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Some Spring Training Stats That Matter and Also Some That Don’t

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Photo credit:@BlueJays
Paul Berthelot
10 months ago
With Spring Training coming to a close it’s time to take a look at what happened in these games and if there is anything meaningful that comes from them and what they might mean for the upcoming season.
A good rule of thumb is Spring stats don’t matter. It’s a month of games and players can get hot, especially when the competition isn’t always Major League calibre. What you want to see are a player’s skills and if those skills have changed. If a player comes into camp throwing harder as we saw with Jordan Romano in 2021, or hitting the ball harder as we saw with Santiago Espinal last year it could be the precursor to a big season.
Note Spring Stats as of March 26th and courtesy of Baseball Savant, unless otherwise specified. 
With that in mind, there is nothing to be taken from Bichette’s .314/.352/.529 Spring line. Baseball-Reference has an Opponent Quality metric to determine as the name says, the quality of the opposing batter or pitcher faced by a player. Bichette is at 7.3 meaning he has faced pitchers on a talent level roughly somewhere between AA and AAA. Bichette should be crushing this type of pitcher.
What is interesting about Bichette is he is hitting the ball hard as he normally does (92.7mph exit velocity), but he is hitting it almost exclusively on the ground. Last season Bichette had a launch angle of 8.5°, while in Spring Training it’s at 0.1°. Hopefully, this is just Bichette trying something and he will get back to spraying line drives once the season begins.
Launch angle may not be as skill-based as exit velocity but looking at launch angle in the Spring can give you an idea as to what hitters are trying to do with their at-bats. It might not mean anything but I think it’s noteworthy that Cavan Biggio has a launch angle of 9.8°. Far lower than the 19.6° he was at last season. This seems like Biggio trying to take advantage of the shift reductions and put more balls through the right side of the infield. Biggio for the entirety of his big league (and minor league career) has been an extreme flyball hitter. We will see if this ground ball approach continues into the season and what it might do to his overall offensive profile.
On the opposite end, we have two players who look like they want to launch flyballs and perhaps take advantage of the new dimensions at Rogers Centre: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Dalton Varsho. Varsho’s launch angle is at 26.2° degrees this spring significantly higher than the 14.9° degrees he was at last season. Vlad is up to 13.7° degrees, which might not seem like much, but is up close to 10° from last season.
We saw what Vlad could do in 2021 when he raises the ball just a little bit, if he’s hitting the ball in the air even more than that? We could see a whole new level from Vlad Jr. As for Varsho coming off a 27-homer season in Arizona, could we see him hit 35 or maybe 40 with a new flyball-oriented approach?
On the pitching side of things velocity at this stage doesn’t matter a whole lot. It’s one of those things where if it’s improved, great! If not, the pitcher gets the benefit of the doubt that they are building up for a long season and don’t want to max out in March.
Chris Bassitt has talked about this a few times with his velocity being down 2-3mph from last season. His velo is down from where it was during the season but it is exactly in line with his Spring velocity from last year. He will be fine.
The same goes for Anthony Bass, Adam Cimber, Alek Manoah, Tim Mayza or any other veterans with lowered Spring velocity. These are veteran players who know how to prepare themselves for a long season.
Where velocity does start to matter is with those fringe arms and players on the bubble. Trent Thornton is down close to 2mph on all his pitches, which is concerning for someone who was in a battle for that final bullpen spot. You want to see someone like that performing and that ultimately might have been why he was the one sent down. As for Zach Pop who looks to have earned that final spot, his velocity on his sinker is at 95.8mph, only slightly down from the 96.5mph he was at last season. He’s hit 97 a couple of times and once the season starts, we should see him back up and hitting 98-99 again.
The big name that has stood out to me has been Yimi García, who is averaging 95.2 mph on his four-seam fastball. That is slightly harder than the 94.9mph he was at in 2022. He’s also hit 98 on the radar gun four times this month, once with the Blue Jays and another three times at the WBC, something he was only able to do twice last season.
García had a pretty solid year out of the pen, however, his velocity was lower and his strikeout rate was down from where it was in 2021. If he can get back to throwing 96mph as he was in 2021, and he gets some more strikeouts, he could be a very good piece at the backend of this bullpen.

Other Notes…

  • Rainer Nunez hit a ball 114.0mph, something only 42 big league hitters managed to do last season. Nunez isn’t a prospect right now, but coming off a strong Dominican Winter League and a good Spring, he could be in a good season.
  • Otto López has an average exit velocity of 90.9mph. He’s also hit a ball 103.8mph, harder than anything he has hit in his limited big-league sample. He’s been having a very strong Spring as he should (Opponent Quality 7.1), and also played very well for Canada at the WBC. He very well may have played himself onto the Opening Day roster.
  • Yusei Kikuchi and his new pitch mix. Kikuchi has had a good spring but more importantly, he has changed his pitch mix. He’s abandoned his cutter which was his worst pitch, and is now throwing a curveball something he hasn’t thrown since 2019. He’s been getting plenty of strikeouts in Spring and we will see if this new pitch mix can continue to get outs as the season begins.

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