What happens in the Grapefruit League stays in the Grapefruit League
Every season, a surprise spring performance prompts the fan base to push for a player to crack the starting nine on Opening Day, and every season our same fan base wields hammers and nails, ready to crucify a player at the first sign of struggling. Whether it be a veteran on a major league minimum deal, a mid to top level prospect, or a high priced free agent, we show no mercy for those who fail to replicate their Spring Training stat lines in the regular season. Let’s take a look at four players and their spring performances compared to what they do when the 162 finally begin.
2017: Steve Selsky crushed it, being amongst the top contributors with four homers and twelve driven in. He was awarded a spot on the roster at the break of camp, only to record one base hit and produce zero runs driven in through April before his bat was optioned to AAA. The Sox brought him back as a depth option this February, but no one is counting on Selsky to bear any fruit.
Kyle Kendrick led all pitchers in wins, ERA, K’s, WHIP, you name it. The end result? Two spot starts with the big club and an ERA just below 13, rendering the veteran unemployed as 2018 starts to take shape.
2016: Joe Kelly was the Kendrick of ’16; he led all starters in every major statistic, only to be yanked from the rotation and end the year with just 40 innings pitched and an ERA over five. Two years later and now a reliever, Kelly is still looking to lock down the 8th inning spot after a shaky second half last season.
Last but not least, we have Sam Travis. With 13 RBI and an OPS of 1.1+, the young first baseman spent the entirety of 2016 in Pawtucket where he only logged 190 plate appearances. When the Sox were thin at the position the following campaign, Travis failed to impress; his one RBI over 33 games last year came in a blowout victory at Kauffman Stadium, and the conversation of Sam’s lack of power surrounded him in his 2017 stint.
Back end of Sox rotation already in shuffle mode
With Pomeranz getting a head start on his annual early season injury, the Sox will once again begin the season without a healthy rotation. According to Alex Cora, Boston’s going to slot Pork, Velazquez in and Johnson as the 3-4-5 behind Sale and the 30 million dollar man. Hopefully, the decision to hold Pom out at least for the time being is cautionary, although not many of us are expected the pending free agent to tie for the club lead in wins again.
The Swihart Conundrum
Blake Swihart is really impressing thus far, but I’d be quite the hypocrite if I got too caught up his spring training numbers. That said, he’s putting the pressure on both the front office and the manager. With Cora announcing Swi will man the hot corner on Sunday against Pittsburgh, we know three things:
- He’s finally healthy
- His stock is growing
- He’s being showcased
There is absolutely no chance the Sox try to force the option-less Blake through waivers, as he’d then be exposed the Major’s other 29 teams. But with a logjam of infielders and super utility guys, who fits where? Is a trade brooding behind the scenes to acquire more pitching for the young Texan, or will Dombrowski show the sensible side of himself that we’re becoming somewhat familiar with, as he’s refused to part ways with a young player since giving up Shaun Anderson and Gregory Santos at last season’s trade deadline?
The historians aren’t going to like this: Minor League Baseball announced today that in an effort to speed up the sport, extra innings will begin with a runner at second base. So hypothetically, albeit the longest of long shots, a run can now be scored in a perfect game performance. Every player will say the right thing, that “numbers don’t matter,” and “they just want to win,” but how are relievers going to feel about their stat lines being skewed because of a lazy effort to make the game go quicker? And now the home team will be playing catch up more often that not, as getting a runner home from second with zero outs is as easy as a pair of grounders to the right side, a couple fly balls, a steal and advance on a wild pitch, or any number of baseball plays that don’t exactly excite the masses. Let’s hope this move isnt on Major League Baseball’s to do list.