Don't discount these Spring Training stats

March 14th, 2021

With Statcast tracking technology expanding to a new group of Spring Training ballparks this year -- adding many of the Florida stadiums to Salt River Fields in Arizona -- plus many teams doing their own hit and pitch tracking, we have a whole new trove of data to pore over before the real 2021 action starts.

Yes, Spring Training numbers don't count, but we can still get excited over what the biggest stars and biggest prospects are showcasing.

Here are some of the players with Statcast data or team tracking data that's caught our eye so far in the early goings of Spring Training.

Josh Mears, Padres
Key Statcast: 117.3 mph HR

Mears came out of nowhere and ripped a 117.3 mph home run against the Rockies this week. That's not just a rocket -- it would be one of the hardest home runs hit since Statcast started tracking in 2015. Only nine different MLB players have hit home runs 117.3 mph or harder: Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Pete Alonso, Joey Gallo, Gary Sánchez, Aristides Aquino, Rowdy Tellez, Carlos González and Hanley Ramirez.

Mears was ranked the Padres' No. 10 prospect in 2020, and the 20-year-old outfielder's power is what gives him high upside, but we still didn't know he could do that. That exit velocity is a real rare skill. Most big leaguers can't hit a ball that hard over the fence.

Shane Baz and Shane McClanahan, Rays
Key Statcast: 99.8 mph strikeout (Baz), 101 mph velo (McClanahan)

The Rays' stable of arms is only adding more fireballers. Patino (MLB's No. 19 prospect), McClanahan (No. 84) and Baz (No. 90) are all bringing heat in Spring Training. McClanahan, the 23-year-old lefty who debuted with big velocity but mixed results in the 2020 postseason, is hitting 101 mph and striking everyone out.

Baz, the 21-year-old righty who arrived as the player to be named in the Chris Archer trade, is pushing triple digits himself with a high spin rate that's helping him get a lot of fastball whiffs -- including a 99.8 mph, 2,471 rpm strikeout.

And that doesn't even touch on Luis Patiño, 21 years old and the team's top pitching prospect, who hasn't even unleashed his full high-90s velo yet but is still sitting at 95 mph with close to 2,500 rpm spin rate that makes his fastball even more explosive.

Bobby Witt Jr., Royals
Key Statcast: 484-foot HR

The Royals' young shortstop, ranked baseball's No. 7 overall prospect, has been lighting it up at Spring Training. But Witt's most eye-opening moment so far is a monster shot he crushed against the A's at Surprise Stadium -- 484 feet, as tracked by the team. Only two players hit such a home run all of last season, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Luis Robert, and only 20 players have hit a home run that far in the entirety of Statcast tracking. The Royals could have a future superstar on their hands.

Shohei Ohtani, Angels
Key Statcast: 468-foot HR hitting, 100 mph velocity pitching

There were huge questions about Ohtani's future as a two-way star coming off a down season as a hitter and a lost season due to arm injury as a pitcher. He's already gone a long way toward answering those questions. Ohtani has already crushed a home run tracked by the Angels at 468 feet, which would be nearly 20 feet longer than any homer he's hit in an MLB game.

And he's already sitting 96-99 mph on the mound and touching 100 mph. Not to mention his nasty splitter is back, as he showed in his highly anticipated first spring outing, when he had five strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings -- two on four-seamers, three on the split -- against the A's top hitters like Mark Canha, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman.

Cade Cavalli, Nationals
Key Statcast: Strikeout with 89 mph changeup / 98 mph fastball combo

The Nationals' top prospect and No. 99 in MLB came out firing, averaging 97.1 mph on his fastball in his first tracked Grapefruit League outing against the Mets. The big right-hander, Washington's first-round Draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2020, has power stuff across the board -- he also sat at 89.2 mph with his changeup. In one especially overpowering strikeout, Cavalli got three straight swings-and-misses by going 89.3 mph changeup, 89.5 mph changeup, 98.3 mph fastball. That'll play in the Majors.

Sam McWilliams, Mets
Key Statcast: 95.6 mph avg. 4-seam velo / 2,497 rpm avg. 4-seam spin

McWilliams' nasty stuff got him a Major League contract from the Mets this offseason even though he's never actually pitched in the big leagues. The 25-year-old right-hander quickly showed why in Spring Training, flashing a high-velocity, high-spin fastball and power slider. McWilliams is averaging 95.6 mph and 2,497 rpm on his four-seamer in tracked spring outings, and he's dialed it up to over 97. That fastball should play well if he elevates it, and in tandem with that high-80s vertical-breaking slider.

