Much like a particular Barry Bonds home run ball, anything from Spring Training needs to be stamped with a big ol’ asterisk. Veterans work on what they need to work on but mostly take it easy to avoid injury, minor leaguers accept offensive line numbers and try to prove their worth, and it’s simply not a solid indicator of what will happen in the regular season. That being said, there are certainly things that can and should be taken seriously, particularly as the Spring comes to a close and teams get ready to play games that actually matter. Here are 4 impressions from this year’s Spring Training:
- Ohtani might be better off in the minors for a bit
One of the biggest storylines this offseason, apart from how sloooowww it was, was the signing of Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani. With a 100-mph fastball and a Bryce Harper type of swing (and power), Ohtani was expected to come in and revolutionize the game. He’s shown good power in batting practice, but so has Seahawks quarterback and Yankees camp invitee Russell Wilson. All around, Ohtani has been awful. From the plate, for starters, he’s batting .107 with 28 official at-bats, with nine strikeouts.
On the mound, Ohtani has been all-or-nothing. In just a few starts, he has recorded nearly equal amounts of strikeouts and runs allowed. The sample size makes it simply unfair to judge him so far, but his game against the Tijuana Toros, in which he allowed six runs in three innings of work. His teammates have argued that playing in the regular season with the fans present and the adrenaline pumping results in different results, but from what they’ve seen, it’s tough to believe the Angels brass would be confident putting Ohtani on the mound every six games.
It’s been said that Nippon Professional Baseball is somewhere between AAA and MLB in terms of difficulty, perhaps Ohtani needs some time at the AAA level before being weened onto MLB-level play.
2. The Mets apparently don’t see any issues in Queens
If you’re familiar with NBC’s former comedy Parks and Recreation, you’ll recall an episode in which Ben Wyatt, recently unemployed, tries making a claymation movie. He works for several days only to realize he only has about three seconds of film done. That’s about how things are about to go down with the New York Mets. It’s very clear from the press that they’re stoked out of their minds that all five pitchers in their “Dream Rotation” are healthy. It’s tough to blame them; having Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler all ship shape and ready to go is exciting. The problem is: everything else. Their offense consists of Yoenis Cespedes and newly acquired Todd Frazier and that ‘s it. They have some great prospects in the minors and Michael Conforto on the mend, but this season is looking painful already in Queens.
Everyone’s thinking it, ship off a piece of the dream rotation and get some offense. Please.
3. Milwaukee looking as good as their offseason would advertise
After signing Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, among other moves, things were looking up in Milwaukee. The Brewers currently hold the best record in the Cactus League. This is certainly on the heels of their offense, which will continue to be the featured product in beer-and-cheese-and-obesity town. Their issue, unlike the Mets, is on the mound. Their starters have struggled already this Spring, apart from Junior Guerra, who’s posting a 3.15 ERA with a 1.55 WHIP over 20 innings. Other than that, their starting pitchers are giving up a lot of runs and relying mostly on the bullpen. It’s working right now with mostly minor leaguers on the field, but time will tell if they can sustain any sort of success in the regular season.
4. The drama stops when play starts
I consider myself a baseball fan first. I love the NBA, football is great, but the drama in the other sports is simply annoying at times. When you have gaps between games like the other leagues, drama spikes. With baseball, on the other hand, 162 games leads to a lot of superstition and fatigue, but little to no drama. Reports made the slow offseason look like the apocalypse and spoke of strikes and unrest in the Player’s Union. In the end, guys got signed, the game goes on, and the crack of the bat drowns out the desperate reporter’s attempts at a good story. Gotta love it.