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Dynasty Dandy Dozen: Ranking Notable Spring Training Performances

Akil Baddoo (Douglas P. Defelice/Getty)
Akil Baddoo (Douglas P. Defelice/Getty)

A ranking of top spring training performers, with an emphasis on players who might be freely available in many dynasty leagues.

I was so starved for a 162-game major league season or any minor league data at all to evaluate that I created advanced metrics for spring training games. The advanced metrics displayed here are weighted on-base average (wOBA), fielding-independent pitching (FIP) and runs above average (RAA) derived from wOBA and FIP. OPS+ is calculated without a ballpark adjustment. I'm not that crazy.

1. Logan Webb, RHP, Giants
6.5 RAA • 0.53 ERA • 1.45 FIP

The 24-year-old took a step forward this spring and won the No. 3 starter job in the Giants’ rotation. Webb struck out 22, walked two and allowed just seven hits and zero home runs in 17 spring innings. He is a three-pitch starter with high upside potential given that he was freely available in most leagues this spring.

2. Trevor Rogers, LHP, Marlins
5.4 RAA • 2.84 ERA • 1.88 FIP

Rogers looked the part in his big league debut last season, but his overall ERA was torpedoed by two disastrous starts in which he allowed 13 runs in seven innings. Don’t expect too many duds from the 23-year-old lefty this season. Rogers generates a high rate of swings and misses with his strong three-pitch repertoire and will be a part of the Marlins’ exciting, young rotation. This spring Rogers logged 29 strikeouts against five walks in 19 innings, while allowing 13 hits and one home run.

3. Akil Baddoo, OF, Tigers
12.4 RAA • .498 wOBA • 227 OPS+

The athletic Rule 5 draft pick from the Twins is shaping up to be an astute selection by the Tigers. Baddoo has flashed power, speed and discipline in the minors but was coming off an injury-shortened 2019 and pandemic-canceled 2020 season. The 22-year-old’s power and speed were apparent this spring—five homers with a .750 slugging percentage; four steals in six tries—but most impressive was the discipline to both take his walks (10) and not expand his zone (14 strikeouts in 21 games) even as he battled for a roster spot.

4. Jonathan India, 2B/3B, Reds
10.6 RAA • .445 wOBA • 166 OPS+

The fifth overall pick in 2018 authenticated reports this spring that he had improved his power production at the Reds’ alternate training site last year. India swung a hot bat all spring and forced his way onto the Opening Day roster with the sort of balanced batting line that he showed as a Florida junior but had not gotten to in pro ball. The 24-year-old hit .313/.441/.604 with three homers and five doubles to go with seven walks and 12 strikeouts in 22 games. India’s emergence prompted the Reds to shuffle their infield to open second base up for him. Eugenio Suarez moves to shortstop and Mike Moustakas to third base.

5. Josh Rojas, SS/2B/OF, D-backs
12.1 RAA • .418 wOBA • 151 OPS+

It’s going to be a big year for the players exchanged for Zack Greinke at the 2019 trade deadline. Rojas, J.B. Bukauskas and Corbin Martin all appear as if they will be contributors to the 2021 D-backs, with Seth Beer waiting in the wings. The 27-year-old Rojas jumped off to a fast start this spring, aided by a slightly more open hitting setup, and batted more times than any other player. Fantasy managers key in on the 23 homers and 33 steals he compiled in the minors in 2019, but look for more modest big league output from Rojas in 2021. He hit .347 with four homers and seven walks but no steals in 24 games this spring. He has five-category potential worthy of playing MI or filling your last OF spot in deep leagues.

6. Logan Allen, LHP, Indians
3.4 RAA • 0.64 ERA • 2.69 FIP

Allen sewed up a rotation spot with a strong spring performance that included 18 strikeouts, three walks and nine hits allowed in 14 innings. At a time when other young Cleveland rotation hopefuls struggled—Triston McKenzie and Cal Quantrill had bloated ERAs—Allen just kept dealing. He becomes one of the rare lefthanders to crack the club’s rotation in the past decade.

7. David Bednar, RP, Pirates
4.6 RAA • 0.00 ERA • -0.35 FIP

Bednar had some of the most impressive stuff in Florida this spring, evidenced by the fact he struck out 18, walked one and allowed just three hits in nine innings over 10 appearances. That’s how a negative FIP is possible. The 26-year-old Bednar is a prime saves stash candidate this season, based on the high quality of his stuff, the fact that the Pirates’ veteran relievers—Richard Rodriguez, Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton—are trade candidates and the fact that GM Ben Cherington acquired Bednar in the Joe Musgrove trade with the Padres.

8. Alek Manoah, RHP, Blue Jays
3.1 RAA • 0.00 ERA • 0.46 FIP

Viewed as the best righthander in a weak 2019 draft class for college pitchers, Manoah made six starts in the short-season Northwest League in his pro debut. He pitched well but didn’t leave a lasting impression. That changed this spring when the 23-year-old Manoah fired seven scoreless frames while striking out 15 and walking none. His signature moment was a seven-strikeout performance against the heart of the Yankees’ order in which he got a swinging strike three with his fastball, slider and changeup. Manoah has our attention now.

