13 Spring Training stats that matter

April 3rd, 2022

It's hard to tell which Spring Training stats to pay attention to. Every year, some players break out with huge springs -- but it doesn't translate to the regular season. And every year, others struggle in the spring -- only to play like stars once the games count.

Let's try to figure out which players' spring stats are for real in 2022.

With Opening Day less than a week away, here are 13 Spring Training stat lines that matter. (All stats are through Friday.)

Bobby Witt Jr., SS/3B, Royals
.407 BA (11-for-27), .741 SLG, 2 HR, 3 2B

Baseball's No. 1 overall prospect keeps playing like it wherever he goes. Witt raked in Spring Training last year, he raked at Double-A and Triple-A during the season (33 homers, .936 OPS), and he's raking in Spring Training again this year. Witt's swing is dangerous. He's only 21, but just get him to the big leagues already. The Royals have cleared a path for him at third base, and he'll be a must-watch.

MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres
9 IP, 2.00 ERA, 4 H, 1 BB, 11 K

Gore has turned heads in Spring Training, and the 2017 No. 3 overall Draft pick looks ready to make his long-awaited MLB debut. Gore has racked up 11 strikeouts with only one walk in his nine innings this spring, and the 23-year-old's stuff just looks great. That's a good sign after Gore struggled in the Minors at times in 2021.

Francisco Lindor, SS, Mets
.400 BA (10-for-25), .960 SLG, 4 HR, 7 barrels, 12 hard-hit balls

The Mets are looking for Lindor to return to the type of hitter he was with Cleveland as he starts his second season in New York, and the spring results are what they want to see. Lindor is raking, and his excellent stat line is backed up by his quality of contact. Lindor leads all hitters with seven barrels -- that's the type of contact most likely to be a home run, or an extra-base hit -- and he has 12 hard-hit balls (95-plus mph exit velocity). If he squares the ball up like that during the regular season, he'll be one of the top hitting shortstops again.

Justin Verlander, RHP, Astros
8 2/3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 5 H, 3 BB, 10 K

Coming back from Tommy John surgery at age 39 can't be easy, but Verlander has looked really, really good this spring. The Astros' veteran ace not only has a spotless ERA and a 10.4 K/9, but his fastball looks like it still has plenty of life -- Verlander's tracked four-seamers have averaged 94.8 mph, which is right in line with the 94.6 mph he averaged in his last full season in 2019.

Byron Buxton, CF, Twins
.407 BA (11-for-27), .963 SLG, 4 HR, 3 2B

It's good to see Buxton picking up where he left off at the end of 2021. The year that he stays healthy might be the year that he's an MVP candidate. Buxton has only played 100 total games over the last two seasons, but in those 100 games, he has 32 home runs, 11 stolen bases and a .948 OPS, to go along with his stellar defense in center field.

Jordan Hicks, RHP, Cardinals
2 1/3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 101.9 mph max velocity

After a rocky return from Tommy John surgery in 2021, which ended after just 10 games as he reinjured his elbow, Hicks is reminding us of the kind of reliever he can be for St. Louis. And hopefully he's learning how to harness his stuff to avoid more arm troubles. The 25-year-old's sinker looks as nasty as it did before Hicks got hurt. It's unfair when "taking something off" means throwing 102 mph instead of 105 mph.

Bryson Stott, SS/3B, Phillies
.522 BA (12-for-23), .739 SLG, 1 HR, 2 2B, 5 BB, 4 K

The Phillies' top prospect is playing so well that he has a chance to win the Opening Day third-base job from Alec Bohm. Stott is hitting everything, he's walking more than he's striking out, and he has solid underlying metrics. In his tracked games, the 24-year-old lefty has a 95 mph average exit velocity, 57.1% hard-hit rate and 63.2% line drive/fly ball rate. He's got a nice-looking swing, too.

Jhoan Duran, RHP, Twins
6 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 1 BB, 8 K, 100.7 mph max velocity

The Twins' No. 6 prospect looks like he's pitching his way onto the big league roster. The 24-year-old is racking up strikeouts with a triple-digit fastball, wipeout breaking ball and, of course, his upper-90s "splinker" (the velocity of a sinker with the drop of a splitter).

Oneil Cruz, SS, Pirates
2 HR, 113.4 mph max exit velocity

Cruz only played two games for the Pirates at the very end of last season, but a pair of swings in those games is all it took for him to showcase his slugging potential -- especially the 118.2 mph line-drive base hit in his MLB debut. He's shown his elite exit velocity this spring, too, twice reaching 113.4 mph and crushing two home runs. Cruz is starting the season in the Minors, but Pittsburgh's No. 3 prospect could be a Rookie of the Year candidate once he's called up.

Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers
8 2/3 IP, 2.08 ERA, 13 K, 75% slider whiff rate

Skubal has been nasty at times in the big leagues, but he hasn't gotten the results to match (4.57 ERA in two seasons). This could be the year. The 25-year-old lefty has been striking out everybody in Spring Training -- including Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Gallo, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Matt Chapman. His slider looks especially sharp.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Cardinals
.526 BA (10-for-19), 1.053 SLG, 3 HR

Goldschmidt will be expected to anchor the Cardinals' lineup again in 2022, and he looks like he's about to replicate the success of his 31-homer 2021 campaign. Goldschmidt's Spring Training stat line is supported by a 100.7 mph average exit velocity and 90% hard-hit rate in his Statcast-tracked games. Three-quarters of his contact has been line drives or fly balls, and when you're hitting the ball both hard and in the air, that means home runs and slugging.

D.L. Hall, LHP, Orioles
99.1 mph avg. fastball velocity, 100.0 mph max velo

Hall is going to stretch out in the Minors to start the season, but whenever the Orioles are ready to call up their No. 5 prospect, Hall looks like he'll be nasty. The 23-year-old lefty leads all pitchers in average fastball velocity this spring, and he overmatched hitters in his outing on March 28. That's encouraging after he missed most of last season with an elbow injury.

Cody Bellinger, CF, Dodgers
.148 BA (4-for-27), 0 HR, 1 BB, 17 K

Bellinger says he's "getting his punchies out of the way early," but the strikeouts are worrying. Especially as he tinkers with his swing mechanics. Bellinger has struck out in close to two-thirds of his Spring Training at-bats, including 14 of his first 19. And this is coming off a 2021 season in which Bellinger was statistically one of the worst hitters in baseball (.165 batting average, 45 OPS+). Bellinger was great in the playoffs, but which Belli are the Dodgers going to get in 2022? The one who was an MVP hitter just a few years ago, or the one struggling to put the bat on the ball?