Spring Training Performances Worth Buying

Don’t pay attention to spring stats. That’s one of the mottos we live by at RotoGraphs. And while spring stats can be terribly misleading, there are some instances where knowing the stats could give you a leg up in your drafts. Having great counting stats during the spring may not equal success — just ask Jake Fox — but some stats can give you an idea about how much playing time a player will receive, or how a player is recovering from an injury. Here are three spring performances that may deserve a closer look.

Brian Matusz isn’t the worst pitcher in the world anymore.

While 19.2 innings against poor competition shouldn’t be anything to get excited about, it’s pretty impressive considering Matusz registered the worst season ever by a starter last year. Two things immediately stand out about Matusz’s solid spring. After struggling with velocity last year, Matusz’s velocity is reportedly back up to 92-93 consistently. That speed seems a bit high for Matusz, but if he can average about 90 mph on his fastball — his average was 89.9 in 2010 — he might be able to recapture the magic of his first full season in the league.

Matusz also seems to have gotten his command under control this spring. After his K/BB fell to just 1.58 last season, Matusz has posted a very solid 18-2 strikeout to walk ratio during the spring. It’s a small sample, but both instances show that Matusz isn’t the same pitcher he was last season. He’s gone from not being a factor in most leagues to a solid late-round sleeper with his strong spring. If he can return to his 2010 form, he could pay huge dividends for your team.

The Braves fifth starter might not go to one of their top prospects.

With Tim Hudson missing the first month of the season, the race to replace him is up for grabs this spring. While the most likely bet to fill that slot was probably one of the Braves top prospects, a possible sleeper has emerged.

Julio Teheran 13 10 6 9.00 3.85
Randall Delgado 17 18 10 7.94 4.70
Kris Medlen 8 7 1 1.13 3.72

It’s silly to look at these performances and try to project how these players will do once the regular season begins, but that’s Fredi Gonzalez’s job. Neither Delgado or Teheran have really separated themselves this spring, potentially leaving the door open for Kris Medlen. Medlen actually put up some promising numbers earlier in his career before Tommy John surgery erased most of last season. Medlen still hasn’t pitched all that much this spring, and will have to continue to do well to be considered for the role. As of right now, Delgado seems to have the inside track on the job, but he’s projected to have the worst FIP of the three. Each player is decent enough to have some value at the end of your draft, so their performances bear watching. If Medlen continues to pitch well, he could be in for a surprising season.

Buster Posey looks healthy.

Posey didn’t start playing games until March 9th — and was slowly eased back into his role — but he’s been playing pretty consistently recently. Since March 14th, Posey has received a pretty normal catcher’s workload. Sure, he hasn’t played many full games yet, but few catchers do during the spring. It was also very promising to see Posey handle his first play at the plate since his gruesome injury. The Giants have also used Posey at first base this spring in order to give him some more at-bats. Due to injury concerns, Posey’s ADP remains fairly low (77 in Yahoo leagues). If he’s fully healthy, Posey has a pretty good shot at being the most valuable catcher this season. Based on his workload this spring, it looks like his ankle injury could be behind him. If the Giants continue to play Posey at first this season, he could be in line for more plate appearances than the average catcher. Sounds like a recipe for a fantastic bounce back season.

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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

13 Responses to “Spring Training Performances Worth Buying”

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  1. hartmtown says:

    Is Matusz worth picking up in an AL league over guys like Paulino, Milone, Noesi, or Iwakuma?

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    • baldacci says:

      I don’t play in an AL only league, but middling guys are never going to get you anywhere. You take a chance on Matusz over those other boneheads everytime. If he falters, then you move to a mediocre low upside guy if you want. It seems like a no-brainer to me. Matusz is picked up in my mixed league; those other guys won’t sniff a roster.

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      • DominicanRepublican says:

        AL only leagues are completely different, it’s much harder to stream guys or find replacement pitchers in free agency. I would probably lean towards Matusz in an AL-only but I don’t think it’s a no-brainer at all, especially because Tommy Milone looks like he’ll be useful in deeper leagues.

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    • rotofan says:

      I’m in an A.L. only league, had Matusz on my roster for 3 years (picked him up after he was drafted by the Orioles), has Noesi and Paulino on my roster at the end of last season and have Miolne on my list of low-priced options at the auction.

      All that said, I would rank Matusz first among the group because of both his pedigree and the fact that when healthy and throwing at his full velocity, he was exceptionally successful the last two months of 2010 against tough A.L. east competition. Pauline has an upside but has never shown it for more than a game or two at a time and Noesi has an upside too but has yet to establish himself.

      For 2012 I’d rank Milone second pitching half his games in Oakland. I think Noesi will eventually find success but has enough command issues that we probably won’t see it in 2012. Worth a flyer if you can stick him on a reserve.

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    • Dave says:

      definitely not. even assuming Matusz pitches better, he still doesn’t have the upside of Paulino this season and Milone in Oakland and Noesi in SafeCo are far less risky as well. Matusz has to face the AL East – Boston and New York – which is plenty of cause for concern given how inconsistent he will be. Iwakuma is not in the rotation though, so avoid him for now. I don’t think Matusz is a top 100 starter in 2012 – http://www.therotosaurus.com/2012-player-rankings/starting-pitcher-rankings/

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  2. Snarf says:

    Dont like Matusz – he can’t get righties out.

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  3. Steve Balboni says:

    Liriano’s command seems notable, and places him 2nd in Carson’ little springstatthingamajiggy.

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    • Jason says:

      When Madson went down, I picked up Liriano to fill the empty spot on my roster. Starting pitchers are always the easiest picks off the wire, especially before the season starts. Liriano beat himself last year. The fact that he’s not doing that this spring is more important than sample size or who he’s pitching against. I have a feeling he’ll be better than at least one or two of the guys at the end of my rotation (Gio, Scherzer and Masterson).

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  4. chris says:

    Does Matusz officially have a rotation spot yet? I hadn’t heard.

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  5. Ringo says:

    Pretty simple really, players with pedigree that have successful springs are worth keeping an eye on. I remember last season Jake Fox did great but so did Alex Gordon. I consider these guys to be on pretty opposite sides of the spectrum. There are the rare cases of in between players like Michael Morse, but he had MLB success the previous season so he was less risky than one would imagine.

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  6. Chicago Mark says:

    Excellent Chris! This is good stuff. Next time just get it BEFORE my drafts! Yesterday!
    But seriously, I like it, thanks.
    Ps. I got Liriano in both of them.

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  7. Chris says:

    Unrelated to the players listed in the article, but what are your thoughts on Adam Dunn’s spring so far? K:BB ratio of 3:11 so far with reports that he is ‘seeing the ball better’.

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  8. Randy says:

    I do play in an AL only league and just took Matusz as a $1 player at the end of my draft. He was touted, then he was terrible and now he’s showing some velocity and a decent strike out rate while not walking many. Those are all good signs. That being said, if I could have gotten Milone for a $1, I’d have probably taken him over Matusz. Milone is in a pitcher’s park.

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