9. J.B. Bukauskas, RP, D-backs
4.1 RAA • 0.00 ERA • 0.04 FIP

Drafted 17th overall by the Astros in 2017, Bukauskas has contended with injuries and poor control as a minor league starter. But his signature slider remained effective, so the D-backs, who picked him up in the 2019 Zack Greinke trade, shifted him to the bullpen. Bukauskas’ stock has soared in relief. This spring he struck out 14 and walked none in 7.2 innings over eight appearances. In a wide-open closer situation in Arizona, the 24-year-old Bukauskas is the prospect you want to be holding.

10. Royals Trio
Nick Pratto, 1B; Kyle Isbel, OF; and Bobby Witt Jr., 2B/SS

Witt, the second overall pick in 2019, grabbed the early headlines with his bat speed and mammoth home runs. His ETA should be considered later this season. Pratto, the Royals’ first-rounder in 2017, impressed scouts with his altered hitting mechanics and success after a sour 2019 season at High-A. If he hits in the high minors, he is going to rocket up prospect rankings. But it was Isbel who actually made the Royals’ Opening Day roster with his all-around spring training game. He hit .333/.420/.548 with two homers, three doubles, two steals in two attempts and a 6/14 walk/strikeout ratio.

This trio of Royals position players, when combined with the organization’s wealth of power pitching prospects, indicates that the next Blue Wave will hit Kansas City this season. The Royals are a franchise on the rise.

11. Garrett Whitlock, RP, Red Sox
3.7 RAA • 1.00 ERA • 0.79 FIP

Other organizations love selecting Yankees pitching prospects in the Rule 5 draft, and Whitlock is no exception to the rule. He reached Double-A Trenton as a starter in 2019 but had Tommy John surgery that July. Whitlock looked fully recovered this spring, when he struck out 12 and walked none in nine innings over four appearances. His riding fastball and slider will play in a bullpen role, but the 25-year-old righthander has starter upside if his changeup comes along.

12. Josh Palacios, OF, Blue Jays
8.7 RAA • .478 wOBA • 204 OPS+

Toronto added Palacios to its 40-man roster in November, and the lefthanded hitter could one day add balance to a Blue Jays lineup chock full of righthanded hitters. That won’t be on Opening Day, but he has a chance to work himself into the mix if he builds on his strong spring showing. The 25-year-old Palacios hit .353/.421/.706 with the sort of power (two doubles, two triples, two homers), speed (one steal) and discipline (three walks, six strikeouts) that could make him a future leadoff batter.

13. Taylor Ward, OF/1B/C, Angels
8.9 RAA • .552 wOBA • 241 OPS+

Drafted as a catcher out of Fresno State, Ward moved off the position in 2018 and his bat blossomed. This spring he donned the catcher’s gear once again in an effort to make the Angels’ roster. That didn’t quite pan out, but Ward hit the snot out of the ball in spring training. Proving himself to be major league caliber at catcher could be the next step to playing time in Anaheim. The 27-year-old went 10-for-25 at the plate this spring with three homers and five walks against five strikeouts.

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Tucupita Marcano, 2B/SS/OF, Padres 

Versatility and a lefthanded bat—not to mention an injury to Trent Grisham—helped Marcano make the Padres’ Opening Day roster. The 21-year-old Venezuelan showed strong contact skills and gap power in spring training but will be pressed for playing time in San Diego, where the club is also carrying Ha-Seong Kim, Jorge Mateo and—when Grisham returns—Jurickson Profar as infielders/outfielders.

Adolis Garcia, OF, Rangers

Garcia’s BABIP-fueled spring stats could earn him passage on the Opening Day roster. As a short-side platoon outfielder, he is not fit for shallow leagues, but his power (three spring homers; .781 slugging) and speed could be useful in daily lineup leagues. The Rangers showed an overall willingness to run in spring training, with the 28-year-old Garcia helping to lead the charge with four steals in four tries.

Heliot Ramos, OF, Giants

When last we saw Ramos in a competitive setting he was a teenager getting acclimated to Double-A in 2019. In spring training this year the 2017 first-rounder served notice that he may be closer to the big leagues than we thought we knew. Ramos hit .410 with three homers in 21 games, albeit with one walk and 10 strikeouts.

Tejay Antone, RHP, Reds

From Pitching Ninja GIF all-star to legitimate candidate to crack the Reds’ Opening Day rotation this spring, Antone suffered late groin and hip injuries that sidetracked him. The 27-year-old looked sharp in three appearances, notching 13 strikeouts, three walks and six hits allowed in eight innings to go with a 1.17 ERA.

Cole Irvin, LHP, Athletics

The former Phillies prospect had one of the more unexpectedly dominating spring training performances, when he struck out 10 Dodgers in one start. Overall, the 27-year-old logged a 1.00 ERA over 18 innings while striking out 18 and walking three. Irvin will be worth watching to see if his spring gains carry over to the regular season.

Huascar Ynoa, RHP, Braves

The 22-year-old Dominican struck out 28 batters this spring, third most in baseball behind only Lucas Giolito (30) and Trevor Rogers (29). The 22-year-old Ynoa also allowed 20 hits in 17 innings while walking seven others, contributing to his bloated 7.79 ERA. But there could be something brewing here based on bat-missing ability.

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