There isn’t much to be decided right now other than the 4th and 5th starter spots, who plays left field for a few weeks, some bench spots, and ultimately, how shortstop plays out in the mid- to long-term. So of the players that don’t have a solidified spot either on the roster or potentially on the diamond, how are they doing?
Dansby Swanson hasn’t quite yet Silenced His Critics(TM) this spring. He’s getting a lot of playing time, 6th on the team in PAs, but he’s got 5-27 with a .185 BA. But, two of those five hits were home runs, so his short sample OPS is actually higher than last year (faint praise, I know) at .698. He might be working on elevating the baseball to add some power to his game, so we’ll see how it plays out against more advanced competition.
Johan Camargo and Rio Ruiz, so far, have not yet made a strong claim to the third base position. Ruiz is hitting .184/.205/.316 while getting the most ABs of anyone, which tells me they are giving him a legitimate shot at either a third base share or a bench spot. Camargo is a little better at .240/.286/.440 with the eighth-most ABs on the team. These two guys need to be pounding the inferior competition, and they’re just not doing that yet.
Left field is going to be open for a few weeks before Ronald Acuna Jr. is ready to take over. At the beginning of the spring, it would have seemed that Lane Adams and Preston Tucker would be battling for bench spots at the very least, and claim to at least a portion of a platoon during that period. Lane had 118 strong ABs last year for the Braves, but being a 27-year old journeyman, there was reason to wonder if he was a beneficiary of some small sample size luck. He has the 4th most ABs this spring, but he’s produced a .167/.167/.233 line that could at some point put his status in jeopardy. Tucker has gotten his share of ABs, and he’s hit .308/.400/.423 so far. So if things continue on the way they are, Tucker could have an upper hand.
Another candidate for left field is prospect Dustin Peterson. Peterson had a forgettable 2017 as he never quite got the power back from a broken hamate bone. Remember that Freddie Freeman suffered a broken hamate bone last year, and when he returned, he said it was like “swinging a wet newspaper” in terms of what it did to his power. In what is an extreme small sample size alert, Peterson has run into a couple pitches for home runs, encouraging some fans think that his power is back. As a result, his .316/.350/.684 line in 19 ABs is, at the very least, interesting. He was our Minor League Hitter of the Year after holding his own as a 21-year old at AA, and then he had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League that year. With a justifiable reason for his struggles last year, and the corresponding evidence that maybe he’s fully healed, it’s possible he gets a longer look this spring. His approach looks much better too. He’s got lower hands, a shorter swing, and he’s got less movement and a more fluid swing than in the past. I think it’s unwise to over-inflate two spring home runs, but if he keeps doing it, you’d have to notice.
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