Friday, March 15, 2013

So, Who's Having a Great Spring?

I've heard the complaints about nationally known reporters focused on the negatives surrounding the Dodgers, and frankly I don't blame them.  After all, we've got important leaders on the team coming off injury plagued seasons, and some notable incoming difference-makers hampered by physical problems.  Still, as my music teacher always told me, accentuate the positive.  And fortunately, there are some positives to hang your hat on.

So, which Dodgers' are having a fantastic Spring?

I'll first point out the obvious answer and mention Yasiel Puig- our Cuban sensation who is tearing the cover off the ball.  Through 17 games and 34 at-bats he is batting a robust .412 with an impressive OPS of .988.  He is as big as a ox, with forearms to match.  So far, he has produced 4 extra base hits while driving in 6.  His biggest negative right now is his strike out totals, which is at a team high of 10.  Still, he is certain to have a promising future.  It has already been announced that he will open the season in the minors, but that hasn't stopped the prognosticators from doing some lobbying.
AJ Ellis has also had a fantastic Spring.  Our backstop, the captain on the field, continues to impress with the bat.  He has 6 hits in 17 recorded at-bats for a .353 average in limited play.  His duties are obviously focused as a catcher, so he has had the added burden of learning about some of our new pitchers.  Still, you gotta love the added bonus of a game-calling defensive catcher with the ability to provide some good at-bats.

Luis Cruz has also been impressive.  While in Dodger camp, he was batting .348 in 23 at-bats, and has belted 2 home runs.  As a member of Team Mexico in the WBC, Cruz continued his hitting prowess with a .286 average in a losing effort.  I'll forgive him for his apparent participation in the recent melee against Canada, just because I love the passion it shows.  Something tells me that he'll be just fine as our 3rd baseman.

What can you cay about Andre Ethier?  He has always been a formidable first half hitter, so I'm not surprised that he is batting .333 with an OPS of 1.059 in the early going.  Heck, he even has 2 triples this Spring, so his wheels appear to be in good shape.  The question with him has always been his ability to hit left-handers, and I doubt we can answer that right now.

Is Hanley going to be a burden or a godsend?  So far, the numbers tell us that it's the latter.  He is back, and I couldn't be happier.  In Dodger camp he is batting .333, but had yet to record an extra base hit.  Then, as a member of the Dominican WBC team he belted two home runs; including a highlight reel laser shot that you can watch here.  Hopefully, his enthusiastic play in the WBC will cross over into the regular season.

Nick Punto has been lights out.  Really, he's better than I thought he was.  At Camelback he was batting .385 and is OPS'ing .962, but his WBC play has even been better.  As a leader on Team Italy he was batting .421, and has displayed the kind of grit on the field that reminds of old-school baseball.  He plays hard and slides hard, and if he can bring that passion to the team this season we will reap the benefits.

Pitching is much more difficult to judge during the first half of Spring.  Since I've yet to really watch their form or mastery of pitches in the early going, I can't say with much confidence if their level of play so far is worth noting.  I will say, though that Josh Beckett has been solid.  His WHIP is below 1.00 in 9.1 innings of play, and his 0.96 ERA has me dreaming that he is back to his old form.  Could a change of scenery be all that he needed? 

How about the relief corps?  Josh Wall, Paco Rodriquez and Shawn Tolleson have good numbers, but with a small sample size it's hard to really judge them.

Many other players are also having a great Spring training; like Brian Barden (who is destined for the minors), Mark Ellis, and Alex Castellanos (who has shown good power, but has lacked consistency). 

All photos featured here by Dodgers Photographer Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2013.

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