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5 Things to Monitor in Spring Training (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

by Mike Kurland | @Mike_Kurland | Featured Writer
Jan 30, 2023
Daulton Varsho

Spring Training is coming up quickly, fast and in a hurry. What should we monitor in spring training? Spoiler Alert; It is NOT the stats. 

5 Things You Should Be Monitoring in Spring Training

We are going to break down some of the things you should be monitoring in spring training that could be the difference in getting a leg up on the competition in your fantasy leagues.

Lineup Spot

This gives us a slight edge. Players like Daulton Varsho were leading off last year. That carried over, and he had a huge breakout campaign as a catcher. The big reason why lineup placement matter is you want plate appearances and stats. Plate appearances are very important, and getting good players set to gain additional plate appearances via a better lineup spot matters. More plate appearances equal more opportunities to produce. Monitoring spring training lineups can also give us an idea of players who could be set to platoon, move down the order vs. certain-handed pitchers, be earning a starting spot, etc. There is so much you learn from monitoring lineups throughout a season as a whole, and it starts in spring training.

Position Being Played

Watch where a player is playing throughout spring training. This can be an indication of position eligibility a player might gain early into a season. This will help with roster construction as you can plan around the new position a player is going into the year playing. Here are some numbers to back this up.

Pitcher’s Velocity and Pitch Utilization

Keep an eye on pitchers utilizing new pitches – like Andrew Heaney and his sweeper last year – and velocity changes. Velocity can be up or down, and as pitchers ramp up, we will get a truer sense of where they are at. If velocity is down, it becomes a red flag. Velocity increases are an encouraging sign as it could be all the difference in a pitcher breaking out. The reason to ignore actual production from pitchers is that many are working on things. They could be trying new mechanics, new pitches, focusing on throwing certain pitches in a given outing and more. This leads to them getting lit up plenty and a skewed line of production is often the outcome.

What Stats Matter?

The only stats that get my attention for hitters are strikeout and walk rates; even those do not necessarily correlate. However, if a player known for swing-and-miss concerns is crushing the ball in spring but still has strikeout issues, then there is cause for concern. For instance, we saw Keston Hiura last season just mash balls in spring. The strikeout rate still hovered above the 30% mark. These players are facing Double-A and Triple-A pitching a good amount of the time. So crushing home runs as an MLB player is far less impressive and can skew their preseason outlook. So even while mashing these baseballs, Hiura could not hide the strikeout issues. We saw the issues continue into the season and the mashing of the baseball did not, for the most part. This is not a fool-proof method to spot players who will suddenly struggle (or continue their struggles) as they enter the season. But it is one of the few things you can check in on when it comes to players with known issues and see if there is some improvement here in spring.

When Do The Stats Matter?

Other than the plate discipline metrics, stats largely do not matter. I say largely because, for the majority of players, they just don’t. It is a small sample, and players are using spring training as a way to get into game shape and be ready for when the games count. The only time performance matters is if there is a positional battle. That is when you should give the numbers from spring training a look. If you are trying to find that deep league sleeper or player to have on your watch list entering the season, this is a way to help. You find players fighting for roster spots on teams, and you will most likely find names of players who are not being drafted universally. This gives you an edge as you can spot said names and be aware of them entering the year. So if or when they start producing, you are ready to pounce while the rest of the league remains behind or scrambling for information on this player that you were already well aware of.

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