José Devers, Monte Harrison and Jazz Chisholm, Marlins
Key Statcast: 29 ft/sec sprint speed

The Marlins can really run. The young trio of Chisholm, Devers and Harrison in particular have showcased their speed during camp. The 23-year-old middle infielder Chisholm has recorded multiple sprint speeds of 29 feet per second or faster in Grapefruit League games, and has reached a borderline-elite 29.8 ft/sec. MLB average sprint speed, by comparison, is just 27 ft/sec; 30+ ft/sec is elite speed. The 25-year-old outfielder Harrison, who's also been ripping the ball, has routinely been over 28 ft/sec and maxed out at 29.1 ft/sec; he also reached 28.9 ft/sec on a stolen base off strong-armed Astros catching prospect Korey Lee. And the 21-year-old infielder Devers (Rafael's cousin) turned it up to 29.0 ft/sec on a standup triple against Houston. All three players ranked among the team's top 15 prospects in 2020 (Chisholm No. 4, Harrison No. 10, Devers No. 13).

Chris Gittens, Yankees
Key Statcast: 114.3 mph, 440-foot HR

The first monster homer of the spring was Gittens' 114.3 mph, 440-foot grand slam against the Tigers back on March 1. The 27-year-old first baseman, who comes in at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, is known for his big raw power. That's why they call the 2019 Eastern League MVP (23 homers for Double-A Trenton) Hard Hittin' Chris Gittens.

Josh Green, D-backs
Key Statcast: 2,866 rpm avg. curveball spin rate

Green, ranked the D-backs' No. 18 prospect in 2020, has thrown nine curveballs tracked by Statcast this spring. Six of those nine produced either a called or swinging strike, and none were put in play. The 25-year-old's breaker looks sharp, and the spin rate could be the reason why. Green is averaging 2,866 rpm (MLB average curveball spin was 2,533 rpm last season), and he exceeded the elite 3,000 rpm mark once (a 3,022 rpm called strike).

Albert Abreu, Yankees
Key Statcast: 100.4 mph max velo / 99.9 mph swinging strike

Abreu, the Yankees' No. 18 prospect, can be erratic, but he has electric stuff. Check out what he's doing in Spring Training. After topping out at 98.4 mph in his brief big league debut last year, the 25-year-old right-hander has already reached 100.4 mph this spring -- two full mph faster than his top velo from 2020 -- and recorded a swing-and-miss at 99.9 mph and a strikeout at 98.6 mph. Abreu's average fastball velocity this spring is the same 98.4 mph as his maximum velocity from 2020, and two mph faster than his average fastball velocity last season (96.4 mph).

Bobby Dalbec, Red Sox
Key Statcast: 108.7 mph opposite-field HR

Dalbec has big-time power … and big-time strikeouts. But if he has enough of the first thing, Red Sox fans will be able to put up with the second. That's why it's a nice sight to see him belting home runs in Spring Training. Dalbec has four already, including tracked exit velocities of 103.3 mph, 106.7 mph and 108.7 mph (plus a grand slam at a non-tracking park). Those three tracked home runs were all to the opposite field, too, perhaps a sign of an evolving approach.

The 25-year-old corner infielder, ranked MLB's No. 93 prospect, is strong enough to become an elite power hitter if he makes a few key adjustments at the plate.

Mitch Keller, Pirates
Key Statcast: 98.2 mph max velo

Keller had great stuff but terrible luck as a rookie in 2019 (2.76 expected ERA, 7.13 actual ERA), then magicked his way out of huge command issues in 2020 (2.91 actual ERA, 6.17 expected ERA), while also pitching through diminished velocity early in the season before it crept back up in September. The 24-year-old has ace-type potential if he ever figures out how to sharpen up his stuff -- and in Spring Training, it's pretty sharp. Keller is averaging 95.7 mph on his fastball, even higher than his 95.4 mph mark from 2019, and he's maxed out at 98.2 -- faster than all but one pitch he's thrown in the Majors. Good signs from the Pirates righty.

Fernando Tatis Jr., Pete Alonso, Giancarlo Stanton, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Jacob deGrom
Key Statcast: 110+ mph exit velocity, 100+ mph pitch velocity

You always want to see the game's brightest stars shining. And they are. Here are just a few of the Spring Training highlights we've seen from them so far.

• Tatis Jr. crushed a 113.6 mph grand slam for the Padres

• Alonso belted a 112.6 mph grand slam for the Mets
• Stanton ripped a 115.1 mph home run for the Yankees

• Vlad Jr. hit a 111.2 mph home run and 111.4 mph single in one same game for the Blue Jays
• deGrom is already throwing 102 mph

There'll be plenty more where that came from when the regular season starts, and we can't wait.