spring. Marte has hit five balls 110 mph or harder, tied with Giancarlo Stanton for the most of any hitter (and just ahead of Pete Alonso and Vlad Jr.). Those five: a 114.7 mph home run, a 113.6 mph double, a 112.5 mph single, a 112.2 mph single and a 113.2 mph out. If you're consistently hitting the ball 110 mph, you're going to put up good numbers. Keep your eye on Marte again.

Robbie Ray, LHP, Blue Jays
ST stats: 13 2/3 IP, 1.98 ERA, 18 K, 11.9 K/9, 95.9 mph avg. fastball velo

Ray's strikeout numbers are always great, but he's looked especially good this spring. The thing that's really catching people's eye is his velocity. The 29-year-old left-hander is throwing harder than he has in years. Ray's average fastball velocity in Spring Training is 95.9 mph. Last season, he averaged 93.9 mph, and his career high is 94.9 mph in 2016. There's more. Ray has dialed it up all the way to 98.4 mph -- he's only thrown four pitches that hard in his career, and all were back in '16 -- and he's collected three strikeouts on pitches that were 97 mph or faster. Such a velocity spike would make Ray a pitcher to watch in Toronto, assuming he can get past the fluky bruised elbow he got from slipping on the stairs this week and be ready for the Blue Jays' Opening Series as expected.

Tejay Antone, RHP, Reds
ST stats: 7 2/3 IP, 1.17 ERA, 13 K, 15.3 K/9

You might not know that much about Antone, but he was really good as a 26-year-old rookie in 2020 (2.80 ERA, 45 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings in a swingman-type role for the Reds) -- and he looks a lot more like a late bloomer than a fluke. Antone's strikeout numbers this spring are just as dominant as they were last season, and they're backed up by his stuff. Antone has top-tier velocity and spin. His fastball in Spring Training is sitting at over 96 mph and 2,700 rpm (last year, he averaged 95.6 mph and 2,625 rpm), and his breaking balls are averaging more than 3,000 rpm (last year, he was just under that). He's dealing with some nagging hip and groin issues right now, but they seem minor and the hope is Antone will be ready for Opening Day, in which case he'll be set up to take on a key role in the Reds' pitching staff.

Ian Anderson, RHP, Braves
ST stats: 9 2/3 IP, 4.66 ERA, 18 K, 3 BB, 16.8 K/9, 6.0 K:BB

Anderson was one of the young pitchers who stepped up in Mike Soroka's absence and helped carry the Braves to the 2020 NL Championship Series. The 22-year-old, who had a 1.95 ERA down the stretch and a 0.96 ERA in the postseason, looks just as nasty this spring, and that just makes us even more excited to watch Anderson over a full season.

The Braves' top pitching prospect and Pipeline's No. 18 prospect in baseball is striking out nearly two batters an inning in Spring Training, and he's struck out six for every one he's walked. His fastball/changeup combo is filthy. There's so much to like.

Codi Heuer, Garrett Crochet, Evan Marshall, Aaron Bummer and Michael Kopech, RH/LH RP, White Sox
Heuer ST stats: 8 IP, 0.00 ERA, 13 K, 0.50 WHIP
Crochet ST stats: 7 IP, 2.57 ERA, 7 K, 1.14 WHIP
Marshall ST stats: 6 IP, 1.50 ERA, 12 K, 0.50 WHIP
Bummer ST stats: 5 2/3 IP, 4.76 ERA, 8 K, 0.71 WHIP
Kopech ST stats: 5 1/3 IP, 1.69 ERA, 7 K, 1.13 WHIP

Forget Liam Hendriks for a second. The White Sox might have a super-bullpen around him. The key relievers who are going to form the bridge to Hendriks, one of the best closers in baseball, all look filthy in Spring Training. Heuer, Crochet, Marshall, Bummer and Kopech have combined to strike out 47 batters in 32 innings this spring.

These Chicago relievers have overpowering fastballs that sit in the high 90s and reach triple digits. They have nasty breaking balls and offspeed stuff to pair with the heat. They come at you from the right and left side. The White Sox relief corps could be the best in baseball in 2021.