While a lot of the top names in baseball are getting their spring reps at the World Baseball Classic, a lot of the younger guys have used the opportunity to show off their tools in spring training. From Aaron Hicks to Julio Teheran, the young guns are earning their spots on the roster, not simply having them handed to them.
While you can’t use spring stats to predict the season, the one thing becoming clear is the abundance of ridiculously good starters coming into the league. On the heels of guys like Stephen Strasburg, Jeremy Hellickson, and Chris Sale we are now seeing even more young arms with Cy Young potential written all over them. From Teheran to talents like Matt Harvey, Alex Cobb, and David Phelps with plenty more on the way – I do not envy this generation of hitters.
Aaron Hicks (MIN): 13/35, .371 BA, 1.178 OPS, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 11 R, 3 2B, 1 SB
Hicks has been a top prospect since 2009 and is playing his way onto the Twins Opening Day roster and then some. Hicks is currently the league leader in RBI and second only to Paul Konerko with four homers. This is more pop than we’ve sen from the 23-year-old in the minors, last season he batted .286 with 13 HR and 61 RBI but also added 11 triples, 32 steals, and 100 runs.
Brandon Belt (SF): 15/33, .455 BA, 1.410 OPS, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R, 1 SB
Belt is finally showing off some of that power we were told about when he came up; his four home runs in 11 spring games is more than half of his seven homers through 145 regular season games last year. After driving in only 56 RBI in 2012, the Giants are definitely hoping Belt can develop beyond a doubles and triples hitter and into a 20+ home run guy. He had 23 HR and 112 RBI in the minors in 2010.
Alex Gordon (KC): 15/28, .536 BA, 1.509 OPS, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 10 R, 1 SB
Gordon batted .294 last year with a league-leading 51 doubles and he hasn’t lost his swing in the offseason. The 29-year-old Royal lifer currently has the highest batting average in the league.
Paul Konerko (CHI): 10/28, .357 BA, 1.272 OPS, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R
After seeing his home run totals dip below 30 for the first time in three years, Konerko is off to a hot start with a league-leading five homers. The 37-year-old is entering his 17th season in the league and is definitely showing that he’s still got it.
Ryan Howard (PHI): 14/42, .333 BA, 1.070 OPS, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 4 2B
Rearing to bounce back from an injury-addled season in 2012, Howard is second only to Hicks in RBI and has a handful of doubles to boot. Prior to 2012, he had put up 64 homers over the 2010-11 seasons.
Casper Wells (SEA): 7/27, .259 BA, .967 OPS, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 3 2B, 1 3B
Wells was a lock to make the Mariners roster until Seattle went shopping for Mike Morse, Raul Ibanez, and Jason Bay. Wells is definitely playing well enough to earn a backup job (a starting job, really) but has been set back this week with a sore neck that has kept him out the last couple of days.
Alex Cobb (TB): 14 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.643 WHIP, 18 SO/1 BB
In 2012, rookie Alex Cobb was the only Rays starter to post an ERA over 4.00 (his was 4.03…) and now he is trying desperately to fit in. His 18 strikeouts are tied for the league lead and he’s walked just one batter in 14 innings, not a bad way to start your sophomore season.
Julio Teheran (ATL): 14 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.571 WHIP, 18 SO/4 BB
With Brandon Beachy out until June, Teheran is preparing for his first real Major League action after putting up a 5.19 ERA in his first 26 innings. The 22-year-old leads the league in strikeouts and pitched five scoreless innings Tuesday against the Cards.
David Phelps (NYY): 14 IP, 0.64 ERA, 0.929 WHIP, 6 SO/3 BB
The Yankees have a great battle for the fifth starter job between David Phelps and Ivan Nova (who has a 1.00 ERA in 9 IP). With Phil Hughes‘ status in question, both may end up making the rotation in the early part of the season.
Phil Humber (HOU): 14 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.643 WHIP, 7 SO/4 BB
After a 9-9, 3.75 ERA, 1.18 WHIP season in 2011 (in which he also threw a no-hitter), Humber was miserable last year putting up a 6.44 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. He’s trying to get his career back on track with the Astros where he’s projected as the third or fourth starter. He is off to a phenomenal start.
Jon Lester (BOS): 14 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.714 WHIP, 10 SO/4 BB
Lester is another veteran trying to right his ship after a rough 2012 season (9-14, 4.82 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 25 HR). Thus far, he is looking a lot more like the Jon Lester we saw from 2008-2011.
Matt Harvey (NYM): 9 IP, 2.00 ERA, 0.778 WHIP, 12 SO/2 BB
Harvey was very impressive in his first Majors stint (59 IP, 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 70 SO) and is preparing to establish himself as an elite starter in 2013. He’s given up a couple of home runs in nine innings but only three hits besides those while striking 12.
The World Baseball Classic will be wrapping up in a week and plenty of guys will be eliminated and back with their teams before that. Missing from this list are guys like David Wright (.438 BA, 10 RBI in the WBC), Michael Saunders who is batting a ridiculous .727 with seven RBI for Canada, Chien-Ming Wang who has pitched 12 scoreless innings for Taiwan, and Fernando Rodney who has saved three games for the Dominican Republic without surrendering a run or a hit.