Spring Training is a time that can make us look foolish after a few weeks of regular-season games. There is so much we just don’t know about these players, from what their attitude is in the spring to what they may be working on. Is a guy throwing a ton of sliders so that he can get a good feel for the pitch? Or is that what he is going to do in the regular season with a new approach? Is a hitter trying to work the opposite field all spring? Maybe a contact hitter is trying to hit for more power to see what his results might look like if he adjusted his launch angle. We just don’t know.
However, one thing that I do tend to look at with some confidence is the young prospects who are trying to make an impression. A 20-year-old isn’t going to try and work on a two-strike swing in the spring; they are going to go all out and try to make a name for themselves. The stats are hard to trust, but the eye-test can be effective in spring. Here are three guys that are trending up and three guys trending down as we approach the start the of 2021 regular season.
CJ Abrams, SS/CF – Abrams has made a few loud statements this spring showing off some impressive power, including a grand slam. He has also managed to swipe three bags to fully complement the immense talent the 20-year-old has. The sky’s the limit for the speedster, as there are few prospects in all of the minors that have the type of potential that Abrams possesses and while I was already very high on him going into the spring, I am now supremely confident that he is going to make a major impact and soon. Most publications still have him as a 2022 ETA, but I believe he may contribute as soon as this season. Whenever he debuts, Abrams has shown that he has power and will be a fantasy asset for years.
To Padres fans, saying Abrams is pretty good isn’t a surprise. We all knew he was good. I think this spring shows just how good he is now and the ceiling is even higher than expected. He is a top 5 prospect in baseball right now, and he is going to make a huge impact very soon.
CJ Abrams, welcome to Slam Diego! pic.twitter.com/s9hWKEbpv2
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 15, 2021
Tucupita Marcano, 2B – I have been wondering about his power forever, but Marcano reminded us that power isn’t necessarily the only thing that can make an impact in fantasy. Over 42 at-bats, the 21-year-old hit a robust .405/.479/.619 and stole a base as well. He did manage to hit one home run as well, but the power is still a concern to be sure. With that being said, this hit tool is starting to get really good and he is still quite young. Spring training stats don’t tell the whole story, but it’s hard to accidentally hit as well as he has this year and I’m cautiously optimistic that there is a higher ceiling now than there was 2 years ago. The floor is still solid as well, and I think Marcano will have a steep rise if he keeps this up over the regular season. UPDATE: Marcano actually made the opening day roster, although I don’t believe his playing time will be much. I also believe that he will be back in the minors soon after some players return from injury, but nevertheless, this is quite an accomplishment and further cements Marcano as a top 5 prospect in the system.
Joshua Mears, OF – Mears is a very complex case. His spring was unremarkable when you look at his stats, but there were some positives. He hit a ball 117 MPH. There are a handful of humans that can do that. Mears is now one of them. Still, that was literally his only hit of the spring and there is a lot of work still to do. But the guy looks jacked, his swing is violent and he can murder a baseball. Like I said on the podcast, I don’t panic when young guys (he is 20 years old) don’t put up stats in spring training so the arrow is actually moving up for the linebacker. I just feel bad for the pitchers in A ball that have to try and pitch to this guy.
Make sure the sound is ON, for the full effect:
Joshua Mears 117.3 mph home run szn pic.twitter.com/DAWDmqkRTz
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) March 10, 2021
MacKenzie Gore, LHP – To be clear, Gore is still an elite prospect. I’m just wondering why it seems so difficult for him to breakthrough. In a world where such bets exist, I would have a hard time picking between Gore and Ryan Weathers for most starts on the season. It’s not like the results were disastrous either, as a 4.91 ERA and 10 strikeouts over 11 innings are certainly fine for spring. But he also walked 8 batters and just didn’t look comfortable. To be fair, this is a guy that didn’t seem to have many faults when he was coming up and now that he has a few (control, command) they are accentuated a bit more than others. Still, Gore’s stuff is fine and his curve looks as good as ever. I’m just a little more comfortable slotting him as a No. 2 starter than a true ace at this moment in time. Of course, I reserve the right to immediately switch back as soon as the command rights itself, but for now, that’s where I’m at.
Ha-Seong Kim, 2b – If Kim were an established big leaguer, I wouldn’t care about his spring stats, but of course this is not the case. I really wanted to see Kim have a productive debut, but he has hit .167 over 42 at-bats with zero homers and no steals. Meanwhile, Jake Cronenworth, who has already proved a lot at the big league level, had a nice showing and is playing all over the field. Kim was even put in the outfield for a few innings. One thing is for certain; the Padres will not be patient with anybody this year. If Kim struggles early, Cronenworth will take over and that would be quite a turn of events for a guy many people drafted with a first-round pick in FYPD. Kim still has the tools that make him intriguing for fantasy, but he has to start showing them soon, or else he might be stuck in a utility role.
This doesn’t really prove anything, but is good for a laugh:
Trevor Bauer struck out Ha-seong Kim with a slider up and away. With his right eye closed. pic.twitter.com/5M2T5mzCOm
— hashim (@___hash___) March 6, 2021
Jorge Oña, OF – When doing my update for the Top 50 list, one of the positives about Oña was that he was nearly big league-ready. However, he had a putrid spring, hitting .105 and striking out 11 times in 19 at-bats. That is not good. Sure, players are working on stuff and everything, but striking out that much is a bit alarming. He was a swing guy too, where if he would have had a killer spring I would have been ready to have him be the first man up in the summer if needed. Now, I am much less bullish and hope he can turn things around in the minors. It’s amazing how much age can influence you, as Mears had just as bad of a spring, but I still came away impressed. Not so with Oña, but there is still some potential here if he bounces back in the regular season.